Sunday, June 29, 2014

Suzy at Oxo, Olivia our royal correspondent again, a silly fall, to the hospital, a Motorola reunion dinner, to Montrondo for the weekend and other stories.

On the early morning walk to Murias and back on Saturday 

Hello again another Sunday, the last one in June.

Here I am writing from Montrondo where it’s quite cold so I am inside, in José Antonio and Dolores’ kitchen.

I left off last Sunday and just as I had published my post, Suzy sent me a photo of her with some of her team at Oxo 2 where she is the catering manager.  She will be leaving soon and hopefully by July or August will have a job as a dietitian with the NHS.  Her team has told her they don’t want to lose her and that their jobs will just not be the same without her. I’m sure she makes a loveable boss.
Suzy and her team at Oxo 2 in London
Monday was my fasting day which I always find easy to do after an excess of food at the weekend.  That afternoon we were delighted to watch Olivia on television reporting on the new Queen of Spain, Doña Letizia’s first solo engagement. She was to be opening an important El Greco inspired exhibition at the Prado museum.  So Olivia continued in her role as royal correspondent which had started when she reported on the ex-King’s abdication the day her new programme, Aquí en Madrid, started at the beginning of June.
Olivia, the royal correspondent, reporting on the new Queen of Spain's first solo engagement
On Tuesday I had another silly fall which only served to make me realize just what a clumsy sort of person I am.  It happened when Eladio and I were returning from our walk coming down the street towards the turnoff to our house.  I always walk behind Eladio with Elsa pulling at her leash behind him and Norah.  We go at such a pace I cannot see the ground so didn’t see the stone on the pavement when I tumbled over it.  I landed on both my knees with an awful bump and ended up lying on the pavement not sure I could get up again.  Fortunately I had only scraped my left knee and bumped the right knee, the one I had already bruised when I fell in Toledo.  Once again my wonderful husband came to my rescue.  I was very cross to see that I had torn my favourite M+S jeans at the knee.  I know torn jeans are in fashion but perhaps not for someone of my age!  Thankfully I hadn’t done much harm and was able to go on my second walk later that evening.

Again that evening we watched Olivia on the television.  This time she was reporting on a suspicious envelope containing a dangerous looking white substance which had been sent to the Madrid Standard and Poor’s office.  Her mission was to explain how the specialist bomb disposal police and firemen put into motion the process of investigating the contents which can be highly dangerous.
Olivia reporting on Tuesday on the chemical alert
On the work front that day and every day of this week I have been busy with final preparations of the Yoigo summer party which takes place next week.  I have a budget for 225 people but it looks like the event is so popular the turnout could be anything from 260 to 290! 

Wednesday was not a good day.  We were worried about my Father who had had traces of blood in his urine for quite a while now and which didn’t seem to be disappearing despite the bout of antibiotics his GP had prescribed.  He was nearly finishing the dose so we rang Dra. Martín who recommended he go the hospital to A&E and she ordered an ambulance for him.  I hate his routine to be interrupted and I know he hates hospitals, probably more than I do, so this was going to be a huge upheaval in his life.  I went in the ambulance with him and Eladio followed behind in the car.  We were taken to the brand new King Juan Carlos hospital in Móstoles, the biggest suburb in Madrid, where we ended up spending the whole day.  He was well attended to but the process was very slow; a whole day just to do a blood and urine test.  At 4.30 pm we were told he would be discharged but then the ambulance didn’t come until 7pm.  Meanwhile because of a typical misunderstanding between Eladio and myself, he and my Father left me behind at the hospital whilst they went home in the ambulance.  You can’t imagine how cross I was.  You probably want to know what the diagnosis was and here we don’t really know as the tests didn’t reveal much and as there are no other symptoms, we were told that more specialist blood tests would have to be done after which my Father will have to see a urologist.  I found that rather frustrating.  I mean, why couldn’t an urologist have seen him at the A&E ward?  On the bright side it meant my Father wouldn’t be admitted to hospital which would have been awful for him and for us.   So we were all happy to be home again.

I came home just on time to watch Olivia continuing in her role as “royal correspondent”.  If on Monday she had reported on the new Queen of Spain’s first solo appointment, on Wednesday evening she was at the Royal Palace to report on the first salute from the new King to the Armed Forces of which he is now head.

Thursday was a busy day, more frantic preparations of the big summer party coming up.  Even so there was time for two walks and even the weekly shopping.  I only managed to watch the end of Olivia’s report that day on the Spanish national ham cutting competition! 

She also did a report that day that I didn’t see on some unlawful housing case in Aldea del Fresno, a small town on the outskirts of Madrid.  Something funny happened when she was there.  Three little girls approached her and recognized her, telling her they watched her every day on television and asked her for an autograph.  This is the first sign of her being recognized in the street!  They were so pleased to meet her they did some lovely drawings for her too.  This is a photo of them with Olivia and the drawings. Olivia, who loves children, was tickled pink.  I was too.
Olivia with her little fans and the drawings they did for her
The highlight of the week was a reunion dinner that night with many of my ex Motorola colleagues at the Clérico restaurant in Las Rozas.  I went with my great friend Fátima.  We had a wonderful time, as we always do at the ex-Motorola events.  I started working for the American telecoms company in 1990 and was the fourth employee to join.  We were such a close team and have some great memories, many of which we spoke about at length that night over a great dinner.  I couldn’t believe it was 12.30 and we were still chatting and catching up on our lives, when, a bit like Cinderella, Fátima and I left the party, but not before taking a group photo. 
The group photo of the ex-Motorola reunion dinner
My thanks go to Vicente for organizing the dinner.  It was great to see Pepe, José María, Alex, Nuria, Inés (the only surviving Motorola employee), Alberto, Fernando, Ignacio, Carlos, Ruben, Chisco, Gonzalo, Juan Luis and all the others.  Today nearly all of still work in the sector and are representatives of both the big operators and manufacturers.  We are all competitors or customers of one another, but there is a strong bond that remains and when the going gets tough we know we can rely on each other for help of any kind.

