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.

No comments: