Monday, March 31, 2014

Adolfo Suárez father of Spanish democracy RIP, Olivia off to León to cover the snow for TVE1, a wonderful weekend in Montrondo and other stories.

Monday 31st March 2014
Eladio and I with the Tambarón mountain peak behind us on our walk up into the mountains near Montrondo on Sunday morning. 
Hello again my friends

I am writing from Montrondo just before we leave, as Eladio is sleeping a siesta and José Antonio and Dolores are tidying up the house.  But I will get to our stay in Montrondo later.

At about this time last week, Eladio and I were watching the news after lunch which was interrupted when the whole of Spain heard that at 15.03 on Sunday 23rd March 2014 Adolfo Suárez, Spain’s first democratic Prime Minister after Franco, had just died.  His figure in Spain has grown enormously since his illness and death and he is in a way, Spain’s John Fitzgerald Kennedy, someone charismatic in a similar way and who will go down in history as one of Spain’s best Prime Minister’s ever. 
Adolfo Suárez
You will remember when I wrote last week that Spain’s “Father of Democracy” was at death’s door due to respiratory complications from the Alzheimer he had been suffering from for some 10 years. He died far too early, aged 81, and didn’t even remember his political feat of taking Spain from a dictatorship to a democracy with no blood shed nor that he had ever been Spain’s premiere.  He united the so-called two Spains in eternal conflict, from the Spanish Civil War and still today to some extent.  If you follow Spanish politics you will know that whilst trying to bring democracy to the country in the period in history called “the transition” he faced much opposition and in fighting from his own political party, UCD, fierce criticism from the Socialists and terrorist problems on all fronts.  He had to resign and his popularity decreased.  Only as the years have gone by has he been revered and after his death, he once again united the two Spains (left and right wing) with leaders from his times who once made his life impossible coming forward ironically to praise him after his death.  He probably turned in his grave to see his arch enemies all competing in their efforts to say what a wonderful prime minister and politician he had been.  However the population at large came out in their thousands and up to 30.000 queued up to pay their respects in Parliament where he his coffin was laid before being taken to the Cathedral in Avila to be buried alongside his lifetime partner and love of his life, Amparo Iliana. 
Adolfo Suárez and Amparo Illana's joint grave in the Cathedral of Avila.
I always admired this charismatic, cinema star looking politician and remember his rise and fall to power as it coincided with when I first came to live in Spain.  He had it all and lost it all on both the political front and within his loving family.  He was appointed Prime Minister by the young King Juan Carlos who became thick friends.  However upon Adolfo Suárez’ political decline, he no longer had the support of the King, something which was very much hush hush this week as the Monarch dried his tears at the foot of his coffin. For me they were “crocodile tears”.

The story of his family is tragic.  A wonderful example of the closest type of exemplary family, they were struck with cancer.
Adolfo Suárez with his wife and family when he was Prime Minister of Spain
He had five children, Marian, Sonsoles, Laura, Adolfo (the family spokesperson) and Javier. First his oldest daughter Marian got breast cancer, then his wife.  When he left politics it was to dedicate all of his time to them.  His beloved wife Ampara Illana died in 2001 and he was devastated.  His other daughters also got cancer but survived, however Marian did not and died in 2004.  By then Adolfo Suárez had Alzheimer and was not aware of her death.  Tragic story isn’t it? 

Three days of national mourning were declared and Adolfo Suárez finally got recognition for his heroic efforts and was given probably the biggest state funeral in modern times. In those three days the Father of Democracy, united the country once again.  There will never be a Prime Minister like him again.  I voted for him and gave him all my support. All I can say now is RIP and now finally you have the recognition you always deserved.  How ironic!

On Monday as always I fasted.  Monday was the day the Prime Minister of Malaysia announced that the missing plane, the now famous flight MH370, had crashed into the Indian Ocean and that there had been no survivors.  However, there is still no evidence that the debris sighted comes from the plane, so for the moment there can be no closure for the families.
Where flight MH370 probably crashed
On Tuesday, on the first walk of the day, we were amazed to see a whole flock of sheep on our walk.  Remember last week we had seen the “lost sheep”.  Of course the flock was its brethren.  I hope it was united with the flock.  We had to keep Elsa and Norah on their leads as they got very excited at the event.
Elado and our dogs and the flock of sheep we encountered on our walk last week.
It was on Tuesday that the bad weather started in the north of Spain this week.  Snow and gale winds were forecast just after spring had started officially.  Olivia was to be her programme’s “weather girl” that week and would be sent off to cover the extreme conditions for TVE.  León, the province in north-west Spain where Eladio hails from and where most of his family lives, was to be the hardest hit.  Thus Olivia was sent to the capital of the province.  Of course she chose to stay with them instead of at a hotel.  A chauffer driven car came to pick her up in the afternoon and take her to León to stay at Pili’s house.  Pili is Eladio’s youngest sister and she and her husband Andrés were delighted to host our daughter.

