Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ramadan, Olivia reporting from Córdoba on the high profile Bretón filicide court case, a chance meeting with old neigbours, another family Saturday together, JK Rowling unmasked and other things.

Olivia reporting live from Córdoba every day this week
Good morning everyone this warm and sunny Sunday morning.  

It’s not just any Sunday morning as today the French will be celebrating their Fête Nationale which is also called Bastille Day.  I like to think the celebration is to mark the taking of the Bastille on 14th July 1789 which is the symbol of the beginning of the French Revolution. However, whilst investigating its origins, I learned that it was chosen to commemorate the  Fête de la Fédération, "a feast to celebrate the establishment of the short lived constitutional monarchy in France and what people of the time considered to be the happy conclusion of the Frency Revolution". Be that as it may, I hope our neighbouring country is enjoying the day.

Today the French celebrate the Fète National, 14th July is a date ingrained in most people's memory from their history classes.

I wonder whether the many Muslims living in France will be celebrating.  More likely they will be suffering the difficulty of fasting during Ramadan in this heat.  Monday 8th July, my own particular “fasting day” marked the beginning of the month long Ramadan.  I have been experiencing it vicariously through our Moroccan home help Fátima who is stoically sticking to her religion. The meaning of the word Ramadan is “scorching” which rather befits the time of year.  This annual observance considered the most holy month of the calendar is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is obligatory for adult Muslims, except those who are ill, travelling, pregnant, diabetic or going through their period.  They fast from dawn to sunset with no food or water (or any liquid) and they are not allowed to have sex, smoke or bad thoughts.  Ramadan during the summer is particularly hard as the sun sets just before 10pm and dawn is at 04.30.  Fátima tells me that the most difficult part of the fasting is not to be able to drink for so many hours and that she feels parched from about midday until she can break her fast at the meal called “Iftar”.  However, with a twinkle in her eye she told me her “time of the month” will be soon. I can only commiserate with her as I see how ashen she looks in the afternoon.  I laughingly tell her she should change her religion but it is so ingrained in her DNA, she would continue to fast even if she fainted.
The symbol of Ramadan, tough time of year for Muslims, especially in the this heat

Meanwhile Olivia had gone to Córdoba in the south of Spain and which was once the Muslim capital in Spain.  She would not even know though that Ramadan had just started as she was in the throes of reporting everyday for the TVE programme La Mañana de la 1 that she works for.  She was covering the most high profile court case in the last few years in Spain, the trial of José Bretón who is accused of killing his own children, José and Ruth aged 2 and 6 in revenge for his wife filing for divorce.  He has always said he was innocent arguing that he had lost the children in a park in Córdoba two years ago.  However there is proof of his having burnt his children alive in the family home called “Las Quemadillas” and of having bought fuel to do so because their small bones remained afterwards and were found to be of children aged two and six, although it was impossible to check the dnas.  Olivia covered the case all through the week while the jury was deliberating to make their final verdict.  She did so along with representatives from all the main Spanish televisions and media and I think they all became quite friendly, having to cover the same story in the hot sun outside the Córdoba courts.
Many members of the press "family" covering the Bretón filicide case in Córdoba this week - Olivia is on the extreme right

The verdict came on Friday at midday and José Bretón was found guilty on all counts.  He will probably face 40 years of imprisonment although under Spanish law the maximum time he can spend in prison is 25 years.  The judge still has to pass the sentence and probably the whole country wishes for that to be a life sentence. 
The monster Father killer as he listened to the jury's verdict

Meanwhile the culprit’s lawyer has said he will appeal.  So the story will continue in the media for quite some time and no doubt Olivia will continue to report on it.  We all watched her everyday and my Father commented that his granddaughter “knew her stuff”. And she did, as I always think that Olivia is at her best when she is reporting live on television about court cases.  There is something of a lawyer in her and before I knew she wanted to study journalism I thought she would make a great lawyer.
Olivia reporting from Córdoba -. she did so many times throughout the week

This week I am not including the links to her reporting as there were so many I would bore you.  Some days, especially Friday, the last day of the trial, she appeared at least 5 times. 

Suzy and I thought she looked beautiful every day as she wore lovely summer outfits, always taking care not to wear the same dress.  One day she sent us a photo where she appears on the front page of the local newspaper, El Diario de Córdoba in an article on the interest of the media in the case where her photo illustrates the article.  It is also the one I have chosen to illustrate this week’s blogpost.  As I commented to her boyfriend Miguel, I am sure the journalist chose her because she is the most stunning journalist covering the case.  Well I would say that wouldn’t I, as I am the interested party?  However, I am sure I am right hahaha.

On Monday I had my first telephone conversation with Suzy since she left a few weeks ago.  She is having a blast in London.  She seems to have made lots of new friends and the weather has been so good since she went to live there that one of her favourite past times is enjoying the many London parks.  Here is a photo of her at Victoria Park looking very happy.
Suzy at Victoria Park in London

It may not seem very motherly not to talk to my daughter often but that really is because we are in constant contact via the family whatsapp.  As you know we have booked a week’s holiday in August and I look forward to seeing her there and going shopping together.  Hopefully though, we will see her before if she comes to Spain for the annual family gathering in Montrondo at the beginning of August.

