Friday, July 15, 2016

The end of a marvelous weekend in Montrondo, Murray wins Wimbledon, Portugal stuns France to become European football champions, Obama visits Spain, Theresa May new Prime Minister and the controversial appointment of Boris Johnson, Oli reporting in Boadilla, a terrorist bloodbath on Bastille Day in Nice, an attempted coup in Turkey and other stories

Saturday 16th July 2016
By the newly restored and accessible spring "La Fleita" in Montrondo last Sunday

Good morning everyone,

How was your week?  Let me tell you about mine which is what this blog is all about. 

Last Sunday we were still in Montrondo, our beloved village.  It was another hot day and I was up early as usual.  I did my walk and back to Senra (approx. 8km) with Pippa faithfully following me all the way.
A selfie with Pippa on my walk to Senra last Sunday
We had a coffee and a biscuit at the only bar there; Cumbres de Omaña or rather I had the coffee and gave the biscuit to Pippa for her efforts. I marvel at how she walks so much for her tiny stature.
Pippa and I had a biscuit and coffee respectively at Cumbres de Omaña café last Sunday morning in Senra
We then walked up the road to get a loaf of bread from the old bakery there. 
The old bakery in Senra
Every time I go there, I recall Eladio’s memories of going for the family bread with his brother José Antonio, once a week when they were mere children.  The load was very heavy for them both and the walk very long. Eladio being the stronger and older brother would end up carrying most of the bread. He also told me bread was charged for by using the slate method and that people paid at the end of the year when they had sold a cow.  How times have changed!

Once back in Montrondo, Pippa and I went to buy some eggs from Ulpiano, whose farm is the high point on the village tour I take guests on when they come to stay.  Ulpiano was quite talkative that morning.  Very kindly he offered me strawberries too from the patch in his front garden.  They were delicious, a mixture of wild and miniature berries.
Ulpiano offered me some of his delicious strawberries
I learned during the conversation that a new landmark had been added to the village.  Just in front of his house by El Campo, a bridge had been built and the old spring “La Fleita” made accessible to villagers.  I went immediately to see it with Pippa who, by the way, fell into the water once there and I had to wade into the river to get her out!
So we’ve now got a new site to show to future visitors when they come. Ah and I must add that the water is pure and fresh and comes straight from the mountains and has not been treated like tap water.  It’s delicious and so refreshing, especially after our sunny walk to Senra and back. The only thing I would change is the pipe which for the moment is made of red plastic!
The new bridge and spring La Fleita in Montrondo,.
In the afternoon I took José Antonio, Dolores and Eladio to see the new “landmark”.  Here they are by the spring called La Fleita which I imagine must mean “la flecha” (the arrow) but I’m not sure.
Toño, Dolores and Eladio on the new bridge and restored spring La Fleita in Montrondo last Sunday

Eladio took one of me too and that’s the picture I have chosen to illustrate this week’s post; me happy and chilling out in my husband’s village that I have adopted as my own and where I am at my most relaxed.

Whilst we were visiting the new spring, the Scottish tennis player Andrew Murray was playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon in the men’s final; hoping to win his second trophy there.  Well he did.  He beat the Canadian Milos Roaonic in straight sets but had to fight for every one of them - 6-4, 7-6, 7-6. 
Andy Murray won Wimbledon again this year. Good for him. 
He made history for British tennis last Sunday. I was happy for him and I imagine the British crowds were too. How I would have loved to be there. I have never been to a Wimbledon match and it has always been my dream. Ironically, for the first time ever, I received an invitation this year to go to Wimbledon for the quarter finals but it was when I was going to France so I had to decline it.  I hope I will be invited again next year and I shall do my utmost to go.  If you are British you will understand that Wimbledon is a quintessential part of its makeup.  Life stops during the tournament and everyone goes tennis mad for 2 weeks.  There is talk of strawberry and cream teas there and a unique atmosphere that I would love to savour.  Hopefully I will next year.   