She met up with various members of the family.  The “abuela” (grandmother), my mother-in-law, Ernestina, was especially pleased to see her.  I asked Pili to send me photos and she sent me plenty.  Here is a lovely one of Olivia with Pili, her sister Adela and the “abuela”.
Oli in León last Tuesday with Pili (left), the "abuela" (middle) and Adela (right)
It snowed that night and Olivia had plenty of places to choose from to do her broadcasting on Wednesday morning.  She was on TV four times that morning, twice from a village called Villamanín and twice from a village called Rodiezmo.  You can see her on this link if you fast forward to 10.20 and on this link if you go to 11.29, 12.27 and 13.15.
Oli reporting on the snow in Leon from Villamanín on Wednesday 
I had to watch her later on internet via video streaming as I was busy at the office that morning.  I had a meeting with my PR agency and members of the customer care and product management departments.  It was a great meeting as my colleagues from these departments are a delight to work with.  We were meeting about dealing with customer problems and product information on the Yoigo social media sites.  I commented afterwards to Isabel and Carlos from my PR agency, what a pleasure it is to work with these colleagues.  It was very productive and now we have set up monthly editorial meetings to agree on content to post month by month.  The first one will be next week. I came home feeling very motivated. Thanks Juan, Jesús, Tony, Miguel Angel, Pepe and Pedro.

Olivia was to stay another night in León at Pili and Andrés house.  I would have loved to be with them that afternoon when Pili and Olivia went clothes shopping but I had to content myself with news from them on whatsapp.  I had seen that morning thanks to a photo posted by Manolita in Montrondo that it had also snowed heavily in “our village”.  So I suggested to Olivia that on Thursday morning she should go with the TV crew to to report on the snow there.  She thought it was a great idea and got the thumbs up from her programme.  We all got very excited that Montrondo would be on TV and Olivia reporting there but were worried the snow might have gone by the morning because of the rain.  But the snow was still there.  Primo, Adela’s husband, who knows more about the village than anyone would be going to as would Pili, who took a day off work specially, and Andrés. But disaster struck and we heard from Eladio who was in contact with Olivia that when she arrived in Montrondo early in the morning there was no coverage to transmit the news, possibly because of the snow.  So she had to rush off to another village, nearby Cabrillanes.  We were all very upset that Montrondo was not to be on TV. Of course because of the delay she missed the first connections and was not able to report live until 13.20.  You can see that clip here.
Olivia reporting on the snow from Cabrillanes on Thursday when it could have been Montrondo
Later that day Olivia was sent from León to Gijón (beautiful coastal town in Asturias near Oviedo). I was not to see her again until Sunday.

On Friday morning we left with José Antonio and Dolores and their mongrel Nuba to spend the weekend in Montrondo.  I, especially, was looking forward to the snow there as I haven’t seen heavy snow in our village since the girls were small.  On route, as always, we stopped at the famous white wine village, Rueda, for a little something.  A little something there is always a plate of ham and a glass of delicious wine.  Here is a photo of the four of us at that very moment.
In Rueda on Friday on our way to Montrondo
At about 2 we arrived in Senra, a village some 4km from Montrondo which has the only bar and restaurant in the area which offers food: Cumbres de Omaña and where we had lunch that day.
Me happy to see snow when we arrived in Senra (4km from Montrondo)
That was when I realized there was no mobile coverage, just as Olivia had experienced.  We were to be bereft of mobile coverage all weekend which for me, at least was a challenge.  I needed internet though to work as I had to send an email to all the staff and do other important stuff.  Luckily I was able to poach a neigbour’s wifi connection and thankfully didn’t have to go further afield to do my work.

Montrondo with the snow was like a picture postcard as you can see here.
Snow in Montrondo  - a photo I took when we arrived on Friday. 
As soon as we had settled in and the central heating was working, I went off to take pictures of the snow in the village, accompanied by Nuba.  It was so beautiful.  I had come prepared with all my snow outfits but in actual fact it wasn’t so cold.  I wore my pre ski boots I had bought at Navacerrada with Phil and Kathy and they stood me in good stead throughout the weekend.
The path to the church with Nuba on Friday afternoon
Whilst the men preferred to stay at home, Dolores, Nuba and I set off for the first walk of the weekend.  We went on the road to Murias and back (3.2km approx.).
Dolores my sister-in-law on the walk to Murias on Friday afternoon
I made a delicious chicken waldorf salad for dinner on Friday night and Dolores made a cream of vegetable soup. 

As the house was still very cold we all took hot water bottles to bed.  One of José Antonio and Dolores’ bottles burst and you just imagine the consequences and of course they had to change beds and slept in their daughter Sara's room.

