Saturday, February 20, 2016

Valentine’s Day, our last day in Brussels, my film, series and books of the week, major repairs looming at home, snow in Montrondo, Norah is in trouble, retail therapy, Suzy moves to Camden, a birthday lunch, a crazy hairdo and other stories.

Saturday 20th February, 2016
Back from the hairdresser on Friday and trying out the cardigan and scarf Fátima bought me for my birthday. Oli said my hair looked crazy!
Hi again,

I left off last Sunday morning in Brussels.  I must say we had a great time there and I sorely miss Adele and Sandra who I consider among my closest friends.

Sunday was Valentine’s Day but no, once again, like King John who was not a good man in the poem by AA Milne, I didn’t get anything, unlike Sandra and her Mother who were surprised with lovely flowers from Jeffer.  Neither Eladio nor I really celebrate it but he did make me laugh when on the plane to Brussels on Thursday 11th he suddenly said: “Happy Valentine’s Day”.  He must be one of the few people on this planet who doesn’t know it’s on 14th February.  I hope that made you laugh.

It was our last day in Brussels and our last breakfast together. I must say breakfast at Sandra’s is a splendid affair to quote Eladio. There was everything you could wish for at ; toast, croissants, crumpets, honey, jam, orange juice, fruit, cheese, tea, coffee, etc and we often had so much we didn’t really need much lunch later.  I loved the meals with my friends, especially breakfast.
Breakfast on our last day in Brussels
When we were finished the men went off to Marolles, that trendy multicultural area of Brussels which used to be the poor area and is full of antique shops.  I knew Eladio wouldn’t be buying anything there but that Bernard would as he adores second hand shops.  He came back with a leather jacket and cap, happy with his purchases. Meanwhile we girls had some time to ourselves but we had to take Barney to the vet as he was ill; he hadn’t eaten the day before and had the “runs”. We suspected it was because he licked the plates in the dishwasher after our Indian meal on Friday night.
Sandra and Adele at the vet with Barney last Sunday in Brussels
Duly medicated and feeling better, we left him at Magda’s flat and made our way to the Sablon, a chic area of Brussels with lots of chocolate shops which is popular with locals and tourists.  Here we did some window shopping and some purchases as well.  I found the tea and cake shop, Ladurée so beautiful I could have moved in.
Sandie in Ladurée in Le Sablon in Brussels last Sunday
Whilst the girls were exploring an expensive homeware store, I went directly to the French bone china shop, Gien, the only one outside France I think. I have been collecting their “route des indes” bone china, since I spied the shop on our first visit to Sandra in Brussels some years ago.  Once home I added it to the collection in our dining room and this is what it looks like.
My "Route des Indes" Gien bone china collection
I also have a collection of Le Pain Quotidien bowls (the Belgian bakery chain) and took the opportunity to add to it too at the branch in Fort Jaco where Sandra lives.  This is my collection as seen in our kitchen once home.
My Le Pain Quotidien collection of bowls and jugs
Soon we were joined by the men and went in search of a place for lunch, no easy task.  We finally went to L’Atelier in Rue Haute in the Marolles area. Whilst the men queued, Sandra took Adele and I upstairs to a boutique called Fille (but spelled Fijle) owned by a Spanish girl from Salamanca and which promotes French and Spanish designers.  Sandra told me she had given up her job with the European Parliament to pursue this dream.  We loved the shop and I loved talking to Cristina.  I promised to mention her shops in this blog so here you have the website.  Below is a photo of Sandra, Adela and Cristina at Fille.
At the Spanish owned boutique Fille in Brussels last Sunday
We all bought cotton tops there.  I got a white one for Olivia which she loved as soon as she saw it.
Oli's present from Fille
Soon we had to go back to Fort Jaco as Eladio and I had to leave at 16.45. There was just time to finish packing, say goodbye and thank you to Magda and have a quick cup of tea with our friends before Sandra drove us to the airport.  Adele came along for the ride and we all discussed when we could possibly meet next.  It seems New Year’s Eve in Montrondo is a possibility. I do hope so. 

