Sunday, May 31, 2015

The best rose in the garden, voting with the family, Suzy’s last day, furniture for Montrondo, chocolates from India, to the Swedish Embassy, discovering the “e-cloth”, Oli’s debut as a TV presenter, dinner at De María, Oli’s second birthday party and other stories.

Sunday 31st May 2015

The family, all 5 of us, about to vote last Sunday
Hello again,

Another week has passed and it has been a good one.  The wonderful weather helps of course and our garden is looking beautiful.  What I most love about it at this time of year are the roses, or my roses, as the family calls them.  Last Saturday when I last wrote, I picked what I think must be the most beautiful rose in our garden.  It is called a “black rose” but is actually a very deep red. 
The best rose from our garden
I think it would probably win a competition.  Our black roses do not have a scent but the dark pink and orange ones do and it is a delight to smell them when I walk down our drive to the gate.  I just adore them and fill the house with them when they are in bloom. To do so I use the rose pruners which come from our old house in Bradford as Eladio pointed out to me the other day. Here is a selection of just some of the roses we have.  My favourites are the red and yellow ones.
Beautiful roses from our garden
When I wrote last week Olivia’s 30th birthday party was in full swing and Susana was here.  That night was the Eurovision Contest.  We only watched a little of it and fell asleep during the voting.  There are so many countries these days, it goes on for far too long.  Sweden won in the end with a song called Heroes.  What I was most impressed with was the amazing stage put up by the host country Austria and by the special effects many of the contestants used.

Sunday was Suzy’s last day with us and it was also the day of the Spanish regional and local elections.  We packed a lot into that day.  After breakfast the whole family, including my Father went to vote.  The picture illustrating this week’s post is of the five of us about to go and do our electoral duty.

We took my Father in his wheel chair and he was wearing his elegant panama hat.  I think he may well have been the oldest voter. 
My Father about to vote
We are a very democratic family and between the five of us we voted for Ciudadanos, the new centre party, UPD, a new centre party and Podemos, the new and now famous anti- corruption party born from the “indignados” movement and who some say are communist.  I don’t think they are. Not one of us voted for the two main parties, PSOE (left wing) or PP (right wing and governing party); fed up with their corruption and austerity measures.  After voting, we decided to celebrate this democratic and, in a way, festive activity by going for a coffee together to a cafeteria a stone’s throw from the polling station.  Some of us had “churros” with chocolate and most of all we enjoyed being together.  For my Father the outing was a huge success as he hasn’t left the house for a long time. We shall have to take him out again for churros or a glass of wine as he seemed to enjoy himself so much.  Good for him!
At a cafeteria all together after voting last Sunday
To work off breakfast and the churros, afterwards, the four of us then went for a walk together with all three dogs.  It was a very warm day as you can see from the clothes we were wearing.  It was so warm that a halo formed around the sun; something I have never seen before.  It was quite a unique phenomenon to quote Eladio.  Here are my lovely girls and Eladio and the dogs on our walk that day.
The girls and their Father and the dogs on our walk after voting last Sunday
The family walk was followed by the last family lunch with Suzy as she was leaving that afternoon.  This is a selfie of Olivia and I with her just before she left.
Last moments with Suzy last Sunday afternoon
I’m not sure when we will see her next as she is starting a new job with Planet Organic and will not have much holiday as she is going away to Thailand with the “manada” in September for two weeks which will leave only a few days of any entitled holiday she may have from then till the end of the year. Oli and I took her to the airport and when we came home the house felt so empty.  We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around, reading and playing trivial on our phones.  It is so addictive I had to uninstall the app.

On Monday we woke up to the results of the elections.  They surprised us all.  The PP lost many votes as did the PSOE most of them going to Podemos and Ciudadanos.  In both Madrid and Barcelona we shall shortly see two women Mayors from parties associated with Podemos.  Meanwhile as not one party has a majority there will be all sorts of coalitions; the most likely ones being with Podemos and PSOE to oust out the increasingly unpopular PP. 
Election results
Whilst the two dominating parties were licking their wounds, life went on. That morning I had many errands to do as well as an appointment with the dentist.  In the evening we had an appointment with our decorator at Ikea and we spent a good two or three hours there going over the lists of furniture we have ordered for the house in Montrondo.  The most exciting part will of course be the kitchen.
The kitchen we have chosen for our house in Montrondo
Also for the first time in my life I will be choosing and buying bathroom furniture, rather than inheriting it.  This is the bathroom furniture we have chosen for our own bathroom which I think will go beautifully with the black and white checkered floor.
The furniture we have chosen for our own bathroom in Montrondo
On our way out we spied the new collection of garden furniture. There and then we bought four small tables which can be used singly or together and 10 chairs for our two terraces in Montrondo. They are very Scandinavian, don’t you think?
The terrace furniture we have bought for Montrondo

Our car was full to the brim and it was then that we got a call from Olivia to come and pick her up from a place called Colmenar Viejo, some 20km further north where she had been reporting on a story for her TV programme. She only just fitted in the back; it was such a squeeze.  When she got home my daughter was delighted to receive a parcel from her beloved Indian friends Sumit and Sandeep for her 30th birthday.  It was a box of Belgian chocolates sent, or rather ordered, all the way from India.  Sumit and Sandeep are her friends from their Erasmus year in Falmouth in Cornwall and I know they will be life-long friends.  I’m still hoping one of them might marry one of my daughters but it seems not.  They are more like brothers and sisters, God bless them.
Oli with Sumit and Sandeep's chocolates
Monday was also Suzy’s first day as a nutritionist with Planet Organic.  I had asked for a photo but never got one.  We haven’t heard from her since she left apart from the odd whatsapp message to say everything is going fine.  I really hope it is.  Love you Suzy.

