Monday, March 30, 2015

The “diversion ends” and false friends, Olivia back from Cuba, the fatal German Wings’ air crash, no more crutches, dinner with Laura and Cris, to the beach for the weekend with Pippa, fish and chips at Darby’s Chippy, Javier Fernández, Spain’s first figure skating world champion and other stories.

Monday 30th March 2015

On the beach with Pippa on Friday evening - Alicante bay and Santa Barbara castle in the background
Hi everyone,

It’s Monday and I’m one day late with my blog post.  But that’s because we’ve been away for the weekend at our flat in Gran Alacant, Santa Pola near Alicante with little Pippa our new chocolate coloured smoothie miniature dachshund puppy.

When I left off on Sunday 22nd March “El Clásico” was being played. Disappointingly Real Madrid lost to their eternal rivals, “El Barça”.  Who did win though was Susana Díaz, head of the Socialist (PSOE) party, in the local elections in Spain’s poorest region Andalusia.  The right wing central government party (PP) lost many seats as did the left wing party, Izquierda Unida.  These votes went to the upcoming far left party Podemos which won 15 seats as well as to the moderate new party Ciudadans which won 9.  However Susana did not get a majority and even though she aims to govern alone, she will need help from these new parties.  The outcome in Andalusia is supposed to be a reflection of what might happen in the general elections at the end of 2015 where Podemos is supposed a lot of people’s favourite.  However their 15 seats came as a blow to them.  It is interesting to note that Susana is heavily pregnant but I doubt she will bother taking much time off the meagre 3 month maternity leave entitled to Spanish women.
Susana Díaz who won the local elections in Andalusia for the Socialist party in Spain
Meanwhile in London Suzy was enjoying the last day with her friends from the “manada” who had been there for a long weekend to visit her and Chati.  This is a lovely picture of the girls, Suzy, Chati, Chati’s sister Elena, Rocío and Carolina at a sign post in London.  It says “diversion ends”.  In Spanish “diversión” means fun, so the photo was quite meaningful; the end of their fun. 
Suzy and Chati with their friends from "the manada" who visited them in London last week.  The "fun" (diversión) ended for them on Monday last.
It’s funny how in English and in Spanish there are many words which seem the same but are not, such as “diversion”.  Whilst there are many that look and sound the same and are the same, there are many others that are not. One of the most common examples is “constipation” which in Spanish means a common cold or “embarazado” meaning pregnant which seems similar to the English word “embarrassment”.  You would think “carpeta” would mean “carpet” but no it means a folder.  “Éxito” means success not “exit” and “delito” means a crime not “delight”.  There are some worse ones such as “molestar” which doesn’t mean “molest” but to bother.  I think one of the most common similar words with a different meaning is “actual”. In Spanish it means “current” or “present day” whereas in English it means “real”.  Spaniards learning English always get this one wrong. If you think Spanish is easy when you see so many words that ring a bell like this, think again, as there are many cognates in these two languages, commonly called “false friends”.  So be careful when you see one.
There are many false friends in English and Spanish. embarazada which  means pregnant not embarrassed is just one of them. 
On Monday I was busy working.  One of the things I had to do was a 30 minute online anti-corruption course.  These are becoming commoner in the corporate world after the high profile scandals that occurred in firms like Siemens, Lehman Brothers or many banks quite recently.  I was happy to find out I passed with flying colours.  Funnily enough just as I had completed it, I got a call from a headhunter.  It was for a job as head of communications for a Spanish multinational in the consumer sector which wanted to focus a lot on Europe and the US.  I was not interested in working for a Spanish company because of their corporate culture.  I am so used to working for Nordic companies where the work life balance is a priority and would not want to work in a Spanish office where hours are long, the hierarchy is strict and where physical presence counts for more than productivity. 