The airport was quiet; unusually quiet I thought with a very small queue and not many people on our plane.  I wondered if this was because of the terror threats in Belgium. Throughout our stay I was aware of them, when I saw the army on the streets or when we went passed the notorious Molenbeek area when we drove to Bruges.  There were tourists in Brussels and in Bruges but I suspect fewer than usual. 

We got home after 10 pm to be greeted by Oli.  I have to admit Oli and I had a bit of a chocolate feast whilst opening our suitcases.  I had brought home M+S extremely chocolatey biscuits, soft nougat, Belgian biscuits and chocolates in quite big amounts, for Oli, my Father, Salud and of course the house.    It turned out we wouldn’t be the only ones to eat them.

Monday came and it was back to my 2 walks a day and fasting.  Whilst I was away my new relaxed skinny jeans from M+S had arrived and they are great; so comfy and a good fit I highly recommend them.  Apart from being quite flattering what I like most about them is that they are not too tight on the ankle.  Sometimes with skinny jeans you feel like a bullfighter getting in or out of his tight trousers (“traje de luces”).
Love my new M+S relaxed skinny jeans
The new BBC TV series, War and Peace, had also arrived which I can’t wait to watch.  I’m sure it will soon be amongst my favourite TV series.  
The new BBC TV series War and Peace arrived whilst we were away
Meanwhile Eladio and I finished watching The Honourable Woman.  It was my second viewing and is well worth watching, if a little complicated with all the spying from the CIA, M15, Mossad and Palestinian terrorist groups.  Whilst in Brussels, Sandra, Adele and I shared the names of the latest films and TV series we liked and I was recommended The Imitation Game.  As soon as I got home I ordered it on Amazon and it arrived on Tuesday.
My film of the week
It’s the story of the brilliant English mathematician Alan Turing who broke the Nazi communications Enigma code, helped with a team at Bletchley.  It has transpired recently that Poland was equally instrumental in this breakthrough.  I was since recommended the biography of Alan Turing, who, it turns out was not a prophet in his land and was never rewarded the recognition he deserved, being up there with great minds such as Newton, Edison and Darwin as Barack Obama said recently in Manchester. Called “Alan Turing,the Enigma” it is by Andrew Hodges and I have just downloaded it.  The enigma refers to the cracking of the code possibly as much as the man himself who was something of an enigma too.  I was sorry to find out that the British scientist who was the mastermind behind computing today, took his own life, possibly because he was a homosexual and subjected to cruel therapy.  I shall find out more when I start on Hodge’s biography.

This book is among my books of the week.  It goes side by side with Whiteout by Ken Follet which I am reading now and is about a deadly virus stolen from a laboratory at Christmas in Scotland.  You see my literary interests are very diverse, hahaha.

Another book on my to-read list or book of the week list is called “A detail of history” and is by Alex Hersh, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps.  I was inspired to read it when a school friend, Maureen, posted that Alex Hersh was visiting Bingley Grammar School.  No doubt my Father will be interested too.  I shall have to get him a paper copy for his birthday.  He may be interested in Andrew Hodges’ book about Alan Turing too.
Next on my to-read list
On Monday the insurance people came and lifted more of the floor boards on the ground floor trying to find the source of the damp that has crept into the floor boards and skirting boards too.  This is what the ground floor looked like on Monday morning.
What our ground floor looks like at the moment. 
It was a sorry sight to come back to from Brussels.  It seems major house repairs are looming.  The insurance people told us the whole floor will have to be removed and replaced and I am dreading it.  We also have a problem with the swimming pool which still hasn’t been repaired and later in the week the central heating was giving us problems.  The plumber came and had to replace something called an “expansion pump”.  Thankfully he repaired it, albeit, for a hefty fee.

On Monday it snowed in Montrondo and I longed to be there.  Manolita, one of the villagers, posted lots of photos of the village after the heavy snowfall.  This is just one. You can see how the village pond is completely covered in snow.  When the Local Spain asked for pictures of snow, I sent them this one and they chose it as their picture of the day. I was very proud of Montrondo.  You can see the link here.
There was lots of snow in Montrondo this week
We couldn’t go this weekend as on Friday I had a meeting at work and on Sunday I am going to Barcelona.  We shall be going after my return next week and I just hope the snow doesn’t melt before we get there.