On Tuesday I had to go to an event at the Swedish Embassy where Yoigo was taking part in a debate on the European Digital Single Market.  It was my first time there which is quite strange really as our Mother Company, TeliaSonera is Swedish.  I only realized when I was dressed to leave that I was actually wearing the colours of the Swedish flag; blue and yellow.  Here I am, by my roses, dressed for the occasion.
Off to the Swedish Embassy in the right colours
The Ambassador’s residence is in a very smart street in the centre of Madrid and is really a beautiful old palace.  It has a small patio and garden which when I arrived was full of men, mostly tall Swedes. It made me think that whilst the Swedes residing in Madrid often go to their Embassy events, I have not once been to the British Embassy for anything other than a new passport which you can’t even do anymore as it’s all online.  Maybe I have to register with them to get invited to their glamorous events or maybe they wouldn’t invite me.  However all the Swedes I know in Madrid seem to be invited to all sorts of events at their Embassy and the Press attaché promised to send me an invitation to a Swedish gastro event as well as to their Midsummer party.  I look forward to them.

The event was quite political as the Secretaries of State for telecommunications from both Sweden and Spain were present, as was a Swedish representative from the European Commission for Economy. Below is a collection of photos I took that day.  Take a look at the one of the speakers; there is only one woman.  She, of course, is Swedish and is actually the Ambassador who speaks perfect Spanish. 
At the Swedish Embassy on Tuesday
At the cocktail party later I found myself talking to the Ambassador, the Commercial Attaché and the EU representative, all of them women and we spoke about how few women are in high positions in Spain, about maternity leave in Sweden vs Spain and even about Ikea meat balls.  I must say that this conversation was the best part of the whole event.  I should add that the presentation of the Single Digital Market by Ann W, the EU representative was another  highlight of  as she made understandable and did not resort to what I call “Brussels Speak”. 

I rushed home afterwards to have lunch with my men but go there afterwards.  On my kitchen “island” waiting for me were two small parcels from Amazon. They were my “e-cloths”, one sent by Suzy and the other that I had ordered. It was my friend Lorraine who stayed with us recently who recommended them.  I am a bit obsessed with keeping the “island” clean and clear of wipe marks.  Salu, our home-help is especially “good” at creating wipe marks.  Unbelievably I read on the instructions that the e-cloth is to be used with just water and that it doesn’t leave a mark.  I tried it out immediately and it’s true; it cleans and leaves no mark. The packet also included a polishing cloth for glass and similar surfaces.  Again you use only water with it and to clean glass you spray water and wipe it with the dry polishing cloth.  Our windows are now looking spotless.  I just wonder how I had never heard of the e-cloth before and if it is available in Spain.  At about 5 pounds per pack of two cloths – the dry and the wet one, they are well worth investing in.  I shall be getting more for Montrondo and Santa Pola and for my sister-in-law Dolores.
E-Cloths, the miracle cloths I discovered this week
On Wednesday I fasted as I did on Monday.  After our morning walk  - these days we go early in the morning or late at night to avoid the heat – I had appointments with two doctors.  The first was with the surgeon who had operated my fractured ankle.  It was to see the scar which doesn’t seem to heal. When he first saw it he thought the screws in the bone might be affecting it; i.e. my body was rejecting them and even suggested taking them out via another operation after which I would have to walk on crutches again. But he’s not sure so has asked me to go back next week to see how it is.  Do cross your fingers I don’t have to have the screws out.  I shall spare you the photo here of the scar which is rather ugly haha.

What cheered me up after the appointment was one of the press clippings about Yoigo that day.  It was a result of our press release from last week which I issued after the Ministry of Industry had published its study on the level of customer care of the Spanish operators.  Yoigo was top of the league with least complaints.  Here is the clipping from the Spanish financial daily newspaper, El Economista.
A clipping that made me happy this week
The next day Thursday, I was to issue another press release.  This time we were announcing a new prepaid tariff.  I’m hoping for good coverage about this too like this article in English, surprisingly.
Our new prepaid tariff which we announced this week
It was also on Thursday that my boss and I had lunch with El Mundo, the Spanish newspaper or rather with their telecoms reporter, Ana and her boss their editor of economy, Vicente.  We went to El Quënco de Pepa near Alberto Alcocer where they serve fruit and vegetables from their own orchard.  Just look as these cherries.  Cherries are my favourite fruit and the season is now starting much to my joy.
Giant cherries at El Quënco de Pepa
We talked shop of course, but even more interesting for me was to talk about the newspaper itself. El Mundo, traditionally right wing, was headed up by a very famous Spanish journalist, Pedro J. Ramirez and some of the journalists are very well known.  For example Ana Romero their ex royal correspondent who has just published a book about the abdication of the King of Spain – the supposed real story which I have read; or Javier Espinosa and the photographer Ricardo García who were kidnapped by ISIS.  In the lunch on Thursday my suspicions that the Spanish government paid for their release were confirmed.  They were held in captivity together with other Western journalists who were later beheaded probably because their Governments would not pay for their release. 

