Sunday, March 13, 2016

International Women’s Day, an unexpected feline visitor, Suzy’s last day at Planet Organic, anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, the girls in Lanzarote and other stories.

Sunday 13th March 2016
The two sisters, Olivia and Susana reunited this weekend in Lanzarote Canary Islands
Hi everyone,

I hope your week has been good.  Mine has been very quiet; no trips and not much to tell.  The trips are coming though: off to London next week and then for Easter to Montrondo. 

I left off last Sunday. It was Mother’s Day in the England which I only knew about when my dear daughter Suzy who lives in London sent me a beautiful message.  I’m not sure when it is in Spain either and it’s all the fault of my Russian born Mother who never brought me up to celebrate it hahaha. 

While our new weekend carer, Zena (from the Ukraine), was here to start her new job looking after my Father (and cleaning, cooking, etc. which, btw, she is brilliant at), Eladio and I went out for lunch.  We had been invited by our old friends Benito and Loli who we first met when we “lived in sin” in the early 80’s in the humble neighbourhood of Saconia. We have a lot in common.  Benito was a priest when he first met Loli and he was a teacher of philosophy, just like my husband.  Loli was a teacher too.  She served a splendid meal of grilled prawns followed by lamb chops and fruit salad.  As always when we meet we speak about how we first met; when the four of us were starting or about to start on our professional and married lives. 

At Benito and Loli's last Sunday
In the picture Eladio showing Benito conferences by the British ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins on You Tube.  Eladio is fascinated by Richard Dawkins.
Monday was a quiet day, my fasting day and it rained, all of which reminded me of The Carpenters’ song “rainy days and Mondays always get me down”.  It was my Mother-in-law Ernestina’s 94th birthday and she had celebrated with all the family in León on the Sunday in a restaurant; as there are so many of them.  Many happy returns Ernestina!

Of note on Monday I sat down to watch the 2004 BBC 4 episode adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South.  I was riveted from the beginning; the story of a genteel young lady (Miss Hale played by Daniela Denby-Ashe) who is the daughter of a non-comformist clergyman from Hampshire who leaves the church as he is in disagreement with the Book of Common Prayer and moves his family to the North to Milton (Manchester).  The setting is the Industrial revolution and the cotton mills of Lancashire with all the dirt and poverty it brought with it and how someone like Miss Hale who comes from the South of England sees the North with its employment and social issues. She soon meets Mr. Thornton (played by the extremely dishy Richard Armitage) a self-made local man and the owner of Marlborough Mills and they get off to a bad start when she sees him treating a worker roughly.  Their romance seems impossible but here Elizabeth Gaskell or possibly the script writers of the series have us on the edge of our seats until the final scene, simply known as “The Kiss” on the BBC as its website was besieged by viewers, like me, so impressed with the series and wanting more. 
Adored the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's social novel North and South
When I finished watching it, I felt like an orphan, desperate to know what happened after the reconciliation.  So I downloaded the original book and read the last 2 chapters and boy was the language hard to read. After all it was written in the middle of the 19th century.  Unfortunately the ending was very abrupt; even more so than the series.  When North South was published it was known as a “social novel” focusing on the problems the Industrial Revolution brought with it; poverty, child labour, bad health and working conditions.  This may have been the author’s main focus together with the most alluring love story; but I was also interested in her portrait of how society lived in those times; especially the problems of decorum in women.  Anyway, if you like period drama at its best and a romantic story, this is the series for you. 

Tuesday was International Women’s Day.  However the day started, as always, with breakfast.  Each one of us has our breakfast at different times and eats something different.  Eladio is usually last and always has Weetabix, since his first visit to the UK in 1981.  The dogs know his routine and always stand by waiting for a few meagre crumbs of the cereal.  I caught the 4 of them in the act on Tuesday morning as you can see in the photo below.

The dogs hoping for some crumbs from Eladio's breakfast hahaha
I began receiving messages of happy women’s day from friends around the world and of course Facebook was full of it. 

I don’t really consider myself a feminist and had the lurking thought most of the day that if there is women’s day why is there not men’s day as some of them dared to say.  As a woman in Spain in a man’s world, telecommunications, I suppose I have not suffered too much although of course there are far fewer women in top jobs in my sector; I am one of the privileged few and the journey, I can tell you, has not been easy.
This paints an ugly picture of women in technology jobs
My thoughts changed through the day to realise finally that yes International Women’s Day is necessary because women are still not equal to men. They earn less to start off with, generally have worse jobs and of course have the huge problem of the work life balance because still today women bear the brunt of bringing up children and running the house.  I have been very lucky in that aspect too as my wonderful Spanish husband and I have always shared the job.  In fact I used to say when the girls were small that he was more like the Mother and I was like the Father, because I was always travelling and even when I wasn’t, he was the one to get up at night and possibly changed more nappies than I did.  But my case is one in a million, so yes International Women’s Day is necessary.  If only it would help abused, deprived women; especially those from countries where they are considered second class citizens.  I am lucky to have been born in the west and from liberal minded parents. Whenever I read stories about women in Saudi Arabia or similar countries I cringe inside and count my blessings.  I would like to think that one day all women in the world will be equal to men but I don’t that is ever going to happen (sigh).

