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


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