Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Sizzling in Madrid, Pippa is 7 months old, this year’s summer party, my adventures in London and Bath with Suzy, a much awaited letter, the Greeks vote no, home to 40ºc.

Tuesday 7th July 1015
It was one big laugh with Suzy this weekend in London and Bath
Hi everyone

It’s Monday and I’ve just come back from London, unpacked, got up to speed with my work and here I am at my desk ready to share all my news.  As you can see from this week’s headline, it’s sizzling here and has been for some time and the record heat will be with us for at least another 8 days.  I was warned of a heat wave in the UK but the highest temperature I saw there was 26c and it even rained twice.  So much for the British heat wave but for me it was a great break from this stifling weather.

When I left off on Sunday 28th June, it was the hottest day of the year, a record breaking 40ºc in Madrid for this time of the year.  That day and from then on the news was dominated by the economic situation in Greece.  The new government led by Alex Tsipras, prime minister of the left-wing Syriza party, unhappy with the conditions imposed by Brussels for the repayment of a debt they will probably never be able to pay, called for a referendum for the following Sunday; i.e. yesterday, for the people to vote for the conditions or against them.  Essentially they were to vote for or against the Euro and even an exit from the EU.  That night many Greeks queued up to get out as much money as they could from ATMs across the country.  The next day, a capital control was announced (also called a “corralito” from the experience in the Argentine some years ago) where they would only be able to take out 60 euros per person per day.  Many of the banks were already empty. The rich of course had already transferred their millions of euros quite a while ago to other safer countries. It is dark times for the country which ironically is the birthplace of democracy.  I suppose the referendum is the essence of democracy.
Greeks queueing up at banks
Monday was a busy day.  I was up at 06.40.  Olivia joined us on our early morning walk, as did the dogs, all three of them. Here is a photo of Oli with Pippa that morning.
Oli with Pippa on one of our walks last week
I had an important meeting at the office then I had to go into the centre of the city to see my urologist for another bout of not very pleasant treatment which I think is actually beginning to have a positive effect, albeit very minor.   As I left the office, I took the photo below of the street temperature; 42c! I can tell you it was not a good day to fast.  The only possible thing to do once I was home was to be in one of the air conditioned rooms.
Madrid is sizzling - this was the temperature at midday last Monday in Alcobendas
This week Pippa, our chocolate coloured miniature smooth haired dachshund who is the sunshine of my life turned 7 months. Here is a close up I took of her one afternoon last week.  Isn’t she lovely?  I am still wondering if she will grow much more.  Right now she weighs 4.1kg and still seems very tiny.
Pippa is 7 months old now
Tuesday was my busiest day of the week and the longest. Eladio went off in the morning with his brother José Antonio by car to León to pick up his Mother, Ernestina who would be coming to stay with us for a fortnight. She is 93 years old and very mobile but is unfortunately losing her memory. They would be returning on the same day. On the way they made the traditional stop at Rueda where they indulged in a glass of lovely local white wine and plate of ham.  Here is a photo of the two of them enjoying the moment.
Elado and José Antonio in Rueda
Meanwhile I got on with my work, last minute preparations for the staff summer party that night.  I also had a lunch engagement with my boss and the financial editor of a major national daily newspaper.  As you can imagine, we spoke a lot about the “Grexit”, as well as ISIS terrorism and of course about Yoigo.  You will be envious to hear we went to Dstage, perhaps the best restaurant in Madrid.  It has a 4 month waiting list and is one of the most popular in Spain with international foodie tourists.  I took a photo of each and every one of the 10 dishes as each one is a complete work of art.  The ingredients are all first class and the dishes are out of this world.  It is difficult to describe them, so here are the pictures which speak the words I cannot describe.

Food at Dstage is creativity and pure heaven to eat.
We didn’t finish until past 5 in the afternoon – so Spanish to have a long business lunch – and then I had to rush home to get ready to go out again.  I had about 1.5h free time and spent part of it in the pool with Salud, our home-help.  Then Eladio, José Antonio and my mother-in-law arrived and it was time for me to get ready for the staff party.
Eladio's mother is staying with us now 
I love to wear casual clothes and no make-up at home and when I get “dolled up” to go out, Eladio calls it my “transformation”.  This is what I was wearing; a cream lace dress I bought a few years ago at Pedro del Hierro, a Spanish designer.  I think it is possibly my only designer outfit as most of my clothes come from Zara, Massimo Dutti and shops in Sweden and Finland like Lindex. 
At the Yoigo party with 2 of the hostesses wearing my cream lace dress
It took place at The Roof, a rooftop terrace in Plaza Santa Ana and quite a glamorous place with great views of the city.
The Roof at night during our event
We were worried about the heat and had hired fans which also sprinkled water to cool the atmosphere down.  The highlight of the night was when we all attached messages to balloons and let them off into the night.  It was wonderful.
Letting off the balloons at the party
You can see the rest of the photos here on the Yoigo flickr page.