Whilst the men’s final was being played we were having our own afternoon tea Montrondo style with all the family in the old grass courtyard in front of our house.  It was nice to be together but soon the León members of the family began to leave. We saw them off outside the old gates to the family plot.  I caught Eladio on camera in front of them as they mean so much to the family and soon they may go; much against my own wishes.
If gates could talk - the wonderful old entrance to the family plot in Montrondo. 
Those gates have been witness to many comings and goings and the history of the family; not least that of Eladio’s grandmother’s brother Constante who walked through them for the last time in his early 20’s when he left for Cuba and never came back.  That was possibly in the 1920’s.  In two weeks’ time, Constante’s son who is now in his 80’s will be coming to visit his Father’s village and will also walk through those amazing old gates as if returning for his Father for whom that was a dream he could not fulfil thanks to Fidel Castro.  There is talk in the family of removing them to make sheds or whatever and I will be very sad to see them go.  If gates could talk, these would have a lot to say; not to mention just how lovely and rustic and rural they are; a symbol of the past we should not do away with because we want to build a shed to store things of a lot less value. The sentimental value of the gates is far greater in my mind.

We were left on our own; that is Eladio and I at our house and Toño, Dolores and my Mother-in-law at theirs.  It was such a warm evening I decided we should have dinner al fresco on our front terrace. This was to be a first for us but certainly not a last hahaha.
Dinner al fresco on our terrace on Sunday night in Montrondo
We could have watched the football but preferred to continue binge watching our latest favourite Netflix series (Sin Identidad).  I learned the next morning that Portugal had beaten France and was quite amazed.  It was their first win ever of the Uefa Euro Cup. Well done Portugal beating the host country in the final in Paris 1-0.  I was sorry and surprised to hear Ronaldo was injured early on in the first half.  I had imagined he would have liked to kick that winning goal but it was not to be.  That honour was bestowed on a substitute player from the bench, a chap called Édér (his Mother must have been ecstatic).  I think that adds even more merit to the Portuguese win.  Parabéns à Seleçâo de Portugal - digging out my Portuguese from University here – meaning well done to the Portuguese national team). 
Parabéns Portugal
I can’t end telling you about Sunday without mentioning that Barack Obama was on an official visit to Spain that day.  It was a visit that was to be curtailed because of the horror police shootings in Dallas whilst he was away. More than anything it was a symbolic visit as he will be retiring from Presidency soon.  You may not know that he first visited Spain as a backpacker in the 80’s as he told King Philip and that he could hardly have imagined he would return on the Air Force 1 Presidential plane one day. But fairy tales come true and he did. His charismatic wife, Michele, her mother Marian and daughters Malia and Sasha visited Madrid earlier this month too.  Malia will have stayed on as she has “earned” a summer internship at the US Embassy here.  Lucky her. 
Obama visited Spain last weekend
Whilst here he congratulated Mariano Rajoy, the President in waiting after the second round of general elections, on the fruits of the economic reform undertaken in Spain.  He was given a Spanish leg of cured ham to take back as a present.  Many of us protested on Facebook at this privilege as it is forbidden to take ham from Spain into the US.  There again he is the President of the US and very powerful.  Well, powerful enough to take ham back from Spain but not powerful enough to close Guantanamo as he promised when he was elected the first black President after his “Yes we can” campaign.  Be that as it may, he has my admiration for everything he has tried to do including gun control. 

Oli was back from Valencia that night and it would be her first night alone at their new flat. She had a great weekend with her partner Miguel, including going to the beach, drinking horchata and eating the best paella in town.
The paella Miguel and Oli enjoyed in Valencia last weekend
Monday was our last day in Montrondo and we were determined to make the most of it. Whilst on my last morning walk to Senra with Pippa, Suzy would be returning from her adventure in Nicaragua.  Slightly worried from not hearing about her landing ok, I sent her a message and was relieved to hear that both she and Anita had arrived safely back.  They were feeling orphaned after the amazing adventure in that poor but fascinating and beautiful Central American country and were finding it difficult to adapt to grey London.  They still have the blues now and I totally understand them.  The girls who went on the trip; Suzy, Anita, Rochi and Chati have been posting photos all week on Facebook feeling nostalgic and finding it difficult to adapt again as happens when one returns from an exotic destination.  I particularly like this one of the four girls taken on their wonderful holiday.
Chati, Suzy, Anita and Rocío in Nicaragua together. They went with 6 young men!
And get on with life in London they did.  Anita was back to her English lessons, Chati back to her nursing position and Suzy started her new job as a dietitian in Harley Street. She tells me she walks to work and back which takes 50 minutes each way!  Good for her.