After the lunch I rushed home to catch up with lots of work.  I have a lot on my plate these days with two big events coming up and lots of other things.  I didn’t stop until dinner which I prepared with great haste just before Oli was back from work.  On Thursdays in our house there is never much choice for food as the weekly shopping happens on a Friday afternoon and the cupboards are rather bare by then.  But I managed to rustle up a lovely meal of Swedish open prawn sandwiches and Spanish ham which we had “al fresco” that evening.  I love eating outside at night these days as it is light until past 10 at night.
Dinner al fresco on Thursday night
On Friday I was up at 7 as I nearly always am.  The earlier I get up the more I can pack into a day.  I worked most of the morning but was pleasantly interrupted by the arrival of another parcel from my online shopping. This time it was a pair of Clarks white summer shoes with a low heel, ideal for wearing with jeans or a dress and very comfortable.  Clarks seem to make shoes just for me; they are not only practical and comfortable – with the option of extra width, but quite chic too.  They are not the Clarks we wore as kids at school in the 60’s and 70’s.  They have come a long way since then but perhaps have kept that image as a bit frumpy or old fashioned.
My new Clarks shoes
Salu made us lunch that day as she usually does.  This time she made Spanish “cocido” or rather “cocido madrileño” which is really a winter dish.  But it’s a dish we love so much we eat it all year round.  This is what it looked like and, believe me it tasted delicious.
Salu's "cocido madrileño" for lunch on Friday
Whilst Salu and I were doing the weekly shopping that afternoon, Olivia was making her debut as a TV presenter.  Up till now she has always worked as a TV reporter, although she is the official substitute presenter for her programme “Aquí en Madrid” but has never presented.  So Friday was a big day for her when she had her own set in the Retiro Park where she was to present the Madrid Book Fair, a big event in the literary world. 

Oli made her debut as a TV presenter on Friday
I watched it online the next day and was very impressed with her ability to present, especially as she has never done it before. You can see her too on this link but will have to fiddle around to find the exact moments. Well done Oli. 

That night we celebrated her debut by going out to dinner.  I had chosen De María in Majadahonda, a great favourite with the Atlético de Madrid football players as their practice grounds are right next door.  Here is a selfie of the three of us at dinner.
A selfie at dinner on Friday night
And yesterday, Saturday, Olivia invited 7 of her colleagues from her programme to lunch to celebrate her 30th birthday. It was to be her second birthday party.  I was very proud of her culinary efforts as I watched her make a superb carrot cake and 6 home-made pizzas.
Oli cooking for her friends on Saturday.  Notice Elsa got in the pic!
I helped by making the first course, Salmorejo (from Córdoba) and being the general skivvy haha.

They had a very civilized lunch by the pool after which they swam in the water, listened to music and drank mojitos.  I tried one which was delicious.  Here they are together relaxing by our pool.
Oli and her colleagues yesterday at her second birthday party
After the party, Oli left for another party, this time in Majadahonda to celebrate Rocio’s 31st birthday.  Meanwhile we stayed at home, going to bed early to watch the Sinking of the Laconia, a real story that happened in the Second World War.  After Pippa’s evening sponge bath, she settled down in our bed too, but to sleep rather than watch the TV hahaha.  Here is a collage of photos of the sequence of her settling down to sleep.  Pippa will be 6 months old next week and has reached the weight of 4 kilos!  She looks bigger than when she first came but is still the size of a large new born baby. And oh, how we love her.
Pippa who is nearly 6 months old - settling down for the night.
Today is Sunday and it is quiet.  We shall be having fish and chips for lunch, after I have written this post.  I imagine the afternoon will be spent by the pool reading.  Next week promises to be busy.  Thursday is a national holiday – Corpus Christi – and we shall be going to Montrondo again and taking the chairs and tables with us, as well as not so little Pippa.

I do hope you all have a great week.  I look forward to telling you about mine next Sunday.

Meanwhile cheers everyone and all the best till next time


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Yoigo best mobile operator for customer care, Suzy came, fun trying to donate blood, English is weird, making räksmörgås, a girly lunch, Oli turns 30, God voting yes to gay marriage in Ireland and other stories.

Saturday 23rd May 2015

Oli's 30th birthday dinner at home on Friday night
Hi everyone,

I am writing this week’s post this sunny Saturday afternoon whilst the girls are celebrating Olivia’s 30th birthday on the other side of the house with “the manada”.  Tomorrow will be Suzy’s last day with us and I want to spend as much time with her as possible.  So here goes.

I left off this last Tuesday, so let me start from Wednesday this week.  Wednesday 20th May was the 10th anniversary of the passing away of Antonio.  Antonio is Eladio’s Father and was quite a character.  I loved him very much and we all miss him a lot.  He would be happy to know we are all building houses in Montrondo and probably especially interested in the house we are rebuilding which was the original family home.  God bless you Antonio.  I wonder if you can see us from up there.  I hope you can.  One thing you have achieved and that is bringing us together as a family for which I am forever grateful.

On Wednesday I worked from home as usual and was very busy.  I was working on a press release to inform the media of a study made by the Spanish Ministry of Industry where Yoigo came top in customer care with only 1.35 complaints per 10.000 customers. The figure is even smaller than last year when we also topped the ranking. This really is thanks to our insistence on quality in Yoigo in everything we do.  I must say I was very proud. This was our press release. The photo below is of the table of operators in Spain in how they fare in customer care. 
Yoigo has fewest complaints of all mobile operators in the market!

