Sunday, August 31, 2014

To hospital and back, a horror story from Rotherham, my book of the decade “I am Pilgrim”, progress on the house in Montrondo, the truth behind the abduction of Aysha King from a British hospital and other stories.

Sunday 31st August 2014
Olivia and I with my Father at the excellent Rey Juan Carlos public hospital this week
Hi again everyone this very hot last Sunday in August. Calendar wise it is the end of summer but to judge by the temperatures here in Madrid you would think it was the beginning rather than the end. 

It has been an up and down week in many ways.  So let me start. On Monday, my first fasting day of the week, and after my two power walks, I heard of the sad death of Richard Attenborough perhaps the most famous name in the British film industry.  Aged 90 he will be most remembered for the film about Gandhi he directed in 1983.  That film had so much influence on me it was the main motivation of our 25th wedding anniversary trip to India in 2008.  RIP Richard Attenborough you will never be forgotten.
Richard Attenborough who left us this week together with Ben Kingsley who starred in Gandhi.
That afternoon we swam in the pool as we did most afternoons but on Monday afternoon Elsa joined in or rather Eladio coaxed her into the water.  Elsa is a Labrador and should have taken to water like a duck but for some reason she is afraid.  I just love this photo I took of the two of them.
Eladio in the pool with Elsa on Monday
Meanwhile Olivia was busy at work reporting for her TV programme Aquí en Madrid.  She did a story that day on a woman kidnapped by her partner from a petrol station and later reported live on the story of the search for Spain’s public enemy number one.  The search is on for a man who has abducted and sexually abused young girls in the last few months on the outskirts of Madrid and near Ciudad Lineal. The story has gripped the nation.  In a way these kinds of stories are few and far between in Spain and I think the man in question may not be Spanish as he is described as being blonde and tall, not exactly a Spanish prototype.  I sincerely hope he is caught soon.
Oli reporting on Monday on the search for Spain's public enemy number one
Tuesday came; the date for my Father’s operation at the Spanish public hospital, Rey Juan Carlos in Móstoles, a working class suburb near where we live.  It was scheduled for the middle of the afternoon.  I was most impressed with the hospital itself and how efficiently it is run.  Later I heard from my Father’s local nurse that it is privately run.  Whatever the case it is a marvelous hospital and my Father was treated like royalty with a huge room to himself with all the mod cons you could imagine.  The hospital is incredibly clean and I couldn’t help comparing it to the only English hospitals I know; The British Royal Infirmary where my Mother died on a cancer ward and the Royal Free in London where my brother was ill with melanoma before he died in a hospice; the latter being a haven for terminally ill patients.  There is little privacy in these hospitals compared to the Rey Juan Carlos and I found them downtrodden and quite dismal whereas the Spanish hospital was gleaming and as far as hospitals go, probably one of the best ones you could find yourself if you are ill.  The operation took just under an hour and was successful.  The reanimation took some time and my Father wasn’t taken to his room until late at night.  Another thing I have to say is that my Father suffered absolutely no pain or discomfort throughout.  We got to talk to his surgeons and of course his nurses who told us he was a dream patient. Well of course I knew that.  My Father is nothing short of a gentlemen and never complains.
The very modern and avant guard Rey Juan Carlos hospital where my Father was operated this week
Our time was spent reading in the waiting room whilst my Father was having his operation and it was thanks to one of my favourite books, A time like Alice by Nevil Shute, that I was able to pass the time.  I finished it that very night and left it to my Father thinking it would be an easy read for him, with the added attraction that it was also one of my Mother’s favourite books and had belonged to his sister Gloria.  However I suspect it is not his kind of thing; he is far too intellectual to read Nevil Shute. 

On Wednesday morning my friend Beatriz sent me a wonderful parcel of ecologically grown fruit and vegetables from Galicia.  She knows we love fruit and veg so this gift was very special.
The wonderful ecological fruit and vegetables grown in Galicia which Beatriz sent to me this week
That night I cooked the green beans and leeks and I can’t begin to describe how much better they tasted than any I have ever eaten before. Thanks Bea, much appreciated.

Meanwhile Suzy in London posted a great picture of herself sitting on a giant green chair in London.  I am not quite sure why giant green furniture has been placed outside the National Theatre by the Southbank but it certainly must be an eye catcher.
Suzy sitting on a giant green chair outside the National Theatre on the Southbank in London this week 
It was on Wednesday that I was horrified to read about a report in the UK which told of the fate of some 1.400 young girls, some aged just 11, who had been systematically abused and raped by Pakistani men whilst the authorities not wanting to rock the racism boat looked the other way.  I find the story so evil I haven’t been able to get it out of my system and am so angry that in a town in Yorkshire, yes the county we call “God’s own country”, in Rotherham in South Yorkshire something like this could have happened. If it has happened there then it has also happened in other places.  I am aghast at how British tolerance has bowed so low as to view these white working class girls as “damaged goods” and not to understand their plight. Another thing I can’t get out of my mind either is a comment in an article in The Times by a journalist who has been following this and other cases who ventured to write that, in a similar way to jihadism, these men wanted to impregnate white British girls to spread the seed of their race or religion.  That is truly frightening.  Even today these vicious and evil men are getting away with what they are doing and have done.  Few of them have been imprisoned and many of those who have walk the streets again today.  I mean how can the British authorities be so tolerant and not care?  Can you imagine the story being the other way round and white British men abusing Muslim girls in places like Yemen or Saudi Arabia?  They would all immediately be beheaded in public whereas these Muslim men in Britain get off practically scot free.  There I have said it, but I haven’t got it out of my system. 

