Sunday, December 27, 2015

Difficult outcome of the Spanish General Elections, on the TV again, Suzy back for Christmas, to Montrondo with the girls, “El Gordo” (the fat one) lottery, home for a family Christmas, floods in Yorkshire and other stories.

Sunday 27th December 2015
Our Beatle style family Christmas e-card from the mountains of Montrondo
Good morning folks!  I hope you are having a super Christmas.  Mine is going fine but is all too short.  That’s always so when you are having a good time.

Last Sunday was the General Election day in Spain.  If you read my last post you will know that Pippa and I accompanied Eladio and Oli to vote.  Both of them voted for one of the new parties.  We didn’t have to wait long for the results.  By 10 in the evening it was pretty clear the outcome was to be very uncertain with none of the parties able to gain an overall majority.  The maths was to start the next day with talks of all sorts of coalitions; none of them easy.

Meanwhile however, as we were making dinner I was suddenly inundated with messages and mails from people I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure what was happening until I realized that the Undercover Boss programme I starred in for Yoigo was being broadcast again; for the 5th time I think now.  I got all sorts of messages; most of them positive and lots hoping I could help them to find a job.  One was from a woman whose husband was about to be released from prison for drug trafficking.  I responded to every one of them and to her in particular I had to say I just couldn’t help!
I was on TV once again this week
Suzy was supposed to be arriving at around 11.30 that night and Oli and I were going to fetch her.  However her plane was delayed and I fell asleep and in the end dear Eladio went to get his beloved daughter.  They weren’t home till just before 2 in the morning; so I wasn’t to see her until breakfast. 

I was up early on Monday morning, the start of my holiday and the start of Christmas with the family.  I spent breakfast reading the results of the elections but also reading yet more messages from people who had seen me on the TV the night before.  I even got an email from the President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain congratulating me on my role! 

The results of the elections were messy but then again the polls had predicted a stab in the two party system.  That morning the maths began.  Just looking at how the votes are divided; it is difficult to predict how a new government will be formed.  What will the coalition be?  If a new government is not formed by 13th January new elections may have to be called but I hope it doesn’t come to that. 
The results of the Spanish general elections
I was quietly having my early breakfast just before making the last minute preparations for our trip to Montrondo when my darling daughter Suzy made an early entrance.  It was tears of joy when we hugged.  We had last seen each other back in August, which is one of the longest times we have gone without her.  Wow was it good to see her. She was looking beautiful and rather thin; something I suspect pleases her.  Before we could leave for Montrondo we had an appointment for a check-up at the hospital with one of the gynecologists who had operated on her in the summer.  The immediate findings looked very promising, although we have to wait for the results.  However, the doctor was very confident Suzy has the all clear.

Thus we were able to leave for Montrondo with a light heart.  It was to be Suzy’s first time seeing the new house and we were all very excited about going and being there together. We were joined of course by Pippa but also Miguel, Oli’s boyfriend who is  part of the family now.  We stopped for lunch in Rueda at the Palacio de Bornos winery where we were greeted by the manager Mariano who treated us like family.  Suzy is a vegan which means she won’t eat anything that is derived from animals so I was a bit worried as there might not be anything for her to eat as she would not touch the delicious ham and lomo we ate.  Luckily I found a jar of gourmet mushrooms and one of roast peppers which turned out to taste delicious.  We all enjoyed the bread with oil and the local white wine as you can see in the photo below.
Lunch in Rueda on our way to Montrondo
We got to Montrondo at about 4.30. Suzy fell in love with the house just as we did when we first saw it finished.  It was getting dark but the girls and I just had to have our walk, so off we went.  On our way we stopped to greet Salo, Pili and Josefa, our neighbours.  It was dark and cold but at least it wasn’t wet. The three of us remarked just what a peaceful village Montrondo is, the best place in the world, at least for us, to “get away from it all” and disconnect.  We were to spend most of our time relaxing, going for walks and of course cooking and making meals.  It’s amazing how the mountain air increases your appetite in Montrondo.  Below is a photo of dinner on our first night.
Dinner at home in Montrondo on our first night there last Monday
Later we watched a film on Netflix called “The next three days” with Russel Crowe.  It had us riveted until the end.

