Saturday, July 30, 2016

Suzy at work, 84 year old priest Jacques Hamel beheaded by ISIS during mass in a church in Normandy, Alicia spent the day with us, 33 years ago, the Pope visits Auschwitz, Olivia reporting live for TV from Baoadilla, to Montrondo for Santa Marta and other stories.

Sunday 31st July 2016
A selfie with Eladio and Olivia on our pit stop at Rueda on the way to Montrondo on Saturday morning
Hello everyone,

I hope you are all fine.  I am in the best of spirits.  I started my holiday this weekend and we are in Montrondo.  I couldn’t be feeling happier.

When I last wrote it was on Monday and it was a national holiday in Spain.  My friend Fátima was coming to bathe with me that evening and was 2 hours late. She is not known for her punctuality.  In fact she came on time for dinner hahaha.  It was great to catch up with her and to hear the tales of her trip to the US to pick up her daughter, Fátima junior, who has spent a year with a family near Boston. Her daughter’s American family will be coming to visit them in August and we have the honour of accommodating them in our house – thus all the efforts for the new green guest room.  Unfortunately we won’t be here to meet them.

Just as my friend Fátima left, there was a new terror story from the US.  I could hardly believe that there had been another deadly shooting at a night club in Orlando.  As we watched House of Cards that night, I felt the series was a bit out of touch as the politicians there did not have to deal with the new sort of terror we are seeing all over the world today.

I told you last week that Olivia would be doing a report on the workers at the big Madrid Water Park, “El Aquopolis” that day.  When the girls were little we used to take them there very often and spend whole days there enjoying the 18 or so attractions.  Little did Oli know that one day she would be doing a report on the water park in Villanueva de la Cañada for TV.  This is the link to the report if you want to watch it.

I dug out the two photos below of the sisters enjoying the water park in July 1995, 21 years ago.  Oh how time does fly.
The girls, Oli in purple and Suzy in blue at the water park (Aquopolis) in July 1995
I was delighted to get a photo from Suzy on Tuesday morning of her at work at her new job.  She is a dietitian with the Spanish chain of diet clinics called Pronokal and her office is in Harley Street.  Doesn’t she look professional?  I’m very proud of her as I am of Oli too.  What wonderful girls I have.
Suzy at work on Monday
She tells me the diet really works. I have decided I shall try it out after the summer; after Paula’s wedding at the end of September.  Let’s see. 

I wish that was the only news to recount for Tuesday. If last week the horror stories were from Germany, this week it was France’s turn again.  Unbelievably ISIS terrorists entered a small church during mass that day and kidnapped the priest and the parishioners including 2 or 3 nuns.  The priest giving mass was Father Jacques Hamel aged 84 and a well-loved figure in his community in a church in Normandy.  The terrorists forced the old priest to kneel at the altar towards them and then they beheaded him and video-taped their barbaric act. 
Father Jacques Hamel R.I.P. a true martyr
One of the nuns managed to escape and call the police who later caught the terrorists and shot them down.  She then narrated that they had shouted out that it was Christians who were attacking them and this was their revenge.  There are no words to describe what they did.  Some like savage, ruthless or diabolical come to mind but they are not enough.  The world was shocked once again and especially the Catholic Church and Pope Francis who heard about it just before arriving in Kracow for the world youth encounter there. 

We spoke about this and other things that night whilst having a light dinner on the kitchen patio; just Eladio and I.
Our simple dinner outside on Tuesday night
On Wednesday I was delighted to receive the window cleaners. They were coming to clean two sets of windows that are very stupidly designed and too high up for us to reach.  One of them is the glass gallery just off our bedroom and the other one is above the lounge by the girls’ bedrooms.  I am slightly embarrassed to say it was the first time the gallery windows had been cleaned. 
The window cleaner who came on Wednesday morning
They look sparkling and we have decided that they will now be cleaned once a year, at least.  The visit reminded me of how at home at 6 Heaton Grove in Bradford the window cleaners used to come very often to clean the old Victorian sash windows.  I wish I could remember their names. They would always be given a cup of tea; not so here of course as no one drinks tea like in the UK.  I wonder if my Father remembers their names as he was the one who always called them.

