Wednesday, January 21, 2015

After the attacks in France, an ex and non ex Nokia girl lunch, brave Maureen, a bad end to a snowy long weekend in Montrondo, to hospital for an operation on my ankle, home again to a different life style, Suzy came and other stories.

Wednesday 21st January 2015

In hospital on my way to be operated on Monday
Hi everyone

I didn’t publish last Sunday’s post for a very big reason.  Funnily enough I had written it on the Saturday from Montrondo so that I would be free the next day for a trip in the snow up in the mountains and my idea was to publish it when we got back to Madrid that night, there being no internet in the village.  Unfortunately that never happened as on the trip up the mountains, as many of you know, I fell and broke my ankle.  It is only now, on Wednesday, that I am in a position to edit the post I had written and publish it. 

Before I tell you about my disastrous fall, let me start from where I left off last Sunday. That day there was a huge rally in Paris against the jihadist attacks of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and Jewish kosher supermarket.  It is estimated that in Paris and other big cities in France at least 3 million people went out on the streets.  There were replica marches in other big cities such as London or Madrid.  50 world leaders attended the rally in Paris.  Everyone who marched and demonstrated did so to show their indignation of the attacks and to defend freedom of speech.  If I had been in Paris I would have joined, as both Eladio and I did after the train bombings in Madrid in 20014. 
The anti terror demonstration in Paris
That afternoon Olivia and I watched episodes 1 and 2 of series 4 of Homeland where the CIA’s main mission is to catch the leaders of Al Queda.  It may be fiction but the script is very near the truth in my mind.

On Monday with other things on my mind I went on my early morning walk as I always do when time permits.  Every day I see a barking dalmation which reminds me of my nephew Mario’s dalmation, Trebol, the most beautiful noble, obedient and peaceful dog I know.  I took this photo for Mario.
The dalmation on my walk.  I won't be seeing it for a while now
On a lighter note, that morning I went to do my nails.  Let me explain.  More than a month ago I had them done using what is called in Spain, the permanent method.  I’m not sure what that’s called in English.  Gel maybe?  In any case it was a huge success but needed taking off and putting on again as of course my nails had grown.  They had not only grown but got stronger.  Now no longer will I ever buy normal nail varnish again.  The only drawback is the time it takes to remove the permanent varnish; at least 45 minutes and it needs to be partly scraped off.  This is what my nails looked like afterwards. I was delighted with the result.
My "permanent nails"
On Monday too you might be interested to know, if you are into football, that Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid Portuguese striker, was awarded the Balon D’or once again.  I’m only glad it didn’t go to his arch rival Leo Messi.
Cristiano Ronaldo wins the Balon D'or again
On Monday night, Eladio, Olivia and I finally started on Series 2 of The Fall.  We had dinner in the lounge watching it but I couldn’t get Eladio to light the fire for the occasion.  As I feared, the fire is now closed until next Christmas.

