Sunday, February 15, 2015

Animals in the snow in León, how women could vanish into the dark, my new “office in bed”, my brother George would have been 60 this week, a manicure at home, a visit from Vanessa and Angeles, skyping with Suzy, the horrors of North Korea, out to dinner for St. Valentine’s in my Father’s wheelchair, jihadist attacks in Copenhagen of all places and other stories.

Sunday 15th February 2015
Oli and her Father at our St. Valentine's dinner last night
Hello again everyone.

It’s Sunday again and it’s a glorious day outside but I can still only appreciate it from indooors as I continue to recover from my ankle accident. It’s been just under a month since I fell.  Next wednesday I have another appointment with the doctor who operated on me and that is hopefully when I shall be able to begin to bear weight on my leg, albeit with crutches. I shall be letting you know how I get on with them, or don’t (I’m a clumsy person so who knows if I won’t fall over using them!) next Sunday.  Wish me luck.

Last Sunday it was the Baftas (UK film awards) and Boyhood, a film that does not attract me in the least, grabbed most of the awards.  The one that did, The Theory of Everything, about the life of Stephen Hawking, won best actor, Eddie Redmayne, who played the scientist in the film.  I had preordered the film on Amazon.  However now that I know how to download films and series (one of the things I have learned during my recovery period) I decided to see if I could download it and bingo I did.  I watched it this week and loved it and of course have now cancelled my order.  Another order I cancelled after downloading it too, was Season 2 of Broadchurch which I am enjoying immensely.
I loved this film about the story of Stephen Hawking.  It won best actor award at the Baftas
It was the night before that the Spanish film awards were held, The “Goyas” and which I forgot to mention last week.  Antonio Banderas was given the honorary award for his career which I think was a great choice as I am a huge fan of this superb charismatic and handsome Spanish actor.  The film that got most awards (10) was “Isla Minima” (Marshland – a detective film set in Andalusia in the 80’s) and that is one film I want to watch too.  It’s not yet available for download but I am hoping it will be soon.

But back to Sunday again.  That night we had a lovely birthday dinner with Olivia where we ate most of the exotic fruit from the birthday hamper she gave me. Unfortunately Gema, our home help, polished off the rest the next day without even asking.  That’s one of the downsides of home helps!

On Monday my fake Michael Kors bags arrived from China.  You may remember I fell for what I thought was a bonafide sales offer from their supposedly official Spanish website where they were being sold for 60 euros each versus the high street price of nearly 300.  When I had made the online purchase I began to suspect I was being taken for a ride and there and then cancelled my credit card with all the usual consequences of having to update my card details on many of my subscriptions, etc.  So when they arrived on Monday I was quite surprised.  Here is a picture of the false bags together with 2 of the real ones I already have.  Can you tell the difference?
The fake Michael Kors bags which arrived this week together with the 2 real ones I have
They don’t look too bad and many people probably wouldn’t tell – one of those people being my naïve husband Eladio.  However they smell funny and don’t stay rigid when you place them on a surface.  That was one good lesson in life.  I shall never fall for supposed discount offers of luxury brands on internet again.  Don’t you either.

On Monday afternoon and on every afternoon this week Eladio was invigilating UNED (equivalent to the Open University) exams, so he would leave the house after lunch at 3 and wouldn’t be back until 9 in the evening.  He is being paid a pittance but says that if he stayed at home he wouldn’t get paid anything.  Invigilating exams can be very tiring and boring, so when he came back on Friday evening, he had changed his tune and announced he would never do it again.  Well see if that’s true cos I don’t think it is hahaha.

Meanwhile the snowy weather continued in Spain and I followed conditions in Montrondo thanks to Javi and Vicente who posted lots of pictures. One piece of news that day was about a villager from the province of León who found a bear cub covered in snow on the doorsteps of his house.  Imagine?  He took the photo but afterwards was warned not to go near it, lest its mother was nearby.  So he didn’t. When he was about to take a video the little bear cub disappeared.  It was obviously in trouble and trying to find food.
The bear cub a man found on his doorstep in a village in León this week
In Montrondo that same day Javi and his friend Vicente went up into the snowy mountains to help trapped animals, such as deer which had no access to food either.  They left bread by a tree for them to eat.
Javi in the mountains outside Montrondo feeding the snow trapped animals such as deer
Slowly the deer began to appear and the boys caught them on camera in this lovely video which then went viral on internet.  The story, together with the one about the bear cub, even made it to national TV news.  This is certainly a first for Montrondo.

