Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kings’ Day, Suzy living it up for once in London, Oli reporting for TV from Barcelona, news from a past pupil and words of wisdom from Charles Courtenay Lloyd when he was a teacher at Bradford Grammar School, the “polar vortex”, the best and worst lovers in the world, and other stories.

The family lunch at home on Kings' day  - only my daughter Suzy who lives in London was missing.
Hello again,

I can finally say it, Christmas is now over and it has been as good as it gets. I left off last Sunday which in Spain is known as “Noche de Reyes” (the night of the Kings, as in the visit of the 3 wise men or magi who bring Spanish children their presents on that night - the correct term being The Epiphany),

Sunday 5th January was a magical day as it is supposed to be. Olivia went out to buy the last minute presents which we would be giving each other the next day; Kings’ day.  Meanwhile Suzy was in London living it up with her boyfriend Gabor.  Her present to him was a blind dinner which I told you about in last week’s post.  It was also a night at a 5 star hotel which must have been sheer luxury for them who live in a cramped flat in East London which they share with 12 flat mates.  I love this pic Suzy sent me of them dressed in their bath robes about to enjoy the spa at the hotel near London Bridge.
Gabor and Suzy enjoying her Christmas present to him, last Sunday
That night Eladio lit the fire in the TV lounge where the dogs joined us and it was the last evening but one, we spent there this Christmas.  Here is a wonderful photo of Eladio sitting by the fire there on one of the most magical nights of the year.
Eladio in the TV lounge by the fire on Kings' night
Monday was King’s Day and it was the first King’s day ever I think without Suzy.  We missed her at breakfast when we opened our presents as we did all day.  I could have kicked myself for not buying her a present which I could have given secretly to her friend and flat mate Chati.  I certainly will next year. We opened our presents after breakfast and although they were only token presents – the important ones being given on Christmas day, I think we were all very pleased. I was delighted with the blue leather gloves Oli gave me and the black suede Camper bootees Eladio bought for me (well I bought them with him hahahaha). Breakfast of course consisted of roscón, the Kings’ cake I told you about in last week’s post. We have been eating it for a week and are now sick and tired of it.
Me showing off my Kings' day present from Olivia 
That day we were to celebrate the Three Kings at lunch with our family who live in Madrid, Eladio’s next brother down, José Antonio, his wife Dolores and their grown-up children, Miguel, Sara and Juan and Juan’s girlfriend Cristina.  It is something of a tradition for them to join us on 6th January. Dolores came loaded with presents as she always does and this time brought us a new tablecloth for our gigantic dining room table, a bag of garlic, a wonderful bottle of wine as well as a bag of walnuts.  She never comes empty handed! For the occasion I made a wonderful trifle; the main course being a typical English Sunday meal: roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings.
The trifle I made for Kings' Day
Oli helped me with some of the cooking as it was Fátima’s day off.  We were to be 10 around the table and my Father remarked whilst I was laying it that it looked terrific.  I replied to him that I just love making the effort on such occasions and it is true I adore doing so. In fact he later said that Kings’ Day had been his Christmas highlight.  The photo illustrating this post is of us (except for me who took the photo) sitting around the festive table heaving with delicious English food.  Sara remarked that the only place she ever ate Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding was at our home!

Soon after lunch the younger generation left the four of us alone with our dogs and off we went for our walk.  We came back to a cup of tea in the TV lounge where the fire would probably not be lit again until next Christmas.  In any case it was a lovely end to this year’s festive season.  You can see the rest of the photos of King’s day here.
Tea in the TV lounge on Kings' Day
On Tuesday it was time to remove the Christmas decorations, one of the worst tasks of the year. The 7th January is a very depressing day, very flat and a bit of an anti-climax.  When I was a child, at home we would celebrate Russian Christmas on this day, a bit like we celebrate Kings’ Day today at our home in Spain.  I’m afraid I haven’t continued the tradition.  The day was made even flatter as it was my first fasting day after Christmas.