Wednesday was the first day of July and thankfully it was an in-between day, in that I had one day off to catch up with work and organize some of the programme of my trip to London the next day.  A lot of the preparation was about our private visit to the Houses of Parliament courtesy of the MP of South Bradford, or rather her assistant Rob, all very well organized by my friend from school Geraldine.  It was to be a real treat and one of the highlights of my adventures in England with Suzy.

That morning we went on our walk early as usual. In order to avoid the heat we try to go before 8.30. This time we had another dog to take on our walk.  Nuba, José Antonio and Dolores’ mongrel came with us.  Nuba is to be staying with us too for a while whilst her owners are away in Cuba visiting their son Miguel.  The house seems to be a combination of an old people’s and dogs’ home at the moment hahaha.  I just had to take a photo of Eladio with all 4 dogs which I dubbed “the dog walker”.
Eladio the dog walker
On Thursday I was up literally at the crack of dawn at 04.30 which would turn out to be 03.30 as just a few hours later I would be on English time. Eladio took me to the airport and there I caught the 07h Easy Jet flight to Gatwick.  I was meeting Suzy at Victoria from where, after leaving my suitcase in left luggage, we would catch the tube to Westminster.  We got there early and spent a lovely hour together having a cup of coffee at St. Stephen’s tavern just round the corner from the visitors’ entrance to Parliament at Portcullis House.  Geraldine had warned us of the strict security but it wasn’t that bad and soon Rob – a dashing 30 odd parliamentary assistant - was there to greet us and take us on a short tour of the Houses of Parliament.  We were very lucky to have a private tour but not so lucky either as we could not visit the Chambers of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords as both were in session. In any case the visit was very interesting and Rob was a super host. 
Suzy with our host Rob at Westminster on Thursday morning
I think what I most liked about the visit was Westminster Hall and The Lobby, as well as the courtyard and the house where the Speaker lives, the only member of parliament to actually live on the premises.
Suzy and I at the Houses of Parliament on our private visit
From Westminster we took the tube to Goodge Street.  Suzy was starting work at 1pm at Planet Organic and she took me there to see the shop and meet her colleagues. It is quite an impressive place if you are into organic stuff.  As she has 25% discount we bought some food for my stay.  Here is a photo of Suzy with a chap who was going to give her some training when I left.  Later she told me he was from Afghanistan and didn’t blink when she said it.  London is such a melting pot of nationalities.
Suzy and a trainer at Planet Organic
Meanwhile I went to buy more food for our stay at both Waitrose and Marks and Spencer as well as fruit from a great stall outside the tube station. I stocked up on lovely food such as dressed crab, prawn cocktail, sliced roast beef and Eton Mess.  Realising I was carrying far too much to take the tube to Victoria I decided on a London cab. Well actually I tried to use Uber but as I am a Spanish customer it just didn’t work.  The cab took me nearly an hour as the traffic was so dense – as it must be always I think. Finally I got to Victoria and picked up my big case and pc and took another cab to Suzy’s flat. After some issues with the key, I finally got inside.  After unpacking and showering I sat down to lunch at nearly 5 in the afternoon.  Boy was I starving.  I spent the rest of the day working and waiting for Suzy to come home. She bikes into work and back which takes her 40 odd minutes both ways. My lovely daughter was home by 9 and we had a great dinner together.  We were to be alone in her flat until Saturday.  Her boyfriend Gabor has gone home to Tenerife until the end of this month and their new flat-mates weren’t moving in until Saturday.

Whilst I was in London Wimbledon was on and it was on the day I arrived that I heard Rafa Nadal, the two times winner of the championship, was out of the tournament. It was not good news to hear whilst in the current world capital of tennis.

Friday was our big adventure.  We had hired a car and were going to visit Bath.  Sounds easy right? Well it wasn’t and turned out to be a very long journey and a very expensive one too.  It took us about 2 hours just to get out of London which we hadn’t factored into our planning.  We then had to pay all sorts of extras such as the congestion charge for driving in the middle of London. In the end it cost about 150 pounds and took us 4 hours or so to get to Bath. I very much regretted not having gone by train which would only have taken 1.5 hours.  However it was an experience, or rather an adventure.  Suzy was very brave driving on the left in the centre of London. Our sat nav was her phone which soon ran out of battery. My battery was low too and I had to buy a charger at a stop off which worked rather erratically (note do not buy non branded phone accessories). 
Suzy with the hired car in Bath
I had booked a table at the Roman Baths Pump Room Restaurant for 14.15 and I really thought we might not make it but we did.  The restaurant was absolutely out of this world.  There was live music and a dishy new waiter serving people hot spring water from the baths.  I went for their afternoon tea which was just as good as the one I had had at The Wolseley last year.
Afternoon tea in Bath
Here is a selfie of the two of us by the Roman baths after our lovely lunch.
A selfie by the Roman Baths in Bath
Bath is one of England’s most famous and beautiful towns, on a par with Harrogate, Canterbury or Stratford upon Avon.  It is also a World Heritage site largely because of its Georgian buildings. I had only visited it once when I was a student and Suzy had visited it also when as a teenager she and Olivia stayed with my friend Amanda and her family in nearby Wells.  We didn’t have much time to visit the town which was much bigger than I remembered but I knew there were certain areas we could not miss.  The first wasthe Circus, a round street with a garden in the middle and lovely Georgian houses.
The Circus Bath
We loved the houses and the stone they are made of.  Funnily enough it is not dissimilar to the stone in Yorkshire; the pavements too.

