Sunday, December 01, 2013

Olivia is home from Indonesia, snow in Madrid, fruit trifle, Skyping with Suzy, a pre- Christmas family lunch and other tales.

Hosting a question and answer session at Yoigo.

Hi everyone,

This week has been quite exciting.  I’m finally getting rid of my annoying nightly cough thanks to my pharmacist friend Mari Carmen who sent me “codeisan” (codeine) tablets that help me get a proper night’s sleep.

On Monday, my first fasting day of the week which isn’t really helping to shed the kilos from this summer, I was sent the photos and video of the visit of our illustrious guest at Yoigo the previous Friday, the new CEO of TeliaSonera, from Sweden. I was pleased with them and particularly like the one of me hosting the q+a session during the staff meeting with him at the office.  That’s the photo illustrating this week’s blog post. 

On Tuesday I went into the office for a management team meeting with the new head of Mobility Services in TeliaSonera, another Swede, a white haired handsome man in his 50’s who resembles Spencer Tracey, as a colleague remarked to me during the meeting via whatsapp. We had lunch together in the board room and as I was the only woman in the room I had the privilege of sitting next to him.

It was during the meeting I got a surprise call from Olivia who we were expecting home from Indonesia the next day, Wednesday.  She had arrived at Madrid airport and couldn’t understand why we weren’t there to meet them off the plane.  Well she had made a mistake and was coming back on Tuesday not on Wednesday.  I rushed home after our meeting and was delighted to hug and kiss my very brown, beautiful and jet lagged daughter who I hadn’t seen for three weeks.  This photo was the last one she posted of her trip and true to style it is with local children.  Isn’t she lovely?
One of the last photos Olivia posted of her trip to Indonesia

She had brought us loads of local presents but I am still waiting to see my most important one, a necklace which Miguel had in his suitcase by mistake.  He went straight back to Valencia so I won’t be seeing him or the necklace until he comes again. Thanks Oli for all the lovely things, you are so generous.  I am glad you had a wonderful time in Indonesia. So where are you going next?  Today Olivia mentioned her friends want to go to Kerala in India but she has her doubts as she’s already been to India.  

On Tuesday, after our walk and whilst Olivia was out with Dave and Eladio away at his UNED (University) tutorial, I watched the last episodes of Homeland that Juan had given me.  I am now left wanting more.  Thankfully yesterday he brought me another three episodes of series three, so I now know what I will be doing this afternoon of course.

Later I had a long conversation with Suzy.  I remark on this because we don’t talk that much on the phone but we are now doing so, at least once a week.  She has her ups and downs in London, learning the ropes at work (not always easy) and missing us at the same time.  My mission is always to uplift her spirits which I hope I did on Tuesday.

On Wednesday I had breakfast with Olivia, a great pleasure after her absence.  Wednesday was Hannukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights when they light a unique nine branched menorah, like this one.  It was funny that the next day would be Thanksgiving in the US.  So there were lots of articles in the press about the two festivals coinciding and thus the occasion was named “Thanksgivukkah”.

That evening, whilst Eladio was at his second UNED tutorial of the week, I started on the Breaking Bad series.  It didn’t impress me, so I started on House of Cards which also left me cold after the exciting Homeland.  

Olivia was having her “manada” friends round for dinner but they came so late, we were already in bed and asleep.  The next day, the police came and asked if everything was ok.  We didn’t know what they meant.  Well, apparently Olivia had left the gate open (her clicker didn’t work), the police saw it, rang the bell which no one heard, so they ventured in and got as far as Grandpa’s room where they saw him sitting quietly by his desk.  They went no further seeing that everything was alright, but my goodness they did give us a shock on Thursday morning.  You will be happy to know Eladio gave Olivia a new clicker!

And it was on Thursday morning that we woke up to snow.  Now that is something very unusual and ephemeral in Madrid.  We took a picture before it melted and this is what our garden looked like.
It snowed in Madrid on Thursday

It hardly ever snows in Madrid, perhaps once a year, so Thursday was very exciting for us, although the grass was barely covered.  It has been a very cold week. This morning, when I took Fátima to the bus stop the temperature was -1.5ºc, extremely low, even for this time of year.

As if to kindle the Christmas spirit further, after the snow, my Hotel Chocolate Christmas hamper arrived and I was delighted with it.  Doesn’t it look gorgeous? Suzy was worried it would be eaten before she arrives on 22nd December, but no way as I won’t consume any of it until Christmas Eve.
My Hotel Chocolate Christmas hamper arrived on Thursday morning.

Hotel Chocolate is a marvelous online chocolate site that I discovered after Olivia’s Indian friends sent me some wonderful slabs after their visit here a few years ago.  Sandeep, Sumit, I have been hooked ever since, thank you so much.

On Friday I was delighted to hear that Yoigo had been voted best website in Spain in the telecommunications category.  In between work that day, I made the family lunch and prepared béarnaise potatoes, to Grainne’s recipe.  Everyone was duly impressed.  Thanks Grainne for the tip!

I also made the dessert for Saturday when we would be having a pre-Christmas lunch for José Antonio, Dolores, Juan and Cristina.  I decided to make that most English of desserts, fruit trifle.  I made two in the end and this is what they looked like:
The trifles I made on Friday for Saturday's family lunch.

Trifle is very easy to make and if you are interested, this is the recipe: a layer of lady finger biscuits, a layer of fruit (I put raspberries – jelly won’t set with certain fruit such as pineapple or kiwi), then jelly.  Leave to set in the fridge for a few hours and afterwards add a layer of custard (natillas in Spain).  The final layer is whipped double cream.  You can put more fruit on the top for decoration. And voilà you have the most wonderful English dessert that exists.  It’s very calorific mind you.