Olivia was back on Monday from her week in Cuba with Miguel.  Eladio went to pick her up as I was at the dentist.  But I was back for lunch which I had to make and I was torn between embracing and talking to my daughter and getting on with the chore.  It was only on Monday that we finally got to see some of the photos of her trip.  Internet was not easily available in communist Cuba and Olivia decided against paying an extortionate price for 30 minutes use and just relax and disconnect.  They had a grand time and Olivia had many tales to tell us; mostly what we knew that the Cubans lack every day necessities and earn very little.  10 euros a month seems to be a normal salary!  She also said there is literally nothing to buy. They had taken out lots of things to give out and engaged with children on the streets giving them note pads and pens to their delight.
Olivia in her element with children in Cuba
Whilst in Havana, they spent a lot of time with my nephew Miguel and his Cuban girlfriend Claudia who Olivia said was “a darling”.  Here is a photo of the three of them walking the streets of Havana. Miguel has gone quite native. Disgruntled with the banking world he chose to go there to take a break and learn the bass guitar.  He has now set up a company called Havana Music School for people to learn music in Cuba.  The school also organizes courses for people from abroad. This is the website.  I wish him all the success in the world.
Claudia, Olivia (in the middle) and Miguel her cousin.
In Havana they also visited “the family”.  Eladio has second cousins there because Constante the brother of his maternal grandmother, Licinia, left Montrondo, the family village, to emigrate to Cuba when he was about 20 which must have been at the beginning of the 20th century.  He never returned for economic and political reasons However, the family remained in contact over the years by letter.  Constante’s son Edelberto had two daughters, Rosa and Licinia.  Rosa, a privileged Cuban who works as a journalist for Cuban State TV, was able to make the journey back to Montrondo for her grandfather a few years ago.  After that some of our family members have visited “the family” in Havana just as Olivia and her boyfriend Miguel did in their recent trip to Fidel’s land.  I’m sure Constante would have been happy to know that.
Visiting our Cuban family (notice the photo of Fidel Castro on the wall!)
You may notice that on the wall in the family’s home there is a picture of Fidel Castro.  They are stalwarts of his regime which of course is to be expected as that is all they have ever known. Hopefully life in Cuba will improve now that diplomatic ties with the US are thawing, but it will take time.

Tuesday was a busy day.  I had to attend a management team meeting at midday.  It was only when it finished that I saw an alert on my phone that a German Wings plane travelling from Barcelona to Dusseldorf had crashed over the French Alps killing everyone on board, some 150 people, mostly Germans and Spaniards.  The crash was to dominate the news all week.  There seemed to be no explanation as to why it had crashed just that it had descended rapidly on to a mountain leaving 2 kilometres of debris and remains which proved very difficult to find as the crash area could only be accessed by helicopter.
German Wings air crash scene
During last week one of the black boxes was found; the one which records what went on in the cock-pit – the second one which records technical data has yet to be found.  Very soon we were told by the French prosecutor that it had been a deliberate action of the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz.  In the recording the conversation between the pilot and co-pilot was normal at the beginning until the latter tried to persuade the pilot to leave the cock-pit to go to the loo.  Once he had gone, Andreas pressed the descent button and the plane began to descend at 1000 miles per minute.  Meanwhile the Pilot was hammering on the door begging Andreas to open it. He punched in the code numbers but Andreas kept blocking the door.  The co-pilot did not take any notice of the emergency calls from the control tower either. The rest of the story you know now, the plane crashed and all 150 people on board died there and then and not one body has been found intact.
Andreas Lubitz the co-pilot who deliberately crashed the plane
The stories in the press continue and we all ask ourselves why this successful 27 year old German could possibly do such a thing.  We will never know the real reason and will only be able to speculate after finding out that he had quit his flying course when he was training because of depression and that recently he was seeing a psychiatrist and that he had problems with his vision. He had hidden the latter from his employer, Lutfhansa – investigators found torn up sick-notes in his flat – airlines apparently test their pilots for psychological problems. One ex-girlfriend told the German press that Andreas once told her he would do something for everyone to remember him for.  I’m sure that never in her wildest dreams did she understand exactly what he meant.  Thanks to his sickness which went undetected Andreas Lubitz carried out this ghastly dream and not only killed himself but 149 innocent people who are now mourned by their families, friends and countries.  I cannot begin to imagine how his parents must feel and my feelings go out to them as they do to all the victims’ family and friends. The horror came home to me one day last week when I was driving home.  I was about to cross the square where the train station is and there staring at me was a big Spanish flag at half-mast.  Of course it was in sign of the 3 day mourning period Spain had declared after the air disaster.
The Spanish flag at half-mast in sign of mourning for the 50 Spaniards who lost their lives on the German Wings' Air crash
Indeed it was a sad time for aviation, for Germany, Spain, France and for all the families and friends of all the nationalities on board. Every time there is an air crash I am reminded that my Fathers' sister Gloria, my aunt, her husband Derek and their three children, my cousins, Jacqueline aged 12, Michael aged 9 and Anthony aged 7 all died in an air crash in Rijeka (Croatia) on 23rd May 1971, all but one person died.  We shall never forget that, my parents never got the opportunity to go out, I only remember 2 big and 3 small coffins at the packed church funeral in Ickenham in North London and spending some time in my cousin Jacqueline's bedroom before the funeral, crying my eyes out and taking some hair from her hairbrush to carry in a locket on my neck.  We can never forget just as the families of the victims of the German Wings’ crash will never forget either.