However the day was brightened up for us by Olivia.  She had been sent to Barcelona for the week to report on events there for her programme, La Mañana de la 1 and she would be busy all week.  The story she reported on that day was very uplifting.  It was about a 91 year old lady called Angela from Lérida who had won the prize of most active elderly person which you can read about here (in Spanish).  This lady who is incredibly lucid and active spends most of her time busy on her old fashioned sewing machine, much like the Singer we brought back from Léon after New Year and which used to belong to Eladio’s mother.  Olivia asked Angela what the secret of her success was and she replied that it was to never stop being active.  So now we know if we want to be in good shape in our old age, we must be active.  You can watch the clip here (fast forward to 13.22) which is quite moving.
Olivia interviewing Angela - the active 91 year old in Lérida on Tuesday
Tuesday was also brightened up by the arrival of this year’s Downton Abbey Christmas special which was delivered by Amazon.  I watched it that night when Eladio went off to his UNED (University) tutorial and enjoyed every moment of it.  I had read bad reviews but I thought it was great.  I just love immersing myself in this classic period drama. 
This year's Downton Abbey Xmas special arrived on Tuesday  -it was devoured within hours!
On Wednesday I got a pleasant surprise by way of an invitation to attend a meeting and farewell dinner of a colleague from Norway, in Stockholm on 19th January.  It came from the head of our communications team for Europe and I much look forward to it.  I just hope there is some snow when I go.

Again our day was brightened up by watching Olivia live on the TV.  She was very busy that day with three appearances, two about a young Moroccan who had attacked two old men in a bar and killed one of them and later about the notorious Noos case.  This case is the one the Spanish Royal family is embroiled in and is usually taboo for Oli’s programme.  However the news was of too much importance for them to ignore it that day, as the King’s daughter, Princess (Infanta in Spanish) Cristina, suspected of being involved in her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin’s embezzlement of public money, had been summoned to court.  This case is a huge headache for the Spanish Royal family and is the first time one of its members has been summoned to court as an official suspect.  It was Olivia’s job to get a statement from the Princess’ high profile lawyer, Miguel Roca an ex politician and one of the founders of Spain’s new constitution.   Later Olivia told me she had no idea she would be reporting on the story and of course was not well versed.  Thankfully no one would notice she wasn’t.  You can see the live report here if you go to 11.49 and 12.07.
Oli reporting on Wednesday from Barcelona on the case of the Spanish Princess summoned to court

Thursday was the second and last fasting day of the week – it’s always uphill so I try and fill these days with lots of activity.  Olivia was sent to Zaragoza that day, some three hours away from Barcelona so a long haul.  Little did she know she would have to stay the night there whilst all her things, including her charger, were at her hotel room in Barcelona.  The story she would be covering that day and the next was the story of a missing 19 year old Brazilian boy, Víctor, who had disappeared from the face of the earth on the morning of the 1st January.  In her report which you can see here if you go to 12.09, Oli interviewed the cousin of Víctor and his Mother who was so devastated she couldn’t utter a word. The case is now of national interest and the main theory is that he probably had an accident and drowned in the river. Ghastly!
Olivia reporting on Thursday from Zaragoza on the case of the missing 19 year Brazilian boy
In the afternoon I went to the dentist.  You are probably wondering why I am recording such a mundane activity. Well actually it’s because it was my first visit to our adored dentist, Dr. Garralda, in two years.  He had to mend two fillings and tighten my implant which had come loose.  I will have to go back for more treatment soon but don’t really mind as I have so much faith in this great professional.

Friday was probably my busiest day of the week.  Whilst Olivia continued reporting from Zaragoza, I went off to Yoigo where I had two meetings with my PR agency and the customer care department about how we deal with complaints and issues on social media.  They were both very productive and I came home satisfied and looking forward to lunch with my Father and Eladio which I had prepared early that morning. 

It was on Friday that I received an email out of the blue from a past pupil of my Father’s at Bradford Grammar School.  Simon H, who studied French and History at Oxford but regrets not studying Russian there and who now lives in Geneva where he is an art critic, told me he had been my Father’s pupil of Russian in the 70’s and went on to say that he had had a profound influence on him.  I was very touched, printed the email and gave it to my Father who remembered him.  My 94 year old Father has an elephant’s memory. So I wrote back to thank Simon who a few hours later sent an email telling me more about himself.  He enclosed a 12 page document of bits and pieces of funny cranky things my Father had said or taught his pupils.  Amazingly he had written these pearls of wisdom down when he was a pupil and kept the document until this day.