I was too busy to go and pick Suzy up from the airport so Eladio went instead.  She arrived on time for lunch and it was great to see her again.  She had been here at the end of April for her birthday and had come back in time to celebrate her sister’s 30th.  Here is a photo of her at lunch on Wednesday.
Suzy at lunch on Wednesday just after she arrived in Madrid from London
Keen to spend time together, she came with me to the doctor at the Montepríncipe Hospital in Pozuelo.  I had an appointment about the scar on my ankle from the fracture after the operation at the end of January which doesn’t seem to be healing well.  I went for a scan on Friday. I was a bit worried the problem may be related to the 7 screws on the fibula bone but the doctor who did the scan said he thought it didn’t but that I should show it to my surgeon. I will be seeing him next week but I am much relieved that the screws will not have to be removed which was my fear.  At least I don’t think they will have to be but will know more after seeing the doctor.

As we left the hospital we spied a blood donation van.  I have never donated blood because until not so long ago you couldn’t do so if you had ever had hepatitis A (jaundice) which was my case.  So this was a great opportunity to do so.  My blood group is -0, the universal donor blood so I hoped I would be doing a good deed.  Suzy and I had a great time inside the van as the nurse and assistant were such good fun.  We made quite a show of the whole thing; me wanting a photo for my blog etc.  We had to fill out an exhaustive list of questions, one of which was whether we had lived in the UK during the mad cow disease years.  Actually I hadn’t but it did make me wonder if they were as strict about this in the UK.  After all the palaver I couldn’t donate blood as I was still on a course of antibiotics after my dental implant.  I was most disappointed. Suzy, happily, was able to donate her +0 blood after which she had to drink a can of coke.
Having fun with Suzy - donatng blood
From the hospital we had to rush by car into Madrid to an unknown area to us to pick up Oli.  She was reporting for TV on the death of a gypsy after a fight.  We were a bit worried about parking our car in such an area but that never happened as just as we arrived amid what seemed hundreds of police cars, Oli had just finished and got into the car and we drove off.  That was not before Suzy getting out at the traffic lights to embrace her darling sister.  The three of us went to have a coffee together and do some purchases.  It was lovely to be together.  Here is the photo of my two lovely daughters embracing.
Suzy and Oli reunited on Wednesday when we went to pick Oli up after work in Madrid
Much to our chagrin Suzy was going to sleep at her friend Elena’s house that night so we didn’t have the pleasure of her company for dinner which is what we wanted most but we had to be understanding as Elena is her best friend.  So we just got on with life and I turned my attention to making dinner for Eladio, Oli, Miguel and myself.  Whilst doing so I came across a lovely bit of trivia on Facebook about the English language which I made everyone read at dinner.  It was this phrase which even if you are English you have to read slowly: "Yes, English can be weird. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though."
English certainly is at its wierdest when it comes to spelling and pronunciation.  I remember learning at school from my English teacher at St. Joseph’s College, Miss Speak, that according to George Bernard Shaw the word “fish” could easily be spelled as “ghoti”: gh (f) is pronounced as in tough, o (i) is pronounced as in women and ti (sh) is pronounced as in nation. This is certainly not trivia and something I have remembered forever. 
George Bernard Shaw said that "fish" could be pronounced or spelled as "ghoti" Isn't English wierd?
In relation to this a friend of Suzy’s posted a link to a marvelous poem which basically makes fun of English pronunciation and which I hope you enjoy as much as I did.
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, slough, and through.
Well don't! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard but sounds like bird.
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead,
For goodness sake don't call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth as in mother
Nor both as in bother, nor broth as in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear, for bear and pear.
And then there's dose and rose and lose--
Just look them up--and goose and choose
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword
And do and go, then thwart and cart,
Come, come! I've hardly made a start.
A dreadful Language? Why man alive!
I learned to talk it when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I tried,
I hadn't learned it at fifty-five.
I amused Eladio and Olivia with the poem and also posted it on Facebook dedicated to my friends who are teachers of English like Jacky, Grainne or my sister-in-law Dolores. 
But let me tell you about dinner.  Miguel made this superb home-made pizza which you can see in the photo below.
Miguel's home-made pizza is delicious
I, on the other hand, finding a bag of frozen prawns in the deep freeze had decided to try my hand at making my favourite Swedish dish.  It really is just an open prawn sandwich but the Swedes call it “räksmörgås”.  I have eaten it many times both in Finland and in Sweden and have often written about eating it at my favourite hotel in Stockholm, the Skeppsholmen.  It’s so easy to make I don’t know why I haven’t made it before.  Basically it is a piece of bread or toast, covered with lettuce then a bed of prawns to which you add mayonnaise and sliced boiled egg. This is what mine looked like. All in all, dinner was great except that we missed Suzy.
The Swedish prawn open sandwich I made for dinner this week called räksmörgås
On Thursday morning I spent as much time with Suzy as I could in between work.  At 2pm we had a lunch date in town with my nieces Alicia and Paula.  We hoped Olivia who works near the restaurant would be able to join us but that didn’t happen as she was too busy and was sent off to shoot something for her programme.
Suzy and I got dressed up for the occasion and this is the photo Eladio took of us as we were about to leave.  To quote my friend Kathryn, we looked like two peas in a pod, bar the 27 year difference of course haha.
Suzy and I ready to go out for lunch on Thursday
It’s not often Suzy gets to see her cousins so this was a lovely occasion to make up for lost time.  Here is a photo of the four of us around the table at the restaurant we went to on Thursday.  We had hoped my other niece Sara would be able to join us but unfortunately she was on a training course and couldn’t make it.  Paula had some lovely news for Suzy which made the lunch very special.