On Tuesday morning the world woke up to see or read the first edition of the Charlie Hebdo magazine since the massacre.  I was curious to see what would be on the front cover.  Well, it was this: a caricature of the Prophet Mohamed with a tear in his eye holding a poster which says “je suis Charlie” and entitled “tout est perdonné”.  What is forgiven I ask and who forgives, the Prophet or the magazine?  The phrase is very ambiguous. Make what you want of it.  I’m not sure what it means. In any case more than a million copies were printed when the normal print run is a meagre 60.000.  They shortly run out and people queued up at kiosks to buy or reserve a copy and another print run was made.  However, not all the newspapers in the world dared publish the copy of the front cover in fear of more jihadist reprisals.  Well I dare to.  And here it is for you to see and for it to remain in my blog as a reminder of the need for freedom of expression.
The first Charlie Hebdo front cover after the attacks
Tuesday 13th January was my great friend Fátima’s birthday.  We have been friends since we met at Motorola in the early 90’s and she joined me at Nokia in 2000. Coincidentally that day we were to have one of our ex and non ex Nokia girl lunches; thus we also celebrated Fátima’s birthday.  There were 6 of us: Fátima, Susana, Zenaida, Ana, Juana and myself.  Lunch this time was at one of my favourite places; La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo near where Juana works at Microsoft. The only person missing was Jill.  For the occasion Juana brought some flowers and I managed to smuggle in a birthday cake for Fátima.  This is a photo of the cake moment.  As Juana remarked later; it is amazing that we still meet together after first having worked at Nokia some 15 years ago.  All I hope is that we continue to do so.
The ex and non ex Nokia girls lunch last week where we celebrated Fátima's birthday
That evening was Eladio’s first day back at the UNED (Spain’s equivalent to the Open University) where he is a tutor in various subjects such as the history of education.  He was back on time for dinner with Olivia and I which we had in the kitchen as usual with our dogs, Elsa and Norah, looking on hoping for the odd crumb. Soon they will be joined by little Pippa who we expect to be delivered on 28th February when she will be 3 months old.  Suzy, forever worried about cruelty to animals, asked me whether the “poor little thing” would be sent in a box by courier.  I assured her the owner, who is from Granada, would be coming personally and bringing the puppy on the high speed train.  We can’t wait for Pippa to join our household.

On Wednesday we woke up to fog.  So used to the sun it was quite a surprise.  I still went on my walk although it was very thick.  Whilst on my walk I had a conference call with my Finnish boss Tatu.  Later my husband remarked that maybe I should have been at my desk to which I responded I can walk and work and mobile phones are for being on the move!  We had a good chat. He’s a great chap to work with and I look forward to our next team meeting at the beginning of March which will be in my beloved Finland.  As it is on a Tuesday and Wednesday, I have decided to go out on the Friday and spend the weekend with my great Finnish friend Anne who lives in Salo.  For Monday and Tuesday nights in Helsinki I have booked myself into the hotel I nearly always stayed at when I worked for Nokia, The Radisson Royal very near the bus station. P.S after my accident, my trip to Helsinki is a now a question mark as my surgeon thinks I won’t be up and about by then.  Let’s be positive.  I hope I will.

It was on Wednesday when I saw a picture on Facebook of quite a close school friend from Bradford, Maureen, who is fighting cancer.  Her daughter Jessica posted a photo of her Mother with her bald hair lying in a hospital bed after an operation with her thumbs up; a sign of her fight of this illness.  Dearest Maureen, it shocks me to see you like that.  Everyone says you are strong.  I believe so too and wish you a speedy recovery.  I know you are fighting this and have some amazing support from your family.  I just wish I was there to visit you.  All I can do is send you my best wishes and tell you that I think of you often.  You are very brave and an amazing example.  I’m not sure I would want a photo of me like that but maybe instead of the thumbs I would stick up two fingers telling the illness to “f” off.  I sincerely hope it does.

Wednesday was a busy day for me. Apart from work and home chores, such as the weekly shopping, I had to get things ready for our trip to Montrondo on Thursday morning.  We were to take the bath tub but the main mission was to meet the builders as it was time to decide all sorts of details such as where the lights would be, the position of the beds, the radiators and a host of other details.  We would be joined by José Antonio, Eladio’s brother and I had to take enough food for the duration; Thursday to Sunday.  There are no shops in the area so I have to be very organized about the meals there.  Thus I drew up a list and decided on the menu for each day and included some of the essential ingredients in my weekly shopping which I did on my own this week as Eladio had another UNED class that evening.

Olivia was home on time to help Gema (our new home help) and I unload the shopping.  We also made dinner together and as we did we rang Suzy who there and then surprised me by saying she had bought a cheap air ticket to come for my birthday.  It is on Sunday 8th February and she will be here from the 4th to the 9th.  She made me so happy.  Darling, it’s going to be lovely.  We can’t wait to see you again.  P.S. Suzy came last night, so not sure when she is going back to London and whether she will still be coming for my birthday.

