Sunday, January 05, 2014

The San Perrestre dog race with Elsa, to León for New Year’s Eve, more Christmas presents, Oli and the elephants, Kings’ cake, my “fitbit”, dinner in the dark and other stories.

With Eladio, Olivia and Elsa at the San Perrestre dog race on Monday
Hi everyone,

Today is Sunday and it’s been a week since Suzy left. You will be glad to know she arrived safely in England where the population is suffering terrible storms.  The weather has been a big topic on the news this week with freezing temperatures in the US and boiling temperatures in Australia.  Here in Spain the weather has been foul for days, with lots of wind and rain. 

The main news of course last Sunday was of Michael Schumacher’s skiing accident.  He is now fighting for his life at a hospital in Grenoble with severe brain trauma.  I wish him a quick recovery and somehow think that such a strong and valiant sportsman like the “Kaiser” as he is known, will somehow get through with few repercussions.

Monday was really the highlight of the week for us.  Olivia had been asked by her TVE programme, La Mañana de la 1, to cover the New Year “San Perrestre” dog race in Madrid that morning.  In fact they had asked for a reporter who had their own dog to do the job and also to run the 3km race through the streets of Madrid.  Olivia immediately volunteered to do so with our lovely 2 year old golden Labrador Elsa.  However she needed our assistance which I was delighted to provide.  Eladio was more reluctant although later on he admitted he’d had a great time.  You see it was Elsa’s first time in the streets of Madrid and her longest car journey.  However she behaved perfectly.  We would have liked to take Norah our beagle but she is a nervous dog and would not have behaved as well as Elsa.
Elsa was the star of the show on Oli's TVE programme
600 dogs would be racing from the centre of Madrid (Cibeles) in an event, in its 3rd year, organized by “El Refugio” an organization that protects animals.  The name “San Perrestre” is a play on the famous New Year race that takes place the next day in Madrid which is called “San Silvestre”.  At the end of both races, grapes are eaten on each chime of the clock in an early celebration of New Year.  You probably already know that that is the way Spaniards celebrate the New Year.  For the dogs however, there were 12 dog food pellets. As dog lovers, Eladio, Olivia and I were in our element as was darling Elsa.
Oli about to race with Elsa at the San Perrestre dog race on Monday
Eladio and I had a great time, despite the freezing cold, seeing the behind the scenes of Olivia’s job when she reports live.  We had never seen her before and were very proud to watch as she coordinated each live report with the organisers and her cameramen and producer.  She also talked to dog owners participating to find out good stories to tell in her reports.

It was my job to hold Elsa’s lead whilst Olivia was reporting and also my job to hand her the 12 dog food pellets during the simulated New Year celebration.  Thus both Eladio and I were on camera throughout both live reports.  It was the first time that occurred since Olivia has been a TV reporter.  I must say the whole morning was hugely successful and great fun.  Maybe even next year I will race with Elsa and Eladio will race with poor Norah who got left at home.  You can see the first live report here if you fast forward to 10.16h.  The second report you can see from beginning to end on this link.  You will notice how Olivia hugs me live on television.  The screen shot of that moment is just below.
Oli hugging me live on TVE on Monday
Only her family and friends would have known that the person she was hugging was her Mother.  It was a wonderful moment for us both. Thanks Olivia for a marvelous morning.  You can see more photos of our morning at the dog race here.

Olivia’s boyfriend, a cameraman for TVE based in Valencia would have loved to have been with us this morning.  He had to make do with watching us on his mobile whilst coming from Valencia that day but he was as pleased as punch to see the three of us together on TV! 

His arrival in the early evening brought with it more Christmas present opening.  They had bought each other many presents. I was chuffed to receive some lovely Carolina Herrera fragrance from him as was Eladio to receive his Paco Rabanne Invictus Eau de Toilette. I hope he liked the watch I had got him.  Later we had dinner together and chatted enthusiastically about the San Perrestre dog race; the highlight of my week.

