Saturday, December 05, 2015

Britain wins the Davis Cup, Suzy and Christmas time at Planet Organic, happy birthday Pippa, bank holiday in Montrondo with the family and other stories.

Sunday 6th December
The family on God's Rock (la peña de dios) in Montrondo this weekend
Hi again from Montrondo.

Since we have rebuilt the old family house, we have been here nearly every fortnight and this time our trip coincided with the December bank holiday and we were joined by the rest of Eladio’s family.  Oli and Miguel came too which made our sojourn extra special.  Also Miguel my nephew who now lives permanently in Havana and Claudia his Cuban fiance were here too and the family was to meet her for the first time.  It was to be her first time outside “Castroland” and I can’t begin to imagine her impressions.

I just can’t wait for Suzy to come and then my happiness will be complete.  There is not long to go now as she will be coming on 20th December and the five of us with Oli’s boyfriend Miguel, will be coming until Christmas Eve in the morning.  Then of course we shall be going home to prepare that magical night and share it with my Father.  I really wish we could bring him too but alas it’s totally impossible as his wheel chair doesn’t fit in any of the bathrooms.

But let me start from the beginning, last Sunday. We had a family lunch and spent quite a lazy day.  There was time for a phone call with Suzy who had spent the weekend in Bath and Bristol, visiting Windsor on Sunday.
Monica, Chati and Suzy outside Windsor Castle last weekend
On Sunday Great Britain won the Davis Cup for the first time in 79 years mainly due to the efforts of “magical Murray” who is currently number 2 in the tennis world rankings.  I was pleased for the country of my birth.
It was good sporting news for Great Britain this week
There is not much to tell about what I did Monday except that I fasted and also went to the dentist (no one’s cup of tea).  However Monday brought bad tidings.  It was on that day that I got terrible news about a friend of friends, whose name I prefer not to include here and who knew through them.  I couldn’t believe that he had thrown himself in front of a train on the Madrid metro that morning.  He was in his early 40’s, happily married with 2 children and a good job.  What could possibly have motivated him to take his own life?  Well it was apparently depression, that terrible silent illness that is not often obvious to anyone but the person who is affected.  RIP. There was no news of his death in the media and Olivia told me that suicides are just not reported so as to avoid the "domino effect". I learned too that there are more deaths in Spain per annum for suicide (over 4000) than because of traffic accidents which now stand at around 1.500! Later my sister-in-law told me that there is apparently at least one suicide per day on the Madrid metro.  I was horrified.   I do wish that they would put up glass barriers on the platforms, like the ones you see in the metro in St. Petersburg or at some of the stations on the London underground. 

Tuesday was busy.  I was up early as usual, let the dogs in, fed them, then the cat and finally myself.  By the time I had finished breakfast the three of them were fast asleep in their beds in the kitchen; except for Pippa who was on the alert as she always is when I am near.  She’s a bit like my shadow hahaha. 
The dogs  in  their beds in the kitchen
That morning I had 2 meetings in Madrid and Eladio saw me off.  He was holding Pippa when I was leaving and I couldn’t resist capturing the moment on my camera.
Eladio and Pippa seeing me off on Tuesday morning as I left for meetings in town
My first meeting was with Ketchum, my PR agency where we were to go over our social media plan for this month and the coming year.  They also tried to show me a measuring tool in real time for social media called “Kweet” (Ketchum and Twitter of course). It was rather complicated, even for them I suspect so we shall be having another meeting when the measuring tool has been fine tuned.

My next meeting was with my events agency QuintaEsencia at their offices in the heart of a posh part of Madrid, in Calle Lagasca.  I love their agency, it’s colourful and messy but it’s cozy and welcoming.  Little Yoigo, Gloria’s chocolate coloured mini dachshund, was there and I gave him a lot of attention.  He is so like Pippa, barking, licking me and is just so sweet.
Little Yoigo at QuintaEsencia
From their offices we went to have a brainstorming lunch at Babelia, a very recommendable restaurant nearby.  Here as we ate the delicious food from their menu, we decided on all the activities and timings for our up and coming Christmas parties for our employees and their partners which is in the middle of December and the employees’ children’s party which is two days later. I think we have come up with the perfect plan.  The objective is as always to create a wow in our audience and I think we will do so. 

