Saturday, April 23, 2016

Vodka for my Father, an earthquake in Ecuador, a midweek party and a Yoigo press breakfast, the Queen turns 90, the girls together in London, to Alicante for the weekend, 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare and Cervantes and other stories.

Sunday 24th April 2016

With my Father last Sunday during Simon's visit
Hi everyone,

This week I am writing from our flat in Santa Pola near Alicante.  We have come to spend the weekend, looking for sun as it’s raining everywhere else in Spain at the moment.

I last wrote on Sunday, the day the Pope brought back 3 Syrian refugee families in a last minute decision during his visit to Lesbos.  I think that was a great idea.  I am wondering why more refugees haven’t arrived here in Spain after the government announced the country would accept 18.000.  We have on our hands the worst migrant crisis since the Second World War and it is being handled as badly as it was back then. 

The Pope with the Syrian refugee families he took home with him from Lesbos
One would hope that the Pope’s gesture would spur on the powers to be to solve the humanitarian tragedy but I don’t think it will.

Sunday was an entertaining day for my Father. His ex-Russian pupil from nearly 40 years ago, Simon H, was still with us and made his day.  After breakfast with his former teacher, we took him out to nearby Boadilla to see the palace.  It’s about the only thing to see in the area.  Built by Ventura Rodríguez in 1763 it was the residence of the Infante Don Luis, sixth son of Philip V and brother to Carlos III.  It hasn’t been restored inside and I wonder if it ever will.

It was a sunny day so we did what many Spaniards do on a Sunday morning; we had an “aperitivo”.  Eladio, Simon and I enjoyed tapas and drinks at La Lonja de Boadilla and below is a photo of the two men together: the philosopher and the journalist, just as we were leaving with the palace in the background
Eladio and Simon last Sunday morning by the palace in Boadilla
Simon is also a photographer and he took some great shots whilst with us.  Thankfully he liked our dogs – we have three and not everyone is keen on animals – and I am very grateful to him for this particular photo of little Pippa our miniature dachshund and Elsa our Labrador, charging down the path to greet us with the wind in their ears when we came back from Boadilla.  It is such a familiar image but I have never seen it on camera.  

A great shot of little Pippa and Elsa rushing down the drive to greet us last Sunday
Simon wanted to enjoy a glass of vodka with my Father at lunch so we stopped at our local supermarket to buy the Russian spirit.  There wasn’t much choice and believe it or not we bought a Galician made vodka which turned out to be as good as the best.  We had it for lunch after Zena’s Ukranian cabbage and meat dish.  That was the moment I got the best shot of teacher and pupil reunited after nearly 40 years. 

My Father and Simon his ex pupil of Russian at Bradford Grammar School enjoying a glass of  vodka together
After lunch goodbyes were in order as Simon was leaving.  He took some last minute photos of us before I was to take him to the station.  I particularly like the one of my Father and I together which I have chosen to illustrate this week’s post.  He also took one of the group of us including Zena.  I was so sorry neither of the girls was here to meet him.
Saying goodbye to Simon
That afternoon Suzy was still enjoying the visit of the girls’ Indian friends in London.  Here she is with her latest beau, Alex, and of course Sumit and Sandeep.  It was taken by Embankment.

Suzy, her latest beau - Alex - Sandeep and Sumit at Embankment last Sunday
After a short siesta I went to pick Oli up from Majadahonda.  She had been to Salamanca for the weekend with colleagues from work visiting one of them who had just had a baby and was on maternity leave.  Once home we went on our walk and she joined us.  Thankfully it was sunny but only for a while as there would be intermittent showers all week.  At times it felt like The Great Flood and Eladio had to deal with a huge leak in the garage caused by the torrential rain.

There was good news at the end of the day.  Our favourite tennis player, the Spaniard Rafa Nadal, had made a comeback after a long spell of injuries and won his first Masters in 2 years too. It was to be his 9th Montecarlo Masters where he beat Gael Monfils in the final 7-5 5-7 6-0. I do hope this is not just a flash in the pan and that he goes on to win at least one grand slam this year.  Here he is amazed at his win on the court just as the game finished.
Nadal after his win at the Masters in Monaco last Sunday
Well done Rafa!

