Monday, July 25, 2016

Eladio’s Mother came to stay, rhizarthrosis, Yoigo press conference, a new guest room, Alicia and Julio visited, Miguel and Claudia got married, Constante’s son, Eadberto (Roche) visits Montrondo for the first time, terror in Germany, a weekend with Oli and Miguel at home, Suzy has guests in London and other stories.

Monday 25th July 2016

Eladio and I ready to go to Miguel and Claudia's wedding on Friday
Hi everyone,

How’s your day going?  Today is a holiday in Spain to celebrate Saint Jacob (Santiago) so I have left the story of last week until today which is really the only quiet day I have had recently.

Today is also the 3rd anniversary of the terrible train accident in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia and where the Saint’s remains are supposed to be buried. Three years ago Olivia was there reporting for TVE in perhaps the most important and serious piece of news she had ever covered.  Here she is doing a live report that day with an extremely sad face.  She told me later she had difficulties in keeping away her tears.
Olivia reporting on the tragic train accident in Santiago de Compostela 3 years ago today
But let me start from where I left off which was Saturday 16th July. That day, Toño and Dolores were bringing my Mother-in-law, Ernestina, aged 94 from Montrondo to stay with us for 2 weeks. In the summer she is shared between her offspring, staying 2 weeks with each of them.  It’s rather bewildering for her as she is very hard of hearing and her memory fails her.  She keeps asking where her daughter is and getting her name wrong.  The house has resembled a “senior citizens” residence these past few days.  It’s thanks to Olivia’s visits that the average age has gone down occasionally thank goodness. It’s also thanks to our home help Salud that we have not been too tied down, although of course we can’t go anywhere in the circumstances. 
Eladio with his Mother in the shade in the garden last Saturday after she arrived from Montrondo to stay with us.
Unlike my Father she doesn’t read books or watch the TV.  Her only past time is knitting and we have had to coax her to do some. She has now knitted a nice green scarf and is being coaxed into making another one.

Before they arrived, Oli and I went to Centro Oeste to do some shopping.  However we suddenly realized neither of us had a clicker to open the gate.  Eladio was out and Salud our home help had just left.  We were trapped in our own home which was very frustrating. It took us a while to find the special key to open it and when it did it felt like opening Ali Baba’s cave.  We felt so triumphant.
Oli opening the gates manually after being trapped - nothing was stopping us from going on a shopping expedition
Once there Oli went on the rampage buying lots of clothes, mainly t-shirts, in the sales.  I resisted as I have bought so many already this summer hahaha.  It was a nice mother and daughter trip out together which doesn’t often happen. I treasure those moments.
Toño and Dolores stayed for lunch and I made meatloaf from a trusted English cookery book I still have from my Nottingham University days. Here we are around the table.
A family lunch with Ernestina, my Mother-in-law last Saturday
After lunch we spent time by the pool.  In the evening I went with Oli to her new flat to deposit all sorts of things she needs there.  That was when my left wrist began to hurt and I realized I couldn’t really use it much without it hurting. 

On Sunday I woke up to terrible pain in my wrist.  The pain seemed to come from the base of my thumb and I was unable to clench my hand into a fist.  Whilst making breakfast and getting washed I realized just how difficult it is to do things with one hand only. Thankfully it was the left hand and not the right. Eladio drove me to the Accident and Emergency unit at a local private hospital; El Hospital de Montepríncipe. Being a Sunday it was quiet and I was seen to very soon. They did an x-ray and the diagnosis was very clear: “rhizarthrosis”, a term I had never heard of.  It really means arthritis at the base of your thumb and it is very painful.  I was told to wear an orthopedic wrist brace, apply ice every hour or so and prescribed Voltaren (anti-inflammatory tablets) and paracetamol.  Later I would ditch the Voltaren as one of its side effects is headaches and I got quite a few of them thanks to the tablets. This is the brace I have been wearing for the last week and actually it’s quite effective because it immobilizes the thumb.
My wrist brace:-(
The advice helped and the pain thankfully diminished although it still hasn’t gone away completely.  I have an appointment with the traumatologist on Wednesday and I’m pretty sure she will prescribe collagen or something similar.  When the diagnosis was made I thought that the arthritis was due to age but apparently it can happen to anyone from about the age of 30 onwards.  Anyway I just hope it gets better and doesn’t need an operation. Cross your fingers.