After lunch we took Paula back to work to Aegon, the Dutch insurance company where she works and reports to a good friend of mine from my Nokia days, Marta, who is the communications director.  Then we went to Alicia’s house to pick up her things as she was coming with us to the town near where we live and where her boyfriend Chema resides, near the UEM University where Oli studied and where he is studying medicine in his 4th year.  Alicia has just finished her Nursing Studies and was free to be with us.  Not so Chema who is studying for his exams in June.  So we came home to our house and immediately the girls went to lie by the pool. It wasn’t very warm but it was lovely and sunny and both of them decided to take their first dip of the season. Here they are in the pool together with Elsa our lab looking on.
Alicia and Suzy taking a dip in our pool - their first
Soon Oli was back with Miguel and we all had dinner together.  Salu made us a big tortilla and Miguel made another of his excellent pizzas, yummy.
Friday was Olivia’s 30th birthday.  In order to have breakfast all together we had to have it early as she had to be at work early that morning.  I got up at 6.30 and laid the table lovingly.  We had already set out all the presents; most of which were from Miguel her boyfriend.  I had prepared coffee, fresh orange juice and had bought some delicious croissants.  Just before Olivia came down Miguel went out to buy churros and chocolate which are her favourite.  Here is a photo of everyone enjoying Oli’s family birthday breakfast.  
Olivia's family birthday breakfast
30 is a milestone certainly.  I will never forget the day she was born as no Mother can ever forget any birth.  She came into our lives on 22nd May 1985 and I gave birth at the Francisco de Asis private hospital in Madrid which is where both girls were born.  Here is a picture of the four of us together shortly after my little baby girl Oli was born.  Little did I know, she would grow into the  beautiful and accomplished young woman she is today.
The day Olivia was born - 22nd May 1985
Miguel her boyfriend had made a wonderful video of the time they have spent together since they met in 2012 and which I am happy to share with you here.  It is very romantic I must admit and I shed a tear or two when I watched it.  Maybe you will too.  She is a very lucky girl to be loved so much by someone like Miguel.  Bravo Miguel for the video.  It is wonderful.  I give him a lot of credit for the video of course but part of the credit is also due to the fact that he earns his living as a cameraman.
After Oli had left I did some work then spent as much of the rest of the day with Suzy as I could.  I accompanied her to the hairdressers, we had a coffee together and also did the weekly shopping; some of it for Oli’s party today. There was time for a walk before lunch too and Suzy joined Eladio, the dogs and I on the more strenuous walk which we prefer these days because of the shade but also because there are no nasty dead rabbits for Elsa or Pippa to feed on hahaha. 
Eladio and Suzy on our walk yesterday
In the afternoon Alicia returned.  I started on preparations for Olivia’s birthday dinner and Suzy made her cake. Oli managed to get away early from work if you can call 7pm early; although it is for her.  I made a lovely “bits and bobs” dinner, consisting once again of the Swedish prawn open sandwiches.  I also made chicken waldorf salad and tuna spread canapes.  On the table too were bacon rolls with dates, a cheese platter and foie to be eaten with lingonberry jam. The photo illustrating this week’s post is of the dinner.
The piece de resistance was Suzy’s Victoria Sponge cake, made the way Oli likes it; cut in the middle with a layer of jam and spread with icing and decorated with fresh raspberries.  Here is Olivia making a wish whilst cutting the cake.
Oli making a wish whilst cutting her birthday cake
And Saturday came and the celebrations continued.  Even I slept in, if you can call 8am sleeping in.  But it is for me as most days I am awake at 7 or earlier.  There were big preparations for Oli’s party.  My contribution was a huge bowl of fresh salmorejo for ourselves and her 16 guests.  The main chef of the day though was Miguel who made a superb risotto for lunch.  Ana, Oli’s University friend, who specializes in cakes, brought 3 at least but I only got to try the meringue one which was delicious.
I have just been to the kitchen to get a cup of tea and check on the party. Most of the friends have left now but here are the rest of them enjoying drinks and cake and playing cards, including my sweet god daughter Alicia.
The end of Olivia's birthday party today
Meanwhile in Ireland there has been a referendum today on gay marriage.  So when I saw a photo of a rainbow in Dublin on internet I thought it was quite a coincidence as of course a rainbow also symbolizes bisexuality.  One young chap in Dublin posted a photo of it on Twitter and suggested this was possibly God’s way of voting yes.  I thought that was very much to the point and that it is about time the Catholic Church admitted gays and lesbians, single sex marriages, women priests, etc.  I do like the new Pope and wonder what he thought if and when he saw the photo of the rainbow as well as the outcome of the referendum. It seems gay marriage has been the victor of the day in the Irish referendum.
A very appropriate tweet about Ireland today
And now my friends I have come to the end of the week, ending today on Saturday.  Tonight will be the Eurovision Song Contest, not something that interests me especially; apart from the voting bit at the end.  I wonder which country will win.  We will all know that when I write next week.
So I will leave you now and return to my girlies, make my Father’s dinner as well as ours, if there is any room in the kitchen which is currently invaded by the “manada” haha.
Cheers all until next week

PS nearly forgot to add that today is Primo’s birthday; my lovely brother-in-law – Felicidades Primo.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

150th anniversary of Nokia, making salmorejo, the hottest day of the year, visitors from England, remembering George, a glorious weekend in Montrondo and other stories.

Tuesday 19th May 2015

The "calecho" in Montrondo on Saturday afternoon
Hi everyone

Sorry I’m late this week.  There was just no time at the weekend to write a post and I haven’t had a moment to myself until right now.  Yes I have been extremely busy and there is lots to tell you.