On Tuesday, just before watching Olivia again on television, my Father had a surprise visit. The local doctor and nurse were coming to see him to give him his blood test results.  The results were fine; amazing really for a man of his age.  I think he liked the visit but I was a bit disappointed with the doctor’s inability to talk to an elderly man who is hard of hearing.  I would have thought she would know how to do so; speaking slowly and clearly and looking in his eyes, rather than talking fast Spanish and not realizing he wouldn’t understand.  When I told her to talk slowly and clearly, she was absolutely incapable of doing so.  In any case the doctor and nurse gave him a clear bill of health and perhaps more importantly they saw he is completely cognitive and in good spirits for someone his age.  I told them, as I tell many people, it is from my Father that I learned to enjoy the little things in life, such as reading the newspaper with a family member. 
Eladio and my Father reading the papers after breakfast in the "outside dining room" or kitchen patio.

He also taught me to see beauty even in the most awful places in the world.  They certainly liked his surroundings; our outside dining room which is where we have all our meals in the summer and where my Father spends his mornings, surrounded by trees and beautiful flowers, like these hydrangeas.
The hydrangeas in the kitchen patio

On Wednesday we took the abuela (my mother-in-law who is staying with us) to Madrid to have lunch at José Antonio and Dolores’ place.  That was quite convenient for Suzy too as I was able to drop off a parcel of stuff for her friend Elena, the sister of her flat mate, Chati, who was visiting London the next day with her parents. Suzy is very taken with both sisters and I am sure they are having a lovely time together in London this week.
The bosom friends in London.  Suzy (in the middle) and Chati (in pink) reunited with Elena (Chati's sister) who came to visit them this week in London

In the evening before our walk at sunset, I went to the Gran Plaza 2 shopping centre with the excuse of having to buy some hand wash I “needed” from Rituals.  Once there, of course, I was tempted by the sales.  I did not find anything I really liked at the usual stores: Zara, H+M, Mango, Blanco, Cortefiel or Sfera and so ventured into a small boutique called Luján where I found three lovely summer retro frocks.  This is one of them.
Just one of the new frocks I got at Gran Plaza 2 this week

Eladio loves them but Olivia was not impressed telling me they were for older women.  Now I am not quite sure I made the right choice.

It was on Wednesday that a famous Spanish TV presenter and journalist, Concha García Campoy died of leukemia.  She used to present the news with another famous TV presenter, Manuel Campo Vidal, whose daughter Claudia was Olivia’s best friend at school when they were small.
This week marked the death of the beautiful Spanish TV journalist and presenter, Concha García Campoy

That day too, another friend from St. Michael’s school, Begoña was to let Olivia know that her Father Jesús Robles had died that same day also of cancer and aged 54, just like Concha García Campoy.  He and his wife Silvia own a famous cinema book shop which is frequented by the likes of Almodóvar.  I well remember Begoña’s parents from birthday parties and parents’ days when they used to come all the way from Madrid by taxi as they could not drive.  I remember Jesús as a very jolly friendly man and can hardly begin to imagine the deep hole he leaves in the lives of his daughter, wife and friends.  Olivia was devastated of course.
R.I.P Jesús Robles

On Thursday, my fast day, we had news of the other members of Eladio’s family who are on holiday in Chipiona in Cádiz.  It was where we were going on holiday this month but I cancelled our hotel booking as I have a very busy July this year.  The photo below is of Adela, Eladio’s sister, her daughter Marta, our sister-in-law Yoli and her daughters Laura and Alicia who you probably know is our god daughter.
"The beauties" in Cádiz

In the late afternoon I did the weekly food shopping with Fátima.  It is the highlight of her week with us and what she probably likes best is meeting and talking to her fellow Moroccans, two of the shop assistants, Zara and Ahmed, at our local gourmet super market.  It is thanks to Ahmed that I acquired some halal chicken which he delivered to our house that day.  Fátima will now be able to eat chicken too, of course, slaughtered the Muslim way.  That will have to be when she breaks her fast at the allowed meal times dictated by Ramadan.  Thursday being my “fasting day” I commiserated with her not just in spirit but in body too. 

On Friday we took the abuela shopping to Centro Oeste to get her out of the house really but also to buy some presents for her great granddaughters Diana and her baby sister.  Neither Eladio nor the abuela had a clue about what to buy for a four year old and a six month old baby so it was up to me to make the right choice at Imaginarium that delightful educational toy shop. 
Eladio's Mother aged 92 enjoyed her outing to the Centro Oeste shopping centre on Friday

As we were leaving we bumped into our old neighbours from our previous house in nearby Parque Boadilla.  It was amazing to see Dulcinea again after so many years.  She was accompanied by her three daughters, Graciela, Alma and Carolina.  They used to be our daughters’ baby sitters but they are now grown up women with their own children.  It is Carolina, their eldest daughter I was closest to.  She studied hard and went on to be an international cooperator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which took her to many war torn countries.  She gave us a huge shock a few years ago when she and her family got caught up in the terrible hurricane in Haiti. I well remember her coming back on a Spanish military airplane and her husband later being interviewed on Spanish television, something Olivia organized.  Thankfully they came to no harm.  After our chance meeting on Friday I agreed with Carolina to go and see her next Friday and meet her little girls and generally catch up on her life.  It was great seeing you all again Dulcinea, Carolina, Alma and Graciela and some of your toddlers.
The chance meeting with Dulcinea and her family on Friday

It was on Friday that Olivia finally returned exhausted from her work and the heat of Córdoba but happy with all her reporting and that finally justice had been done and the filicide monster was behind rails.  I spent some quality time with her whilst she unpacked and then we went to have a swim in the afternoon heat. 