We loved the Royal Crescent – a literal crescent of Georgian Houses.  I remember being told in Delhi that Connaught Circus (the heart of New Delhi) was a copy of the Royal Crescent. Unfortunately the Indian street has gone to complete seed whilst the Bath one is a joy to look at.
The Royal Crescent Bath
By the crescent there was a lovely park which I think is called the Victoria Park.  Here there was a French brass band playing in the open air and we were drawn to the music.  We spent a delightful half an hour or so lying down on the grass and listening and watching the band. 
A magical musical moment in Bath
We didn’t have much time left in Bath but there was one more thing to see, the Pulteney Bridge. To quote Wikipedia, Pulteney Bridge crosses the River Avon in Bath, England. It was completed by 1774, and connected the city with the newly built Georgian town of Bathwick. Designed by Robert Adam in a Palladian style, it is exceptional in having shops built across its full span on both sides. It has been designated as a Grade I listed building”. All I can say is that it is a sight for sore eyes. 
Pulteney Bridge Bath
To get there we had to go past the beautiful park nearby called The Parade Gardens which looked fabulous on this lovely sunny day.  Alas we had no time to leisure on one of the colourful deck chairs there and contemplate the River Avon.

Soon it was time to go but not before a last cup of tea at a café. Unfortunately we were invaded by horrible pigeons and fled quickly to drink our tea on a bench.  On our way back to the long stay car park we went into Waitrose as we had to buy more provisions. That night at Suzy’s flat we were receiving guests for dinner; Chati, Suzy’s Spanish nurse friend, Monica an Italian linguist and Ania, a Polish architect.  It was to be a truly international girly evening.  We had arranged to meet at 9 but it turned out to be much later at approximately 10.30 as it took so long to get home.  The return journey was a bit better but even so getting to Tower Hill to return our car was another adventure due to the dense traffic in the city of London.  Finally we were at the bus stop by Tower Bridge with all our food bags waiting for the bus which never came. 
Back in London after returning from Bath.  The bus never came!
Suzy had run out of battery on her phone and I had no signal.  We had no cash either, just credit cards. In the end we hailed a cab and asked it to stop at an ATM on the way.  We were home really late. Whilst I had a cold shower (the hot water was not working) Suzy unpacked the food and laid the table. Soon our guests were there and the sparkling wine Suzy was reserving in her fridge to celebrate the HCPC registration approval was flowing.  It was a lovely evening.  We were both very tired and by 1.30 (2.30 Spanish time) I was completely flaked and had to go to bed.  Suzy joined me at 3 in the morning as she has a little more stamina than me.
Suzy with her girlfriends, Chati, Ania and Monica
Meanwhile in Spain, Olivia and Miguel were arriving at the apartment they had booked in Almeria for a week at a place near Roadalquilar.  The photos of the apartment looked lovely.  Oli has a week’s holiday she is much in need of due to her stressful TV reporter job which has her on her toes the whole time.
The apartment where Oli and Miguel are staying in Almeria this week
Saturday was 4th July and Independence Day in America.  Suzy and I didn’t celebrate of course but were extremely independent, doing just what we wanted and enjoying our own company in London.  It was a warm day again and after breakfast on Suzy’s sunny terrace we set off for London Fields, an area near Regent’s Canal which is becoming quite hip.
Regents Canal - London Fields
Sometimes I felt as if I was on a Monopoly board as when the tube broke down we had to take a bus and suddenly I was on Old Kent Road (remember the brown cheap property next to Whitechapel?).  I had similar feelings on The Strand, Piccadilly, Northumberland Avenue, etc. Near London Fields is a great food market called Broadway.
Broadway market is very colourful and not only about food.
Here Suzy and I sat and watched the multicultural world go by whilst sipping a detox and fruit juice to cool off.