Tuesday was 22nd December and the day the Spanish Christmas lottery “El Gordo” (the fat one) is drawn.  It is ranked the world’s biggest with a total handout of 2.2 billion euros.  People buy tickets for Christmas and share “décimos” as the tickets are called. On our way to Montrondo, we had bought some last minute lottery tickets at Oterico petrol station.

However we weren’t thinking about the lottery that morning when Oli had very bad toothache.  I rang my friend Pedro Delgado the cyclist whose wife hails from nearby Villablino and Ludi his wife gave us the number of a good dentist there.  Suzy drove us there and it was a lovely sunny day. We left Oli and Miguel in the dental surgery waiting room and went off to Gadis, that very good supermarket which comes from Galicia. .  Here we did some shopping and even Suzy who lives in London was surprised at the quality and range of products.  In the photo below Suzy is at the checkout till of the supermarket.
Suzy at the Gadis supermarket in Villablino on Tuesday morning
It turned out Oli had a possible wisdom tooth growing and was prescribed pain killers and of course advised to see her dentist in Madrid later.  All that remained was to go and have a glass of something (and a tapa – they come with the drinks free in this area!). Bars in Villablino are rather dead end places but we weren’t going to go home before having a drink.  It was at the bar that Oli played a trick on Suzy and I. The lottery results were being broadcast whilst we made our orders.  It was then that my youngest daughter made us believe that her boyfriend Miguel had won the second prize, or rather half a “décimo” amounting to a total win of approximately 60.000 euros. Both Suzy and I went wild with joy and I immediately told everyone in the bar and even suggested that Miguel pay for a round of drinks for all the customers there. Here we are “celebrating” his win.
Celebrating Miguel's "win on the lottery" in the bar in Villablino
It was only when we left the bar that Oli and Miguel owned up that it was a joke.  Meanwhile I had told Eladio to put a bottle of champagne in the fridge!  Miguel may not have won anything but many people did in Spain.  It was the story of the Senegalese refugee who lives in Roquetas del Mar (Almería) who won 400.000 euros that was perhaps the happiest win in the country. It even hit the international news.  The magic of El Gordo is when the really needy people win it like this young man from Senegal who made his way to Spain the hard way.  He later said he couldn’t believe his luck and that between his wife and himself there were days that they didn’t have more than 5 euros between them. I’d love to know how he’s going to spend his money.

I made cocido that day for lunch and no we didn’t open the bottle of champagne afterwards. We needed a long walk that afternoon to work it off and so we went up the mountains. The path was slippery and I was very wary since the fall at the beginning of this year when I broke my leg.  It’s not often the four of us are together so I was  grateful for the photos Miguel took of us.  He is of course a TV cameraman so his photos are really great.  He took the one of us illustrating this week’s post. We are at the “Abedular” (birch forest) with the backdrop of the highest peak in the area, the Tambarón mountain.  Miguel was inspired that afternoon and took several until he was happy with this one; a Beatle look alike but in the mountains of Montrondo.  I turned it into a family e-card.
The four of us together on our walk up the mountains
That night I made a huge Spanish tortilla (potato and onion omelet) using eggs and potatoes acquired in the village.  Suzy had no qualms eating the eggs as she knows the hens live wild thank goodness. I do like to see her eating proper protein.

On Wednesday it rained but we didn’t care and went for a wet walk.  Here we took more photos.  This time Miguel had us jumping for joy on God’s rock (la peña de dios) which is the halfway mark between Montrondo and Murias de Paredes.  I  also made it into a family Christmas e-card.
Our jumping for joy family Christmas e-card taken by Miguel by God's rock (la peña de dios) 
We spent most of the afternoon playing games, mostly dominoes and sevens, the card game.  Miguel nearly always won but I didn’t mind at all; it was just fun playing and being together.  I had prepared mulled wine for the first time ever, playing it by ear with the ingredients I had and referring to several recipes I found online.  I think only Suzy and I liked it though.  Spaniards have not caught onto warm wine, like the British where it is very popular or the Scandinavians, where it comes from and I think is called “glog”.
Dominoes and mulled wine - the perfect way to spend a wet afternoon in Montrondo
That night we watched a film on Netflix called The lone survivor which was rather too violent for my liking.  Only Eladio and Miguel watched it until the end.