I last wrote on Sunday 10th May, the day we removed the cover from the pool.  I promised I would post a photo of my first dip this year and here you have it.  It was very warm outside as it has been for some time now, but the cold water nearly took my breath away.
My first dip of the year in the pool
I forgot to mention that last weekend was VE day (not sure if it was Saturday or Sunday) and the 70th anniversary of the end of the 2nd World War.  At lunch on Sunday I asked my Father where he was on that day and how he celebrated it.  He told us he was in the Orkney Islands living in barracks but that there was nowhere to go to celebrate!

On Monday morning we woke up to the news that there had been another earthquake in Nepal with a scale of 7.4, thankfully not as devastating as the first one.  Immediately at work we extended free calls to and from Nepal for our customers. As usual on Monday I fasted.  Straight after breakfast I went for my walk too as we have been doing these days as it is too hot in the afternoon.  Here I am enjoying it and listening to Spotify on my fancy headphones.
A selfie of me on my walk on Monday 11th May
I had an important dental appointment at lunchtime which later I was glad that I had booked on a fast day as I could only eat cold liquids such as gazpacho afterwards.  I was to have a complicated implant due to the fact that there is no bone where I need a tooth.  The process went well thank goodness but I had to spend the rest of the day applying ice to my cheek and of course it was impossible to eat anything. 

Tuesday was busy.  I had two meetings in Madrid and then a lunch with the team from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, the best I have ever worked with.  It was so hot.  We ate outside at a place called Beker 6.

Meanwhile, all over the world employees at Nokia were celebrating the company’s 150th anniversaryI would have loved to be at the celebrations in Helsinki.  It makes me sad to see how the company I worked for from 200 to 2005 went into decline after being one of the top companies in the world when I worked there.  As I said on Facebook that day; “I owe a lot to Nokia, I had good times and bad and learned a lot”.  The best thing was all the friends I made. I still have my company badges and a couple of my visiting cards which you can see here.
Badges and my visiting card from my times at Nokia
That day the company posted a video of the history of the company.  Those of you who only remember Nokia for its mobile phones may be interested to know that Nokia started out in the rubber business, then went on to TVs and only latterly mobile phones and infrastructure.  The company is still in business in telephony infrastructure and after a broken venture with Siemens has now announced a merge with the French company Alcatel.  I somehow think that the Finnish culture is Nokia’s best asset and mixing with the French or German culture makes it a totally different company.  I at least have some wonderful memories of those incredible days when Nokia was number one in the world and no one can take that away from me.  It must be like working for Google or Facebook today. 
By Wednesday I had got as much work out of the way as possible so as to prepare for our visitors and be able to be with them during their stay without having to worry too much about work.  So that day I was up early and shortly after breakfast I picked roses from the garden for the house and their room.  I also made salmorejo, a thick gazpacho summer soup which comes from Córdoba, one of my favourite cities in Spain.  Here you can see it in the making.
Salmorejo in the making
It’s very easy to make.  It’s made with peeled tomatoes, bread (fifty fifty of each), oil, garlic and salt and some water, depending on how thick you want it.  It must be fairly thick.  Then you make a topping of grated boiled egg and grated ham. I think our friends loved it.
Wednesday turned out to be the hottest day of the year with the temperature soaring to above 35ºc in Madrid. I went to pick our guests up from the airport and I think both Keith and Lorraine felt as though they had walked into an open sauna when they stepped out of Madrid airport.  If you don’t know, they are friends from years back.  Keith was my boss at Motorola when he was head of marketing for Europe.  Today he heads up his own company in the same sector. 
We spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool drinking tea and then wine.  Afterwards Salu, our home help, made us dinner outside which was to be my salmorejo, salad and ham followed by our proverbial fruit salad which we have every day and which consists usually of raspberries, blackberries, bilberries, mango, papaya and pineapple, often eaten with meringue shells I buy online. Here is a photo of our friends and I at dinner that night, taken by Eladio. Needless to say we ate all our meals outside whilst they were with us at home in Madrid as the weather was so wonderful.
Dinner with Keith and Lorraine on their first night with us.
The day did not end well for Real Madrid who lost to Juventus in the semi-finals of the Champions League.  We would have watched it with Keith and Lorraine if it had been on TVE but as it was only on Canal Plus (ppv) so we were not able to.  Now I know the result I’m rather glad we didn’t.
There was to be no tourism in Madrid during their stay – they have done that before, so they just went with the flow.  Going with the flow meant joining us on our morning walks of course.  Keith joined us actually whilst Lorraine stayed behind enjoying a leisurely breakfast and talking to my Father.
On our walk on Thursday morning. Photo taken by Keith.
After the walk I had to go to the office to get my corporate email installed in my new and lovely, I must say, Samsung Galaxy Note 4.  I took Keith and Lorraine with me and I think they enjoyed the visit to Yoigo. From there we drove to Centro Oeste, our local shopping centre in Majadahonda, where I was determined to kit Keith out with nice casual Spanish style men’s summer clothes from Zara.  Eladio joined us later and guess what, they both tried on and bought these two same outfits.
Fun at Zara with Keith and Eladio
In the afternoon, continuing with “our flow”, I took our friends to do the weekly shopping at Mercadona and our little supermarket in El Bosque.  Apart from food for the week I needed to get provisions for our weekend in Montrondo where you probably know there is no shop or nowhere near to buy food or even eat out.

