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


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