I came home from the office to go back an hour or so later for an interview with a journalist who writes for the Catalán daily newspaper, La Vanguardia.  17h came and he hadn’t arrived. I rang him to find out he thought the interview was the next day but was kind enough to leave his house and he arrived at 17.45.  Thus I didn’t leave the office until 6.30 and because of the traffic I didn’t get home until 8 pm. I was thanking God all the way that I don’t have to face the traffic every day as I work from home.

On Wednesday I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon, 2 months after the accident when I broke my ankle. He was pleased with me and said my recovery was remarkable and wished other people recovered as well and as quickly as me.  There and then he told me I should no longer use my crutch and he gave me some exercises to do with my foot.  So I walked out of the hospital holding the crutch in my hand and feeling great.  I had told him I was already doing an hour long walk a day and from now on they are getting even longer.  My foot still aches and is a bit swollen at night but less and less so. 

I was very busy that day working with the media.  Yoigo has been in the limelight recently as since the Orange Jazztel operation, in order for the European Commission to approve the merge, the latter have to make concessions; i.e. free and sell some of their duplicate “remedies”. That is EU and technical jargon meaning networks and frequencies.  There had been stories that Yoigo may want to buy some of the “remedies” and on the day of the interview with La Vanguardia I managed to get a statement from our mother company confirming our interest and talks with the commission.  I sent out the statement individually on Wednesday morning to journalists in the telecoms market who had been writing the story and boy were they interested.  Thus the next day we were mentioned in nearly all of the main newspapers.  These “remedies” would enable us to compete on equal terms with the big three: Telefonica, Orange and Vodafone.

It was on Wednesday that Laura and Cristina came to dinner. Suzy and Oli were at the Scouts with them since they were about 7 years old.  In Spain there is no Girl Guides and Scouts; it is all one gender association.  There are branches like the Brownies or Cubs but when the Scouts meet in Spain all ages are generally all together.  I hadn’t seen Laura for many years.  As to Cris, probably since the last year the girls were with the Scouts.  Oli has kept up mainly with Laura who lives in Barcelona and is now 6 months pregnant with Maya.
Olivia, Laura and Cristina 
We had a great dinner together in the dining room exchanging stories and remembering what for us were the girls’ scout years.  The only person missing was Suzy of course who would have loved to have been with us.

On Thursday I fasted as I did on Tuesday.  It was also the last day I went to rehabilitation.  I have two sessions left but have decided not to bother.  The centre I went to came highly recommended but it was very crowded and I felt as though the staff there were not interested in my recovery.  When I told the rehabilitation doctor about the exercises the orthopedic surgeon had recommended on Wednesday he told me they were useless.  I think that was my deciding factor.  Plus a few weeks previously I had commented to one doctor at the rehabilitation centre that my foot got swollen in the evenings.  He replied that it needed to be looked at although he didn’t bother.  I then told the other doctor who is his son, the same thing to which he replied that it was normal.  So who was I to believe?  I can only hope the magnet therapy sessions have helped as well as my daily walks.  But I must say I am disappointed with the physiotherapy centre which came so highly recommended. 

In the afternoon I had to be at the office again.  This time it was for a video shooting.  The Samsung Comms director came with a big crew to interview our head of terminal strategy on her opinion of the new Samsung Galaxy S6.  It was to be viewed at their upcoming Spanish launch in Valencia on 9th April.  I am a bit disappointed with my S5 since I downloaded the new software it has become incredibly slow. Also the battery life is now shorter.  I hope it won’t be long until I can get my hands on the new S6. Driving home again on Thursday afternoon took 1.5h because of the traffic.  I had to do the weekly shopping afterwards so was in a rush and a bit stressed.  We were going to Santa Pola the next day and I needed to leave food in the house.