Lunch with my events team at Babelia on Tuesday
As we left the restaurant there was a lottery seller at the door who addressed me in English which surprised me. What didn’t surprise me is that he had recognized me from the Undercover Boss programme and was yet another anonymous person who has approached me to tell me how much they had liked the programme.  That was nice! Funnily enough, during the lunch, the Cuban participant in the programme, Jenny, rang me in tears.  I tried to get her to calm down and then she told me her problem.  With the money she got from the programme she had tried to bring her Mother from Cuba to Spain.  She was badly advised and her Mother got a visa for Bulgaria where she got stuck that day when the authorities would not let her board her plane to Madrid.  So what could I do, you will ask? Well not much.  With the help of a lawyer friend I found out that Bulgaria does not belong to the Schengen countries, whereby the lady’s visa would not be valid for travelling in the rest of the European Union which is what Jenny had been told.  We advised her to get in touch with the Spanish Consulate and present an invitation letter from Jenny’s husband who is Spanish plus their wedding certificate, to come to Spain to visit her family there, including her granddaughter.  If that wouldn’t work, her only option would be to take a bus or train and risk travelling through Europe without getting caught.  I felt so sorry for Jenny and her Mother.  Her problems put any of mine into perspective and make them seem very insignificant.  I have yet to hear what happened and wish them all the luck in the world.

As I was pondering on the bad luck of Jenny, I was happy to see my own daughter Suzy having a good day.  On Tuesday in Planet Organic where she works in London it was a fun Christmas shopping day for customers.  Suzy and some of the other stuff dressed up as Father Christmas and the 3 Wise Men.  Suzy was one of the latter and when I asked her what the brown stuff on her face was she said it was the “beard”.  Oh how I laughed. She later told me that all and sundry had had a great time and I was pleased for her. Soon we will be having fun Christmas time with her too.
Suzy and some of the staff at Planet Organic this week getting into the spirit of Christmas
On Wednesday Eladio and I left for Montrondo.  We stopped at Rueda as always.  The photo below is of me about to savour the spectacular “verdejo” wine and wonderful plate of ham and bread.
The traditional pit stop at Palacio de Bornos in Rueda
We stopped again on our way, this time in Riello, a biggish rural village about 20 minutes from Montrondo.  There was a market on and we decided to stop and take a look.  Well here we bought some “Cecina” which is typical of the León area. It is cured and smoked beef; similar to Spanish “jamón serrano”.  We also got local honey, fresh eggs and some slippers for Eladio.  The latter will be going under the tree for Christmas.
At the market in Riello on our way to Montrondo
We got to the village at about 2 and only sat down to lunch at 3.30h, a plate of Russian “pelmeni”, as first we had to settle in. Settling in takes a while.  I open all the shuttered windows, Eladio turns on the water, gets wood for the fire and I put away all the food we have to bring that has to last for our stay here.  We are lucky we can switch the central heating on remotely, thus we arrived to a warm house.

It was only after lunch we realized that internet was not working.  That was a blow for me as I had to work.  There was no mobile signal either so I had to resort to using the fixed line.  I rang Telefónica and only got through to a taped machine recording which said there was an incident in the network which their technicians were working on.  So there was not much I could do.  Thankfully I could delegate most of my work to Isabel from Ketchum who is very efficient.  She rang me the next morning to give me an update on the press release on the expansion of our 4G network which was to go out that day.  It was very frustrating having no internet.  Thus we could neither use our smart TV to continue watching Prison Break on Netflix!  It’s amazing how dependent we are on internet and on our smartphones.

Later I went for a walk with Pippa to Murias and back.  It was foggy and dark but thankfully it was not raining. 
As seen on the walk to Murias on Wednesday afternoon
There were not many people out; just Eulogio, a man from Montrondo who lives in Murias and seems to always coincide with me on my walk. I also bumped into our neighbours Josefa and José Antonio.  They thought they had internet and invited me to use it at their house later.  So I went round with my pc after the walk but their internet was not working either.  However it was a good excuse to enjoy a cup of decaf with them in their huge house which used to be the school and the vicarage in old times.  It is simply enormous.  José Antonio was the biggest farmer in the area and told me he had up to 110 or so cows at one time. 

Later I rang another neighbour, Manolita to ask whether she had internet and it was then we found out that the problem was in the area, not just with us.  Manolita came round to see us and put us up to date on all the goings in in the village; not that there is much to tell.

