Monday, June 06, 2016

A 4th anniversary, major repairs to the pool, using Wallapop for the first time, the return of Mary Poppins, dinner in Madrid with Americans, a friend from Finland for the weekend, RIP Casius Clay, Spain conquers Paris at Roland Garros, Oli in Formentera and other stories

Monday 6th June 2014
With Gary and Sue my ex Motorola collagues from the US at the Retiro Park on Thursday evening
Hi everyone.

It’s Monday and I am one day late with my blog.  That’s the fault of my Finnish friend Anne who has been staying with us this weekend. I could hardly spend my morning yesterday writing this post whilst she was with us.  But don’t worry there is plenty to tell.

Last Monday was not a good day.  I was still feeling bad after the wedding with a nasty cold.  Fasting didn’t put me in a better mood nor did the rain.

On Tuesday I was feeling better.  Thankfully the weather had improved too.  I was in the mood for cooking that morning and made “cocido”, a typical dish from Madrid which is more suited to the winter but we love to eat it in any season.
My cocido
It is the season for Labradors to shed their coat of hair.  Did you know they have 2 coats to protect them and that twice a year the outer one sheds completely?  I can’t begin to tell you how it messes up the house.  So, on our walks we take along a special comb by Foolee which efficiently removes dead hair.  And here is Eladio combing Elsa who sits patiently, I suspect actually enjoying the ritual whilst the other dogs look on.
Eladio combing Elsa in his cowboy hat on our walk this week
Unfortunately the next day we realized we had lost the valuable comb and would have to buy another one.  I think it must have fallen out of Eladio’s pocket on our walk.  So instead of ordering another one from Amazon for 45 euros I tried out Wallapop for the first time, a new app for buying and selling things privately.  Believe it or not I found one for 10 euros which was brand new and included a spare razor.  The person selling it was from the north of Spain and I had to pay upfront before she sent it to me by post.  I was a bit skeptical and thought I may be tricked.  But I wasn’t and this morning it arrived as you can see in the photo below.
The Folee comb I bought for 10 euros on Wallapop
We didn’t just lose the comb on Tuesday but also Elsa’s lead which Eladio left where he had been shedding her.  So as soon as we were home, he took the car and drove to pick it up.  On his way back he did a good deed and finally picked up an old and unsightly WC which some uncivilized person had deliberately dumped there quite a while ago.  Good for you Eladio, I was sick of seeing it on our walk.

Wednesday was Olivia and Miguel’s 4th anniversary (of going out – not marriage hahaha).  They make such a lovely couple and will soon be living together when they move into their new rented flat in July.  He surprised her by sending a beautiful immortal rose to her newsroom which, knowing her would have made her feel slightly embarrassed but of course very pleased at the same time. Here is a photo of that lovely moment at work. I do wish Eladio would follow suit sometimes hahaha.
An immortal rose for Olis 4th anniversary with Miguel
Wednesday was 1st June and it was beautiful weather as I think it will be from now on until the end of the summer.  We should be bathing in our pool by now, but no. As I have explained here before it had to undergo major repairs for a leak in the main drain which was buried in the ground and cemented in.  This is what the pool looked like last Wednesday; a sorry sight.
The swimming pool being repaired
Facebook reminded me that on that day a year ago Eladio had been bathing in it and posted this lovely photo. 
Eladio in our pool this time last year
It would have been nice to have swum in it this week but we still have to wait.  A new drain pipe has been put in but the pool now it has to be painted.  The men are here today for the first coat and the second one will be done on Wednesday.  After that we have to wait for 7 days for it to dry and only then can we fill it with water.  Eladio reckons it will take about 70.000 litres of water to fill.  Imagine!  I prefer not to think what the water bill will come to.

I read the British press every morning and of course it is full of news of the Brexit referendum.  I am all for the UK staying in Europe as is my Father.  I am not sure what the outcome will be as it looks pretty much 50-50 at the moment.  I was surprised by one piece of news on Wednesday morning, not in the British press but in the Spanish press.  It came from Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish PM.  He pointed out that there are 400,000 Brits in Spain, probably mostly retired people and 100,000 Spaniards in Britain and that the British living here would no longer have the right to live here or take advantage of the benefits of belonging to the EU; the free movement of people and goods and of course health care, to name perhaps the 3 most important of them.  That of course includes my Father and myself.  I may have to adopt Spanish nationality, something I have never contemplated.  I do hope that doesn’t mean I have to give up my British nationality.  Brexit looming is a depressing thought.

On Thursday morning the most notable item for me was the news of a possible vaccine for cancer. Wow, Imagine.

