Monday, October 26, 2015

Dinner at the Madrid Stock Exchange, a special press conference, subscribed to Netflix, to Montrondo again, another operation for Suzy, goodbye Eva, shooting in Sweden, a surprise visit from Olivia and Miguel and other stories.

Sunday 25th October 2015
Jumping for the camera - autumn colours are amazing
Hi again from Montrondo another Sunday in October. Olivia and Miguel have just left and it’s time to write this week’s post.

Last Sunday at home it rained cats and dogs and even our garage got flooded.  It was a day to stay inside which I spent mostly reading. Oli and Miguel meanwhile made a carrot cake and we had a great dinner together.

Monday was my fasting day.  In the morning Eladio’s family were at a Notary in León where they were to be selling a plot of land they own in Montrondo, called “El Estremadorio”.  

Eladio did all the transactions with the family who bought it.  They are neighbours of the plot so had an obvious interest in its acquisition.  The family has lots of plots of land all around the village but this one was the only one in the village itself with permission to build.  I’m sure the rest are not worth a penny but it’s nice to have them.
El Extremadorio, the plot of land we solde this week
In the afternoon I was at the office for an interview with my boss by a new online “paper” called Sabemos.  I think it went well.  It did actually as it was published the next day and I was happy with the content.  It was at the end of the interview that the journalists and my boss mentioned an event they were going to that night hosted by Ericsson at the Madrid Stock Exchange (La Bolsa de Madrid).  It was 6.45 when they said it and the event, the presentation of a book about the history of the company in Spain and a formal sit down dinner, was starting at 8.30 p.m.  I was invited too but for some reason thought it was the following Monday.  That’s when the rush started as I had to go home in the traffic, put on a party dress and set off for Madrid again.  I would have gone straight there if only I wasn’t wearing jeans.  In any case I made it right on time but it was a close shave.  It was so nice to see so many familiar faces from the sector, some I hadn’t seen for more than 20 years.
The Madrid stock exchange lit up inside at night. It's amazing.
The dinner went on for ages as there were huge lapses in between the courses, so I didn’t get away until past midnight.  It was the first time I had ever been to the Madrid Stock Exchange, an impressive building next to the Ritz Hotel and near the Prado.  However, I was disappointed to hear that the transactions no longer take place there.  Naively I found out that these days they take place on internet and in no physical location.  Olivia later asked me if I had looked at the parquet floor and seen the cigarette burns from the past.  It was too dark to see of course but I found it an interesting fact and could imagine the brokers chain smoking whilst frantically trading on their feet.  It’s funny how times have changed.

Also at the dinner was a friend and neighbour, Elena, who had been the previous communications director at Ericsson.  We drove home together and got lost in the process.  Don’t ask me why.  All I know is that I didn’t get into bed until 1.30 in the morning. 

The next day I had to be up at the crack of dawn to be well on time for the Yoigo press conference at FanFan, a new bar on the Paseo de la Castellana.  We were presenting the local third quarterly results and they were good.  Our sales had increased as had our ebitda but they needed some explaining.  Unfortunately the night before Bloomberg had published an article saying that our mother company was possibly going to sell us to a small mobile virtual operator.  Thus the focus wouldn’t just be on the results which complicated my job a little.  The event was beautifully prepared as usual by my events company QuintaEsencia and I was delighted with how everything looked when I got there half an hour before the start. I was also happy that we got a full house with representatives from most of the major daily and financial newspapers as well as both news agencies, Efe and Europa Press. 
How the press conference looked just before it started
It was Ana, the ex-editor of telecoms of Efe, who commented later on this photo of me by the Yoigo photo call. La rueda de prensa seria pero, como siempre, con el toque tierno de Masha. Esa es tu imagen” which means “the press conference was serious, but as always had Masha’s tender hearted touch.  That is your image”.
Me posing by the photo call at the press conference
It was her comment that inspired me to include the words “a special press conference” in this week’s headlines. Thanks Ana.  Thankfully too we got some very good media coverage which is what it was all about. But wow was I tired when I got home. I always am after an important event. You can see the rest of the photos here.

