Sunday, May 08, 2016

A very special 1st May, the King Haakon VII Freedom medal, Spanish football the best in Europe, first of the summer roses, a Muslim Mayor for London and other stories.

Sunday 8th May 2016

My Father, Charles Courtenay Lloyd on his birthday, 1st May, at breakfast
Hi everyone,

Today is Sunday and it’s a very different Sunday from last week which was 1st May and an exceptional day in many ways.  Today it’s raining “cats and dogs” and is a quiet day whereas last Sunday it was warm and sunny and it seemed we partied all day, my Father included.

It was his 97th birthday and it started off with a traditional birthday breakfast.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of my Father at breakfast surrounded by his presents. 

I had thought long and hard about what to buy him and decided on books as he is an avid reader.  His taste is very academic and he has a fascination for the Second World War.  He was in the Royal Navy as a lieutenant and was involved in the Liberation of Norway during the Second World War, spending much time on ships and submarines, after which he lived in that country whilst helping it get back on its feet and meanwhile learned the language to perfection.  He was awarded a very special medal for his efforts, the King Haakon VII Freedom medal “for outstanding services in connection with the liberation of Norway”.  In Norwegian it is called the “Frihetsmedalje”.  I have been looking for it this morning to take a photo but cannot find it. What I do have as proof is a newspaper cutting from the time which I am proud to share with you below.
The clipping in a Bristol newspaper about my Father's medal from King Haakon VII of Norway for his role in the liberation of the country
He went on to study German and Scandinavian languages at Selwyn College Cambridge after the War.  So when I stumbled upon history books on Norway and the War by a Norwegian historian called Geirr Haarr, I knew I was on to the right thing.  I bought him these three; The Battle for Norway April - June 1940 ,
The Gathering Storm: The Naval War in Northern Europe September 1939 - April 1940  and No Room for Mistakes . I asked him during the week whether he was enjoying the first of the three and was amazed to hear that he knew and remembered well a Norwegian Captain mentioned in the book and that they had been on the same ship.  He added that he was perhaps one of the few people still living from both The Royal Navy and Norwegian forces who played a role in the country’s liberation. His words made my hair stand on air.  He is so right.

The only person missing at breakfast that morning was Suzy.  The family is never complete without her.  But she had sent her grandfather a lovely card which you can see him reading below before opening his presents – that was what we  were brought  up to do; open the cards first and then the presents; although we always wanted to do it vice versa. 
Daddy re-reading Suzy's birthday card after opening his presents
As I told you last week, 1st May was also Russian Easter.  The Orthodox follow the Julian Calendar and the rest of the Christian religions follow the Gregorian Calendar; thus the Russian religious events are always later than “ours”.  I remember as a child my Mother lovingly preparing Russian Easter.  She would make “paskha”, “kulich” and dye eggs and prepare a huge spread to be eaten after the night service at the local Ukranian Church.  There was no Russian Orthodox Church in Bradford, only in London, so we had to make do.  However the service was exactly the same as it was conducted in “church slavonic” a sort of Slav Latin if you want. I loved those services when we would all hold a candle and listen to the choir, at the end of which we all walked around the church in procession chanting “Christof Vaskresi” (Christ has risen).  So when my Russian neighbour, Katia, married to a Spaniard, Julio, invited us all to celebrate at their house last Sunday we were delighted to join them. We took Zena, our Ukranian weekend carer with us too.  She is Orthodox and it was to be her day too, so no way could we leave her behind.

We arrived next door, my Father, Zena, Eladio, Oli and I, to find Katya and her Mother frantically making last minute preparations in their huge kitchen.  I was delighted to see “kulitch” (a sort of panatone covered in icing), “paskha” (a sort of thick sweet cheese) and coloured eggs.
Katya, my Russian neighbour and her Mother with the kulich and coloured eggs
Our neighbours had invited many guests from their family and friends and there was a complete mixture of ages and nationalities which made us feel very much at home.  It was very sunny too as we ate outside enjoying the Russian food and drink I should add.
Russian Easter at our neighbours last Sunday
If the previous week my Father and I had indulged in vodka, last Sunday was the day to indulge in it again.  Our neigbours had bought my Father a bottle of Russian Standard Vodka, apparently the best.  Julio offered me some from another bottle in a charming tiny little Russian glass and here I am saying cheers to everyone for a wonderful party and day.
Drinking vodka on Russian Easter last Sunday
We had to leave at around 5 as there was still more partying to come.  Olga, our ex Paraguayan carer and her fiancé, Alfredo, were coming to see my Father for his birthday.  I think my Father was overwhelmed with all the happenings that day and delighted that Olga had made a special effort to come and see him.  She brought with her a giant basket of goodies (mostly chocolates and biscuits – how well she knows my Father hahaha) flowers and even a balloon as you can see in the photo below, God bless her.
Olga with her boyfriend Alfredo who came to see my Father on his birthday
It was the perfect moment to have the birthday cake I had bought my Father.  So we all sat upstairs in one of the lounges which we only really use for occasions and enjoyed a civilized afternoon tea together.
Afternoon tea on my Father's birthday last Sunday when Olga came to visit him
Meanwhile in London, in Camden, my daughter Suzy was in the throes of another party, her birthday party. Here she is surrounded by her friends. 
Suzy with her friends at her birthday party last Sunday at her house in Camden
All in all Sunday 1st May was a great day.  That night Eladio and I finished watching Series 1 of Granchester which we loved.  I have since ordered series 2 which is taking far too long to arrive.