On a totally different note, I was also interested in the story that a sequel film to Mary Poppins has been announced.  If you are my generation you will have been one of the first children ever to see it, like me when my Mother took my brother and I to see it at the Bradford Odeon in 1964 when it premiered.  I have loved Julie Andrews ever since and equally adored The Sound of Music which I seem to remember being released a year later.  I’m not sure I will like to see another actress portray Julie Andrews. It will be an actress called Emily Blunt who I read is supposed to resemble her although I don’t think so.  It seems though that the whole idea has been given Julie Andrew’s blessing.  Of course the film will come from Disney who owns the rights.  Mary Poppins was based on PL Travers first book and the sequel will take up from there.  A spokesperson from Disney said the sequel “would take up the story of a Jane and Michael's three children, who will be visited by Poppins in "Depression-era London... following a personal loss".  It will be interesting to compare the two versions.

Emily Blunt to play Mary Poppins in the new film
Mary Poppins played by Julie Andrews
That evening we had an important dinner date, or rather an important reunion.  My ex colleagues from Motorola, a married couple called Sue and Gary, with their son Gavin, were visiting Madrid in a tour of Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon and we had agreed to meet up on Thursday.  I hadn’t seen them in some 20 years possibly but thanks to Facebook we had kept in touch more recently.  They live in Chicago, Motorola’s old home city and Gary was head of marketing worldwide.  I got to meet both of them in many a marketing meeting around the world as well as in Chicago. We picked them up from their hotel in the city and took them to see the Retiro Park, our equivalent of Hyde Park or Central Park; even more beautiful in my view.  The photo of the three of us illustrating this week’s post was taken there and below is a photo of the three of them.

Gary, Sue and Gavin in The Retiro last Thursday evening
Dinner was at El Quënco de la Pepa, a good and well patronised restaurant in town where the quality of the food is guaranteed.  If you haven’t been you should go.  Most of the fruit and veg on offer are home grown in the chef, Pepa’s orchard.  The tomatoes are just spectacular. We had a great evening with so much to talk about. Of course we talked about old times at Motorola but also got their view on the health service, maternity leave, vacation leave and of course on the Presidential race in the US from the horse’s mouth so to speak.  I couldn’t believe that in the US private health insurance is obligatory and that it can cost 1.800 dollars per month for a family of 4 or that maternity leave is only 6 weeks.  It seems in the case of the former, there is a huge lobby from the insurance companies against free health care as of course they would lose their lucrative business.  As Sue said later, we could have talked all night and she was right.  It was certainly a night to remember. Great to see you guys.  Maybe we’ll make it to Chicago one day.

Friday was a busy day.  I had PR reports to submit, do my walks and also the weekly shopping with Eladio.  My Finnish friend Anne-Marjut was coming that afternoon to stay for a long weekend.  It was going to be a very relaxed and pleasant one.  I picked her up from Terminal 2 and we were home by past 6.  We spent the time by the empty pool drinking “tinto de verano” (like sangria but just made of red wine and lemonade – typical here in the summer) and some of our Rueda ham.  We had another dinner date that night. I had invited a bachelor friend to join us.  We went to La Txitxarrería and all enjoyed the meal, as Eladio and I always do there.  Funnily enough I forgot to take photos!

We woke up to the news on Saturday that Mohammed Ali, formerly known as Casius Clay, the most famous boxer of all time, had died aged only 74 of that dreadful disease, Parkinson.  The world went into mourning and there was news and obituaries which are still continuing today.  I was a small child when he became world champion and famously beat Sony Liston in a historic fight as in the picture below.

Casius Clay perhaps in his most famous match when he beat the World Champion Sony Lister in 1965
I always remember him on TV before or after a match saying “I am the greatest”.  Well he was but had a sad end to his life.  I presume the boxing had something to do with his illness.  Who knows?  He was perhaps the most colourful figure in sports ever. I mean who doesn’t remember him? All I can say is RIP Casius Clay.  I suspect he would have preferred me to say RIP Muhammad Ali as he was known when he changed faiths, but I will always remember him as Casius Clay, a very original name for a very original person.
A great photo of Casius Clay / Muhammad Ali, perhaps the most colourful sports figure ever 
That morning Anne and I went on my walk which she enjoyed.  I pointed out that the countryside was much more beautiful in Finland which of course it is. Her reply that it was different was very true.  It’s very Mediterranean, dry but green in parts, a bit like Israel as my friend Sandra once pointed out.
A selfie with Anne Marjut on our walk on Saturday morning
Now the good weather is here, both Eladio and I wear shorts around the house and on our walks.  Anne took this photo of the two of us at the gate as we came back from our walk that morning.  I am holding Pippa which is no surprise as we are no longer 2 but 3 in our marriage hahaha.
Eladio and I wearing summer shorts outside our house with Pippa in my arms on Saturday morning
Later we went shopping to Centro Oeste in Majadahonda and Oli came with us.  Oli and I had little time to shop as at 12 we were meeting Paula, an interior designer, but even so managed to shop some items.  For example I bought these lovely blue and white striped espadrilles.
My new striped espadrilles from H+M
They are so comfortable I have since bought more pairs in different colours and patterns on the H+M website.

