Tuesday, September 24, 2013

To Stockholm and back, off to Montrondo, Eladio’s birthday and other stories.

In Stockholm last week
Hi everyone,

I’m a bit late with my blog post this week but if you read last week’s entry you will forgive me because you will know I have been travelling yet again.  

Today is Tuesday and finally I am at home and here to stay for a while.  So let me tell you about last week.  I left off on Monday 16th September when I wrote my blog on the plane on my way to Stockholm.

I arrived in the early evening and went straight to my hotel, the Stureplan, right next door to the company HQ.  I was disappointed with my room as it had a tiny window in the roof which could not be opened.  I knew I couldn’t sleep there as I would have felt totally claustrophobic, so after some haranguing with the desk staff, I was finally given a junior suite, for a small extra charge.  It turned out to be lovely with its own balcony, the only negative point being that it was miles from the lift; but that’s always my luck.  It was too late to go out as it was already dark and uninviting because of the rain.  I decided thus to publish my blog, order room service and have an early night on quite a comfortable bed.  Unfortunately this time I hadn’t brought my feather pillow which wouldn’t fit in my cabin luggage and I had relied on the Swedish hotel having one which it didn’t. Thus I got three nights of fitful sleep and came back with a sore neck. On the plus side, I ordered my favourite Swedish food for dinner – an open prawn sandwich which is called “Räksmörgås” as I learned from my Swedish friend Gunilla and Mexican but Swedish bred friend Ilyana when I posted the picture below on Facebook.
Room service in Stockholm - my favourite Swedish food open prawn sandwich (“Räksmörgås")
Afterwards I watched the end of Mr. Selfridge on my PC.  I am now waiting anxiously for series 2 of the latter, series 4 of Downton Abbey and series 2 of The Paradise.  I have pre ordered the last two but I don’t think they will be available until November or December. My next series will be Broadchurch which was recommended to me by Amanda and owing to my faulting memory I had forgotten I had already bought it in a spate of Amazon purchases of British TV films and series.
Looking forward to watching Broadchurch
I was up early for our communications team meeting starting at 08.30 and was disappointed with the breakfast as there was nothing sweet on hand – if you know me I’m not one for savoury breakfasts.
Our meetings were to be held on the 7th floor of the TeliaSonera HQ which is surrounded by an open air terrace with great views of the square in front with all the lovely spires on top of the buildings.
Stureplan in Stockholm
The day was good.  We had a day of training in “leadership communication skills” imparted by a wonderful Brit called Dominic who turned out to be from Bristol.  He was a professional trainer who comes from the communications world but what I liked about him most was his witty way of addressing us.  I learned all sorts of new tricks and tools, one I particularly liked is called “the elevator speech” – i.e. getting across your message in less than 45 seconds.  The company he represents is Synopsis Communications Consulting and their mission is apparently to turn strategy into action; not a bad thing.

In the evening our team leader Anna, invited us all to dinner.  When I say all, I mean my colleagues from the communications team she heads up and who are from the Nordic and Baltic countries.  The meal was just up the road at a great steak house called Vassa Eggen.  The food was out of this world but I paid for it later as I tossed and turned all night on a very full stomach.

Wednesday’s meetings were more hands on and about topics we are all in the throes of.  As usual we had an early lunch and this time we went offsite, but round the corner again and to the Scandic Anglais restaurant.  The meeting was over earlier than planned and I realised afterwards that if I had known I would have caught a flight home that afternoon.  So there I was with time on my hands on Wednesday afternoon in Stockholm.  For once it wasn’t raining and the sun had come out, although the temperature was only 14ºc.  So guess what I did?  Yeah you guessed right, I went shopping and had a whale of a time.  I wanted to go to Jackpot the Danish designer I liked but the boutique in Bibliotekasgatan had closed down.  A Swedish colleague warned me but said there was an outlet at Ahlens, a well known department store.  But first I thought I’d go to the Galerian shopping centre nearby to visit Lindex, Kappahl and Vero Moda.  I never got to the latter two because I saw and bought so many things at Lindex.  Lindex is a sort of Scandinavian Zara but as the pretty Hungarian Italian Swedish born shop assistant who charged me for the clothes said, is not as “snooty”.  I had never thought of Zara as snooty but maybe some people do.  I walked out of Lindex with a huge bag of emerald green jeans, various coloured jumpers and cardigans and a white blouse.  The lovely shop assistant thanked me for adding colour to her day.  I thought that was a nice compliment.  I took a photo of my bag outside the shop and immediately sent it to Olivia via whatsapp to tell her I had bought lovely clothes for her and me as it was my intention to share the clothes with her.
Shopping at Lindex
Since I came home I have found out that Lindex has an online store and you can order clothes from Spain and that the transport cost is just 7 euros.  That makes me happy as I love their clothes; the Scandinavian style and up till now I could only shop there on my trips to Sweden.