If our press conference was at 10 in the morning, Netflix Spain’s was at 9 in the morning, so some of the journalists went to both.  The American TV streaming service was launching in Spain that day and I didn’t hesitate to sign up later that day.  The first month is free so I signed up for the premium service.  I was happy to see it work on the TV in our room.  The only thing I’m not happy with is the lack of subtitles in English.  Hopefully they will come later.  What is not good is that it won’t work with our Ikea Uppleva smart TV in Montrondo as I found out later in the week the hard way.  In fact the smart TV function of this beautiful Swedish TV is pathetic as you cannot get any of the major Spanish TV apps such as Atresmedia or RTVE. I am now very much regretting not having bought a mainstream brand and not the IKEA one. At the time we bought it for convenience sake as it would be brought and installed here along with lots of other furniture. 
Netflix up and working last Tuesday evening
I heard on Wednesday morning that the night before “my programme” as I call the Yoigo episode of Undercover Boss, was broadcast again on La Sexta.  It was late at night but even so had an audience of more than 1.1m people.  Once again my mail, FB, twitter etc were flooded with posts and messages which took me a while to answer and answer them all I did.  Thankfully this time people on twitter were much kinder and I got some lovely feedback. 

On Wednesday morning Eladio and I set off to Montrondo. Now that I have internet in the new house I can work from there.  I have even set up a new office.
My new office in Montrondo
As usual we stopped at Rueda for a glass of wine and a plate of ham.  Here is the photo to prove it.
The pit stop at Rueda
The day would have been perfect if our minds hadn’t been on Suzy.  At midday on Wednesday she was admitted to Guys and St. Thomas hospital in London for an operation with general anesthetic to remove a polyp on her vocal chords.  She was told in England that she would be able to speak afterwards although to go easy on her voice and in Spain doctors had told her that she should not speak for at least a week.  Who was she to believe?  Thankfully it went well. She took 3 days off work and told us that her voice kept coming and going which worries me a bit.  I was sad not to be with her for the operation.
Suzy after her operation on Wednesday
Anyway we got to Montrondo at about 2.30 and started unloading the car with all the stuff we had brought for the house.  We didn’t sit down to lunch until 4; due to a small accident in the boiler room / pantry.  I went to get Pippa’s food from one of the shelves when it came crashing down on me and a bottle of wine broke along with a bag of lentils. You should have seen the mess.  In the afternoon whilst Eladio installed more and more lamps, I took Pippa for a walk to Murias as I needed some exercise.  The village and surroundings were beautiful thanks to the wonderful autumn colours.
Autumn colours in Montrondo
It was on the day of our arrival that we heard that Eva, my mother-in-law’s first cousin had just died after being diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus just one month before.  Eva was a beautiful, popular and charismatic lady who I always thought was very special.  I saw her for the last time in July and little did I know that then.  I took this lovely photo of her with my mother-in-law and I’m so glad I did as I now have a photo to remember her. As tradition dictates in Spain, her funeral would be the next day. I was glad that we would be there for her.
Eva with my mother-in-law in July

On Thursday I was up at 6.30; don’t ask me why.  Thus my day was long and productive.  When the sun rose at about 8.30 we were in for a glorious autumn day with temperatures over 20c.  I was glad that Eva’s funeral in the village where she was born would be on a lovely sunny day. 

It was a beautiful sunny day for Eva's funeral.
I had plenty of time that morning to catch up on work in my new office. Meanwhile Eladio hung up the pictures we had brought around the house. We had bought white frames for some photographs that I had taken over the years of Montrondo and its surroundings and that I had had enlarged and printed the week before.  I couldn’t think of anything more fitting to put on the walls. I want to keep everything simple and with as little clutter as possible and we are happy with the result.
We have decorated the house with pictures of Montrondo on the walls
Whilst lunch (cocido) was bubbling on my new induction hob, off I went to have coffee with my neighbour Salo. 
Cocido madrilñeo for lunch on Wednesday
As she lives here permanently she was the perfect person to get lots of local information I needed if we are to come as often as we do. From her I found out when the food and bread vans come, what time the bars open in Murias and Senra, which is the best restaurant in the area and even what time mass is at the church. She would know as she is the holder of its key. It was from Salo that I heard the funeral for Eva would be at 5 that afternoon.