But back to the story of my Father in hospital, I would like to thank all my friends and family who have sent so many good wishes.  I appreciate them so much and I think my Father was very pleased to hear that so many people were thinking of him.  We went to see him twice on Wednesday and Olivia joined us on our second visit.  Olivia was equally impressed with his immaculate room and with the hospital in general. The photo illustrating this week’s post is of Oli and I by my Father’s bed.

On Thursday he was discharged and he was delighted to be taken home. However good the hospital is there is nothing like being at home. 

It was on Thursday that I started reading a book by Terry Hayes called I am Pilgrim which I had ordered on Amazon after recommendations from a friend on Facebook.  It is a spy story but very up to date and deals too with the jihadists and their revenge on the west.  To say that is not to give the book justice.  What I can say is that it is the best book I have read in the last ten years.  I finished it in three days and feel bereft now, knowing that no book will satisfy me after this one. If you haven’t read it yet, then get a copy and know that you will be hooked on the first page.  As an ex Finnish boss told me when I started the Stieg Larsson trilogy, similarly, you will have to say goodbye to your friends and family until you have finished it.  I loved Millenium but it is not a patch on I am Pilgrim.  I am dying for Terry Hayes to write the sequel.
The best thriller of the decade in my opinion
To whet your appetite, here is the publisher’s summary which I have copied for you here:
"Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book. What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God."

On Friday, our old home help Olga who is of Argentinian and Paraguayan origin, came to visit my Father bringing with her a huge bunch of flowers and chocolates.  Of all the women workers we have had I think she was the one who was closest to my Father.  He was very pleased to receive a visitor.  Our congratulations are due to her as she will be getting married in December to a Mexican.  Thanks Olga for coming, we hope to see you again.
Olga came to visit my Father when he came out of hospital
Whilst Olga was visiting I was out shopping with Fátima so missed seeing Olivia on TV that afternoon.  As I came back Eladio, Olga and my Father looked up from the screen to say I had just missed her.  Later she told me she had to do a story on the traffic in Spain at the end of the August holiday.  All journalists reporting on traffic go to the DGT HQ (General Directorate of Traffic). That day she coincided there with a legendary TV traffic reporter Anselmo Mancebo but also with her fellow internee Maria when they both started with TVE some 7 or 8 years ago when they worked for the documentary programme “Informe Semanal”.  It was quite a coincidence.
Oli at the DGT (Spanish G.D. of Traffic) with the famous traffic reporter Anselmo Mancebo and Maria who was a fellow internee when they both worked for Informe Semanal (TVE) after they left University.  
Olivia also told us what the TVs do not tell the public about holiday traffic.  In the old days there were huge holiday traffic jams so it was customary to report on them during the holiday season.  However the DGT keeps trying to tell the journalists that these hardly exist anymore as people’s holiday habits have changed and of course the roads have improved.  So really it is quite difficult for the reporters like Olivia, sent out by their producers to report on any news as the traffic was absolutely not newsworthy that day. I found that a very interesting piece of inside information.

Meanwhile on Friday in Montrondo, progress was finally made on the house we are building there.  The main beam arrived and was put in place on top of the new third floor.  The next day we saw photos of the building of the roof itself.  I can only hope work will speed up now and the house may well be ready by Easter or even before.
Halleluya the roof of the house we are renovating from scratch in Montrondo is finally being built
We spoke about the house, about the hospital, about Suzy in London and many other things that are on our minds these days when we went out to dinner that night.  We chose to dine at La Txitxarrería where we went for our anniversary dinner and it seems to be our latest favourite.  Here I spent some more of my abundant luncheon vouchers.  (one of my favourite corporate perks). I just have to add that I really think their steak is very possibly the best in town. 
Steak and chips at La Txitxarrería - divine
On Saturday we woke up to the news that the parents of a 5 year old boy Aysha King with brain cancer had abducted him from a hospital in Southampton and were being searched for in Spain.  The media and internet told us these parents were not looking after their child and even that as they were Jehova Witnesses they didn’t want him to undergo medical treatment all of which turned out to be far from the truth.  Yesterday evening the Spanish police found the family and the boy is now in a hospital in Málaga and the parents at a police station.  So far so good, what awful parents you probably think like I did until I saw the video posted on You Tube by Aysha’s father.  The video told a very different story and you can see it here.  The father’s story is that he wanted to find a beam treatment for his child not available on the NHS and only possible in other countries and that the doctors treating the child had threatened him with a court of ward order if he continued to challenge their treatment.  I only hope the wishes of the parents of the sick boy will be respected and that he finally gets the treatment he needs.  We shall more over the following days.  What a story.

