Monday, November 09, 2015

Life in Montrondo, Spain ranked second in the world for life expectancy, presents from my neighbour, missing Pippa, the visit of Javier and Ana, the man of my life, Suzy in Bristol and other stories

Monday 9th November 2015
With our friends Javier and Ana at La Peña de Dios (God's rock) this weekend
Hi again,

It’s Monday and I’m one day late with my blog.  Today is a holiday in Madrid thanks to the capital’s patron saint, “La Almudena”, the sun is shining and life couldn’t be better.

Last Sunday was a quiet day.  I spent a lot of it reading yet another novel by Jeffrey Archer and later made some pumpkin soup for dinner and to freeze for Montrondo.

On Monday I fasted. It rained all day and was a very quiet day.  Poor Pippa had to sleep downstairs in the kitchen for the first time because she was on heat and stained our sheets.  She howled most of the night and I didn’t sleep much either.  The next night we left the other dogs in and she slept with Elsa peacefully.

On Tuesday morning we had good news. Suzy had bought her plane ticket for Christmas and will be with us from Sunday 20th till the 29th.  She badly wants to come to Montrondo to see the new house and we are trying to sort out which dates that can happen but that will depend on Oli’s work.  Cross your fingers.  We will, of course, spend the 24th and 25th at home to celebrate Christmas with my Father.

I was busy that day writing and sending my PR reports to Finland and for the monthly board presentation. 

In sharp contrast to Jeffry Archer, on Tuesday I came across a book I am keen to read called “Life in a Jar” about Irena Sandler, the Polish Catholic woman who saved so many Jewish children from the holocaust.  I immediately downloaded it on my kindle.
My latest book
Off we went to Montrondo again on Wednesday morning.  Since I have internet there and a new study, I can work away from home and that’s what I aim to do as often as possible when I don’t have a busy schedule of appointments.  As usual the car was full to the brim, including the new small deep freeze we had bought and which just about fits in the small boiler room / come store room. We had brought new bedding too for one of the rooms and this is what it looked like with the new covers. 
The new bedding
It rained all the way and continued to do so the rest of the day and the whole of Thursday in Montrondo.  Even so I managed a walk in the evening the day we arrived.  The path looked a little gloomy and I missed Pippa who we had decided not to bring with us until her heat period was over.
Montrondo the day we arrived
After a lovely dinner of “perushki” and pumpkin soup we sat down to watch the evening news.  It was then that I found out that Spain comes second in the world after Japan in life expectancy in the latest report by the OECD.  Ironically Spaniards live longer than the rest of the world although they drink and smoke more than many other countries.  I felt somewhat comforted by the news.  I’m sure two of the reasons are the Mediterranean diet and the climate.
Life expectancy is second highest in the world according to the OECD's latest report despite high levels of smoking and drinking alcohol.
I slept badly that night and woke up at 4.30 then again at 5.30 and finally got up at 06.40 while Eladio slept peacefully.  It was raining again but it wasn’t cold.  In England of course Thursday 5th November was Guy Fawkes’ night which I thought about and regretted never having continued the tradition here in Spain.  Maybe next year if we are here in Montrondo I will introduce the custom and make toffee apples and parkin for my neighbours and build a big fire and let off fireworks.  I wonder what they would think of it.

That morning I rang the Ikea customer service about our Swedish Uppleva TV where I hoped to get help to install the apps for Spanish TV streaming services such as RTVE or Atresmedia only to be told they are not available and cannot be downloaded. I was dumbstruck and disappointed.  However I was happy to see that Uppleva finally includes Netflix and I look forward to watching Homeland again from beginning to end but this time with Eladio who I know will love the series.
Netflix working in Montrondo
The doorbell rang in the middle of the morning and there was Salo my neigbour who had come to see us to return the keys.  I immediately asked her to keep them for any emergency.  She had also brought us some freshly baked cinnamon and coconut biscuits and, to my delight, a homemade bag for clothes pegs as well as a beautiful bread bag which she had promised to make me. They now have pride of place in my kitchen.