It was such a hot day on Sunday and not a particularly pleasant one for me what with the pain in my wrist and only being able to use one hand.  On the plus side Oli was at home with us all day. In the afternoon I accompanied her on another shopping expedition. We went to El Corte Inglés where she wanted to exchange a book in Spanish she had been given for her birthday. She ended up buying George Orwell’s Animal Farm in English. Who doesn’t remember his famous phrase: “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”? A proclamation by the pigs who control the government in the novel Animal Farm, by George Orwell. The sentence is a comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite”which of course is valid still today and always. 

Monday came and my wrist hurt less. But of course I couldn’t drive.  I needed to go to the hairdresser (I couldn’t wash my hair either with just one hand), so my dear husband did the chauffeuring.  That day I was wearing one of the t-shirts Oli bought during our shopping expendition to Centro Oeste.  It’s white with a glittery pink heart – right up my street – from a shop called “Algo Bonito”.  It’s lovely isn’t it?
Back from the hairdresser wearing Oli's lovely new t-shirt
Monday 18th July was the hottest day of the year so far and temperatures reached 40º C in Madrid.  So there was no better place to be than at Ikea that afternoon. We went to order bedroom furniture for Olivia’s old study which she never uses now that she has semi moved out haha.  We were to turn it into a new guest room; our third! This was what it looked like before we cleared it out.
Oli's old study which we turned into a new guest room this week
Tuesday had Eladio and Salud clearing out the old study which was full of Olivia’s clutter. She is like a magpie, hording all the things she accumulates over the year.  There was so much it was difficult to start. This is what the corridor outside the room looked like; lined with bags and boxes of her stuff.
The corridor full of Oli's stuff from her old study
The study furniture had to be taken downstairs – God knows what we will do with it? - as well as most of her stuff. It was a titanic task and only finished this weekend when Miguel lent a hand to Eladio to carry the heavier furniture down to the garage.

Wednesday was my big day. The Ikea people would be coming to install all the furniture and fittings we had bought but I couldn’t be there when they came. That morning at 10.30 we had an important press conference.  It was to announce the 2nd Quarter financial results which were to be good ones, with increased sales as well as increased profits!  The event took place at Hacienda Warehouse, a lovely location near María de Molina.  We did it outdoors and gave the whole place a summer look.
At the Yoigo press conference on Wednesday
There was a good turnout too as you can see in the photo below of just some of the journalists who came.
Some of the journalists at the press conference
Our freebie that day was a lovely summer kit; a beach basket with a beach towel, a panama hat and flip flops inside.  They went down very well. 
The summer kits we gave out 
The event went well and more importantly the coverage was positive.  I was happy to see we were also trending topic that morning.
There is nothing more pleasing to a Communications Director than for your news to become Trending Topic on Twitter. We achieved that on Wednesday when we announced the 2nd quarter results. 
By the end of the day we had garnered nearly 100 online clippings.  The next day even more would be generated.

Whilst I was busy with the press conference, in Havana, my nephew Miguel (Toño and Dolores’ eldest son) and his fiancée Claudia of Cuban origin were getting ready to fly to Madrid and get married in Spain.  They were to bring with them a man called “Eadberto” (commonly known as “Roche”) aged 80.  He is the son of Constante (R.I.P), my Mother-in-law, Ernestina’s first cousin who she was to meet for the first time this week.  Constante was the brother of her Mother Lecinia, Eladio’s maternal grandmother.  At the age of 20 in the year 1920 he left Montrondo to seek a better life cutting sugar cane in Cuba.  He was never to return thanks to Fidel Castro’s isolationist policy.  His daughter, Rosa María, the granddaughter of Constante, who visited us and Montrondo some years ago, made Roche’s dream come true by making it possible for him to travel to Spain with Miguel and Claudia.
Constante walked through the gates of the family plot when he left for Cuba, never to see them again. This is a photo of Rosa by those very gates when she visited Spain a few years ago.
Constante's granddaughter and Roche's daughter, Rosa outside the family plot gates in Montrondo a few years ago.
Roche would walk through them too this week, in a way, in lieu of his father Constante who never ever passed that threshold again.  As I wrote last week in my blog, there is talk in the family of doing away with them and making a shed.  I don’t want to see them go as they are a symbol of the past and harbour cherished family memories.  Thankfully Roche will see them before they are destroyed.  Constante would hate to learn they were no longer there.