Saturday was a busy day.  After my two power walks, Eladio washed our lovely dogs who now seem to enjoy the procedure.  Then I prepared lunch as Fátima our home help looked after my Father and cleaned the house.  Yesterday’s menu was to help beef up my Father who is anemic after losing so much blood over the past month or so. It’s good that after the operation he is no longer losing any more.  The menu consisted of homemade gazpacho, meat loaf and fresh vegetables.  Oli didn’t join us as she was having her own private party; a barbecue for the “manada” as the girls’ group of friends is called.

I made enough for us to repeat the menu for today’s Sunday lunch when we were joined by Olivia this time.  Olivia also joined us on my first morning walk today and agreed our new walk is much nicer than the previous one.

After lunch we watched the news as we usually do and heard that a 21 year old Spanish girl called Carolina Marín was making badminton history having reached the World Championship final in Copenhagen.  Last year she was the European champion and I remember writing about her in my blog. Badminton is a minority sport and Carolina Marín who is a huge sporting figure in Asia where the game is very popular is hardly known in her own country.  I read that Badminton has its origins in British India and was semi invented by the British military.  It is very popular funnily enough in Denmark where Carolina plays in the league but mostly in China, India and other Asian countries.  I have just heard she actually beat the number one badminton player in the world and has become the world champion.  Now isn’t that amazing for Spanish and European sport.  I was happy to see she beat Li Xuerei the number one seed from China 17-21, 21-17, 21-18. This is more great news for Spanish sport.
Carolina Marín, the 21 year old Spaniard who made sporting history today by winning the Badminton World Championship 
Tomorrow will be 1st September and I will be off to Santander to take care of Yoigo’ PR activities there at the annual telecoms congress.  I am looking forward to a change of air and climate as it is so hot here in Madrid and 10 degrees less will be very agreeable. In my free time I look forward to a long walk or two on the wonderful Sardinero beach.

Hoping you have enjoyed this post, I wish you all a great week ahead,
Cheers till next time,


Sunday, August 24, 2014

What the ice bucket challenge is all about, a “British” Islamic State militant beheads American photo journalist James Foley, 31 years together, Juana and Oscar came to dinner, Spain’s best swimmer ever and other stories.

Sunday 24th August 2014
Eladio and I celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary on Thursday 21st August
Hi everyone,

It’s Sunday again and the time to write my blog. Today is a quiet warm Sunday in August and the summer is still with us.  I have been on my two daily consecutive walks on my own and then with Eladio and the dogs, and after a quick bathe in the pool, here I am ready to tell you all about this week which had its highlights both at home and on the news front.

One item of news I thought was rather silly is the ongoing story of celebrities pouring ice cold water over themselves apparently to raise funds and awareness for some sort of Sclerosis.  In fact I got rather tired of what I thought was a silly stunt.  There were more and more high profile cases which I just couldn’t relate to, until a friend of mine on Facebook, Marianne opened my eyes to what it is all about.  She posted a video of a 26 year old American boy diagnosed with ALS which I learned is a terrible neurodegenerative disease that makes you weaker and weaker until most of the sufferers die. The most famous person afflicted with ALS is Stephen Hawking.  In this video the devastated youth describes just how happy the ice bucket challenge is making him and fellow sufferers by raising awareness and more importantly funds to find a cure for an illness which is just not profitable enough for pharmaceutical companies to bother with. My only worry here is whether the people taking up the ice bucket challenge are really donating funds to the cause.  So here is my part in the awareness story; this is the website where you can make your donation. 
The 26 year old American boy diagnosed with ALS and whose video made me understand the ice bucket challenge
On Monday as usual I fasted, did my two walks and enjoyed a quick bathe in the cool pool afterwards, it was such a warm day.  That day and all of the week really Olivia was busy reporting for her afternoon TV programme, Aquí En Madrid.  I missed her most days but watched her via streaming later whenever I could.  On Monday she reported on a crime of passion in a suburb of Madrid, Hortaleza.  She also reported on a very big story in Spain, about two Spanish couples who have adopted a child each in Ethiopia, a process which took up to 6 years, only to have the children taken away from them for political reasons; forces in the north of the country are against international adoption. 
Olivia adores children and this was clear in her report on an adoption problem case in Ethiopia this week
Susana meanwhile was causing a stir on Facebook when she published a lovely portrait of herself which Gabor had taken.  I can only imagine it is for her CV.  Nice isn’t it?
A new portrait of my darling daughter Suzy
Tuesday will go down in history as the day the world learned of the fate of an American freelance photo journalist called James Foley who had been kidnapped by IS (Islamic State) “jihadists” in Syria.  In a gruesome video sent to the media and later thankfully removed from internet, he is beheaded by an IS militant with a British accent, called John in retaliation for American forces striking their targets in Iraq.  This is a new kind of terrorism or indeed a sophistication of what we have previously seen from Al Qaeda. The press says the killer is British.  He may well have a British passport but he is of Asian origin. Governments around the world are very worried about the IS a new Islamic terrorist group which frighteningly aspires to governing the whole Muslim world. I very much fear that James Foley will not be the only western victim of this very extremist western hating group of jihadists. In the video there is promise of a second beheading of another American journalist.
James Foley the ex American photo journalist sadly became very famous this week
In any case life goes on and on Tuesday Eladio and I went into the quiet and empty streets of Madrid to look at some vintage bathroom suites for the house we are building in Montrondo.  They are empty as August is the holiday season in Spain and most people living here want to get away from the oppressive heat. Meanwhile Olivia was reporting on the atmosphere outside the Real Madrid Bernabeu stadium ahead of the first leg of the Spanish super cup against their city rivals Atlético de Madrid.  Her English came in handy during the report as she spoke to foreigners who had come especially from places like Miami, Brazil or Newcastle to see the match.  We didn’t watch it as it started really late at 11 pm.  The result was a draw 1-1 which would favour Atlético on aggregate in the second leg two days later.
Oli reporting from the Real Madrid stadium on Tuesday ahead of the first leg of the super cup trophy against rival city club Atético de Madrid.
That night I made a special dinner for Olivia and Miguel her boyfriend who had come to stay for the week.  Evening meals outside are so nice at this time of year and when I can I love to make family meals.