Friday was a rush.  I had to get my work up to scratch before leaving for Montrondo in the afternoon with Eladio, José Antonio and Dolores.  I was up early as usual despite having slept only five and a half hours.  I wanted to get a walk in before leaving but that just wasn’t possible.  By lunch everything was done including packing our suitcases and the food to be taken – there is no shop in Montrondo or the surroundings so you have to take everything.  José Antonio, Dolores and their mongrel dog Nuba arrived to join us for lunch; a wonderful home-made pizza made by Fátima.  We left at 4.30 and were in Montrondo a bit later than we had hoped for because of a flock of sheep that held us up on the way in Canales near La Magdalena.  As we were arriving, our house builders, Benito and Recaredo (what a name!), passed us in the car and then rang to say they would turn round and return to Montrondo to show us how the building was progressing otherwise we wouldn’t see them during our stay.  The reason for going to Montrondo of course was to see how the building was going but also to pick up my mother-in-law, Ernestina, who will be staying with us for the first fortnight of July.
Building progressing on our house in Montrondo as seen this weekend.
Benito and Recaredo had started on our house on 20th May and in just one month and one week have made a lot of progress.  Right now they have started building the extra floor which you can see in the photo above.  However, it will take many months for the house to be finished.  Right now it still looks like a shell as they have taken down all the inside walls and will be removing the floors which means they will have to build everything inside to make the four bedrooms, four bathrooms, lounge and kitchen.  Eladio is quite excited with the progress but to me the house still looks like a ruin. Not until the walls and floor and built will I begin to imagine how it will look when it is finished.

I made dinner for everyone that night, after which Dolores and I went on walk at dusk to Murias and back on the old road.  It was past 10 in the evening but there was still some light.

On Saturday morning we were up early and Dolores and I walked again to Murias and back before breakfast as I would too this morning.  Everything was green and lush and the only noise came from the birds singing.  I asked Dolores to take a photo of me for this week’s blog and it is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this post.
Montrondo, so green at this time of year
Soon other members of the family came from León to join us: Pili and Andrés and their dalmation, Trébol, my mother-in-law, Isidro and Yoli and finally Alejandro and his Paraguayan wife Carolina, who having just past her test drove for the first time to Montrondo.  Their arrival was accompanied by a downpour and we thought the day had been ruined but luckily the sun came out in the afternoon although it was always in between clouds and the air was chilly.

We were eleven around the table for lunch.  All of appetites seem to increase when we have meals together in Montrondo.  It must be because of the country air and mountains.  So we polished off my chicken curry, Pili’s beef stew and pineapple dessert as well as Yoli’s superb apfelstrudel. 

Our only topic of conversation seemed to be about building our houses; i.e. Pili and Andrés’ and ours, theirs being far more advanced than ours as they started their building in the autumn.  I got a bit tired of talk about building so went off for a second walk to Murias and back to work up an appetite again for dinner.  Pili and Andrés stayed the night whilst the others returned to León.  So for dinner last night we were just 7. 

And today is Sunday, our last day here.  Thankfully the sun is shining. The morning has been spent quite lazily and the only work was done by Eladio and José Antonio who cut the grass on the path to the house with the very old scythes their Father used to use. We shall be staying for lunch and at about 4 o’clock we will hit the road, once again, back home to Madrid.  The car will be full as we shall be five plus all our suitcases.
José Antonio and Eladio cutting the grass with scythes this morning.
Next week promises to be even busier than last week. I have meetings at the office and of course my big day will be Thursday, the day of the Yoigo summer party but more about that next week when, finally, it will all be over.

That’s all from me this week.  Cheers till next time,

All the best


Sunday, June 22, 2014

A barbecue in London, the end of the World Cup for Spain and England, our royal correspondent, a new king and queen of Spain, summer is here and other stories.

Sunday 22nd June 2014
Olivia, our royal correspondent for one day
Hi everyone,

Here I am again another Sunday morning.  The difference this week is that now it’s summer, my favourite season of the year.  The weather continues to be good but, more about that later.

When I left off last week Suzy posted some photos of the barbecue she and Gabor had organized at their new home in Canada Water that day.  At their new place they have access to their very own garden.  The weather must have been benign last week in London as they were able to organize a barbecue.  I wondered who all the people were in the photos, not recognizing them.  Suzy told me later that they are the staff, who work under her at Oxo, a great mixture of nationalities; Japanese, Italian, Czech and Spanish.  That’s how we like it in our family, gatherings and parties of people from all parts of the world.  At the end of July I shall be going out to stay with Suzy and will sleep in Stefania’s room, her Italian flat mate who will be on holiday.  Thanks so much Stefania.  It will be great for once to stay at Suzy’s place rather than at a hotel or bed and breakfast as well as a lot cheaper.   Flying to London is not expensive, it is the accommodation and meals out which make a week in the capital so prohibitive.  I shall be going for a whole week and look forward to being with Suzy and Gabor and for once skipping on the London monuments and going “local”, visiting the parks nearby and shopping in the area.  It’s going to be great. 
Suzy had a barbecue in London last Sunday for the international staff who work for her
Monday was a quiet day; my fasting day of course.  On the work front I was busy all week with lots of preparations for the upcoming Yoigo Summer Party for 225 people to be held on 3rd July.  Everything seemed to be going smoothly, when for logistical reasons, I had to change the venue.  Then things became a bit frantic as it really was late in the day to find an appropriate place at such a late stage.  I lost a bit of sleep over this actually but as a kind work colleague, Cristina, told me, the summer party always goes off really well and I shouldn’t be worried.  Yeah she’s right but I did feel a bit strangled with so little time to go.  Everything will be alright on the night, but as usual I am worried, even after all these years of organizing events. 

Olivia, meanwhile, was starting her action packed week with her new programme which would of course include the royal proclamation of Spain’s new King and Queen, Felipe and Letizia.  She and her colleagues are worked off their feet and I suspect are all feeling exhausted working such long hours and with so much to do and so few of them.   Since she started with the new evening programme, Aquí en Madrid, she has been working up to 12 or more hours a day.  Thankfully they will be taking on more reporters and at least this Monday coming she will be starting at midday.  I hope it continues that way too as otherwise I’m not sure she and her colleagues will be able to stand the pace for much longer.  On the bright side Olivia is delighted with her new job.  She appears on TV every day various times and is happy with the team editor/director from whom she is learning lots. We continue to watch her as much as we can and I think her most loyal spectator is my Father who loves watching her every afternoon after the news on BBC World.  Olivia did a good bit of investigative journalism last Monday when she reported live on “cundas”.  These are taxi drivers, concentrated mainly in the Embajadores square in Madrid, who take drug addicts for a cheap fare to the outskirts of Madrid to purchase drugs.
Olivia reporting on "cundas" on Monday
Tuesday was spent visiting potential locations for the Summer Party together with Gloria and Miguel from my events agency.  It was a scorcher of a day and quite a tiring exercise.  At midday though, I had a break when I met some of my ex Nokia women colleagues for lunch in Pozuelo, for the record at Ginos. It was great to see Jill, Susana and Fátima and a pity that Zenaid, Juana and Ana couldn’t make it.  We really must meet more often as we have so much in common and a two hour lunch goes past far too fast.  One of our subjects is of course our husbands and partners or non-partners.  I realized later that I am the only one of the four of us still married as they are all separated.  Lifelong marriages seem to be few and far between these days; but that is not my case.

