Sunday, April 20, 2014

A photo from the past, hot cross buns, Mao’s last dancer, family “cocido”, the dog trainer, Easter in Montrondo, Suzy has visitors in London, home again and other stories.

Sunday 20th April 2014
In the mountains of Montrondo, here with Eladio and the Tambarón peak behind us.
Happy Easter everyone,

Most of you will still be on holiday. I have just come back from Montrondo and our Easter break with the family was blessed with sunshine most of the time.  I will get to that later; first let me start from where I left off, last Sunday, Palm Sunday.

Olivia was home from Ponferrada for lunch and we had our first barbecue of the season.  Here is a photo of Eladio preparing the food and my Father sitting at our table in the patio outside the kitchen.
Our first barbecue of the year was last Sunday
I spent some quality time with Olivia who I hadn’t seen for a while.  She came back from a weekend with her cousins enamoured with the smallest members of the family Diana and little Lidia.  Everyone said Lidia looked like Olivia when she was small so Oli decided to dig out old photos from our countless albums to see if this was true.  She found quite a few she loved and sent the family this beautiful one of her with me in 1986 in a small town called Figueras de Castropol in Asturias.  She was just 1 and I was only 29.  This photo from the past made me remember the happy times when the girls were babies and I love it; so I am happy to share it with you too.
The photo from the past, me with Olivia in 1986 in Figureas in Asturias. I was 29 and Olivia was just 1.
Later in the evening I started watching the replacement disk 2 of series 2 of Mr. Selfridge which had kindly sent to me, after I cunningly found out they do have a customer care number and you don’t have to do everything online.  Later during the week I finished watching the series and now look forward to series 3.

On Monday morning when I came down to the kitchen at about 07.30 am I found two packets of Marks and Spencer’s mini hot cross buns on the surface I call “my island”.  They had come from England. Suzy bought them for me and gave them to her friend Elena who visited her recently and on Sunday night Elena gave them to Oli who brought them home for me.  In my house the rule is you can only eat them on Good Friday and afterwards but never before and Easter, in my mind, is not the same without them.  They are difficult to find in Spain and cannot be bought online because of the short sell by date, so thanks Suzy, Elena and Oli for your efforts in making it possible for us to continue with the age old tradition in my home as a girl and a woman on Good Friday.
The hot cross buns from England
Monday was my fasting day but I was busy so hardly thought about food.  First I had a conference call with my communications colleagues in Sweden and other countries.  I managed a walk that morning before my meagre one yoghurt lunch.  I also took the time to pick some lovely white flowers and purple lilac from the garden which is beginning to bloom at this time of year.
Picking flowers in the garden
On Monday night Eladio and I watched a fascinating film called Mao’s last dancer which I loved and have now ordered the biography by Li Cunxin.  At the age of 11 Li was picked out from a school in a remote part of China to study ballet at Madame Mao’s dance academy in Beijing.  He went on to become a renowned ballet dancer and was one of the two first dancers ever who were allowed to travel abroad in a cultural exchange programme in the US.  There he falls in love and defects and is forbidden to return to China.  If you haven’t read the book or seen the film I will include no spoilers here. Suffice it to say it is a wonderful film.
What a great film
On Tuesday we had a family lunch outside again as the weather continued to be superb.  I made a winter dish which is very popular in Spain; the “cocido”, a speciality of mine.  We were joined by Miguel, Oli’s cameraman boyfriend who lives in Valencia. The photos I have of that lunch are thanks to him. Olivia was on holiday as from Tuesday until the end of the week.
Family cocido on Tuesday
On Wednesday I fasted too instead of Thursday as on Thursday we were off to Montrondo.  I joined Olivia on a shopping expedition that day and she took me to a new shopping centre I didn’t know; Parque Sur, but it looked just the same as most shopping centres these days.  In a short space of time we had bought quite a few garments from my favourite shop Zara. These are two of them, a blue jumper and a silk type kaftan.
More new clothes from Zara this week
On Wednesday evening we had an appointment at home with a dog trainer I had found on internet.  Juan Carlos who trains dogs for the blind and for the police had come to see what could be done with Elsa our Labrador and Norah our beagle.  They are lovely dogs but have not been trained the basic “dog code” he was to teach us; getting them to lie down, sit and stay at command.  We thoroughly enjoyed the session.  All the code words – sit, platz, no no, allez, etc were employed using bits of sausage which the dogs fully enjoyed.  He will be coming again, this time to correct the way they walk with us.  They pull on their leads and will be learning to walk beside us.  Also we want Juan Carlos to help Norah with her trauma with cars, bicycles and motorbikes on our walk.  She gets into a frenzy and we don’t know why.  I think he will have a hard job there. 

Wednesday was an important date in the local football calendar. It was the final of the “Copa del Rey” between Barcelona and Madrid and was to take place in Valencia.  People all over Spain would be watching it, many of them turning the event into a party like Olivia and Miguel who invited the “manada” and made risotto and tiramisu for the occasion. We watched it in our room.  Of course I wanted Madrid to win but didn’t think they would as Cristiano Ronaldo is injured.  So I was delighted when Gareth Bale scored Madrid’s second goal at the end of the match bringing a result of 2-1 to the “blancos”.
Gareth Bale celebrating his winning goal in the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday
On Maundy Thursday, the day we were going to Montrondo, I was up at 6.40.  After breakfast I went on our walk and came back to pack and get ready to go. We left just after 10 and stopped in Rueda (the white wine area in Valladolid) for our customary plate of ham and glass of wine.  We were in Montrondo by 2.30 and were greeted by all the older members of the family; i.e. Eladio’s Mother and all his brothers and sisters and their spouses. The only members of the younger generation there that day were Alicia and Laura. Lunch was ready and we all sat around the big table in Toño and Dolores’ kitchen.  In the afternoon we lounged around. I spent most of the afternoon with the female members of the family.
In Montrondo on Thursday
The weather was good most of the time and we were able to be outside.  Nearly all our time was spent talking about the houses we were building.  Adela is just finishing her second house, Pili is in the middle of building hers and ours is still in the planning.