Alicia was coming on Wednesday to spend the day with us and brighten it up for her grandmother and for me too.  It was her day off from her job this summer with the Intensive Care Unit at the famous Ramón and Cajal hospital in Madrid.  So I had my own personal nurse to accompany me to my doctor’s appointment at the Monteprincipe Hospital.  I was to see a traumatologist after having being diagnosed with “rhizarthritis”.  Thankfully it hardly hurts anymore and seems to be getting stronger. I was happy to hear from him that it was only at a very early stage. 

Just before lunch I got a whatsapp from Suzy telling me the 29th August was a bank holiday in England and wondering whether I would like to visit.  Well of course I would.  So there and then I booked  tickets for flights leaving Madrid on Thursday 25th and returning on Wednesday 31st August; nearly a whole week. So London here I come again.

After homemade lasagna for lunch and a quick siesta, we spent the afternoon by the pool.  I was the first in with little Pippa.  She likes going in with me if I hold her and as long as she only gets wet up to her neck. Here I am holding her on the steps.
With Pippa in the pool on Wednesday afternoon
Elsa, our lab, on the other hand, loves to go in but will only do so if we throw a ball.  We did of course, for the spectacle of it but also for her to cool off. Here she is; the swimming dog.
Elsa the swimming dog
We were joined by my mother-in-law who was knitting her second scarf.  Here she is doing so.  It’s what keeps her occupied most of the day.
Ernestina knitting away on Wednesday
Having fun with my iPad, Alicia decided to play songs for Ernestina from the 40’s.  So I looked up who were the top singers of those times in Spain and they were Manolo Escobar, Concha Piquer and Imperia Argentina amongst others. Also familiar to her was of course Lola Flores.  Then an impromptu dance began and my mother-in-law egged on by her youngest granddaughter, Alicia, started dancing together.  It was a sight for sore eyes and lovely to see Ernestina happy and smiling.  Thanks Ali for brightening up her day and ours too.
Alicia and Ernestina, my mother-in-law aged 94, dancing to Spanish 40's music from You Tube
Whilst we were enjoying the music and the dancing Olivia was working of course.  She was in Madrid about to do a live report when she coincidentally bumped into her best friend from school, Paula.  Paula was leaving her office and the two were delighted to be reunited so unexpectedly.
Olivia and Paula, a chance encounter on the streets of Madrid on Wednesday this week
Paula and Olivia were inseparable at St. Michael’s School when they were small until they left.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times I drove Oli to her house and back or ferried the two of them to birthday parties.  I actually haven’t seen Paula since they left school and it’s funny to see her now in a photo as a grown up woman; a successful architect I think. 

Just as I was getting into bed that night, Pippa beat me to the post and guess what?  Yep, she hit her favourite spot on our bed, my feather pillow.  Before gently removing her, I just had to take this photo.  Isn’t she lovely?
Pippa on my pillow
Thursday came and I was expecting the painters to come and do the “green room”.  They were supposed to be coming in September but had a free morning that day, to my delight.
Painting the green room, music to my ears
They did the job in just one morning and a good one too. To jazz up the room a bit more I decided to have the front wall painted a dark grass green colour and the rest of the walls the same colour but in pastel.  I am very pleased with the result which you can see below. So now the new room will be shipshape for our American guests and for whoever wants to come afterwards.

As usual we went for our walk that morning, early and before it got too hot.  As we were leaving, Eladio pointed out to me just how lovely and green our garden looked. He was right and actually he deserves a round of applause for keeping it this way after so many problems with the irrigation; most of which he has fixed himself.
Our garden is green thanks to Eladio
It was on our walk that I suddenly remembered the significance of the day. It was 28th July and the 33rd anniversary of our registry wedding in 1983.  We had to be wed at a registry office as the Catholic Church wouldn’t marry us because Eladio was a priest.  We had found a Protestant church where we would be wed three weeks later with our family and guests but it could not issue a marriage certificate valid in Spain. I have dug out the pictures of us on that day.  We kept it very simple with just Eladio’s parents there as witnesses.  We didn’t want the day to mean much as the real wedding for us was and always has been 21st August 1983. Thus the cross look on my face hahaha.
Our registry wedding day was 33 years ago on Thursday 28th July!
I can now confess that that night Suzy, our eldest daughter, was unknowingly conceived.  We weren’t to learn that we were to be parents until a week or so after the church wedding.  I have always been surprised to know that we got it right the first time round.  Oli was conceived in England a year and a week later, also unknowingly.  You see there was absolutely no family planning but I wouldn’t have it any other way as their arrival times turned out to be perfect if unplanned.