It was great to see Paula again.  She had designed our kitchen/living room in Montrondo via Ikea but now she works freelance.  We contacted her to ask her to design Oli’s and Miguel’s lounge in the new flat which is a complicated shape and size.  I am looking forward to her first plans.  Meanwhile Anne shopped for gifts to take home for her family and of course for Spanish ham and related products at Carrefour. We were home on time to make the lunch which would be a simple dish of “bitki” (Russian hamburgers), mashed potatoes and salad.
The afternoon was spent sleeping or reading and I joined Anne on the terrace where she was sun bathing hoping to get a sun tan on her legs.  Oli joined us there for tea and of course the dogs were with us.  Wherever we are, they are there too hahaha. 

Oli and Pippa looking happy on our swimming pool terrace on Saturday afternoon
Whilst we were relaxing on the terrace, the women’s final at the Roland Garros French Tennis tournament was being played between reigning champion, the 35 year old Serena Williams and the young Spaniard, Garbiñe Muguruza, a strapping six footer aged just 22.  Garbi is number 4 in the world and has never won a Grand Slam although she played in the final at Wimbledon against Serena last year.  Last week when I wrote that Nadal was out of the tournament because of an injured wrist, little did I suspect that any other Spanish tennis player would give us the pleasure by winning.  I was bowled over when I heard Garbi beat the tennis legend 7-5 6-4.  She is the first Spanish woman to do so since Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in 1998 who by the way won the championship 3 times. If you have not heard of her or seen her before, this is the girl, who by the way is half Spanish and half Venezuelan.

Having won in the French Open has made her the number 2 woman tennis player in the world rankings.  Wow, how did she appear I wonder?  Hard work and determination and a lot of talent I imagine.  Well done Garbi, the whole of Spain is proud of you, Rafa Nadal included.

When I later heard that Spain had also won the Men’s Doubles Final, I was ecstatic with pride and joy for my adopted country and it’s prowess at sport.  Marc and Feliciano López (both called López but not related) had beaten the legendary Bryan brothers and they were ecstatic too. 

Marc and Feliciano López who won the men's doubles final at the French Open this weekend
With that news you will realise what I mean by writing “Spain conquers Paris at Roland Garros”.  As to the Men’s final, it took place the next day between Andrew Murray and Djokovic.  The latter was the hungrier man and played the match of his life to garner the one Grand Slam that had always eluded him, the Grand Slam that Rafa Nadal has won 9 times.  Next we have Wimbledon to look forward to. 

Later we made a special dinner for Anne.  I made 3 Spanish tortillas which we ate with a plate of our wonderful Rueda ham and a salad rustled up by Anne.  Here we are sitting down to dinner on Saturday night.
Dinner at home with Anne-Marjut on Saturday night at home
Sunday was a quiet day and Anne’s last day with us.  It started with a brisk and warm walk where we were joined by Olivia and we chose a different path to escape from the heat.  It is not a well-trodden path and we had to wade through long grass on many an occasion.  Unsurprisingly we took a selfie for my blog.

A selfie with Anne and Oli on our walk on Saturday morning
Oli was a in a very good mood as after our walk she was going on holiday.  She and Miguel are spending this week in the lovely little island famous for its blue water; Formentera in the Balearic Islands.  Eladio took her to the airport where she flew to Ibiza where she would meet up with Miguel who was flying from Valencia.  Here they are on the ferry from Ibiza to Formentera.
Miguel and Oli on the ferry from Ibiza to Formentera yesterday
I made fish and chips for lunch; the house speciality which we all devoured. The afternoon was spent reading, chatting, having a cup of tea and going on another walk. 

And this morning my friend Anne was up at 5.30 to take a taxi to the airport.  I was sorry to see her go as we had a great time together, chatting and catching up. I was up at 7 and left for the office at 8.30 which took me over 1.5hours due to the dreadful traffic.
The traffic in one of the tunnels on the M40 this morning
I am so glad I don’t have to face it every day like most mortals do.  I got to the office to hear that the meeting had been rescheduled for another day and could have kicked myself. Instead I took the opportunity to do various errands and see people I needed to talk to.

While I am fasting today Oli and Miguel will be having lunch at El Gecko Beach Club in Formentera, recommended by me.  It is such a beautiful place and the restaurant offers superb cuisine.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be there too?  I am waiting to hear their opinion  of the place.  Meanwhile Oli sent me a photo of them on what looked like a pretty empty but very beautiful beach.
Oli and Miguel on the beach in Formentera this morning
There will be no beach for me for a while, nor pool for another week or so but I’m not complaining.  Life is good and there is nothing to complain about.

And that my friends, is the end of the tales of last week. I will now get on with life and tell you all about it in my next post.

Cheers till then,

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