The next day was Tuesday, New Year’s Eve.  Eladio and I were up quite early to get a good start on our car journey to León where we would be celebrating with his numerous family, as we have done now for years and years.  The nicest part about driving to León, which takes about 3 hours, is the traditional stop at Rueda in the Valladolid province and famous for its white wine.  We always stop at the Palacio de Bornos winery and here I am making a toast with some wine and ham.  I look happy don’t I?
Toasting the New Year in Rueda on 31st December
We arrived in León just before lunch and on time to go out for some wine and tapas with my brother-in-law Andrés.  Lunch was at Pili and Andrés’ house where we would be staying and Pili prepared a splendid meal which we enjoyed with their grown up “children” Mario and Paula.  Afterwards I was in need of a siesta which I enjoyed with their delightful dalmation Trébol on the sofa in their lounge.  The photo Eladio took of us is one my favourite ever.  I wonder if you agree.
Chilling out with Trébol on Pili and Andrés' sofa on New Year's Eve
The afternoon was spent as it always is on New Year’s Eve in León at Adela’s house nearby.  We were also to celebrate her son Roberto’s 42nd birthday.  The photo below is also priceless; of Roberto surrounded by most of the women in his life; his two daughters, Lidia and Diana, his grandmother Ernestina, his wife Ana, his Mother Adela and some of his cousins.
Roberto my nephew with the most important women in his life and some of his cousins on New Year's Eve
It was too wet and cold for a walk that evening, so we skipped it although my body would have benefitted from a brisk walk in between heavy meals, and went back to Pili’s house to get changed for the annual dinner.  Here is a photo of Pili and I dressed to the nines.  We both commented that we didn’t look too bad in our “50s”!
Pili and I dressed up for New Year's Eve
Dinner was at Amancio’s where we celebrate New Year’s Eve nearly every year.  Here is a photo of most of us, as it is nearly impossible to get all of us on camera.  We were 18 this year and would be 21 when we were joined for coffee afterwards by Roberto and his family. 
Our New Year's Eve family dinner in León at Amancio's.
Our family would be separated again this year.  Suzy was spending New Year’s Eve in London at her Whitechapel flat with 6 of her flat mates.  I called her an hour before midnight to hear her voice and wish her happy new year.  She told me they would be having their grapes at 11pm,  Spanish midnight, and thinking of us. This is the “selfie” photo she sent me.
Suzy celebrating New Year's Eve in London
Meanwhile Olivia was at home having dinner with Juli, Rocío and Anita and this is the photo she sent me.
Oli celebrating New Year's Eve at home in Madrid
She had forgotten to get grapes for midnight so they ate mandarin segments instead!  Later they would be joined by Miguel.  I heard later that they did not go out partying afterwards which must be a first.

After our own copious dinner at Amancio’s some of the family gathered at Pili’s house where we spent a good two hours watching old videos of the family which Andrés had converted into dvds.  It was amazing to see us all in 1994, 20 years ago, during Eladio’s parents' golden wedding anniversary.  I was 37 and looked amazing and the girls were 8 and 9!  Eladio’s hair was jet black! It is thanks to Andrés, the only member of our family able to afford a video camera at the time, that we now have videos of when we and our children were young. 

After breakfast the next day we watched more videos, some of 1990.  I had long hair, the girls were tiny and there is a priceless one of Suzy aged 6 in her birthday suit telling Andrés not to film her like that after which she immediately said ok go on film me undressed! 

This year we stayed in León for lunch, invited by Adela and Primo.  Adela had made a typical regional dish called “llosco”.  That’s the name of it in Montrondo but the proper word is “botillo”. You can find out more about this dish here.

Soon it was time to leave and head home in the ghastly rain and wind.  The roads were full of other New Year celebrants returning home.  On our way back we did not stop at Rueda as the winery was closed on New Year’s Day. Once home I unpacked a wonderful homemade hamper Adela had made for me.  I think it was to thank me for taking her to London; but that wasn’t necessary.  Thanks anyway Adela, the hamper is lovely and full of wonderful produce we will enjoy.
Me with the Christmas hamper Adela made for me at home on New Year's Day

You can see the full collection of my photos of our New Year’s Eve in León here.

It was nice to see the family and dogs again.  Miguel and Olivia joined us for a frugal dinner where we had some more of one of the 3 hams I had been given for Christmas.

Thursday was a boring cold day when I fasted for the second time which always makes the day feel so much longer.

Friday was more fun.  Olivia would be reporting from a circus that morning and we were eager to watch her, as was my Father.  The live report was about 3 female elephants’ morning snack at the American circus – mostly fruit and vegetables.  You can watch it here if you fast forward to 13.23.
Oli live on TVE on Friday morning presenting the elephants at the circus.  She is wearing one of Miguel's Christmas presents - the lovely burgandy dress by Purificación García which I, incidentally, have also worn.
Oli, who does not know much about mammoths, told her audience that each one weighed more than 2000 kilos and actually fed them live on the TV!  When asked by the presenter how much an elephant eats in a day, she produced an answer out of the hat, not really knowing the right answer, and replied that they ate an awful lot and that this was just a morning snack!
Oli feeding the elephants live on TVE on Friday morning.
In the afternoon Eladio and I braved the weather and took the dogs for a walk in the rain and wind.  I needed a hot shower afterwards.  Dinner that night was at Tony Romas where we feasted on delicious ribs.  We brought back the bones for our dogs in a doggy bag to the amazement of our waitress whose first day it was at Tony Romas.

