Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lunch in Tordesillas, the end of Downton Abbey, Zinedine Zidane the new coach of Real Madrid, Kings’ Day, Oli reporting on the controversial Madrid Kings’ parade, my Grandmother’s cookery books and making Yorkshire pudding, our Christmas is over, the Julian vs the Gregorian Calendar, Russian Christmas, Goodbye Motorola, Hello Moto, a surprise family lunch and other stories.

Sunday 10th January 2016
A surprise family lunch at home on Saturday
Good morning all this rainy post-Christmas Sunday in January. It’s not my favourite time of the year. I hate it when Christmas is over and the year has just begun.  It’s as if I need time to adjust to the new year.  I don’t know about you.

It was raining hard too in Montrondo when we left last Sunday at around 11.  We stopped on our way to have lunch at the Parador in Tordesillas.  Our choice was the most delicious roast suckling pig and roast suckling lamb, both typical dishes of the province of Valladolid, it’s capital which is some 20km from Tordesillas.
Our lunch in the Parador in Tordesillas last Sunday
Every time I pass Tordesillas on the way to Montrondo or back, I always think of the poor Queen Juana of Castile who was imprisoned there in a castle for many years for supposedly being incompetent to rule. In reality her rivals wanted her under lock and key whilst they ruled instead of her.  I think it’s the white castle in the picture of the entrance to the town which you can see below.
Juana La Loca (Juana the Mad – 1479 – 1555) was the daughter of the Catholic Kings and sister to Catherine of Aragon.  She did not have a happy life. She was Queen but never reigned and was locked up by her Father for many years in Tordesillas.  In reality it was both her Father, King Ferdinand of Aragon, her husband Prince Philip the Handsome of Austria and her son Carlos (later Charles 1 of Spain and Charles V of Germany – the Holy Roman Emperor)  who wanted to rule Castile for her.  Madly in love with her fickle Prince, he died very young and she mourned him forever after and clung to her young daughter Catalina, the last relic of her adored husband. It is believed she may have become unbalanced but surely not mad, after he died.
Juana 1 of Castile (Juana la Loca, Juana the mad) a very unhappy Queen who was imprisoned by her own Father in Tordesillas
She must have hated Tordesillas.  It’s actually a pretty medieval town.  It was put on the world map in 1494, also during the reign of the Catholic Kings, when the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed between Spain and Portugal to settle conflicts over the newly discovered lands by Christopher Columbus and other explorers of the times.  In those days Spain and Portugal ruled the world and divided the globe between them as you can see in the map below.
How the world's oceans where divided between Spain and Portugal after the Treaty of Tordesillas
Recently Tordesillas has gained a very negative image for its medieval bull festival called “El Toro de la Vega” where a bull is hunted, chased down and killed by lancers as it runs through the streets of the town.  Finally Spain is coming round to the subject of animal rights and each year the protesters against the festival and cruelty to animals grow bigger in numbers and the conflict is much commented on in the news.  I hate this sort of festival and hope one day it and many others like it in Spain will be forbidden by law.  I wonder if I will live to see the day.
El Toro de la Vega  - the cruel bull festival in Tordesillas
Tordesillas is about 2 hours from Madrid so we got home in the early afternoon. It was too wet for a walk. Guess what I did then?  Well, whilst I was away, the final episode of Downton Abbey Season 6, the Christmas Special called “The Finale” had arrived.  I just had to see it.  I watched it, loved it and felt like an orphan afterwards.  The ending was very satisfactory with all the knots finally tied but I did feel bereft afterwards. I was going to miss the cast so much. I am devastated that the series has come to its end.  There is talk of a film but I think it’s only talk. 
I was happy for Edith at the end of Downton Abbey
I was especially pleased that Edith, Lord Grantham’s unlucky spinster daughter finally found happiness. I later read that Julian Fellowes, the creator of the series and actual writer of the scripts when asked in an interview why the series would not continue had replied: “you want to leave a party when people are sorry to see you go and not relieved”.  I don’t quite agree as I think I would never want to see the end of Downton Abbey.  But he has a point.

