Sunday, April 05, 2015

Unboxing Bettys’ Easter eggs, R.I.P. Mrs. Leonard, to Montrondo for Easter with Pippa and the family, a village hall meeting, walks to Senra, fauna and buying bread, home again for Easter day and other stories.

Sunday 5th April 2015
Happy to be walking again in Montrondo
Hello everyone.

Today is Easter day and the sun is shining as it has done now for what seems like weeks.  We had glorious weather in Santa Pola last week, as we did at home afterwards and in Montrondo too which made for a lovely time with the family as Montrondo is always more enjoyable with good weather.

I last wrote on Monday 30th March, a very warm day, part of which I spent on the terrace by the still covered swimming pool.  I took a photo of little Pippa who is now 4 months old and you can see just how much she has grown.  When she came she was 2.5 months old and weighed 2.2kg.  She now weighs nearly 3 kgs but will not grow to be much more than 4 or 4.5kg.  She is such a darling.  I spoke to Antonio Cheara, her breeder from Granada last week and when I told him what a beautifully behaved puppy she is he told me that that was because when he breeds his dogs one of the main tasks is to make sure the puppies are of good character and well balanced.  I must say he has done his job right.
Pippa has grown
On Tuesday I had lunch in Madrid with a journalist I have known for many years; Pilar.  We spoke shop of course but also talked a lot about the sector.  The weather was so good we ate on the terrace outside of a very well-known restaurant in Madrid which neither of us had ever been to but came well recommended.  El Paraguas offers mostly Asturian food which I adore.  We saw two very famous Spanish business men at one of the tables, Joan Rosell, the head of the CEOE (Spanish employers’ association) together with Arturo Fernández the VP of the CEOE who became even more famous recently for using one of the so-called “black” credit cards when he was on the Board of Directors of Bankia (Spanish bank).  The cards used by the board members have caused a huge scandal in Spain when we learned that users had more or less carte blanche to spend them as they wanted.  Arturo Fernández explained to the press that he used his card at his own chain or restaurants which was a total farse. As I went passed their table I felt like asking them what card they would be using to pay for their lunch which no doubt will come from tax payers’ money. 

Tuesday was busy for me as I had to squeeze many tasks into my day, quite a bit of work, the trip to Madrid and back for the lunch with the journalist, shopping to buy food for Montrondo and to leave at home, as well as our hour long daily walk with the dogs which is a must in our life.

On Tuesday, just on time for Easter, as we were leaving the next day, my Bettys Easter order arrived.  Bettys is a lovely small Yorkshire chain of first class, quaint and exquisite café tea rooms.  Today you can order some of their wonderful produce online to be shipped abroad.  I had ordered this Easter hamper.
Picture of the Bettys' chocolate egg basket online
And here is a photo of the unboxing.  I was a little disappointed to see that the basket of eggs was much smaller than the picture on their website.  Even so I am sure it will be delicious when we finally eat the chocolate eggs today after lunch.

On Wednesday I was up at 7 as we were to leave for Montrondo at about 10.30 and there was lots to do before we could hit the road.  It was on the way in the car when I got a message from my lifelong friend Amanda that her Mother, Mrs. Leonard (Sheila), aged 88 had died the night before quite suddenly in the nursing home she had just moved to near her son Simon’s house in Yorkshire.  She accompanied this photo which I want to publish here in tribute to Mrs. Leonard, a lovely genteel, correct but sometimes fun loving quiet, kind woman with a twinkle in her eye. 
Mrs. Leonard in a recent photograph
For me Mrs. Leonard was a reference in my childhood being the Mother of my best friend.  She of course was English, unlike my bohemian Russian Mother and ran her house like clockwork.  Naturally I loved my parents and our home but I often envied Amanda and Simon’s real English home which was clean, tidy and organized with meals at fixed hours.  Amanda’s parents had a social life, unlike my parents, had a car and went out for dinner often. They even went on package holidays when they came into fashion.  Whereas in our house, there was no car, we went everywhere by bus and meals were mostly cooked by my Father who hadn’t a clue how to cook.  My Mother only cooked when she felt like it.  As to going out to dinner that was never on their agenda nor were package holidays.  We either went everywhere by train or bus or in my Aunty Masha’s old cars in gypsy like travels across Europe. As my parents, much to my chagrin, never had a car. it was Amanda’s Father, Bob, Mr. Leonard to me, who would drive us everywhere.  He was a very special man too with a great sense of humour and my parents and I always enjoyed it when he came to pick me up or drop me off at home and lingered in our hall chatting to us. Amanda and I were an odd couple at school but fast friends.  I say we were odd because she came from the perfect English home, was very studious (she went on to study at Oxford) and above all was thin.  I came from a multicultural, Bohemian, untidy and disorganized home, was not a good student and worst of all I was fat.  We used to look at ourselves in the mirror at school (St. Joseph’s College) and say we were Laurel and Hardy.  Once on one of Amanda’s school reports a teacher wrote about her: “good when not sitting next to Masha”.  I was mortified.  But despite my bad reputation at school Mrs. Leonard loved me and put up with my imperfections.  I must have been 15 and was smoking as most of us did at the time and I clearly remember dear Mrs. Leonard enjoying a cigarette or two with me which I found a pleasure and will never forget. So when I got the news from Amanda on the way to Montrondo on Wednesday I was shocked and cried together with my friend.  I do hope she gets the chance to talk to my bohemian Mother up there and both of them have a laugh and remember us when we were children and teenagers.  I remember when we were children that my Mother and Mrs. Leonard went shopping together to the butcher for my Mother to buy the roast beef I used to enjoy at their house and that my Mother gave Mrs. Leonard her rice recipe which Amanda loved and which Mrs. Leonard wanted to make for her daughter as she was worried about her being so thin. This is my tribute to Sheila Leonard who for me will always be Mrs. Leonard, the mother of my best friend and part of my childhood; her death marks the end of an era for me.  R.I.P. Mrs. Leonard.