Just after lunch, Pili, Eladio’s sister arrived.  She had come with Primo, Adela’s husband for Eva’s funeral.  Adela couldn’t make it as she was ill and Eladio’s mother is a little too frail to travel to Montrondo and back in one day; although I know she wanted to be here as she was very close to her cousin.
Pili and Eladio on Wednesday on our terrace
We walked to the church together where there was quite a gathering.
People gathering at the church on Wednesday for Eva's funeral
The funeral cortege arrived from Gijon (Asturias) where Eva lived with her daughter Lola. Her three daughters were distraught as were her grandchildren. I hugged them as we all did and I have to admit I shed quite a few tears.  Afterwards we all followed the funeral procession into the pretty little graveyard where Eva is now lying.  R.I.P. Eva, Montrondo will miss you.

When Pili and Primo had left, once again I took Pippa on the walk to Murias.  We went past the donkey and pony that she always barks at.  I just wish she wouldn’t as they are such lovely gentle creatures.
Pippa barking at the pony and donkey
Just as I got back to the village, the food van was serving its last customer, my neighbour “Carmina”.  I needed a few things so called Eladio to bring some money and whilst he was got him to take a photo of me with the owner “”Gelo” (Angel) who told me he had seen me on the programme Undercover Boss.  It’s becoming quite embarrassing as nearly everyone I meet says the same.  Anyway, here is the photo of me “shopping” in Montrondo which I find quite quaint.
Shopping in Montrondo from Gelo's food van
It was after dinner of my homemade ham croquettes served with fresh artichokes that we heard on the evening news of the ghastly sword attack at a school in a town called Trollhattan near Gothenburg in Sweden of all places. You just don’t associate news like this with Sweden.  But it happened and the country went into shock as I did when I heard the story.  A Nazi sympathizer dressed in a mask killed a pupil and a teacher at a school in Trollhattan that day, as well as seriously injuring others.  21 year old Anton Lundin-Petterson chose his victims depending on their skin colour, attacking only the dark skinned ones.  Later he died after being shot down by the police.  My heart goes out to all involved.

The masked racist sword killer in Sweden
Meanwhile in Madrid on Thursday evening, Olivia and Miguel were hosting a dinner with some members of the girls’ friends known as “the herd” (la manada) as a sendoff dinner for Anita.  Ana and Olivia went to University together.  Ana would be leaving Spain for London this week where she would be joining her boyfriend who is currently doing a master’s degree there.  She will be living in Lewisham, quite near where Suzy lives. 
Ana's goodbye dinner
On Friday Pippa and I got up a bit later; at 06.50 – that’s what you get when you go to bed at 10pm. It was another lovely sunny day.
It was a lovely sunny day again on Friday
We so enjoy breakfast in our new house as we do all our meals.  Here is a photo of the breakfast table on Friday morning.
Breakfast in Montrondo
Eladio was busy that morning with the builders.  They had finished the house but there were quite a few minor finishing touches to be done and which we had asked the builders to do weeks ago. On Thursday they were asking for their final installment and we told them that until they did the finishing touches, there would be no payment. So guess what? Yeah, you are right, they were all done that morning hahaha.