In the UK Downton Abbey has been replaced by the new TV serial. War and Peace.  Being of Russian origin I would love to see it but I can’t watch the BBC here, not even online.  So I shall have to wait for the first season to become available on Amazon.  Meanwhile, as I missed Downton Abbey so much, I decided to watch it all over again from the beginning.  Whenever I have a free moment in the evenings before dinner, I watch chunks and am now on Season 2. It’s amazing how much I had forgotten and I am enjoying it tremendously.

On Monday, though I was busy preparing for the Spanish Kings’ Day which would be on Wednesday. I went shopping with Eladio to get presents for everyone and also bought the food for the Kings’ Day lunch; funnily enough it would be a British lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.  I would keep to custom though when it came to breakfast on Kings’ Day and we went to buy the traditional “roscón de reyes” (round or elongated shaped cake decorated with crystallised fruit and which I have mentioned before in this blog).

Kings’ Day (los 3 reyes magos) is the Epiphany which is also called The 12th Night and is the last day of Christmas.  Of course as we all know it was the 3 Kings or the 3 wise men or the magi as they are also known who, guided by a star, were led to Bethlehem to visit and worship the baby Jesus after his birth.  As the Christmas Carol says, they came from afar. And so they did.  Balthasar was from Arabia, Melchior from Persia and Gaspar from India. They travelled on camels to come and worship baby Jesus and give him their gifts.  These were gold, frankincense and myrrh which have been interpreted as gold for a king, frankincense for his divine birth and myrrh for his mortality.   
The 3 Kings are far more important in Spain than Father Christmas

In Spain and I believe in Latin America too, Kings’ Day is the day most people look forward to at Christmas as it is when most people give their presents.  Father Christmas exists too in Spain but the Kings are far more popular.  At our home, we respect both traditions, although most of our presents are exchanged on Christmas Day and only a few on Kings’ Day.

It was on Monday that one of the Kings of football, Zinedine Zidane (Zizou), ex Real Madrid striker number 10 was appointed the Club’s new head coach.  I followed the news with interest feeling rather sorry for Rafa Benítez who was kicked out after just 7 months.  It seems, that as usual, the latest Madrid coach just didn’t have the clout needed in the “changing room”, or “vestuario” as it is called here.  Zizou will no doubt have the clout but is lacking in manager experience, something Benitez had plenty of. In his first match in his new role on Saturday against El Deportivo de Coruña, Real Madrid scored 5-0 with Bale scoring a hat trick.  Was that luck or thanks to a change of atmosphere? Who knows but I just hope Real do better from now on and that Zidane turns out to be the Guardiola of the Madrid club. Only time will tell.
Zinedine Zidane, the French king of football of Algerian origin and the new Real Madrid coach.
Wednesday was 5th January and a bit like Christmas Eve, here it is called The night of the Kings (la noche de reyes).  Supposedly it is when the Kings arrive and so they do all over Spain where they take part in fabulous parades in all the towns and cities in the country. These are called “Cabalgata de los Reyes”. Children and their parents are the enthusiastic spectators eagerly gathering sweets thrown from the floats.  Olivia reported, as she did last year, on the parade in Madrid, perhaps the biggest of them all.
Oli reporting on the Cabalgata de los Reyes (Madrid's Kings' Parade) and happy to be surrounded by so many children.
However this year, the Madrid Kings’ Day parade has turned into a political controversy.  Even the FT reported on it.  So what happened you may ask?  This year we have a new left wing Mayoress in Madrid, Manuela Carmena, a former judge. She has made many laudable changes but was heavily criticized for turning a beautiful religious Kings’ parade into a multicultural carnival.  The attacks were mostly about the Kings’ clothing and their arrival on an Iberia aircraft rather than on camels.  I tend to agree.  In other parts of Spain there was even more controversy when newly elected left wing governments substituted 3 wise men for 3 wise women!!! I watched the Madrid parade on the TV and must say the whole show seemed more like a carnival than a 3 King’s Parade.   Manuela has promised to rethink next year’s parade.  I do hope she does.
The unusually dressed 3 Kings with the left wing mayoress Manuela Carmena at the Kings' Parade on 5th January.
The day before Kings’ Day was a quiet day for us.  As usual I had breakfast early in the kitchen surrounded by our lovely dogs. I never tire of the image of the 3 of them resting together whilst I quietly read the “papers” (online these days of course).
I love my quiet breakfast time in the kitchen with the dogs sleeping placidly together. I never tire of this image.
I had a lot of work to do that day, monthly reports to send in, plans for 2016 but I found time to make the Kings’ Day dessert. It was to be our favourite, trifle, a dish I only make about once a year.
The 2 trifles I made for our Kings' day lunch
That night Eladio and I went out to dinner to Carús, the Asturian restaurant in Pozuelo where our last Nokia girls’ lunch was held.  The food is great, a bit heavy but the worst thing is the noise. The place was very full and of course Spaniards do like to talk loudly when there are crowds, putting up the decibels even more.

