Sunday, June 07, 2015

An email from afar, a visitor from Marseilles, Corpus Christi, a pit stop in Rueda, another weekend in Montrondo, remembering my Mother and other stories.

Sunday 7th June 2015
Happy in Montrondo this weekend
Hi again everyone,

I am writing once more from Montrondo where we have been staying for the weekend or rather “bank holiday” except that in Spain the holiday is religious.  Thursday was “Corpus Christi” and we have made a long weekend of it.

When I left off last Sunday it was to make fish and chips for the family lunch; definitely one of our favourite meals and a consequence of my upbringing in Yorkshire in England. 
Fish and chips for lunch last Sunday
It was a good day for Spanish sport when Alberto Contador won the Giro (the cycling tour of Italy) for the second time.  He is the best Spanish cyclist since Indurain, having also won three Vueltas and two Tours – would have been three if he hadn’t been disqualified from one for doping!

On Monday I woke up to receive a wonderful email from afar. Out of the blue, an old pupil of my Father who had taught him Russian at Bradford Grammar School in the late 70’s and early 80’s sent me an email to pass on to my Father.  Jon, who went on to study Russian at Cambridge University, was reaching out to my Father, his beloved teacher after all these years and his words touched my heart; especially these: “he remains a fond memory in the minds and hearts of his former pupils”.  I think my Father was very touched too and possibly surprised.  Over the years he has received similar emails from other pupils and it is amazing that he made such a mark on them in their careers.  But then again that doesn’t surprise me as I know he was a remarkable teacher.  Thank you Jon.  My father was very pleased to receive your email and I shall be writing back soon on his behalf.
Bradford Grammar School where my Father taught French, German and Russian
On Monday I fasted as I would again on Wednesday.  I went into the office that day for an interview with my boss by the Spanish edition of Forbes.  Hopefully it will be positive as the story line was about how the other mobile operators in Spain are putting up their prices whilst Yoigo decreases theirs.  Not for nothing are we a “low cost operator” and low prices are part of our D.N.A. 

On Tuesday I was up at 06.30 in order to make it to the centre of Madrid for a  09.30 appointment.  I was dressed in red and white that morning.  For the record my clothes were from Zara, Lindex and Marks and Spencer.  An ex colleague asked on my Facebook wall whether I was going to the Danish Embassy that day.  Touché Lennart.
Dressed in red and white on Tuesday morning
The meeting was to be held at Ketchum, our PR agency where they would be presenting an analysis of the regional and local election results.  Here is a photo of Ludi talking about whether the votes were won or lost on social media.
Ludi presenting Ketchum's findings
One of the most interesting points I came away with was the fact that all 4 national political leaders had either bought or falsified twitter followers during the election campaign.  What a cheek!  Equally interesting was the result that those candidates who owned their own twitter page and interacted with the public more were those who did best in the elections. 

That afternoon whilst I was working from home I got an unexpected phone call from Fátima, our ex Moroccan home-help who we loved so much and who left Spain with her two small children to live in France last December with her sister Oufa.  She was coming to Madrid to renew her passport.  She could not afford a plane ticket and instead came by bus, leaving the French city at 5 in the afternoon and arriving in the Spanish capital at 11 1m the following day.  She arrived in Moroccan attire, completely covered up carrying a heavy ruck sack on her back and big hold all in her hand.  It was a very hot and sunny afternoon and as soon as I had greeted her, I made sure she removed her outer clothes.  In her ruck sack and the bag she was carrying gifts for us which of course she can hardly afford. We were anxious to know how she and her children, 11 year old Zara and 6 year old Omar were getting on in France.  We were upset to hear that they still cannot attend school until their legal situation is sorted out, so the poor kids are stuck at home each day with nothing to do.  So much for the French values of “liberté, égalité, fraternité”. In any case it was wonderful to see her again. 
Fátima our visitor from Marseilles
She stayed for dinner with us and also spent the night.  The next day I took her to the bus stop and here is a photo of the two of us just before she left.  Of all the women who have worked in our house we got closest to Fátima who felt at times like a surrogate daughter.  We still miss her.
Saying goodbye to Fátima
I had another meeting in the office that day followed by an appointment with my urologist for another ghastly session of the treatment I am being subjected to.  The worst thing about it is that afterwards I get a sort of cystitis for about two hours.  I wish I could believe that it may work.  Part of the success of any treatment, is believing in it so I make myself do so but at the same time have so many doubts.