Eladio had lots of his own finishing touches to do; not lest chop wood for the fireplace.  This is what it looked like that afternoon.  I was hoping we would have lit the fire but I can’t get him to do so. He says the house is too warm; well of course it is thanks to the central heating, but I do want to see the fireplace working just for the cozy effect it would produce.  One day, ….
The unlit fireplace
It was at about 6.15 in the evening when I was coming back from my walk with Pippa that Olivia rang me.  She and Miguel had decided to surprise us and come and spend the weekend with us and of course see the house which they had only seen when the rebuilding started.  It was wonderful news and I rushed home to tell Eladio and to get everything ready to welcome them.  I made a special dinner and laid the table with much love.  This is what it looked like.
The dinner table laid for Oli and Miguel's arrival
They arrived at about 10 pm and we welcomed them with open arms.  They loved the house at first sight as they did the ensuite room they slept in.  It was super to have them. Happiness would have been complete had Suzy been with us too.  We drank to her health at dinner.
Dinner on Friday night with Olivia and Miguel
On Saturday we made a day of it, packing in as much as possible. It started with a family breakfast. Then Oli, Miguel and I set off with Pippa for a walk to Murias but then we went further and to Senra as well – all in all just under 8km. Eladio stayed behind clearing the surroundings of the house and chopping more wood.  It was a glorious day.
Walking with Olivia
Miguel who is a TV cameraman, brought along his good camera and took some super pictures. I have to admit, most of them were of Olivia as is natural. I particularly like this one of her.

Beautiful Oli in Montrondo
On our way we bumped into Manolita, one of the 11 permanent inhabitants in Montrondo and whom we know very well. So of course we had to have a photo with her too.
Oli and I with Manolita
I had taken bread with me to feed the horse, the pony and the donkey and Olivia would be joining me in this wonderful activity.  Miguel took this photo of me offering some bread to the grey horse.
Feeding the grey horse
Then it was Olivia’s turn to feed the horse and the pony. The donkey was too shy or too slow to come or maybe it was because of Pippa’s barking.
Oli feeding the donkey and the pony
Oli was so happy she needed to jump for joy or rather she likes to jump for the camera and is very good at it.  Here she is jumping in the air with me and Pippa looking on just before we approached Murias.
Oli jumping for joy whilst Pippa and I look on
There we had hoped for a cup of coffee at the Palloza bar but it still wasn’t open.  We also wanted to buy bread as we would have missed the bread van in Montrondo whilst we were on our walk.  Here we are at the traditional and very old fashioned bakery which makes the most delicious bread.  I spied a big pie and thus ordered one for us to  pick up tomorrow. 

Buying bread at the old fashioned bakery in Murias
We had a coffee at the bar in Senra, Cumbres de Omaña, whose owner is not well known for his good manners.  Once back in Montrondo we popped in to see Adela and Primo who had arrived for the weekend. Just before going home for lunch, we went to Ulpiano’s house to buy some eggs.  We spent quite some time there admiring his hens and taking a peak at his two huge pigs whilst chatting to him and his friendly wife Serafina.  We bought a dozen eggs which were put in the box by Serafina from where they had just been laid.  You couldn’t get fresher or better eggs. 
Buying eggs from Ulpiano and Serafina
We shall be going back tomorrow to buy a sack of potatoes from him too.

Later Adela and Primo came for coffee.  It had rained in the morning a bit but the sun was now out and Oli, Miguel, Eladio and I were keen to walk up into the mountains.  Primo was to be our “Sherpa” and geography teacher for the 2.5 hour walk up the mountains and back and off the track where he showed us lots of hidden gems.

I was careful as I walked up the steep path as it was here that I had broken my leg in the snow in January on what is known here as “la cuesta de la bidulina”.
Walking up the hill where I broke my leg - with Eladio and Primo
The autumn colours were amazing.  The birch trees which only grow from 1.500 high were spectacular as was the “Abedular” the birch tree forest, one of the biggest of its kind in Spain.