But there was bad news too.  That night an earthquake struck the coast of Ecuador.  It came just a day after two large quakes hit Japan – a country which, like Ecuador, is situated on the “seismically volatile ring of fire”.  The death toll from the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake, the worst in Ecuador in 70 years, has risen to 602 people.  130 are still missing and feared dead and some 12.500 are injured.  It will take the country years to restore the damage done to so many houses and buildings.  There have been numerous aftershocks but thankfully no further casualties. 
Destruction from the earthquake in Ecuador last Sunday
Monday was a quiet day and the best day for weather in the week.  I think it was the only day it didn’t rain.

Tuesday was busy.  I had a meeting in the office and worked all afternoon on the materials for our press conference the next day to announce our first quarter financial results.  There was no time for walks and besides it rained most of the day. 
That night I had a party to go to.  For once it wasn’t me organising it.  Huawei had invited most of the sector to a big event at the Círculo de Bellas Artes to launch their new flagship phone the P9.  It was one of those events you have to go to but not necessarily want to.  We live quite far out and I had no inclination, far preferring a quiet dinner at home with Eladio. But duty bound and off I went.  As I had predicted it would be loud, dark and crowded, just what I hate.  The best thing about the party was meeting up with my ex colleagues from both Nokia and Motorola, especially the latter.  It was great to see Carlos G, Juan Luis V, Alex B and Vicente H.  Here we are together all enjoying the reunion. 
Reunited with my ex Motorola colleagues at the Huawei launch party this week.  From left to right: Vicente, Carlos, me, Juan Luis and Alex (with the bow tie).
There were many young and unfamiliar faces and Alex and I commented that we were now the older generation of the sector, having started off together to actually create the mobile phone sector in Spain in the early 90’s at Motorola, just when phones began.  He said we were the dinosaurs of the industry and he’s probably right.  As soon as I could make a quiet escape, off I went, leaving at about 21.30.  Thankfully I was on time to watch another episode of Crossing Lines with Eladio before we got our shuteye.
Wednesday was my busiest day. I had to be in the office early for our press conference beginning at 10.30 after which there would be a staff meeting; all to communicate the good Q1 results.  Sales had increased 10.6% to 218 million euros and profit (Ebitda) by 29%.  It was good news to announce but affected by the rumour of a sale of the company to a British private equity firm which was speculated to be announced this week too. Well it didn’t happen, so we just got on with the job of communicating our good results.
I left early and there was dreadful traffic on the way which was exacerbated by the rain.
Traffic and rain on my way to the office early on Wednesday morning
It took me nearly 1.5h to get to the office and I thanked God most of the way that I can work at home and don’t have to face it every day like most office mortals.
I have a great events agency and PR agency and nearly everything was in place when I arrived. It was the first time we were to do a press breakfast in the office and I was worried the board room would look a little too corporate but my agency had done a great job, especially with the catering firm.
The Yoigo press breakfast about to start in our board room on Wednesday morning
All the main journalists turned up and all went well.  The q+a session went on for a long time as I had suspected and we practically had to throw the journalists out if we were to be on time for the staff meeting coined as Yoigo Mornings that started at 12.30.  It was full house for that too.  Here we announced and explained the results, two new employees introduced themselves, after which we all enjoyed an “aperitivo” together before everyone went off for lunch.
Thursday was the Queen’s 90th birthday.  When I say “the Queen”, there is one and only and it is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 1, the longest reigning monarch in England or the UK (her reign began in 1952).  I am only a monarchist when it comes to her and cannot help loving and admiring her for everything she has done for her country; despite many hardships and family setbacks.  She looks in great health.  There has been much news about her birthday, as well as photos and videos. I particularly like this one of her 90 years in 90 seconds done by The Telegraph.  I remarked to Eladio that she was a very good looking woman to which he replied she “wasn’t bad” hahah.
The Queen on the day of her coronation in 1952.  I have always thought she was a beautiful woman
On the day of her birthday Buckingham Palace released a set of photos taken by the famous and edgy American photographer Annie Leibovitz at Windsor Castle last month.  They are very evocative and at times informal. Perhaps the most evocative one is of the Queen with all her grandchildren.
The Queen with all her grandchildren
I suspect Leibovitz was inspired by a similar setting of Queen Victoria and all her grandchildren, although the latter had many more, some 42.
The most symbolic photo is of the Queen with three crown princes who are in line for her throne, her son Prince Charles, his son Prince Philip and his son, her grandson, Prince George.  We all wonder whether Prince Charles will ever be King. I particularly like the little Prince’s stance, having to stand on a pile of books in the photo hahaha.
The Queen and 3 crown princes in line for her throne
But my favourite is the informal photo of my Queen standing on the steps of Windsor Palace with her dogs; the corgis Holly and Willow and the “dorgis” Candy and Vulcan. The Queen mated her corgis with her sister, Princess Margaret’s dachshunds and created this particular breed.  The British monarch is both a dog and a horse lover and from what I have read there is nothing that makes her happier than watching her horses race or when she goes riding at Balmoral.  She still rides today at the age of 90!
