Saturday, April 16, 2016

A snowy Sunday in Montrondo, a Yorkshireman wins the US Masters, last dinner with Keith and Lorraine, “Hala Madrid” and Aupa Atléti”, royal visit to The Taj Mahal, ex Bradford Grammar school pupil comes to visit my Father and other stories.

Sunday 17th April 2016

On the cold and snowy walk to Murias last Sunday with Keith and Lorraine
Good morning friends and readers

It has been a fast paced week packed with work and at times I have found it hard to juggle my time to fit in my routine walks though the rain didn’t help when I did find the time.

Talking about rain of which there has been a lot this week (oh when will the sun come out to stay?), it rained too in Montrondo last weekend but only on the last day. On Sunday it quickly turned from rain to hail to snow.
Snow in Montrondo last Sunday
Thus we stayed inside after breakfast.  Our guests and Eladio read their books and the news whilst I made our lunch; lentil stew from a recipe by the Bible of Spanish cookery books; 1080 recipes by Simone Ortega.
The lentil stew I made last Sunday in Montrondo

We were to leave in the afternoon and were all in need of a walk so at midday we braved the weather and off we went to Murias and back.  Pippa was dressed in her fur coat but was shivering so much I sent her back into the house.  She scampered in, relieved to escape from the cold.  And it was cold as you can see in the photo illustrating this week’s blog post. 
The only bar in Murias; La Palloza, was thankfully open.  People were coming in from mass and there was a great atmosphere.  Keith was particularly pleased to go in, being a typical British pub goer.  La Palloza is not a pub but a delightful bar housed in a grannery type structure with a thatched roof.  It is actually round.  In the summer it is a delight to sit outside, sipping wine and contemplating the view of the mountains.  But on Sunday we went inside to take refuge from the bad weather and sat near an old fashioned stove. 
Outside "La Palloza" in Murias with Keith and Lorraine last Sunday
Here Eladio and I had “mosto” (non-alcoholic wine – before it is fermented) to our English friends’ amazement.  We are not big wine drinkers or rather we love wine but only with meals.  La Palloza, as is typical of the area, serves free tapas with a drink which were to fortify us for the cold and wet walk back.

We left in the afternoon at around 5.30 but had to make a u turn about 15km on when Eladio remembered he had left his wallet and glasses in Montrondo.  It never ceased to rain throughout our journey back which to me seemed eternal.  The journey out always seems shorter.  We stopped on the way for a bite which turned out to be our dinner and a delicious one at that; toast smeared with olive oil, tomato and ham and washed down with well needed hot homemade broth; ummm.

Monday brought more rain which didn’t stop Keith and Lorraine going into Madrid to visit the centre.  I had to stay to catch up on my work.  But I also wanted to join my Father for lunch after being away for 3 days.  I was happy to tell him that morning that a Yorkshireman from Sheffield had won the US Golf Masters, against all odds.  He was to be the first Englishman to do so in 20 years.  Danny Willett, aged 28, the son of a vicar and ranked 12th in the world, stunned the sports world by beating Jordan Spieth to win the coveted Green Jacket at Augusta.  Even he didn’t believe it had happened. 
Danny Willet in the coveted green jacket at Augusta. Well done for Yorkshire, well done for England.
The funny thing is he had no plans to compete in the Masters as his wife was expecting a child last weekend.  Fate had it that the baby arrived early and he changed his plans and at the last moment entered the tournament.  There couldn’t have been a happier Englishman this week.  Even if he never wins again, he will be forever remembered in the golfing world for this amazing feat.  Well done for him, well done for Yorkshire, well done for England. 

On a completely different note, on Monday morning we received an invitation to a wedding.
The wedding invitation
It wasn’t just any wedding but the wedding of Lucia, the youngest daughter of Pili G and Gerardo (RIP).  Pili and Gerardo welcomed me into their family many years ago when I did a year in Spain for my degree and I have considered them my extended family ever since.  It will be a delight to be there to see them all, especially Lucía’s siblings; Gerardo, Irene, Julieta and Toti.  Gerardo and Irene were my pupils of English when I lived in the bosom of this wonderful family and the ties have only grown stronger over the years.  I’m looking forward to the occasion but can’t think for the life of me what to wear that day.  When the time comes, you will find out of course.

