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.

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