Sunday, October 11, 2015

The animal trainer, lunch with Karin and Greta, US Prison inmates beat Harvard debate team, World Egg Day, moving into our dream house in Montrondo and other stories.

Sunday 11th October 2015
The two brothers at coffee time this morning in our new house
Hi everyone

Here I am writing from our newly refurbished house in Montrondo and I couldn’t be happier.  The rebuilding, and it was rebuilding because we demolished the whole of the inside of the old family house except for the outer walls, started at the end of May 2014 and on Friday 9th October we finally moved in.  I really thought we would never see the day but we did.  This of course is the main story of the week but more about it later.

Last Sunday was a quiet day. We were alone with my Father for lunch when I made fish and chips, remember?  Oli and Miguel missed the family meal but had a nice meal out in Madrid.  They also went to the cinema to see Amenabar’s latest film, Regression.  They were not impressed.  It’s a horror film so I will be skipping it I can tell you.  Horror films give me nightmares. I far prefer drama. Below is a photo of the happy couple in Madrid last Sunday.
Oli and Miguel - a selfie at the cinema last Sunday
Monday was also quiet.  It was my fasting day and I spent the time working from home.  In the afternoon an ex school friend of Suzy’s called Carlos Bueren came to see Pippa.  Yeah, Pippa had a visitor.  Let me explain why.  Carlos head’s up an animal training school called Animal Nature.  Carlos’ track record is very impressive.  He told us he even trains wild animals such as lions and tigers; wow! So why would I need an animal trainer for Pippa?  That’s because she’s very unsociable with anyone outside our immediate family circle and barks at anything that moves, especially men; including my gentle and lovely brother-in-law José Antonio.  And yes, she even barked at Carlos who trains wild animals.  He very quickly told us that it’s because she is afraid and that she must have had some sort of negative experience when she was younger which we didn’t even notice.  Her behavior is a typical trait of dachshunds except that it is very pronounced with her.  Carlos advised us that when she meets new people that they should ignore her rather than coming towards her head on which frightens her and that it’s better to approach her a bit like a horse; from the side.  Then when she sees there is no danger she will come of her own accord.  After 5 minutes he had her literally eating out of his hand but then again he knows exactly how to behave and he had some doggy treats too for Pippa. 
Carlos with Pippa on Monday
Tuesday saw me in the office for a meeting with Finance about my budget for next year.  I was home for lunch and after catching up with my emails, Eladio and I made yet another trip to Ikea for miscellaneous bits and bobs still needed for the house.  That evening was Eladio’s first lecture at the University (UNED) where the new term has begun.  He wasn’t home until 10.30 and found me reading in bed. I was devouring another Jeffrey Archer novel which I began to suspect I had read before, many years ago: The Prodigal Daughter which is the sequel to Cain and Abel.

On Wednesday we heard from Suzy that she had come second in the application for the locum job as general dietitian with the NHS in the Shetlands.  She was very upset.  But not all is lost and there is still some hope as the candidate who came first may not be able to take up the job as her locum post could coincide with that beginning in Lerwick.  So please still cross your fingers.  If not, well of course there will be many more opportunities. And there I was looking at flights to the Shetlands from Madrid …..