Meanwhile in Madrid it has been sunny but cold.  There is no snow here and beserkley roses are blooming in our garden. That doesn’t make much seasonal sense. As I always say here; “what has happened to the weather?”
Roses blooming in our garden in February is very odd indeed
On Tuesday I had a meeting in the office. It was to discuss the content for our press conference in Barcelona next week for the annual Mobile World Congress, the biggest telecoms event in the world.  We had booked the venue and sent out the invitation but decided on Tuesday to cancel it as we really have no news to announce since we did a press conference just a few weeks ago.  Instead we shall concentrate on interviews with the local press on our business in the area. That is what I have been working on for most of the week.

It was just after the meeting that Salo, my neighbour in Montrondo, sent me this lovely picture postcard photo of our house in the snow.  It made me want to go even more and I felt frustrated we just couldn’t set off that day.  But we couldn’t unfortunately.
Our house in Montrondo this week with all the snow (it's the stone one in the middle with the wooden shutters).  
I was so busy on Tuesday there was no time for my two walks which was a bit frustrating also.  There was however, time for a quick nap whilst semi watching the lunchtime news. We are always joined by spoiled Pippa who just has to be wherever we are.  I caught her on camera unawares and got these great pictures of her to show you.
Darling Pippa, what more can I say?
At 6.30 I went to Boadilla to have my nails done. María Jose, my beautician, did a lovely job as usual and this is what they looked like when she finished.  My red nails and red lips are my trademark!!!
Red nails are my trademark
But I was in for a surprise when I came home and went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Someone had left the food cupboard slightly open and Norah had done serious damage.  I was furious to see she had gobbled up most of the M+S biscuits, Belgian soft nougat, chocolates and biscuits I had bought in Brussels.  She must have had a huge feast.  Neither Pippa nor Elsa got a look in.
Norah was in trouble this week for raiding  the biscuit cupboard and eating the plumber's sandwich!
As if that wasn’t enough, on Wednesday morning, she did it again.  The plumber came to mend the “expansion pump” and left his car door open.  When Eladio was seeing him off the wrappings of his mid-morning sandwich were all over the floor and Norah had obviously gobbled that up too.  Beagles are notorious for gluttony and it seems they have no gene that tells them when to stop eating.  Oh naughty Norah, she is in serious trouble.  Eladio told me not to feed her on Wednesday morning but I relented and gave her a smaller bowl of dog food.  The biscuits and chocolates will now be on a higher shelf and out of her way in the future. We have learned our lesson.  No doubt she enjoyed her feasts enormously hahaha.

Wednesday was a quiet day working at home.  Eladio was attending to all the various house and pool repairs; poor him, whilst I worked at my desk with Pippa on the sofa and in full sight of all the uplifted floor boards.  I am wondering if we shall have to move our office to the glassed room off our bedroom when it is being repaired. But we shall cross that bridge when we come to it.

Thursday was my fasting day. It was also the day of the week we did our weekly shopping. Actually it will be for 2 weeks or so I hope.  There are 2 full trolleys with enough food for 6 people, 3 dogs and 1 cat to last the household for quite a while I suspect.  Here is Eladio just before he loaded the shopping into the car
Eladio and this week's shopping - enough to feed an army!
As if I hadn't done enough shopping that day, I had to go out again to buy a present for my friend Fátima.  The obvious choice was clothes.  In the end I bought more for me than for her as I got very inspired at Zara, H+M, Sfera and "Algo Bonito".  I bought all these lovely items and thoroughly enjoyed my shopping spree which turned out to be very good retail therapy.  I look forward to wearing some of the new clothes in Barcelona next week at the Mobile World Congress.
A shopping spree on Friday

Working at home on Friday and wearing the new blue top from H+M and a scarf I bought in Brussels
Friday didn't start off well.  I missed a meeting at the office  because my car broke down on the way.  I thought it was a punctured tire but it turned out to be a lack of pressure. No, I hadn't taken any notice of the warning light on the dashboard.  I will next time.