Friday came and I packed everything we would need for the weekend in Santa Pola. Oli and Miguel were originally going to join us but backed out at the last moment as they wanted to go to their friend Elena’s birthday party. We were going as the forecast for the first time in weeks was good and also because we hadn’t been to the flat since we were last there with our friends Jeffer and Sandra in July last summer. We took Pippa with us, wondering how she would take to a long journey in the car with us but most of all because I was dying to go for a walk with her on the beach.  We stopped at Albacete at the Parador to have lunch.  Amazingly it is right next to Los Alamos the NATO jet fighter pilot school where the F16 accidents happened a couple of months ago.  We could see them flying in the sky above us making amazing manoeuvres.  Dogs normally are not allowed in restaurants, which is understandable but the Parador relaxed rules and let us have her with us on the terrace where we were to eat alone. 
Eladio with Pippa on the terrace at the Parador in Albacete
They were incredibly slow serving.  We must have been there for more than 2 hours, thus we didn’t get to our flat in Gran Alacant till 5.30.  As soon as we were settled in we rushed down to the beach with little Pippa.  The sun was still shining but we knew we only had another hour of light.  We certainly made the most of it.  Here is a lovely photo of Eladio with Pippa on the beach
Eladio holding Pippa - her first time on the beach last Friday evening
She, by the way, shies away from water.  It was her first time out alone with us and we let her off the lead immediately.  Throughout the weekend on all her walks, she never went far away from us and always came when we called her. 

That evening we had hoped to go and have dinner at our local favourite, María Picola on the road to Elche from Santa Pola but when I rang to reserve a table there was a taped message saying it was closed.  I only hope it opens again soon.  In the end we decided just to cross the road and go to the local Indian, The New Royal India.  Here we were greeted by the owner a young Sikh from the Punjab who spoke perfect Spanish.  He remembered us from last time. After our chicken tika masala and lamb korma he came to have a chat which is when he told us he was a Sikh.  Amazed not to see him wearing a turban or long beard he told us that was because he thought it wouldn’t be accepted in Spain.  I thought about what he said and then realised that he was right; Spaniards would find it funny and he would feel very strange himself.  I did point out to him thought that they would probably accept it as Spaniards are not particularly racist; something he totally agreed with. I was happy to hear that. Of course you see many Sikhs in turbans in England.  I remember turbaned and long bearded Indians driving buses in Bradford in the 60’s but that is because there is safety in numbers and in Spain there must be very few Sikhs.  Another thing you don’t see in Spain is women in fully covered burkas.  To tell you the truth I hope I never do. 
The curry house opposite our flat, New Royal India. 
We were a bit worried Pippa might bark when we were away.  I made her a makeshift bed out of one of the drawers in Olivia’s bedroom. Inside I put a soft black towel and some of her toys.  We were home quite soon and as we approached our flat, we didn’t hear her making any noise and as we walked in there she was lying in her new day bed. You see her night bed is with us.  As Eladio commented, we are now 3 hahaha.
Pippa in her makeshift bed in our flat in Santa Pola
On Saturday we had breakfast on our sunny terrace as we would have our lunch there that day and breakfast on Sunday.
Breakfast on our terrace at Santa Pola
After breakfast I went to Quicksave, the British supermarket opposite our flat.  There I stocked up on more hot cross buns, an Easter egg for my Father (in case Bettys’ don’t come on time) and some more chocolates for him. I also indulged in a bag of my favourite sweets, “humbugs”.
Quicksave, the British supermarket across the road from our flat.
Not wanting to miss the wonderful weather we went down to the beach again.  It was a lovely sunny day but the beach was quite empty and there was no problem parking. I suppose that at Easter it will be a lot more crowded. Pippa turned out to be quite the sensation with people stopping to look at her or try and touch her.  She didn’t mind but doesn’t go up to people, preferring to stay close to us.  What is very comforting is that she doesn’t run off, so it’s quite safe to let her loose.  We saw lots of dogs on the beach that day.  However we were told by another dog owner that apparently it is against the local law.  We never saw a sign forbidding dogs but are very aware that more and more beaches are being closed to them which is such a shame as there are few things more enjoyable than going for a walk on the beach with your dog.
Eladio with Pippa walking faithfully behind him on the beach on Saturday morning
We had lunch in the flat. I had taken some duck legs to heat up which I served with steamed potatoes and asparagus.  It wasn’t the greatest lunch on earth but having it on the terrace made it extra special.  Later Eladio had a siesta and I decided to sit in the sun in the garden by the pool as by then the sun had left our terrace and I just didn’t want to miss the good weather.  Later the three of us took 2 deck chairs down to the pool where we were the only occupants.  We then decided to go on a walk to the light house on the cliffs.  Later my fitbit told me we had walked 14.5km all day Saturday which is a lot for my ankle but also an awful lot for a tiny sausage dog like Pippa.  We got there just as the sun was going down and the views were spectacular.  Here is a photo of me with Pippa in my arms and the island of Tabarca in the background.
At sunset on the cliff by the lighthouse with the island of Tabarca in the distance
Here is one of Eladio and Pippa with the lighthouse behind them.
Eladio and Pippa on the cliff by the  lighthouse overlooking Alicante Bay
The walk back was arduous mainly because I was wearing converse shoes without socks and I was getting a blister on my big toe. 