That evening we went out to dinner to Zurito and were joined by Olivia.  I think our friends were as impressed with the food as we are.  I booked our table via The Fork application and got a 30% discount.  Here is a photo taken by Olivia of us at the restaurant in Pozuelo.
Dinner with our friends at Zurito on Thursday night
Friday 15th May, “San Isidro” (Patron saint of Madrid) was a holiday in Madrid.  However for me the date will always be ingrained in my mind as being the day my brother George died.  He died aged 46 on 15th May 2001 and will forever be remembered by me.  How could I forget? I mentioned to our friends that when I am next in London I must visit his grave. They asked me where he was buried and all I remembered was that it is at a cemetery in Finchley. Since then I consulted my blog entry in August 2012 and have now recorded that he is buried at the St. Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley in row 1X and grave number 192.  Below is a picture of his grave. With him his wife Sanya Lloyd buried too after she died, also aged 46, in very sad circumstances, in 2008. Here is the photo I took of their grave which I visited with my friend Sandra in 2012.
George and Sanya's grave in London
On the bright side it was Eladio’s youngest brother Isidro’s birthday.  He is 17 years younger than his oldest brother.  Happy birthday Isidro.

But there was good news on Friday for the family.  Suzy, who this week has been in London already 2 years, let us know she had landed a job with a company called Planet Organic.  It is a British company that has a chain of wonderful organic food stores, just up Suzy’s street as she is a vegan. She will be working as a nutritionist I think in Tottenham Court Road.  Good for you Suzy; you are now taking a step in the right direction and I wish you lots of luck.

As it was a bank holiday we had decided to take our friends to Montrondo and share our village with them.  José Antonio and Dolores had kindly lent us the use of their house for which we were very grateful.  We left, with Pippa of course, at around 10 and were at Rueda at about 11.30.  If you are a follower of this blog, you will know we always stop there at a winery called Palacio de Bornos.  Rueda, is, as you probably know, an excellent white wine growing area.  Here we sipped their superb “verdejo” grape wine accompanied by a plate of ham and “lomo” with bread smothered in olive oil.  Afterwards we indulged in their superb white chocolate with almonds.
Ham and lomo and bread at Palacio de Bornos in Rueda on our way to Montrondo
We were in Montrondo by about 14.30.  We had expected rain but the weather forecast people got it wrong again, thankfully and the sun was shining.  It was warm and got even warmer on Saturday and Sunday.  Whilst Eladio inspected the progress of the house and spoke to the builders, Lorraine, Keith and I brought our luggage and bags of food up to the house and started making lunch.  Salo had made us lentil stew which we began to eat at about 15.30 as we were not at all hungry after the “pit stop” in Rueda.
Building the chimneys on the house in Montrondo
After lunch we showed our friends around the house.  Quite a lot of progress has been made since we were last in Montrondo in March.  Eladio was delighted to see the three chimneys on the roof. I was more impressed with the tiling in the bathrooms and kitchens.  This week the Ikea people will be going to measure the kitchen and if all things go well the house should be ready by 1st August.  Whilst Eladio continued talking to the builders I took the opportunity to show our friends part of the village, mostly “el campo”, the church, the graveyard and the belfry where I dared to ring the bell to Keith’s aghast.

Being in Montrondo we submitted our friends to countless walks and I hope we didn’t tire them out too much. The village was at its best it being May.  Everything was green and wild flowers coloured the scenery in a spectacular way; especially the yellow brum and purple heather. 
Colours at this time of year in Montrondo
So we decided to take them up the mountains.  However on our way past “el campo” – the village green – we got curtailed talking to villagers which is what always happens in Montrondo.  One of them, Ulpiano, invited us in to see his hens and rabbits.  Here he is with his Mother rabbit which is gigantic.  Unfortunately it doesn’t have a name and lives in a cage unlike the hens which run loose and got Pippa very excited.
Ulpiano showing us his rabbits
We walked up the mountain path where I had fallen and broken my ankle at the end of January but there was no danger without the snow and ice.  Just in case we took the easier route up called “el retorno”.  As I told our English friends, every nook and cranny has a name in Montrondo.  At the top of the “retorno” there is a great view of the village.  Here is a photo of Lorraine, Keith, Eladio and Pippa.  Here she is in his arms for the picture but I can assure you she is a valiant little dog as she walked all the way and back with us and we must have walked at least 10 km.
Eladio with Pippa, Lorraine and Keith by El Retorno overlooking the village of Montrondo
We walked up to “el abedular” (the birch tree place), past the view of the summit of the highest mountain in the area, “el Tambarón” and as far as “la canalina” – a little spring where you can place your head between the rocks and literally drink the fresh water from your mouth. 
Elado by the "canalina" spring in the mountains of Montrondo.
The walk was spectacular, the weather fabulous, the scenery beautiful and all in all I think we must have burned all the calories we consumed at Rueda and at lunch.
On the walk in the mountains with our friends from England.
So believe it or not we were actually hungry for dinner. Again Salu had come to the rescue and had made us a Spanish tortilla for dinner.  We went to bed exhausted but happy and all had a great night’s sleep.

On Saturday I was up before everyone else and prepared their breakfast.  Here are our friends with Eladio enjoying it.
Breakfast in Montrondo on Saturday morning
We then took them on a walk to Murias, the next village, but of course first we went past Adela, Eladio’s sister’s house in “Los Palacios” (the palaces) and greeted her, her Mother and Primo her husband. 