El Abedular - the birch tree forest
Miguel brought his camera and took some spectacular photos again but I had to get one of the two of them and here it is. Eladio is in the background taking photos too as the scenery was to die for.
Oli and Miguel on the walk in the mountains on Saturday
Primo wanted to show Miguel the part of the river where people come to do rafting and canyoning but the path looked too steep and treacherous for me. 
Eladio, Primo and Miguel coming up the treacherous path from the river bed
The end of our walk up into the mountains was just past the Abedular where you can first spy the Tambarón mountain, the highest peak in the area; some 2.100 metres. Unfortunately the “peak” which is actually flat was mostly covered by clouds.
You can just spy the highest peak in the mountains, El Tambarón from behind the clouds
After our 3 hour walk into the mountains, we were looking forward to making fried eggs and chips with Ulpiano and Serafina’s fresh eggs and boy were they good.  By the end of the day everyone was tired, except for me.  I seem to have boundless energy and don’t need many hours of sleep.  Oli and Pippa were especially tired.
Oli and Pippa tired after a long day of walking
Last night the clocks went back which meant we gained an hour.  I tried to sleep late but was wide awake at 7 this morning which of course would have been 6 am the day before.  It was Oli and Miguel’s last day and we wanted to make the most of it.

Before going on our last walk to Murias and Senra, Oli and I made lunch. Together we made chicken korma curry and Oli learned how to make it.  We both enjoyed using our new kitchen.
Oli cooking chicken korma in our new kitchen on Sunday morning
Eladio spent the time reading the news on his tablet and Pippa, as you can see in the photo below, seemed to be interested in what he was reading haha.
Eladio reading the news on his tablet with Pippa on Sunday morning
We all enjoyed the autumn colours again and stopped at appropriate places for photos like La Peña de Dios (God’s rock) which is where Montrondo ends and Murias begins. I love this photo Miguel took of me with Eladio and Pippa.
Walking yesterday with Eladio. Pippa always has to be in the picture haha
It was nice to be walking with Olivia too and to spend quality time with her like we did this weekend.  Here I think in the peace and beauty of Montrondo she recharged her batteries to return to her demanding TV job in Madrid.
Walking yesterday with Eladio and Olivia
Just as we were approaching Murias we were stunned by the yellow leaved poplar trees and the path that leads eventually to Fasgar. It’s beautiful isn’t it?
The yellow tree path
Here is where we did the funny jumping photo which illustrates this week’s blog. If you look closely at my face it’s awful but the picture is so much fun. It’s “fun-tastic” to quote my German friend Veronica.

We came back exhausted from the walk and very hungry.  The curry was delicious and we polished it all off.  Not much later, at 16h, Miguel and Olivia left for Madrid leaving us alone but happy our new little house. We set about washing the sheets and towels and Eladio cleared more building leftovers from around the house whilst I started on my blog.

As I was writing, I whatsapped Suzy to ask for permission to reproduce the photo of her after the op and which she kindly gave me.  Funnily enough she was with Chati and Anita who, as I wrote above, went to live in London this week. Suzy sent me this photo which I am happy to post here.  I wish Anita lots of luck in her new adventure in the UK. If any of you who are reading this and live in London are interested, Anita makes the most amazing cakes so if you have any events coming up, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.
Anita (middle) with Suzy my daughter and their friend Chati (right in grey) in London yesterday
And here my friends I have come to the end of this week’s tales.  Tomorrow I shall be working most of the day and then in the afternoon we shall be setting off for Madrid again. I have a busy schedule from Tuesday and we won’t be back here until the 6th of November.  We will be joined by our friends Ana and Javier and look forward to being as good hosts as them when we have been to stay with them at their country house in Peñacaballera in Salamanca.  But thereby lies a new story for a later blog post.

Meanwhile, I wish you all a great week ahead,

Cheers till next time

PS You can see the full collection of  photos of our stay in Montrondo here.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Spanish National holiday, the Villablino Fair (“La Feriona”), “Madreñas” (Spanish clogs), homemade apple crumble, leaving Montrondo on Tuesday 13th, lunch at the Parador in Benavente, marathon cooking and other stories.

Sunday 11th October 2015
Lunch at the Parador in Benavente last Tuesday with José Antonio and Dolores
Hi everyone,

Here I am at my desk on blog day.  This time last Sunday we were in Montrondo where we had moved into our lovely new house which makes so happy. 