Miguel helped too with the visa thanks to his contacts in the Cuban capital.  For all the news of Cuba opening up to the world, it still hasn’t really happened and the US blockade continues. This is the photo of the 3 of them at the airport in Havana on Wednesday last.  Rosa wrote this week that her grandfather Constante never stopped speaking of his beloved Montrondo to both his offspring and his grandchildren.  So of course it is natural that they would have a longing to see his village and understand his roots.  It was to be some journey for the 3 of them.
Constante's son, Roche, Miguel and Claudia at the airport in Havana this week before flying to Madrid.
I came home to find the new room newly furnished.  However it still needed a few more touches.  As I wrote that I was reminded of the song in Calamity Jane “a woman’s touch” and a woman’s touch it would get from me as I turned it into the “green room”.  The only touch I can’t give it and which it really needs is a lick of paint or two but because of the holiday period the painter I have contracted can’t come until September. 
The before and after photo - from study to new guest room.
The photo above is the before and after photos of the study and new bedroom. However I was to purchase more bits and bobs later in the week making it even more “hyggelig”, that lovely Danish word meaning cozy and comfortable which I learned from our au pair, Pernille, many years ago.  But that was to be on Saturday when I went with Oli and Miguel to Ikea.

On Thursday I woke up to more than 900 news clippings after our press release and press conference.  It really was worth the effort.

Our day was brightened up by the visit of our youngest niece, Alicia, who is also our god daughter.  She is a fully fledged nurse and is working this summer at the A+E unit at the big public hospital, Ramón y Cajal.  Thursday was her day off and she chose to spend it with us.  She was soon in the pool and joined by Elsa with Pippa looking on.
Alicia in the pool with Elsa and Pippa looking on
She made the “abuela’s” (grandmother) day too. Ernestina might not be able to engage in much conversation or remember who is who but she loves to have people around.  Before lunch we took my Father out to the shady area of the pool to have a drink (aperitivo) and here are the two of them together.  As you can imagine there is zero conversation haha, but I’m sure both them enjoyed the moment.
Eladio's Mother and my Father in the shade by the pool this week
Later that day we had another visitor.  My friend and ex Nokia colleague Julio came to see us.  The more the merrier in Ernestina’s mind I think.  She is definitely a party person hahaha.
It was great to see Julio this week when he came to visit.
It was great to see him as don’t see each other as often as we would like.  It was so hot that day that I offered all the array of drinks we had in the fridge: beer, shandy, horchata, zero caffeine free coke, coconut water and iced water.  It’s very important to keep hydrated in such heat; although I’m not sure beer or shandy count.

And Friday came and was the absolute highlight of the week. It was the day Miguel my favourite nephew was to marry his lovely Cuban fiancée Claudia.  And it couldn’t have been a more beautiful day.  I had the honour of making the bride’s bouquet. For that I picked white and pink hydrangeas from our garden.  Using pink crepe paper I created one to the best of my ability.  This is what it looked like. Claudia would be wearing mini pink and white flowers in her hair to match the bouquet.
The bridal bouquet I made for Clauda from flowers in our garden
Eladio and I dressed up for the occasion and Salud took a photo of us by the hydrangeas just before we left. I was carrying the posy and Salud said we looked like the bride and groom hahaha. That’s the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week’s story. It’s a super photo and I now have a copy of it in a frame hanging in one of the bathrooms – there is not much space left in the house for any more photos so they are now going in the bathrooms, hahaha.

