Sunday, January 11, 2015

Kings’ day and Russian Christmas, jihadist horror in France, Je suis Charlie, Je suis Flic, introducing Pippa, dinner at Julio’s and other stories.

Sunday 11th January 2014

Kings' Day lunch
Hi everyone,

Well yes Christmas is over but it wasn’t when I wrote last Sunday.  That day I cut my finger whilst chopping potatoes and even now it is a little difficult to type but it’s getting better.  Of note last Sunday I watched the end of the 2014 Downton Abbey Christmas special and must admit it was the best Christmas special ever.  I am missing the characters already and will have to wait more than a year for the next season.  Bereft of anything interesting to watch I ordered the film Hawking and the series Missing from Amazon and look forward to watching them when I get a moment, hopefully with Olivia and Eladio.
This year's Downton Abbey Christmas special was the best ever
On Monday I fasted for the first time since the beginning of the festivities and I think it did my body a lot of good.  I felt really detoxed and am now determined to return to 5:2 rather than 6:1.  If you are not familiar with the numbers they refer to the “Fast diet” where five days a week you eat normally and two days a week you fast on just 500 calories. In the month running up to Christmas I had been doing 6:1. 

I didn’t have much time to think about food as Monday was a very busy day. After my early morning walk I went to the hairdressers to redo my roots and cut my very long hair.  In the afternoon I went on a very funny expedition with Eladio. We went to buy 4 loos and 4 bidets for our bathrooms in Montrondo.  We had finally found someone who sold new “old fashioned” ones which we think are perfect for the style of the new house.  They only just fitted in our X5 and now they are all sitting in the garage.  They look a funny sight. The guy who sold them to us thought they were for a hotel!  If you are English you might wonder why we would bother with bidets.  Well the truth is they are a wonderful invention and after having lived in Spain for more than 30 years I couldn’t do without one.
The loos and bidets in our garage waiting to be taken to Montrondo
It was on Monday that I heard from my great friend Sandra who lives in Brussels that the Bollywood film she had a small part in had finally been aired. It is called PK and was filmed I think in Bruges. You can see her role here.  I just love her voice.  Well done Sandra.

It was well done to Olivia too that night when I and many other people watched her report live on the Kings’ parade in Madrid, the biggest of all of them in Spain.  She must have been on the TV over 10 times and I was so proud of her. As I watched her impromptu and charismatic reporting, especially when she spoke to children, I felt guilty that I had never taken the girls to the Kings’ parade in the capital when they were small.  But as my friend Jacky pointed out on Facebook: “not to worry she’s enjoying it now”.  And she really was as she told me later.  You can see the whole retransmission here.
Oli reporting live from the Kings' Day parade in Madrid on Monday evening
The Parades always take place on the eve of Kings’ day, a magical night for Spanish children as they receive their presents the next day, just as children in England receive theirs on Christmas morning.  These days in Spain people give and receive presents on both days, but Kings’ day is when most are given.  At home, we respect both traditions except that Christmas day is more important for us than Kings’ Day.  So everything was prepared for this last day of Christmas in our house.  In a way it is a great end to Christmas, it makes it go out with a bang and this year was no exception.

The day started with a special breakfast all together in the dining room with the piece de resistance being the “roscón” (kings’ cake) which for the occasion we toasted.  Later we moved to the lounge to open our presents, just 2 or 3 each but all very much appreciated.  I especially liked my jumper and scarf (bought with Eladio a day or two before haha).  There was even time for a walk in between breakfast and lunch where we were joined by Olivia and Miguel.  It was a lovely sunny day as it has been for weeks now.  Then I made lunch, roast lamb, whilst Oli and Miguel made a carrot cake which was delicious.  The only thing missing on Kings’ day was Suzy.  Meanwhile in London she celebrated with Gabor.  He had invited her out to lunch that day to a special vegan restaurant in the centre.  Her main present to him was a Ryan Air flight to Copenhagen in the spring. They will be staying with our dear Danish family, Pernille and Thomas. I made a collage of some of the best photos of the day here below.  The full collection can be found on this link.

Being the last night of Christmas, Oli, Eladio and I had dinner in the lounge with the fire on.  Eladio only ever lights it at Christmas but when he does we love it.