Monday 2nd May was a holiday in Madrid to celebrate the rising of the Madrid citizens against the occupation of French troops which would trigger The Peninsular War.  Perhaps the most famous picture of those times is one by Goya called “The second of May 1808, the Charging of the Marmelukes” he painted in 1814.
Goya's famous 2nd May painting
In many parts of Spain it was also a holiday to compensate 1st May being a Sunday.  It was also a lovely sunny day and would be warm and sunny until Thursday when the rain came and hasn’t gone away since.

Of note that day, Carolina Marin won the European Badminton Championship for the second time after overcoming Kirsty Gilmour 21-12, 21-18.
Carolina Marin, European badminton champion for the second time.
Her victory was not reported in a way it would be in let’s say China where the sport is big. That’s because it is a minority sport here, a country dominated by football.  Her situation is similar to the world champion figure skater, Javier Fernández who had to emigrate to Canada to further his career.  Just today I read a comment by the Spanish world champion swimmer, Mireia Belmonte who reflected that there was more interest in the hairstyle of Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid than in her world record.  That is sadly true and a very bad reflection on Spanish sports’ journalists.  On many occasions top Spanish sports people are not prophets in their own land.  The biggest example is perhaps that of Severiano Ballesteros.  When he died the British newspapers made a much bigger fuss than the Spanish papers. It was as if one of their own had died and not a Spaniard.  With all that in mind, I, at least, am extremely proud of Carolina for her incredible win last week.

I spent the day quietly; a lot of it binge watching La Señora, my favourite TV series of all times.  Yes, even more than Homeland or Downtown Abbey which come 3rd and 2nd respectively.  
Adore this period drama Spanish TV series which I have just binge watched from beginning to end
That night we watched another film on Netflix; Abduction, a spy thriller, which had us on tenterhooks until the very end. If you need to know more; it’s a thriller “centred on a young man who sets out to uncover the truth about his life after finding his baby photo on a missing persons’ website”.  It’s highly recommendable.
A film well worth watching
Tuesday was another beautiful day.  Here I am on my walk enjoying the weather. 
On my walk on Tuesday morning in the sunshine
I was wearing a jumper and it was far too warm. Later that day the temperature reached 26c (proof in the photo below) and we decided it was time to bring out the kitchen patio furniture. 
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday brought lots of sun.
It was possibly the warmest day of the year. When I posted the photo on Facebook I commented that the weather here was one of the main reasons for wanting to live in Spain and I firmly believe that is so in my opinion.  When I lived in England as a child, I took the bad weather for granted and accepted it, enjoying the sun when we were abroad only. Little did I know I would end up living in a sunny country.  Now I know I would find it difficult to live in a country with a cold and dark climate. 

That night we had our dinner outside.  We also watched the match (2nd leg of the Champions League final) between Bayern Munich and Atlético de Madrid.  We watched it on my iPad Plus. Who needs a television in every room or place you go, if you have one of these wonderful devices?  The “colchoneros” (mattresses – because of their red and white striped colours) made it through to the final thanks to the away goals rule.

Of the 4 teams in the semifinals, 2 were Spanish which says a lot for Spanish football.  It will be Atlético de Madrid’s second attempt at gaining the coveted cup and as we would see later, their opponents would be the same team they faced and lost to in Lisbon two years ago, Real Madrid who are looking to win their “undécimo” cup (11th cup); their eternal city rivals.   We were happy to see the Spaniards beat the Germans. 
Atlético de Madrid got through to the final of this year's Champion League on an away goal
But there was one Spaniard who didn’t think like me and that was Pep Guardiola, the Catalán coach for Bayern Munich who has had much more success at the helm of Barcelona than he has with the Germans.  The Guardian wrote: “Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich lose their third consecutive Champions League semi-final against Spanish opposition. He’ll leave the club without having won the trophy, which has to be considered a failure”. He must have been fuming inside on Tuesday night.  I have to admit I’m not sorry for him.  You see he’s not very popular with Real Madrid fans like me.

I suppose on Tuesday the British press didn’t give a damn about the match as they were all ecstatic with the prowess of Leicester City who, above all odds, had won the British Premiere League.  Well done Leicester City.  Maybe they will meet Real Madrid or Atlético in next year’s semi-final or final of the Champions League …..

