Sunday, October 04, 2015

Back from Montrondo, water on Mars, Pippa was ill, bittersweet 1st October, the Shetland Islands, Mother and daughter in stripes, Suzy in Oxford for the day, the Seat 600 car, the perfect British roast, covering the pool – goodbye till next summer- and other stories

Sunday 4th October 2015

In my Marimekko t-shirt on Friday with Pippa at my feet!
Hi everyone

It’s Sunday again and we are now into the first week of October.  It’s raining this morning.  That’s news my friends as it hardly ever does here.  It also means we won’t be going for our walk until later.

This time last week I was in Montrondo with Eladio and his brother José Antonio.  After preparing the lunch and publishing my blog, off I went with Pippa for our last walk to Murias and back.  When we got there the “Palloza” bar was open and I had a lovely cup of coffee there with Pippa playing at my feet.
The entrance to "la palloza" in Murias de Paredes where I had a coffee with Pippa last Sunday
Meanwhile the men were waiting for a ton of firewood to arrive.  This is the wood we shall be using for our kitchen range and fire place when we hopefully move into the house next weekend. 
The firewood Eladio ordered for Montrondo last Sunday
On our way home we listened to the radio to find out how the Catalan elections, a de facto plebiscite for independence, were doing.  We wouldn’t get the final result until 10.30 that night.  The pro independent group (Junts per Si – Together for yes) had won but do not have an overall majority unless they join together with the radical left group CUP who got 10% of the seats – the latter don’t want to see Artur Más as head of the group but more worryingly they want to see Catalonia out of the EU, the United Nations and any other similar institution. It doesn’t look like there will be a consensus anytime soon on who will be governing in this region.  I personally am fed up of the Catalan question and would be quite happy to see them leave Spain but it’s not as easy as that as the region is divided with approximately 47% for independence and 53% against; not to mention that a referendum is illegal and for it go ahead there would have to be a change in Spain’s Constitution.  Furthermore Junts per Si only see eye to eye on one issue; independence and on practically nothing else as it is made up of parties from the full spectrum of right to left. Only time will tell. 
The results of last Sunday's elections in Catalonia
As we were on our way back, Oli was in Madrid meeting up with two of her dearest school friends, Sonia and Begoña. They had lunch together in town and here is a great photo of the three of them.  They have been friends since they were 4 and met at St. Michael’s school.  Sonia was a neighbour and when they were small they were inseparable.  It’s nice to see they have carried on their friendship after so many years.
Oli left, Begoña in the centre and Sonia in red on the right last Sunday in Madrid together
That night there was a super moon or lunar eclipse.  I only saw the moon seeming bigger and brighter than usual.  If I had stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning maybe I would have seen the eclipse.
The super moon as seen from Oli's balcony last Sunday night
On Monday it was back to work.  Work and fasting are quite a good combination as the former takes your mind off food.  I had to be in Madrid by 10 a.m. for the final proposal meeting of our PR Agency pitch.  That was quite a challenge due to the traffic and I kept thinking how lucky I am not to have to face it every day.

Meanwhile the world was stunned to hear that day that there was evidence there is “flowing” water on the red planet, Mars.  The next question of course is if there is life there and if there could be in the future.  I doubt it. At least I doubt there is any human life there now.  There has been lots in the news on the subject but it was this picture I liked best and which needs no explaining if you are an English chocolate lover or know what a “mars bar” is.
So there is water on Mars!
Tuesday was busy.  I was up early as usual and we took the dogs for their early morning walk straight after breakfast.  We don’t even have to say the word “paseo” or “walkies” as they know when it’s time and all 3 of them appear in the garage behind the glass door.  This is them waiting for us:
The 3 dogs waiting for their walk this week - left Norah our beagle, in the middle Elsa our Lab and far right Pippa our mini dachshund.
Once back at my desk I finalized our media coverage report on the impact Yoigo had had thanks to taking part in the Spanish version of Undercover Boss.  If you count all the clippings, both TV, offline and online, we had a total audience of nearly 14.5 million people which would have had an equivalent advertising spend of approximately 4.5 million euros; except that you cannot buy one hour of prime time TV.  So, yeah, I’m very happy with the results.

When I wrote my “pending” list that morning that includes all my work items but non work related issues too, I wrote down all the things needed for finalizing the house in Montrondo.  Two of the items were to find and buy some entrance furniture for the hall and a desk for me in the study.  I just looked up white wooden furniture and came across these two lovely items from Maison Du Monde.  I especially love the wooden bench which will be great for storing boots and shoes etc.  They have now been ordered and will be delivered this month.  I can’t wait to see them in our new house.

