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


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