In the afternoon I did the weekly shopping with Salu.  We were home on time to watch Olivia on the TV presenting live once again from the Madrid Retiro Park on the Madrid Book Fair (la feria del libro).  She did a great job again but she didn’t think so as she had apparently stumbled on a couple of words which I hadn’t even noticed.  My advice to her was not to berate herself for what she thinks she does badly but to be happy with what she thinks she had done well.  In short she has to love herself more.  I also told her that any live reporter can make a slip of the tongue as they are not robots but people.  Here is a photo of my little daughter on TV that evening.
Olivia presenting the Madrid Book Fair this week
That night for dinner I made pizza for the first time in my life.  I should add that I wasn’t going to be eating it as I was fasting and that it was for Oli, Miguel and Eladio.  Here is a photo of me just after taking it out of the oven.  When I posted the picture on Facebook an old colleague asked me how I had made the base.  I had to answer honestly that I had actually bought it from my local supermarket.  In a way the question pointed out to me that I hadn’t really “made a pizza”, I had just put the toppings on it and shoved it in the oven.  Even so I was proud of the result. 
I made my first ever pizza this week
Thursday was Corpus Christi and a holiday in many parts of Spain.  Not very sure of its origin I asked Eladio, who as an ex priest was sure to know.  He explained to me that it is a Roman Catholic celebration of the dogma of faith which upholds that the bread and wine given at Holy Communion are the “substance” of the body and blood of Jesus Christ who is therefore present at the Eucharist.  Thereby lies one of the main differences between the Catholic and Anglican churches.  For the Protestants (thanks to Martin Luther’s interpretation) the bread and wine are eaten and drunk only in memory of the body of Christ.

That morning we did eat bread and drink wine but not because of Corpus Christi.  Instead we had it at Rueda on our famous pit stop on the way to Montrondo.  If you are an avid reader of my blog you will be familiar with the fact that we always stop at Palacio de Bornos in the wine growing town of Rueda for a plate of ham and glass of delicious white wine.  Here I am enjoying the moment.
Pit stop at Rueda on our way to Montrondo
Another ex-colleague wrote on my Facebook wall that he hadn’t a clue where Montrondo was but that it was worth going to just for the pit stop.  I heartily agree.  However he doesn’t know Montrondo as it is off the tourist track, a small village high in the mountains of León where peace and beauty come together.  It is my husband’s family village where he and all his brothers and sisters were born.  We arrived at about 13.30 and were greeted by Eladio’s brother José Antonio and his wife Dolores, as well as their delightful mongrel dog Nuba.  Pippa, who had come with us, was happy to be back in Montrondo just as we were. 

Pippa feels very at home in Montrondo but I do wish she wouldn’t growl at my favourite brother-in-law, José Antonio who is the owner of the house we are staying at and who is the gentlest man I know.  Here is a series of photos of little Pippa exploring the terrain and finally falling asleep.
Pippa feels at home in Montrondo
Pippa had the company of Nuba in Montrondo who is far more street wise than our little dachshund.  One of Nuba’s favourite places to lie is on the rocks in front of their house.  She was joined there by Pippa and I got this marvelous shot of both of them.
Dogs on the rocks in Montrondo
There was not as much progress on the house we are building as we would have wanted but even so I can now see what it will look like when it is finished and am now feeling quite excited.  A lot remains to be done such as the floors, staircase, window shutters, kitchen etc.  Hopefully all this won’t take too long and we will be able to move in at the beginning of August.  I sincerely hope so.
Progress on the house in Montrondo
We had taken along the Ikea garden furniture and eager to use it in the sun by Toño and Dolores’ house, the two men set about assembling one of the tables and four of the chairs. 
Toño and Eladio assembling the Ikea garden furniture in Montrondo

When they were ready, Dolores and I made a sort of afternoon tea which we all enjoyed together outside as you can see in the picture.
Afternoon tea in Montrondo with the new Ikea garden furniture.
To work off Olivia’s delicious carrot cake, not to mention the Mr. Kipling Battenberg cake I had brought for our stay, Eladio, Pippa and I went for a walk to Murias along the old path.  The countryside is at its best at this time of year and the walk would have been a delight for any botanist as there was a true symphony of beautiful and colourful wild flowers all along the way.  I made this collage of the pictures I took of the pretty flowers.  I think my favourite are the pink wild roses and the “poor man’s” small white and yellow pansies.
Just some of the beautiful wild flowers that blossom at this time of year in Montrondo
The sheer variety of colours is a joy to the eye.  Just look at this photo of Eladio by a bush of yellow flowers on the old path.
Eladio on the flowery path to Murias
The photo illustrating this post is of me on the same walk where little Pippa managed to be included. The truth is she follows me everywhere; even to the bathroom where I have to lock her out and she cries until I open the door to come out.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On our way to Murias and back we stopped to talk to some of the villagers including Eulogio, Acacio and dear old Quico, the Father of Lourdes. What a nice man he is.  Also on our way out of the village we went passed Genaro`s house where our builders are working on his kitchen.  I had heard about Jenaro’s legendary flowers in his garden there but had never seen them. His little garden felt like a miniature “secret garden”, tended and kept lovingly by its owner.
Jenaro's secret garden in Montrondo
On Friday morning I was up at 7.10, rather than 6.30 which seems to be the norm these days.  After breakfast I took Pippa for a walk all the way to Senra and back.  Eladio joined us for a cup of coffee at the only bar in the area, Cumbres de Omaña. Here he is enjoying the moment.
Elado having a cup of coffee in Senra
I made Asturian bean soup for lunch (“fabada”).  It’s quite a thick winter dish but in this mountain air and with all the walks, I tend to feel more hungry here than at home.  This is what it looked like.
The fabada I made in Montrondo this weekend
In the afternoon after tea and Olivia’s carrot cake, Dolores and I went for a walk to Murias.  I have spent a good part of my time here on walks to Murias and Senra and back but not up the mountains I’m afraid.  That’s because Dolores has problems with her knee and because the men, José Antonio and Eladio always had something to do.  One of their main tasks was to cut the very long grass around our houses.  To do so they use the old scythes which they learned to use when they were boys.  It is wonderful to watch them.  Here they are at work.
Eladio and his brother Toño cutting the grass in Montrondo the old fashioned way with scythes
When we are in Montrondo we feel quite cut off from the world.  That is mostly because the mobile phone data signal is very weak.  I have to admit I poach the neighbour’s wifi but it’s a bit too far away to be of much use.  I can’t wait for our house to be finished which will be complete with internet.  For me wifi is as important as water or electricity.  On Friday afternoon I got a whatsapp from Olivia with a photo of her and her team at the Madrid Book Fair on the last day she would be presenting there.  She looks lovely doesn’t she?  That evening she and Miguel were going to Valencia where he lives, to spend the weekend.  She was to enjoy a long weekend too as she had asked for Monday off.  She certainly needed and deserved the bread.  As to Suzy in London, I have not had much news since she left Madrid on the day of the elections on 24th May and only know that she is happy in her new job.  Once again I have no pictures of her to share with you.
Olivia left and her team at the Madrid Book Fair on Friday
Saturday was to be the highlight of our stay in Montrondo as other members of the family, those who live León, would be joining us; Pili and Andrés, Adela and Primo, Isidro and Yoli as well as Eladio’s Mother Ernestina.  But first I had to get my walk in with Pippa and this time we set off early at 8.30.  I was hoping for a coffee at Senra but the bar was shut unfortunately.
Pippa on one of the walks in Montrondo
The scenery never fails to attract me and Montrondo is paradise at this time of year and my morning walks with Pippa to Senra and back do me the world of good plus they make me feel immensely happy and blessed. 

