Sunday, December 13, 2015

The end of the Bank Holiday in Montrondo, “YouAintNoMuslimBruv”, good news for democracy in Venezuela, a political debate in Spain, the first of the Christmas parties, another fall, a “hyggelig” Christmas came and other stories.

Sunday 13th December 2015
The little Zara dress I wore to the Christmas parties this week
Hi again everyone.

I left off last Sunday in Montrondo, Constitution Day in Spain and Finnish Independence Day.  As seems to be the norm these days, I was up early.  I even published my blog early, at just after 7 that morning. I did so in order to have a leisurely breakfast with Oli and Miguel on their last day with us.
Breakfast in Montrondo
We took things easy that morning and only left the house at midday.  Miguel had offered to take some photos of the christening of my neighbour Salo’s grandson, Luis, so we went to the church as the bells rang throughout the village.  It was nice for a change to be going to a christening rather than to a funeral in Montrondo.
The family celebrating the christening on Sunday last in Montrondo
I must say Miguel’s photos are great and if he didn’t already have a steady job as a TVE cameraman, he would have a good future as a photographer.  I particularly like this photo he took of Oli with Pippa.  Later I posted it on FB asking who was more beautiful but of course it is Oli, however much I adore my little dachshund.
Oli and Pippa in Montrondo
It was a lovely sunny day and Dolores joined us on yet another walk to Murias.  Once there we went to have a glass of “mosto” at La Palloza before coming home to make lunch.  The meal that day, at Oli’s request, was good old fish and chips which is always a favourite in our family and part of my British heritage. After that came siesta time and then some members of Eladio’s family all came by to have coffee and tea.

Coffee and tea at our house with the family last weekend
Soon it was time for Oli and Miguel to leave and we said our goodbyes. I was happy to hear later they had arrived safely home at 9 that night, especially when I saw the figures of people who had lost their lives in traffic accidents during the bank holiday weekend.

I had a visitor after they left.  Chelo, one of our neigbours, who doesn’t live permanently in Montrondo, came to see our new house.  We used the same builders as she had when we saw the newly rebuilt house which had been her parents’ and how well they had built it. It’s a very Spanish thing to show people your house and something which I used to be shy about.  However now I’m happy to do “guided tours” of our new house because I love it so much.

It was on Sunday that a lone wolf Isis terrorist stabbed 3 people at the Leytonstone Tube Station in East London.  As he attacked them he shouted “this is for Syria”. A security guard was watching and his response has gone viral.  He shouted #YouAintNoMuslimBruv in a clear reference to the fact that Muslims are peaceful people who do not tolerate violence. It was a sad day for London transport.
The Leytonstone stabbings
But it was a happy day for democracy in Venezuela.  There were elections for the  National Assembly and the opposition won a landslide victory against Chavism. It was touch and go until they got the necessary 112 seats for majority government out of a total 167.  Nicolás Maduro will still be President but a puppet one and will have no sway in the National Assembly at least that’s what I hope.  I also hope that one of the first measures of the new legislators will be to release political prisoners, especially Leopoldo López, the leader of the opposition without any bloodshed.
It was victory for democracy in Venezuela this week
Monday was a “Puente” in Spain.  That means a “bridge day” in between two holidays.  If Sunday was Constitution Day, Tuesday was the Immaculate Conception and thus many workers in Spain – but not all – also got Monday off.  The bank holiday is much looked forward to and is one of the longest in the year.