We were up early the next morning and to my delight it was snowing.  It would snow all morning after which the rain set in.  So I persuaded Eladio to join me on an ambitious walk through the snow via the “Bao” path to Murias and then on the road to Senra and back – some 8km.  It turned out to be our walk of the year.  Trudging through virgin snow through the fields was pure joy for someone like me who loves snow and doesn’t often see it.  This weekend I certainly got my fill.
Eladio on "our walk of the year" on Saturday morning on the "Bao" 
In Senra we tied Nuba to a chair with Eladio’s belt and went inside Cumbres de Omaña where we would later have lunch with all the family, to have a coffee and warm up by the lovely open fire.

On the walk back I did what is called “el santo” (the saint) in Montrondo.  I let myself fall on my back into the soft snow so as to get up again and see the imprint I had made.  However Nuba destroyed the imprint hahaha.  I tried to get Eladio to do the saint too as he must have done a thousand times as a child, but he refused.
Me clownng in the snow on our walk on Saturday morning
When we got back all of Eladio’s brothers, sisters and spouses and his Mother had arrived.  We all gathered in the kitchen by the warmth of the open range until it was time to return to Senra (by car this time) for lunch.

We were 13 around the table in the pleasant dining room.
Lunch in Senra with the family on Saturday 
Lunch was delicious.  There was lots to choose from and the establishment brings you whole plates and pots of food to serve yourselves.  Most of us chose the oxtail stew for our second course served with crisp chips made from local potatoes. 
Oxtail stew, chips and meat balls at Senra - delicious
The afternoon was spoiled a bit by the rain and we were a bit cooped up.  The highlights of the afternoon together were visiting Adela’s new house which is practically finished and visiting Pili and Andrés’ which is about half way done.  Pili’s house is right next to ours which we will soon be starting on.  As you can imagine talk most of the weekend was about building our houses; so exciting.  We hope to start sometime in the spring but who knows when it will be finished.
Pili's house being built (left) and ours to be reformed on the right
All of the family left late in the afternoon except for Pili and Andrés who stayed for dinner.  Meanwhile Dolores and I (and Nuba of course) went on another walk to Murias and back.  Without that second walk I don’t think I could have faced dinner.  I was very pleased with myself that day as I saw my fitbit recorded I had walked (it counts all the steps I do all day long) over 16km.  Translated into calories it meant I had burnt 2.473, my record I think.  Thus I didn’t feel guilty as I ate some chocolate after dinner hahaha.
My fitbit record statistics on Saturday
When we woke up on Sunday morning we had forgotten the clocks had changed.  At breakfast we thought they had gone back an hour so we changed our watches, etc only to realize a few minutes later that the clocks had actually gone forward an hour.  Thus in a very short space of time we lost 2 hours!  That of course was because when you are in Montrondo you have little notion of the time.

The sun was shining so we decided on a walk up into the mountains to enjoy even more snow.  Before leaving I made our lunch (chicken Korma) as I knew I would be too tired to make it upon our return.

This is what Eladio, José Antonio and Dolores looked like just as we set off – in El Campo (the village green).
José Antonio, Dolores and Eladio in "el campo" before we set off up the mountains on Sunday morning
We wanted to walk up quite far but the trek up in thick virgin snow was not easy at all.  We got as far as El Abedular and stopped to take some gorgeous photos by the highest peak in the area; El Tambarón (2.102m). Montrondo itself is already over 1000 m high.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of Eladio and I at that point in our walk. It was to be another wonderful walk but very tiring because it is nearly all uphill and we had to make the path in the snow as we walked.
   A lovely sunny walk in the mountains on Sunday
When we got to El Zaramal it was impossible to continue as the snow was too thick so we turned back and walked down to the village again, all in all about 2 hours in the snow and sun with the most beautiful views possible.

Of course we devoured the curry when we got home. Dessert was a great chocolate cake I had bought at Aldi!

Soon it was time to go home so after a short siesta (Eladio and Toño) and lots of tidying up, we packed and got into the car at about 17h, happy and satisfied with a great weekend in snowy Montrondo. 

Mobile coverage returned slowly as we drove towards León and it was then I found out what was for me the main news we had missed that weekend.  The journalist and photographer from El Mundo, Javier Espinosa (left) and Ricardo García Vilanova (right) who had been kidnapped in Syria six months ago had been released by the radical Islamic rebels who had captured them. 
The journalist Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo García Vilanova from El Mundo were released from kidnap this weekend.
I especially love this photo of Javier Espinosa coming down the steps of the airplane in Madrid to be greeted by his small son. 
Father and son reunited (Javier Espinosa) after 6 months in captivity
In the car driving home (Eladio was driving) I was able to catch up with the girls’ news too.  Olivia had had a quiet weekend with her friends after coming back from Gijón on Friday evening.  I love this photo of her she posted on Facebook after the girls’ great friend Copi had plaited her hair and done her make up. Wow she looks like a model.  Don’t you agree?
Olivia after Copi's make over this weekend. She looks stunning.
Suzy meanwhile was hosting a barbecue in the garden of her new house for her flat mates from Whitechapel.  It seems there is good weather in London.  In fact I read on The Telegraph yesterday that this week would be warmer than Spain. 
Suzy in red hosting a bbq for her flat mates from Whitechapel at her new house 
Yesterday, Sunday, was Mothering Sunday in England, something I never celebrate.  But I was very touched to receive a very emotional audio message from Susana to tell me how much she loves me.  Thank you darling.