While I was making the trifle Olivia posted a photo at work at her TVE programme (La Mañana de la 1) with a famous Spanish presenter, Paco Lobatón, and some of her colleagues.
Olivia with the Spanish presenter Paco Lobatón and colleagues at her TV programme on Friday

Paco Lobatón used to direct a TV programme (Quién sabe dónde) to find missing people which we always watched.  On Friday he was at Olivia’s programme to comment on the cases of the missing girls, Anabel Segura and the three Alcaser girls (Desirée, Miriam and Toñi) who were kidnapped and killed in the 90’s.  On Friday their assassinators were let out of prison to the horror of the Spanish public.  Their release, together with the release of many ETA terrorists, comes after the opposition from the European Union to the Spanish “Parot Doctrine” which would prohibit the worst type of offenders’ prison sentences being limited or reduced.  There has been a huge outcry here in Spain over these cases and I for one am not happy to know that offenders of such heinous crimes now walk the streets of Spain after relatively small sentences compared to the atrocities they have committed.  In fact I would like to see them locked up forever.

On Friday, in London, Suzy was working for the first time from her designated venue, The Oxo Building, where she is the catering manager.  She was delighted to tell us that she had finally been given a work pc and will be performing her job from Oxo from now on.  That is just a few tube stops from Whitechapel where she lives which will be a huge relief after the 20 odd stops it takes her to get the head office in Wimbledon. 

Friday of course was Black Friday, the famous shopping day in the US, straight after Thanksgiving.  Black Friday doesn’t mean much to me but there were lots of stories about it on the news and this commercial day even reached Spain for the first time this year with special offers at some of the big department stores.  I hate commercial concepts of this nature and was happy to read that some people have retaliated and come up with an antidote in the form of “Buy Nothing Day” which I think happens the next day and is practiced in some 63 countries.  Well actually I had two buy nothing days as I bought nothing on Friday or on Saturday.  

On Saturday, St. Andrew’s Day (the patron saint of Scotland and of course the saint’s day of my favourite brother in law, Andrés), we woke up to the awful news in Glasgow, Scotland.  On the eve of St. Andrew’s day a police helicopter crashed into the very busy Clutha pub in the centre of the town. 8 people are feared dead including the crew of the copter but many more people are probably buried dead under the ghastly rubble.  What a terrible story for the Scots, Oli and I commented whilst having our Saturday breakfast morning together in the kitchen.

I put my mind to other things as I had a big lunch to prepare.  I was making a pre-Christmas lunch (roast chicken, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables, gravy and of course cranberry sauce except that I cheated and used Ikea’s ligonberry jam).  Eladio’s Madrid family were coming that day and I wanted to make a big effort as we are not often all together.  That day Toño, Dolores, Sara, Juan and his girlfriend, Cristina, would be coming. The only members missing would be Miguel who is in Cuba and of course Suzy.  

Juan would also be coming to show me finally how to download videos from internet.  We successfully installed “Bit Torrent” and right now I am downloading all 7 series of “24” recommended to me by Adele.  From the look of things this is going to take days.  I wonder if meanwhile Movistar will finally install a fiber network so that the process will take a lot less.  They came a week or so ago, but bringing fiber to the house is not so easy when you have a huge house and garden.  Right now too, there are two men in the garden digging a trench for the fiber pipe to be laid.  I am much looking forward to the promised speed of 100 megabits. 

So there I was in the kitchen cooking when Suzy messaged Oli and I to ring her which we did. She then suggested we set up a Skype conversation; something we have never done with her before since she left for London in May.   You will probably wonder why we haven’t.  The reason is that neither Oli nor I particularly Skype, but we decided to give it a go.  One of the reasons I don’t like Skype is not remembering my user name and password.  The three of us took a while to remember ours and to find each other but finally we did.  It was great to talk to her and see her on the screen. This is the photo Suzy took of Olivia, Eladio and I when we talked to her.
Skyping with Suzy on Saturday
Suzy was keen to talk to my Father too, so I took my iPad into the dining room where he was reading the newspapers.  I think he was taken by surprise.  He couldn’t hear Suzy very well but he could see her and she could hear him. Later he remarked how wonderful technology is.  It is isn’t it?  I captured the moment my Father was Skyping with Suzy as I thought it was so unique.  Suzy was nearly in tears with emotion.  Love you darling.
My Father skyping with Suzy on Saturday, a first for him.

The pre-Christmas lunch took me most of the morning to make.  But this is what our table looked like after my efforts.  I think it looks magical and it was wonderful for all of us to be together and enjoy the meal.
The pre-Christmas lunch on Saturday at home.

Later I went with Dolores, Juan, Cristina and Sara to Massimo Dutti at an outlet called Factory. They wanted to change some clothes.  But we were back home just on time for a walk before the sun set.  Here we worked off some of the calories consumed at lunch and our three dogs enjoyed the outing immensely as they always do.

And today is Sunday 1st December, for me the official start of the Christmas season.  Most of my present shopping will probably happen in London this week.  Yes, I am going to London with my sister in law Adela on Thursday for the bank holiday weekend.  Suzy has lots of plans for us and I can’t wait to see her. 

So I won’t be writing my blog until after our return next Sunday.

Meanwhile I hope you have enjoyed this week’s tale.  I wish you all the best, till next time,


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