That evening Olivia reported on a second hand car exhibition and later that night was sent to report on a prize giving ceremony for fashion designers organized by Vogue.  As you can see if you work for a programme like hers, you have to be able to report on practically anything which can’t be easy. 
Oli reporting live on a second-hand car show on Tuesday

Wednesday was not a good day.  I had two meia issues to deal with which weren’t easy.  When an article is published about the company I work for, I read through it in a nervous sort of way hoping there will be nothing negative or incorrect, but of course you cannot do much when that occurs.  People at work are usually the first to find the error and are also the first to blame you as if you had written the article.  What they always fail to understand is that the piece in question is not paid for by the company, it is the pen work of a journalist who is not going to share the piece with you before it is published and that little can be done to mend whatever has gone wrong or they don’t like once it’s in print.  And there goes the unfair side of my job which I can only imagine other communications managers like me will ever understand. 

What cheered me up that day was watching Olivia on television.  I never tire of watching her; after all I am her Mother and her biggest fan I suppose.  That day she was reporting on one of the most important pieces of news in a long time; live from the Royal Palace in Madrid.  That afternoon King Juan Carlos signed the act of abdication there that would put an end to his 39 year old reign and see his son, Prince Felipe succeed him on the throne the very next day. Suzy was also watching, from a tablet I think on her bicycle in London somewhere and this is the photo she posted on the family whatsapp.
Suzy's picture of watching Olivia reporting on the act of abdication on Wednesday
That night Spain was to play its second match of the opening round in the World Cup this time against Chile after having lost against Holland in the opening match.  I did the shopping with Fátima that afternoon and was surprised to see our local supermarket festooned with La Roja paraphernalia to support the team.  I wondered whether they would have to take it down quickly the next day if Spain didn’t win this all important match.  Even the staff, Ahmed, Ibi, Juanjo, the fishmonger and Carlos the butcher were all wearing the Spanish side official t-shirts. 
Our local supermarket supporting Spain in the world cup this week.  It wasn't going to help I'm afraid.
At home we got ready to watch the match which kicked off at 21h, a bit late for my Father who was happy to join us though, as he loves football and probably supports Spain, it now being his adopted country like mine.   It didn’t start well.  I think the Spanish team had still not recovered from losing against Holland and seemed to have lost all confidence.  When Chile scored the first goal I decided I couldn’t watch any more humiliation and went to bed.  Oli and Miguel came home late that night and were equally upset at how badly Spain was doing.  By the time I was nearly asleep Spain were out, they had lost and although they still have to play Australia, the die is cast and they will not get through to the next round.  We have spent the last few years basking in La Roja’s success with two European Championships and the last world cup, so no one was prepared for such failure; an embarrassment for the country and all of us who have found solace in this country’s success at the game during the ongoing economic crisis.  Later during the week England were to repeat Spain’s failure by losing their second match too this time to Uruguay.  Now both countries are out of the World Cup. I wonder who will win.  I am betting on Holland, Germany, Brazil or Argentina.

The next day the Spanish team’s failure would be forgotten or at least displaced thanks to the crowning of the new King Felipe VI and his wife Doña Letizia, the ex TVE news presenter.  It was to be Olivia’s biggest day in her career as she was to be a royal correspondent that day for her new programme.  The photo illustrating this week's post is of her posing by the Spanish parliament just before the proclamation started.

A car came for her at 05.30 in the morning to take her to the programme’s newsroom in Plaza Castilla.  By 7 she was at her post in the centre of Madrid ready to do a video of the morning’s events.  She did a great behind the scenes story which we watched later that evening.  She told me afterwards that there were 1000 journalists covering the event, many of them from abroad.  I commented that she was one of the lucky few of her generation of journalists to be there on such a historical day.
Oli's press pass for the new king's proclamation; something she will keep and show her grandchildren.
It was a holiday in Madrid that day and Eladio, my Father and I spent the morning watching the proclamation live on TV until about midday.  I had mixed feelings throughout the somewhat low key royal event as I, like many Spaniards, have become rather disgruntled with Spain’s royal family after so many scandals.  I keep asking myself if I am a royalist or not and whether I too would support a referendum for the institution to continue; probably I would although the royalist in me from having being brought up in England is very deep seated.  There was no coronation as this monarchy is a parliamentary one, thus no crowning ceremony.  The new King and Queen were accompanied throughout by their delightful young daughters, Leonor, the eldest aged just 8 and now next in line to the throne, and her younger sister Sofia aged 7 who behaved perfectly.  I suspect Sofia is the livelier one of the two judging by this photograph of them listening to their Father’s inaugural speech which was quite well received.  He mentioned all the subjects he should, except for the church surprisingly and ended his speech by saying thank you in the 4 official languages in Spain.  Even so, the heads of the Basque and Catalán parliaments, were the only authorities present not to clap at the end which actually surprised no one.
A delightful photo of the young Spanish princesses at their parents' proclamation
After the proclamation ceremony in the Spanish parliament which was not attended by guests from abroad, nor by the exiting Juan Carlos, so as not to steal the limelight of his son’s biggest day, the new King and Queen rode in an open topped Rolls Royce, bought by Franco by the way, through the streets of Madrid which had been decorated with flowers and Spanish flags.  There were many people on the streets but by no means were they really packed and there were parts of the Gran Vía which seemed quite empty of people.  The crowds were bigger at the Royal Palace where the procession ended.  Here there was to be a big cocktail party for representatives of Spanish society but before the handshake of nearly 3000 guests was to take place during 2 hours, the new King and Queen went out on the balcony of the Royal Palace, the biggest of its kind in Europe, which was the most awaited moment of the day.  First King Felipe VI came out to wave to the people then the new Queen followed him, after which their daughters joined them.  The new Royal family was complete when they were joined by the exiting King and Queen, Juan Carlos and his estranged wife (i.e. they no longer live together and haven’t done for a long time) Sofia on the balcony. 
A photo of the most awaited for moment of the day during the proclamation ceremony on Thursday, the royal family on the balcony at the palace.
From the day of the proclamation of the new King and Queen, the official royal family includes just these people. The King’s older sister, Elena, who would have been proclaimed Queen that day if there was a Salic Law in Spain, and her ousted sister Cristina after her husband Iñaki’s scandal of embezzlement, are no longer official members of the royal family.  The latter wasn’t present at the ceremony although it was rumoured she had flown in from Geneva where she now lives in exile, to be with them in private.  It was also rumoured she watched the events on the television with her father.