We were home at around 8.30 pm and of course it was lighter than usual thanks to the clocks having gone forward.  It was great to see my Father and the dogs and Fátima too.  We had left them in her good hands. Today is her last day at home before she takes a well-deserved two week holiday from tomorrow.  She has been working here non-stop since last July and looks to me extremely tired.  Well that is probably also caused by her anemia.  Meanwhile our external cleaner Zena who is from the Ukraine will be coming to clean our house in her absence.  That makes me very happy as there is no one I have ever known who cleans as well as dear Zena.
Fátima, our home help with the dogs in the kitchen
And today is Monday (I wrote a lot of this yesterday in Montrondo before leaving).  It was great to have breakfast with Olivia this morning but it will be the only day this week.  Tomorrow I will be leaving the house at about 7 am to be in the office for an important visitor and on Wednesday I will be leaving for Stockholm and won’t be back until Friday. Yes, this week will be busy but that’s how I like it.

So I will leave you here to get on with Monday and you will hear all about my trip to Stockholm next Sunday.

Cheers till then

PS You can see the full set of photos of our weekend in Montrondo here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Father’s Day in Spain, a lost sheep, international happiness day, Adolfo Suárez at death’s door, the singing nun, Suzy’s move, shopping with Olivia, dinner in Madrid and other stories

Suzy with all her worldly goods arriving at their new home in Canada Water
Hello again

Another week has passed and it is Sunday again and the time to write the news of our week.  Since I last wrote, the Malaysian airplane’s disappearance is still baffling the world, although there have been sightings of debris in one of the remotest areas of the world, some 1.500 miles west of Australia in the Indian Ocean.  Time is running out as the battery of the black box only lasts for 30 days. 

The referendum in Crimea took place last Sunday and 96% voted for annexation to Russia. Amid international protest, Russia’s “new Tzar”, Putin went ahead and annexed the region to Russia.  Will this mean another Crimean War? Possibly.  I can only imagine the Lady of the Lamp, Florence Nightingale turning in her grave.

Meanwhile at home, Olivia came back on Sunday from Soria.  Very sweetly she brought us back some local almond cake, delicious butter and honey for her Father.  That day Suzy had been for a picnic to Victoria Park, that lovely park by Buckingham Palace with her new Czech friend Jane and Argentinian boyfriend Sebastian.  Later she biked her way back to Whitechapel to meet her friends from the flat there.   Suzy was enamoured with Jane’s black lab and sent me this lovely picture.  It is very clear that my eldest daughter is having a ball in London.  Oh to be young again and be with her there.  I would also have loved to spend the first few years of my career in the capital of the UK but that was not to be. 
Jane's black labrador.  I would have preferred a photo of Suzy but that's what I got.
There’s not much to tell you about Monday and Tuesday.  On Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, I fasted as always and on both days worked from home as usual and went for two walks.

Wednesday was Father’s Day in Spain.  It was also José Antonio’s birthday (happy birthday dearest brother-in-law).  The girls duly greeted their father as all children across Spain would have done.  I particularly liked a photo my youngest niece Alicia posted on Facebook where she is playing beach ball with her Father Isidro, Eladio’s youngest brother.  So that is the image I have chosen to illustrate this topic. 
Alicia playing beach ball with her Father Isidro - my choice of photo to illustrate Father's Day in Spain.
That day on our walk we made an unusual sighting when we came across a lost sheep.
The lost sheep on our walk this week
If you live in England, seeing a sheep on a walk is nothing unusual.  In fact Eladio chastised me for bothering to take a photo.  But for me it was unusual as we never see sheep on our walk.  We do however sometimes spot wild boar, often see rabbits, even grass snakes and big birds flying in the blue sky such as hawks.  The day before, we had seen a herd of sheep in the distance so when we saw the lone lost sheep it was pretty obvious that it had been separated from its brethren.  I wonder what happened to it as we haven’t seen it since.

Thursday 20th March was the first official day of spring.  Until that day we have had very warm weather but on that day, ironically, the temperatures began to plummet.  Thursday was also the UN’s International Happiness day.  To mark the occasion the Eurostat, the EU data agency, published a report on the quality of life in the 28 EU nations.  In the photo below you can see the statistics.  In short Spain has the highest life expectancy whilst Bulgaria has the lowest.  Spain is also one of the “happier” nations when it comes to satisfaction with life, despite not being one of the richer ones which goes to show that money doesn’t always bring happiness.  Spain also has one of the lowest suicide rates in opposition to the more satisfied countries like Finland or Sweden where suicide rates are much higher – now that is a paradox.  Basically I think the study just goes to show how diverse we all are. You can make your own conclusions if you want to read the study which you can download here.
The Eurostat report on the quality of life in the 28 countries in the EU
On Thursday Miguel, Olivia’s boyfriend, came from Valencia to stay with her which I am sure made her very happy that day!