Later that day Adela, Dolores and I went on a walk to Murias and back where I took pictures of some of the porches I like there and which I want to build at the entrance of our house in Montrondo.

Friday of course was Good Friday and I would be allowed to eat the hot cross buns from England.  I had left one packet at home for my Father and Olivia and had brought one for us in Montrondo.  But first I would go on an early morning walk to Murias and back with Dolores, Adela and her daughter Marta who had arrived the night before. I would repeat the walk every morning of our stay in Montrondo this Easter.
On one of the morning walks to Murias with Adela
Lunch was a huge affair that day. It was also Marta’s 41st birthday. Being Good Friday I had decided to make English fish and chips for everyone.  I also made mushy peas which turned out to be quite popular. Adela made roast lamb and there was more than enough food for all of us.  We were joined by Adela’s son Roberto, his wife Ana and their two small girls, Diana and Lidia, the smallest members of our family.
The family lunch on Saturday in Montrondo
It was on Good Friday that the famous Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez died.  The author of A Hundred Years of Solitude was to leave this world bereft of the best South American author ever, in my mind.  I remember studying the book at University and getting mixed up with all the characters.
RIP Gabriel García Márquez
In the afternoon Eladio and I went for a walk up the mountains and were joined by Toño and Dolores and their dog Nuba. There was glorious sunshine and snow- capped mountains in the distance all of which made it much easier to climb up the first three very steep ramps.  We took photos all the way.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog is one of Eladio and I just past the “Abedular” with the Tambarón peak in the distance. This is the highest peak in the area (2.102m) and I think it has snow all year round although I might be wrong.
Dolores on the walk with the Tambarón in the backhground
We got as far as the “Canalina” just past the “cabaña” – every nook and cranny in Montrondo and surroundings has a name and I only know about 10% of them hahaha. That day my fitbit told me I had walked over 17km and had burned more than 2.500 calories.  So I went to bed happy with my physical exercise.

Meanwhile back in Madrid Olivia went out to the mountain area of Madrid with Miguel and some of the members of the “manada” (the name for the girls’ group of friends).  She posted this lovely photo of herself which was taken by Miguel in Los Molinos near Guadarrama.
Olivia in Los Molinos on Friday
Suzy meanwhile was of course in London but was to be having visitors for Easter.  The girls’ friend Merce from Yecla in Murcia who they have known since we bought our apartment in Santa Pola in 1999, was to spend the Easter weekend in London with her husband Josema and they would be staying at Suzy and Gabor’s new flat in Canada Water.  This is a photo Suzy posted of the 4 of them, sitting in the garden with blankets on.  I have yet to hear of what they got up to in London this weekend.
Suzy and Gabor with their visitors Merce and Josema in London this weekend
Saturday was our big day, the architect was coming from Murias with the plans of our new house, or rather how it is going to be reformed and then the two builders were coming.  I was up early again for our morning walk after which I had the last of the hot cross buns. That day my sister in law Pili was making lunch so I was able to be with Eladio when he met the architect and builders.  It was so exciting to see the plans and we went over them in the kitchen of the old house.  Later we met the builder who is building Adela’s house and we immediately clicked.  We just have to wait for him and the other builders to give us their estimates and voilà we can start to build, probably around the beginning of May.  I kept looking at the old house thinking how different it will look when it is finished.
The two brothers happy in Montrondo
In the afternoon I went for another walk up the mountains this time with Primo and Adela.  But just as we had gone past the Abedular thunder and lightning struck.  Adela got scared saying it was dangerous to be in the mountains in a storm, so we turned around and walked back, rushing down.  We were trying to get back to the village before the rain started and thankfully we did.

And today is Sunday, Easter Day. I went on the last morning walk to Murias with Adela and Dolores.  After breakfast we made plans to return to Montrondo at the beginning of May to empty the house of furniture and kitchen ware so as the builders can start on the house.  We packed and said our goodbyes and left at around 11.30.  On our way home in quite dense traffic we stopped at Tordesillas in Valladolid for lunch at the splendid Parador.  We were home in the middle of the afternoon, happy to greet my Father, Fátima and the dogs.  We had just missed Olivia who is now travelling by train to Cártagena in Murcia where she will be reporting live tomorrow on her programme, La Mañana de la 1 on TVE1.  The story is about a civil guard who shot a man who is now in a wheel chair.  The nice thing is that Olivia’s cameraman will be her boyfriend Miguel tomorrow, so they will have a great time.  I look forward to seeing her on TV in the morning.

The week coming up will be busy for me. It’s results week and lots of things going on at work. Soon the Easter holiday will be out of my mind and I will be looking forward to Suzy coming next Friday for her 30th birthday on 28th April, amazing eh?

So on that note, I will leave you my friends, wishing you all a great week ahead.


PS You can see more photos of our Easter holiday in Montrondo here.

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