Thursday was the 24th, Christmas Eve and the all-important “Nochebuena” in Spain and we were to leave Montrondo at about 10.30 if we were to be home on time for lunch and to make the dinner for Nochebuena.  It had been a lovely 3 days together in Montrondo but now was the time to leave and spend Christmas at home with my Father.
The girls in the car with Pippa coming back from Montrondo on Wednesday morning, Christmas Eve
Luckily we arrived home to a cooked lunch and laid table by Salu our home-help.  She had made lentil stew.  She then left and I gave her 5 days off to enjoy Christmas with her own family. Straight after lunch Suzy and I went to the local supermarket to buy stuff we had run out of.  Most of the dinner had been prepared and frozen but there were still lots of things to do.  Meanwhile Oli had to work and went off to do a report on a family of 22 having their Christmas Eve dinner together!  Imagine having to cook for 22!  We were to be just 5, but even so it was hard work.  In reality Christmas is great but it is a lot of hard work what with the planning and the preparation which both always fall to me.  If it wasn’t for me I often wonder how Christmas would be organized in our home.

Before starting on the food we just had to go for our walk with the dogs and Suzy came too.  That night for dinner I made potato salad, oxtail croquettes, lobster salad, Russian pies (perushki) and bacon rolls.  This is what our table looked like; photo courtesy of Oli who had to stand on the chair to take it!
Our Christmas Eve table for dinner
The photo that comes afterwards is of Suzy, Oli, Eladio and Grandpa waiting for me to stop taking photos and sit down to eat. 
Christmas Eve - about to have our dinner
When we had put my Father to bed, I lit all the candles in our festive lounges, turned the lighting down and played carols.  The dogs joined us as we sat by the fireplace.  Eladio only lights the fire once a year, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so we had to make the most of it.
Oli surrounded by the dogs on Christmas Eve
On Christmas day I was woken by my Father’s alarm.  He used to wake us up at 08.30 but now it’s 07.30, be that a Monday, Christmas or a Sunday.  In any case I had to be up early to make breakfast for everyone.  Meanwhile the “girls” who are now 30 and 31 were opening their stockings.  Yes I still make them every year and I guess I will be making them for as long as I live.  The actual stockings were knit for them by my Mother when they were small.
The girls' Christmas stockings full of lots of little presents
I made pancakes that morning as breakfast on Christmas day always has to be special. Soon the most important moment of Christmas came; the opening of the presents. This is the moment the girls and I, at least, most look forward to.  We go for quantity rather than quality, although each person usually gets something special and then lots of smaller things.  Miguel was with us this year and I got him to take the annual photo of Eladio and me together on Christmas day just before opening the presents.  For the occasion I put out a bowtie for Eladio to wear. This is us this year, together with Santa Claus – yes one more seasonal e-card.
Eladio and I on Christmas Day 
The girls wear their pyjamas, we play carols, drink coffee and eat chocolates during the present opening session.  Here are the girls this year.
During the present sharing session - it's such fun 
Suzy gave me a hamper with all sorts of products I had asked for plus lots of lovely beauty items from her shop, Planet Organic which looked tantalizing.  I was delighted as you can see by the expression on my face in the photo below.
Opening Suzy's present!
My best present was a Canon Selphy wifi photo printer which was very complicated to set up.  I spent an hour trying to figure it out that afternoon and didn’t get very far.  Feeling frustrated I got Miguel, our local IT expert, hahaha, to set it up for me today.  He did it but it also took at least an hour which made me reflect that cameras and printers are a lot less user friendly than phones. My wish is for engineers to make products that can be set up in a much easier and faster fashion without having to RTFM (read the f****** manual – an abbreviation we used to use when I worked for Motorola hahahah) or get help from your IT minded son-in-law! In any case it is up and working now and I can print directly from my phone or my pc.  All I need to do now is to order about 30 photo frames from Amazon as I keep printing pictures on it!!!
My main Christmas present  - a Canon Selphy wifi photo printer  - is great but was a hassle to set up
When the present giving session finally came to an end, everyone went off to enjoy their presents.  But I had to make the lunch.  It took me 2 hours to put this spread on the table and it was to be the same as every year; roast capon, roast potatoes, sprouts, peas, gravy, cranberry sauce and stuffing followed by Christmas pudding and sweet white sauce.  Again Oli took a photo of the table.
Our Christmas day lunch table
When we had pulled the crackers it was time for a selfie with our crowns on.  After several attempts this is the very best.  Notice Grandpa enjoying his glass of Rioja oblivious to the selfie being captured bless him!
Our hilarious Christmas lunch family selfie
Later in the afternoon Eladio and I went for a walk with the dogs.  Then it was time for dinner of leftovers on a tray watching the TV in the lounge.  There are no prizes for guessing that we watched more episodes of Prison Break.