Wednesday was another warm and sunny day.  The fields looked beautiful on my walk. They are at their best at this time of year and a veritable carpet of wild flowers. 
The fields on my walk are at their most beautiful at this time of year
That day I did a lot of cooking.  I made croquettes, curry and artichokes.  Wherever I go, Pippa goes too.  Apparently dachshunds are very territorial and have a fixation with one person and in Pippa’s life that is me.
Wherever I go, Pippa goes. That's the look she gives me!
I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I am like her Mother or perhaps I am practicing my Grandmother skills on her when I wash and bathe her, clean her teeth, take her for her walks, feed, love and cuddle her.  I also look after her when she is sick as you will hear later. She is the light of my life and I adore her. In the photo above, you can see “that look”.  It’s her way of talking to me and when she gives me the look I just can’t resist her.  If you are not a dog lover, you will not understand me.  If you are, you will. 

Wednesday was also the other second leg of the Champions League semi-final, this time between Real Madrid and Manchester City and this time the British press were taking notice.  I used to be a United fan when I lived in England, so there are no guesses as to whose side I was on that night.  Except that we couldn’t watch it, only listen to it on the radio (Eladio) or follow it on twitter (me) as very frustratingly it was only broadcast on pay per view television (very unfair). They started off at 0-0 and thanks to a goal from Gareth Bale which turned out to be an own goal from Manchester City, Real Madrid got through to the final again. 
Gareth Bale, the man of the day in the second leg of the semi-final between Manchester City and Real Madrid
That’s why I say Spanish football is the best in Europe.  It has to be as either Real Madrid or Atlético de Madrid will win at the final on 28th May in Milan. 

On Thursday the rain came and Pippa was sick.  I hate to see her ill.  She sat on her blanket for most of the morning and I observed her for any more symptoms.  If there were I would take her to the vet. Meanwhile she got lots of cuddles and love from me and the rest of the family.
Pippa, wrapped in a blanket  - she was ill on Thursday morning
As the day developed she got better and by the afternoon was fine, had something to eat and joined us on our walk. It must have been something she ate in the garden or in the street and thankfully she has made a complete recovery.

The sun and rain brought the first of the summer roses. They are the pride and joy of our garden and my favourite flowers.  Here are the very first ones to bloom.
The first of the summer roses in our garden
Friday came, my favourite day of the week. What I didn’t like was the rain which spoiled both my walks that day. That night we went out to dinner as we nearly always do on Fridays.  This time we chose La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo which serves Basque food.  We love the food there. I especially like the steak; the best in town in my opinion.  We often have our meal with cider there, which is typical of both Asturias and The Basque Country. It has to be poured from high up to maintain the sparkle, as you can see Eladio doing in the photo below.
Eladio pouring cider at La Txitxarrería on Friday night
Saturday came and brought more rain with it but that didn’t stop me going on my two walks.  At breakfast I read the news on my iPad as usual and was stunned to see a new Lord Mayor of London had been elected.  I don’t really follow British politics and hadn’t realized there had been local elections this week.  What stunned me was that Boris Johnson lost his job to the Labour Candidate Sadiq Khan who is of Pakistani origin, a Muslim and son of a bus driver.  His rival was a rich man of Jewish origin, the Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith.  How British politics or politicians have changed. I’m sure the new Lord Mayor has good intentions; well I hope he has but what gets me is that in contrast no white Christian would ever be considered as a candidate let alone voted for in Karachi or any other Muslim capital or country.  Has England gone too far in its liberty I wondered? Only time will tell if his win is good for Londoners. I sincerely hope it is.

Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor of London
Life went on as normal at home and Eladio and I went out in the morning to do the weekly shopping.  We came home with a car full of groceries to last the week. The fridge is now stuffed with fruit, veg, fish and meat.  It’s amazing how much we spend on food every week.  With the fresh fish I made fish and chips for lunch but did not have time to batter the fish, doing it with egg and breadcrumbs instead.  Only Oli complained hahaha. 

Whilst it rained in Madrid, it was sunny in London.  Funny eh?  So it was nice to see a picture of Suzy with her “manada” (the girls’ group of friends in Madrid they call that and which means “the herd”) friends in London, Anita, her flat mate and Chati the nurse she went out to London with in search of a better life.  Here they are at People’s Park Tavern having a picnic in Victoria Park.  Lucky them.
Suzy, Anita and Chati at Victoria Park yesterday
And today is Sunday and it is raining again and quite cold.  In fact it rained so much this morning I was robbed of my first walk. We shall have to brave the weather if we venture out later today. Zena is cooking an Ukranian dish made with meat and cabbage whilst I write and Oli and Miguel have gone out for lunch.

There are no great plans for next week; probably more quiet time working from home.  Suzy meanwhile will be in Spain in Pontevedra (Galicia) in the north of the country. She will be visiting the headquarters of the new company she is working for called Hifas da Terra.  It is the  "first biotechnology company to offer the widest selection of organic health and beauty products made from mushrooms".  
She will be there  from Monday to Friday but unfortunately cannot pay us a visit at the weekend as she has to be back in London for a fair the company will be taking part in.  She will be so near but oh so far.  I wish her lots of luck on her first trip with the new company.

I will leave you now and get on with publishing this and printing a copy for my Father.

Wishing you all a great week ahead, cheers until next Sunday,


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