Shortly after the sad news we stopped at Rueda for our traditional glass of wine and plate of ham at Palacio de Bornos which cheered me up enormously.  Pippa stayed in the car meanwhile in her beautiful dog transporter and didn’t complain. Afterwards she got a small walk as compensation. Here is a photo of Eladio enjoying the stop at Rueda.
Eladio enjoying white wine and a plate of ham at Palacio de Bornos in Rueda on our way to Montrondo last Wednesday
We arrived in Montrondo just on time for lunch with José Antonio and Dolores and Eladio’s Mother Ernestina; not that we were at all hungry.  Dolores had made a super meal of chicken and rice.  Afterwards I went for a long walk to Senra and back (about 7 or 8km) in the sun with Dolores, my other sister-in-law Adela and some of the women from the village we know quite well, Pili, Manolita and Josefa.  Here is a selfie just when we got to Senra.  It was to be Pippa’s first walk in Montrondo and she was a little champion.  I mean for her tiny size and tiny legs it must have been quite a challenge.  But she enjoyed it immensely, following Nuba, Dolores’ dog and all the smells and greenery; not that she can see much from her tiny height.  She never let me out of sight always coming back when I called her. 
A selfie on my first walk to Senra on Wednesday with Manolita, Josefa, Adela, Pili and Dolores
 Afterwards I sat with Adela on her terrace until the sun went down at about 8pm.  It was from Adela’s terrace that I heard from Suzy via whatsapp that she would finally be coming for her birthday.  It’s great to know that we will be seeing her soon.  It won’t be for long (from Saturday 25th at night till Wednesday 29th) but the good news is that she will be here for her birthday. 

Eladio meanwhile spent the afternoon with the workers at our house which is being rebuilt.  The truth is there has been hardly any progress on it since my accident at the end of January; so there was not much to get excited about. They are obviously working on other projects where perhaps the owners are putting more pressure on them than on us. In any case it was good to see the work they had done this week on the back of the house, making the outside steps and patio using the traditional stone which must be very heavy to move.  Below is a photo of how the house looks from the front and the back as well as the steps and patio.
The only visible progress on the house since we were there in January has been the back patio and steps
We woke up on Maunday Thursday to another lovely sunny day.  I spent part of the morning at Adela’s house with Pippa who enjoyed exploring their garden and orchard which was full of manure and which I kept having to remove Pippa from. Here is a photo of Primo my brother-in-law working on a path with the same stone (“llabanas”) in their garden.
Primo my brother-in-law working on a new path in their garden
Meanwhile I took photos of Pippa, as below, enjoying the grass in the sunshine.  She must have been in her element in the village and was an instant success with nearly everyone who saw her.
Pippa enjoying the sun and grass in Primo and Adela's garden 
I also took photos of this lovely old stone house which is apparently the house Primo was born in.  It will give you an idea of the local architecture from old times which I love and which we are trying to respect with the building of our own house.
An old house near where Primo and Adela built their new ones.  Love it!
At around midday other members of the family arrived; Pili and her husband Andrés and Isidro and his wife Yoli.  It was great to see them and grow in numbers.  As we all seem to have houses now, everyone had lunch in their own house but of course we enjoyed coffee together afterwards. Here is a photo of my sisters-in-law, Yoli with Pippa, Adela and Pili with her dalmation Trébol, on Pili and Andres’ sunny terrace after lunch on Thursday.
My sisters-in-law relaxing on Pili's new terrace.  From left to right Yoli (with Pippa), Adela and Pili
As became a habit during our stay in Montrondo this time, Pippa and I went for our walk to Senra and back in the afternoon.  We were joined by Dolores and Adela. 