Eladio and I share the job of running the house.  He probably does more things than I do but I am the chief cook; when I am free to make the lunch as otherwise, I am again blessed in that our home help Salud makes our meals most days.  But on Tuesday I had a little time on my hands and decided to make Boeuf Stroganoff, that most delicious of Russian dishes.  I am unsure of its origin in the history of Russian cuisine; although the story goes it was served first by the family of Count Stroganoff.  I make it the way my Mother used to which was on very few occasions as it is made with the best fillet steak which was rather expensive when I was a child being brought up in Bradford. 

I cover stripped slices of fillet steak with flour and fry it with onions, mushrooms and garlic in butter to which I add a dash of white wine. I then add Greek Yoghourt.  It should be Smetana (sour cream) but I can’t get that here unless I make a special trip to one of the two or three Ukranian shops in Madrid.  I served it on Tuesday with long grained rice and fresh garden peas.

My boeuf stroganoff
All week it has been sunny but cold.  However thanks to the sunshine, the temperatures have been agreeable in the afternoons and on Tuesday afternoon I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Pippa lying literally on top of Elsa in the sunshine.  I just have to share this remarkable picture with you.  Someone said maybe we should put a saddle on poor Elsa, our adorable and long suffering golden Labrador who is as good as gold.

Pippa lying on top of placid Elsa
Wednesday was the quietest day of the week.  I spent most of it working at my desk and of course going on my two walks of the day. I do try to do two every day, one early in the morning and the other just before lunch with Eladio and the dogs.

I haven’t seen much of Olivia this week but we had the pleasure of her company for dinner that night.  I decided to make something healthy and this was the result; a tuna fish salad with asparagus, tomatoes, boiled eggs, peppers and lettuce.  Looks nice right?  We polished it off whilst watching the evening news on my iPad plus in the kitchen where the main news as always is about negotiations between the various parties to try and form a government; mission impossible for the moment.
My colourful and tasty tuna fish salad
On Thursday I woke up to a surprise.  I am always up before anyone else in the house and the first thing I do is feed the dogs; no easy task. Pippa and Elsa eat in the kitchen as they do not attack each other’s food bowls and Norah eats outside (she attacks any food in sight hahaha). Phoebe, our cat who has to be separated from the dogs, comes into the lounge from the swimming pool terrace after a night out on the tiles. I usher her into the library and TV room and she eats and spends the morning there with the door shut to keep the dogs out.  The surprise was when Phoebe appeared with another cat, a Tom cat.  Being an animal lover I thought well if Phoebe has brought a friend, a feline visitor, he’s welcome to join her in the TV room. 
The not so friendly feline visitor  - Phoebe is the smaller cat.
Everything was fine until Eladio went to see the cats who were sitting on the sofa. He stroked the visitor who purred.  Then he stroked Phoebe.  When he did that, the Tom cat began to attack poor Phoebe who began to hiss with distress. Eladio immediately sent the visitor packing who hasn’t come back since and will not be welcome again.  Later in the week, we had our revenge, when returning from our walk, the Tom cat was prowling outside our house.  The dogs started to chase him and he had to jump up a tree out of their way.  We haven’t seen him since hahaha.

I spent the morning in the office which was actually really nice.  I hadn’t been for a while and it’s always lovely to see colleagues and catch up on some of the gossip, not that there was much.  Once again our company is in the news because of rumours of a possible sale but no one knows what the outcome will be.  I had a productive meeting with my PR agency to go over our social media plan for this year.  It actually needs quite a bit of fine tuning.  Hopefully we shall be putting some engaging and fun activities into place shortly.

Meanwhile in London it was Suzy’s last day at Planet Organic where she has worked for a year or more as a nutritionist.  She will be starting as the sales representative for Bare Biology on 21st of this month (just after my visitJ) an up and coming company which specializes in Omega 3 fish oil that is sourced from Norway.  Currently you can buy it at places like Liberty!  Suzy’s work friends gave her a lovely send off and bought her the gifts and flowers you can see in the photo below. 
The flowers, card and presents from Suzy's colleagues at Planet Organic on her last day there.
When I was last in London to see Suzy, I visited her workplace and was impressed with the range of products sold by Planet Organic but above all I liked the atmosphere.  Suzy has been very happy there and respected too; but knowing her, she will keep in contact. 