On Saturday morning, we had Kings’ cake (roscón de reyes) for breakfast. Olivia and Miguel had bought us the cream variety.  I am very traditional and only ever buy the “roscón” to be eaten on Kings’ Day on 6th January, but who was I not to succumb to the temptation at breakfast yesterday?  Later that day I bought the plain variety as I prefer to toast my “roscón”. 
A "roscón de reyes" cake
Christmas, New Year and Reyes (the 3 Kings’ day on 6th January– so important in Spain and the main day for receiving presents) are killers if you want to maintain your weight.  My new year’s resolution this year is to shed the extra kilos I have put on since the summer and I promise I will do it. I have a new helper, a wearable fitness device, “one” by “fitbit” which Olivia bought me for Christmas; the idea being prompted by my friend Juana.  It’s a little device you clip into your bra and via Bluetooth it synchronises the data monitored on both your mobile phone and pc. It helps monitor your daily activity and even your sleep.  On a walk day it tells me I generally walk about 10km and burn about 2000 calories.  Last night I used the sleep monitor for the first time and found out something which did not surprise me: I slept 9h.42 mins, 36 minutes of which I was awake, 34 minutes of which I was restless and that I woke up 4 times to go to the bathroom.  These wearable fitness devices are very much in fashion and I’m not sure whether I really want to monitor all my activity every day of my life.  Yesterday I read an article in The Guardian entitled “The unhealthy side of wearable fitness devices” and was appalled to read that there is even a device called a jawbone.  I can only imagine it fits in your mouth and either stops you eating or monitors your food intake.  Isn’t that taking it too far?
My wearable fitness device, the Fitbit "One"

Yesterday, Saturday was a busy day. After the “roscón” breakfast, we set about giving the dogs their bi weekly bath.  While I was putting their blankets and collars in the wash, I heard a tremendous noise coming from the downstairs guest room bathroom.  I rushed in to find Eladio patiently carrying on bathing Elsa after about a quarter of the plaster had just crashed from the ceiling onto the toilet, floor and basin.  It was amazing it hit everywhere except his and the dog’s heads.  I hate to imagine what would have happened had they been hit as the plaster is pretty heavy. 

Unscathed and with clean dogs, Eladio and I set off to El Corte Inglés (Spain’s most famous department store) in nearby Pozuelo.  We had to get presents for Kings’ day on Monday.  Of course our main presents are given on Christmas day but we give token presents on Kings’ day too.  The place was buzzing with last minute Kings’ day shoppers and the queues were enormous and the shop assistants’ tempers a little frayed. Purchases done, we were home in time for lunch with my Father and Olivia and Miguel who had been out swimming at the indoor pool in Villaviciosa. 

In the afternoon we watched a film recommended by Olivia on the TV in our bedroom via Miguel’s external disk (we are keeping up with the times!).  It was Headhunters, a very entertaining Norwegian thriller which kept our eyes wide open when normally we would probably have fallen asleep. 

Our walk yesterday was very blustery and at one stage I fell in the mud.  Meanwhile in the centre of Madrid gales of up to 140km caused Christmas trees in two main squares to fall.  In the evening we watched another film, courtesy of Miguel’s external disc, The Flight with Denzel Washington, which we didn’t enjoy half as much as Headhunters and were asleep by about 10pm – thus the 9.45h sleep recorded by my “fitbit” last night.

Suzy yesterday was having the time of her life with her boyfriend Gabor in London.  They were enjoying her Christmas present to him: a blind dinner at Dans Le Noir – I’m dying to hear what it’s like to eat in total darkness.  This was followed by a night at a 5 star hotel where she got a discount from a friend who works there.  This is the photo she sent us on whatsapp of the two of them in their wonderful room at the hotel where they would be drinking champagne and enjoying a massage!  This was her present to him.  Well you know his present to her is probably even better.  He has bought tickets on the Eurostar to take her to Paris for a long weekend at the end of January. All I can say is long live romance.
Suzy and Gabor enjoying one of her Christmas presents to him yesterday - a night at a 5 star hotel in London.

And today is Sunday.  Finally the rain has disappeared but probably not for long.  Tonight is Kings’ night when Spanish children cannot sleep for the excitement of waking up to the presents the Magi from the East will be bringing during the night.  We will have our own family Kings’ breakfast tomorrow when we will exchange our token presents and then we have a big family lunch to look forward to.  José Antonio, Dolores and their three grown up kids, Miguel, Sara and Juan will be coming from Montrondo where it has been snowing heavily since yesterday morning. But I trust the roads will be clear and they will be able to leave the village today. 
Snow in Montrondo yesterday
And I have now reached the end of the tale of this week, the last week of Christmas, if I don’t count Kings’ day tomorrow. 

So wishing you all a great week ahead, cheers till next time,


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