Kings’ Day was lovely.  Here is the roscón we had toasted in slices for breakfast.  Other people prefer the same version with whipped cream inside but I find it very heavy.
The roscón we had toasted in slices for breakfast on Kings' Day. I got it with luncheon vouchers at the Mallorca bakery.
After breakfast we had the present giving ceremony around the tree.  Here is my English Father with his Spanish son-in-law, opening their presents on Kings’ Day.
My Father and Eladio opening their presents on Kings' Day in the morning
The present I got was for both of us and had been chosen between the two of us at Zara Home, a new set of towels for our bathroom; not very original but highly practical. 

Again it was time for me to make lunch; roast beef, roast potatoes, sprouts, fresh peas and gravy, a meal which is not complete without Yorkshire Pudding.  I love Yorkshire pudding but it doesn’t always turn well for me; i.e. it doesn’t always rise, despite putting the batter to cool in the fridge and pouring it into the baking trays with boiling fat or oil.  So I decided to use my Grandmother’s recipe. Thus I got down the her two old cookery books, Mrs. Beeton’s Everyday Cookery and Housekeeping Book which was published around 1890 and The Radiation Cookery Book published in the 20's and 30's  which my parents used too.

My Grandmother's cookery books, they are a treasure.
  Mrs. Beeton’s cookery book is a mine of priceless instructions to mistresses in Victorian times and includes gems like the following on how to please one’s husband hahaha.
A priceless instruction from Mrs. Beeton's cookery book
I found the Yorkshire pudding recipe in Mrs. Beeton’s cookery book which you can see below.
The recipe in Mrs. Beeton's cookery book - not a good one:-(
This is the one I followed and shouldn’t have because the Yorkshire pudding did not rise, even though it tasted good.  A few days I looked a bit more closely at both vintage cookery books and found a handwritten recipe, written in my Grandmother’s handwriting inside the Radiation cookery book.  This is the one I shall use from now on.

My grandmother's handwritten recipe for Yorkshire Pudding
I was also delighted to see her name and address on the inside of the Radiation cookery book.  She must have acquired it before she got married as the name written there is her maiden name: Dorothy Gertrude Scull or there again it may have been her Mother's. When my Father reads this post, no doubt he will know.

I did some research on both books and was tickled pink when I read that "the food economist for Downton Abbey described the book as an important guide for the food served in the series! I shall treasure these books from now on; especially after I had to remove a crusty old wasp’s nest from the older Mrs. Beeton’s book hahaha.