On Thursday morning we woke up to fog and again no internet.  Thursday was Pippa’s 1st birthday so she got some pate mixed with her dog food which she loved.  How can I begin to say what Pippa means to me and to the family?   I cannot imagine life without her as she has brought so much joy to us all.  As I said earlier she is like my shadow, following me everywhere, especially here in Montrondo. 
Pippa on her 1st birthday on 3rd December in Montrondo
We decided to go to Villablino for me to find a café with internet where I could get up to speed with my work.  It’s a 30 minute drive from here but on winding roads. We left little Pippa behind and off we went in the fog which miraculously cleared just as we went over the mountain pass, El Puerto de la Magdalena, where there the sun was shining brightly. We parked at the new Gadis supermarket which is from Galicia.  Dolores had recommended it so we decided to do some shopping; not that we needed much.  And wow was she right, it’s a superbly stocked supermarket and we shall be going again.  From Gadis we went to a café called “Caramba” (means my goodness in Spanish) and here the wifi worked beautifully as well as the mobile signal.  I must have worked for about 2 hours whilst sipping a cup of coffee and Eladio was reading the local paper.

We got back to Montrondo where thankfully the mobile signal had returned but not internet as yet.  The fish van had arrived and I bought some fresh hake to make fish and chips for Miguel and Oli at the weekend. 

After lunch we watched the news and found out that in London the Parliament had voted in favour of attacking ISIS in Syria.  That very morning the British Air Force had made their first bomb attacks.  I took the news with a heavy heart.  On the one hand I want to see the end of these fanatics but on the other hand I am worried of the retaliation that it will bring and do not want to see similar terrorist attacks in London to those we have seen recently in Paris.

The rest of the news was about the Spanish general elections which are on 20th December.  Watching the news after lunch in Montrondo in our new house is one of the pleasures here and Eladio remarked how peaceful our life is here. He is so right.  This is a place of peace.
Eladio watching the news in Montrondo in our comfy lounge come kitchen
After a short siesta we went on our walk to Murias. On the way back we went to see the newly restored washing place where the women in the village used to wash their laundry before washing machines were invented.

By the newly restored old washing place in Montrondo
Eladio well remembers his Mother and Grandmother doing their washing there.  He remarked that the memories were nice but that women’s lives hugely improved with the arrival of the modern washing machine.

Eladio by the restored old washing place in Montrondo
Just as we were arriving home we bumped into Salo who was going to take a look at her chorizos from the “matanza”.  She invited us to go with her and it was like a trip down memory lane for Eladio who remembers vividly how his family and all the families in Montrondo used to slaughter their pigs and make hams and chorizos to last the winter.  Here is a photo of Salo surrounded by the produce from the matanza.  The smell was lovely and I know it brought back more memories to Eladio; good ones I think as they both remarked that the matanza was considered a special time in the village life and which they often celebrated together.
Salo my neighbour and friend by her chorizos and other produce from the "matanza"
We spent the rest of the evening reading.  I have become an addict of Jeffrey Archer and have read nearly all his novels recently.  For dinner that night I made tortilla from Ulpiano’s potatoes and Lourdes’ eggs and it was delicious. Poor Pippa’s birthday did not end well for her as she was sick, probably because of the pate we had added to her dog food. I felt very sorry for her.

Friday came and brought fog in the morning which would clear later.  Internet was still not working.  So I made the lunch, fabada (Asturian bean soup with chorizo) and when it was ready off I went again to Villablino. But just as I got to Senra, Eladio rang to say it had come back.  There and then I turned back and came back to work from home instead. What a relief.
The fabada I made on Friday
There was so much work to catch up with but I also had time to do the washing and hang it out in the sunshine.  
Hanging out the washing in Montrondo
Dolores, José Antonio, Miguel and Claudia were coming for lunch so I made a first course too; potato salad.  This is what it looked like.

The potato salad I served as a first course for lunch on Friday
And this is what the table looked like ready for their arrival.
The table set for lunch on Friday
Later I went on our walk to Murias.  This time I was accompanied by Dolores, Miguel and Claudia.  Miguel never stopped taking photos of his pretty Cuban fiance. I took one of them too.

Claudia and Miguel in Montrondo on Friday the day they arrived.
Miguel has been living in Havana for 3 years now and had been away from Spain for just over a year. It was great to see him again and of course to meet Claudia.  She must have felt pretty cold as the temperature in Havana is nearly always in the mid to high 20's or more whereas here it was about 5 or 6 ºc only which in fact is not that cold for Montrondo at this time of year.