Nothing much happened on Wednesday which was a repeat of Monday and Tuesday for me.  Olivia that day reported on yet another summer fire, this time in Aranjuez in the south of Madrid.
Thursday was our big day, our 31st wedding anniversary.  31 is not a significant number; it’s not 25 or 50 but in my mind, you never know what life is going to bring, so it is better to celebrate every year.  We have done so right from the start and always go out for dinner somewhere nice.  It’s amazing to think that we have been married for such a long time. When I posted on FB that it was our 31st anniversary some joker friend wished us another 31 years together.  That is not going to happen unless Eladio lives till he is 100.  Someone else told me that in Spain at least there were now more divorces than marriages in one year.  So yeah, 31 years together is definitely something to celebrate.  You may want to know what the secrets of our successful relationship are, so let me tell you.  Basically it is mutual admiration, physical attraction and above all respect.  Eladio and I rarely argue (we both hate conflict) and one thing we never do is insult each other.  Then again maybe I am lucky as it is nearly impossible to argue with my tranquil husband.  It sounds simple to me but maybe it’s not so simple. 

Feeling very happy I went off to a meeting with my events agency to finalize details for our big party at the beginning of September in Santander.  Later in the evening Olivia sent us a photo of her reporting on Madrid’s number one attraction for tourists, the modern art museum, Reina Sofia.  Here tourists queue up mainly to see Picasso’s most famous masterpiece, “La Guernica”.  Once again Olivia’s English came in handy when interviewing foreign tourists queueing to enter the museum.  The news was related to the record number of foreign tourists to Spain and Madrid, Spain now being the number three hotspot in the world. I would have thought the main attraction in the capital city was the Real Madrid football stadium or the Prado, but no it is the Reina Sofia. 
Olivia reporting on Thursday from the Reina Sofia modern art museum in Madrid, the city's top tourist attraction.
That night both Olivia and Miguel joined us at dinner to celebrate our anniversary.  We went to La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo where we had an amazing dinner.  We started off with a plate of spectacular Spanish ham accompanied by grilled tiny green peppers (actually chilis only one of which was hot and which landed on Oli’s plate!).  Then Miguel, Oli and I devoured a plate of the most wonderful fillet steak you can eat in Madrid.  Miguel took the photo of us which illustrates this week’s post.  Today as I was choosing the photos for my blog, I decided to do a collage and add it to one of our wedding photos and this is the result.  Yes we have aged of course and quite a lot but I think we look fine for our age, don’t you think?  I still find Eladio just “drop dead gorgeous” even after all these years. 
31 very happy years separate these two pictures. Above 21.8.83, below 21.8.14
Meanwhile that night in London Gabor had taken Suzy out for a romantic dinner to celebrate their first anniversary as a couple. It’s funny it coincided with our day.  They went to The Attic Bar which has some great views of the city.  So congratulations go to Suzy and Gabor too this week.
Suzy and Gabor celebrating one year together this week, on the same day as our anniversary!
On Friday morning I was up early as usual and coincided with Olivia when I was about to go on my first walk.  She was just about to go for an early morning run with Miguel.  So we took a selfie of the moment and here it is.
A selfie of Oli and I on Friday morning about to run (Olivia) and walk (me.
Friday was a busy day for me.  Juana and Oscar, my ex Nokia colleagues, were coming for dinner that night.  They had just been to Israel on holiday and we were keen to exchange impressions as we also went there just a few years ago.  Whenever we have guests the house has to look its best which means a lot of preparations; Eladio had to cut the grass, Fátima had to do extra cleaning to include the swimming and kitchen terraces and I had to arrange the flowers and the meal.  Being summer and very warm I decided to make a light dinner and to prepare cold dishes which could be made in advance and sit chilling in the fridge.  The first course was to be homemade gazpacho which I wanted to serve in attractive individual little bottles as once seen at a wonderful restaurant called Gecko Beach Club in Formentera.  I found these at a Chinese “pound shop”.  The main course was to be my chicken Waldorf salad which includes mango instead of apple and the dessert was to be raspberry syllabub.  This is what the latter looked like.
The new dessert (syllabub) I made for dinner on Friday when we had guests
Whilst I was whipping the cream which turned into butter as Fátima had stored it outside the fridge and then sent Eladio out to get some more, Olivia was busy at work reporting once again on the pre match atmosphere but the second leg of the Madrid teams’ super cup match.  She did so riding a sort of “tuc tuc” type vehicle and sent us this photo.  Like me Olivia loves sport and so of course she enjoys reporting on it too.
Oli on a tuc tuc in Madrid on Friday reporting on the pre match atmosphere in the city that afternoon
We didn’t watch the second leg either as we were having guests but I was disappointed to learn later that Atlético, supposedly the underdog, had won the cup.  I sort of wondered whether there was some sort of pact between the two teams for the latter to win after Real Madrid had won the European Super Cup recently in Lisbon.  We will never know.