Keith and Lorraine returned at around 5, just in time for afternoon tea in the lounge, a room or set of rooms we don’t use very much; just for visitors and at Christmas.  Keith asked me what we would do with all the furniture and bits and pieces when we eventually move out and I have no answer to that question.  It is full of Russian, English and Spanish elements; quite eclectic but possibly a bit eccentric. 

Our eclectic lounge as seen from both sides. We don't spend much time there.
There is my grandmother’s piano, Russian icons, old paintings, antique furniture inherited from my Father’s family which we brought from England and ornaments from the family, going back more than a century, as well as lots of stuff we have brought back from our trips.  No I don’t know how we will be able to keep it all but we shall cross that bridge when we come to it.

The day ended with Keith and Lorraine inviting us out to dinner at La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo.

Dinner on Keith and Lorraine's last night at La Txitxarrería on Monday

It is one of our favourite restaurants and one we take many a visitor to, to enjoy the excellent Basque cuisine, served with cider from that area of Spain.  Keith was doubtful about eating hake with cider but Eladio, Lorraine and I enjoyed the fresh sparkling low alcoholic beverage which in my mind can be drunk with any meal. 

They were off early the next day and Eladio was their chauffeur to the airport.  The journey was fraught by awful morning traffic on the M40 but thankfully they caught their plane on time.

The highlight of Tuesday was the second leg of the Champions League quarter final between Real Madrid and the German team Wolsfburg who arrived at the Bernabeu stadium with 2-0 to their advantage.  Cristiano Ronaldo worked his magic that night and scored a hat trick taking the team through to the semi-final for the sixth consecutive season.  The Portuguese striker is with no doubt the top goal scorer in the championship. 
Cristiano Ronaldo worked his magic to bring Real Madrid through to the semi-finals of the Champions League
All I could say was “Hala Madrid” (go or forward Madrid) the famous club chant echoed by fans of Real Madrid around the world.  If they win the final it will be their 11th cup, the “undécima” they are so anxious to win.  I think I am right in saying that no other club has won the Champions League as many times as the team from the Bernabeu. But it will be no easy journey as we will see.  It says a lot for Spanish football that of the 8 teams in the quarter finals, 3 of them are Spanish. Being good at football is a great brand enhancer for the country and a wonderful way of engaging with people you meet around the world.  Football, at its best, is an international language and excellent ice breaker. I wonder if you agree.

The other 2 Spanish teams in the Quarter Finals were none other than the reigning champions, Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid, both eternal rivals of Real Madrid.  Well that night, the Argentinian coach, Simeone’s players stunned the football world by beating Barça 2-0 thanks to goals from Antoine Griezmann (I just wished they had been scored by Fernando Torres). 

Antoine Griezmann, the man of the match in the second leg of the quarter finals between Atletico de Madrid and Barcelona. 
The club’s slogan is “never stop dreaming”.  Well that night, the club known for having the most long-suffering fans in football, saw their dream fulfilled. For the second time in history, Atlético de Madrid will play in the semi-finals.  Could there be a repeat all Madrid derby final like the one in Lisbon two seasons ago, when the “blancos” (the whites – RM) won “la décima” (10th cup)?  Atlético will dream of winning and for once I am on their side.  I always support RM but they have 10 cups and it seems fair for Atlético to win their first.  When I read the result on Wednesday morning I too said “Aupa Atleti”, the club fans’ chant which deafened players and spectators when they beat Barcelona that night. We wouldn’t find out until Friday what the outcome of the draw for the semifinals would bring for the 2 Madrid clubs.

Thursday was my busiest day workwise.  I am currently involved in one big secret project (oh I wish I could tell you about it) and in the communication of the company’s first quarter financial results to be published next Wednesday. 

On Friday I had more meetings at the office and lots of things to organize and delegate.  Meanwhile I changed phones, from my Note 4 to the new Samsung S7 edge.  I was very excited to be unboxing the brand new model but soon got frustrated.  I had thought to use the smart switch app to transfer the data from my old phone to the new one but it kept getting stuck.  I also tried the Samsung pc data suite called Kies but it’s rubbish I can tell you.  I am more a fan of Samsung than I am of Apple but when it comes to transferring data from one phone to another, Apple beats the lot.  Thus I had to manually install most of my apps and freshly login into them all which was a huge bind and time consumer.  Finally it is all set up and I’m enjoying it.
My new phone.  To quote Google "feeling lucky".
I don’t see any great difference from previous versions of the S7.  In fact it’s hard to see if there are any differences.  What I will miss in the Note is the size of the screen and the pen that comes with it.  Meanwhile I consider myself lucky to have a new phone, one of the great perks of being in the mobile phone business.