I got rather tired of watching the hand shaking, thinking that the new King who had called for a “renewed monarchy in new times” during his speech, could well have invited real representatives of Spanish society, such as immigrants and young people out of work or people who have to eat at soup kitchens, instead of the endless list of the famous and the rich who lined up to shake the hands of the new king and queen at the palace on Thursday. They could have taken a leaf out of the new Pope’s book too by really doing things differently and in accord with the difficult times Spaniards live.  The supposedly low key ceremony was meant to respect the situation but I think they could have gone the extra mile for example by doing away with the cocktail party and sending the funds to charity or even holding the party at a soup kitchen.  If they had done that I think they would really have won the hearts of the population, something the new King referred to in his speech when he said he hoped Spaniards would be proud of him.  He has a long way to go for that to happen I am afraid.

Friday was a busy day.  I had an early morning meeting in Pozuelo with Bea and Cris to decide on all the activities at the summer party.  Then just before lunch I had an appointment with two students of a corporate communications master degree who wanted to interview me about the role of a Communications Manager in companies today.  We had a great hour together and I enjoyed explaining the role and giving them my views. 

In the evening we watched Olivia again on the television. First she reported on the weather in Madrid that weekend.  I told her later she would make a great weather reporter, haha.  That day, schools in Madrid broke up for the summer and so she and some of her colleagues reported on activities for school children during the holidays, such as adventure camps in the case of Olivia. 
Olivia reporting on the weather in Madrid on Friday
Olivia and Miguel were going to drive to Valencia for the weekend straight after she finished work on Friday which was past 9pm.  She was so tired though and just wanted to come home and rest which was what they did in the end.  I was happy they would be with us at the weekend as the house always seems so empty without at least one of the girls.

Meanwhile Eladio and I went out to dinner, something we haven’t done for many Fridays now.  I chose a new place which I found on The Fork which offered 40% discount and accepted my luncheon vouchers.  I read good reviews about “Pecado Carnal” in Majadahonda.  However the experience was not good and we won’t be going back I’m afraid. We were the only people in the dining room although there were two tables occupied by people outside.  We asked for a recommendation of a not too filling first course and were served a ghastly plate of mushroom “carpaccio” which was swimming in oil and which I didn’t touch.  The rest of the food was ok but the place was pretty dismal and no, as I say, we won’t be going back.

The good news that day was from Montrondo.  Work on the house had begun just one month before on 20th May.  On Friday, José Antonio, who is there for a spell of time, sent us a photo of a lorry arriving with lots of bricks which I think are to be used to build the third floor.  It’s great to see the progress on the house via photos.  Next weekend we will be there to see progress live but also to pick up Eladio’s mother who will be staying with us for the first two weeks of July.  I look forward to seeing the state of the building live.  It’s so exciting.
More work in progress on our house in Montrondo - photo taken on Friday
That night after our awful dinner and just before going to bed, I spoke to Suzy on the phone.  We hadn’t heard from her for a long time.  She is in the process of finding a new job through a specialized agency called Sugarman, which requires tons of paperwork but which she is acquiring doggedly.  Good for you Suzy, I wish you lots of success. 

And yesterday was Saturday but not just any Saturday it was the 21st June, the beginning of the summer and the solstice, the longest day in the year.  Summer is my favourite season. It means practically guaranteed sunshine throughout the season here, meals outside, walks in the evening and weekend afternoons by the pool.  It also means holidays.  Hopefully mine will begin in the middle of July and end in the middle of August.

I spent the day very lazily, only putting my book down to make lunch when we would be joined by Olivia and Miguel.  At Olivia’s request I made real English fish and chips with beer batter accompanied by home-made mushy peas.

And today is Sunday and I am now at the end of this week’s tales.  There is not much to tell about today which will go past very similarly to yesterday.  So I will leave you here before I go off to make today’s lunch which will be home-made lasagna and again we will be joined by Oli and Miguel.

Next week promises to be very taxing with only 10 days or so to the unfolding of one of my biggest projects of the year, the Yoigo Summer Party. 

I wish you all a great week ahead. Cheers till next Sunday,


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tales from the Tour of France, what is “Uber”, a family announcement, a bad start for Spain in the World Cup, a family lunch, work in progresson our house in Montrondo, and other stories.

Lunch at home with José Antonio and Dolores on Saturday
Good morning my friends,

It’s Sunday again and time to write this week’s post.  It has been very hot but a quiet week, at least on the home front. 

On Monday I fasted as usual, enjoying a meagre bowl of porridge mostly made with water for breakfast with Olivia who, once again was going to be very busy with her new programme “Aquí en Madrid”. That day she was to report on the visit of the President of Mexico to Spain which seemed to be the main news in Spain that day.  She was home earlier than last week, at 9.30p.m rather than 10.30p.m which meant we were able to have dinner together.

On Tuesday I had a date I couldn’t miss.  My friend Sergi López-Egea, a sports journalist for the Catalán daily paper El Periodico de Cataluña, had just published his memoirs of the Tour of France called “Cuentos del Tour de Francia” (Tales of the Tour of France) and our mutual friend, the Spanish cycling legend Pedro Delgado, was to be presenting it at a bookshop in the centre of town called “La Central”. My friendship with both men goes back a long way, to the days when Motorola had a cycling team and we have been friends since, even though I have become much more distanced to the sport.  I saw lots of familiar faces and thoroughly enjoyed the event.  Well done Sergi; a great book you have just written.
Sergi and Pedro at the former's presentation of his book about his memoirs of the Tour of France
In the evening we watched Olivia again on TV, this time reporting on a criminal called “Rafita” who had killed a young girl, Sandra Palo, some time ago.  Not a nice story I can tell you.  Once again Oli was back “early” and I made pancakes for dinner, something we haven’t had for years. 

Wednesday last week will be remembered for massive taxi strikes in Madrid and other cities in Europe.  They were protesting against “Uber” an American company that has designed an application which connects passengers with private drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services.  If people didn’t know what Uber was that day, they certainly do now.  It’s ironic but the taxi protest only served to create free publicity for the car sharing app. 

It was the main news that day and Olivia was sent to Madrid airport to report on the story. 
Olivia reporting on the taxi strike on Wednesday
That afternoon a huge thunderstorm gathered in the skies of Madrid serving to cool the atmosphere.  It was amazing how within less than an hour the temperature plummeted from about 30ºc to 18ºc.
The thunderstorm on Wednesday
While it rained we sheltered under the awning by the terrace in the swimming pool.  The dogs joined us and I just had to take this photo of Elsa showing her love to Eladio.  Isn’t it a great photo?
True love Elsa and Eladio
Whilst it rained I hoped the water would do some good to our plum tree.  This year’s harvest looks like being a record, that is, if the birds don’t manage to eat all the kilos and kilos of greengages on its branches. 
Our plum tree with kilos and kilos of greengages on its branches
Thursday was my second and last fasting day of the week. That day Olivia reported on the most important Spanish sommelier contest called the “Golden Nose competition” (Nariz de Oro 2014).  For someone who knows practically nothing about wine, I think she did quite well, hahaha.