Meanwhile at home everything was ready for the arrival of our guests.  For once we were well ahead of time and spent the half or so before they came putting finishing touches to the evening, preparing a drinks tray, setting up the Spotify music on Eladio’s phone via our wonderful blue tooth Sony portable speaker, lighting candles etc.  This is what the table looked like.
The table I laid for our guests on Friday evening
And then our guests arrived and we welcomed them warmly. 
With my dear friend Juana at home on Friday night
The whole evening was quite magical.  We had a great time discussing our visits to Israel which of course then focused on the Israeli Arab issue.  Another topic of conversation was the crisis and how today’s generation are the lost generation, in that there are few jobs and those that exist are meagerly paid and how that leads to them neither getting married nor ever being able to buy a house.  Yes the future is difficult for them.  I just hope they rise to the challenge.  Other topics of conversation were light hearted, especially when Eladio spoke about how we used to sell beagle puppies and with the money actually managed to build our first swimming pool.  All in all it was a lovely evening and great to see my ex colleagues from Nokia.  Those of us who worked at Nokia in its heyday used to add an inside slogan to the more famous one: Nokia connecting people “and reuniting colleagues”. 
Aselfie with our friends Juana and Oscar on Friday at home, a bit grainy but you get the idea.
We didn’t get to bed until nearly two in the morning and I was up again the next day at my usual 7.30 which meant I only slept five and a half hours.  But Saturday after my walks was to be quite a lazy day.  It was spent with Eladio, mostly by the pool where we were joined by Olivia and Miguel.  It was yesterday on Saturday that I sort of first woke up to the fact that a young Spanish girl called Mireia Belmonte is making history for Spanish swimming, a sport that this country has not usually excelled at, excepting synchronized swimming of course.  So we watched with great awe as she took the gold medal in the 1.500m freestyle race at the Berlin European Swimming Championship.  As I am writing today she has just won another gold medal, coming first in the 200m butterfly race.  Her fellow countrywoman Judit Ignacio won the silver medal.  This is certainly great news for Spanish sport, excelling at swimming; which can be added to football, basketball, formula 1, motorcycling, cycling, tennis at which Spaniards already excel.  Mireia Belmonte aged only 23 must be the woman star of the championships, having also won silver and bronze medals in other races.  According to Miguel, Olivia’s boyfriend who is a keen swimmer, she is Spain’s equivalent to Michael Phelps. 
Spain's best professional swimmer ever, 23 year old Mireia Belmonte
Later we made a lovely dinner all together after which Miguel, Oli and I played sevens, the card game I learned from Sandra and Jeffer this summer.

And today is Sunday and it has been quiet too.  There is really nothing particularly relevant to report.  In a way no news is good news, it’s just another lovely Sunday in August spent at home.
This week coming will bring with it my Father’s operation on Tuesday afternoon, the most important item in the week.  I have lots of faith in Spanish doctors and I’m sure it will all go well as we have been told it’s a very simple keyhole type intervention.  In any case I shall be telling you how it went in next week’s post.

Meanwhile, I wish you all a good week,

Cheers till next time,


Sunday, August 17, 2014

A quiet week at home in August, rediscovering Nevil Shute, a new walk, Oli reporting on the “fiestas” of the Assumption, prickly pears, Suzy with Sandra at a Toastmasters' event in Hyde Park and other stories.