On Tuesday another piece of news was brought to my attention.  It was about how women could eventually “vanish into darkness and invisibility, step by step, under fundamentalist pressure and the full niqab”.  It came from this horrific photograph called “disparition” by the Yemeni photographer Bashra Alutawakel.  Isn’t it frightening and very true? I remember living in Bradford in Yorkshire where there is an extremely high proportion of Muslim immigrants.  In the 60’s and 70’s Muslim women there wore colourful saris.  When I have been back recently, I have noticed that they are now nearly all clad in black.  So, yes Muslim women in Yorkshire and other parts of England are now vanishing into darkness too, just as the Yemeni photographer predicts.
Muslim women disappearing  into black "disparition"
It was on Tuesday afternoon that my great friend Fátima finally came to visit me.  She is my neighbour, living 10 minutes away from us, but she has been busy looking after her daughter who had flu but most of all, nearly all of her time has been taken up with looking after her cantankerous elderly mother who was admitted to hospital with flu complications.  She is now at home and on oxygen.  I feel so sorry for my friend who is exhausted and can hardly find time to do anything.  I wish we had taken a photo of her visit but we were far too busy chatting.  In any case it was lovely to spend a few hours with her.

A bit of English language trivia caught my attention on Tuesday this week. I was surprised to learn that many expressions we use today are actually owed to the “bard” himself, the one and only William Shakespeare. It's amazing they have survived so long and that we are still using them today. You can see and read them all in this picture.  It looks like “too much of a good thing” doesn’t it?  But it isn’t as it has “gone full circle”!

There is really not much to report about Wednesday.  I think it was a particularly down day for me.  Being immobile gets me down sometimes despite my efforts to be positive.  I really wish Jesus Christ would come and see me and say stand up and walk and off I would go.  That, however, is not going to happen and I just have to be patient.  I worked in the morning as I do every morning and watched TV series which is what I do most afternoons.

This, by the way, is what my “new office in bed” looks like. As you can see I am surrounded by technology that keeps me connected to the world in every possible virtual way.  In the picture you have my pc, headphones, speakers, iPad, kindle, my mouse, external disk, a DVD boxset and of course a note pad and pen  Quite a good collection don’t you think?  Is there anything missing that might be of use in your mind?
My "new office" in bed
It was on Wednesday afternoon that I watched 5 episodes all in one go of Broadchurch season 2.  It was highly entertaining and helped pass the time which is the main point of watching series in the afternoon.
On Thursday 12th February my dearest brother George would have turned 60.  I can never forget him and this was the tribute I wrote that day on my Facebook wall accompanied by practically the only good photo there is of the two of us which was taken when we were in our early 20s: “Remembering George my brother the talented golden boy. He would have been 60 today but sadly died of melanoma in 2001. How can I ever forget my 6ft tall blue eyed good looking brother who played the piano and any other instrument by ear, who learned language after language more easily than a child who was sociable and lots of fun? I also sadly remember his dark moments which I could never understand. Forgive me George all that I know is that I always loved you and miss you every day. RIP”.  The photo hangs in a frame on the wall above my bed for me to remember him always.  It is fading now.  However, my love and memory of him never fade. 
The framed photo of George and I taken when we were in our early 20's and that hangs on the wall above my bed
Thursday was memorable too for an important event on the international political scene, the 15 hour marathon peace talks held in Minsk with the President of the Ukraine, Putin himself, the iron lady of Germany, Angela Merkel and France’s President François Holland. At one moment during the talks, there was so much tension, Vladimir Putin broke his pencil.  Here is the picture to prove it.
President Putin breaks his pencil in a moment of frustration during the 15 hour long peace talks in Minsk this week
They were debating a ceasefire after more than 5000 people have died since last April in the conflict between the Ukrainian forces and Russian backed separatists.  Finally they came to an agreement to remove artillery this weekend, on midnight last night.  I sincerely hope the agreement will hold. I am no great fan of President Putin and in a programme about property in Spain on TV this week I learned he owns a villa in Marbella valued at 60 million euros!  That is disgusting!  As with most super rich Russian or Arab house owners, these “villas” are dripping with gold and marble.  No more comments.