The happy couple was to be married in the registry office in the small town of Villanueva del Pardillo not far from Majadahonda.  Of course we took Ernestina who would be meeting her cousin Eadberto (Roche) for the first time. She would have a splendid day and enjoyed every moment of it. It was the highlight of her stay with us.

Roche and Ernestina, first cousins, met for the first time at Miguel and Claudia's wedding. 
It was very special to meet Roche.  Later we would take him in our car when we drove to the restaurant and then to our home where we all came back after the celebrations.  In those journeys he spoke of how his Father Constante arrived in Cuba and how he himself fought on Castro’s side against Batiste.  He even told us he had been one of the founding members of the Cuban communist party.  Later at home I introduced him to my Father who is totally opposed to communism having married a refugee aristocratic white Russian, my Mother.  I introduced them in my father’s study bedroom where he has a reproduction of a painting of Tsar Nicholas II who was killed by the Bolsheviks.  I remarked they were on the opposite sides on the political scale but could be friends too!  They both laughed.  I wonder whether my Father is the first Englishman our Cuban cousin, who has never left the island until last week, has ever met.  Probably.

It was to be a small and intimate wedding with just some of the family.  There will be a lunch celebration near Montrondo later in August and the proper wedding will be in Cuba on 3rd January.  Guess what?  I’ve persuaded Eladio to go and he has agreed.  I think I may well be the only family member to be present at all three celebrations.  But you see, Miguel means so much to me.  I have known him since he was a small baby and there has always been great chemistry between us.  I wish both him and Claudia a happy marriage and many years together.  If they can be just as happy as Eladio and I, that would fulfil my wishes for them.

There was little protocol at their wedding so I was able to take photos of the bride and groom before the ceremony took place. Here they are with Eladio, the proud uncle.
Eladio with the bride and groom
And here is Claudia on her own, the pretty, happy and radiant pride carrying my posy. Her dress is beautiful. Dolores sent her two to Havana to choose from and this is the one she is wearing.  It comes from Mango and was more than perfect for the occasion.
Claudia, Miguel's radiant bride
And here they are sitting down just before the marriage ceremony began. I couldn’t wait to hear them say “I will” (Sí quiero).

Claudia and Miguel minutes before they were married.
And here they are after those all-important words posing for the cameras.
Miguel and Claudia after being pronounced husband and wife
But I wanted a more passionate picture and I got one. Here they are kissing.
The newly weds.
I have printed that photo and put it in a frame to take to them in Montrondo. I can only imagine it will be their first printed photo of the wedding and I’m happy it comes from me.
After hundreds of photos outside the registry office we all drove off to El Pardo, some 17km away to the El Torreon restaurant where the wedding banquet would take place.  I thought it was rather ironic that the town where Franco had lived and the current King lives near, El Pardo, had been chosen when we had a Cuban guest with us.  I pointed out  the two palaces to Roche with a smile on my face.

The lunch was lovely; an intimate affair with family present of all ages, from months old to the matriarch of Eladio’s family, Ernestina.  I think one of the happiest people that day apart from the bride and groom was the groom’s mother, my dear sister-in-law Dolores to whom I am forever grateful for having introduced me to Eladio so many years ago.  Here they are together.
The groom and his Mother
From the banquet nearly all the guests drove after lunch to our house to cool off in and outside our pool.  It felt like a party and the atmosphere was fantastic. 

Oli couldn’t make it to the wedding as the producer of her programme wouldn’t give her the day off – a day off for a wedding in Spain is only for first blood relatives unfortunately. But she made it on time to greet the bride and groom and congratulate them on their marriage.
Whilst we were at the wedding, she was doing a report on a new initiative in Madrid; a bike and beer circuit.  For the report she interviewed a big group of women from Manchester in Madrid for hen party.  For once her English came in useful.