Later that night Eladio and I went out to dinner, true to Friday night tradition.  This time we chose Tony Romas as we fancied eating outside and tasting their delicious barbecue ribs.  It was funny as we left, as it turned out Olivia was there at another table with her dear friends Dave and Pulgui (Elena).  What a coincidence!

Saturday was the highlight of the week, as it has been for the past few weeks, because José Antonio, Eladio’s beloved second brother down, and his wife Dolores, not to mention their adorable mongrel, Nubah, came to spend the day with us. 

That day Fátima prepared an amazing Moroccan lamb dish with caramelized prunes and fried almonds.  She also made Moroccan rice and I contributed to the lunch with my favoured lamb korma.  Oli and Suzy’s friend Juli, my “adopted son” joined us for lunch and this is what the table looked like yesterday when we had the Indian Moroccan meal together in our “outdoor dining room”.
Saturday lunch with the family

The afternoon was spent by the pool in peace and harmony.  Rocío and her little black Labrador Inda joined us and I was amazed to see the delightful three month old puppy jump right into the pool.  It is supposed that all Labradors adore water, but that is not so for Elsa who kept at a discreet distance.
Inda came to visit on Saturday and swam in our pool with us.  I just adore her!!

Whilst we were enjoying ourselves at home, a few hundred kilometers south of Madrid, the inhabitants of British owned but Spanish disputed Gibraltar were celebrating 300 years under British rule. It was the Gibraltarians day as today is the French people’s day.  I’m not quite sure why Spain, and I would have to do lots of reading to find out, permanently ceded the rock of Gibraltar to the British under the famous Treaty of Utrecht in 17.13 during the reign of Philip V of Spain. The treaty has always been a matter of controversy.  We talked about this over afternoon tea by the pool and got bogged down in history as none of us really know the full reason.  But I think we all agreed that it is ridiculous in this day and age that a small part of Spain belongs to England. However the final decision lies with the inhabitants who will probably remain under the British crown forever as they have no wish to change the ownership of this important little rock in the South of Spain.

The Treaty of Utrecht
 We gave no more thought to the issue as we went on our lovely evening walk with the dogs, after which we came home to dinner laid of course on our outside dining room table by Fátima. When we came home she was having her “iftar” meal and looked bloated and tired poor thing.  I mentioned again that she might want to consider changing her religion if Ramadan was so difficult but all she managed in return was a weak smile.  Who am I to suggest such a thing I told myself later.

José Antonio and Dolores left just before midnight, excited to go home as the next day, today, they would be going to the airport to pick up their daughter Sara who was returning after a six month stay in China.  Meanwhile we spent the last moments of the day, or the night, by our pool in the dark contemplating what a wonderful place we live in. 

And today is Sunday and I am coming towards the end of this week’s tales.  Everyone in this house reads the written papers on the table over breakfast in the outside dining room but I prefer to read the news on my iPad in the kitchen.  I flit between the online versions of The Times, The Daily Telegraph, El Mundo and El País.  Whilst everyone else was glued to more news this morning about the ex ruling party (PP) treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, in prison for embezzlement and illegal payments to top members of the current government, I was far more interested in the story of JK Rowling.  I read that she had written a detective novel called “The Cuckoo's Calling” under a pen name – Robert Galbraith.  It was only discovered recently that she is the real author and that she had been unmasked possibly because the book is published by the same editor and publishing house.  In any case, it spurred me on to order it immediately on Amazon, as I am sure has happened with many of her fans around the world.  I liked her first non Harry Potter book, the Casual Vacancy and I know I will like her new book.  I read that she decided to use a pen name, so as not to have put up with all the pressure and “palava” of a new book released by her, perhaps the famous modern author of our times.  She probably also wanted to know what people’s reactions to the book would be without knowing the author.  It obviously hasn’t sold as much as it would if they had known but it has had some great reviews, which I suppose is not surprising.
I look forward to reading this detectve novel which it now transpires was written by JK Rowling under a pen name.

Now I am at the end of the post.  We have had the leftovers of yesterday’s delicious lunch, the “oldies” are asleep and Olivia is out in the mountains near Madrid with her friend Dave, so this is a great time for me to finish and publish this week’s blog.  Next week is going to be hectic but that’s how I like it as you probably know.  

I don’t wish you a hectic week, but I do wish you good weather and peace and all good things.
So my friends, I love you and I leave you, until next week,


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