On a lighter note I had an appointment I was much looking forward to that day.  My “semi-permanent” nail varnish needed replacing as my nails had grown so much since I last did them on 12th January.  As I couldn’t go to the hairdressers to have them done, I got in touch with a self-employed manicurist, Rocío, recommended to me by my friend Juana.  Her services were quite expensive, 45 euros, compared to the 15 or so I pay at my local beauty parlour, but I think the effort was well worth it.  I enjoyed the pampering at home for an hour and this was the end result.
My beautiful but expensive new red nails
Friday was a Friday the 13th, a date most people don’t like.  In Spain, if you didn’t know it, their unlucky day is actually Tuesday 13th.  In any case I am not particularly suspicious and nothing negative happened that day.  In fact it turned out to be one of the best days of the week.  That morning I sent Eladio off to do the weekly shopping.  I had made an exhaustive and very neat shopping list ordered in such a way he would have to follow the usual routes around the two supermarkets we go to and just follow my lists picking up the items on his way.  Whilst he was out, finally my Amazon DVD box of the three seasons of Last Tango in Halifax arrived.  I had watched the first season by downloading it but the quality was appalling which is why I didn’t cancel this order.  I have spent at least half of my TV series time since then enjoying this super BBC series set in my beloved Yorkshire.  The script is superb and the plots get thicker and thicker; just as my friend Amanda had told me.
The DVD box I got from Amazon this week - great series Last Tango in Halifax
On Friday, I was lucky to receive another visit.  Vanessa from Yoigo was coming to see me that afternoon but she surprised me even more so when she arrived together with Angeles.  They are two of my favourite people at Yoigo.  They brought me two “naughty but nice” St. Valentines miniature cakes which Oli and I devoured that night, despite my high fibre diet (or should that be high “fibber” to quote my friend Andy?).  It was lovely to have visitors and I even went downstairs (on my backside of course hahahah) with them to offer them coffee and tea in the kitchen.  They certainly cheered me up that day. Thanks girls so much for coming.  When I showed Eladio the photo below, he commented just what a beautiful girl 31 year old Vanessa is.  She certainly is beautiful but not just on the outside as I know from experience.
Super to have a visit from Vanessa (left) and Angeles (middle) on Friday afternoon
Friday ended in a lovely way.  Suzy skyped Oli and I on my mobile phone.  It was lovely to “see” her and also to hear just how well she is faring these days.  Her new job has perked her up enormously.  Later she spoke to her Father too and I caught the moment on camera.  Nice pic eh?  I’m no fan usually of skype.  I don’t really know why; perhaps because the app is not particularly friendly and because skype conversations are difficult to finish.  In any case we shall be doing it again soon as it is the next best thing to having Suzy here.  In the call she told us she was looking at flights to come for Oli’s 30th birthday in May.  Wow, can’t wait. 
Eladio skyping with Suzy on Friday night.
So you see, despite Friday being Friday 13th, it turned out to be one of the best days of the week.

Yesterday Saturday was St. Valentine’s Day.  I didn’t get anything from my wonderful but unromantic husband, but then again I didn’t really expect anything, although I would have loved a bunch of roses.  However I fixed the celebration by making a reservation to go out to dinner that night.  Olivia joined us and we went to La Txitxarrería.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of Olivia and her Father last night.  It’s a lovely photo isn’t it?  Just Suzy was missing but she did send us a lovely whatsapp message as we were arriving at the restaurant to wish us a happy St. Valentine’s dinner.  To get there we had to take my Father’s wheelchair.  I felt a bit self-conscious being wheeled into the restaurant, so I sincerely hope next time I go that I do so walking on my own two feet.  Oh how much longer is that going to be?