Presents from my new welcoming neighbour Salo
That for me is life in Montrondo, so different from the city, where you know all your neighbours and they look out for you. I feel so integrated in the village and above all I feel welcome here and have a new set of women friends not only in Salo but also Manolita, Josefa and Pili (not to be confused with my sister-in-law).  Here I know nearly all the people who live here and enjoy stopping to have a chat with Fernando or MariCarmen, Lourdes, Alfredo, Tomasín, Jenaro, José Antonio, Pedro and his wife Carmina, Javi, Manolo, Ulpiano and his wife Serafina to mention just a few.  We buy fresh eggs and locally grown potatoes from the latter which only adds to the joy of “life in Montrondo”. 

In the afternoon the doorbell rang again and this time it was the man with a van who had come to bring us the custom made wooden bench we had ordered from a carpenter firm in Córdoba of all places called “Bancos de Madera”. It looks lovely in our porch, seats four and is also very practical as it is the perfect place to sit and change your shoes or boots.  It is also quite ergonomic with the perfect “bum fit”. Here is Eladio trying it out for the first time. Notice his “madreñas” (wooden clogs) which match with the colour of the wood.
The new bench
Later I ventured out into the rain and joined Josefa and Manolita on a walk with umbrellas to Murias and back.  I invited them for coffee afterwards and was happy to show them our new house.  I only wish Pippa could have gone on the walk with us.  I wonder whether she is missing me as much as I am missing her.  I was happy that day when Oli sent me a photo of Pippa sitting placidly with Elsa in the kitchen. I much suspect that Elsa does a good job in replacing me.
Pippa with Elsa at home
It was on Thursday that Eladio finally lit the fire in our lounge. This was the very moment.  It was lovely to have the fire on but together with the central heating the house felt like a sauna.
Eladio finally inaugurated the fire place
That evening Toño and Dolores arrived from Madrid and will be here with us until tomorrow.  Life in Montrondo is doubly satisfying when they are with us. Toño and Eladio were brought up together and have so much in common they remind me of twins. On that topic, did you know there are 12 sets of twins in Montrondo?  Salo is the mother of two of them Adriana and Patricia who I can’t tell apart.

We went to bed late that night.  In Madrid meanwhile the annual ADSL Zone prize giving dinner for the sector was taking place.  There last year I was awarded the prize of best Communications Director in the sector.  This year the award went to Beatriz Valverde to whom I am happy to congratulate publically here.  However I would have loved to be there to congratulate her in person as well as Antonio Lorenzo who was voted best journalist of the year.  It’s a great event that this telecoms news site puts together annually and which reunites colleagues from the whole sector.

On Friday morning I woke up to the absence of rain.  Thankfully it was going to be good weather from then on.  That was perfect for the visit of our friends Javier and Ana who would be arriving at lunch time.  They were to be our first official guests and everything had to be perfect for their arrival.  I have known Javier who was head of communications at Telefónica for many years and met his wife when in the early 2000s I organized a trip to Helsinki for the Comms directors and their wives of the Spanish operators when I worked for Nokia. Our friendship was further forged when they invited Eladio and I to their country home in a pretty little village called Pañacaballera in the province of Salamanca (the last village before Cáceres in Extremadura).  We have spent many a happy weekend there in the summer and it was now time to invite them to our new house.  In a way when we rebuilt ours we were inspired by the style of their home in Peñacaballera. I also got a lot of interior decoration advice from Ana, most importantly the striped paint in two of the bathrooms as well as the window shutters and colour of the beams on the ceilings.

I spent the morning cooking and made a vegetable starter of runner beans and artichokes, lamb stew for the main course and fruit salad for dessert.  They arrived just before lunch.  As soon as we had shown them the house, we took them on a short walk in the village, to the village common called “El Campo” and to the church.  Later we would visit the inside when Salo my neighbour kindly lent us the key of which she and Manolita are the keepers.  It was built by the way in 1722 and is the village jewel.  It was here that Eladio was ordained when he took his priestly vows at the tender age of 23. Little did he know that 12 years later, when I was 23, we would meet and fall in love and that later he would bring me to his home village and that here we would rebuild the family house and be so happy together in Montrondo.
By the belfry with Javier and Ana just after they arrived in Montrondo on Saturday
Our friends very generously had brought us a gift.  Here I am opening the beautiful big parcel which was a basket full to the brim with a variety of bottles of wine and liquers which has now been turned into the box where we keep our drinks.
Opening Javier and Ana's present - a hamper of wine and liquers
In the afternoon after a quick siesta for the men, we decided to go for a walk up into the mountains that surround Montrondo and enjoy the last of the beautiful Autumn colours.  Toño and Dolores joined us and I think after all the effort of walking up the mountains we deserved a delicious dinner all together in our dining room. 
On the bridge about to start out walk up into the mountains on Saturday afternoon.  Nuba is in the picture too!
We talked well into the night, at least for me, as it was past one in the morning when we went to bed. 