Yesterday was Boxing Day and it was great to have all the family here again.  We all went to the Gran Plaza shopping centre, mostly for the girls to exchange some of their presents. I managed to buy something new; 2 pairs of lovely shocking pink touch screen woolen gloves from the Yoigo shop which was very full that day.

We went on yet another walk that afternoon whilst the girls got ready to go out.  Anita was here, as was Juli, friends from the “manada” Suzy badly wanted to see.  When I got back I captured them on camera as Anita was doing Suzy’s hair.  Lovely isn’t it?
Anita doing Suzy's hair and Oli looking on - the girls getting ready to go out to dinner last night.
Later Suzy sent me a photo of her with Oli, Juli and Copi, her oldest friend.  For once both girls liked the photo. You can’t imagine the trouble I get into for posting photos without their permission as they don’t seem to like any of them.  I told them that if they loved themselves a bit more they wouldn’t mind any of the photos.  I’m right aren’t I? 
The girls out with the "manada" last night  - here with Juli and Copi
Boxing Day is always a holiday and an essential part of Christmas in England.  However there was bad news especially yesterday in the North of England including my beloved Yorkshire because of extreme flooding.  The news has been dreadful and I was very upset by some of the images I saw of flooding in towns I know so well, such as Baildon below, a small town we used to live in.  Even the centre of Leeds was flooded and I saw a very disturbing picture of damage done in beautiful Haworth, Bronte country. It must have been an awful Boxing Day for people in the area and my thoughts go out to the people who lost their homes and those who are affected.
The flooding in Baildon yesterday
Today is Sunday 27th December and it has been another happy day spent with the family.  Miguel, Juli and Anita are still with us, so it was 8 for lunch.  I joked at lunch that the meal turned out to be a bit like the fish and loaves miracle in the New Testament but there was plenty to eat. 

Tomorrow will be Suzy’s last full day with us as she will be leaving for London on Tuesday afternoon.  I do hope we see her again soon. We shall be going to Montrondo to spend New Year’s Eve and Oli will be working and spending that night with Copi and Anita.

Soon Christmas will be over, but not quite as we still have “Reyes” (The Three Kings) to look forward to on 6th January when there will be another family meal, but without Suzy this time.  There will also be another present sharing session but a much humbler one for Reyes.

When I write again next Sunday it will already be the New Year, so let me take this opportunity to wish you all a great New Year.  I hope ours will be good too.

So, my friends and readers I wish you all the best till next year.  Cheers till then,

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

From Queen of the kitchen to Queen Anne Boleyn, “pruritis”, Yoigo fancy dress party, “adios José”, “Yoigoland” children’s party, Ex Nokia girl Christmas lunch and dinner, a sad day for Yorkshire, a Norwegian mountain for Finland, Miss World title goes to Spain for the first time, game changer elections in Spain today and other stuff.

Sunday 20th December 2015

Merry Christmas everyone
Hi again this last week before Christmas.  We are all ready for our Christmas now that all my Yoigo seasonal activities are over. Today is Election Day in Spain and promises to be the most hotly contested one ever.  But let me start from the beginning and come full circle about the elections at the end of this post.