It was on Thursday afternoon that we announced the continuation of our summer promotion. Yoigo's Sinfín 20giga tariff would be extended until the end of August, making new customers happy I am sure.

Friday came and it was the last day before I was to start my holidays.  We had to get everything ready to be able to leave for Montrondo where we are staying for about 2 weeks. We had to do the shopping to take there and of course leave enough provisions for my Father and Salud in our absence.  With an organised list, we filled two trollies and were home within the hour.  Now the fridges are bursting at the seams haha. Let's see for how long.

The main news that day was that Hilary Clinton was elected Presidential candidate by the Democratic Party at a huge convention in the US.  I watched several of the speeches; those from Michele Obama, Barack Obama, her husband Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea.  I had hoped one of them may have mentioned the Monica Levinsky issue but it never came up.  Hilary's was the last and it was a good one.  Dressed in her favourite style, "a pant suit", she was full of confidence when she accepted.  During the Convention it was suggested that Russia had been behind the campaign as if Putin wanted to influence the presidential election.  Well I wouldn't put it past them.  Hilary Clinton could now become the first woman President in the US; unless that clown Donald Trump beats her and it's going to be close.  I will be watching just as the rest of the world will. P.S. Michele Obama's speech was by far the best and I couldn't help thinking that maybe she should have been the next US President. She is so popular and sensible, clever and pretty that  maybe one day she will; that is, if she wants to. 
Hilary Clinton is now the official Democrat President Elect. Here in a white pant suit at the Democrat Convention when she accepted the role with "full confidence.".
In the afternoon, Fátima senior and Fátima junior came to see us to get all the instructions about the house; clickers for the gates, clickers for the air conditioning and clickers for the alarm, as well as essential information for their stay here in August when we are away.

It was a delight to see Mother and daughter reunited after the latter's adventure in the USA this year. She will be going back at the end of August to do the American "high school" which I imagine is the equivalent to UK 'A levels" or the Spanish "Bachillerato".  She is 16 going on 17 and like Lisa in The Sound of Music is a beautiful girl about to become a poised and lovely woman.

On a more sombre note, on Friday the Pope who was in Poland for the anniversary of the country becoming Roman Catholic and for the World Youth Day in Kracow, visited the Auschwitz death camp.
The Pope visits Auschwitz - here walking uder the famous gates to the Nazi death camp
Earlier in the week after the beheading of the Catholic priest in France he had said the "World was at War".  No doubt that must have been in his thoughts as he walked under the famous gates with the words "Arbeit Macht Frei" - work sets you free. He made no speech. He didn't need to.  He just prayed by the "Wall of death" where the inmates were shot to death near the pile of rubble which were once the gas chambers.  He made a special visit to the cell of a Polish Catholic monk who was made a saint in 1982; Maximilian Kolbe, who sacrificed his life for another man. He also talked to some survivors and had the privilege of meeting some "righteous among nations"; that is, non Jews who risked their lives to save Jews  during the Holocaust; an honorific title given by the State of Israel.

Ronald Lauder, of the World Jewish Congress thanked him for the visit saying that it was an important signal against hatred and that this "dark chapter must never be forgotten". I applaud his visit. It is my objective, once in my life, to make this same trip.  I shall never forget visiting The Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem (Yad Vashem) where I wept buckets of tears, especially when I reached the Hall of Names, the memorial to each and every Jew who perished in the Holocaust. 

On Friday afternoon whilst I was cooling off by the pool in what may well have been the hottest day of the year so far, I got a message from Olivia to say she had a live TV report to do from nearby Boadilla and could I pick her up.  Well of course I could and did but I also wanted to see her in action. The report was at a police spokesperson's own home where he was to give advice on how to protect your house for the holidays.  The main holidays in Spain started this weekend; including mine.  I arrived on time but had trouble parking.  I was embarrassed to tell the policeman (Serafín) that I had parked illegally. Thankfully I wasn't there long enough to get a fine.  Up I went to the flat in one of the main streets in the village to find Oli, the producer, the cameraman and the policeman preparing the scene for the shoot.  Here they are a few minutes before they went live.
The TV team in Boadilla just before they went live.  Oli in the beige skirt is second from the left.
They did a good job and I enjoyed watching the live report on the spot. Being behind the scenes is always fun.