Oli and the group of women from Manchester here for a hen party - she interviewed them in relation to the new bike and beer circuit in Madrid. 
The climax to the whole day was when Miguel’s best friend, Jonás, a very accomplished musician and teacher of music at the Conservatory in Amsterdam where he lives, sat down at my Grandmother’s beautiful but rather untuned piano in our lounge and played.  But only he noticed it wasn’t tuned.  We didn’t.  It was pure joy to listen to him.
Jonás playing my grandmother's piano at Miguel's wedding.  Wow!  If I had known we would have had it tuned for the occasion.
We even got him to play “here comes the bride” and got the bride and groom to dance in our lounge whilst we all looked on and clapped with joy.  His recital was really a wonderful end to a wonderful day. 

You can see more photos of the wedding here.

We were exhausted at the end of the day and felt a little forlorn having a small dinner late that night with Oli outside on the kitchen patio.  But House of Cards awaited us on Netflix later.  It’s all the rage or rather it was and is very popular.  A couple of years ago I watched the first episode and didn’t get hooked.  However Oli and Miguel are watching it now and Oli encouraged me to try again and we did.  We are now on episode 5 of Season 1 and it is getting better and better; not that American politics is my favourite genre or Kevin Spacey my favourite actor. It is Zoe (Kate Mara) the young and ambitious journalist who draws me most.

On Saturday we woke up to the news of horror and terror in Germany.  In the first of various attacks, we read that on Friday there had been a mass shooting attack in Munich at McDonalds and the nearby shopping centre. The lone gunman killed 10 people, most of them children and injured many others.  We all immediately thought that the perpetrator, Ali Sonboly, an 18 year old Iranian refugee had attacked in the name of Isis.  But we were wrong.  Every time there is an attack of this sort we all immediately link it to Isis. 
Horror in Germany - the Munich shooting
We learned later that the teenager who had been badly bullied at school was obsessed with mass killings and may have been keen to imitate the Norwegian far right terrorist Anders Breivik. He committed the killings on the 5th anniversary of the massacre in Oslo.

The same day, Saturday, in another incident in the north of Germany, panic broke out on a train when a 22 year old threatened passengers with a knife.  Later we would read he had psychological problems and was drunk.

There was more terror in Germany all through the weekend.  On Sunday evening a pregnant woman was killed and two other people injured in the south west of the country.  The attack came from a 21 year old Syrian asylum seeker who killed his ex-girlfriend with a machete.  Again we thought it was an Isis incident but it turned out to be domestic violence. 

The final horror incident was on Sunday night when a failed Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up and injured 12 others with a rucksack bomb in the south of Germany in Ansbach.  This time it was most likely carried out in the name of Daesh/Isis. 

If recently it has been France that has suffered, this week it was Germany.  When will it stop I ask myself?

On Saturday morning life continued as normal at home of course.  How lucky we are to live out in the country and away from all the dreadful news we see and read about. 

Happy to have Miguel and Oli at home I joined them on their trip to the new Ikea in Alcorcón, quite near where we live and supposed to be the biggest one in Europe.  They had quite a few things to get for their new flat and I had a list of things I needed to add the finishing touches to the “green room” such as more cushions, photo frames, candles, a chair and some green towels for the ensuite bathroom.  We spent quite a few hours there.  The photo below is of Oli and Miguel doing what Ikea call the “picking”, a term I learned when I appeared in the Undercover Boss programme and had to work at an industrial warehouse where phones are stored and sent all over Spain.
Miguel and Oli at Ikea on Saturday morning
We were late for lunch but just on time to join the “abuela” and my Father.  The rest of the day, after a quick siesta, was spent by the pool.  Saturday was another scorcher.

Oli and Miguel in the pool this weekend with the dogs.
There was also time to put the finishing touches to the “green room” and this is what it looks like now.  The first guests to use it will be my friend Fátima’s American friends who are coming in August.  I hope they like it.

The new guest room -"the green room" with the final touches except for painting.
This weekend and today I think too, Suzy has guests in London.  Her fellow London adventurer, Chati’s Mother and sister, Elena – Suzy’s bosom friend – were coming to stay and they would all be housed where Suzy and Anita live, another member of the girls group of friends “la manada”, in Camden in North London.