Last Sunday we had a family lunch and Oli and Miguel bought some “roscón de reyes” with cream inside for “pudding”.  The “Three Kings” roscón is a Spanish sweet loaf brioche type bread baked in the shape of a ring with a surprise inside and which is supposed to be eaten on 6th January.  That was the rule in our house anyway until Oli and Miguel broke it last Sunday.
Roscón de Reyes

On their shopping outing Miguel bought a whole ham for us for Christmas which we were to open later for dinner. It’s a very good one too and we are very grateful.  We have already dug into more than half of it and it’s not even Christmas yet hahaha.
The ham and "lomo" from Miguel to us for Christmas
That night the 4 of us gravitated to the kitchen for dinner and there and then made an impromptu dinner whilst opening the new ham. It was a lovely family feeling making dinner together.
Preparing the impromptu dinner last Sunday - Eladio is wearing the roscón crown here hahaha
Oli made me wear the crown that comes with the “roscón” and duly named me “Queen of the kitchen” as you can see in the photo below.  I suppose it’s ok for a kitchen queen to be wearing her dressing gown like me haha.
Queen of the kitchen on Sunday
The next day I went from Kitchen Queen to Queen Anne Boleyn.  You will wonder why.  The reason is I went to Madrid to a shop to choose an outfit for the Yoigo employee Christmas party which was to be held the next night and was to be a fancy dress party.
Queen Anne Boleyn on Monday
You may wonder why I chose the Queen who was beheaded by Henry VIII. One of the reasons is that from what I could see from the pictures on google she seemed to be the only blonde one.  I was not going to be the austere Spanish Queen Catherine of Aragón and besides Anne Boleyn was also known for her beauty. I remembered going to a photo studio in Camden town with Eladio and Suzy a couple of years ago where we all dressed up and had our photos taken.  Eladio insisted on being Henry VIII and I dressed up as one of his Tudor queens.  I looked good in the Tudor clothing so thought it would be appropriate for the fancy dress party. 

However I didn’t feel like a queen inside.  My whole body had been itching since the day before.  I suspected it was from the graze on my knee from the fall which could be infected. So I left the shop and made my way to the Monteprincipe Hospital in Pozuelo.  There they insisted I see a traumatologist rather than a general practitioner.  The former said the itching had nothing to do with the graze and that it looked ok; despite it oozing with water.  Then I saw a general practitioner and was in the hospital for over 3 hours.  He said I had “pruritis” (itching) but he didn’t know the cause and that it wasn’t from the graze.  He pumped antihistamine into my body and gave me more tablets to take and told me to see a dermatologist if it didn’t get better.

Meanwhile Oli was at the dentist having complicated surgery to inject bone into her jaw in order to be able to put in an implant.  She was to be off for the whole week to recover from the operation. 

That night there was a 2 party candidate debate on TV between the right wing PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Socialist (PSOE) contender Pedro Sánchez.  It was much criticized for not including members of the two new parties, Ciudadanos and Podemos thanks to whom Spain is seeing an end to the two party system. It turned out to be more like an embarrassing shouting match with insults flying and the general consensus was that both speakers were the losers.  The debate at least helped to keep my mind off the itching in my body.  I fell asleep in the middle of it; a combination of boredom and the effects of the extra strong antihistamine tablets I had been prescribed.
The shouting match or exchange of insults - the 2 party TV political debate last Monday.
On Tuesday I woke up early, still itching of course and had yet another cold shower which helped a bit.  I was off to Yoigo to see to lots of last minute errands to do with the employee Christmas party taking place that night.