The furniture I ordered this week from Maison Du Monde for Montrondo. 
Hopefully next Friday we will be moving in.  The doors which have been delivered today will be installed on Monday or Tuesday and meanwhile the builders have to connect the kitchen extractor, put ceramics around the kitchen range and of course connect the kitchen sink to the main water supply.  On Friday a firm from nearby Villablino will spend the day cleaning the whole place professionally and that night, all going well, we look forward to moving in and sleeping there for the first time.  It’s so exciting. Right now the house is looking like this on the outside – front and back. Next week I will be posting photos of the inside.  I hope you like the style, a sort of mixture of country and Scandinavian; very simple but hopefully cozy too.  If Pernille, our lovely ex Danish au pair, is reading this, we hope it will be “hyggeligt” (pronounced ”hugali”) that lovely Danish word which she taught us, a word that sums up homely, comfortable and cozy all in one.  Don’t worry Pernille, I will also fill the house with candles just like you taught me.  Hope you guys come and stay soon.
A close up of the front and back of our house in Montrondo which we have taken nearly 1.5 years to restore
Just before lunch on Monday I went out to do some quick food shopping.  When I came back Pippa was in the kitchen looking strange. I immediately knew something was wrong as I picked her up and put her on the floor and she had trouble standing and couldn’t walk and was trembling quite strongly. I was worried stiff it was her back as dachshunds have weak backs.  It was lunchtime but Eladio and I didn’t hesitate to take her straight to the vet.  Once there she did walk, although haltingly and the diagnosis was a possible injured but not fractured paw.  We came home for lunch and straight afterwards the poor pup had diarrhea.  I rang the vet and she told me to observe her and to take a sample if it happened again.  Well it did and off we went again, this time with the sample.  It was analysed and we were shown on the screen that Pippa had a nasty bacteria in her intestines, Giardia, which can be caught from other infected dogs’ “business” (great English euphemism here hahaha). Well she certainly does taste all sorts of funny looking stuff on our walks and it’s difficult to stop her.  She was put on a bug killer and antibiotics for 5 days.  That very night they seemed to work and she woke up her usual perky self the next day but I must say she gave us a scare.
Pippa was not well this week
Not much happened on Wednesday.  I did more domestic work than usual as Salud took her 2 days off in lieu of the weekend.  One piece of news interested me that day; the announcement that Netfilx will be available in Spain from 20th October this year.  I will certainly be signing up as for this is like Spotify but for films and TV series on demand at quite a reasonable price per month. 

Thursday was 1st October, a date ingrained in my mind always as it was the day my Mother died.  She was 79 when she left us on 1st October 1999.  She can never be forgotten and I am sure my Father, who must think about her every day of his life, thought about her even more on Thursday than usual.  I did too.  I just wish she had lived to see her granddaughters grow up to be the beautiful and talented young women they are.  I just wish she was here to talk to and to listen to her amazing stories of leaving Bulgaria and being a refugee in the Second World War and all the incredible things that happened to her.  I just wish she was here to love Pippa and Norah and Elsa, to see our house in Montrondo.  I would have loved her to watch me in Undercover Boss but above all I just wish she was here to keep my Father company.  He is the person who misses her most.  God bless you Mummy.  You are forever in my heart.
My mother in the porch in Bradford in the 70's
Thursday 1st October was bitter because of the memory of the loss of my Mother but it was also sweet as it was my 9th anniversary with Yoigo.  I can now say that my position with Yoigo is the job I have had for the longest time; some 6 months more than Motorola for example.  I can also say that it is the best job I have ever had and still when I occasionally get a call from headhunters who wouldn’t ring me if they knew I was nearer 60 than 50, I always tell them I am not interested.  Yoigo is a great challenge and a great company to work for. Below is the photo taken on my first day at Yoigo on 1st October 2006 and it was for my company badge.  I don’t look great, bit of a double chin but I do remember wearing the nice suede green jacket which thankfully is now too big for me hahaha.
The photo taken of me for my badge on my first day at work at Yoigo on 1st October 2006.
Oli meanwhile was at a childcare exhibition in Madrid reporting on the latest products on show for children and babies.  I never got to see the report but laughed at the photo below of her and some of her colleagues wearing baby carriers except that the babies were dolls. That got me thinking how much I would love to be a grandmother.  I hope it’s not a case of “I want never gets”.
Oli having a bit of fun with her colleagues at a childcare exhibition in Madrid on Thursday which she would later report on.
On the subject of children, that day in the US there was yet another terrible shooting this time at a school in Oregon.  A bitter young man shot dead 9 people and injured many more.  When, oh when will there be a bill to prohibit the sale and use of weapons in the US?  If Obama can’t do it, then I cannot imagine any other US President being able to.  Meanwhile we shall carry on reading and watching more shooting horror stories in that supposed haven of democracy and freedom.  It makes me laugh.  So much freedom, you can buy a gun and kill anyone you want.  WTF!