On Thursday I was up early to pack everything we would need for our stay in Montrondo.  Toño and his dog Nuba were at our place by 9.30 and with the car full to capacity, including the bath tub, we left at about 10.  No trip to Montrondo is complete without a stop at Rueda for a glass of wine and plate of ham with freshly sliced bread sprinkled with olive oil.  Here is a photo of the 3 of us enjoying the moment.
Enjoying a glass of wine and plate of ham and bread at Palacio de Bornos in Rueda on our way to Montrondo
We arrived in Montrondo just after 2pm.  It was raining on the way but as we drove from Senra, through Murias de Paredes to Montrondo, the rain turned to snow.  It was cold and windy too as we got out of the car.  Eladio went straight to our house to see the builders whilst José Antonio lit the kitchen range and I unpacked the food and made the lunch. I was so cold I wished I had brought my ski trousers but I hadn’t so had to find a pair of Miguel, my nephew’s, to go over my leggings which were just not sufficient.
Snow on our arrival in Montrondo last Thursday.
By the time lunch was over, the builders had placed the bath tub in our “bedroom”.  This is what it looks like, bar the claw feet which have yet to be installed.
The bathtub in its place in our future bedroom in Montrondo!
We spent the entire afternoon with the builders, Benito and Recaredo (brothers) going over countless details.  It’s amazing what is needed to build a house and we are in a new learning process as this is something we have never done.

That evening whilst it still snowed and I had missed my two walks of the day, I set about making our dinner.  We put the television on and that is when we learned that the Belgian police had thwarted various jihadist attacks in that usually very peaceful country.  It seems they were linked to the attack in France on the Jewish supermarket.  These incidents which seem to be perpetrated by jihadists returning from Syria to their adopted countries are a new form of terrorism we are not used to.  Frightening isn’t it?

I think it was that night or the next when we heard the Pope talking to the press on a flight to the Philippines about the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine.  I think his comments were not appropriate.  He was responding to a question about freedom of expression and said that it had its limits and that if for example his assistant insulted his mother, he would deserve a punch.  But surely not to be killed right?  His words disappointed me as up until now I have been a big fan of his.

The next morning, Friday, we woke up to more snow.  It was so beautiful and wonderful to wake up to.
The village with more snow the next morning.  It has snowed every day since and after our return to Madrid the village was practically snowed under.
After breakfast I went for a walk to Senra and back, some 8km and kept snapping the camera on my phone.  I can’t tell you just how beautiful it was.
My first walk in the snow to Senra on Friday morning
Eladio spent most of the day with the builders.  I did too when I wasn’t cooking or on m walk.  In the evening I joined some of the village women on their walk; Salo, Manolita and Josefa.  Afterwards they took me to have coffee at Lourdes and Agustin’s house, two villagers who have always lived in Montrondo unlike many others who moved to nearby León or further afield just visiting the village in the holidays or when they retire.  We had a lovely time around their kitchen table where I told them all about how Eladio and I met which for them must have been news and quite funny to hear.  I say that because when we met in 1980, Eladio was still a priest and that was how the villagers knew him.  A meeting of people in Montrondo who are having a good time is called a “calecho” which is exactly what yesterday’s coffee at Lourdes and Agustin’s was.  I look forward to another one today although I think this time it will be at Salo’s.

Lourdes gave me some of her Montrondo hens’ eggs and some “morcilla” (local black pudding).  As egg and chips was on the menu for last night, they came very much in handy and were much appreciated as we always say that eggs from Montrondo are the best you can get.  But then, you see, we are biased.