Thursday was also the start of the World Cup which is taking place in Brazil amongst much scandal about infrastructure not being ready and protests about the expense it has caused. The host country team played Croatia in the inaugural match that night and won which wasn’t surprising.  However it really did seem that the referee was on Brazil’s side who were awarded a controversial penalty just towards the end of the game.  Reading the stories in the press later it really made me think that sometimes the outcome of teams is political and depends more on the referee than on actual play. 

Friday was Friday 13th, a supposedly unlucky day at least in England.  The equivalent in Spain is actually Tuesday 13th.  It was a very hot day again but I still managed to get in my two walks during the day, thanking the lord for our swimming pool at home to be able to cool off afterwards.  It was on our early morning walk that we learned the good family news announced to us by Juan our nephew, Eladio’s godson and youngest son to José Antonio (Eladio’s next brother down) and his wife Dolores.  And here it is:  Juan and his partner Cristina will be parents at Christmas bringing a new member into the Freijo family.  Yeah, José Antonio and Dolores are going to be grandparents. I am so pleased for them all.  Congratulations all round dear family.  I know what it is like to be a parent of course, but have no idea about being a grandparent and can only imagine it is nearly as exciting.  I wonder when or if I will ever be a grandmother. I sincerely hope so although there are no signs indicating it will be anytime soon. Both girls are busy with their careers at the moment.

That afternoon Olivia’s main job was to describe to the spectators the route the new King and Queen of Spain will take in their open top vintage car after their proclamation here next week in Parliament.  You may be interested to know that Spanish Kings and Queens are not crowned.  Olivia did her job on the top of an open double decker city tour bus through the streets of Madrid with her hair blowing in the wind.  Oli, who is not very familiar with the streets of the centre, had to learn their names and the route off by heart!  Here she is on top of the bus with her microphone and reporting live on the royal route.
Olivia reporting live on Friday from the top of a city tour bus on the royal route after the new King and Queen's proclamation to the Spanish throne.
That night Eladio, my Father and I gathered in the lounge where we had dinner watching Spain’s first world cup match against Holland.  I can only imagine nearly all Spaniards doing the same all over the country, happy to support “La Roja” as the team is called here.  It was ironic that their first opponent should be the team they beat in the final in South Africa 4 years ago.  The whole country was more or less certain the Spanish squad would win again, but oh my God that didn’t happen.  The Dutch thrashed us 5-1 in the most crushing way possible.  It was sweet revenge for them but absolute humiliation for Spain.  When the score was 2-1 to Holland I just decided to go to bed. I could hardly believe on Saturday morning that the final score was 5 goals to 1 against Spain. 

Saturday was another scorcher. I went on my first walk relatively early but even so came home sweating and longing for the pool.  The water from the thunderstorm combined with the hot sun probably caused our hydrangeas to grow much higher than usual.  I love these flowers which we have at the entrance to the kitchen and can see when we are having our meals outdoors.
Our beautiful hydrangeas
José Antonio and Dolores were coming for lunch and would be spending the rest of the day with us.  So we were able to congratulate them on their up and coming grand- parent status.  They are delighted of course and surprised too, just as we were.  We had a family lunch together and Olivia joined us too.  Fátima took this photo of us all around the table enjoying her Moroccan chicken together.  Olivia left us before we had finished lunch as she was off to Madrid to meet the BBC correspondent here and then she was going to her first “baby shower” for her ex colleague Natalia who will be giving birth to Enrique at the end of next month.  Baby showers (parties where women friends take presents for the Mother and baby) are not common here and have been imported from the US I think but it sounds like a lovely idea.  I wish there had been baby showers in my day.

When she left we commented that the rest of our children were far away.  Their eldest son Miguel was travelling from Cuba to Lima from where he would be going to Bolivia and their daughter Sara had just arrived in Vancouver for a two week holiday in Canada.  Suzy of course is in London as you know.  She doesn’t post many photos of herself but I grabbed this one of her from Facebook with her Italian flat mate Stefania having lunch somewhere in the city yesterday.  It’s a happy photo and I’m glad I have at least one of Suzy for this week’s post.
Suzy (right with sunglasses) and Stefania in London on Saturday
The four of us spent the afternoon in the coolest place in the garden, under the leafy chestnut trees by the pool.  Whilst there we kept receiving photos from Eladio and José Antonio’s sister Pili.  They were of the building of our house in Montrondo.  It’s amazing, the builders only started on 20th May and in under one month they have taken down nearly all the walls from the inside, made the ground floor waterproof (a huge task), laid cement on the ground floor, uncovered the original stone wall on the front of the house and finally yesterday removed the roof where they will be adding a third floor to the house. This is what it looks like now.
Work in progress on our house in Montrondo
We all had a swim, except for Dolores and even Elsa tried to join in when she saw Eladio in the pool.  She’s a Labrador and normally they take to water like ducks, but Elsa is slightly afraid of the water.  Thus she will only go in if practically forced or if you throw her play rope in which I’m afraid I couldn’t find yesterday.  In any case here is a lovely photo of her and Eladio in the pool.
Eladio coaxing Elsa into the pool yesterday
At about 7pm we went for our walk.  It was still very hot but thankfully there was a bit of a breeze which made it quite enjoyable.  We came home to dinner made by Fátima; Moroccan meat and vegetable pies which we thought were delicious.

This morning is Sunday and I was up early as usual.  I was eager to find out how England had done against Italy in their inaugural match.  We weren’t able to watch it as it didn’t start until midnight our time last night.  It was a bad start for the Brits too who lost 1-2 to Italy.  So now I have no team to bet on for the rest of the World Cup.  I can only hope that Spain will win the rest of the matches and be beaten only in the first match which is what happened in 2010 when they were surprisingly beaten by Switzerland.  Cross your fingers, although I think any success will need much more than that.

It will be another scorcher today and I look forward to swimming this afternoon and sitting by the pool with Eladio and the dogs and enjoying my new book Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd.

This next week will be busy with preparations for our summer party.  There are only 3 weeks to go or less and I now have the obstacle of a change of location.  I always feel this event will catch up on me but in the end it always works out.  So let’s hope it will be the same this year.
Meanwhile I wish you all a great week. See you next Sunday,

Cheers Masha

Monday, June 09, 2014

The King of Spain abdicates, Olivia’s debut on Telemadrid, English visitors, the 70th anniversary of D Day, remembering my Mother, Rafa does it again and other stories.