That night for the first time in the history of our family in Montrondo we all watched a film together.  It was “La Isla Mínima” (Marshland); a Spanish murder thriller set in the 80’s in the south of Spain (Doñana).  It had won 10 of the 17 Spanish film awards (Goyas) and I was keen to see it. The reason we have never watched films together before is that there was nowhere comfortable to watch them and the televisions were old.  Now we have all the modern comforts in Montrondo, barring internet, which I promise you will be solved when our house is finished.  For me internet is as important as water and electricity.
Marshland (La Isla Mínima) which we all watched together in Montrondo 
On Good Friday we had hot cross buns for breakfast which Suzy’s friend Elena had brought for me from London. At home my Father would be having the ones I had bought at Quicksave in Santa Pola.  That morning we were joined by the only brother missing from Eladio’s 6 brothers and sisters, including him.  Alejandro came with his Paraguyan wife Carolina and that day as we were all together we decided to have lunch together.  It was to be at Pili’s new house as she has lots of tables and we all fit quite comfortably. 

Before lunch, however, there was an important event taking place in the village hall, a meeting of the villagers called by the mayoress of the nearby town Murias to which Montrondo belongs.  I went along with Pippa and Carolina to see what it was all about even though I knew it was only really the men from the village who would attend.  Montrondo is very old fashioned and quite sexist when it comes to men and women’s place in society.  For example, in the church the men stand at the back and the women at the front.  When I posted this photo on Facebook English women friends of mine asked me where the women were.  It was a good question.
The village hall meeting just before it started on Friday
I suppose most of the women were making the lunch whilst the men were listening, or watching like me – in my case in amazement – to the mayoress (practically the only woman there) whom I had never met. She wore long leather boots and a waistcoat, spoke like a politician and it seemed she was just missing a whip in her hand to lash out at all of us.  To me it felt a bit like a class of naughty children listening to a strict teacher letting off steam. She talked about the villagers having to collaborate but didn’t give examples so I didn’t really know what she was referring to and didn’t dare ask – after all I was a woman and only the wife of a man from the village hahaha.  It seemed that most of the meeting was about reelecting the members of the local committee and there seemed to be division on who should be the secretary.  However nothing was agreed upon in the meeting and I never found out what the final decision was.  You will not be surprised to hear that there is not one single woman on this committee.

After lunch where we all contributed with enough food perhaps to feed the whole village, it was siesta time for most of the family, except me.  Eladio chose to sleep outside in the sun behind our house.  At about 5 in the afternoon I thought it was high time he woke up and took Pippa along to do the job.  Here is a photo of them both which I love.
Pippa waking Eladio up from his outdoor siesta in Montrondo on Friday afternoon
Soon it was time for our walk and this time we persuaded Pili my youngest sister-in-law to join us.  So off we went all 6 women of the family together with Trébol, Nuba and little Pippa. To avoid the cars we walked through the fields and along the old path.  Here is a photo of my 5 sisters-in-law enjoying the walk.
All 5 of my sisters-in-law on our walk to Senra on Friday.  
      On the walk Pippa barked at a mule as well as some of the cows.  I think she had only just noticed them. This is probably the moment to talk about the animals in Montrondo of which there are many; but far fewer than when the village was fully populated when Eladio and his brothers and sisters were children.  Even so, today the cows, hens, horses, donkeys, mules, difficult to see wolves and bears, as well as storks at this time of year, are part of the way of living and really a part of the scenery.  For me, however, they are always a sight for sore eyes, as I am such an animal lover as you will know by now.  If I lived there I would probably have a small farm including a donkey which is perhaps my favourite animal of all.  Well you see I am British and was brought up riding on donkeys at the seaside as a child and have loved them ever since.  In Spain, donkeys are not a revered animal and no one here understands my love of them.  I also adore horses but never got the opportunity to learn to ride them.  My friend Amanda did of course but my parents thought it was an expensive hobby and couldn’t see the point of it as neither of them particularly liked animals.  I remember asking for a pony or riding lessons and my Mother replying that I would have to do with a “pony tail”.  So of course one of the reasons I love Montrondo is because of its fauna.
Fauna from around Montrondo
After the walk Alejando, Carolina, Isidro and Yoli left for León where they live reducing our numbers.  That evening we were all so tired we didn’t get together at Pili’s house to watch a film but all went to bed early instead.