Sunday 10th August
A selfie of me on our new walk this week
Good morning all,

How has your week been? Mine has been very quiet and can be summed up as in this week’s headline.  Officially I am still on holiday and most afternoons have been spent with Eladio and the dogs by the pool quietly reading. We were going to spend this week in Santa Pola but didn’t go in the end because of one thing or another.  So in a way our pool became a sort of substitute for the beach; not as good of course but beautifully private.
Our pool at home, not quite the beach but a good substitute
On Monday we got the results of my Father’s scan.  You may remember a month or so ago we took him to hospital because of “hematuria” (blood in the urine).  Well the news is not too bad in that they have found a small tumour in his bladder which can be removed in a very simple “keyhole” operation.  We were told to take him for pre-operation tests on Thursday which we did.  He passed them all with flying colours – he is so fit for his age, 95 – and now we are waiting for the date for the operation which should be within the next two weeks or maximum a month.  Of course none of this is very pleasant for my Father and infringes on his peaceful routine, but we have to look on the bright side as the diagnosis could have been much worse.  It’s apparently quite common in elderly men and easily dealt with.

Monday was my first fasting day for 3 weeks.  It was tough and I got a headache that night. But I’m glad I’m back to my home eating routine after so much food this holiday. 

Now that I’m home I can watch Olivia on TV more regularly. She reports on all sorts of things as you know and on Monday she reported on a forest fire in nearby Las Rozas.  There are so many of them in Spain because of our dry and very warm climate.  Talking about warm, it really has been hot this week and I would sweat even on my early morning walks, although thankfully the morning temperatures dropped quite a lot towards the middle of the week. 

While I get my exercise walking (two hours a day), Suzy uses her bike.  On Monday she and Gabor cycled to Greenwich and back.  She told me it only took twenty minutes from where they live.  I love Greenwich and if I lived in London it certainly would be an area I would consider living in, near the centre but far enough to get away from it all.  She didn’t tell me whether they visited the Meridian centre but I imagine they did.  We were very impressed when we visited it for the first time last year with Sue.  The views of the city of London are spectacular from up there as Suzy and Gabor found out last Monday.  Here they are on their respective bikes enjoying the view.
Suzy and Gabor on their bikes in Greenwich last Monday
On Tuesday after my two early morning walks, one of them with Eladio and the dogs, I found out that the Spanish missionary priest, Miguel Pajares who had been flown home from Sierra Leone with Ebola, had died that morning.  He was the first European citizen to be infected and to die of the dreadful disease.  There is an international outcry on its spread in Africa which is one of the big topics at the moment.  In the afternoon Olivia reported from the funeral parlour where his charred remains were taken, on the death of this very high profile priest who until not so long ago was totally unknown and is now a household name. 

That day Olivia not only reported on the missionary priest’s tragic death, but also on an interesting topic for her, about underground work in Madrid in the summer, whilst most of us are on holiday and enjoying the sun.  These poor workers on line 5 of Madrid’s metro spent their whole days underground improving the line and under the instructions and supervision of a 29 year old woman engineer.  Olivia was most impressed with the girl and her job and so was I.  Here is a photo of Olivia with some of the underground workers.
Olivia having fun on the job on Tuesday when she did a report on the Madrid metro underground works 
Olivia works so hard, very often she has no time to eat what I prepare for her to take with her for lunch when I am at home.  She is rapidly losing weight and if she has to work such long hours a proper diet is vital.  So every night this week I made lovely dinners for her and the three of us enjoyed them together.  On Monday I made “perushki” (little homemade Russian meat pies) for her which I know she loves.  The idea is to make tempting things that she will eat.

Tuesday of course was the day the comedian actor Robin Williams took his life.  Apart from battling with drugs and alcohol the 63 year old had also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  His death was big news this week and all of us who enjoyed him in Dead Poet’s Society, Jumanji, Peter Pan or Mrs. Doubtfire were shocked to hear the news.  RIP Robin Williams you were a great actor and made us all laugh.  I’m so sorry to hear you were a sad person underneath your fun loving exterior.

Wednesday was very much a repetition of Monday and Tuesday.  I did my two walks and the only difference in routine that day was that I went to the lovely Corte Inglés (Supercor) supermarket to buy fruit which we had run out of.  They really do have lovely fresh produce. Whilst there I bought some of their fresh gazpacho and salmorejo (the latter to tempt Olivia of course) which we soon finished as it was delicious.

You will have noticed I haven’t done much shopping recently, apart from food shopping of course.  One of the reasons is that I do not need any more clothes.  However I have been shopping online and at my favourite online store, Amazon.  On Wednesday I bought a fresh orange juice maker to be sent to Suzy and Gabor as whilst I was there we had to use their plastic manual one which wastes about half of every orange.  Now they will be able to enjoy their breakfasts even more.  I also bought another manual milk frother with a view to taking it to Santa Pola where we don’t have one.  I wanted the WMF brand which we have at home but it is no longer available so I chose one by a brand called Judge which looks similar and I hope works as well.  I also ordered two books online for Eladio which had been recommended by Keith: “When Nietzsche Wept” by Irvin Yalom and “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand, much more highbrow than my Nevil Shute but then again my husband is an academic and I am not.  The latter was only available as an ebook, so I was amused to see Eladio using a kindle this week. He was much impressed.