So once I knew they had arrived ok I could concentrate on the beauty of the walk. I have written about the cutting of the grass to make hay, the birds chirping, the sound of the river but on Monday I noticed too the lovely wild flowers on the old path between Montrondo and Murias.  It is like heaven on earth at this time of the year. Here is Pippa apparently seeming to be interested in the flowers too haha.
The flowery path between Montrondo and Murias
As we returned to the village it was time to say goodbye to Sara, her partner Alejandro and their 4 month old baby Lucas. I look forward to seeing them again next week at her older brother, Miguel`s wedding to his Cuban bride Claudia.

We had a quick lunch and then prepared to leave.  We set off at 17.45 and were home in under 4 hours which is a bit of a record. I do hope there will no nasty speeding fine in the post again as there have been quite a number of times in the past.  Driving to Montrondo is getting costly hahaha.

It was so hot when we arrived we could hardly believe it.  I felt like getting back into the car and returning to Montrondo.  The temperature in our room was 31.5ºc.  I immediately put on the air conditioning and the ceiling fan and even so I had to have a cold shower to cool down enough to be able to go to sleep. 

It was on Sunday that we heard  that 59 year old Oxford Graduate Theresa May,the former Home Secretary, was to be the next Prime Minister after her contenders for leadership of the Tory party, Mike Gove, Boris Johnson and Andrea Leadsom all pulled out one after the other in rather controversial post Brexit referendum circumstances.  That meant that David Cameron would resign on Wednesday rather than in the autumn as he had promised and she would be appointed PM that day.  It was all very sudden.  I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I was happy the UK would have its second woman Prime Minister but not always following British politics very closely, except for the Brexit issue, I wasn’t very familiar with Mrs. May.  I gathered she was quite a gutsy sort of person with leadership skills.  I also gathered she was a lukewarm “remainer” but then heard she would appoint a “leaver” to head the negotiations with the EU for the withdrawal of the UK from membership.  That didn’t make me very happy as I had hoped a reverse situation could take place as the referendum is not apparently legally binding but no she said that Brexit would happen!  We were to learn a lot more on Wednesday and we were in for surprises.
Theresa May, Britain's new Prime Minister.  She always said she wanted to be the UK's PM!
Meanwhile one of the big issues in the UK papers and social media was what would happen to the Downing Street cat Larry.  That is such a British thing to worry about.  If cats or dogs lived here at the King’s palace or the home of the Prime Minister no one would give a damn.  David Cameron was accused on social media of not caring about Larry.  So in a tweet he posted a photo of himself with the cat to prove he liked it hahaha.  But of course Larry does not belong to the Cameron family but to the house itself and the people working there.  It remains to be seen whether Theresa May and her consort husband Philip who is being scrutinized right now by the press right down to his shoes and compared to Dennis Thatcher, are happy with Larry’s outcome.  Unlike the Camerons and Thatchers they are a childless couple; something Andrea Leadsom used against Mrs. May in her fight for leadership and which eventually backfired on her. 
David Cameron and the famous Downing Street cat Larry
Tuesday was another hot day.  I fasted that day and had an almighty headache by the end of the day. Eladio, who has been pointing out that my headaches always seem to coincide with my fasting days, finally persuaded me that night to give them up.  And I have for the moment.  Let’s see how things go. 

Wednesday was busy for me. I spent most of the morning at the office. I had various errands to do there and people to see.  I also had an important meeting with my boss and head of finance and my PR team.  It was in preparation for the communication of the second quarter financial results to be announced on Wednesday 20th July.

It was busy for me but it must have been crazy for Theresa May, the first woman Prime Minister in 26 years since Margaret Thatcher and of course David Cameron.  One was moving out of Downing Street and the other was moving in.  Both of course had to see the Queen, Cameron to tender his resignation and May to kiss the Queen’s hand and accept the appointment, a tradition when being becoming Prime Minister.