And lo and behold the first thing I saw on my brand new S7 were the results of the European Champions League semifinal.

I breathed a sigh of relief to see that Real Madrid and Atlético would not meet.  The former will play Manchester City and the latter Bayern Munich.  I can only hope that one of them gets through to the final and wins of course.

It was on Friday whilst I was multitasking that 2 DVDS I had ordered from Amazon arrived; series that are not yet available on Netflix.
Looking forward to seeing these 
I can’t wait to see Julian Fellowe’s (of Downton Abbey fame) adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne for three reasons: 1) I am a great admirer of Julian Fellowes, 2) it is period drama based on a novel from a very good British writer, 3) it is the story of a Doctor and I am a sucker for any film or series about doctors, nurses, nuns, clergymen, prisons, schools etc and don’t ask me why as I don’t have an answer.

As to Grantchester it was recommended to me by Lorraine and I know I will relate to a romantic detective story about a vicar in a village near Cambridge in the 50’s around the time I was born, not to mention the place. Remember my trip down memory lane recently in Cambridge to visit the house where I was born?

But I wasn’t to watch either on Friday night.  Instead, Eladio and I went to the cinema, something we haven’t done for a long time because I can’t remember when the last time was or which film we saw.  We went to see Pedro Almodovar’s latest film, Julieta.
Pedro Almodóvar's new film which we went to see on Friday night. 
Most of his films are very similar in their genre so I was not sure what to expect.  I had no preconceptions and only knew that the two leading actresses, Adriana Ugarte (my favourite from the TVE series La Señora) and the older Emma Suárez were in it.  I had also heard the two had had a shouting match in the street recently when it was being promoted.  What I did know is that the premiere was blemished by the famous and quirky director’s involvement in the Panama Papers.  Just a couple of days ago he went public to give an apology.  He said that he wasn’t aware of having any offshore assets but that was no excuse for what he had done.  Good for him I thought.  After all he is a private public person and having an offshore account is not really a crime, unless he has evaded taxes in Spain.

The Spanish Industry Minister, José Manuel Soria, also involved in the scandal, is a totally different story though.  At first he denied any assets in offshore accounts but investigative journalism showed otherwise.  Then yesterday, he surprised us all by resigning. He is probably the first “corrupt” politician to do so in a long time in this country where we have become immune after so many cases.  I say immune but I think it’s more correct to say, “fed-up”.  This will come as a huge blow to the interim Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy who appointed him in the first place. 
Spanish minister of Industry, José Manuel Soria, who resigned on Friday because of his involvement in the Panama papers
But back to the film. Did I like it?  Yes I did, although I was left feeling a little forlorn at the end as I was hoping for a happy finish and it was only suggested, not projected but that is typical Almodóvar. You can see the trailer here.  Essentially the story is about a woman called Julieta.  Her young self is played by Adriana Ugarte and her older self by Emma Suárez and I don’t know which of the two do a better job.  Julieta meets two men on a train, one of who will become the love of her life and with whom she will be-child a daughter who at the age of 18 will cause her great suffering. No more spoilers or I will be in trouble.  If you a fan of Pedro, then you will enjoy this film I can assure you.

Meanwhile, Olivia was on her way to Salamanca with friends from work. They were going there for the weekend to see a colleague who has just had a baby.  As I am writing now, Oli just sent us a photo of her in that lovely Castillian town of University fame.  I am happy to be able to share it with you.  It must be cold as the girls are well wrapped up.
Oli is in Salamanca this weekend with colleagues
And in London this weekend, Suzy has had the pleasure of the company of our Indian friends, Sumit, who was here recently and who lives in Bombay where he works as a Bollywood script writer, and Sandeep his soul mate who lives in Plymouth where he works for a British TV production company.  Oh how I wish Olivia and I could have been with them.  I’m sure they have had or are having a great time as these two boys are just the best.  Olivia met them on her Erasmus year in Falmouth in Cornwall and the friendship has extended to the whole of our family.  Suffice it to say both Sumit and Sandeep mean an awful lot to all of us.  And here I am happy to share with you a photo of them with Suzy, her flat mates, Vicky and Anita and friend Chati (the latter two from the girls’ “manada” (herd) group of friends.