Meanwhile in England, Suzy and her friends Chati, Maria and Mónica had hired a car from ZipCar (must find out how that works) and had gone to visit Bristol.  I’m not sure whether they spent the night there or not.  I told Suzy that it was in Bristol that my Father was brought up, that he had lived in Henbury where his Father was the local Anglican priest and that he had attended Clifton College.  Afterwards he worked for a while with the Imperial Tobacco Company whose headquarters were in Bristol.  I have a feeling that Suzy did not visit any of these landmarks but was delighted to see a photo of her on the famous Suspension Bridge over the River Severn.  
Suzy on Suspension Bridge in Bristol this weekend
Saturday was another glorious day.  After breakfast I made our lunch; chicken korma curry. Ana helped me and also learned how to make it. 
Making chicken curry with Ana
With lunch made I was free to join my friends and we all went off on a walk to Murias.  But first we bought bread from the local bakery.  Buying bread from the Senra or Murias bread van is another element of “life in Montrondo” so I had to snap a shot to include in this week’s post.  Here is Eladio, Manolita, Fernando and the baker by “Los Palacios”.
Buying bread in Montrondo - Fernando, Eladio and Manolita
It was on our walk to Murias that Oli sent me a photo of another walk.  She and Miguel had taken our three dogs for a walk where we live and I noticed she was wearing shorts and a short sleeved t-shirt which could only mean it was very warm in Madrid.  I heard later it reached 23ºc.  I was glad she had given the dogs the exercise they need.
Oli and Miguel on a walk with the three dogs on Saturday in the sun
At the half way point between Montrondo and Murias we had to stop and take photos by “God’s Rock” (La Peña de Dios). The photo illustrating this week's post is of that moment, courtesy of José Antonio. We came back for lunch to tuck into the delicious chicken curry.  For the record here is a photo taken by Javier.
Indian chicken korma curry for lunch on Saturday with our friends
Just before lunch Eladio’s sisters Pili and Adela and brother Isidro and their spouses Andres, Primo and Yoli had arrived too.  And that afternoon our terrace was officially inaugurated when we invited everyone to coffee. 
Coffee and tea with the family and our friends - the inauguration of our terrace
Dolores had brought a delicious apple cake she had made earlier and as we were so full and dinner was in the offing, there was no other option than to go on yet another walk to Murias and back if we were to have any appetite at all for our meal that evening.

For dinner Eladio opened a chilled bottle of Rueda white wine from the Palacio de Bornos.  The four of us demolished it in a short time and I think maybe it was the fault of the wine that we then spent the whole evening until 1.30 talking heatedly about religion.  Toño and Dolores were an integral part of the conversation.  Both Eladio and José Antonio were brought up in a seminary and apart from being graduates in philosophy they also studied theology and are very learned in both fields and many others too.  That night they were in their element and I think the rest of us felt we were on a completely different level; much further down of course.  Their argument was of the origin of Christianity and of the existence or rather the non-existence of God.  Religion is a very dangerous topic to tread when you have different opinions and that night I think we all went a little too far.  Thankfully the next day we were the best of friends and I now think the debate actually forged our friendship even further. 