Friday was 11th march, a date ingrained in most people living in Spain as the anniversary of the Madrid train bombs 12 years ago, the worst ever terrorist attack in Europe when 190 people died.  We all know exactly what we were doing when they happened.  In my case I was working for Nokia as their Communications Director and had gone on an overnight trip to Segovia with my colleagues from the marketing department where we were to hold a goodbye dinner for the head of marketing, my great Finnish friend, Anne N.  We were up late after partying and Anne and I found about the bombs because her Mother rang her from Finland to find out if she was ok. We immediately joined all the customers in the bar of our hotel to watch the aftermath live and there and then rang our loved ones to make sure they were ok.  When we got back to the office none of us was able to work.  I remember just going home and joining the girls watching the continued TV coverage.  It was some days after we realized the perpetrators were from a group called Al Qaeda, a name we were not familiar with then but that didn’t last long.   
A scene from the 2004 Madrid train bombings
On Friday morning, Olivia’s programme would be doing a special report on the anniversary and she had to interview a survivor.  The survivor was a woman who, like her now, was 30 at the time, lived with her parents and went to work by train.  She was lucky to survive but thanks to her injuries – reduced mobility - cannot work and worst of all has a perpetual buzz in her ears.  She told Olivia that she no longer knows what silence is. Terrible!

There were many events to mark the day attended by survivors and victims’ families as well as anti-terrorist associations and politicians. For once the Spanish politicians were united in their stance against terrorism.

Spanish politicians united against terrorism on the anniversary of the Madrid train bombings this week
Life goes on of course and on Friday morning, just before lunch, Eladio and I did the weekly shopping. Suzy meanwhile was travelling to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands from London where she would be meeting up with 7 members of the girls’ “manada” (herd) group of friends including Olivia who would be travelling late that night.  Poor Suzy had left her Spanish (Yoigo) sim card in London but worse still had lost her credit card and only had 15 euros on her.  She cancelled it but wouldn’t get another one until her return.  Thankfully she had some food on her; just fruit and nuts (she’s vegan!) which would have to serve her the whole day.

I took Oli, the two sisters Chati (nurse in London, went out to live there with Suzy) and Elena and Rochi (Rocío) the trip organizer to the airport where they would meet up with their fellow travelers, Anita (now lives with Suzy in London), Juli (the only boy) and Carolina.   It was thanks to Rocío I knew when the girls were going and where. They would be staying in the small village of Famara in the north east of the island at a private house called El Pescador two minutes from the beach.  Oli was dying to see Suzy and vice versa and both girls really needed a break.  I felt a bit orphaned when I dropped them off at the airport and knew the weekend would be very quiet without Olivia.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of Suzy and Oli on Saturday afternoon in Lanzarote somewhere having a great time with their friends.  

Being Friday night, Eladio and I went out to dinner. Our restaurant choice this week was one of our regulars, La Txitxarrería.  Here I dug into this delicious piece of steak. I have to admit Eladio helped me with some of it, and the chips too in case you are wondering hahaha.
Tucking into dinner at La Txitxarrería on Friday night
Yesterday was Saturday and there’s not much to tell. It was a quiet day, I went on my 2 walks and most importantly Eladio bathed Norah and Elsa which I had to badger him to do.  The highlight was talking to the girls. They had settled into their house happily and appeared to like it a lot. They all went out to have breakfast and probably went food shopping afterwards. Some of them I think went surfing but not Suzy and Oli.  They had hired two little Fiat cars and explored the island yesterday afternoon. I asked for photos and got the one illustrating this post, but also the one below of the whole group.
The girls in Lanzarote (El Golfo) yesterday with their friends from "la manada" (the herd)
From left to right Juli (only boy), Rocío, Chati, Anita, Elena, Olivia, Carolina and far right Suzy.
They will be back on Tuesday and I will see Olivia that night.  Suzy will be staying one more day and returning to London on Wednesday morning.  Excitingly I will be travelling out that day to stay with her until Monday when she starts her new job.  I much look forward to quality Mother and daughter time as well as staying at her new house in Camden which sounds much more promising than any of her previous accommodation.  One place I never stayed were her first lodgings with Chati at an awful crowded flat in Whitechapel which she shared with 12 Spaniards. Of course you will be hearing all about my time there with her in next week’s post.

I will leave you now to get on with Sunday.  As Zena is here I have bought the ingredients to make borsch (Russian and Ukranian stew dish made with  beetroot, cabbage and meat ) which I know my Father and I will love.  It will bring back memories of when my Mother used to make it and hopefully I will learn how to make it.

Cheers then till next week.

All the best till then, Masha

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