These days here in Montrondo when I am not cooking, walking, inspecting the building of the house or at a “calecho”, my entertainment, as always is my kindle.  I have been reading the end of the second novel of Tom Rob Smith’s trilogy called The Secret Speech.  I am coming to an end and have now downloaded on limited mobile internet coverage here, the last book called Agent 6.  If you are interested in Russia in Stalin’s times and like a good whodunit, then Tom Rob Smith’s trilogy is for you.  It starts with Child 44 which is perhaps the most chilling of the three books.
The book I was reading in Montrondo 
Funnily enough, despite a big dinner of egg and chips and the exciting novel, I slept really well last night.  We woke up to a new small layer of snow and this time I persuaded Eladio to join me on my morning walk to Senra.  Nuba and Rosky, Salo’s terrier, joined us and we went through the “Vao” field in front of the church.  Here is a selfie of the two of us. 
A selfie with Eladio on our walk through the Vao to Senra and back on Saturday morning.
The walk was just wonderful; crisp snow, sun, no cars and beautiful views.  We were the first to tread on the new snow in the “Vao” which is always a great feeling.  I remarked to Eladio that this nearly 2 hour long walk would give us boundless energy for the day.  And it did and it does.  Walking certainly makes me happy.  I think it makes Eladio happy too, judging by the look on his face in this picture.
Eladio smiling on our walk on Saturday in the snow and sun with Montrondo as the backdrop
My new equestrian friends from the fields in Murias were no longer here this time but I came across a beautiful cream coloured horse in a field near Senra.  Determined to make friends I took bread on our walk to give to it when we got to the village.  However the horse was very shy and wouldn’t eat from my hand although it was quite happy to eat the bread I ended up throwing to it.

On our way back, just as we came into the village from the fields (the Vao) we came across one of the villagers, Tomasín, wearing his “madreñas” (typical wooden clogs you wear on top of slippers when you go out in the rain, mud or snow). He was clearing the snow.  At her doorstep watching was Manolita.  She was also wearing the same clogs so there and then I got Eladio to stand with the two of them and immortalize them in this super picture which I wanted for my blog as soon as I saw them.
Eladio with Tomasín and Manolita who were wearing "madreñas"
Lunch today which I have been making in between writing this post was broth with chicken noodles, followed by “cachelos” (big spicy potatoes), chorizo from Montrondo, lacón (a sort of cooked ham) and Lourdes’ “morcilla” for “the boys”.  All in all that’s an awful lot of energy but I’m not worried as I shall be burning it all this afternoon when I join Salo, Josefa and Manolita on their daily walk to Senra and back.

They came for me at about 3.30pm and off I went with them for my second walk of the day.  Here is a selfie of the four of us.
Another walk to Senra on Saturday, this time with the locals, Salo, Manolita and Josefa
Funnily enough this time the cream coloured horse which Salo told me is called Pizarro was much friendlier this time.  Although I had no bread to offer I was delighted that it let me stroke it.  Salo took this photo of the moment.
With Pizarro my new friend in a field in Senra
Once back in Montrondo we had coffee at Salo’s and formed another “calecho”.  Later we were joined by the men, Eulogio and his father Benito, another José Antonio, Eladio and his brother José Antonio.  As is usual once Montrondo people get together they only talk about the past which for me is still a bit of a mystery.

And now Saturday is coming to an end.  The weather forecast for tomorrow Sunday is snow and my dream would be to be trapped in Montrondo.  However these days that doesn’t happen as the snow plough will clear the road quite early in the morning.  We shall leave after lunch and when I am home I will publish this post as unfortunately there is no internet here in Montrondo for me to do so now.

You see that was how I thought our time in Montrondo would end; leaving for Madrid after lunch in the normal way but it didn’t. That morning with more snow the three of us decided to walk up to the mountains and enjoy the snow and the views.  That we certainly did.  On our way José Antonio performed what they call here a “saint”.  This is done by falling into the snow and making an imprint.
José Antonio next to his "santo" on Sunday morning on our walk up the mountains
As we climbed higher, Javi and his girlfriend came by on his quad.  I immediately asked him to take me for a short ride which he did.  It was so much fun.  I loved every minute of it. Here is a photo of that wonderful moment.