It was when we got back to the flat I read that Javier Fernández, a 23 year old Spaniard from Madrid, had just become Spain’s first male figure skating world champion.  He is Spain’s only famous ice skater and we were happy enough with his two European titles, but wow to win gold at Shanghai this weekend increases Spain’s fame in different sports from football and tennis.  You can see his performance heredone to the sound of the Barber of Seville; not a tune I would have chosen. 
Javier Fernández, Spain's new ice skating hero.
It was on Saturday night we decided that dinner had to be at no other place than Darby’s Chippy in Gran Alacant.  I have written before about this fish and chip shop we go to every time we are at our flat.  The fish and chips there are made with the real English equipment – from Leeds by the way – and served by John Darby and his wife who, I guess from their accent, are from Glasgow.  Mr. Darby is a fan of my blog and always welcomes us very warmly.  I ordered a normal portion and Eladio ordered a big one. Well you should have seen the size; ginormous. Eladio, being a Spaniard, removed most of the batter which as I commented to Mrs. Darby is fish and chips main attraction.  Eladio admitted he liked the batter but preferred the fish.  For me it is the other way round.  For a Brit like me brought up in Yorkshire but living in Spain I crave at times for real Fish and Chips like in England and Darbys’ Chippy is the only real one I have ever seen in Spain, thus the reason we go every time we visit our flat. Here is a collage of photos of our dinner there that night.  If you are reading this John Darby, thanks for the lovely meal. 
Fish and Chips (with mushy peas!) at Darby's Chippy in Gran Alacant

On Sunday morning we were up one hour later as the clocks had gone forward to Summer time.  After breakfast on the terrace we decided to clean up a bit, pack the car and go down to the beach for one last walk before heading home. It was another beautiful sunny day. This time the thermometer marked 25ºc and I would have loved a whole day on the beach.  But we had to go home and I hadn’t brought my swimming costume.This is a photo of me on our last walk on the beach this weekend.
My last walk on the beach on Sunday morning 
We left just after midday and stopped for lunch at Los Morales, a new favourite of ours some 175km from Madrid. Unfortunately we couldn’t take Pippa in with us so she had to stay in the car in her transporter.  We were worried she would be upset or bark but when we returned she was just fine.  We let her out for a little walk before we got into the car again to drive home. 

We were home just after 5 and after we had settled in, guess what we did?  Yes, you are right. We went on our walk with all three dogs.  My fitbit was pleased again and so was I.  That evening Olivia and Miguel returned. It was great to see them.  Miguel, apart from being an official cameraman for Spanish TVE understands TVs quite well as you can imagine.  We needed his help as TV channels are changing in Spain as from 31st March as the old bands will be allocated to 4G by a new rule from The European Commission.  We had rescanned our TV but many of the new frequency channels didn’t get the signal. Miguel tried to fix our problem and in the end we were able to see all the channels except two, Antena 3 and La Sexta.  This morning an antenna man came and estimated 600 euros to change the orientation of the antenna but not guaranteeing it would work.  Meanwhile Eladio rang the local community office to hear that the repeater in the area needed fixing and we shall have to wait a few days.  Channel changing is always a bother and an expense for TV viewers. Thank you Brussels for this change and having to pay for another TV man for nothing.  In any case I think Miguel did a better job than him.

And today is Monday and I am fasting.  It will be a quiet week as far as work is concerned.  On Wednesday we shall be off to spend Easter in Montrondo with the family.  Unfortunately we shall not be seeing much change to the house since we were last there at the end of January when I broke my ankle.  Our builders haven’t been since then. It seems they are working on other houses.  Their excuse is the snow but the snow only lasted 2 weeks and don’t tell me they couldn’t have shifted it away from the path if they really did want to get on with the house which previously they told us would be ready by Christmas, then by March and now we don’t know when.  We shall be going to decent weather there; i.e. no rain or snow forecast but the maximum temperatures forecast are 12ºc a far cry from those of Alicante where it will be sizzling this week.

Meanwhile I wish you all a Happy Easter.

Cheers till next time,

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My daily walks resumed, Oli and Miguel in Cuba, an interview with Spanish students, managing 3 dogs at home, Isis terrorist attack in Tunis, Fathers’ day with the family, sweet and savoury Finnish bread, the solar eclipse, Suzy has visitors in London and other stories.