The Queen with her beloved dogs
Her most important guests that day were the “Obama's” who were “in town” to wish Her Majesty a happy birthday.  But Barack had another mission and that was to side with Cameron in promoting that the UK stays in the EU.  He has been criticized for getting involved by some but not by me as I am against the Brexit and would hate to see the country I was born in outside what was once known as The Common Market. 
Whilst celebrations were beginning in England, life went on as normal for me of course; although I would have loved to see her on her walkabout at Windsor where she received so many bouquets of flowers and cards.  I went on our particular walkabout, or rather normal walk with Eladio, Elsa, Norah and Pippa.  Finally the sun came out and thanks to the rain we were greeted with sights of lots of wild spring flowers everywhere on our walk in the fields.
Eladio and our dogs
Friday came and as more rain was forecast we decided to spend the weekend in Alicante at our flat in Santa Pola.  We later saw on the weather news that the South East of Spain would be one of the only warm and sunny parts of the country this weekend.  Olivia was also going to be away as she had flown to London the night before to spend a long weekend with Suzy and Anita, my older daughter’s flat mate and Oli’s University friend.  I wish I had been there for their reunion.  I love it when the girls are together and in good spirits and was happy to see this lovely photo of the two of them when they were waking up that morning.
The girls waking up in London together
We left Madrid at about 10.30.  We stopped for lunch at El Cruce, now known as “El nuevo Cruce”, a place popular with lorry drivers, some 70km from Alicante in Caudete on the A31.  The place has always offered good food at very competitive prices but it had also been renovated.  There was so much choice on the 10 euro “menu of the day”, both Eladio and I had trouble deciding. 
Lunch at El Nuevo Cruce in Caudete on our way to Alicante on Friday
We arrived at Gran Alacant just after 4pm and it was blissfully sunny. As soon as we had settled in I went to sit on the grass to read my latest book. 
Pippa in the garden with me on Friday afternoon
This week it had to be about the Queen and I had chosen The Final Curtsey written by her cousin Margaret Rhodes which I am thoroughly enjoying.
The book I am currently reading
The girls were having a lovely time in London that day.  They went on their bikes to London Fields with Anita and here is a photo of them having fish and chips at a pub somewhere in the area.  It's lovely to see them together.
The girls together 
Later on we would go for a walk in the evening sun on the beach with Pippa which was quite empty.  Oh how wonderful it was to be by the sea again. There is something about the sea that attracts us nearly all; I myself included.
Eladio and Pippa on the beach on Friday evening
Wetting my feet on the rocks with Pippa on Friday evening
It was not only sunny but there were far more signs of spring than in Madrid with all the flowers about.  I could not stop taking photos of them. Not able to decide which one to share with you, I made a collage of them which includes geraniums, hibiscus, various types of coloured daisies as well as bougainvillea so typical in this area of Spain.
Beautiful flowers in the gardens of our flat here in Gran Alacant
After our lunch on the way, we decided to have a small dinner at home.  The TV remote control wasn’t working, so we got our evening’s share of the Netfilx series we are following, Crossing Lines, using my great big iPad Plus in the comfort of our bed. Why hadn’t we discovered that before I wonder?
Saturday came. It was St. George’s day but more importantly the 400th anniversary of the death of (perhaps) the 2 greatest literary giants of the world, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes.
Shakespeare and Cervantes two literary giants of the same era who died almost on the same day.
They are recorded as having died on the same day, 23rd April 1616 but there is some dispute according to which calendar is taken into account.  So who is the greater of the two?  If you are Spanish you will probably say Cervantes but if you are from another part of the world you will probably go for Shakespeare which, however much I love my adopted country, is the greater of the two in my humble opinion. Cervantes is credited with writing what is considered the first modern European novel but Shakespeare’s plays such as Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet have been read by many more people.  Only 2 out of every 10 Spaniards say they have read Don Quixote.  I did read it once but in English when I studied Spanish at University as it was far more difficult to understand Cervantes’ 17th Spanish prose.  The difference may lie too in the fact that the English are taking the celebrations much more seriously than the Spaniards who have been accused by the literary world for not making a big enough effort. 
The day of their anniversary was a glorious sunny day in Alicante and after breakfast Eladio, Pippa and I went for another walk on the beach.  It was nearly empty and we had it practically to ourselves.  The sun was strong at first so Eladio made a makeshift headgear out of his handkerchief as you can see in the photo below.
Eladio protecting his head from the sun with his handkerchief this morning on the nearly empty beach with Pippa
The next item on the agenda as a drive by the sea to nearby Santa Pola.  Here we parked at the end of the Varadero Beach and walked along the sea front until we got to Playa de Levante the town’s main beach.  We had a cup of coffee at the Pola hotel where we reminisced about when we first bought the apartment at Gran Alacant.  It was in May 1999, just a few months before my Mother died and I always regretted her never seeing it.
Coffee by the sea in Santa Pola this morning
Lunch was to be at the flat again where I made fish and chips from the fresh “whiting” fish I had brought from Madrid.  Served with fresh peas and chips, it was delicious. 

