Sunday, May 22, 2016

Back from Montrondo, Pippa’s bath time, the Queen’s speech, Air Egypt plane crash, Suzy here for the weekend, Oli’s birthday and other stories.

Sunday 22nd May 2016

The four of us on Olivia's birthday, a very happy family.  Lovely for the 4 of us to be together.
Hi again another Sunday.  Actually it’s not just another Sunday, it’s Oli’s birthday and she has turned 31.  It seems like yesterday when I gave birth to her.  How time flies.

Time flies indeed and this time last Sunday we were in Montrondo.  It was the anniversary of my brother George’s passing away but also Eladio’s brother Isidro’s 55th birthday.  It was the first really sunny day in many weeks and we made the most of it together with members of my husband’s family.

In the morning Eladio, Toño and I went to buy eggs at Ulpiano’s place.  Both brothers were wearing the traditional Montrondo clogs called “madreñas” and I had to have this photo of them on the village green called “el campo” (literally the field).
Eladio and his brother Toño (José Antonio) with their clogs (madreñas) on in Montrondo last Sunday
Buying eggs from Ulpiano and his wife Serafina is quite an experience.  Their premises have probably not changed much in over 40 years and the yard is full of hens and two cockerels which do not get along and 7 cats. They seem to live in harmony.  They also have a dog which sadly is tied up as there would be chaos if it were let loose.
Ulpiano's place where hens, cockerels and cats live alongside
We got back to find some of the family raking grass.  With all the rain it had grown very long and was in need of cutting and raking.  Even my youngest niece and god daughter Alicia joined in. Here she is in action.

Alicia raking the grass in Montrondo last Sunday
I spent a lot of the morning enjoying watching Pippa and Alicia’s 4 month old puppy a “bodeguero andaluz” called Marly playing together.  They hit it off from the start and was hilarious to watch.  The “bodeguero andaluz” is a Spanish breed of dog used in the Andalusian wineries to hunt mice and rats.  It’s a bit like a Jack Russel. The breed today is the result of a cross between fox terriers brought over by British wine merchants and local dogs way back.  Later in 1900 a toy terrier was crossed into the breed. The result is a very beautiful dog of medium size, long legs, white body and white brown and black head and lovely temperament.  Here is Alicia with both of them.
Alicia with Marly and Pippa in Montrondo in the sun last Sunday
After lunch we all celebrated Isidro’s birthday.  His wife Yoli and daughters had made a strawberry covered sponge cake.  Here is the birthday boy blowing out his candles.
Isidro blowing the candles on his birthday cake
Later whilst everyone slept the siesta, I went for a walk to Murias and back with Adela.  We were joined by Manolita and on our way out of the village we stopped at Jenaro’s house to see his lovely garden.  I call it the secret garden as it can only really be seen once you are inside the courtyard of his family house. He has flowers everywhere and the garden thrives and gets more beautiful every year. 

Genaro's secret garden in Montrondo
We came home from the walk to find Eladio and Toño cutting more grass.  They are the only ones of the 6 brothers and sisters, I think, who know how to use their fathers’ scythes and how to sharpen them with a piece of stone.  I’m always worried they will cut themselves. It’s quite a tough job and it’s very bucolic to see them do it wearing their “madreñas”.  Here is Eladio with one of the original scythes stopping for a moment for a picture at the back of our house.
Eladio with his Father's scythe cutting the grass behind the house with his clogs (madreñas) on.
At around 6 or 7 everyone set off for León and Toño, Eladio, Pippa and I were left alone.  Before we had dinner it was Pippa’s bath time.  I usually bathe her every day when we are in Montrondo because she gets so dirty running through the fields and vegetable plots.  You probably know we have a claw foot bathtub in our bedroom which was a whim of mine more for decorative purposes than anything else as I have only used it once.  It is mostly used for little Pippa and is the perfect receptacle to bathe her in as she can’t get out whilst I wash her.  I popped her in the bath before turning the water on and just had to take a photo of her to show you.  Doesn’t she look adorable?
Pippa's bath time in Montrondo. 
Monday 16th was a bank holiday in Madrid as San Isidro the patron saint of the city and province (comunidad) on the 15th May fell on a Sunday.  I was up at 6.45 more or less as usual and the day was mine for taking, or at least the morning as we would be leaving in the afternoon.  It was another glorious and sunny day.  Whilst the brothers cut the last of the grass, off I went for a walk to Murias and back with Pippa and Nuba, José Antonio’s mongrel.  I couldn’t help marveling at the wild flowers on the old path between Montrondo and Murias.  I kept taking pictures and in the end made this collage to show you.
Some of the wild flowers I saw on the old path from Montrondo to Murias.
I was back for elevenses on the terrace with Toño and Eladio.  We shall be in need of a sun shade when the weather gets warmer. 
Elevenses in Montrondo on Monday morning
The brothers were in luck for lunch as I was making fish and chips with a beer batter recipe and of course mushy peas. They loved it as did I.
Home made fish and chips and mushy peas for lunch on Monday in Montrondo
If I hate the arrival and settling in I don’t like the shutting up the house ritual either although it takes a bit less time.  We left at 17.15 and with one stop only were home by 21.15.  It was a bit late for dinner with Oli but there was time for opening the new ham we had bought at the Palacio de Bornos winery in Rueda on our way to Montrondo.  The dogs were equally interested in the event as we were.  As usual the ham was first class.  I wonder how long it will last us?
Opening the new ham at home on Monday night to the great interest of our 3 dogs hahaha
On Tuesday I went shopping for Oli’s birthday present (big secret until Sunday hahaha). I came home to find Eladio cutting our grass this time; not with the scythe but with the lawn mower as you can see in the photo below.
Eladio mowing the lawn this week
It had grown so much because of the endless rain and then the sun.  It was to be sunny and warm all week and it felt like summer.  About time I thought.  Normally on a day like Tuesday in  the middle of May and warm weather we would have opened the swimming pool but that was not to be.  A leak has to be repaired and it is in dire need of painting.  This is what it looks like now; not a pretty sight.
The pool is not ready for the summer yet:-(
The company that was coming to do it let us down at the last moment and now we have to find another one willing to do the job for a reasonable price and as quickly as possible. That is no easy task as just as the fine weather has started there is an excess of jobs for these companies. Thankfully we have found one that, fingers crossed, can do the job next week.  I can’t wait for the pool to be open for summer.