On Friday I had a sudden interest in the Shetland Islands.  You are probably wondering why it is included in this week’s headline.  Well, it might have been a coincidence, but the day before at lunch my Father was once again remembering his time there during the Second World War.  He was an officer with the Royal Navy and was given a medal from the King of Norway for his help in the liberation of that country he grew to love – not so far away from The Shetlands!. He was also reading for the 3rd or 4th time a book about his beloved islands.  They have been familiar to me since I was a child from his stories.  On Thursday at lunch he told me that when he was there in 1956, when my Mother was pregnant with me, he had visited the outermost island, Unst.  I listened respectfully and then low and behold on Friday morning Suzy told me she was applying for a locum job with the NHS as a dietitian in guess where?  Yes the Shetland Islands. My Father was tickled pink when I told him.
The Shetland Islands - the remotest part of the UK 100km north of Scotland
Suzy had no idea where they were as she wasn’t brought up on the tales I was brought up on.  She told me they were near Norway. Actually they are not that far off. They are indeed the most distant islands from Scotland to which they belong, being some 100 miles north of the East Coast and further north of course of the Orkneys and Hebrides.  I began to read all about the Islands and found out that some 23.000 people live on the 16 inhabited islands (there are at least 100) and that the population of the capital Lerwick which is on the Mainland is around 7.000.  Suzy told me she had received a call from a woman from the hospital there and added “God what an accent”.  So, having never heard anyone from the Shetlands speak English I looked up the accent on You Tube.  I then commiserated with Suzy as I too found it very difficult to understand.  It sounds Scottish but also Nordic and instead of using the “th” in words they say “d”.  There is also a dialect called Shetlandic also known as auld or braid which is derived from the now extinct Norn language - old German - and which was spoken on the islands until the late 18th century. It seems the Shetlanders prefer the English to the Scots funnily enough or so my Father tells me.   So you see I have been reading up a lot about the Islands.  I told Suzy I thought it would be a great experience for her, as well as the step she needs if she wants to get on the NHS ladder.  It sounds like the interview went well and hopefully she should be round to the next one. So please cross your fingers. After getting so excited about the islands, I told Eladio that even if Suzy doesn’t get a job there, I really want to visit them and that perhaps our next holiday abroad could be there. I sincerely hope so. 

Suzy had the interview on the phone whilst she was in Oxford for the day. She and her great friend Chati took the train from London to visit the beautiful University City of such prestige.  She loved it although she told me later that she prefers Cambridge.  I am sure she does as I do too and not just because I was born there.  It’s because it’s smaller and has the lovely River Cam.  She sent us some photos and I particularly like the one of her by the famous bridge.  It is one of the city’s main landmarks. It is known as the Bridge of Sighs after the similar looking bridge in Venice but its real name is Hertford Bridge and it joins two parts of the college of the same name. 
Suzy by the bridge of Sighs in Oxford on Friday
They were lucky with the weather and were able to eat and drink outside as the sun was shining.  Oxford looked at its best to judge from her photos.  I like this one too of Suzy taken from a rooftop with the spires in the background. 
Suzy in sunny Oxford on Friday
Whilst Suzy was in Oxford I had my own engagement; lunch with my ex Nokia girlfriends.  Ana couldn’t make it, Fátima’s day got complicated so in the end we were just 5; Susana, Zenaida, Jill, Juana and myself.  We went to La Vaca Argentina which was rather full and the service was slower than usual although the food was as good as always.  I only remembered to take a photo when we were leaving and by that time Zenaida had gone, so there are only 4 of us.  It’s not a good photo either but it’s what I’ve got to remember the lunch.
A selfie with 3 of my ex Nokia girl friends on Friday 
I forgot to mention too that on Friday morning I received a wonderful box full of crumpets.  They were from Teresa, head of my PR agency who had been in London this week. She had asked if I wanted anything from the UK.  At first I was polite and said no but then I couldn’t resist and asked her to bring me some crumpets. I just love them for breakfast and can only get them from the UK or at a British supermarket on the Costa Blanca when I go. This was the lovely box with the crumpets which were from Marks and Spencer. Thanks so much Teresa.
The crumpets from London that arrived on Friday.  Thanks Teresa
In the afternoon I did the food shopping with Salud. When I got home, Oli was back from work – it must have been nearly 8 in the evening. I walked into her room and laughed when I saw that we were both wearing a long-sleeved black and white striped t-shirt.  Hers was a present from me from Lindex in Sweden and mine is made by Mari Marimekko, the famous Finnish designer.  We just had to have a selfie to record the funny moment of Mother and daughter in stripes together.  Later people said on Facebook that we looked like sisters. I know that’s not true but it was nice to read in any case.
Mother and daughter both in stripes on Friday evening!
Friday finished with more food.  Eladio and I had decided to try out the new Ginos in Boadilla and Olivia joined us – we were still wearing our striped tops hahaha -.  It was a good choice and we enjoyed our meal thoroughly.  We raised our glasses to Suzy wishing her luck in getting the job in Lerwick.  Now wouldn’t that be funny if my Father’s granddaughter ended up working in his beloved Shetland Islands?