On the walk in Boadilla with our English visitors
Hello again everyone.

Well what a week it’s been.  This time last week I was returning from Montrondo and today I am writing my blog in the shade by the pool with Norah at my feet. Eladio has taken our English visitors to the airport, Oli is soon to be returning from a well-deserved relaxing weekend in Valencia, my Father is watching the BBC News with a cup of tea and biscuit and here I am, finally with some time on my hands to write this week’s story.

Much more interestingly today as I write, Rafa Nadal is playing Novak Djokovic to win or lose his 9th Roland Garros title.  As I write, I keep looking up the score.  They are on their fourth set and it looks like the match could go either way at this point. Cross your fingers for the Spaniard please.

On Monday, I had breakfast early with Olivia as I was to do every day of this week as it would be the only time to see her during the day.  She would leave early and come home every day after 10pm quite exhausted but very happy with her new job. She is delighted with her director and team and is learning so much, although she has no personal life at the moment or time for herself.  I have told her that the important thing to do to avoid any burn out is to sleep well, not skip meals and try to do some exercise.

Monday was a big day for her, the day her new TV programme, Aquí en Madrid, was to start and which is scheduled to be broadcast live every day from Monday to Friday from 18.30 to 20.30.  She thought she would be doing a story on the Madrid football player Koke of the Atlético de Madrid team who at just 22 would be joining the Spanish squad in the World Cup.  However her world went upside down when it was announced the King of Spain, King Juan Carlos, was to abdicate in favour of his son, Philip (Felipe) who will become Philip VI.  Her programme would start one hour earlier and she was sent off to the King’s residence in El Pardo to report on the news. What a start for a budding TV reporter!

The announcement took everyone by surprise, my-self included.  We thought the 75 year old ailing monarch would never step down.  Later he made a personal announcement but didn’t really explain the reason why apart from saying he thought the institution should be passed on to a younger person.  Most people think he did so because of rapidly declining popularity after so many scandals in the royal household such as his son in law’s embezzlement of money and the much criticized episode of hunting elephants in Botswana.  He had said that unemployment in Spain kept him awake at night but that didn’t stop him gallivanting off to exotic destinations.  Another possible reason is the estrangement between him and the Queen, who for many years have lived separate lives; although they appear together on official occasions.  Abdication will give him a free reign to foster his amorous relations for which he is very famous.  I myself am not sorry to see him go as I too have lost faith both in him and in his institution.  He has gone past his sell by date and can no longer live off his laurels for having successfully brought Spain out of a dictatorship into a democracy.
The King of Spain signing his surprising intention to abdicate last Monday with Spain's prime minister  Rajoy
We were avid to see Olivia reporting on the abdication from the streets of Madrid near the Palace.  She showed the viewers the special edition newspapers which had been printed after the news, something which rarely ever happens.
Olivia reporting on the King's abdication on Monday
Her most glorious moment was interviewing the BBC correspondent in Madrid on how the British public would view the abdication.  Tom Burridge told her that the main BBC news that night would be about the King.  You can see that video clip here. I’m sure the story in England made people wonder if Queen Elizabeth would ever abdicate in favour of the ever waiting next monarch in line, the heir to her throne, her son Prince Charles.  I scarcely believe she will; although I never thought Juan Carlos would either.  So maybe there is chance for the Prince of Wales. 
Olivia interviewing the BBC and Belgian TV correspondents about the King's abdication
She also interviewed the Belgian TV correspondent and a Spanish speaking Belgian woman tourist as of course King Albert of Belgium had abdicated not so long ago too. All in all she was live about 5 times and possibly last Monday was her busiest day on television ever.  What a great start for her and the programme.

I think my Father enjoyed watching her most.  Here is a photo of him watching his granddaughter’s debut on Telemadrid holding up the newspaper with the news of the King’s abdication and then interviewing the BBC correspondent.  He could not have been more proud of her.
My Father watching his granddaughter Olivia live on TV on Monday reporting on the King's abdication
Meanwhile at home on Monday that morning, being the clumsy sort of person I am, I trapped my fingers in the legs of a clothes horse whilst trying to put it in the sun.  Thank goodness Eladio came to the rescue.  Luckily none of the bones were trapped so I didn’t break my fingers, but it hurt an awful lot, so much so that I cried.  Whenever I am in trouble all I want in the world is for Eladio to rescue me and look after me.  Thank you darling.  Sorry for being so clumsy.

The news of the King’s abdication has dominated the news all week and will continue to do so until the proclamation of the new king, the heir to the throne and his wife, the ex-TV presenter, Letizia.  She will become the first commoner Queen ever in Spanish history.
Prince Philip of Spain and his wife Letizia soon to be King and Queen of Spain

But the news also prompted pro republicans to come out in their thousands on the streets of Madrid.  Social media on the topic came to the forefront, as it would, with many jokes and “memes”.  This is just one example.
Jokes like this about the King's abdication were soon swarming on internet
Tuesday was a very interesting and full day for me.  After breakfast with Olivia off I went to the office.  I had to go to supervise a video case story on Yoigo to be done by the internet division of our mother company TeliaSonera, TSIC, as we have just given them our business.  The main items of the video were to be about our 4G network, roaming and the essentials of the Yoigo success story.  I was to be interviewed for the latter and it was quite fun.  When I had told the story on camera, the young Swede, Lars, who is the producer, asked me if I wouldn’t mind being filmed for another video their production company was working on.  I think it’s about people’s use today of mobile and internet and new technology to improve their work life balance or something like that.  They said I could be a great role model as I use all of these tools intensively plus I work from home.  I accepted on the spot without thinking about it really and so the two young Swedes, Lars and Helgers, filmed me the rest of the day.  First they filmed me in a meeting with my boss, then they fixed a microphone to me whilst I drove to the restaurant where I would be having lunch with my ex Nokia colleagues Fátima and Julio.  The Swedes had lunch on a separate table and enjoyed Spanish ham for the first time.

I then took them home and they filmed me working in my study and talking on camera in the garden. They even wanted to film the dogs and made me do “some crazy things” with Elsa our Labrador.  The only thing I could think of was throwing her a stick to catch.  One of their questions was whether I thought other people of my generation were as technologically savvy as me.  I told them I didn’t think so but that I had had the privilege of working with mobile phones since they started in 1990 having worked with two high tech companies but that my generation would catch up soon.  I also told them I thought that my generation today would be fully connected to the world when we are old, unlike people like my Father today who at 90 have really missed the internet boat.  That is definitely true.  However we shall have to try to keep up with whatever comes next and that’s what I intend to do.
The Swedish cameraman and producer who filmed me last week
They then went off to two Yoigo shops to continue filming.  I’m not sure how the two videos will turn out.  We’ll see. Watch this space then for news of the outcome.