I had a birthday lunch that day. It was at El Buey in Boadilla with my friends Fátima and Julio to celebrate his 48th birthday.  He treated us to a lovely meal and we had such a good time catching up that we forgot to take a photoL  We also agreed on a date in June for them to come with us to Montrondo and see our new house.  That will be something to look forward to.  I hope they like both the village and the house.

That night we had dinner outside with Oli.  It was a bit like the inauguration of summer as it seems the good weather has come to stay, at least for a while.  For the occasion I got out my last bottle of Christmas wine, a vintage Marqués de Vargas which was delicious.  Eladio and I remarked we should have wine as good as that for dinner every night.  Olivia commented we could when she leaves the house hahaha.  Maybe we should, maybe we will.
Dinner al fresco with Oli and Eladio this week
On Wednesday more swimming pool companies came to see our sorry state of a swimming pool as I worked and read outside.  It was on that day that the Queen read a speech at Parliament. “Written by ministers and civil servants, it sets out the government’s legislative programme for the year ahead” and coincides with the state opening of parliament.  The pomp and ceremony are ages old and have not changed in centuries.  The Huffington Post wrote a very eye opening article on this year’s speech entitled: “Woman in £1,000,000 Hat Tells Britain To ‘Live Within Its Means”.  They are probably right except that as my cousin André who lives in Canada pointed out, “it’s not like she can sell the million pound hat and pocket the cash”.  Both the Huffington Post and my cousin André have a point and I was taking it.  I love Queen Elizabeth 1 but it does seem very incongruous for her to sit in such luxury and make a speech about austerity in these times of crisis.  I’ve just put that in your pipe to smoke it.  I wonder what you think.
The Queen's speech this week
I thought about it quite a lot as I have just read her governess’ Marion Crawford’s biography, “The Little Princesses”,  of her times teaching and bringing up the Queen and her sister Margaret from when they were 6 and 2 respectively. It is very revealing and when it was published in 1950, the Royal family were so upset with her giving away behind the scenes stories of their life that they banished her from their lives. She never meant any harm as the biography is a very tender, touching and respectful story and she never got over the treatment handed out to her by the people she loved and who never forgave her. 

The young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and their governess Marion Crawford in the mid 30s
I wonder if “Crawfie” as the princesses called her, would agree with The Huffington Post’s article, if she were still alive.  Something tells me she wouldn’t as she was a normal girl brought up in quite austere times in Scotland and was very sensible and matter of fact.  Her greatest feat was giving the royal princesses a glimpse of real life like the time she took them on the Underground in London, took them to a local swimming pool to learn to swim or formed a group of Girl Guides at the Palace or when she organised games for them with East End children who had been exiled to Windsor and Scotland during the 2nd World War.  I for one feel divided.

That night I was very upset to hear that the youngest daughter of my ex colleague, Rosa B. from Motorola, had died during the night of an epileptic fit.  I could hardly imagine her grief.  Even though I hadn’t seen Rosa for years I just had to reach out to her and I did.  It was difficult to find the right words to express my condolences (hate that word).  Rosa wrote back which couldn’t have been easy as she must have been receiving so many messages during her first hours of the most terrible grief any mother can experience; the loss of her child. It doesn’t bear thinking about.  I’m so sorry for her and all her family.  God bless your child Rosa, God bless you.

On Tuesday morning we woke up to hear that an Egypt Air plane that had left Paris for Cairo with 56 passengers and 10 crew on board had gone off the radar just as it had entered Egyptian air space when it suddenly vanished.  Later in the day we heard that it had crashed into the Mediterranean Sea from 25.000ft after making two sharp turns. 