Sunday 22nd March 2015

Celebrating Fathers' day with the family 
Hi everyone this wet and cold Sunday at the end of March.  Spring supposedly started yesterday but we haven’t noticed it here where we have had a spate of cold, wet and blustery weather in sharp contrast to the sunny and warm week we had before.
Our garden in the wet weather
Last Sunday Oli and Miguel left for Cuba where they would be staying in Havana for 3 nights and Varadero for 4. They would be met in the Cuban capital by Miguel, my nephew who lives there, and his Cuban girlfriend Claudia.  I haven’t seen any pictures of their trip yet as internet is scarce.  But I do know from Miguel that they visited the old town, spent some time with the family (Eladio has second cousins living in Cuba) and even went to schools in the centre to give out gifts they had brought from Spain.  Before they left they stocked up on essentials unavailable in Cuba to give away there, such as toiletries and stationary. 
Old Havana as it is today
It is probably one of the last chances of visiting communist Cuba as it is today as ties with the US are thawing and soon these essentials and internet will become more available.  I read this week that there are now charter flights from the US to Cuba at 800 dollars per trip. I can hardly imagine any Cubans being able to afford that but certainly US citizens will flock to the island.  From Havana they went to nearby Varadero, famous for its Caribbean beaches and they stayed at the Hotel Sol Palmeras which looks fabulous. 
Hotel Sol Palmeras in Varadero
Here they will have relaxed and enjoyed the weather and beaches, something Olivia was in dire need of as she hasn’t had a proper holiday since 2013.  They will be home tomorrow.  I have missed Oli’s company; the house feels empty without her.

Monday was my first fast day in 2 months since my accident.  It didn’t prove too difficult.  It was also the first time I used my fitbit again.  That is because this week I have resumed my daily walks with Eladio and the dogs.  I am now doing a 40-50 minute walk once a day; not the 2 hours I used to do before, but at least a start.   I use my right hand for the crutch and my left hand to hold little Pippa’s leash.  I must say she has taken well to the walks and behaves perfectly.  She’s such a darling.  Here is a photo of Eladio with all three.
Eladio with our 3 dogs about to go on one of our walks this week
On Tuesday I went to rehabilitation as I did on Monday.  Far more interesting was my schedule in the afternoon when I had an appointment with 3 students of advertising from the Juan Carlos 1 University in Madrid.  For their Corporate Communications subject they wanted to interview me for a work project on how a communications department works in a company.  Karin, Natasha and Alvaro came equipped with a tablet for the questions, a pc to write down the answers as well as a microphone to record me.  I think they learned a lot in the 2.5h session we had in a cafeteria in Boadilla; a lot meaning how a communications department is run in real life as opposed to the theory they are taught. I noticed a lot of surprised looks at some of my comments.
With the Spanish students who interviewed me on Tuesday afternoon
It was on Tuesday that the world learned that Spain’s most famous writer, Miguel de Cervantes’ remains were “apparently” (there a lot of ifs here) found in a tomb at Madrid’s Convent of the “Barefoot Trinitarians” some 400 years after his death.  Cervantes is the author of Don Quixote which is considered to be the first modern European novel and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written. Funnily enough when he was alive he was not considered as such. His fame came later. I had to read Don Quixote at University when I did Hispanic Studies but must admit it was very difficult to read so I read the English translation, or some of it.  I am no literary academic and I’m ashamed to admit I never really liked what I understood of the story.  It just wasn’t my thing. 
Miguel de Cervantes
But back to the subject of his remains. In a story similar to the finding of Richard III’s remains in England, this has been big news here and there are talks of giving him a  funeral “fit for a king”.  It was well known that he had been buried there together with 17 other people but I just wonder why it was necessary to unravel all the bones in the tomb to find out which belonged to him.  Also if there is no ADN to trace I ask myself how do they know which are his?  Possibly one of the main reasons for looking for his remains has to do with tourism and economics.  The otherwise not very well known convent could well become a lucrative tourist landmark in Madrid from now on. 
Forensic scientists looking for Cervantes' remains
That night Eladio and I watched a Spanish film directed by Benito Zambrano called La Voz Dormida (The sleeping voice) which had won two Goya awards (equivalent to the British Baftas) last year for best supporting and best new actresses.  A story about two sisters from Córdoba caught up in politics in the post-Civil War Spain, it was right up our street and had us riveted until the end.
Great film La Voz Dormida
On Wednesday the day rolled out as usual, breakfast, rehabilitation, working from home, going for our walk etc.  But I must tell you that our routine is now accompanied by 3 dogs, as you know instead of 2, since little Pippa joined the family.  Elsa has taken to Pippa quite well but Norah is still stand offish; I guess she is jealous.  In fact Elsa and Pippa seem to be the best of friends; Elsa even taking a motherly role.
Elsa and Pippa are best friends
Here you can see the three of them in their beds. 
The 3 dogs asleep in the kitchen.  Pippa prefers to sleep on top of Elsa rather than in her own bed!
Pippa practically ignores hers preferring to sleep on top of dear noble and subservient Elsa.  Both would be very jealous to know that Pippa sleeps with us every night whilst they have to sleep in a kennel outside. 
Pippa asleep in our bed
Having 3 dogs is hard work but the benefits outweigh all the effort and cleaning.  It is a joy to take them on our walks and it is a pleasure to take Pippa with us everywhere as she fits snuggly into her little blanket and behaves perfectly in the car.  You can’t exactly do that with a lab or beagle.  I can’t wait until our house is finished in Montrondo to take all three.  They are part of our lives now and I could not imagine life without them.  I have always loved dogs and you probably know that when I was a child I wasn’t allowed to have one.  Well this is my revenge I suppose.  Happily Eladio is just as much of a dog lover as I am.  I’m sorry for my blog readers who are not interested in dogs as my posts are peppered with stories about them.  I sometimes think they are our surrogate grandchildren.