Meanwhile Olivia was also on camera, but live of course, unlike me.  She was on twice, first with a report on the Madrid transport centre, an institution that controls all traffic of all vehicles in the city and surrounding areas.  You can see her story here.
Olivia reporting on the CITRAM, centre for control of Madrid's transport
That night I made a special dinner for her (my famous tuna salad) hoping she would be able to join us with her boyfriend Miguel who had come to spend the week with her; although he was only ever able to see her late at night or early in the morning like me.  She arrived too late to join us but was able to take it in a packed lunch the next day.  She told me they were too busy to eat lunch, so from Tuesday on I have insisted on making her a packed lunch.  If she is going to be so busy, she must eat.  It’s not often I take on the role of a “mother hen” but if I don’t look after her eating habits, no one else will. 
Tuna salad for dinner on Tuesday
Wednesday was my second fasting day this week. I have never been a good sleeper and recently I have been taking some un-prescribed sleeping tablets that seem to help.  However they make me wake up at 6 in the morning so Wednesday saw me in the kitchen making breakfast at 6.20.  That day I decided to go and see the national health service doctor hoping to get them prescribed.  It was the first time in years that I was using the system, usually preferring to rely on my private health insurance.  He explained to me that they would work at the beginning but I would become addicted to them and they would gradually not work and I would have to up the dosage and then they wouldn’t work either.  He told me I was lucky in that I don’t feel tired during the day like most people who have trouble sleeping and he is right as I am very awake and productive during the day.  In the end he prescribed some anti-depressants which of course I don’t need but may help induce sleep and won’t be addictive.  I have been taking them and I’m not really sure they are doing the trick.  One good thing though is that I now seem to be awake at 7 rather than 6.  Anyway he told me to come back in a month’s time to tell him my experience and to have another chat. 

As I get up so early I have time for everything; my work, my two walks, even a swim in the pool and on Wednesday there was even time for the weekly food shopping with Fátima before sitting down to watch Olivia on the television.

The day before, Suzy’s birthday parcel for Olivia’s 29th birthday finally arrived. It was a beautiful summer dress.  She wore it for work that day and looked stunning in the lovely dress her sister had bought for her.  That day she was to have yet another TV experience.  She was sent to the Madrid Las Ventas Bull ring to report on the annual charity bullfight which was to be presided over by the still King of Spain for the last time in history.  As a TV live reporter Olivia has to be prepared to talk about any topic and on Wednesday it was to be bull fighting.  The first thing she did was to meet the famous matador “El Juli” with whom she took this great selfie wearing Suzy’s pretty dress.
Oli's selfie wearing Suzy's dress with the famous Spanish bullfighter El Juli
The bull ring was packed and the atmosphere must have been electric.  Not knowing the terminology or the rules of the barbaric sport, Olivia quickly found an expert from the public who she interviewed on the television to help her.  I think she had great fun reporting on the historic occasion on Wednesday and learned a new journalistic lesson, this time in “tauramachia”.

On Thursday I was busy as we were having guests, English visitors, and the house had to be completely ready. Again I was up early so I had plenty of time.  I managed two walks in the morning and then joined my Father for lunch.  Eladio had a lunch date with his friends Roberto and Juanjo.  There was also time for a quick chat with Suzy who is still completing her dietitian registration in the UK where she hopes to work officially in a health centre.  I wish her lots of luck.

There was also time to watch Olivia on the television again. This time she was reporting on research into new energy in a centre in Móstoles on the outskirts of Madrid.  That was complicated reporting. She had to talk about olive stones being transformed into fuel for cars and seaweed being turned into gas believe it or not. You can see the full report here.  She even had to dress up in a white coat together with the scientists and researchers.  Here is a photo of her with them.
Olivia with the scientists at the research centre in Móstoles for new energy 
Soon it was time to pick up Keith and Lorraine from the metro station in Boadilla.  After showing them round the house, we sat by the pool sipping wine and eating crisps where we caught up on our lives since we had last seen each other in London last August.  Keith used to be my boss when I worked in Motorola so of course we have much in common.  Dinner that night was the proverbial Spanish potato omelet which we make for all “foreign” guests when they come to stay.  Keith jokingly objected to the term.  I mean how could I call them foreign when I am English myself?  Well the word must have just slipped out after so many years of living in my adopted country, Spain. Olivia and Miguel joined us for dinner, a rare occasion these days but I was happy that my daughter had the opportunity to meet my friends during their visit, albeit only for one evening as she would be going off to Valencia the following night after work to spend the weekend there.

Just before dinner that evening Eladio and I looked closely at a tree we have in the patio by the kitchen. It was a tree Eladio had been threatening to cut down as it didn’t seem to bear any fruit and was intruding on the windows of the lounge.  However that afternoon Fátima, our home help, had excitedly discovered that it did actually have some fruit and showed the berries to me.  I had never seen anything like them.  They looked like a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry but a lighter colour.  I thought they might be poisonous but she said they were sweet.  So I tried them and they were.  When Eladio saw them he immediately told me they were called “moreras” in Spanish. I didn’t know what they were so l looked the name up and now I know we have a mulberry tree which we won’t be cutting down.
Eladio examining the newly discovered mulberry tree whilst Fátima, our home help, looks on smiling.
Friday was 6th june, the 70th anniversary of the D Day Normandy Landings and the British press was full of stories.  I was interested of course because of the influence of the experiences of my parents in the second world war which have left a lasting impression on me.  What saddens me is that are so few veterans left now.  Those who are alive and remember  D Day are now in their late 80’s and soon there will be no more veterans who can give a first-hand account of what happened in Normandy, in the same way as the veterans of the First World War like Harry Patch are no longer with us.  My knowledge of the D Day landings is rather limited.  For me it was the beginning of the end of the war which led to victory over the Nazis. So I looked up the correct description and this is it: “The Normandy landings, codenamed Operation Neptune, were the landing operations on 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day) of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. The largest seaborne invasion in history, the operation began the invasion of German-occupied Western Europe, led to the restoration of the French Republic, and contributed to an Allied victory in the war” (quoted from Wikipedia).
Friday 6th June was the 70th anniversary of the D Day landings in Normandy
Of course we commented about it to my Father at breakfast that morning when Lorraine and Keith greeted him. It seemed to me that the whole of the front page of The Daily Telegraph was devoted to the anniversary. 