Conscious of the small capacity of my suitcase and the difficulty of packing my new clothes I skipped on Kappahl and Vero Moda and made my way to Ahlens to see what Jackpot had to offer.  Well they didn’t have anything that appealed to me. But I did spy a nice boutique called In Wear and here I invested in a fashionable bright red lightweight down jacket which everyone in Stockholm seemed to be wearing in different colours.  Of course I won’t be wearing it for a while as we are still experiencing summer weather here.
One of my acquisitions in my shopping spree in Stockholm
Ah I nearly forgot to tell you that the whole purpose of my shopping expedition was to buy a birthday present for Eladio.  And I did.  I bought him a yellow Gant shirt to add to his collection of this lovely Swedish menswear.

That evening I had another early night in and watched the only film I had on my pc, The King’s speech and which I adored in English as the first time round I saw it in Spanish.  Unsurprisingly I had the same prawn sandwich for my dinner that night.

On Thursday I was going home and had no idea what an ordeal the journey back would be.  There were no direct flights that day so the company had booked me a flight via London, arriving and leaving from Terminal 5.  I can tell you now that I will never do that again as it is chaos at T5.  The worst thing about returning via London is that you have to go through security again – and the queues are endless, as well as passport control.  Thus I had no time whatsoever for shopping at the airport, the only reason I agreed to travel back through London.  So there you have it, I left the hotel at 09.30 and didn’t get home till about 9 in the evening, 12 hours of travelling for a 3.50h direct flight time.

It was good to be home; but again it wasn’t for long.  Yeah we were going to hit the road again the next day, this time to Montrondo to spend the weekend with Eladio’s 5 brothers and sisters and their wives/partners and their Mother.  Luckily I had the morning to get organized and more importantly to go out and get cakes for Eladio’s birthday to be celebrated in Montrondo and at home the following Monday.  I also had to buy a present from my Father.  I had no idea what to get him so decided on something safe; more Gant clothing.  I got a lovely bottle green and white checked shirt and bottle green cardigan to go with it.

We left after lunch loaded down with food to share with the family; namely Fátima’s Moroccan chicken tagine and her wonderful rice, as well as lots of other food for dinner that night and our breakfasts.  We got there at around 19h and were greeted by the other first arrivals; José Antonio and Dolores.  Dolores and I immediately agreed on a brisk walk to Murias and back with Nuba their mongrel.  We wanted to go the old way across the fields and on the old path but hadn’t bargained for a group of horses or is it a herd? That would have been fine if they hadn’t been so interested in us and started trotting and then galloping towards us.  We weren’t sure whether it was threatening or not.  I love horses but am wary of their size and as I had no sugar or salt to offer them we opted for crossing the fence in the field where they couldn’t reach us.
The horses in Montrondo who chased after us
In the picture above they look very peaceful but later they worried us when they started coming after us.  I do think it was Nuba who put the cat among the pigeons here.  Thus on our way back we came along the path and away from the fields.

Just as we were walking back, Adela, the elder of Eladio’s two sisters, were arriving by car with her husband Primo and my Mother-in-law Ernestina who is in her early 90’s but looks a lot younger.

The next day Adela, Dolores and I went on an early morning walk to Murias and back again, as Adela and I would do on Sunday morning too.
Adela and I in Murias on our early morning walk.  I especially like the old fashioned blue shutters so typical in the area
Later that morning the rest of Eladio’s brothers and sisters arrived; Alejandro and his Paraguayan wife Carolina, Pili and her husband Andrés and Isidro and his wife Yoli.  It was to be a relaxing weekend with just the older generation and the finest weather we have ever experienced at that time of year in Montrondo.