Lunch was lovely and again Oli was the photographer of how the table was laid.  The crockery was of the finest we have. Thanks to my Grandmother and my Mother our dining room is full of precious vintage bone china dinner and tea sets by legendary names such as Coalport, Crown Derby and others.
Just some of the porcelain I inherited from my Grandmother and Mother
Being the last day of Christmas we used the last of the crackers too for this splendid lunch. They were good ones and both Olivia and I were amazed when she found a headscarf in hers.  I liked some of the jokes too like these ones below.
Pretty good crackers on Kings' Day

No celebration meal is complete without fine wine and on Kings’ Day we tasted one of 2 incredible bottles I got for Christmas.  It was bottle number 7840 out of the 9000 bottles produced by the Marques de Vargas winery of a wine called Hacienda Pradolagar Rioja Tempranillo 2005 and my was it amazing. 
The wine we had on Kings' day was spectacular probably the best I have ever tasted
I got quite a few bottles of good wine this Christmas and as I don’t know too much about wines, I downloaded an app called Vivino.  It’s superb. You just have to register.  Then you can take a photo of the label of any wine you want to and abracadabra there and then you have full information on the wine and people’s comments too.  Incredible.  I shall be using it more often now, especially when we go to restaurants.  You can find out more about it here.

Thursday was Jan 7th, the end of Christmas and a sad day in my opinion.  That day Eladio and I took all the decorations down and we did it in a record half an hour.  If you think it took at least 3 hours to put them all up, half an hour is not much time.  Here is Eladio during the final moments of putting everything away until next year.
Taking down the Christmas decorations is always a dreary task
It was the end of Christmas for us but in the Orthodox Countries (Greece, Russia, Bulgaria, ….) it was their Christmas.  When I was a child my Mother used to celebrate Russian Christmas and we would get a symbolic gift too just like I do today with Kings’ Day.  If you have ever wondered, as I have, why the Orthodox celebrate Christmas on the 7th January instead of 25th December it is because of the Calendar they use.  In the West we use the Gregorian calendar, originally proposed by Pope Gregory in 1582.  But in the Orthodox countries they use the Julian calendar, created by Julius Caesar in 45 BC.  These days we all use the Gregorian calendar but the Orthodox retain the Julian calendar for special feast days, like Christmas and Easter. 
It was Russian Christmas on 7th January
In Russian Happy Christmas is “Счастливого Рождества” pronounced Schastlivogo Rozhdestva. My Mother’s family was very religious, her Father being an Orthodox priest and two of her sisters nuns, so they probably said “S rozhdyestvom Hristovym!”, which means “Congratulations on the birth of Christ!”. Of course 7th January is the end of Christmas for us now, but I always remember it being Russian Christmas when I was a child. God bless you Mummy and sorry I didn’t continue the tradition.  
Thursday 7th January was also the start of the sales in Spain.  Many people would also be returning and exchanging unwanted presents – more than 30% of all presents get returned in Spain.  I was to be exchanging a pair of trainers Olivia and Miguel got me for “Reyes” from the French giant sports store, Decathlon, which were a bit big.  I got these instead and they will be perfect for going up the mountains in Montrondo as they are waterproof and protect the ankles.  They are also pink and go with the anorak I have at the house in the village.
My new trainer / mountain boots, from Oli and Miguel for Kings Day
 From Decathlon we went to Ikea.  My main mission there was to buy white frames for the photos I can now print from my phone directly on the Canon Selphy wifi photo printer I got for Christmas and which I adore.  I got at least 15 and may have to go back for more haha.  Here is the printer with photos in 3 of the new frames ready to take to Montrondo when we next go.
New frames from Ikea for my new photo printer
 Whilst there I also got more candles for Montrondo,
some kitchen knives and new frying pans for our house here and at the food
store I indulged in more mulled wine, pear cider, cooked frozen prawns, smoked
salmon and biscuits for my Father.  Oh
how I love Ikea. 

On Friday Eladio got a cold which I suspect I may get soon too. He must have got it from Olivia. Thankfully it is quite a mild type and he will be ok. It was another very wet day and when I had got my work out of the way I did more cooking.  I made a batch of bitki (Russian meat hamburgers) for lunch that day and to freeze.  I made fresh veg to accompany it, including artichoke hearts, my favourite.  That afternoon I went for the walk on my own and it was blustery and very cold.  My compensation was watching more of Season 1 of Downton Abbey.  I love the dialogue and the costumes, as well as the house. Well I love it all actually hahaa.

It was on Friday too that I bought tickets for a flight to Brussels to stay with Sandra in February.  Adele will be there too and thus the 3 couples will reunite after perhaps 2 years when they were last here in our house in Madrid.  I much look forward to that trip which will actually be my birthday present.