Oli and Miguel had left Madrid for Montrondo at about 5.30 pm on Friday but were faced with congestion as is typical on the eve of the December bank holiday.  They got here just after 9 and a lovely dinner was awaiting them.  Later we were joined by Miguel, Claudia, Toño and Dolores.  That night we went to bed after midnight, very late for me.

I was up at 6.50 on Saturday morning with a headache.  I soon got rid of it with the first coffee of the day.  I made breakfast for everyone and then set about preparing 2 apple crumbles; one for us and one for Toño and Dolores.  I then prepared our lunch; lamb stew topped with crispy roast potatoes.  Eladio was to be in charge of putting it in the oven whilst I went to Villablino with Oli, Miguel, Dolores, Miguel and Claudia.

We went expecting there to be a market but unfortunately it had been held the day before.  Thus we just went to the supermarket Gadis.  As I said before it's a great supermarket, one of the best in Spain in my opinion because of the variety and quality.  The chain is from Galicia so we won't be seeing it in Madrid anytime soon I'm afraid.  There was time for a little something in one of the multiple bars in the coal mining town of Villablino.  But first Miguel and Claudia went to get Teresa.  Teresa is our friend Ludi's mother; Ludi who is married to Pedro Delgado of cycling fame.

In the photo above I am posing with Ludi's mother and below is a selfie of all of us.  The bar was nothing to write home about but we did enjoy a "mosto" (like wine but without alcohol) with potatoes and garlic mayonnaise, ummm.  In this area of Spain you always get a free tapa with your drink.

A selfie on Saturday morning in Villablino with (left to right) Miguel, Dolores, Claudia, Miguel (my nephew), Teresa (Ludi's mother), me and Oli.
Then we had to rush home. It's only 12km to Montrondo from Villablino but the road is mountainous and treacherous in parts and takes a good half hour.  We were back in our village at 2 and were greeted by the rest of Eladio's family who had come to spend the bank holiday here too.  My dear husband was more interested in chopping wood than looking after the lamb in the oven, so we had to wait a while until it was ready.  It was worth the wait though.  The apple crumble was delicious too.

Later we would work it off with another walk to Murias and back. This time we were joined by José Antonio, Dolores, Claudia, Miguel and Oli.  The photo below is just as we set off.  Miguel brought his camera with him and the photos that come next are of a much better quality.  They captured too the family and fun time we had on that marvelous walk.  As Oli remarked later, it was the air and the scenery that she enjoyed so much, as compared to the pollution in Madrid which at the moment is at an all time  high.

About to set off on the walk on Saturday afternoon
On the way I suggested we did one of Oli's jumping photos.  So here we are on God's Rock (la peña de dios) doing precisely that, jumping on the count of 3.  The looks on our faces are priceless.
Our jumping photo on God's rock
The only picture of all of us together is one Miguel took by timing the camera.  It's the one illustrating this week's post.
On the walk yesterday
Once home we all gathered at Pili's house for some more quality family time together. In the old days we would all have been in the old house before we rebuilt it.  Now we all have nice comfy houses, but in a way I miss us being all together.  We went home at around 7, next door of course as all our houses except for Adela's are adjoining.  Oli and Miguel decided to make a carrot cake and I made our dinner.  We do tend to eat well here and more than usual, perhaps thanks to the mountain air and excellent natural water.
Our cozy dinner last night
Last night I learned to play a card game called Jungle Speed.  It's pretty hard but I hope to get the hang of it as we continue to play.  Again we turned in at nearly midnight, much later than our usual bed time.

Today is Sunday and it's 7 in the morning. I am writing as everyone else sleeps, including Pippa who is on the red blanket on the sofa in my study.  I have been writing since Friday so as to publish my blog early this morning and thus be able to pay my full attention to the family again today.  It is Oli and Miguel's last day and I intend to make it another great family day.  Poor Oli does not have a bank holiday; whilst those of us who remain in Montrondo will be able to be here until Tuesday as Monday is a "puente) (bridge day between 2 holiday days). Today is 6th December and Constitution Day. In Finland it's Independence day so I hope all my Finnish friends have a great day.

Now I will love you and leave you as the saying goes and get on with making breakfast for the family.  You will hear about the rest of our stay here next week.  Soon we will be coming again, just before Christmas and once again I look forward to a happy family time here but this time with Suzy too who is the only person missing this weekend.

Cheers then  till next Sunday my friends.  I hope you all have a great week.


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