Ironically the next day after breakfast Eladio and Toño showed our friends the church from the inside and of course the cemetery.
At the cemetery in Montrondo
From the church we walked to Adela and Primo’s house where we invited to coffee.  On our way I took a photo of one of Manolo’s cows feeding its young offspring; yet another delightful element of “Life in Montrondo”.
The cow and the calf
Ana and Javier are Sunday churchgoers and once again it was ironic that thanks to them they got both Toño and Eladio to go to mass on Sunday in Murias.  I told my husband and brother-in-law that it was their penitence for their side of the debate the night before.  Before going, Toño went back to his house to get changed.  By chance both Eladio and Javier were wearing light blue shirts so I suggested to Toño that he wore one too and he did!  Here is a photo of the three men in blue, just before we set off for mass.
Three men in blue
Dolores joined us after mass and we took our friends to have a drink at La Palloza, a lovely bar in Murias which opens at the weekends.  It was here that I think I fell a little more in love with my husband if that is possible.  We had talked about love and marriage to Ana and Javier the day before and I had explained that for me two important ingredients of a successful marriage are mutual admiration and respect.  I have always admired Eladio for his knowledge and culture and education.  I was amazed at his arguments about religion the night of the debate and just how much he knows.  It was at La Palloza on Sunday when Toño began to recite poetry of famous Spanish poets that I sat awestruck but when my husband joined in it was pure pleasure to listen to the two of them.  Dolores remembered many verses too.  Their memory is incredible.  I took this photo of my darling husband reciting poetry from the Spanish Golden Age of Literature which took me right back to my lectures of Hispanic Studies at Nottingham University, except that he added a romanticism that jerked just a tear or two of both emotion and admiration at his amazing memory and oratory, not to mention his good looks.  Yes Eladio is the man of my life and it was wonderful to fall just a little bit more in love with him yesterday in such a romantic setting in the company of Toño, Dolores, Ana and Javier. 
Eladio, the man of my life
The moment was magical but time was ticking and it was nearly 3 o’clock and we had to get back for lunch.  On our way back we passed my favourite local animals, the little pony and grey donkey in a field just outside Murias.  As we had bought some bread from the bakery, I was happy to offer a piece each to them.  Eladio captured the moment on camera.
Feeding my favourite animals with a piece of bread each. Friends for life.
Before we went home, Javier and I went to get some potatoes from my other brother-in-law and Primo and Ana went with Eladio to Ulpiano’s place to buy a huge sack of potatoes and a dozen fresh eggs. Thankfully Pili gave us some of her delicious bean stew (fabada) which we ate followed by my bitkis and salad.  Soon it was time for our friends to leave but not before a last cup of coffee together, this time at Toño and Dolores’ house.

When they left I spent some quality time with my sisters-in-law, Pili and Adela, chatting together on Adela’s terrace which has wonderful views of the church.  It is also next to the field where Manolo (the man who saved me when I broke my leg in January) has his cows.   He was there tending to them and I decided to have a little chat with him and to learn a bit about his herd. 
Manolo and his cows - practically Adela's back garden
He told me about the variety of cows, showed me his bulls and explained how long a cow takes to give birth (9 months like a woman), how some of the cows don’t mind him being present when they give birth, how some of them won’t let him near them until 10 days after their birth.  He has some 30 cows and a dozen or so mares.  He rears them, not for milk, but to sell the meat. I can only imagine just how delicious it is because of the way they live.

My talk with Manolo was another element of “life in Montrondo” that I enjoyed.  Then just a bit later, Maricarmen, who lives opposite Primo and Adela and who is my mother-in-law’s first cousin, offered me some of her home grown carrots.  This was the bag she gave me for which I am extremely grateful.
Home grown carrots given to me yesterday by Maricarmen.  
Sunday of course was Remembrance Day, better known as Poppy Day in England and I would have loved to be in London with my friend Juana witnessing the activities in London to remember those who died in wars for their country but that wasn’t to be.

Last night, after dinner, I fell asleep watching TV with Eladio tired but happy after such an intense and enjoyable weekend with our friends. Today is another sunny day.  Of Eladio’s family only his Mother, Pili, Andrés, Toño and Dolores are still here and the former will be leaving this afternoon.  I have spent the morning quietly, making cocido for lunch, writing my blog, chatting to Dolores and having coffee with Pili.  I’m sure that later today we will be going on yet another walk to Murias or maybe a bit further on to Senra.

We are so happy here we will be sad to leave tomorrow.  As I remarked to Pili, it’s a bit like being married again and starting life in a new house.  But of course we have to go back and so we shall.  I have a busy few days ahead of me. Trust me though, we shall be back soon, hopefully in two week’s time with Oli and Miguel.

So my friends, I will leave you now to lay the table for our lunch.  Wishing you all a great week, cheers till next time,



Ana said...

Wonderful house, wonderful hosts, wonderful village, wonderful family, wonderful company, even wonderful weather... great weekend! Thank you my friends!

Masha Lloyd said...

Thank you my friends for coming, it was "wonderful" to have you.