Meanwhile Olivia was so busy at work she never told us what time she would be on.  That day the programme twitter account posted a picture of the newsroom which I thought looked terribly cramped.  You can spot Olivia if you look carefully.  She is at the far right and looks very busy indeed.  They really do work them far too hard, plus there will no holiday for any of them as the programme only started at the beginning of the summer.  I feel rather sorry for them all.  On the bright side, Olivia is learning a lot and is on TV every day. 
Olivia's newsroom, you can spy her on the far right of the picture.

On Thursday after my two walks followed by a quick shower, the ambulance came for my Father to take him to the hospital for the pre-op tests.  I went in it with him and Eladio followed behind in our Volvo with his wheel chair folded inside as we would be bringing him back by car.  The journey in the ambulance was incredibly bumpy and we had to pick people up on the way.  So in the future I think we shall rely on our own transport.  Once at the hospital the whole process was very automized, punctual and efficient. Our experience of the Spanish national health service is very positive in general and I have a lot of faith in Spanish medicine. The one big positive difference between the Spanish and the English NHS is that the Spanish doctors in general are far more “human”, less “tin god” which is my experience of English doctors. First my Father had an electrocardiogram, then an X-ray and finally an appointment with a very young and good looking anesthetist who after looking at the results of his tests and asking us all sorts of questions, pronounced him fit for the operation.  We were very pleased and I was very proud of just how fit my Father is, especially mentally and I just hope I have inherited his genes.

It was that afternoon I rediscovered the well-known British author of the 40’s and 50’s, Nevil Shute.  I had run out of new books to read so went to my library to see what I could find.  I have inherited a small collection from the middle of last century from my Aunty Gloria, some of which are treasures my Mother and I loved and reread many times, such as “The Willow Cabin” by Pamela Frankau I mentioned last week.  Well another of those treasures is a book by Nevil Shute called “A town like Alice”.  However I have read it so often I didn’t choose it on Thursday afternoon, but spied more novels by the same author.  One is “On the Beach”, his most famous novel but it’s about the end of the world and I remember it as being very depressing.  But next to these books I discovered more novels by the same author and took pot luck and started on one called “The Trustee from the Tool Room”. I loved it and devoured it in about a day and a half. I then started on two more, one I couldn’t get into and another I found very strange; his first novel called Mazaran.  So I picked up another one; “No Highway” and this is the one I am devouring now.  Reading and rereading Nevil Shute brings me back to Britain (and sometimes Australia) in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s which proves both alluring and nostalgic.  I love the vocab and wonder at life without the technology we have today.  People seemed to have so much more time on their hands.

Meanwhile, Olivia’s boyfriend Miguel was taking part in an open sea swimming competition in Gandia.  She sent us a photo of him on the podium.  He came first.  Later he told me there were 400 participants.  I was impressed.
Miguel, Olivia's boyfriend, a clear winner

After feeling a bit saturated with reading I watched Olivia report on the TV that day.  It was all about the preparations for the next day’s feast of the Assumption.  In Madrid that is one of the biggest “fiestas” of the year and is commonly called “La Virgin de la Paloma”, wherein lies a fascinating story too long to tell here.  At dinner that night Olivia asked our resident expert in religion, Eladio, all about the background of it as she has little knowledge or interest in the subject.  I listened in very interested as religion is a subject quite close to my heart.  At lunchtime that day we had a discussion about what the Assumption was as opposed to the Ascencion.  My Father, whose own Father was a Canon in the Church of England, immediately told us that the Church of England does not celebrate the Assumption and he is right. That is one of the major differences between it and the Church of Rome.  According to Eladio’s layman’s explanation, the ascension was done by Jesus Christ himself, i.e. he ascended by himself into heaven, whereas the Virgin was helped up. 
Madrid's "virgen de la paloma"
In any case, it is a feast celebrated in the whole of Spain on 15th August and is an official holiday. Unfortunately for Olivia she was not on holiday as her programme was going to concentrate on news of the “feast” or “fiesta” in Madrid that day.  All the reporters donned carnations, which seems to be the flower that symbolizes this day at least in Madrid and it was Olivia’s job to describe and report on the procession of the Virgin in the streets of Madrid that day.  There was a whole range of new vocabulary for her to learn in the process.  It’s amazing the things she learns in her job.  We tend to learn them to, as a bit of a spin off in a way, hahaha, either helping her with the subject or listening to her explanations at dinner.
Olivia (front row second right in a white t-shirt) and her team with carnations ready to report on the Madrid festivities on Friday.
It was on Friday that we discovered a new walk.  Being 15th August, the feast of Assumption it was also the start of the hunting season, Spain’s equivalent to England’s “glorious 12th”. This meant there would be shooting and quite a lot of it on our normal walk, so we decided just to walk on the streets.  However when we reached the top of our street and turned left, we discovered a parallel path which we went down so as to let Elsa off the leash. It goes in between the houses and through woods and is very peaceful.  We have thus discovered a much better walk for our daily exercise.  It is slightly longer (just under 5km there and back) but also steeper which my fitbit loves.  In calculating how many calories I burn each day, it is not just the distance I do in steps but the “active minutes” that burns them faster and on this new walk I do nearly double those of the old walk. On the plus side too, there are no other dogs, people, bikes, cars or motorbikes which makes Norah at least a lot calmer. The photo illustrating this week's blog is of me on the new walk.