The two most powerful women in Great Britain.  
The best part of the day for me was Prime Minister’s Question Time, always a lark at the crowded House of Commons.  It was to be his last and Cameron was at his best with his wonderful ironic British sense of humour cracking jokes throughout. He started off saying his diary was remarkably light that day after going to see the Queen.  You can see the whole thing here.
David Cameron laughing during his last Prime Minister Questions time on Wednesday
But he was much more emotional in his leaving speech outside Downing Street.  Not only his wife Samantha, but in a rare appearance, his 3 children were standing right by him too.  Of course the next occupants, Mrs and Mr May; the new first man, were nearby to move straight in.  During the day the removal van had been for the Cameron’s belongings after their 6 years at Britain’s most famous street and another one had come bringing the Mays’ stuff.  The bit I liked best about the speech was his reference to his smallest daughter Florence who once got into the Prime Minister’s red box and demanded he take her with him wherever he was going.  He said there would be no more boxes; meaning he could now spend time with his family who he obviously adores. 
David Cameron's youngest daughter little Florence a few years ago sitting inside the PM's Red Box
Then the 5 of them hugged together at the steps of Number 10 before walking away; a very uncommon thing to do but which circumstances begged in my mind.  It certainly showed they were normal human beings and a loving family.  I must say I liked the man although he disappointed me when he held the Brexit referendum. 
David Cameron delivering his farewell speech outside Downing Street with his family close by
The new occupants didn’t take long to arrive; just the 2 of them.  The photographers were disappointed when the couple didn’t kiss. We can only guess what happened when they went indoors to be greeted by the permanent staff that lives there. 
The new occupants of 10 Downing Street
Her speech was very leadership like.  Standing outside Downing Street confronted with the world’s press she said she pledged to unite the country and “fight burning injustice in British society” saying “We will build a better Britain not just for the privileged few”. That sounds very socialist to me yet at the same time with her Cabinet appointments she’s taken a turn towards the right. As she spoke and you can watch and listen to her here, I couldn’t help but be reminded of her predecessor, the first woman PM, Margaret Thatcher. In the latter’s maiden speech she said something strikingly similar: “Where there is discord, let us bring harmony”.  There were some similarities in the way she spoke and, from what I can see of her character, like “Maggie” she can be described as a “difficult woman” too.
Theresa May making her maiden speech outside 10 Downing Street on Wednesday
But the real news of the day was a complete surprise.  Just a while later Theresa Mayappointed Boris Johnson of all man to be head of the Foreign Office.  He was supposedly her arch enemy and is a buffoon of a man if ever there was one. He is famous for his politically incorrect gaffes on the world stage and always seems to put his foot in it.
Boris Johnson the new head of the Foreign Office, unvelievable
How can a man like him be Britain’s number one emissary? The man who joked that the President of Turkey had had sex with a goat, called Hillary Clinton a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital” or described Barack Obama as a “part Kenyan who harboured an ancestral dislike of Britian” is going to represent Britain on the world stage. I can’t believe it. In just one stroke that day, at least for me, Theresa May lost all credibility.  She then went on to dismiss most of Cameron’s men, and even appoint her opponent Andrea Leadstrom.  Maybe she wants her enemies close.  She has disappointed me in appointing 15 men and only 8 women; just one more woman than Cameron.  For the moment I and most of the world are very cross with her decision to appoint Boris Johnson head of the Foreign Office.  Thankfully he will not be directly responsible for the negotiations for withdrawing from Europe but he will no doubt, continue his gaffes and continue to embarrass Britain on the world’s stage.  I cannot believe it.

On Thursday I spent the morning scouting locations with my events team. We were looking for a nice cozy outdoor terrace location to hold next week’s press breakfast.  I think we have found it in Hacienda Warehouse.  It’s a funny name but a nice Yoigo like place.

We hadn’t seen Olivia for more than a week and on Thursday she brightened up our evening.  She was to be doing a live report from Boadilla about a woman carer who stole money from her employers and abandoned their children; something she had done on 7 similar occasions.  As Boadilla is so near, Oli decided to come home for dinner with us and to spend the night.  I was so pleased and got into quick action making preparations for dinner.  I went to pick her up and to see her doing the live report, on a hill overlooking the palace. Here she is in the middle of it and she was pitch perfect in her description of the crime.
Olivia reporting live from Boadilla on Thursday evening. I went to see her in action.  
We had a super dinner together and she spent time talking to my Father and to Salud, our home help who is very fond of her. 