I had lunch that day with my Swedish colleague Karin who had come to settle in her daughter Greta who is spending her gap year in Madrid learning Spanish at the Complutense University.  Greta’s settling in here in Madrid reminded me very much of my own first stay here which was in my 3rd year at Nottingham University in 1978.  I had to learn the ropes as far as transport etc were concerned.  Or course I didn’t need a sim card from Yoigo.  I relied on a map to go everywhere and found accommodation at the Complutense University on a notice board.  Karin will have found hers online. Many things have changed but getting used to a new culture is always great fun with or without internet and mobile phones.  I hope Greta has a super year and as I told her, she can always turn to us if ever in need.  Bienvenida Greta.
Karin and Greta at lunch on Wednesday
It was a lovely sunny day and Greta turned up with a short sleeved t-shirt.  It was probably 18ºc and I was wearing a coat.  I suppose it must have felt warm for my Swedish fellow diners.  We left the restaurant and I walked with them to their metro stop in Cuzco.  In the photo below I caught them unawares as they were walking down the steps.
Karin and Greta going down to the Metro at Cuzco
Of course there has been lots of news this week, but one particular item really caught my attention.  It was the story of a US Prison (New York Eastern Correctional) debate team that beat Harvard in adebate.  I mean that is really something.  Of course just because you are in prison doesn’t mean you are not intelligent so I shouldn’t be shocked.  I later read that one of the reasons the prisoners are so good is that those who go to class, compete to be the best instead of competing to be the bad boys as they would have done when they were children.  Also they have limited access to internet and resort to their brains so much more and have lots of time to think and learn.  Winning had even more merit as the inmates had to argue in favour of a subject they were totally opposed to: that public schools should be allowed to deny access to illegal immigrant pupils.  The Harvard team who are the Ivy League champions posted later that they couldn’t have been prouder to lose to the prison team. I would have loved to witness the debate. 
The New York Eastern "Correctional" whose debate team beat Harvard's 
I spent Thursday at home, fasting again for what it’s worth  and working.  I have quite a lot on my plate at the moment and I was keen to get as much under my belt as I could before going off to Montrondo on Friday for the “Pilar” bank holiday this Monday.

Friday came and I had a 09.30 management team meeting at Yoigo. I was up at 06.45 and left the house at 7.50.  I got to Yoigo at 09.15 swearing under my breath at the traffic which was horrendous. I got so bored in the tunnels of the M40 I took a picture of the traffic which you can see below.

The meeting ended at 11.30 and I rang Eladio to see if we could leave for Montrondo before lunch rather than afterwards as this would give us more time to settle in if we were to have everything ready to be able to spend our first night in the new house.  Toño and Dolores came too and the car was completely full.  Dolores and I were pretty uncomfortable at the back as apart from all the stuff surrounding us we had both dogs, Nuba and Pippa with us in the back.  We left the house at just after 13.30 and made the easy decision of having lunch at Rueda.  We there by about 3 p.m. The sun was shining and we were able to eat outside which was very considerate to the dogs as otherwise they would have had to stay in the car.  Here is our lunch.  I’m sure you’ll appreciate the photo even more if you look at it if you are hungry like we were on Friday afternoon.
Lunch at Rueda on Friday
Talking about food, I heard on the radio that morning that Friday 9th October was World Egg Day!  I had no idea there was a celebratory egg day but there and then decided that our inaugural dinner at our new house in Montrondo that night would be; yes you guessed right, our favourite meal when we are there; good old fried eggs and chips. 
Friday was World Egg Day!
We arrived at around 6pm to sunshine.  The house had been cleaned by a professional cleaning firm the day before, just after the carpenters had finished the staircase and installing all the inside doors.  We wondered what sort of a job they had done and we were in for a pleasant surprise as the place was immaculate.  The house was warm and seeing it so clean added to our joy of seeing before our eyes our dream house come true; or at least the realization of the house we had designed.  I, for one, was jumping for joy. 

For you to appreciate the rebuilding, here is a picture of the house from the front and back before we started and below is the picture of the house as it is now from the front and from the back.
The house from the front and back before and afterwards
As for the inside, there has been a 360º change.  Just take a look at the kitchen as it was before and what the kitchen looks like now.

The kitchen before and the kitchen afterwards
Both Eladio and I worked fast and hard to put as much in place as possible and by 9pm we had done the most part and I had dinner ready on the table.  It was fitting that our first guests should be José Antonio, Eladio’s brother, and his wife Dolores, now our neighbours of course, as they have hosted us in their house for the past year and half during the rebuilding on countless occasions.  We could not be more grateful. And here you have the photo of that first dinner on Friday night, the night we moved into our lovely new country house in this beloved village.
The inauguration dinner - fried egg and chips on Friday night
We hardly slept that night as we were so excited about moving into the new house.  I feel like a little girl who has just been given some red patent shoes, I can’t get over the joy of this weekend, a dream come true.