There is lots to tell you about Friday.  At midday we learned which teams would be meeting which in the Champions League last16.  It’s interesting to note that only 4 countries represent the 8 teams, 3 are from Spain, 2 from Germany, 2 from England and one from France. Quite clearly Spain dominates football.  So if you don’t know who is playing who, let me tell.  Barcelona will meet Atlético de Madrid in the only one country meet, Madrid will play Borussia Dortmund who beat them last year in the same fixture, Man United will play Bayern Munich, perhaps the most challenging match of the last 16 and Mourinho’s Chelsea will play the French, PSG. The first leg ties will be played on 1st and 2nd April and the second legs one week later.  May the best team win I should say but what I really mean is that I want Madrid to win.
The draw for the Champions League Last 16 took place this week
But at around the same time the draw was taking place, a very sad story was developing in Spain.  Adolfo Suárez, Spain’s first democratic prime minister after the Franco regime, was fighting his last hours in hospital. His son, also called Adolfo Suarez, gathered the press to inform them his Father had probably only 48 hours left to live.  As I write those words the hairs on my arms stand on end.  I admire this man as do most Spaniards.  Spain has a lot to thank this elegant and charismatic politician whose “role in the transition to democracy was second only to that of the King”.  This was said by the historian Javier Tusell but it is something those of us who witnessed him in government already know.  I will never forget the image of him in parliament on 23rd February 1982 when it was stormed by the military.  Whilst nearly everyone around him ducked down in their benches he remained sitting, in danger of being shot.  Like many politicians he was more revered by the public after his time in office than during it.  Sadly before he was even 70 he was diagnosed with alzheimer’s and his son said that in 2004 he didn’t even remember he had been the Prime Minister of Spain.  I well remember his rise to power when I lived in Madrid for my year abroad during my University studies.  I remember him too in government when I first lived in Spain and he is one of these charismatic politicians who will go down in history being revered by people from all sides of the political spectrum; even the far left as in 1977 he very bravely legalized the communist party. 
Adolfo Suárez
On a lighter note I always found him physically attractive in the swarthy Spanish way and see a likeness to my good looking husband, something many people have told Eladio too.

And now on to a totally different story, about the singing nun, 25 year old Cristina Scuccia from Sicily who became a sensation this week after performing on the Italian version of The Voice.  18 million people have viewed her on You Tube.  So if you haven’t seen or heard her, this is the link to her performance this week.  Not quite Julie Andrews, she is charming and has a great voice, although I didn’t like the song she chose.  She has become an instant success story.  It is unusual for nuns to become stars but I think she will.  To quote the sweet young nun, “if you have a gift you have to share it”.  I think it’s her way of evangelizing.  Well good for her.  By the way, I think she is waiting for a phone call from the Pope.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he rang her.  It’s a lovely story isn’t it?
The singing nun Cristina Scuccia
That night Eladio and I had dinner at our latest favourite restaurant, La Terraza La Escondida in Pozuelo.  Olivia and Miguel meanwhile were celebrating Elena’s birthday with the so-called “herd” – their group “la manada” in Spanish.  Here is a lovely photo of some of them which Oli posted on Facebook and I love.
Olivia and her "herd"
Elena is Suzy’s best friend and I know she would have loved to be there but of course she is in London.  Friday night for her would have been a night of restlessness as the next day she and Gabor would finally be moving out of Whitechapel where Suzy has lived with 12 other people in cramped and shabby conditions since she went to live in London 10 months ago. 

On Saturday morning, we followed her move via whatsapp, as she sent us photos of their leaving Whitechapel in a taxi full of all their worldly goods in London – a few suitcases and bags.
Leaving Whitechapel
Just a little while later they had arrived at their destination in Canada Water.  Here they will be living in much better conditions in a house shared with a maximum of 6 people.  The house is in a very nice area and seems bright and clean and new.  They have a big double room with private access to the garden and yesterday they spent all day settling in.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of the arrival at their new house.

Later in the evening we got more photos, one of Gabor stretched out on the bed exhausted after the move and another one of champagne and two glasses which they had to celebrate the move.  I am so glad they have finally gone up in life, as far as property goes and wish them lots of happiness.  