Soon we were enjoying lunch around the big kitchen tables and celebrating Eladio’s birthday with his family.  I loved the sweet garland they had made for him.
Eladio celebrating his birthday in Montrondo.  Just look at the lovely candy garland his family made for him
Afterwards most of the family went off for a siesta.  The men would need it to produce the energy necessary to stack literally tons of logs from a field that belongs to them outside the village which would be brought by a tractor in various journeys to the old house to again be stacked neatly for the winter.  The photo below is of the wood arriving.
The first tractor load of wood to arrive
Meanwhile we women looked on, enjoying the afternoon sunshine and also listening to the radio.  You are probably wondering why we would be listening to the radio.  Well it was to follow a match: Pili and Andres’ son Mario’s was making his debut in the León Handball first team playing in León on Saturday against the Huesca team.  In the end they drew.

One of the main reasons for gathering together this weekend in Montrondo, apart from the business of transporting and stacking the wood logs for the winter,  was to make plans to reform the old house which we have inherited. But before we reform ours, Pili and Andrés will be rebuilding the old house next to it and which is now a ruin.  It was where Eladio was born so has a lot of sentimental value.  On Sunday morning their builders came to look around and finalise the initial steps that will be taken to start.  They had good references from Eladio’s brother Alejandro, so he took them around the old house we will be reforming too, to get a quote from them.  Both young builders gave us the right “vibes” and right now Eladio and I and, of course, Pili and Andrés are really excited about our projects.
The houses to be soon reformed in Montrondo
We left Montrondo on Sunday in the late afternoon and were home by about 10pm.  We were greeted by Fátima, our living in home help and my Father.  Of course we were greeted by our enthusiastic dogs too.  Poor Norah didn’t get a look in as Elsa overshadows her when it comes to greeting us on our arrival home.  We only saw Olivia to say goodnight as she was out with her old school friends; Paula, Sonia, Elena and co.  

Yesterday, Monday, was Eladio’s official birthday and it was celebrated in style as we like to do so at home.  It started off with a birthday breakfast with “porras” and “churros” (Spanish fritters) dipped in thick chocolate.
Oli and her Father Eladio yesterday at his birthday breakfast
We gave him his presents and card and read with interest what we had written. We also laughed at what Olivia had written – she apologized for being stubborn and tiresome when she was a child!  She couldn’t be with us for lunch when we lit the candles on his cake (chocolate of course and from the marvelous patisserie “Mallorca”).
Eladio was 69 yesterday and looking great.
But she joined us for dinner that night when we went out to La Vaca Argentina to celebrate.  The three of us had a great meal but were keenly aware that Suzy was missing.  All in all I think Eladio had a great 69th birthday.  I can hardly believe that next year he will be 70.  He looks so good for his age and I’m sure you all agree; it’s not just flattery on my part.

And today is Tuesday, the last day to be recorded in this week’s blogpost.  Today I am fasting (yes I stick to the “fast diet” but only when I am at home), but lots of things are cooking and happening too.  To start with Oli is off to London to see Suzy this Saturday (until next Wednesday) and amazingly she has managed to get the BBC presenter she met in Galicia to show her round the BBC while she is there.  Also her day is now completely topsy turvy.  She went to work but rang me shortly afterwards.  She was coming home as the editors of the programme are sending her to Galicia again today.  She will be covering the terrible case of a 12 year old girl who is adopted and of Chinese origin and who was found dead yesterday.  The story is national news.  I am happy for Olivia though that she will be out in the field again and doing what she likes best, investigative journalism.  

The other thing that got “cooked” today, was another journey to London.  Whilst on our walk to Murias, Adela and I agreed to go together with my other sisters-in-law.  In the end the rest of them decided not to come but Adela is keen to go and for various reasons.  She has never flown before, nor visited London but is very happy for me to be her guide.  Of course I want to go with her too, but I have a vested interest as it means visiting Suzy again.  So I went and booked our flights for the December bank holiday and we will fly out on Thursday 5th in the evening and return on Sunday 8th.  It’s going to be fun. Watch this space.  

And now my friends I have reached the end of the story of my life since I last wrote. You can see the full selection of the photos  of our weekend in Montrondo here.

Meanwhile everyone, I wish you all the best, until next time,


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