We got home to find Eladio in the pool so we joined him immediately.  Being Friday night we went out to dinner and chose Ginos in Boadilla.  We had to sit inside with the air conditioning rather than on the terrace as at 9 p.m. at night it was 36ºc outsideª. The minimum temperature that night would be 24ºc!  Dinner was lovely.  This was my choice; pasta with prawns and asparagus in a creamy tomato sauce.
My choice of pasta at Ginos on Friday night.
Saturday came. I was awake at 6.20 even though we had been watching House of Cards until late. We were to leave for Montrondo at 09.40; Eladio, Oli, Ernestina and Pippa.  We were leaving behind my Father who would be well taken care of by dear Salud.  Thank goodness for her.  We trust her so much.  She is like a family member in many ways as she cares about us and the house so much.

The atmosphere in the car was very holiday like.  Oli and I sat in the back with Pippa, Eladio drove and his Mother, excited to be seeing her daughter Pili again and be in Montrondo, sat in the front.  Oli and I spoke to Suzy on the phone during our journey and we listened to The Beatles on Spotify.
Oli and I in the car with Pippa on our trip to Montrondo on Saturday morrning.
Any journey to Montrondo includes a pit stop at Rueda for a lovely glass of white wine and a plate of ham.  The photo illustrating this week's post is a selfie of Olivia, Eladio and I about to devour the ham.  I also caught Oli on camera just as we were setting off again.  Spot Eladio and his Mother in the background hahaha.
The pit stop at Palacio de Bornos in Rueda on our way to Montrondo.
We were to the be the last of the family to arrive for the annual family gathering in Montrondo for the local fiestas to celebrate the village patron saint; Santa Marta.  The programme for the activities is below and Olivia and I were very upset to miss the games which had taken place the day before rather than on Saturday which has always been the norm.
The programme for the Santa Marta fiestas this weekend in Montrondo.
This year the family lunch (we were 27 people) was to be held at La Palloza in Murias.  Here we are all around the table in the lovely gardens of the bar and restaurant.
The family lunch took place at La Palloza in Murias de Paredes this year
I wasn't hungry after our stop at Rueda but the truth is I didn't really like the food. It was very run of the mill.  But it was nice to be with the family although rather hot to eat outside.  I couldn't believe it was 30ºc in Montrondo which is very high for the village which stands at about 1.200m high below some serious mountains.

At about 4 we all left for Montrondo and Eladio, Oli and I had the task of settling in and bringing in all the food I had brought for our stay.  We shall be here for about 2 weeks.  Unfortunately Oli will be returning this evening (by high speed train from León) as she works tomorrow.

Not all the fiesta activities were over and at 6 there was a lawn mower race on the common in El Campo where it seemed all the village and its mother were there to watch.  I have never seen so many cars in Montrondo.
The lawn mower race yesterday.
While we were there I took the opportunity to show Olivia the latest village landmark; the new bridge and restored spring called La Fleita.  It was quite crowded that day.  The water there is cool and fresh as it comes straight from the mountains.
Oli by La Fleita with Pippa
When the race over most of the family gathered in "el corral", the stretch of grass in front of our houses.  Here I introduced the family to the Finnish bowling game called Molkky.  It was such fun. But I played pathetically being disqualified after three rows of not scoring.
Playing Molkky in Montrondo yesterday
Last night was the dance and band which would start at nearly midnight.  However, Oli, Eladio and I were tired and not being party animals stayed at home.  We had a lovely dinner together and lounged around until it was time to go to bed.

And here I am now writing at the crack of dawn.  I woke up at 6.15.  Once I have published this week's tales, I shall go on a walk with Adela my sister-in-law and Pippa.  We will be back by 9 on time for breakfast with Oli and Eladio.

Today our friends Javier and Ana will be coming to stay but of course I will tell you about that in next week's post.

Meanwhile my friends, I wish you all well and will leave you now until next time,


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