While they were in the throes of their removal, we had the pleasure of the company of Olivia and Miguel for lunch.  In the afternoon I went out with them shopping to Gran Plaza 2.  They wanted to buy covers for their phones, but it was really just an excuse to go to Zara and other stores.  I had a successful purchasing period at my favourite Spanish clothes store.  I bought a lovely pink long jumper, a blueand white striped long top/dress (Oli said, what another blue and white striped garment? To which I replied I could never have enough haha) and a pretty light pink blouse.  These are the lovely garments which I made into a photo collage for you to see.
My new clothes from Zara this weekend
And whilst we were shopping in Las Rozas, a big demonstration was taking place in Madrid.  I followed its development from photos that José Antonio uploaded on the family whatsapp group as he and his wife Dolores joined the demonstrators.
A photo of yesterday's demonstrations in Madrid taken by José Antonio
Baptised 22M (for 22nd March) and also “marches for dignity” some 50,000 people demonstrated in the streets of Madrid in the early evening.  Thousands of them had been marching from many cities in Spain for days.  The protests were against the cuts and the extreme conditions provoked by the financial crisis and the protestors criticized both banks and the government. 

We had dinner with José Antonio and Dolores last night in Madrid, after the demonstrations.  As we drove to the restaurant, Don Ulpiano, in San Bernardo, we came via a tunnel from the Princesa Street towards the Alberto Aguilera street and on the pavements of the tunnel I counted up to 10 homeless people wrapped in blankets sleeping there as cars passed them like ours.  The image was in stark contrast to our night out in Madrid with Eladio’s brother and wife.  We again mentioned the scene when we got ready to go to bed in our ample bedroom and commented that we live in a luxury bubble compared to so many people.  Of course we have worked hard to reach our standard of living but we had all the right circumstances as children for that to happen, unlike so many unluckier people in life. 

Dinner was lovely and it was nice to catch up with each other’s news, talk about our children and of course about Montrondo.  We shall be going there together next weekend and hope that the rest of the family will join us.  I think they will.  As usual I booked our table via The Fork and we got a 40% discount on the wonderful food Don Ulpiano served.  I’m sure we’ll be going again.
Dinner last night with photogenic Dolores and Eladio's brother José Antonio
And today is Sunday, the sun is shining although it is cold outside.  Soon we will be going on my first walk of the day and then I will be making lunch.  I do hope we will be joined by Miguel and Oli again.  Tonight Madrid will be playing Barcelona at the Bernabeu stadium in a “clásico” of the Spanish Liga but we won’t be watching it as these days these sort of matches are only available on pay per view tv. 

So I will love you and leave you and get on with Sunday.  I hope you have a great day and wish you all a good week coming too.

Cheers till next time


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Out of hospital, a missing airplane, anniversaries, 25 years of Internet, spring is on its way, the death of Tony Benn, the richest town in Spain, Oli went to Soria and Suzy found a flat, troubles in the Crimea, the best place to live in England and other stories.

Oli having breakfast with her friends Gioanna left and Paula right (black stripes) in Soria this weekend.
Hi again

Well what a week it has been, memorable in many ways on the news front.  We have had marvelous weather and spring is on the way. So let me start.

This time last week Eladio was in hospital.  Thankfully it all turned out to be a storm in a teacup and on Monday he was discharged.  They made him wear a halter (a device worn to measure your blood pressure for 24 hours) as the doctors suspected his feeling faint was possibly because of a valve in his heart.  This worried us quite a lot but the final diagnosis was that he has a clean bill of health and that he probably felt faint as he had been standing reading the newspaper for an hour before sitting down to breakfast.  Now he has breakfast as soon as he is in the kitchen and reads the paper sitting down!

The week’s news has been dominated by the story of a missing Boing 777 belonging to Malaysia Airlines.  Last Saturday it took off for Beijing with 237 people onboard and went missing shortly afterwards.  There has been no sign of the plane since and the signals are now turning to a high jacking attempt which probably ended in the plane crashing into the sea.  It is a very mysterious story and I have been following the news daily.

Tuesday 11th March was the 10th anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, the deadliest terrorist attack in Spanish history.  For people in Spain this is like our 9th September.  The bombs on 4 packed commuter trains heading for the Madrid Atocha station killed 191 people and wounded about 2,000.  It is something none of us can ever forget and each and every one of us remembers where we were and what we were doing when it happened.  I was in Segovia with Anne N and the other members of the Nokia marketing team.  We had gone there for a farewell event.  I was with Anne when it happened and it was thanks to her Mother we found out, who had called her from Finland to see if she was alright.  That is a day I will never forget.
It was the 10th anniversary of the Madrid train bombings on Tuesday

Tuesday 11th March was also the 3rd annivesary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, tsunami and earthquake disaster which killed some 16 thousand people in Japan.  That is a day that will go down in history as one of the worst natural disasters ever to happen.

That day I got a phone call from my new (dotted line) Finnish boss Tatu.  It was funny for me to receive a phone call from a number beginning with 358.  I immediately recognised the number as coming from Finland, due to the many years I worked for Nokia.  I look forward to meeting him and my new team members at the beginning of April in Stockholm.