On Tuesday it rained and there was even a forecast for snow but unfortunately it never happened.  I made the best food for a cold winter day in Montrondo that morning; “cocido madrileño” another family favourite.
My "cocido madrileño"
More family members arrived that day, including Alejandro, Eladio’s brother, the fourth one down of the 6 brothers and sisters.  Roberto, Adela’s son, also arrived with his wife Anna and two delightful little girls, Diana and Lidia.  They were happy to see Miguel who they hadn’t seen for a year, as well as to meet Claudia.  Here is a picture of them together in the village in “Los Palacios”.
The cousins reunited in Montrondo last Sunday
That night millions of Spaniards were glued to the television to watch the 4 party candidate debate.  I did too but unfortunately had a huge headache and fell asleep.  In Spain as you will have heard, and if you haven’t then this article by Tom Burridge from the BBC explains it very well, the political landscape has changed enormously in the last year and we are seeing the end of the two party leadership game.  As well as the governing right wing PP led by Mariano Rajoy and the socialist left wing PSOE, headed up by the newcomer Pedro Sánchez, we now have a central democratic party called Ciudadanos led by Albert Rivera and more spectacularly our very own version of Syriza, called Podemos which is led by the charismatic pony tailed ex politics University lecturer, Pablo Iglesias. 
The 4 party leaders in Spain all candidates for governing the country. From left to right, the newcomer Pablo Iglesias who leads the Syriza like party Podemos, Mariano Rahoy, the right wing PP Primer Minister, Pedro Sánchez the new leader of the PSOE socialist party and Albert Rivera the other newcomer who heads up Ciudadanos the central democratic party which is gaining in popularity like Podemos. 
The polls now predict that the PP will get some 130 seats, too few for a majority government and that the PSOE is losing its second place either to Ciudadanos or Podemos.  Mariano Rajoy refuses to acknowledge the existence of the two new parties, despite their popularity and did not take part in the debate for which he received huge criticism.  His number two, Soraya Sanz de Santamaría, took his place.  She did a good job and there is even talk of her becoming the party leader sometime in the future.
The televised 4 party political debate last Monday
I was more interested in the articles the next day on the body language of the 4 speakers.  The clear winner was Pablo Iglesias who is a master at talking on television.  He had a pencil in his hand which was much commented on as being a good trick to keep his nerve. Albert Rivera was criticized for referring too often to his papers and Pedro Sánchez was the apparent looser for his repetitive promises.  Soraya was dressed impeccably and stood her ground but possibly lost points for wearing a watch estimated at 4.000 euros.  The elections are on 20th December and are destined to be the end of the two party game.  But who will win, how will the government be formed? To me and many people it is still a mystery.

Tuesday was another grey and wet day.  Eladio and Toño made a fire to burn odd bits of wood and scrap.
Eladio and Toño and the fire they lit this week in Montrondo
Unfortunately Eladio was hit in the eye, or rather on his eyebrow, by a piece of wood.  His eyelid swelled and he got a huge black eye.  It is now changing colour.  I felt so sorry for my husband.  On the bright side at least his eye was not affected. I do hope he will invest in some work goggles next time he does physical work in Montrondo or at home.

We decided to stay another day in Montrondo so as to avoid the congested traffic of people returning.  I enjoy cooking in our new kitchen and one of the dishes I made that day was fresh artichokes with chopped bacon. The trick for artichokes to taste delicious is to remove all the outer leaves, boil them after which you cut them in two and remove everything else until you get just the heart and some of the outer softer leaves.  This is what they looked like.
My dish of fresh artichoke hearts with bacon bits.
On Wednesday we left after breakfast and were home in time for lunch.  I had to be home that day as later that night I had two events to go to. They were to be my first Christmas parties. Eladio was to join me but was rather hesitant because of his black eye.  In the end I persuaded him and off we went. He was wearing his suit which I think he hadn’t worn since my Aunty Masha’s funeral in 2008. It still looks good on him as you can see in the photo.
Eladio wearing his suit at the Swedish Embassy this week. If you look closely you can see his black eye!
First we went to the Ketchum Christmas party at the NH Abascal hotel.  Here a barman was the protagonist.  I had no idea there were famous “barmen”.  He made cocktails but unfortunately we had to leave before he started as we had another event to attend that night.
At the annual Ketchum Christmas party
The second Christmas party was to celebrate Sta. Lucia at the Swedish Ambassador’s residence which is located in the Zurbano Street – one of Madrid’s most exclusive.  Actually Sta. Lucia is celebrated on 13th December but the embassy put forward the date as the 13th is actually today, Sunday. Here we were greeted by the Ambassador herself, Cecilia Julin,  and handed a lovely glass of mulled wine which we drank with the other guests in the Embassy patio.  The Embassy itself is a beautiful old palace which is a bit hidden from the street but a marvel to visit.
The beautiful Swedish Embassy
Soon we all went inside and were suitably impressed by the beautiful lounges all decorated for Christmas.  First a Swedish violinist entertained us until the procession of Sta Lucia made its way to the stage singing beautifully.
The Santa Lucia choir at the Swedish Embassy this week
The night of Santa Lucia, when Lucia brings light to the dark nights is considered one of the most important festivals in Sweden.  When they finished we crept away as we were tired and didn’t know very many people at the event, plus it’s quite a way to our home from the centre of Madrid.