It didn't start off well for me but it was to be a memorable day for Suzy. It was the day she was moving into her new house in Camden in North London.  She has come a long way from when she first went to London nearly 3 years ago now and lived in ghastly crowded accommodation in Whitechapel.   Moving from South Bermondsey to Camden is quite a step up in her life.  In Madrid it would be like moving from Parla to Pozuelo!  It took her all day and we weren't to get a photo until late on Friday night.  Here she is in a taxi with all her stuff including her bike! I can't wait to go and see her. 

Suzy on removal day on Friday, from South Bermondsey to Camden
It was on Friday that I had a birthday lunch with my greatest friend Fátima to celebrate both her birthday in January and mine this month.  Even though we are neighbours we hadn't seen each other since Christmas.  It was a great girly lunch and we talked shop, i.e. about her firm Nokia where I used to work and even Motorola where we first met.  I gave her a blue jumper like the one I am wearing above, with a matching scarf and a striped jumper too.  She gave me the lovely coral coloured cardigan and scarf I am wearing in the photo that illustrates this week's blog post.

She had to leave soon for one of her eternal conference calls.  Nokia has just bought Alcatel Lucent and her new boss is a woman in Ottawa!!!  I can imagine conference calls at all hours.  I was lucky, my work for the week was out of the way and I went to the hairdresser. I have been going to Marco Aldany in Boadilla (Sector B) or many years. This is a chain of hairdressers owned by the family of two ex school friends of Suzy and Oli at St. Michael's School, Zoa and Zeus.  I have found my dream hairdresser there, Merche.  She did my hair on Wednesday 10th Feb, the day before we went to Brussels and it stood the test for 9 days, although I was terribly relieved to wash it after such a long time yesterday.  She did a good job and this time it has to last my stay at the Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona.  I was very pleased with the result although Oli said it looked a little crazy. Well, maybe it is although her friend Copi said I looked like a "pin up".  That was a lovely compliment.  Here is my selfie at Marco Aldany yesterday when Merche finished doing my hair for under 15 euros by the way my dear British friends!
A selfie at Marco Aldany yesterday.  The result is a little eccentric but I like it and it will last more than a week.
It was on Friday afternoon that I finished watching Season 4 of Call the Midwife.  The last episode had me in tears, what with Trixie owing up to being an alcoholic and the beginning of prescribing thalidomide to pregnant mothers with morning sickness.  I shall now have to wait until March until Season 5 is released.  

Being Friday night, Eladio and I went out to dinner. We chose nearby Ginos in Boadilla where we enjoyed a quiet meal together.  Our topic of conversation, as nearly always, was our family.  However we also spoke about the big issue in Europe today, the possibility of "Brexit", the exit of the UK from the EU. It hardly bears thinking about.  Last night an agreement was reached in Brussels where many of the UK concessions were agreed upon. This means that now David Cameron will be able to call a referendum in the summer.    One of the main problems for the UK is the amount of EU immigrants going to live in the UK and receiving benefits.  I commented to Eladio that in Spain no immigrants from any country coming here receive anything and that unemployment benefit is only given for 2 years maximum after having worked for a minimum amount of time.  The benefits the UK has to fork out for British born people is already much higher than most countries of the world and I don't see why they should be offered to non British born citizens who have never even worked there.  Of course they flock there if they are going to get free housing and unemployment benefit from day one.  I don't even understand why Brussels has a problem with this if other countries in the EU do not hand out money left right and centre to anyone arriving in their country from one of the 28 member states.  Really I don't.   All I can say is that I really hope my country stays in the EU.

And today is Saturday.  It's sunny again but bitterly cold.  I shall be doing my two walks, then making lunch for the family.  Tomorrow I am off to Barcelona for this year's Mobile World Congress which is why I am publishing my blog today.

You will be hearing all about my time in the Catalan capital (they have their own Brexit - exit from Spain - issue which I can't understand either).  Meanwhile I hope you have a great weekend.  

Cheers till next time

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