From Broadway market we made our way to Stratford or rather the Westfield Shopping Centre where we had lunch at Jamie’s Italian a chain belonging to the famous British chef Jamie Oliver.  There were no fish and chips on the menu of course so I went for steak and chips.  I was a bit disappointed as it turned out to be a bit stringy.
A rather disappointing platter from Jamie Oliver
After lunch we headed straight for Marks and Spencers.  Here I bought loads of underwear for all the family, trousers for my Father and some nice clothes for Suzy and I.  I just had to have a photo of myself outside my favourite British store and here it is.
Happy with my purchases outside M+S at Westfield Shopping Centre
That evening we were organizing another dinner party, this time just for three. Gillian, my ex legal student house-mate from Nottingham University and who today heads up a Legal Aid company, was coming for dinner.  It was great to see her again and darling Gill turned up with a beautiful bunch of flowers and bottle of wine.  We wanted to thank her for her part in making Suzy’s registration with the HCPC work out.  She had very kindly done the legal work necessary for it.  Just as we got home the much awaited letter from the HCPC had arrived in Suzy’s post box, so it was the perfect moment to celebrate with Gill.  The final step in getting the registry number was to pay by visa on Monday which is what we did and immediately afterwards Suzy got an email to confirm the number.  It took a year and we were so happy to see that much awaited letter. It means a brighter future for Suzy.
The much awaited letter
We had a great evening having dinner on Suzy’s terrace whilst Gill told us about some of her more colourful court cases or “clients” (i.e. criminals), some of who were from the area Bermondsey near where Suzy lives. 
A selfie with Gill
That night Suzy’s new flat-mate moved in, Jordan.  He is from Lancashire and told us he had just graduated in “physical theatre” from Essex University.  He had to explain to both of us that he meant “acting”. His girlfriend, Kirsty, a graduate in acting too wouldn’t come until Sunday night as she had been on tour.  I laughed when I heard she had been staying at Butlins!

Jordan was probably asleep when from the terrace we heard and saw a very loud shouting match going on outside.  An underclad fat white girl who was probably not much more than 14, was f*** and blinding and shouting “I`ll kill your sister”. Gill said the area was notorious for racism and where a lot of working class cockneys live. I do hope Suzy can one day move a bit south of the river haha. But I must say the whole show was very entertaining.

On Sunday we woke up to rain.  We had planned to go to Kew Gardens but it was not to be.  It was that morning at breakfast that I heard my beloved friend Adele’s mother was dying.  She was in Yorkshire with her and all the family and I so wanted to be with her. 

With our spirit a  bit dampened, Suzy and I left the flat later than usual and made our way to Soho, via M+S on Oxford Street.  We had lunch at a lovely little place called Muriel’s Kitchen. 

As we sat at our table a waiter and tray race was going on; the sort of thing you only see in London. I thought it was highly entertaining.
A waiter and tray race in Soho on Sunday
The weather had brightened by midday so we decided to walk all the way back from Soho to South Bermondsey which took us nearly 2 hours including a couple of stops.  I was exhausted when we got home.  It was to be my last evening with Suzy as I was leaving the next day and she would be getting on with her life.  I did my packing that night and the next day said goodbye to Suzy who left the flat at 7.15.  Here is a photo of her leaving on her bike.  We had such a good time together; quality mother and daughter time. The only people missing of course were Eladio and Oli. 
Suzy leaving for work on her bike, complete with helmet, on Monday morning.  She is very brave to cycle every day through the centre of London. 
I had a few minutes to read the news after Suzy left before going myself and was surprised to read that the Greeks had voted against the EU conditions.  Immediately the now famous finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis resigned. He and the Greeks have been very brave standing up to Brussels. It remains to be seen what this will mean for the future of Greece and Europe. 

A cab came for me at 9 and I was at LGW by 10.30.  It took ages to get through baggage drop and security.  The latter made me feel like a piece of cattle.  Thankfully my 12.15 plane was on time and I arrived in Madrid yesterday (am now writing on Tuesday) in the early evening.  Eladio was there to pick me up and we couldn’t find each other which was awful because of the heat. The temperature that greeted me at Madrid Barajas airport yesterday was 42ºc Unbelievable! It’s always a shock returning to Madrid in the summer when you step outside into the heat but yesterday was probably the record.

It was good to be home to see the family and our dogs – especially Pippa.  All I wanted to do was to bathe and have a shower to cool down before sitting at my desk with the air conditioning on.  It was also nice to sleep in my own bed last night but I missed Suzy.  I am missing Oli too who won’t be back from Almeria until next Sunday.

Today, Tuesday, has been busy but I was able to get a walk in with Eladio and the dogs in the early morning. I am also fasting which didn’t help when I attended a very long management team meeting at work at midday.

And this my friends is it; the story of my week and stay in London and adventures with Suzy there and in Bath (note must go there again one day or maybe retire there?). 

So I will love you and leave you until next week
Cheers till then


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