On Tuesday too I had lunch with a colleague, “A” who has just lost her job as the communications director with a well-known mobile phone manufacturer.  We had lunch at the only English restaurant I know of in Madrid, The Bristol Bar.  Here we devoured a wonderful plate of fish and chips, followed by an enormous portion of fruit crumble.  There was a lot of advice I could give to “A” about finding a new job as I have been through the experience twice.  We also had a story in common she wished to discuss with me.  The story was not pleasant and was about a nasty person called Carlos L who had bullied me terribly whilst at Nokia and then went on to bully her too at the mobile phone company they both worked for.  The conversation brought back some bad memories but at least we could commiserate together.  I wish her lots of luck and trust she will find another job soon.  My advice to her was to take her job hunting as seriously as if it were a work project and to give herself a year.  Hopefully it will take a lot less.
The delicious fruit crumble with custard and ice cream I had at the Bristol Bar on Tuesday and again on Saturday!
On Wednesday I had a conference call with all the “communicators” in our mother company. When the Swedes or Finns pronounce local names, if I don’t know the people, I can’t understand who they are talking about. Thankfully I was later sent a power point with the new organisation chart and now know who is doing what.  It is amazing to see big communication teams structures in some countries with fewer customers than Yoigo when I am a one woman show doing communication here in Spain.  I really think if you are organised and efficient you don’t need big teams to do the job. But there you are.

Wednesday was the 25th anniversary of the internet.  I can hardly imagine life today without if although of course I do remember life before the Englishman Tim Berners-Lee invented a way of using networks of computers to talk to each other. 

Wednesday was also the first anniversary of Pope Francis, that revolutionary, at least in attitude and style of living, very popular Argentinian Pope.  I am a great fan of his but as I wrote to my own parish priest recently, Brandon J, I very much doubt he will make a difference where it matters: women being admitted to the priesthood, priests being allowed to marry, contraception, etc, etc.  In any case on Wednesday Pope Francis was big news.  He is by far the most popular Pope ever and that is good for the Catholic Church, whether you like it or not.
Pope Francis on his 1st anniversary this week - true to his style, getting off a bus and carrying his own briefcase
I reflected on all these things as I went on my two walks every day of this week.  The walks have been heavenly because of the weather and I have walked past so many signs of spring that have lightened my step. I specially love the blossom on the trees at this time of year.  
Blossom on my walk, the sure sign spring is on its way
As I walk on my own on the second walk of the day (Eladio comes once with the dogs, mainly in the mornings), I enjoy listening to music on Spotify.  I have come to realise that much of the music on my lists is music I listened to in the 70s and 80s and it was music my brother George also liked or played, so I have thought much about him during my walks this week.  He is dead, that is a terrible fact, but he lives on in my heart.  When I listen to Carole King particularly I remember him playing “Tapestry” on the piano.  Oh George, how terrible that you went but how wonderful to have you in my thoughts when I walk in the sunshine in the afternoons.

Thursday of course was my second fasting day of the week but I tried not to think about the hunger pangs when I went on my two walks that day.