It was about midday on Wednesday when the news of an ISIS terrorist attack on tourists atthe famous Bardo Museum next to the Parliament in the Tunisian capital unfolded.  Isis hit where it must hurt most in Tunisa, at tourism which was beginning to grow again after the famous Arab Spring revolt there.  The terrorists shot at tourists and held others hostage for a few hours until armed forces went in.  The final toll was 23 dead, 20 of them being tourists.  Meanwhile a Spanish couple, on honeymoon, Carlos Sánchez and his four months pregnant partner Cristina Rubio hid in a closet for 24 hours thinking the terrorists were still in the building. What a ghastly honeymoon!  The country went into shock of course and many other countries, like Spain which makes a lot of its living from tourism, are of course on the watch out for this vile new form of terrorism. 

Thursday was a holiday in most parts of Spain.  It was San José (St. Joseph) which is also Fathers’ day here.  We were going to go to Santa Pola to our beach apartment for the long bank holiday but the weather forecast put us off.  Instead we went to celebrate Eladio’s brother José Antonio’s birthday at their house in Madrid where we also used to live.  We were joined for lunch by José Antonio and Dolores’ daughter Sara and youngest son Juan and his partner Cristina who have just had a baby; little Gael.  It was the first time I was to meet the baby.  We took little Pippa for the occasion and she behaved beautifully and got on famously with José Antonio and Dolores’ mongrel dog Nuba.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is a selfie of all of us together celebrating Fathers’ Day and José Antonio’s birthday.  The one below is of José Antonio blowing out the candles on the cake we took him.  You may notice the candles are a 5 and an 8 when actually they should be a 6 and an 8.  It was my mistake but I’m sure my brother-in-law didn’t mind me making him 10 years younger for a few minutes!
José Antonio blowing out the candles on his cake with Dolores smiling along
Suddenly realizing that Easter was only 2 weeks away, I was seduced by a Betty’s advert on Facebook that afternoon alerting customers that orders made by 19th March would arrive in time for Easter.  So there and then I made my online order of Easter Eggs.  I hope they are as nice as they look.
The Bettys Easter Egg hamper I ordered online this week

That got me thinking how to acquire hot cross buns on time for Good Friday; never an easy task in Spain.  I then remembered Suzy’s friends from Madrid, Elena, Antuan, Carolina and Rocío were visiting her and Elena’s sister in London, Chati and that of course they could bring me some back.  So there and then I asked Suzy via whatsapp to buy some for them to bring me back. 

Talking about food, I must mention that I have been eating the Finnish bread I brought back from Helsinki Airport most nights.  It is delicious, made of rye and both savoury and sweet at the same time.  I posted the photo below on FB and my Swedish and Finnish friends told me it is called Malaxlimpa in Swedish and comes from the Swedish speaking area in western Finland called Ostrobotnia.  In Finnish it is called Maalahden Limpu. 
The sweet and savoury Finnish bread I love so much
On Friday the much publicized solar eclipse took place around the world. It was total or partial depending on where you were in the world.  Never being very familiar with the solar system the only thing I know is that an eclipse happens when the moon covers up the sun when passing between the sun and the earth.  You can see here in this picture where it could be seen from.