Happy times in Camden this weekend for Suzy with our Indian friends Sumit and Sandeep

Saturday came and brought more rain.  I weathered it to go out on my walk and came back drenched. 

I was interested to see in the news yesterday that Kate and William were visiting The Taj Mahal on their tour of India and Bhutan.  

The royal visit this week of William and Kate to the Taj Mahal. They sat on the same bench as Lady Diana did
There was much interest in the visit because Prince William's Mother, Lady Diana, visited it too in 1992.  Sadly she visited it alone when her marriage to Prince Charles was breaking up.  It was a bleak photo of her by herself, the most beautiful woman in the world  in front of the greatest monument to love in the world and the most beautiful building in the world. They separated only a few months later and the photo of Lady Diana below took on more significance as it summed up her sadness and loneliness at the time.  She would be pleased to know how happy her son was when he visited it today with his beautiful wife.
Lady Diana alone by the Taj Mahal in 1992, a symbol of loneliness and unhappiness 
I know it to be the most beautiful building in the world because I too visited it but not alone; with Eladio.  We went to India for our 25th wedding anniversary and of course saw The Taj Mahal which is when I decided it was the most beautiful building in the world. In fact it's so beautiful it took my breath away and actually made me cry.  It is the only building ever to have done so.  Here is a photo of a photo of Eladio and I in front of India's most well known symbol.
Our visit to The Taj Mahal in January 2009 was a very happy moment and highlight of our trip to India and Nepal for our 25th wedding anniversary
In the royals' photos there are no other people in the background; unlike ours.  Theirs were probably private visits.  I remember that in order to take good photos the only way was to hire a photographer on site and pay between your teeth if you were ever to get good shots of the visit.  Then you got an album of printed photos.  Hopefully they give you a pen drive these days as I have had to take a photo of this photo from the album hahaha.

I have been following their tour of India closely and am a little disappointed that most of the news is about the clothes Kate has been wearing.  I have to admit though I wanted to see her in a sari and that hasn't happened so far.  

On another topic, yesterday afternoon we were expecting an important visitor.  Simon H, a critic of Russian art who lives in Geneva was coming to see my Father to include a section about him in a book he is working on assembling his writings on Russia.  

He was my Father’s pupil nearly 40 years ago so it was to be an amazing reunion. Simon’s descriptions of my Father as a teacher of languages at Bradford Grammar School show a different father to the one I know as I have explained on some occasions when other ex-pupils have reached out to him after all these years.  To all of them he was huge influence in their academic careers.  I always knew he was a good teacher but that he was one of the best at that very prestigious school where he sent so many of his Russian students to Oxford and Cambridge, makes me so very proud of him.  I only wish I had known at the time and listened to him more.

Simon arrived at our local station where I picked him up.  We came home to find my Father watching the BBC World News and they were introduced.  Meanwhile Zena, our Ukranian carer offered my Father a cup of tea and Simon, who speaks perfect Russian, talked to her too.  Later I left my Simon alone with my Father for them to speak privately as I didn't want to interfere.  They sat together for over an hour and a half at the end of which I did interrupt them to see if Daddy was tired and he was a little, though very pleased to see Simon and amazed he had come all the way from Geneva, a city close to his heart, especially to see him.
Teacher and pupil from Bradford Grammar School reunited after nearly 40 years.  
It was great later to catch up with Simon, after so much email and FB correspondence and get to know him better.  The Rueda wine helped as did the dinner of Spanish tortilla, salad and ham.  The evening finished with drinks (Pedro Ximenez sherry unchilled I'm afraid) in the lounge to the sound of Enya and a little indulgence in the exquisite Swiss chocolates he had brought.

And today Simon will be with us until the afternoon so he will be able to spend more time with my Father. Zena will be making us a Ukranian dish made with cabbage and meat and Simon wants to go out and buy a bottle of vodka to drink with my Father.  Now that will be a good moment for sure but you will hear all about it in next week's post.

Cheers till then

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