The next day was Wednesday 7th January and Christmas was officially over.  In my mind however I knew it wasn’t as it was Russian Christmas that day.  The Russian Orthodox follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian one and I remember as a child celebrating it thanks to my Russian Mother.  Sadly I did not continue the tradition.  There is something luring and mystical about the Russian Orthodox religion and its church services have probably not changed since they started.  Still when I think about the few times my Mother and Aunt took us to a Russian church, I get goose pimples remembering the smell of incense, the chanting in Church Slavonic, the candles, the icons, the robed and bearded priests as well as the distinctive cross.  Whenever I get the chance to enter a Russian church as I did when I was in Vilnius in September, I buy a candle, light it and say a prayer for my Mother, my Aunt and my brother, whilst making the sign of the cross the Russian way, from right to left, different to the Roman Catholics who do it from left to right.  I asked my husband who is an ex Catholic priest the reason for the difference and he had no explanation.  I haven’t found one on internet either.  If any of you reading this know the answer do please leave a comment in this post.
It was Russian Christmas on 7th January
That morning Eladio and I went to the Corte Inglés department store.  It was the beginning of the January sales and the place was packed.  We only wanted to change some presents and buy some for our annual end of Christmas dinner at Julio’s house on Friday.  We also took the opportunity to buy a new printer as ours has finally died, most possibly due to programmed obsolescence; something I hate.  When we installed our new wireless and wifi HP Envy 4500 I realized we had been living in the dark ages as far as printers are concerned.  It was very easy to set up and lovely to be able to print remotely with no cables from our PCs.  However from our mobiles only I am able to print on it.  We also have a Samsung laser jet printer which only works from Eladio’s mobile.  I must say printer technology is fine but can be frustrating.  The same applies to TVs, at least in my case.  Thankfully I am something of an expert in mobile phones but that is because I work in the sector.

Whilst we were out shopping, something dreadful was happening in France.  Two Jihadist brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi of Algerian origin had stormed the offices of the satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo in Paris.  It is well known for poking fun at everything from religion to feminism, including Mohammed.  There and then they killed most of the staff as well as a policeman on their way out.  Ironically he was a Muslim.  The news stunned the world.  This was an attack on freedom of expression.  These jihadists who work for Al Qaeda and possibly IS, attacked Charlie Hebdo in retaliation for their satirical cartoons of Mohammed.  As they charged into the room heavily armed where the editorial committee was planning the next edition, they shouted something similar to “you will pay the greatest price for your insults to the prophet”.  What they did was perpetrate an attack on freedom of expression.  Whether you agree with the magazine’s stance or like their cartoons, what happened on France’s 9th January was a pure attack on freedom of speech from fanatical Muslims whose God is against murder.  Whilst thousands of gendarmes searched for the fleeing brothers, the world protested.  People started posting photos with the slogan “Je suis Charlie”.  I did too.  Only later did I realise that we were all echoing Spartacus when I read Dominic Lawson’s article in The Times today and which I quote here: “This rallying cry is presumably meant to evoke the scene in Spartacus when the Romans demand the eponymous slave leader is handed over for execution. They ask the captured slaves which among them is Spartacus. First one and then all of them shout: “I’m Spartacus!”— offering their own lives rather than see their leader executed”.  My friend Adele who lives in France has a daughter-in-law who is a policewoman in Paris and Carole posted not only “Je suis Charlie” but “Je suis flic” (I am a policeman) on internet as we are all mourning the deaths of the staff of the magazine but not the deaths of the policemen and policewomen who have been killed too. On that same day in another shootout in Paris a policewoman was killed.  Only later did the French authorities confirm that the attacks were linked.  Meanwhile my friend Adele told me “the police know for a fact that all the stations, families of police etc are targets. They all have to wear bullet proof vests & carry their arms home”.  My heart went out to both women and to all the police in France and around the world who defend us from terrorism.  The story did not end there as we would find out two days later.

On Thursday I was up at dawn as I had to be in the centre of Madrid early in the morning for an interview with El Economista.  It was organized by our advertising agency and was supposed to centre on their advertising campaign for our company. However they only told me about it the day before.  Thus I had little time to prepare.  The interview, as I predicted, turned out to centre 99% on the company business with hardly a mention of the advertising agency.  This is the article which funnily enough came out in a Mexican newspaper, El Universal the next day  but which was also published offline in Spain yesterday.

From the advertising agency offices I made my way to my PR agency’s offices in downtown Madrid for a quick meeting with my team there.  It was lovely to see Cris, Gloria, Bea, Miguel and Julia but especially little Yoigo, the company mascot whose owner is Gloria.  Little Yoigo is a miniature chocolate coloured dachshund and is adorable.  