On Friday, when I particularly enjoy my breakfast after a fasting day, I read that Tony Benn died aged 88.  Today’s generation won’t know who he is but I remember him clearly from when I was a teenager.  A difficult man to describe, he was a sort of left wing national treasure.  He served under Harold Wilson and was possibly one of the most radical Labour politicians in English history, after Michael Foot.  He is most known perhaps for giving up his hereditary peerage but I remember him particularly for backing the miners’ strike in 1985 and being a huge annoyance to Margaret Thatcher.  He will be remembered also for his amazing rhetoric, for constantly smoking a pipe, but perhaps I remember him most for his incredible ability to drink copious amounts of tea. He claimed once that he drank one pint of tea per hour.  He must have had a huge bladder I’m sure. Neither his smoking nor his tea drinking seem to have hindered his health in old age lucky him.  RIP Tony Benn.  My parents never liked you but I secretly admired you as I imagine many people did.
RIP Tony Benn
The other piece of news that interested me that morning was the publication of a study by the AIS group on the richest and poorest towns in Spain.  It turns out that 8 of the 10 richest towns in Spain with over 10.000 inhabitants are in the Madrid area and that nearby Boadilla del Monte, where we lived for 18 years, is the richest town in Spain based on income per capita.  The average salary per person in Boadilla is apparently 2,910 euros/month.
Boadilla del Monte the richest town in Spain
Where we live now is the 5th richest town.  Quite amazing to know and now, in a way, I feel I must be living in the Spanish equivalent of Surrey, one of the richest areas in England.  If you look at the map below you will see that as in most countries there is a north south divide, as the richest towns in Spain are all located in the centre or the north. 
Map of the richest and poorest towns in Spain
On Friday Olivia took the day off work and went to Soria for the weekend.  She is staying at a rural hotel in Valdelinares with her TVE master friends Giovanna and Paula.  I think they have had great weather.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of her enjoying breakfast on Saturday morning with her friends.  I do hope she comes back relaxed, refreshed and happy.  She has just posted a great picture on Facebook of the three of them at the natural park area we also visited and loved when we went to Soria; Cañón del Río Lobo.  Beautiful Oli, thanks.
Olivia with her friends Paula (left in blue) and Giovanna at Cañón del Río Lobo in Soria today
On Friday too, there was news from Suzy from London.  Missing both my girls, it was lovely to talk to her two or three times this week.  On Friday she was going to see a flat Gabor had liked and it was being kept on hold for them if she liked it too.  The flat is in Canada Water (Southeast London) in the Docklands area which is apparently becoming quite a genteel area – not like in the past.  It is on the Jubilee Line and only 4 stops from Waterloo near where she works at the Oxo building.  As soon as Suzy saw it she loved it and they will be moving in next Saturday.  Nothing will be stopping them this time, I hope.  They will be sharing with 3 other people (two Italian boys and one Spanish girl).  The flat looks lovely, new, refurbished and has all the mod cons.  Their room has private access to a garden, there is wifi, the bills are all included and most importantly a cleaner is too.  This is a photo of the house from the outside.  I am so happy for Suzy and Gabor.
Suzy's new house in Canada Water
On Friday I had lunch with my great friends Julio and Fátima.  It was a belated celebration of Fatíma’s and my birthdays which were in January and February respectively.  We chose our favourite place, El Buey in Boadilla del Monte (yes the richest town in Spain hahaha).  It was a great lunch except that Fátima arrived 2 hours after the agreed meeting time (2.20h).  She is always late but always has a valid excuse.  Julio told me to hold my tongue and not tell her off, so I reluctantly agreed as I just hate a lack of punctuality.  Anyway, she was forgiven and we exchanged our presents.  I got what I wanted, a lovely red handbag from Zara.
My belated birthday present from Julio and Fátima
Yesterday Saturday I got in two walks as I did every day this week.  They must have helped to work off the copious meals as for lunch I made “real” fish and chips and for dinner we went out again.  Dinner yesterday night was once again at the English restaurant, the Bristol Bar and it was with our friends Pedro and Ludy; Pedro being the famous Spanish cyclist and TV commentator Pedro Delgado.  Eladio thought the place was a bit noisy and he didn’t think the food was up to much.  We had roast beef with all the trimmings.  It certainly wasn’t the best I’ve ever had but as I love that dish so much I wasn’t complaining. It was great to see our friends again and we chatted a lot that night about TVE which Pedro knows very well and where Olivia works.  It was thanks to him she first got an internment there and for that I am forever grateful.

Of note on Saturday the US marine Glenn McDuffie famous for kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ day in the iconic photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt on14th August 1945, died last Sunday but I read about the news yesterday.  The photo often called “the kiss” is so famous you will recognise it immediately.  I was interested to read he was changing trains on his way to meet his girlfriend when he heard Japan had surrendered.  When he got out of the subway he was so happy and when he saw the nurse standing there he just went over and kissed her.  The nurse was Edith Shain who worked in a hospital nearby and who died in 2010.
The sailor in this iconic WW2 photo, Glenn McDuffie died last week
Today Sunday has been very quiet so far. Again we went for a walk this morning in the glorious pre spring sunshine and when we came home I spied our cat Phoebe perched on top of the gate.  In fact we found out recently that her “house” is the layer of tiles on top of the gate.  I love the photo for its colour and have named it “spot the cat”.  Can you spot Phoebe?
Phoebe our cat enjoying the pre spring sunshine outside her "house" - the row of tiles on the gate post
Today will go down in history as the day of the illegal referendum in the Crimea for the population to vote whether they want to belong to Russia or remain in the Ukraine.  This issue, more than the missing Malaysian plane, has dominated the international news this week.  It may be so that Crimea used to belong to Russia but who is Putin to invade another country with the whole world against him?  We shall know the results today or tomorrow which if the Russians win will be devastating for international politics. 

On a much more pleasant note, my last piece of news today is about the best place to live in England.  At lunch just as my Father was asking me once again what Facebook and Twitter were, I read an article posted by a school friend, Geraldine, on her “wall” (difficult to explain what that is to my Father).  She had posted a story from the Sunday Times which was publishing the results of a survey on the best places to live in England.  I was very interested to know the winner and very full of praise when I heard it was my beloved Skipton, also known as “the gateway to the Dales”.  I would also have been happy had the best place been voted Harrogate, Ilkley, York or even Gargrave, all wonderful towns in ”God’s own country” Yorkshire. I was also pleased to read that another town I love in England, Falmouth in Cornwall, came fourth.

And now I have come to the end of this week’s tales and news.  Wondering what next week will bring, I wish you all the very best.  I hope you have enjoyed this week’s post. Cheers till next time,