That morning whilst I worked and cooked I got a phone call from a journalist.  He wanted to know  my opinion on the end of the Motorola brand for phones, from Motorola to plain Moto. It's sort of goodbye Motorola hello Moto.   When I first started in the company in 1990 no one  in Europe knew the brand and there was all sorts of theories of the origin of the name. In Spain not much later it became the generic name  for a mobile phone, any marketeer's dream, like hoover, kleenex or aspirin.  In fact it comes from the radio division which actually today is still called Motorola. So it is only goodbye to Motorola in the phone division I think. This was the decision of the new owners the Chinese computer company, Lenovo.  I told him that on a personal level I was rather sad to see it go.  On a professional level I told him I thought it was a mistake as basically the Motorola brand is more popular than Lenovo and that it takes years to build a brand and it was a pity for it to be destroyed so quickly and possibly without much thought behind the decision. He remarked that it must have been a difficult decision.  Well I know better.  People may think that in blue chip companies  top level decisions are taken after much research.  In my experience, they are usually taken in a brain storming meeting where a few hands go up and that's that, or on the whim of the manager in charge.  I've seen that happen in both Motorola and Nokia. Here is the article where I am quoted if you want to read it (in Spanish). 

Eladio was well enough for going out to dinner that night so I booked a table at a new restaurant for us, La Sidrería which Miguel and Oli had recommended to us. We liked it, the food was good and I adored the cider.  Spanish cider mostly comes from Asturias and, unlike the cider in England, it has to be poured from above the glass to maintain its sparkle which can prove difficult.  However the restaurant had a great little device, we had seen before in Asturias, where you put the glass in the figure’s hand and press a button behind it and voilá you get freshly sparkled cider.  You will know what I mean if you see the photo below of Eladio and the curious device.
Eladio and the cider pouring device at La Sidrería in Majadahonda on Friday night
Whilst Eladio and I were dining at La Sidrería, Oli and Miguel were out too with La Manada (the herd) as their group of friends is called. They had all met as one of their members, Tefi (Estafanía) was coming from Vigo in Galicia with her boyfriend and it was to a super reunion.  They hadn’t seen her for a year.  Here is a photo of the female members of The Herd.  Suzy would have loved to be there too I know.
Oli and the rest of the female members of La Manada (the herd) on Friday night, reunited with Tefi.
On Saturday just as I was making lunch – oxtail stew by the way to the recipe of Simone Ortega, we had a surprise visit from José Antonio and Dolores. They had come to pick up the ham they had left in Montrondo and which we had brought back for them.  We invited them to lunch gladly but had to persuade José Antonio who is always reluctant to accept hospitality; not wanting to be a burden.  It’s quite the opposite.  As I said to Dolores, to quote the Dowager Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey, he “has the trump card”.  She said this in reference to Mary who was in trouble with a Turkish man at the beginning of the series.  For the Dowager “the trump card” meant “she was family”, as is Toño our family and of course he is always welcome here. 

We had a great lunch together and were joined by Miguel and Oli. Miguel kindly took the photo which I have chosen to illustrate this week’s post.  It was great to have a surprise family lunch. 

In the afternoon Dolores and I went for a blustery walk with Pippa and Nuba. I felt guilty leaving Norah and Elsa behind, but cannot handle 3 dogs on the walk as they all pull at their leashes.

And today is Sunday, a quiet day, a day to write my blog and a day to have lunch with my family.  It didn’t start off very well as Miguel, Oli’s boyfriend, injured his arm whilst taking photos of his nephew in a local race, a race he and Oli were to take part in later too.  Thankfully he hasn’t broken it but he will have to wear an arm sling for at least 2 weeks.
And now as I come to the end of this week’s tales, I must go and make the lunch. 

I wish you all a great week ahead.  I shall be getting more used to the beginning of a new year and will have quite a few work meetings next week.  I hope the rain goes and that my cold does not develop.

Cheers to you all till next time,


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