Later that day I got photos of the second company mascot which is still too little to be separated from its Mother.  So here and today I proudly introduce you to “Pippa” (or Pipa in Spanish) who will live with us.  I can’t wait for the day she comes and see how Elsa and Norah get on with her.  I predict they will both vie to be her Mother.
Introducing you to Pippa
Finally on Thursday afternoon Eladio and I had some spare time to take down the Christmas decorations a task I hate.  It takes so long to put them up but a very short time to take them down.  Now they are safely tucked away in one of our store rooms until next year.

Friday saw the end of the jihadist attacks in France.  Not only were the two brothers found who had taken a hostage at a print works in Dammartin-en-Goële near Paris, but the same killer of the policewoman on 9th January, another Jihadist called Amedi Coulibaly stormed a Jewish kosher supermarket where he took hostages many of whom were women and children.  Both sieges ended in blood when French Special forces burst into both locations.  The terrorists were all killed and very sadly 4 of the hostages too, although they were killed before the forces entered the premises.  All in all the horror attacks in France this week cost the lives of 17 people. My friend Adele called it France’s World War III and I tend to agree.
Meanwhile in other countries in Europe governments raised the safety levels.  The head of the M15 in the UK spoke of at least 3 thwarted attacks in London.  Here in Spain one of our top members of government told the country that Spain was one of the safest countries in the world.  Has she forgotten our 11M (the Madrid train bombings)?  It may be the end of the attacks in France, but I think there will be more.  I dread to think where and when.

However life continues and I was pleased to see one of my Amazon purchases arrive.  It was a dvd, season 2 of The Fall.  We shall be watching that this evening; i.e. Eladio, Olivia and I.  I will try and persuade Eladio to put the fire on but I doubt he will as he cleaned the fireplace yesterday.

That morning Eladio and I made a quick trip to our local shopping centre.  I needed to get a last minute present and we had a couple errands to do. I decided to wear the jumper and scarf Eladio had bought for me for Reyes.  This is it.  Do you like it?  When I asked Olivia whether she did, she commented it was for “oldies”. I don’t think it is. Do you?  
Wearing my "Reyes" new jumper and scarf  this week - at my desk at home
Friday evening was the second highlight of the week after Reyes.  It was the annual post-Christmas dinner at Julio’s house. We used to go with my Father and the girls but now it is just Julio, Fátima, Eladio and I.  It was a great dinner as it always is.  The food was super, especially Fátima’s mother’s tortillas and Julio’s mother’s chorizo and the company even better.  The piece de resistance at Julio’s dinner is always the roscón with cream.  Then we pulled the crackers which I had brought after which we gave out our presents and toasted with cava.  The routine of this dinner never changes and I hope it never will.  Long live post-Christmas dinners with Julio and Fátima! Here is a photo of us all enjoying the dinner. 

Yesterday Saturday was another busy and productive day.  It started with a walk after which I prepared our lunch.  The walks in the morning are cold and frosty but very sunny as you can appreciate in this picture.
On my cold frosty but sunny walk on Saturday morning
Then Eladio and I went to Centro Oeste once again. We needed a new orange juice maker as ours had gone wonky; another issue of “programmed obsolescence” or perhaps overuse as we make 4 or 5 glasses of juice every morning?  We were home on time for another walk before lunch.  With both walks out of the way in the afternoon, I enjoyed a quick siesta after which I spent some time downloading Homeland Series 4.  We decided to go out to dinner yesterday night after great recommendations from Olivia and Miguel of a new restaurant they had found on The Fork, El Zurito in Pozuelo, which offered 30% discount.  In my favour it also accepts luncheon vouchers.  So off we went and were not disappointed.  It is a great new find and the food is super.  Here is a photo of us both enjoying our dinner at this new restaurant.
Dinner at El Zurito with Eladio last night
Meanwhile in London, Suzy was also out, but she was in Clapham Common.  Olivia and I had spoken to her earlier and she told me she would be going out with her flatmate Stefania to the pub where Gabor works sometimes.  I grabbed this picture of the three girls out together from Stefania’s Facebook page as it is the only one I have of Suzy this week and I always want to include her in my blog.  Hope you had a great evening sweetie.
Suzy at Clapham Common last night with her friends
And today is Sunday and it another sunny and frosty day.  When I have finished writing this post I shall be going for my second walk, then making lunch and hopefully in the afternoon will be starting watching Season 2 of The Fall with Olivia and Eladio.  I will tell you next week whether Eladio lit the fire or not.

So, that’s it for this week folks.  Wishing you all a great week ahead, see you next week,

Cheers Masha

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