Simon brought to life a view of my Father as a teacher at Bradford Grammar School which I could only scarcely guess about.  I knew my Father was nicknamed Clarence and had the most chalk filled gown of all the masters, I know of my Father’s obsessions with weather forecasts, geography, the second world war, travelling in Scandinavia and most of all with etymology but I did not know how far his passion for Russian vocabulary and life in Soviet Russia had reached in the classroom. 

The document (words and wisdom of CC Lloyd Russian Master Bradford Grammar School) written by Simon is entitled “Stalin’s breath”, which apparently my Father had told his boys was the way to say Eau de Cologne in Communist times.  The document which had me reeling with laughter included such comments as: You don’t get way-out pop groups in the USSR. They’re musically much more literate, You’ve all heard of Molotov cocktails? Molotov was a stone-faced, hard-line Stalinist if ever there was one!, Did you sleep good, bad or indifferent? Well, to wake you up, let’s REAP THROUGH that vocab!, Russians do a lot of swearing, damning and dashing. It’s their verb to give, Let’s say it with courage, determination and conviction: read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, as the old Biblical prayer goes, From Sanskrit, probably. I’ll look it up in my Russo-Sanskrit etymological dictionary. It tells me everything, I’ll get my big super etymological dictionary RIGHT NOW. Where’s it gone? Oh, here it is. This real gem of the dictionary is produced by the Academy of Science. Yes: 21 volumes! Ah yes, now, er, let’s see, right…. what am I looking up? I’ve forgotten, Fibberty-gibbet is my type of word. It’s got panache, that’s the great thing !, No dots in the singular, but dots throughout the plural. They’re a bit stingy with little dots, you know. But nice big fat commas are essential!, French "r’s" are throaty, English has them near the front of the mouth, but in Russian they’re trilled – "Rrr-rrr-rrrr-rrrrr-rrrr!", Any queries or difficulties? The subject goes dative. The object goes nominative. Is that quite clear ?, Where’s my chalk ? Oh, it’s on top of the blackboard; thank you. Where? What – it was a crack in the wall you say? But where’s my chalk? Who’s got it? It’ll be my form! STUPID OAFS! I’LL THRASH THEM!, I’m frightened of putting up nice Russian posters about Dickens because my form are a set of vandals. Well, not really vandals, you know. They just slob in and chuck ink about, I’ve got a German atlas at home.  It’s the biggest atlas you’ve ever seen. I can scarcely carry it around. I got it from a German prisoner-of-war. It’s got the German names for towns in Czechoslovakia. I’ve spent hours pleasantly thumbing through it, When I’m free, I don’t spend the evening watching tripe. My God no! I twiddle the knobs on my £14 wireless-set getting short-wave Hungarian radio. It’s music, you know! Not like Radio Luxembourg! Pop music is music for the illiterate, Poles coming to West Germany are dazzled by the surfeit of onions, week-in week-out. They just can’t understand it, It’s a scandal that we don’t have our radio weather-forecasts read with poetry! They’re so deadpan… it’s an absolute disgrace! But there’s poetry about the shipping forecast. I enjoy that. I’d love to receive world temperatures from the Met Office through the post, Russians have a little saying: To know someone, you’ve got to a eat a pound of salt with them, I’m interested in the Russian phrase for mumps. It means little pigs in your mouth.

My Father chuckled as he read it and the next morning commented that he remembered Simon as a rather jokey sort of pupil.  I, meanwhile, am extremely grateful for this wonderful document.  I well remember my Father’s quirky dictionaries, the huge German atlas, his love of the short wave radio and how he would say we watched rubbish on the TV.  However it is thanks to me as a teenager that I actually got him hooked on Coronation Street; something I am sure he is not very proud of but makes him a bit more human to me; not always the forgetful cranky passionate teacher!