Happy on Javi's quad in the mountains on Sunday morning.  My happiness would not last long
As we walked down the mountain we were looking forward to homemade lentils for lunch.  About a kilometer or so before we reached the village José Antonio suddenly fell flat on his back.  I looked on astonished and thought he was joking.  I was about to take a photo of him when I fell myself.  I fell sideways and my left ankle twisted and I landed on my side.  Some of you know I have a tendency to fall and am quite clumsy but this time it wasn’t my fault as we had slipped on a patch of ice under the snow which was not visible. The pain was excruciating.  I wasn’t sure whether I had sprained or broken my ankle.  The problem was getting down to the village as I could not get up on my feet and hold on to the two men although we tried.  In the end Eladio walked down and came back with Manolo, a farmer, who has an old 4wd.  He knows the terrain as does his vehicle and between the three of them they got me into his car and drove me back to Montrondo.  There and then I was transferred to our car whilst the men packed up the house.  We left as soon as we could and drove to León and went straight to the hospital there.  An x-ray was taken and my worst fears were confirmed, I had broken a bone.  All Spaniards learn the names of all the bones in the body at school.  I certainly never learned them in England, so when I was told I had broken my “fibula” (perone in Spanish) I was the only one not to know what it was.  Well now I do.  It is the thinner of the two long leg bones. The fracture was at the bottom in the ankle bone which I now know is called the “talus”.  They put my leg in plaster right up to the knee.  When the doctor started he took out his scissors to cut my thermal leggings but I stopped him right on time and asked Eladio to look for some older and looser leggings in my suitcase and made the doctor force the tighter ones off.  No way was I saying goodbye to my new M+S leggings. His diagnosis was that I needed an operation as the bone was broken diagonally and one part overlapped the other so it would not heal or “weld” properly which would cause a permanent limp.  My biggest question was how long would I be out of action and the answer was awful: 2 to 3 months!

Being in León we were in contact with Eladio’s family and soon we were joined by Pili and Andrés who had left a lunch with friends to come and see me. Thanks Pili darling.
With Pili at the hospital in León with my leg in plaster before I was given the awful verdict
We left the hospital clutching my depressing x-rays and drove to Adela’s house (Eladio’s other sister) who very kindly had made lunch for us.  It is high unusual to have lunch so late and we were literally starving.  Everyone was there to greet me and all the men in the family helped me limp in on one foot which is not an easy task.  But we had to leave soon as it was getting dark and we had a long drive ahead of us.  Normally it takes 3 hours but we had more excitement awaiting us on our drive back.  Heavy snow began to fall about 80km before reaching Madrid and it took us an extra two hours to get home.  It was a very frightening experience as cars were sliding all over the place and you could hardly see out as the snow covered everything including the lights. I tried to take a picture from the back and this is the best I got.
The frightening snow storm on our drive back to Madrid from León on Sunday night
We finally got home around midnight and Eladio had to get me into the house using my Father’s wheel chair.  Then I had to climb the stairs using my backside.  I managed to get as far as my bedroom but could not get up from the floor and had to wait for Eladio to come and help me.  It was awful to suddenly depend on everyone for even the most basic things such as going to the loo.  You are probably wondering why I didn’t use crutches.  Well we have a set but I cannot use them as I don’t have enough strength in my arms and in my arms they would be a danger as I would be likely to fall again.  So  no, no crutches I’m afraid.

On Monday morning the only good thing that happened was that I got breakfast in bed as you can see here.
Forced breakfast in bed at home on Monday morning.
I had to decide then which hospital to go to with the results from the one in León.  I could have gone privately but in the end rang the girls’ friend Rocio’s father, Juan, who is head anesthetist at the public hospital in Alcorcón because I knew he would know the surgeons and I would get the best care possible.  So I rang him and he told us to be there at midday and we were.  Juan was waiting for us at the door of the Emergency ward and thanks to him we didn’t have to deal with any bureaucracy nor any paper work or queuing.  They immediately sent me for another x-ray and then he introduced me to one of the orthopedic surgeons who was a darling and insisted on practicing his English on me.  He said I had to be operated on immediately as the bone was displaced and there and then embarked on removing the plaster which was no mean task.  The worst thing I heard that day was when he confirmed that it would me take me two to three months to be fully fit again.  Oh my God, I could only think of no more walks and how I was going to manage as I am such an active person, of not being able to go to Finland or to the Mobile World Congress and a host of other things such as driving or going shopping.