Eladio took a photo of the 4 houses belonging to the brothers and sisters from the back which is quite unique.  We are so lucky to have our own place here now after so many years sharing this old house which was more like a house for gypsies than for people hahaha.
The four family houses in Montrondo from the back
After our first breakfast in the new house, we both went about all sorts of little tasks that needed doing.  Soon various members of the family arrived and some of them, the women, came to see the house.  I cooked lentil stew for lunch at Eladio’s bequest, followed by an easy to make steak and salad. Later we gathered at Pili’s house for a cup of coffee.  I then spent about an hour trying to redeem my Renfe (Spanish railway) loyalty card points for the first time.  I had quite a few and apparently they expire, so as Oli who is in Valencia this weekend with Miguel, needed a high speed train ticket to return to Madrid tomorrow, I offered to get her the ticket with my points.  The high speed train may be state of the art but their website is cr**.  I resorted to their customer care centre whose agents (3 failed calls) were unable to help as instead of a Spanish National Identity card I have a Residence Card called a NIE which often causes problems.  I won’t go into how in the end I finally managed to get the ticket but my goodness their customer and web service sucks, despite having a generous loyalty card.

It began to rain just after the train ticket ordeal but Dolores and I were undaunted and I just needed to get out of the house as I hadn’t been for a walk since we arrived on Friday evening.  Pippa wore her new coat which protected her a bit but it’s rather large and the hood covers her eyes poor thing.
Pippa with her coat on yesterday in Murias
Here she is waiting outside the Cultural Centre in Murias de Paredes where Dolores wanted to see an exhibition of photos of old Havana. Her son Miguel lives there and both Toño and Dolores recently went to visit.
The exhbition we saw in Murias yesterday
I came home drenched and so did Pippa and she was the first creature to use our claw foot bathtub.  I still haven’t tried it out. 

Dinner was vegetable soup made of pumpkin (remember the giant one Miguel Oli’s boyfriend brought us?), carrot, leek and potatoes.  I had a bit of an accident as the liquidizer exploded or rather half the soup came out whilst it was on and I got covered, not to mention my lovely new kitchen.  At least the soup was tasty.

I was up early again this morning but not at the crack of dawn.  It doesn’t get light here until 08.30 so Eladio and I had a candlelit breakfast.  It rained less today so this afternoon before finishing this blog post off I went with Pippa again to Murias.  When I go on my own I always choose the old path which is so pretty, especially now in autumn.  On the path we came across Manolo, his tractor and his barking but harmless dogs.  I mention him because he was the villager who came to my rescue in his old 4WD Niva car when I fell on ice and broke my leg in the mountains here in January.  I shall be forever grateful. And here he is, a very hardworking local man who has a smile for everyone. Thanks Manolo. 
Manolo from Montrondo who rescued me when I fell on ice in January - today on our walk to Murias
Tomorrow is a bank holiday I think in most of Spain.  It is the National Hispanic Day but also a celebration of the patron saint Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar) after whom Eladio’s sister Pili is called.  Dolores and I will be going to nearby Villabilino to a fair to buy food and whatever we find of interest for our houses.  I am on the lookout for “madreñas” for Eladio – the local wooden clogs with 4 heels which are worn here on top of slippers outdoors when it is muddy or rainy.  I myself would not dare to wear them as I am so clumsy I would be bound to fall.

And so my friends, I will leave you now and continue enjoying this wonderful long weekend moving into our new house in Montrondo. 

Wishing you all a great week ahead, cheers till next Sunday,

PS, you can see many more photos of this weekend here on Facebook.

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