The milestone we pointed out to them on the way was the one and only “peña de Dios” (God’s rock) which is the half way point between Montrondo and Murias and where I nearly always take photos.  Here is one of Lorraine on the rock itself.
Lorraine by "La Peña de Dios" with Pippa at her feet
On our way back we stopped at Los Palacios for a coffee.  Well Keith and Lorraine enjoyed the local wine and were offered chorizo, lomo and cecina which I’m sure they loved.  We had to head back home to make our contribution to the big family lunch that day.  Lorraine and I were making roast lamb and potatoes and we would all be having lunch at Pili’s house.  Pili is Eladio’s youngest sister and when we got back she and her husband Andrés had arrived. 

Whilst the lamb was cooking in the Aga (the first time either Lorraine or I had ever cooked in one) we sat outside in the sun on the sleeper steps that lead up to José Antonio and Dolores’ house.  Pippa, as always, was with us and I took what I now think is the best picture I have of her so far.  Doesn’t she look gorgeous? She is the perfect family pet.
Pippa relaxing in Montrondo
We were to be only 9 for lunch that day, quite a short number compared to other family gatherings. Here we are enjoying lunch that day in Pili’s house, not to mention lots of Spanish liqueurs afterwards such as “orujo”.
The family lunch at Pili's house in Montrondo on Saturday
After lunch Primo went off to put fencing up around his orchard and then to help his neighbours plant potatoes in the field opposite his house.  Keith, who doesn’t know a word of Spanish, joined him.  Wondering how they were getting on, we, the ladies, went to see them after which we would go on another walk to Murias, this time the ladies only (Lorraine, Adela, Pili, me and Pippa).  This was the sight that met my eyes when we arrived of Keith helping the locals plant potatoes.
Planting potatoes in Montrondo
Later they had a stop to rest and drink a glass of beer as you can see here.
Keith enjoying a break for a beer with the locals
Meanwhile we went on our walk and here is a selfie to prove it.
The ladies walk on Saturday
Later we all gathered in the terrace of Adela and Primo’s house enjoying the last sun’s rays which would go down at about 8pm.  We were enjoying what is known as a “calecho” all together and were joined by other villagers as you can see in the picture which illustrates this post.

The day didn’t end there.  Each family went to have dinner in their own house and later we gathered for drinks at Pili’s house.  I must say it was a very long, intense and enjoyable day, made even nicer because of the super weather.

On Sunday after breakfast we went on another walk to Murias, this time exploring the old prison in Murias which has now been turned into a small country hotel.  Once again we had a pit stop for coffee at Adela and Primo’s house before we had to go back and pack.  We left Montrondo at 12.30 just as mass was starting at the church in memory of Primo’s mother Virginia. We would have loved to take our friends there as mass in Montrondo is quite an experience, but we had to leave to be in Benavente on time for lunch at the Parador.

As always Eladio and I had the chickpeas (from Fuentesauco) and I’m sure our friends enjoyed the quality of the food at this old castle.  Soon we hit the road again, anxious to be back home on time to give my Father his afternoon tea and dinner as it was Salu’s day off.
After unpacking, we spent some time by the pool whilst Eladio tried to mend a burst pipe in the irrigation system in the garden; something that always seems to happen when we are away.  Dinner was an impromptu affair and we were joined by Olivia.  I’m afraid I, at least, drank far too much wine. Somehow or other we got talking about the story of my family.  Then Eladio made me get out two albums I made a few years ago of my Mother and my Father and I ended up crying in front of my friends about the death of my Father’s sister, my Aunty Gloria, her husband Derek and my cousins, Jacqueline aged 12, Michael aged 9 and little Anthony aged 7 who died in an air crash in 1971.  They may have died then but they have lived on in my heart ever since.  I can never forget; just as I can never forget my brother.

Yesterday, Monday, was Keith and Lorraine’s last day.  Again we submitted Keith to a long walk in the morning with the dogs.  Later I did some work and was very grateful that Salu had made a sort of shepherd’s pie for our lunch. I hadn’t asked her to make anything so I was very touched.  In the afternoon I drove our friends to the airport to catch their 8pm flight to Gatwick.  I was unlucky on the way home as there was an accident in one of the tunnels on the M40 so I wasn’t home until late.  It was good to see Salu was back when I got home and great that she helped make our frugal dinner.

Today, Tuesday, has been busy too. I was up early, went on the walk with Eladio and the dogs and then had to go to an appointment with the dermatologist.  I have a problem with the scar from the operation on my fractured ankle.  It doesn’t seem to heal.  I have to do a scan on Friday to see whether it has something to do with the screws inside.  After the doctor I drove to the hairdressers as my roots were in a terrible state. Then I came home to work on new tasks that have come up and which needed attending to before I went out again.  I seem to have been in the car all day. I went out to have lunch with my friends Julio and Fátima to celebrate the former’s birthday.  They are my friends from Motorola and Nokia – you see friends are the best things that companies can give their employees. Here is a photo of the three of us at El Buey in Boadilla.
Lunch with Fátima and Julio today to celebrate his birthday
I spent the rest of the afternoon working and since then have been writing this post which I didn’t want to leave until tomorrow.  Why not you may ask? Well that’s because my beloved daughter Suzy is coming tomorrow morning and will be staying until Sunday.  She is here for Olivia’s 30th birthday which is actually on Friday of this week.  Wow, amazing to think my little girl is going to be 30.  Time literally flies.

And now I must leave you as it is getting cool outside by the pool where I am writing, finish publishing it and go into the kitchen and help Salu make dinner. 

Loving you and leaving you, I wish you all a great week,
Cheers till next time