That night, Eladio and I had dinner out.  Being a national holiday, I thought La Vaca Argentina may be full so I was surprised when I was able to get a table via The Fork portal which offers a 40% discount. I was even more surprised to see when we arrived and throughout our dinner that we were the only diners.  Of course a lot of people are on holiday making Madrid a bit of a deserted city in August, but not all surely?  I felt sorry for the restaurant but cheered up a bit as I saw a few tables filling up slowly just as we left.

Meanwhile Miguel had finished his 11 day stint working in Valencia for TVE where he is a cameraman, and was coming to stay with Olivia, and with us of course, for the next 10 days.  Oli picked him up from the train station and they had dinner in town and used The Fork too and came back happy with their choice, Gastro James near Cuzco.

On the new walk I had spied some big cactus plants with fruit on it so suggested to Eladio that we take along some plastic bags to pick some. 
The prickly pears we found on our new walk and which are so difficult to pick.
An extra plastic bag would be needed to avoid the prickle of this fruit which is also called “prickly pear”.  Before going on Saturday morning, we looked up the fruit on internet to make sure it was edible and just how it is eaten.  It apparently has lots of benefits; mainly fiber, vitamin c and iron.  So far so good, but when it came to picking the very abundant fruit which seemed to grow wild, we got awfully prickled for lack of gloves.  So we came home with a huge bag of the fruit but with a lot of unpleasant prickling on our hands. Once home Fátima, our Moroccan home help, immediately recognized the fruit and with her bare hands (!), cut the two sides off and then peeled off the skin which came away very easily.  The fruit is very tropical and has a nice enough taste but I don’t really like the thick black pips you have to swallow when eating the pulp.  Later friends on Facebook told me of various tricks on how to remove the prickle. 

Later I went food shopping with Fátima and then came home to make lunch.  It was to be a special lunch of homemade fish and chips to be had with Olivia and Miguel.  Then after a short siesta Eladio and I adjoined once more to the pool to read our books.  We were joined as nearly always by our delightful dogs.  I caught them on camera playing and I especially like this shot which shows just how much they love each other.
Our dogs Elsa the labrador and Norah the beagle who love each other so much.
Just as I was envisioning a quiet dinner with just the two of us, Olivia came to tell me she was making salmorejo and Miguel was making humous.  Olivia has never been known for her domestic qualities, so this new spate of cooking has pleasantly surprised me and you know what? Her salmorejo is delicious. She suggested dinner together and then playing cards when I would show them how to play Sandra, Jeffer and Isaline’s game called “seven”.  That immediately perked me up and made me feel very happy.  I went to bed that night counting my blessings for the wonderful life I have and the super family that are my “raison d’être”.

My other daughter, Suzy, meanwhile had spent the day with my dearest soul mate Sandra.  Sandra had taken her to Hyde Park, specifically to Speakers’ Corner to take part in a Toastmasters’ event there. Toastmasters is Sandra and Jeffer’s great hobby and is an international organization that promotes public speaking.  I wasn’t sure it would be Suzy’s cup of tea so when Sandra sent me photos of the day, including one of Suzy speaking in public I was happy and surprised.  I wondered what the topic had been and Suzy later told me it was about dinosaurs!  Apparently the aim that day was to learn how to speak off the cuff, or “impromptu speaking” as it is officially called.  Suzy, being a guest, hadn’t expected to speak but oh she did.  She said she had to explain what she preferred to have as a pet, a dog or a dinosaur and why! ;) Apparently the whole thing revolved around imagination and improvisation.  Sandra said she did a great job for a beginner and made some contacts too.  That’s great.  Good for you Suzy and thank you Sandra for taking her along and giving her the opportunity.  I laughed when my friend told me she had been asked if she was Suzy’s mother, to which she replied; “sort of as her Mum is like my sister.  Too true Sandra.  Bless you.
Sandra above and Suzy below giving an impromptu speech at Hyde Park Corner yesterday in a Toastmasters' event.
And today is Sunday and the end of the story of this week.  Today has been like most Sundays in the summer at home and there is not much to tell.  I look forward to reading by the pool after publishing this post and to dinner again with Eladio, Miguel and Oli and perhaps another game of “seven” with them.  I should add Miguel beat us both, much to Olivia's annoyance and that my score was the worst at the end of last night.  However, this game, like cricket, can go on for days, so there is plenty of room and time for improvement.  However I don’t think I will be able to beat Miguel who has a winner’s mentality in everything he does.

I will sign off now, wishing you all a great week ahead.  Till next time my friends,