I think one of the things I like about it most is that everything inside is mostly new.  I especially love the kitchen and our bedroom with the bathroom incorporated. I was to use the bathtub for the first time the next day.  It’s funny because when we started designing the house I had insisted that I wanted one which probably seemed like a luxury to everyone around me.  However at home in Bradford when I was a child we had a huge Victorian bathtub which was the only one in that huge house with 20 rooms where there was only one bathroom.  So when I sank into the warm water I closed my eyes and remembered how my Mother used to enjoy her daily bath at home.  I also thought just how much she would have loved our new house in the mountains.
Our bedroom in Montrondo with the clawfoot bathtub in it, reminding me of my home as a child in Bradford..
Meanwhile Oli and Miguel were in Valencia for the weekend.  They went with friends to stay at a country house in Lluxent which is inland.  They spent most of their time making meals, playing games and going for long walks. 
Miguel and Oli in Valencia last weekend
Monday 12th was a bank holiday.  It was also the Spanish national day or Hispanic Day as well as the festivity of the Virgin of the Pillar in Zaragoza.  The big celebration of this day is a military parade in Madrid presided by the King and Queen and members of the government.  Some of our “lefty” members of the opposition declined the invitation as a means of protesting against the expense the parade costs in these austere times.  Others claimed there was nothing to celebrate as the Hispanic Day hails from the times Spain discovered America and went on to mistreat the natives of that land.  There has been much debate on this topic this week.  I personally think that most countries have a national day and feel proud of their country and so they should.  This is often no so in Spain because Spaniards generally criticize their country; there is little sense of a national togetherness or pride in one’s country.  I try to point out to whoever will listen that there is more criticism within the country than outside it.  So when I saw that in New York the Empire State Building was lit up that day with the colours of the Spanish flag, I hoped my point was taken.  As far as I know there was no building in Spain illuminated in a similar way.  You see, sadly, the Spanish flag inside Spain has a negative fascist connotation. 
The Empire State Building in NY lit up with the colours of the Spanish flag on 12th October
Whatever the question, the good thing is it’s a national holiday. Dolores had invited me to spend the morning together in Villablino where every 12th October “La Feriona” (big fair) takes place.  Villablino, famous for coal mining, is the nearest big town to Montrondo and although it’s only 13km away it takes a good 45 minute drive as the mountain roads are so windy. 
It was raining when we got there so I was easily tempted by the offer of 2 umbrellas for 5 euros, no doubt coming from China.  The fair, the biggest annual fair of its kind in the north of Leon, stretched along most of the main streets and seemed unending to me. No way could we see it all in just a few hours.  On sale there was mostly local produce, clothes, antiques and household goods.
One of the stalls at the "Feriona" in Villablino last Monday
My next purchase was a pair of madreñas for Eladio. These are traditional wooden clogs worn with slippers inside.  They come mainly from Asturias and the North of León.  In Montrondo there is not one house without a pair.  They have three heels and are used to walk in the mud and rain outside and are then left outside the house where you then walk inside with just your slippers on, thus keeping the floors clean at home.  I found a video on You Tube which explains how they are made and how they are worn which you might find interesting.  It’s in Spanish but has English subtitles.
Eladio's new madreñas outside our back door
They cost me 22 euros and were handmade as they all are.  Below is a photo of the clog stall.  In the van there was a man reading a newspaper and I got talking to him.  He told me he was a professional clog maker and had been making them for a living since the age of 15 but was now retired.  I wonder how many young clog makers there are in that part of Spain now?  I’m sure the numbers are dwindling.
The clog stall. Eladio's ones are those on the chair.  The clog maker is the man in the driving seat, the seller his wife.
At another stall I bought the slippers to wear inside the clogs for just 5 euros.  Eladio was delighted with his new madreñas.  He probably hadn’t had a pair since the family left the village in the 60’s.  I’m also delighted as they will help to keep the floors clean.
Eladio with his new clogs (madreñas) on
Dolores then took me to a stall where she recommended buying the local walnuts.  On sale they also had some delicious looking pies and I bought one for dinner.  We ended up having a piece for the next three nights it was so tasty.
Dolores at the walnut stall at the fair in Viallablino. 
One of the main attractions at the fair was the street food and most popular of all seemed to be the dishes of freshly cooked octopus as you can see in the photo below.
Freshly cooked octopus was the main street food on offer at the fair
That afternoon Dolores and I took the dogs, Nuba and Pippa for their daily walk to Murias de Paredes and back. On the way we passed cows which both dogs barked at and then this beautiful dapple horse.  As Pippa barked at it, it took absolutely no notice. Next time we go, I must remember to buy a box of sugar lumps to feed the horses, donkey and pony on our walks.
Pippa barking at the horse on the walk to Murias which didn't take a blind bit of notice
Just past the field with the horse there is a field with a grey donkey and brown and white pony.  Both dogs started barking and then ran into the field.  Donkey kicks can be very dangerous and I was worried stiff Pippa would be hurt.  Below is a photo of Pippa barking at the donkey.
Pippa barking at the donkey
Once back from our walk it was nearly dark.  I had planned to use my new oven for the first time and make apple crumble with the cooking apples (reinetas) I had bought at the fair for 1 euro/kg.  This was the result.  It was delicious and I made so much that I brought what was left of it home and we have been having it all week.  As I made it I reflected that my forte is not desserts and that I know very few recipes for “puddings”. 
My homemade apple crumble
The next morning was our last breakfast for the bank holiday weekend.  As usual I was up earlier than Eladio and joined by Pippa, I made our breakfast enjoying using my new kitchen.
The table laid for breakfast on our last morning at the new house
It was Tuesday 13th which in most Spanish speaking countries, as well as Greece is the equivalent to Friday 13th.  It is of course a day which is supposed to be unlucky. One of the reasons it is a Tuesday in Spain is to do with the word itself “martes” (name of the planet mars) which means war.  Also it was on a Tuesday that Constantinople fell.  I wondered also about the number 13 and so looked it up and found out some of the reasons why it is supposed to be unlucky.  The phobia to the number is steeped in history; one of the main reasons being that at the Last Supper there were 13 people present.  In the Apocalypse the Antichrist, for example, is mentioned in chapter 13.  Also in the tarot, the number 13 means death.  In some countries it goes so far as to not to have a 13th floor or a number 13 in a street as no one wants to live at number 13. I don’t really care.  In Spanish there is a saying that on Tuesday 13th you should not get married or go on a journey. Well we were going on a journey and as you will hear later we had a bit of bad luck getting home; but nothing tragic thankfully. 