We had expected warm and sunny weather throughout but apart from on our morning walk on the beach when Eladio had to protect his head from the sun, the latter was quite intermittent during our stay and it was not as warm as we had hoped.

Thus I had to wear my coat which I would later take off for our afternoon walk with Pippa to the lighthouse cliffs.  It's quite a long walk and very popular but well worth the views when you get there. Our apartments are perched on the cliffs too but from the lighthouse you get great views of the little island of Tabarca where a handful of people live probably from fishing. For the records yesterday, Saturday, according to my "fitbit" we walked over 16km!

A glorious walk to the lighthouse cliffs on Saturday afternoon
Being Saturday night we decided to go out to dinner.  We would have loved to go to our favourite place, Maria Picola, but unfortunately it has closed down, temporarily I hope.  We opted instead for El Batiste which is supposed to be Santa Pola's best restaurant.  The place is a little outdated without any charm but the food is guaranteed to be top notch and it was.

In the Alicante region of Spain it is typical to serve garlic bread with tomato and ali oli mayonnaise with a meal and which I adore.
A typical way to start any meal in the Alicante region
We both had a craving for rice for which this region is well known. But we didn't order paella - more typical of Valencia - and both opted for our favourite type.  I had "arroz a banda" and Eladio had "black rice" as you can see in the picture below.
Dinner at El Batiste last night
The two glasses of wine I had with the dinner brought with it a headache which I am still trying to shake off this morning with my first cup of coffee of the day.

We shall be going home today but not before another walk on the beach to completely charge our batteries with sea air.

So I will leave you now to make our breakfast and get on with the day.  Hope you have a good Sunday and week to come.

Cheers till next time

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