On Saturday, Eladio and I discussed North Korea after having watched a documentary on Spanish television this week when a crew of journalists went there to try and report on the most repressive country in the world.  It is a subject that interests us enormously after having read several first-hand accounts of life there and in the awful Nazi and Stalin like gulags where more than 100.000 people are still imprisoned for crimes such as watching forbidden films on DVDs imported from South Korea illegally.  Very few journalists have been to North Korea and those that do have to liaise with the official tourist official which amazingly, we have learned recently, is headed up by a Spaniard called Alejandro Cao de Benós of aristocratic origin – “a Spaniard who proudly promotes Pyongyang's interests across Europe and claims to be the only non-North Korean working for the pariah country” -   This man is totally mad and sings the praises of the system, denying all the atrocities despite the UN’s horrific report published in February of last year.  You can read the press release the UN issued to describe the terrible crimes to humanity that go on in this hermetic frightening and dark country where there is a total lack of freedom of expression. It was on Saturday that Eladio and I both watched a new first-hand account of the atrocities there by a young girl called Yeomni Park.  Do watch this speech she made at an international forum.  Her story is unbelievable but true. Alejandro Cao de Benós denies it saying the “escapees” are US and South Korean false puppets.  Don’t believe him I can assure you.
Yeomni Park telling her harrowing story of how she escaped from North Korea
In the same trip the Spanish journalists made to North Korea, they were accompanied by a team from Al Jazeera.  Later I watched their documentary which you too can watch here.  There is so much evidence of the atrocities it sorrows me that the world looks on but does nothing to stop them. Maybe that is because there is no oil there but I guess it has a lot more to do with nuclear weapons something the Kim dynasty has a lot of.

St. Valentine’s Day was a lovely day for most people apart from those in North Korea concentration camps I am sure.  But it was a very sad day too for Denmark of all countries. That peaceful haven of social democracy was hard hit yesterday when it too suffered jihadist attacks. It must have shocked this peace loving nation a lot.  I just can’t imagine the city of Hans Christian Anderson cordoned off with armed police all over the place. There were two attacks in the same day. The first one was aimed at the controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks who was attending a debate on freedom of expression in a café in the Danish capital.  The second, at about midnight, was another gun attack this time aimed at the central synagogue in Krystalgade.  In both shootings 5 police officers were wounded and three people were killed, including the supposed jihadist who it seems was the perpetrator of both attacks.  The attacks were very similar to those that happened in France recently.  Sadly this is the new form of terrorism; something very difficult to outwit and something none of us want to get used to.

And today is Sunday.  It will be extremely quiet for me.  Oli has gone off to see Gael, Juan, her cousin and Eladio’s godson’s new baby boy.  If it hadn’t been for my leg we would have gone too.  Going to see Gael, as you will have read last week, is one of the things on my “to-do” list when I can walk again.  I’m afraid there will be no pictures here of Olivia holding little Gael as the parents are against photos of their baby being published on internet.  I will respect that of course.

And that friends is the end of the story of this week. Next week will be very exciting for us as our new puppy Pippa will be arriving on Tuesday.  I don’t have any good photos of her to show you here but will be taking loads when she arrives. The most important moment will be when she meets Elsa and Norah.  Cross your fingers all goes well which it should do really.  We will have a real menagerie at our house when she arrives and the headcount, or should it be animal count, will be four if you count Phoebe our cat.  Phoebe of course will not be at all happy to have another dog in the house. Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

No, I don’t have a good photo of Pippa but this week I came across a lovely photo of me taken with Nick the sausage dog that appeared in one of the Yoigo Christmas ads which I wanted to share with you.  The photo was taken by Oli’s boyfriend Miguel Angel at our press conference in December and I love it as it sums up my love of dogs.  It was Nick that inspired us to acquire the two miniature smooth haired dachshunds as our company mascots you may well remember.  And here is that lovely photo together with the photo of the photo-shopped and elongated Nick.
With Nick the sausage dog that appeared in one of the Yoigo Christmas ads and that inspired us to get 2 mini dachshunds as company mascots, one of which will be Pippa who is coming next week!
So my friends on that note of my love of dogs, I leave you until next week.

Cheers to you all


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