It was a cloudy morning for our walk on Saturday. Olivia joined us and later the two of us went to our local supermarket, Mercadona, to get stuff for her to make sandwiches to take to a surprise birthday party for Teresa, one of the members of the girls’ group called “la manada” (the herd).  After the shopping we decided on a cup of coffee and very naughtily chose to go to a churros place.  Churros are very Spanish and are like long thin and heart shaped donuts. There is a thicker kind I like even more which are called Porras (literally a truncheon).  These are usually eaten dipped in thick chocolate hence the name “chocolate con churros” (chocolate with churros).
Chocolate, coffee, churros and a porra with Olivia on Saturday morning
Just as we were walking towards my car we spied a beautifully kept blue Seat 600e, a tiny car, equivalent maybe to the British mini, which was very popular here in the 70’s and 80’s.  It started off as an affordable family car and latterly, when I became familiar with it, it was more a mother’s car.  My sister-in-law Dolores used to drive one and she would pick me up in the city to drive to work at the school she taught at where I was a conversation assistant, part of my University studies.  The school was at Moratalaz.  I don’t remember the colour of her car but I’m sure Dolores does.  Anyway, I just had to have a photo with this very emblematic Spanish vehicle from the past.  It was nice to see how well kept it was. 
Me by the Seat 600 yesterday
For lunch I made roast chicken with all the trimmings although it was Saturday and not Sunday.  I actually cheated and did chicken legs, not the whole chicken, but added the most important “trimmings” – sage and onion stuffing and cranberry sauce.  When I put the photo below of the meal on Facebook I was asked for the recipe.  It’s quite simple really but to make the perfect British roast, you have to make it with a lot of love and care.  There is no need to resort to a Jamie Oliver recipe.  Mine has been handed down to me by my Grandmother and parents but I think I have perfected it.  So here goes: place the meat (in this case chicken) with peeled and quartered potatoes on an oven tray and baste in oil.  Put into the oven at the highest temperature and turn around at least every 20 minutes to make sure both the meat and the potatoes are crisp.  When making a chicken roast, one of the essential trimmings is “sage and onion stuffing”.  This can be made by hand but it is far easier to use Paxo’s. All you have to do is follow the measurements and add the right amount of boiling water.  Then cover and leave for about 20 minutes until it is time to place it into an oven tray and roast besides the meat and potatoes. Meanwhile boil any vegetables you fancy (I did carrots and peas) and once they are cooked how you like them, remove the water and keep it to make the gravy.  To make the gravy, pour the juice from the meat into a saucepan and add a stock cube and a tablespoon or two of flour. Once you have stirred this into a sort of “roux”, gently add the vegetable water and stir fast making sure there are no lumps. Bring to the boil and simmer for a while and then remove from the heat.  When everything is ready, serve the meat with the potatoes, the stuffing and the vegetables. Then pour the gravy and add a teaspoon or so of cranberry sauce for each serving.  And there you have it the perfect British roast which is more normally made on a Sunday.
Yesterday's roast chicken lunch
In the afternoon I watched as Eladio, helped by Miguel, covered the swimming pool for the winter; finally putting an end to the summer season.  I always hate the day he does that and am never very willing to help.  Here he is caught unawares as he is fixing the cover around the edges of the pool.  Goodbye swimming pool until next summer.
Eladio covering the pool for the season yesterday
The rest of the day was spent reading by the now covered pool.  Dinner was at home and it was a very quiet Saturday night as I remarked to Eladio when we got into bed to watch the TV.  I fell asleep watching a film I had seen before. “12 years a slave” is a great film but has some horribly violent moments.

And today is Sunday and I am at the end of this week’s tales.  It seems like we have done nothing but eat all week; but then I suppose you all have too; it’s just that I record some of the food I make.  For lunch today I made another great British dish, fish and chips.  The batter was made with beer and the fish was hake and this is what it looked like:
Fish and chips for lunch today
On that savoury note I shall leave you now until next Sunday.  Wishing you all a great week ahead,



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