Meanwhile in London, Chelsea FC manager, Jose Mourinho, often dubbed “the special one”, was sacked having led the team to the bottom of the premiere league after successive lost matches. It must have been a huge blow to his enormous ego.  Guus Hiddink the Dutch football manager and former player has become his interim successor.  Rumour has it Chelsea is after Atlético de Madrid’s Diego Simeone from the Argentine.  Rumour also has it Jose is hoping to be the next Man United Manager.  However I think for the moment all that can be said is “adios Jose”.  I can only imagine the Real Madrid players who suffered under his management, laughing behind his back.  For me the only thing he has got going for him are his good looks.  He may know a lot about football but he needs a lesson in emotional intelligence and humility.  No doubt he will fight his way back. I just hope he has learned his lesson but I doubt it.
"Adiós Jose"
That evening I had to put my Tudor dress on.  It was only going to make the itching worse.  It was a great party but I was feeling pretty rotten and struggled to enjoy it.  Still as the hostess I had to keep a good face. Everyone said I looked great but I certainly didn’t feel so. Here I am below with my team from the events agency QuintaEsencia.
At the Yoigo fancy dress party with my team from QuintaEsencia.  They are the secret of my success.
The fancy dress party was held at a private actors club which is actually a small theatre which has been beautifully restored recently.  It was built by King Alfonso XIII for his mistress who wanted to act and of course couldn’t do so publically.  
The Yoigo Christmas fancy dress party on Tuesday night
As our venue it was perfect for the activities we had planned the two main ones being a fancy dress contest and a dance auction.  Here I was inspired by the film Gone with the Wind when Clark Gable bids to dance with Viviane Leigh (remember she was wearing black and wasn’t supposed to dance?).  We chose 4 women and 4 men candidates and the bidding started at 10 euros.  The bidders would not only get the prize of dancing with the person of their choice but would also get a Christmas hamper.  The highest bid went to be my boss and it was for 230 euros! The proceeds were to go to the Red Cross.

You can see the full set of photos of the party here.

On Wednesday I spent some time organizing our own Christmas.  Itching still, I went shopping with Eladio.  In the afternoon I had an appointment with María José, the beautician who does my nails with semi-permanent nail varnish. They are my trademark by the way.  I always say that it’s basic for a woman to look after her hair and her nails. The same goes for men by the way. You could add to that, shoes, but not necessarily in my case as I can only really wear flats.
Red nails - my trademark
Later on Wednesday evening I had an appointment with a local dermatologist about my “pruritis”.  I had never heard the word before nor suffered it.  I read on internet that some people live with it. Poor things; I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy I can tell you.  It’s just awful.  Well the outcome was just what I had suspected.  The doctors at the Monteprincipe got it wrong.  This lady dermatologist took one look at the graze on my knee and said it was very infected and was causing the itching.  She prescribed a special solution and a cortisone and antibiotic cream. Since then the itching has gone down but the graze still looks pretty nasty.  It would heal better if it was left in the open but the problem is it’s winter and you can hardly go outside without covering your legs.  Hopefully it will recede soon and it will just have been a small incident.  I am not posting a picture of the graze as you wouldn’t like to see it hahaha.

On Thursday morning it was my turn to go to the dentist.  As I told Eladio where I was going as I left, he remarked “you are looking after yourself these days” with so many appointments haha.  I suppose he’s right. I went for the final stage of an implant of which I now have 3.  My dentist, Dr. Garralda (best dentist in the world by the way), was to put in the actual tooth or crown as it is probably called.  It’s wonderful for the hole not to be there anymore and to have a full set of teeth.

I was to use the full set of teeth for the first time that day at lunch. Teresa and her English husband Tony who are the General Managers of Ketchum, our PR agency, had invited us and the Yoigo PR team from the agency to lunch at their wonderful house in the centre of Madrid.  On my way there I went to the English shop in Madrid (“Living in London”) to get her a Christmas present and at the same time took the opportunity to buy more crackers for home, plus scones, crumpets, etc.  I arrived loaded with parcels and thankfully my boss and another colleague were there to help me with them.

Teresa is from Galicia and loves cooking.  The meal was splendid: mini scallops, octopus, Galician broth, monkfish followed by lemon meringue pie.  I think we spent nearly the whole of the lunch talking about politics and what the outcome would be today and how a new government could be formed.
Lunch at Teresa and Tony's on Thursday
Lunches in Spain tend to go on for a long time. So at 5 I had to make my exit if I was going to get to Yoigo at 6pm when the employee children’s party was to start.  This year we had created a mini Christmas theme park we called “Yoigolandia”.  Believe it or not, on our outdoor car park we managed to fit the following: bumper cars, a carousel, a mini train, a Father Christmas set, a balloon corner, a face painting area, an inflatable castle, as well as various wooden kiosks serving hot dogs, McDonalds’ happy meals and waffles.  The piece de resistance was the sweet store where children could help themselves filling little boxes to the brim. 
The Yoigoland party for the employees' children on Thursday evening
The kids were in their element.  For them it was like being at a theme park where everything was free which it was.  The parents had a grand time too. 