Many people flocked to the Faroe Islands for the best experience as well as to the Artic.  One Czech man travelled to the Svalbard Islands in Norway where the eclipse was also going to be total.  Whilst there his tent was ripped open by a polar bear (apparently they outnumber the population on the island) and he was attacked until a colleague shot it.  He survived the attack and was able to see the eclipse the next day. Our experience was less traumatic. Eladio and I witnessed the partial eclipse from our kitchen patio at just past 9 in the morning.  It was cloudy so we didn’t expect to see anything, when suddenly the clouds parted and the eclipse was surrounded by a halo of blue sky.  We felt a bit blinded after wards. 

Meanwhile in London Suzy was enjoying her visitors from Madrid; her closest friends really.  Most of the photos they have posted on Facebook have been of the food they have been eating but thankfully Rocío published a lovely one of them all together on one of the bridges over the River Thames.  Here they are.  I can only imagine what a great time they will be having together.  Suzy needed some fun and relaxation with them after 4 weeks of working hard on the new paperwork she had to submit to the HCPC to become a registered dietitian in the UK.  I have corrected many of her documents and have tried to mentor her as best I can.  I don’t know what the outcome will be and whether there will be more paperwork asked for or whether she will have to do some extra courses.  But we shall not give up. P.S. Thanks Jacky for the help with the translations.
Suzy enjoying her visitors in London
On Friday evening, after the weekly food shopping Eladio and I went out to dinner.  We decided on Gino’s this time where we hadn’t been since before our accident.  Here is Eladio enjoying his Ossobuco.  It was a good end to the week.
Eladio enjoying his meal at Ginos on Friday night

On Saturday I worked most of the day on an event going on in Pamplona.  Yoigo had brought Neil Harbisson all the way from New York to a conference organized by an advertising group, El Club de los Creativos (Creative Club).  Neil was born colour blind, or rather could only see in shades of grey.  Born to an Irish Father and Catalán Mother, Neil is a “cyborg artist best known for being the first person in the world with an antenna implanted in his skull which “allows him to perceive visible and invisible colours via sound waves as well as receive images as sounds, videos as sounds, music or phone calls directly into his head via external devices such as mobile phones or satellites” His role for Yoigo at the conference was to interpret the four colours of Yoigo’s logo.  We were in charge of the PR, i.e. the press coverage.  But this was no easy task as most press may well have been interested in Neil Harbisson but not with his connection to Yoigo as press always try to steer away from brands. 
Neil Harbisson representing Yoigo this weekend in Pamplona
After our walk and dinner last night we watched a film I had downloaded some time ago. It was Ida the Polish film about a novice nun in the 60’s who discovers she is Jewish.  It is in black and white and had won the best foreign film award at the Oscars this year.  We found it very slow and not very interesting. 
The Polish film Ida which won best foreign film award at the Oscars.  We found it very slow.

And today is Sunday, “blog day” according to my Father.  He is not the only person waiting for this week’s blog. My school friend Maureen is too, I’m glad to hear.  Maureen who was in my class in the 6th form at St. Joseph’s College is fighting cancer at the Bradford Royal Infirmary and has been there for 10 weeks with a perforated bowel.  She is very brave.  Today we spoke or rather commented on Facebook and she told me she was being artificially fed although she could eat food too to which I replied that B.R.I. food was probably not up to much.  She has a huge fighting spirit and I felt for her when she told me her situation was much better than some of the people around her. Dear Maureen you are an example to me and many other people.  I doubt we would be as brave as you in your situation.  I just wish I could be transported quickly to you at the B.R.I. and we could enjoy a coffee together.  Get well soon and when you do we must have another SJC reunion like the ones we had a few years ago.  Now let me look for a photo of us all together to remind us.  Ok?
SJC reunion dinner in Addingham July 2011 with Maureen in the front row third from the right wearing a white jacket.
The only other items of the day today that are of interest are that Real Madrid will be playing Barcelona.  El Clásico will be played at the Real Madrid stadium but we shall not be watching it as we do not have pay TV.  The other news is the municipal elections in Andalusia, the south and possibly poorest area of Spain.  It is said that the outcome today will probably reflect what happens in the next general elections.  I will not be watching 4 hour long programmes on the possible outcome but prefer, like Eladio, to read about the results in the morning.

So there you have it my friends.  That was my week.  Next week is a bit of a mystery for the moment.  The good thing is Olivia will be back tomorrow.  The rest, well wait and see until next Sunday.

Cheers till then