Meanwhile, unlike other patients, I was allowed to have Eladio by my side the whole time.  I was then taken to the recovery room as there were no beds available and there I was treated like part of the family.  The photo illustrating this post is of me being taken there. The operation took place at around 18h and I was given an epidural which meant I was awake the whole time.  It was Juan’s friend, Chozas, the head orthopedic surgeon who operated.  Basically a metal plate was put in place with a series of screws to hold the fibula in its position.  I saw the x-ray afterwards and this is exactly what it looked like.  Later we were told the operation was a success and that I had good bones.  I was pleased to hear that.
The x-ray after my operation looked like this.
I didn’t feel much and seemed to recover quite well.  Olivia joined us when she came back from work about the time I was finally given something to eat.  You cannot imagine how thirsty and hungry I was.  In Spanish hospitals a relative nearly always accompanies a patient all day and all night but I sent both of them home knowing they couldn’t help much and that they needed to sleep.   Later that night in bed the pain in my ankle overcame me despite the pain killers I was being given.  A further complication was that due to the epidural I had no feeling in the lower part of my body so I couldn’t urinate although I wanted to.  Thus I had to have a catheter; something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  On top of that I had to bear the dreadful snoring of the other woman in the room. Conclusion: I didn’t sleep a wink and had the most uncomfortable night of my life.  All I wanted was for day to come and for the night to be over.  Later I heard that Monday 19th January is called “blue Monday”, i.e. the most depressing day of the year.  It certainly was for me.

In the morning Olivia and Eladio came to spend the rest of the time with me.  I was supposed to be going home but had to wait for an x-ray and to be discharged which seemed to take all day.  Meanwhile the pain was awful.  Finally at about 4 in the afternoon we were able to go home and had to go through the same palava using my Father’s wheel chair.  Again I had to climb the stairs on my backside.  But once in my bedroom I had the great idea of using my computer chair which has wheels.  So with my good leg I can stand up and transfer myself from the bed to the chair.  Wow it was a glorious moment when I realized I could go to the bathroom myself!  But I was not in good shape.  I had a terrible headache, I was very tired from not sleeping the night before and my ankle was in agony.

The only thing to brighten me up was to know that Suzy was coming last night from London to be with me.  When she came our embrace was long and emotional as you can imagine.Thankfully last night I slept really well and woke up headache free and with a bit less pain in my leg.  Darling Suzy brought me breakfast in bed and I felt so much better.

Suzy bringing me breakfast in bed.  Sorry the photo is not vertical the problem lies with blogger
She helped me have a shower, I washed my hair and set up my office on my bed, getting up to speed with my work. I must say I have been overwhelmed with messages and call from friends.  I even had my first visitor today, Katya my neighbor.  Thanks for coming sweetie it was lovely.  As the pain has receded, my outlook has improved and I have decided this is not going to break me.  I shall have to put up with my lack of mobility the best I can and be patient.   At lunch I decided to go downstairs to join the family.  Gema had cooked an enormous meal of Moroccan couscous which was delicious.  But I only ate a small amount.  Now that I cannot go for my walks I shall have to be very careful with what I eat.  I refuse to lie in bed getting fat!
My  way of tackling the stairs!
And that my friends is how our stay in Montrondo ended, not in a good way.  My life has completely changed thanks to a tiny fall on ice; something I would never have imagined.  I know now that ice and snow can be treacherous and I promise I will be more careful in the future.  Meanwhile a new life is ahead of me for the next two or three months and I shall just have to adapt with a smile on my face. 

Wishing you all the best, more from me next Sunday,
Cheers till then


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