With the children’s party over, my projects for this year came to an end.  I was in for a deserved break but not until Friday lunchtime.

On Friday morning we had a management team breakfast where we all brought food to the table. In my case I took along scones with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam and crumpets which I had acquired from the English shop in Madrid.
Scones with jam and clotted cream which I took to the breakfast on Friday 
There was so much on the table no way could we eat it all.  We spent the while going over this year and I was very happy to be congratulated in public for the successful Christmas parties.  I was happy with them too.
The Management Team breakfast on Friday morning
Then I had to rush home before I was off again.  But this time I was going to a personal Christmas lunch.  It was to be with the “Ex Nokia girls”.  Every so often, Jill, Juana, Fátima, Zenaida, Susana, Ana and I meet up for lunch.  We call it the “ex Nokia” girls group but actually Jill, Fátima and Zenaida still work for Nokia. The latter 2 couldn’t make it on Friday.  However we had a new member at the lovely Asturian restaurant Juana chose for us, in María Jesús.  I hadn’t seen her since she left Nokia in the early 2000s. Here we are enjoying our company and the food, at Carus in Pozuelo on Friday.
Ex Nokia girl Christmas lunch on Friday
I then rushed home again.  My whole week seems to have been one big rush.  I had to get home on time to do the weekly food shopping with Eladio but also prepare dinner that night.  Two more ex Nokia colleagues, my best friends Fátima and Julio were coming for the traditional Christmas dinner at our house.  In turn we go to Julio’s place for another party after Christmas.

Thankfully I had Salud to help with the cooking but I did it all I am proud to tell you.  I had prepared a careful menu only to hear from Fátima that she has been diagnosed as gluten allergic and also intolerant to any dairy produce from cows.  So I quickly had to change the menu. In the end I made artichoke hearts with bacon bits for starters, followed by baked salmon served with mashed potatoes, fresh peas and asparagus.  Dessert was strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. 
A Christmassy photo with my friends Julio and Fátima who came to dinner on Friday night
We had a great evening as usual and it was then I think that the real spirit of Christmas came.  The lounge looked beautiful with all the Christmas decorations, soft lighting and candles.  It couldn’t have been more “hyggelig” (remember that Danish word for Nordic coziness I told you about last week?).  Oli and Miguel joined us after dinner and thanks to Miguel I got a photo of the 4 of us that night.
With Julio and Fátima at home on Friday night
Friday turned out to be a great day for me.  Not so for Yorkshire.  No, it was indeed a sad day for the wonderful county I was brought up in.  It was on Friday that the last deep pit coal mine in the UK, the Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire, was closed.  It was the biggest deep mine in Europe.  Once it employed thousands of workers.  On Friday there were just 450 miners left and they went down the pit for the last time putting an end to deep coal mining in the UK.

Friday said goodbye to deep pit coal mining in the UK with the closure of the Kellingley colliery in Yorkshire
It appears there is lots of coal left but these days coal as a source of energy is being replaced by cleaner energy.  For me the news brought back memories of the fight between Margaret Thatcher and the NUM (National Union of Mining) led by Arthur Scargill – a hated figure for the right wing.  It also conjures up images of that great film Billy Elliot set in a mining community in the North of England.  

On a more positive note, I saw headlines about Norway giving away a mountain to mountainless Finland, its neighbour country.  I thought what a wonderful gesture until I read more. You see it’s not quite like that. A group of Norwegians had launched a campaign to move the country’s border by 200 metres to bring the peak of the Halti mountain into Finnish territory. The idea is to give it to Finland, on the 100th anniversary of its independence. Finland’s highest peak is 1.324 metres high and forms part of the same mountain range and the Norwegian peak being offered to Finland is not much higher (1.365m), so I don’t really see what the fuss is about.  I mean 1300 metres is not that high if you consider Montrondo, our little village, lies at 1.100.  For the Norwegians, whose highest mountain lies at around 2.500 metres high, this is probably just considered a hill hahaha.  In any case the story made for a good headline but it also taught me you have to read the small print behind an alluring headline.