On Saturday morning our numbers were further reduced when José Antonio and Dolores left.  We were to leave too that day but not until after lunch.  Thus Eladio and I went for the walk to Senra on our own with Pippa.  Again it was a glorious day and we enjoyed every minute of our last few hours in the countryside.  Here is a photo of Eladio closing the gate between the fields of Montrondo and the old path to Murias, with Pippa at his feet as usual. 
Eladio closing the gate from the field onto the old path to Murias with little Pippa at his feet
Once in Senra we had arranged with Pili for her to join us for a cup of coffee and along she came with her husband Andrés and her Mother Ernestina.  As we were having our coffee in the sun outside the bar, Cumbres de Omaña, Adela’s son Roberto arrived with his wife Ana and two little daughters Diana and Lidia, aged 5 and 2.  They were immediately attracted to Pippa.  As Pippa hasn’t had much contact with children I wondered how she would react but she was fine.  Here is a photo of her with Ana, Diana and Lidia which I immediately sent to Adela, their grandmother, of course.
Lidia, Diana and Ana with Pippa
The photo illustrating this week’s blog post is of me on the return walk from Senra with the Montrondo in the backdrop.  You can see there is still some snow on the top of the mountains.  However I didn’t dare go up the mountains preferring to walk on the relatively flat roads and paths, whilst I am still recovering from my broken ankle.  I must say I enjoyed the walks to Senra and back every day immensely; they were the fodder of my dreams when I was bedridden after the operation and unable to go on walks for some two months.

As we got back to the village the bread van from Murias had stopped near our cluster of houses.  I thought you might be interested to see how bread is bought in the village as there are no shops.  Here you can see Pili, my sister-in-law, buying bread, as well as our neighbor Salo who lives permanently there.  Salo’s grandson and Trébol got in the picture too.
Pili and Salo buying bread in Montrondo from the Murias bakery van
We had our last lunch at Pili’s house and soon had to pack our things (and Pippa’s) and set off.  We had to stop at Riello – a biggish village about half an hour away from Montrondo, on our way home, to see a vet called Raquel Dolores had recommended us.  We needed to give Pippa her 4th obligatory vaccination (against rabies) which was to be much cheaper than in Madrid (15 euros vs approximately 60).  We had to wait a while at the vet’s place, a sort of rambling animal paradise off the road with views of meadows and mountains. Pippa had the run of the place as we waited for Raquel to return from a nearby village.  Here hens live loose and there are cats and dogs of all types all living harmoniously together.  It seemed like paradise to me. 
Castilian black hens at the vet's place in Riello where we took Pippa for her vaccination.
We didn’t get home till at least 10 last night as apart from it being a long journey (over 400km) there was heavy traffic on the road into Madrid.  Olivia and Miguel had prepared dinner for us which was a treat: Oli’s first Spanish tortilla, salad and Gema’s home- made bread.  But first I had to greet our other two dogs, Norah the beagle and Elsa the Labrador, who, I have to admit, are very much out of the limelight since little Pippa arrived.  Suzy was indignant that we had taken her to Montrondo when we have never taken them.  I feel guilty about that too but of course we don’t yet have our own house so I promised her I would take them when it is finished. 

Olivia and Miguel, meanwhile, had a lovely quiet Easter break enjoying the sun, doing exercise and seeing friends. Yesterday they went to a restaurant for lunch in Los Molinos in the mountainous area of Madrid (Sierra de Guadarama) called El Portical, which belongs to a friend of Rocio’s. Here is a photo of the “manada” (the girls group of friends) at the restaurant. Both of our girls have been there before and say the place is great with good food and inexpensive prices.  I look forward to going there too one day with Eladio or taking visitors from abroad.  Maybe we can take Keith and Lorraine there when they come in May.  Yeah, they are coming to stay which will be a lot of fun. If you are reading this Lorraine you may want to consider this an option instead of a Parador.  Check out the website.
Olivia and Miguel with some of their friends from "La Manada" at El Portical restaurant yesterday
Today of course is Easter day and the reason we came back from Montrondo yesterday; so as to be with the family for lunch today.  We shall be having lamb but not the roast I would normally make as it was much easier for me to ask Gema our Moroccan home help to make it her way.  We shall also be devouring the Bettys’ “smallish” Easter eggs.  Then of course we shall take the dogs for their walk. After that the Easter break will be over and it will be back to the grind stone for some.  Not for me thankfully as I can work from home but I will have lots to do.

Meanwhile my friends I wish you all a Happy Easter, be you believers or not or just traditionalists.  For me it is a day to be with the family and the only person missing is my darling daughter Suzy.  I spoke to her this morning and do hope she has a good day too.

And that’s it from me for this week.  Cheers till next time



lalborez said...

Gracias Masha por esta entrada de tu blog, magnífica.
Has captado la esencia de nuestro añorado valle.

Masha Lloyd said...

Gracias a tí por leerlo. No sé quien eres pero tener comentarios de los lectores me llena de satisfacción. Un abrazo