An Egypt Air plane on route from Paris to Cairo like the one that crashed into the sea this week
Some remains have since been found and the search is on for the famous black box.  The search for reasons is on to and they point more towards a terrorist attack than to an accident  I mean it is not normal for a plane to suddenly drop from that high in the sky and fall into the sea.  I hate the fact that this could be the work of terrorists as it adds more fear to flying than ever before.  If it is the work of terrorists then something went wrong with security at Charles De Gaulle airport.  Hopefully we will soon find out.  Meanwhile my heart goes out to the friends and families of those poor innocent victims.   This piece of news doesn’t bear thinking about either.

But this week’s post is not all bad news.  I have some good news too and that is the happy ending of the story of the Spanish couple, David and Marta, who were stranded for 10 days on a boat in the sea in Malaysia after it had capsized.  I think I told you the story last week when they had been found.  Well this week, to their families’ great relief they were to be flown home. They arrived on Thursday afternoon to be greeted by a crowd of family, friends and press.  Amongst the press was my daughter Olivia.  It was a great story to cover and she got to interview the couple and talk to the parents and family as she had the week before when they were still missing.  If they were suffering then, yesterday they were over the moon with joy at recovering David and Marta.  It was quite an emotional event.

Oli with the two Spanish heroes, David and Marta, who survived 10 days in a boat in the sea in Malaysia
Friday was emotional for me too when I went to pick up Suzy from the airport.  She was arriving at noon.  I hadn’t seen her since my visit to London in March, two months ago. For Eladio and my Father it had been longer as they hadn’t seen her since Christmas.  Suzy arrived in brilliant sunshine and she loved it, coming from gloomier London. Soon we were home and it was hellos all around and a delight to see her hugging her Father.  I just had to take a photo of the two of them to cherish the moment.
Father and daughter reunited
Pippa was also delighted to see Suzy and greeted her like there was no tomorrow and didn’t bark at all as she usually does to strangers.  It’s funny how she treats Suzy like another member of the family yet she hardly ever sees her.  It’s as if she knew Suzy is part of the family.  Pippa herself is too!
Suzy and Pippa reunited too
Later we had lunch together outside with my Father, vegetarian lentils followed by a delicious fruit salad.  Suzy was determined to pack as much as possible into the 2 and half days she would be with us, so straight after lunch she and I went to the Plaza Norte shopping centre to get some sneakers and her birthday present for Oli. It was lovely to have some mother and daughter time together. We came home early, had a cup of tea and then she got ready to go out and meet friends after which she would be picking up Oli and Miguel and they would all be going out to dinner.  Meanwhile we kept to our routine at home and Eladio and I went  out for dinner to Ginos for a change, where, over a delicious dish of pasta and osso bucco we talked about the girls and counted our blessings.

Saturday came and brought more wonderful sunshine.  The day was going to be perfect, the family together and a party in store for Oli's birthday with the girls' friends from "La Manada" (the herd hahahaha).  I was up early, had breakfast, went on my walk, came home and had a shower and washed my hair and only then did the girls and Miguel and Juli (their surrogate brother) get up.  I even had time to cut more roses to put in vases around the house before I set to making 2 birthday cakes for Olivia.  I cheated and had bought the sponge cakes but did the fillings and icing myself.  Juli and Suzy helped me whilst Oli and Miguel went off to Mercadona our local supermarket to do the food shopping for the party.  

Putting the finishing touches to Oli's birthday cakes with Juli and Suzy
I think they turned out perfectly.  I filled one with bilberry jam and cream and covered it with white icing sugar and then added real bilberries for decoration (Suzy's suggestion). The other one had nutella and cream and was covered with chocolate icing and topped with the nearest I could find to maltesers. Here they are in all their glory.
Oli's semi home made birthday cakes
Miguel was the cook yesterday and made a super boletus risotto.  He had to cook for 20 but overestimated; although it was all eaten up by the end of the day.   We all enjoyed it thoroughly.  Below is the photo of The Manada having their lunch. We had ours quietly with my Father in the dining room.
The birthday party lunch for Oli
It was lovely to see the girls and their friends together, The Manada reunited so to speak. It's not often Suzy gets to be with them and it being Oli's birthday party made it even more special.

The family birthday celebrations are today Sunday, officially Oli's 31st birthday.  She has grown into such a beautiful and talented woman and is soon to fly the nest.  I was up early to prepare breakfast for everyone.  I even went out to buy churros and chocolate.  I had a bit of a problem when I realised I had no cash and they wouldn't accept payment by card.  The hole in the wall didn't work either so of course Eladio came to the rescue.  In the end this is what the table looked like before we demolished all the yummy breakfast things.
The table laid for Olivia's birthday breakfast this morning.
The two cakes I had made on Saturday were polished off by La Manada so I made another one this morning.  Oli chose the bilberry variety and Suzy helped me make it whilst the former tried on all the clothes that Miguel had bought her for her birthday hahaha.
The third birthday cake!
Finally I got her to look at the cake and that was when we took the photo of the four of us which illustrates this week's blog post.  Thanks Miguel for the photo, love it.

Now I will get on with enjoying the day with the family; Suzy's last day and Oli's birthday.  I feel very blessed today.

So I will leave you now, hoping you enjoyed the tales of this week.

Till next time,
Cheers all/Masha

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