The Halti mountain in Norway on the  Finnish border
On Saturday I was finally free; no engagements or meetings to go to.  Also most of our Christmas arrangements are already prepared and I was to begin my Christmas holiday.  Oh what a joy.  I started the day as I do mostly, having a quiet breakfast on my own with the dogs.  This time I was to be reading the news on my new iPad Pro.  Up till now I have used the iPad 2 and the new one is just wow.  It has been criticized for being too big but it’s a great size for my eyesight.  Perhaps its best feature is the sound as it has 4 speakers and you can watch a film or video or listen to the radio without needing external speakers.  Eladio and I will thus be able to watch Netflix in Montrondo in our bedroom – what a treat.
Reading the news on my new iPad Pro at breakfast on Saturday.
It was the perfect morning to join Olivia who had more Christmas shopping to do.  I did get one more thing and it’s not going under the tree. I got the smart cover for my new iPad as I hardly dare use it without one.

We were home for lunch with the men; Eladio, my Father and Miguel.  Eladio and I, bar a walk and quick dinner, spent most of the time watching more episodes of Prison Break.   We are well and truly hooked.

There was a frivolous piece of news last night in that Spain won the Miss World title for the first time ever.  I remember watching Miss World as a child but I think it is no longer televised and has gone out of fashion because of feminism. The title went to the 23 year old model, pharmacist and piano player, Mireia Lalaguna, from Barcelona.  I must say when I looked for photos to accompany this piece of news I found her extremely beautiful.  It’s good to know she is very intelligent too. To quote The Daily Mail, she sums up “beauty and brains”. Well done Spain, well done Mireia.

Beautiful and brainy Mireia Lalaguna from Barcelona was crowned Miss World this weekend - a first for Spain
The event took place in China so no doubt Mireia Lalaguna won’t be voting in today’s general elections unless she did it by post; something not too easy to do.  I didn’t vote either as I don’t have Spanish nationality. My Father couldn’t vote either for the same reason.  It seems strange that if I have lived here for over 30 years that I can’t vote.  As I said at the beginning of today’s post, these are the most narrowly contested elections ever with 4 parties very near each other, at least in the opinion polls. There are 2 new parties making these elections a game changer and putting an end to the two party system and they are Podemos (far left and led by the brilliant 37 year old Pablo Iglesias) and Ciudadanos (central democratic of Catalan origin which is against the excision of Catalonia). 
The 4 main  candidates for today's General Elections in Spain
Even if we couldn’t vote, both Pippa (hahaha) and I went with Eladio and Olivia who were going to cast their votes but to different candidates.  If I could have voted it would have been for one of the new parties. I admire what the PP (Mariano Rajoy’s government) has done to put Spain on the right path after the crisis but abhor the corruption committed by some of the members of his party.  I also think it’s time for him to go and for fresh blood to be given a chance. 

Eladio and Olivia casting their votes this morning in today's general elections
Afterwards, as is very traditional here, the 4 of us (Pippa included) went to have a coffee or cup of hot chocolate.  We sat outside in the sunshine on 20th December which is somewhat remarkable. 
Coffee in the sun this morning after voting
We won’t know the results until late tonight but what is clear is that no party will get an absolute majority which will make it difficult to form a new government.

But I’m more interested tonight in Suzy coming home.  Yes, she’ll be arriving late tonight and will be here until the 29th. My Christmas happiness will be complete when she arrives.  The four of us, Miguel and Pippa will be off to Montrondo tomorrow and staying until Christmas Eve when we will be back on time for the Nochebuena dinner with my Father. I much look forward to quality family time together in the village.
You will be hearing all about that next week,

Meanwhile my friends, I want to wish you a happy Christmas as when I write again next Sunday Christmas day will have passed.  The photo illustrating this week’s post says it all: Merry Christmas everyone,

Cheers till next week