We had to leave at midday as we had an appointment with a notary in León before 14h.  While Eladio and José Antonio were there, Dolores and I took the dogs for a walk and even had a cup of coffee at a nice little café called Betty (like but not like “Betty’s” in Yorkshire) in San Andrés de Rabanedo.

By nearly 3 we were at the Parador in Benavente where we had decided to have lunch.  It was a sunny day so we left both dogs outside in a rose park by the entrance to the Parador which was an old castle.  They seemed quite happy tied to a tree with room to move or lie down.  I came out at least 3 times to check they were ok or more importantly that they hadn’t been stolen. 
The dogs waiting in the park outside the Parador in Benavente
The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of the 4 of us at lunch that day.  The food was really good but we know that which is why when we have to have a meal on the way to or Montrondo we choose the Parador.  Both Eladio and I usually choose their chickpea stew but as we had had chickpeas whilst in Montrondo, we went for something else.  I decided on lamb.  Looks good eh?
I went for roast lamb at the Parador in Benavente
We left the Parador at around 5 on plenty of time to be home by 8 which is when Eladio would have to go off to his UNED University evening tutorial.  However we hadn’t counted on a terrible accident on the road into Madrid which held us up for nearly an hour. Did this have anything to do with it being a Tuesday 13th? We were not home until 7.45, but just on time for Eladio, and were greeted by Olivia.  I had dinner with my daughter – leftovers from Montrondo - and after a chat together, I tucked myself and Pippa into bed.  That’s how Eladio found me when he returned late that night, enjoying reading the last of Jeffrey Archer’s Cain and Abel trilogy, “Shall we tell the President”.  It’s riveting.