That morning we took our English visitors for our special walk.  We also took the dogs and I hope Keith and Lorraine enjoyed the sunny walk in the woods of Boadilla.  Afterwards we had a drink with some tapas at a bar just in front of the palace. The photo illustrating this week's post is of me with our English friends at the end of that walk.

We came home to have lunch with my Father, baked cod with garlic and paprika and later spent the afternoon by the pool.  Our friends were subjected to another walk as they would be the next day too.  I’m afraid we might have over walked them.  We had hoped to watch Olivia again on the television but I’m afraid we missed her live report, this time about the Armed Forces day to take place this weekend in Madrid. You can watch it here as I did just now if you fast forward to nearly the very end.

Saturday was 7th june, a date ingrained in my memory and also my Father’s.  It would have been my beloved Mother’s 94th birthday and we couldn’t help thinking about her more than usual because it was her birthday.  There are so many things I wish my Mother had lived to see; our new house, Olivia on television or Suzy living her life in London but above all we miss her charisma and her love.  She was a fantastic woman, original, a bit bohemian, very intellectual reading all the classics but also capable of enjoying Agatha Christy and unique in many ways.  Of Russian aristocratic background she was as polyglot having learned the languages she spoke perfectly because of her refugee torn life.  Latterly she learned Spanish, “the language to speak to God” she always told me, quoting Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor, and I’m sure she would have enjoyed living her later years here in Spain with us.   
My Mother born Princess Helene Lieven, watering the plants in the porch at home in Bradford in 1975,  Saturday 7th June would have been her 94th birthday.  We miss you so much Mummy!
On Saturday morning I got an early phone call from Olivia from the beach in Valencia.  I wondered she was there so early.  It turned out she was accompanying Miguel who was taking part in an open sea swimming race.  She was very proud to tell us later that he came first in his category and 12th overall of the 600 or so participants.  Well done Miguel.
Miguel, Olivia's boyfriend coming 1st in his category at an open swimming race in Valencia on Saturday
Later we took our friends to visit the Valley of the Fallen (El Valle de los Caídos), the cathedral that the Spanish dictator Franco had built after the Civil War as a monument to the fallen, those who had died fighting on his side.  The fascist dictator got the republican (communist) prisoners to build the Basílica inside a rock which also bears a gigantic cross which can be seen from far away on the A6 motorway when you leave Madrid for the north west. Many of them died doing so.  It is built high up in the mountains and commands an amazing view.  A mass was going on which we had to join if we were to see Franco’s simple tombstone.  A bishop was officiating and there must have been at least 10 priests with him.  We saw some old fascist diehards saluting his grave and I thought they may well have fought on his side in the bloody civil war.
At the Valley of the Fallen near El Escorial with Keith and Lorraine on Saturday
From the Valley of the Fallen we drove some 9km to the pretty little town of El Escorial to see the monastery built by Philip II of Spain and which was begun in 1563.  To refresh my memory I had to look this up.  All I knew was that the regent was an austere one having built the monastery and royal palace to bury the monarchs of Spain from Charles V of Germany (more known as the Holy Roman Emperor) also Charles I of Spain (his Father) onwards.  The real reason for this austere building was to build a monument to Spain’s role at the centre of the Christian world.
The Monastery and Royal Palace built by Philip II of Spain in El Escorial and where we took our English friends on Saturday
This very religious King who died in his bed at El Escorial was not only King of Spain and latterly Portugal but also King of Naples and Sicily.  Unbelievably too he became King of England and Ireland when he married Queen Mary (Mary Tudor) in 1554.
Philip II of Spain who became King of England too when he married Mary Tudor in 1558.

The Monastery and Palace is enormous but we managed to see the main parts in about an hour.  The highlights of the building are the bed where King Philip died, the royal mausoleum, the Basílica and perhaps for me the foremost thing to see here is the fabulous library which rivals with the best in the world.
The wonderful library at the El Escorial monastery
After so much culture it was time for food so we took our friends to the best restaurant in town, the excellent El Charolés, where they treated us to lunch.  Lunch was great but I was most impressed with the wine list.  We ordered house red  and I could hardly believe it when they brought us a Gran Reserva from the Cune winery.  It tasted like liquid velvet in my mouth.

We came home afterwards for a rest and guess what we did afterwards?  Of course, we went on another walk.  However this time towards the end of our usual path, we were thwarted by the flock of sheep and had to turn back.  When Sandra and Adele were here, Sandra told me she thought the sheep made our walk look almost biblical and I do agree. Then a swim was in order to cool off, followed by yet another tray of drinks and then Fátima’s wonderful dinner. She made Moroccan stuffed bread.  After dinner we invited Keith and Lorraine to taste one of Spain’s most well-known liquors, “pacharán”.  I had to consult mobile internet to tell them that the berry the drink is made from is “sloe” and that it comes from Navarra in the North of Spain.

And then it was Sunday, the last day of this story and the last day of enjoying the stay of our English visitors.  We took it easy that day and decided to chill out at home.  For breakfast we treated them to “chocolate con churros”.
Keith and Lorraine enjoying "chocolate con churros" for breakfast on Sunday morning.
At about mid-morning we took our friends to have an “aperitivo” at the local café and here we sat drinking Rueda white wine and “tinto de verano” in the sun.  Soon it was back home for lunch to enjoy Fátima’s chicken tagine with couscous.  Our friends were not leaving till about 6pm so there was time for a siesta by the pool.  Sunday was certainly the warmest day of the week. Eladio took them to the airport whilst I stayed behind to make my Father’s afternoon cup of tea.  It also gave me some time on my own to write this post.  When he came back we went for a walk with the dogs.  Then he was off again, this time to pick Olivia up from the Atocha train station.  It was lovely to have dinner together with Olivia, a nice end to the week.

The good news last night of course was Rafa Nadal’s 9th win at the French Open.  The King of Clay beat Novac Djokovic 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 which allowed him to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires once again.  No other tennis player in the world has won one single grand slam title so many times.  So Rafa did it again helping to improve the brand of Spain worldwide.  It was his 14th grand slam win (9 Roland Garros titles; 2008 & 2010 Wimbledon; 2009 Australian Open; 2010 & 2013 US Open) and he is now on a par in history with the great Pat Sampras.  Just three titles away from Roger Federer who is now considered the best player in history, Rafa, aged only 28 can still beat the Swiss record.  Great Rafa, so happy for you.
Rafa Nadal did it again - celebrating his 9th victory at Roland Garros yesterday
It is now Monday and another week is starting, so I will leave off here to join a conference call with my communications colleagues in Europe.  Meanwhile I wish you all a great week,
Cheers till next time