That evening, being Friday, Eladio and I went out to dinner.  This time I wanted to try somewhere new and used The Fork (El Tenedor) website to find a recommended restaurant with a discount that accepted luncheon vouchers.  I came across one in Pozuelo called “La Terraza Escondida”.  We were in for a great find, we loved the place, the atmosphere, the open fire, the welcoming staff and above all the wonderful food, the price tab of which was reduced to 20 euros each thanks to El Tenedor.  We shall be going back I can assure you.
We liked the restaurant "La Terraza Escondida" where we went on Friday night.
Saturday was perhaps the best day of the week after Kings’ day.  Olivia had arrived home the night before and we were determined to have some quality time together. So what did we do you may ask? Shopping in the sales of course. We had a great morning at Centro Oeste and came back to enjoy a good family lunch, one I had prepared before we left: Russian meat patties (bitki), Fátima’s Moroccan rice and steamed artichokes, followed by Eton Mess. 

Last night we had an important dinner date.  We were going to the annual post- Christmas dinner at Julio’s house in Madrid.  We were supposed to be going with Fátima who, as usual, was late and didn’t appear until quarter to eleven by which time we had nearly polished off all the food. Fátima is one of my best friends but there is one thing we do not see eye to eye about and that is punctuality.  Anyway she was on time for the roscón (O.M.G. more of the kings’ cake!), the crackers, champagne and exchanging of gifts.  As we are such close friends we had all told each other what we wanted so it was no surprise to open a parcel with one of my favourite perfumes in it: Flower Bomb by Viktor and Rolf which I always remember discovering in Berlin.  In any case I was delighted.  The photo below of the three of us, Fátima, Julio and I, was taken by Eladio.  I’m not very happy with it but it’s all I’ve got to record last night’s dinner.
With my great friends Fátima and Julio at the annual dinner at his house last night.
And today is Sunday.  It has been a very foggy day and very quiet too.  We have had lunch together, Fátima has gone away for her weekly break (Sundays and Mondays) and soon we will be going for our walk.  Later we will be taking Olivia to the train station.  She’s off again but this time for pleasure.  She will be going to Valencia on the AVE (high speed train) where her TVE cameraman boyfriend, Miguel lives and tomorrow they will be driving with another couple all the way to Andorra where they will spend next week skiing. 

Talking about skiing and snow, this week will certainly go down in history for the extreme weather conditions in the US.  There is a polar vortex – a new weather term for me and which basically means a blast of freezing cold air, in this case pushed further south than normal– which has caused huge snowfalls and the lowest temperatures in many years  - in some places below 50ºc!  The picture of the week most certainly must be that of the Niagara Falls completely frozen.
The Niagara Fall froze over this week thanks to the now famous "Polar Vortex" weather phenomenon.
Not understanding anything about weather really, I have read that the cold comes from Scandinavia an area which is now undergoing unusually mild weather due to this phenomenon known as the Polar Vortex.  It is so mild there that even bears are coming out of hibernation.  I do hope it goes away allowing for some snow when I visit Stockholm next week.
The unusually warm weather in Scandinavia has caused some bears to come out of hibernation thinking it is Spring.
This week will also be remembered for Angela Merkel injuring her pelvis in a skiing accident and more tragically for the death of Ariel Sharon, the ex Israeli Prime Minister who had been in coma since 2006.

But perhaps my favourite piece of news trivia this week was the publication of a report on the best and worst lovers in the world.  I was not surprised to read that Spaniards came first – actually quite proud of that.  But what I found extremely funny was the ranking of the worst nationalities and the reasons why: 1. Germany – too smelly, 2. England – too lazy, 3. Sweden – too quick, 4. Holland – too dominating, 5. America – too rough, 6. Greece  – too lovey-dovey, 7. Wales – too selfish, 8. Scotland – too loud, 9. Turkey – too sweaty, 10.Russia – too hairy.  Having only ever had experience with Spanish, English and Americans, my conclusion is that the outcome of the report, at least for those nationalities, is correct! 

And on that rather risqué note, I leave you for this week, wishing you all the very best,

Till next time, cheers


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