Thursday was busy but I just had to find the time to get my nails done and also my hair.  So I was at my hairdresser at 8 in the morning.  I spent most of the morning at Yoigo where I had lots of little things to sort out.  Finally in the evening there was time for a walk with Eladio and the dogs.  I was going to need it as that night I had another Christmas event to attend; this time the Management Team dinner.  It was to be at the Ramón Freixa restaurant in Madrid, a 2 michelin star restaurant I had never been to but was very much looking forward to going to.  The meal was very haute cuisine with lots of little creative courses being placed in front of us.  Eladio, my husband, is not at all impressed with any sort of haute cuisine and calls these little dishes “cagaditas” (little bits of “**it”). But I do appreciate top Spanish chef’s cuisine and the meal on Thursday night left me speechless.  It was amazing, tasty, beautifully presented and above all creative.  However, I still prefer the Dstage restaurant for its creativity and atmosphere.
Dinner at Ramón Freixa was breathtaking
Thankfully on Friday I didn’t have to go anywhere and could work quietly from home.  I had all the time in the world to catch up on my work and by the afternoon I was free. It was about time I paid attention to our own Christmas celebrations so I spent an hour or so wrapping presents I had bought or ordered online and also drawing up Christmas lists for meals and more presents. I also did the food shopping on my own which was a huge task. 

When all was done it was time for our walk and dammit I fell on our way back. As you probably know I have a tendency to fall.  One of the explanations is that my ankles are rather weak.  Well on Friday afternoon when it was dusk, I fell on an uneven part of the path where there was a lot of gravel.  I landed on my back and hurt my knee but nothing was broken.  It was the shock more than anything as well as the torn Marks and Spencer’s leggings that were the worst part.  Here, by the way, is a photo of what my knee looked like once I got home. It’s not much more than a graze and thankfully no stitches were needed.
My knee and M`+S leggings after the fall
That night Eladio and I went out to dinner to the new Ginos in Boadilla.  Here I devoured a delicious pizza and Eladio enjoyed a plate of ossobucco.  You get no prizes for guessing what we did when we got  home. Yes, we watched more riveting episodes of Prison Break until we fell asleep.

Saturday was a very productive day.  I made bitki (Russian hamburgers) to be frozen and oxtail stew for lunch.  Later I would make croquettes with the leftovers.  Meanwhile Eladio brought up the Christmas tree and all the decorations.  He did the lighting and I did the rest. I was helped at the end by Olivia and her friend Anita, especially with the tree. 
Oli and Ana decorating the Christmas tree on Saturday
So by lunchtime yesterday Christmas had come to our house and it was looking “hyggelig” to quote the Danish.  This was a word I learned from our Danish au-pair Pernille many years ago and sums up Nordic winter coziness.  I think I managed that yesterday.
Christmas came to our house on Saturday and make it look "hyggelig"
The afternoon was spent sleeping a short siesta, going for our walk and making the béchamel for the oxtail croquettes.  And again we watched more Prison Break until we fell asleep.

Today is Sunday and the morning was productive in a culinary manner once again.  I made a huge batch of oxtail croquettes for freezing; some to be eaten on Christmas Eve, as well as chicken korma curry for lunch today.
Making oxtail croquettes and chicken korma this morning
Next week will be one of the busiest of the year workwise.  I have more events to go to, but the biggest are the events I am putting on for the Yoigo employees and the employees’ children.  You will hear all about them in next week’s post.  The good thing is that once they are over I will be free and next Sunday Suzy will be here for Christmas. The four of us with Miguel will be off to Montrondo until the 24th, something we are looking forward to tremendously.

And now I will leave you as I have to lay the table and make the rice for the curry for today’s lunch.

So my friends, I wish you all the best until next time,


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