The weather was good and they spent most of the day outside.  I know from the photos on Facebook posted by Elena that they went to London Fields and also to Victoria Park near the Albert Memorial.  Here are the 4 girls in London Fields.
Suzy with her friends and guests in London Fields on Saturday this week
Suzy is obviously on a high these days.  She is looking stunning. Radiant I suppose is the best way to describe her.  In this lovely photo below she is having a “me” moment laughing and smiling and looking more and more like me; or so people say.  I am so happy for her.  There is nothing that makes me happier than my girls being happy.  I suppose that is a mother’s life objective and what we all strive for.  Suzy you look lovely.
Suzy looking radiant this weekend in London
On Saturday I should also mention that the bride and groom and their parents, Toño and Dolores drove to Montrondo for a few days, taking our Cuban cousin Eadberto (Roche) with them.  So when I saw the photo of him by the old family gates, together with Toño, I could only imagine what was going on inside his head.  He truly made that trip in his Father, Constante’s name.  He came to visit the beloved village of his Father which he had heard about all his life and which Constante was never able to see again; having left in 1920 at the tender age of 20.  He stood by those family gates his Father crossed when he left, never looking behind and never knowing that nearly a hundred years later his son would return and stand by the very same gates he walked past. 
Constante's son outside the old gates in Montrondo (right striped shirt)
We shall be going to Montrondo next Saturday and I look forward to talking to Roche and taking more photos of him in his Father Constante’s village, on the trip of his life.
On Saturday night we went out to dinner with Oli and Miguel.  Oli treated us all to a super meal at Tony Romas where we all had ribs. The portions were so big we had to get a doggy bag.  The evening ended with another episode of House of Cards.

Sunday came and it was another scorcher. Eladio, Oli and Miguel went off in two cars to their flat in Mirasierra to install the rest of the things they had bought at Ikea.  They weren’t back until lunch. I had gone all out and made a Sunday roast; chicken with all the trimmings including cranberry sauce and sage and onion stuffing. Later I would make a chicken waldorf salad for dinner out of the remains.  I also made a chicken noodle soup; ever the thrifty cook hahaha.

The rest of the day was spent by the pool, reading in my case; a rubbishy book by Barbara Taylor Bradford.  Oli spent the time listening to the French course Miguel bought her for her birthday. He left in the evening as he had to return to Valencia where he will be working from today until next Sunday. He has an amazing timetable as a TVE cameraman, working 7 full days and resting 7 days.  Good for him.

Suzy and her guests were having a grand time in London.  From the pictures I saw they spent time at Hampstead Heath, went for drinks to a place called Oblix and even went up The Shard.  Here they are at the latter.
Suzy with her friends and guests this weekend at The Shard
Our day ended with a quiet dinner again outside on the kitchen patio watching the 9 o’clock news on my iPad Plus.

In Paris yesterday  the Tour de France ended with a third win for the British cyclist, Chris Froome.  It was another sporting win for Britain after Wimbledon and also the Formula One yesterday when Hamilton came first.  
Britain's  Chris Froome won his third Tour de France yesterday in Paris. 
Eddy Merckx has said he is likely to go on and join the select club of those who have won 5, like himself, Anquetil, HInault and Spain's Indurain.  We do not count the cheater Armstrong. Who knows it's possible. People only ever remember who came first, apart from those themselves who came second or third and their families.  So, in honour of the mothers of his podium companions, let me tell you that Frenchman Romain Bardet came second and Colombian Nairo Quintana came third.  Well done to all. 

And today is Monday and Oli left this morning.  Thankfully today she will be reporting on something far nicer than the train crash in Santiago 3 years ago.  She has been sent to the water park; “El Aquopolis” in Villanueva de la Cañada, where we used to take the girls when they were little.  I look forward to seeing the report.

The day is very quiet.  It is a national holiday and hot again as I have said repeatedly in this report.  As soon as I have published this, I shall get straight into my bathing suit and hit the pool.  No doubt I will be joined by Ernestina, the dogs and eventually Eladio but only I will go in the water.

Now I’m at the end of this week’s tales and it’s time to sign off.  I wish you all a great week, whether you are at work or on holiday and wherever you are. 

All the best till next time when I will be officially on holiday and writing from Montrondo.

Cheers till next time,


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