Lunch for the 11 of us was at Pili’s house and both Yoli and Adela had made chickpea soup with all sorts of funny parts of meat that have never attracted me but which Eladio and his family adore, like ear, pigs trotters, tripe etc. My contribution to the lunch was Eton Mess for "sweet" which everyone loves. 

Another walk took place in the afternoon, this time, just the women; i.e my sisters-in-law and I and the three dogs, Nuba, Pippa and Pili’s dalmation.  Here is a not too good selfie taken by “God’s Rock” (“la peña de dios”) but it at least captures the moment.

A good day was had by all, even for my frail 93 year old Mother-in-law whose memory is failing.  Towards the end of the day she received a visit from her first cousin Eva, aged 83, who resides in the beautiful seaside town of Gijon in the north of Spain.  Here is a photo of the two cousins who spent the time talking about the past as is normal in this part of the world.
My mother in law Ernestina with Eva her first cousin (left) in Montrondo yesterday
Whilst they were remembering the past, especially Ernestina’s younger sister Argentina who died sadly at the age of 21 of tuberculosis before penicillin, the TV was switched on for anyone who was interested in watching the Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona in Berlin.   Meanwhile I decided to make the men’s favourite dinner; plain egg and chips which we all devoured.  Barcelona beat the Italians 3-1 which will have made my brother-in-law Primo extremely happy.  He is a staunch Barça fan but is incapable of watching the matches in case they lose.  When they win he watches the repeat match and is able to enjoy it.  Andrés, on the other hand, is a staunch Real Madrid fan.  I asked him then why he was watching the match.  His answer made me laugh: “in case they lose”.  Well done Barça.   

At about the same time the match was finishing I stepped outside the house to take in the evening air.  I was amazed that at 10.15 it was full daylight.  Here is a photo to prove it.
Montrondo at 22.15 last night - it was still light
This morning I was woken up by Nuba barking.  That started off Pippa and so I got out of bed and decided to go downstairs and have breakfast thinking it was 7.45.  When I saw the clock in the kitchen, I realized it was actually 06.45 which was far too early to get up but I felt too awake to go back to sleep.  So in a way I have an extra hour in my day today.  Thus Pippa and I went on our walk to Senra an hour earlier than usual. There wasn’t a soul to be seen and only a couple of cars.

Soon our time in Montrondo will come to an end.  After lunch we have to head back home as I have a very busy week ahead of me.  But I shall go home feeling fully relaxed and ready to face whatever comes.

Before I end this week’s post, I must not forget to mention that today 7th June would have been my dear Mother’s birthday.  She lives on in my heart of course but oh how much I would have wanted her to live longer to see her adored granddaughters grow up and for her to be part of our daily life.  No doubt my Father will have similar thoughts today.  Mummy I miss you and wish you could be with us.  I would love you to see the house in Montrondo, to meet Pippa, Norah and Elsa and most of all to be company to Daddy who misses you more than any of us.  I wish I could be a strong believer and think that one day I will join you “up there”.  Who knows? Maybe I will. 

And so my friends, I leave you until next week,

Hope yours is a good one,


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