There was also time for breakfast together on Friday morning.  She was happy to see Pippa as you can see in the picture below.
Oli with Pippa at breakfast at home on Friday morning
But breakfast on Friday, was spoiled by the dreadful news from France.  Thursday was 14th July and Bastille Day or the Fête Nationale Française when the whole country parties.  The party was spoiled by terrorism, by a bloodbath most likely at the hands of the Daesh.  The crowd was located on the famous Promenade des Anglais just after a huge firework display.  The lorry drove right into it killing and wounding men women and children as if they were skittles. The terrorist then started to aim gunfire at them until the police retaliated and finally shot him down. 
The terrorist lorry that killed so many people in Nice on Bastille Day
The toll was 84 dead and God knows how many injured.  The world reeled at the news.  How could this happen in beautiful Nice on the French Riviera on Bastille Day? The taking of the Bastille happened during the French Revolution on 14th July 1789.  From the revolution comes the French motto, attributed to Maximilien Robespierre, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”.  In the original motto the words “ou la mort” (or death) were added but removed later. 
The original French motto.  Ou la mort was eventually removed.
The terrorist lorry attack certainly brought death with it when the nation was celebrating its famous tripartite motto. How ironic!!

I immediately thought of my nephew Mario who has been living in Nice this year but thankfully returned to Spain recently.  I also thought of the times I had stayed in Nice when I worked for Nokia and the Mobile World Congress was celebrated in Cannes.  I always stayed on the Promenade des Anglais and once I was a guest at Nice’s most famous and wonderful hotel, Le Negresco.  There I had breakfast one year with Cynthia, the girls’ French friend from the N-Gage Tour training they did with Nokia in Finland. She reminded me of that this morning on Facebook.  Of course I remember that.  Little could I have expected then that a terrorist attack of this magnitude would ever happen there?  But it did.  My heart goes out to the victims, their families and friends and to France, that wonderful country which is so much at threat from fanatical Islamic terrorism.  Where is it going to happen next?

In the morning I was busy with more preparations for next week's press conference but the afternoon was mine for taking. I spent it by the pool with my kindle and surrounded by the dogs whilst Eladio mowed the two small lawns.

An afternoon by the pool in July chilling out.  No better place to be!
Last night we had a dinner date in Madrid and Olivia was joining us.  She had a live report in town late and would be coming home with us afterwards to spend the weekend.  Joy of joys!
Dinner was at La Bodega de Luis near the Bernabeu stadium on their very nice terrace. Ludi my friend and organiser of the dinner had booked a table with a cool new app called Club Kviar.  The dinner was with Ludi, her famous and lovely husband Pedro Delgado of cycling fame and Carlos de Andrés the TVE commentator for cycling.  Both of them are right now commentating on the race daily from Madrid - gone are the days they spent 3 weeks following it.   It was fun to hear their opinions on Chris Froome, the British leader of the race who fell off his bike two stages ago and had to walk to the finish. Here I am below with my two cycling friends from many years back. 
Dinner last night was with my cycling day friends, the current commentators for TVE on cycling, Carlos de Andrés and famed ex cyclist and Tour de France winner, Pedro Delgado.
Whilst we were having dinner we heard that there had been an attempted coup in Turkey by the Army, frustrated with the authoritarian rule of Erdogan (I bet Boris Johnson is regretting his joke about him and the goat!).
Sinister images are emerging from last night's attempted coup in Turkey
It is and it was no joke as many died last night and many were injured.  As I write now on Saturday morning the information coming out of Turkey is confusing.  Hopefully democratic rule will prevail.  I mean if Turkey aspires to join the EU, the coup will not reflect well on its reputation.  I was astounded to hear such a thing could happen in these times but maybe I shouldn't  as we live in a very crazy world right now.

Now I will leave you.  It is Saturday morning but today we have a family lunch. Toño and Dolores will be bringing my Mother-in-law to stay with us for two weeks and of course Oli is here too and I want to spend as much time as I can with her both today and tomorrow.

So folks, happy weekend and more news of life here next week.

Cheers till then,

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