Wednesday was busy.  At midday I had yet another interview with a newspaper about my role in the Undercover Boss programme.  I am working on the subtitling into English but have to correct some 49 pages of English which will take me some time. Later in the afternoon I had a meeting at the office with my CEO and CFO and PR Agency team to prepare the communication of the upcoming quarterly results.

On Thursday I fasted and spent most of the day working quietly at home.  On Friday I worked from home a lot too but took the afternoon off to go to Ikea with Eladio for lots more Montrondo shopping of so many bits and bobs that are still needed for the house.  Apart from a shopping list of items to get there we also went there to make a complaint in person which was getting nowhere on the phone. Ikea is great when everything goes alright but they are lousy at customer care.  We had two problems.  One was a kitchen drawer which was broken on arrival and another one has to be taken there and installed.  The other one was about a set of lighting for the kitchen which the kitchen installer had said was not his job even though it had arrived with all the kitchen stuff.  It apparently is the job of the furniture installers who hadn’t installed the lights either.  The complaint is ongoing and I can only envision it taking months to solve.  Oh Ikea when will your customer service improve?

On Saturday I had more Montrondo shopping to do, this time at El Corte Inglés for bedding and kitchen items Ikea doesn’t have.  Oli joined me and we had a lovely morning shopping together.  Unusually for us we didn’t buy any clothes.  These days my mind is on the house in the village and I have no inclination at all to buy clothes right now.  It’s not as if I need any really; so perhaps that’s a good thing.

In the afternoon yesterday I spent 4 hours cooking which felt a bit like a culinary marathon.  I made pumpkin and vegetable soup from my huge stock of frozen chunks of pumpkin from the giant one Miguel had given us.  I also made a batch of bitki (Russian hamburgers) to freeze as well as about 40 perushki (little Russian meat pies).  This was all for freezing at home and for taking to Montrondo.  I also prepared the béchamel with ham bits to make up croquettes this morning.
Marathon cooking yesterday afternoon
Dinner was the soup with the pies.  Long after we were in bed, Oli left for Madrid to pick Miguel up from the train station from where they would go on to the birthday party for two members of their group “la manada” (the herd); Pulgui and Anita.  Anita, by the way, who was Oli’s friend from University, will be moving to London next week to join her boyfriend who is studying a master’s degree there.  They will be living in a flat in Lewisham, apparently not too far from where Suzy lives. Suzy meanwhile was at another birthday party in London last night; also for one of the members of the “manada”, Chati, her nurse friend.  I just got this photo from their celebrations last night, so I at least have one photo of Suzy for this week’s blogpost. I asked for the location and was told it was held at Weatherspoon’s Pub in Stepney Green.
Celebrating Chati's birthday yesterday in Stepney Green.  Suzy second left in green, Chati in blue in the middle.
And this morning, Sunday, I have been very productive and did more cooking. I was up at 7.30, made breakfast for Eladio, my Father and I, went for our walk with the dogs, came back and showered and then started on the cooking.  I made a lasagne for lunch and by 12 my batch of 51 croquettes was ready for freezing too.
More cooking this  morning - lasagne and ham croquettes
And now I’m coming to the end of this week’s story.  I’ve just put the lasagne in the oven and soon it will be time for a family lunch when Oli and Miguel come back from their trip to the swimming pool. 

This next week will be busy as it’s results week. On Tuesday morning we will be hosting a press breakfast to present and explain the financial results of the company for this 3rd quarter.  This coming week we shall be returning to Montrondo, either on Wednesday or Thursday.  Now that we have internet there I can work remotely from the new house.  I dread to imagine just how full the car will be with all the bedding and new purchases we have made this week.  Oh, but it’s just so exciting setting up a brand new home.  It’s something I’ve never done because we’ve always bought a second hand home.

So I shall leave you now whilst wishing you all a great week ahead,

Till next time,