Saturday, August 20, 2016

33 years ago, farewell Montrondo, home again, more on the Rio Olympics, Suzy moved to Hoxton, holidays in Santa Pola, the boy in the ambulance, visit of Toño and Dolores, the Queen of Badminton, shopping with Jackie and other stories..

Sunday 21st August 2016
Eladio and I on the lighthouse cliffs at sunset on Friday evening
Good morning all.

Today is a very special day.  It is our 33rd wedding anniversary.  We are here at our beach flat in Gran Alacant near Santa Pola which we bought 17 years ago.  We don’t come often but when we do it is like a home away from home. It badly needs some redecoration so I have thoughts of things I need to bring next time from Ikea to spruce it up a bit.  Also there is a lot of old junk, tins of stuff and general clutter that I really must get rid of.

Now back to our anniversary today.  Little did I know 33 years ago, the day I married my Spanish husband and ex priest, Eladio from the modest rural village of Montrondo high in the mountains of North West Spain, that I would have such a happy married life.  Of course we have our ups and downs, who doesn’t? But on the whole I really think I won the lottery of marriage.  All I can say is that I look forward to many more years together, maybe not 33 but who knows as Eladio, who is 12.5 years older than me, is in very good shape and just doesn’t look his age. 

Here we are on our wedding day on 21st August 1983
On our wedding day 33 years ago today
And here we are 33 years later, a month or so ago at Miguel and Claudia’s wedding.  We have aged of course but I like to think that we have done so gracefully.
Eladio and I 33 years later
Happy anniversary my darling, let’s celebrate in style tonight as we do every year.  One thing I learned very early on in marriage is that you have to keep the flame of love forever burning and one way of kindling the fire is going out for romantic dinners together.  I have booked a table tonight at a famous restaurant in Alicante that I have always wanted to go to.  It’s called Nou Manolín. I hope it lives up to our expectations.  Well, I shall tell you whether it did or not in next week’s post.

Last week’s post was published the day we were leaving after our 2 week stay in Montrondo. I spent most of the morning washing sheets and clothes, ironing, cleaning and making our lunch. We had Pili and Eladio’s mother as guests that day which was unusual but very pleasant.  We left at 5.45 with a heavy heart.  We have never spent so long there before building our house; a house we have both fallen in love with.  This was the last photo I took of the village just before we got into the car.  It was to be farewell Montrondo and not goodbye as we shall be going back again and again.  Our next trip there is scheduled for September.
Montrondo last Sunday the day we left
We were home by 9.30 p.m. and found everything in perfect order.  It’s very reassuring to have someone like Salud, our home help, who is more like a house keeper really as she runs the house and looks after my Father as if the house were hers.  It was much hotter in Madrid – over 30c at 9 in the evening and our room would have been like a sauna but dear Salud had switched on the air conditioning for us.  The best thing about being home was sleeping in our own bed (I find the mattress in Montrondo too hard) and watching House of Cards seamlessly on Netflix!

Monday was a bank holiday in Spain (Santiago).  Oli was in Valencia with Miguel and there was no news from the girls. I was awake at 6 but thankfully fell asleep again until 7.30, quite a record.

It was great to see my Father again and to hear from him how well he had been looked after by Salud.  As soon as I had fed the dogs and had my first cup of coffee I printed out my two last blog posts for him to read.  He was waiting for them, I knew, and later he told me he was impressed with my climb up the Tambarón Peak.  When I was a child, he used to call me his “little Moors’ girl”, when he would take George and I every weekend to climb Ilkley Moor.  I think I used to go more for the sweets afterwards than anything else hahah.  But being a walker and climber himself in his younger days, I know he was happy to hear about our trek up the mountains last week.

On Monday Andy Murray won the gold medal at the men’s single tennis final in the Río Olympics.  That’s his second medal.  England is doing so well in the medal rankings, second after the US with 66 medals, 27 of them gold.  In the London Olympics in 2012 they had a total of 65 (29 gold) coming third in the medal table.  This has been a great achievement for team GB. Well done little England! 
The medal table on Sunday morning

I’m very proud of Great Britain.  However, my sympathies lie more with Spain my adopted country where I have lived since 1982; more than half my life.
Andy Murray after winning gold at the Olympics at Rio in the men's singles tennis final
I wanted Rafa Nadal to win.  He won the Men’s doubles but was drained and lost the match for the bronze medal.  Meanwhile Usain Bolt was the fastest man in the Games. It was history for Usain Bolt who this week claimed  gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay races for Jamaica, adding to the those won in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.  He thus completed, I think, an unprecedented Olympic “treble triple”. Afterwards he said, “I am the greatest” which reminded me of Cassius Clay (sorry Mohammed Ali).

Usain Bolt - happy after his treble triple win at Rio
Michael Phelps though is the King of the Olympics. He announced his retirement this week after winning 5 gold medals and 1 silver in this year’s edition.  The American swimmer is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all times with a total of 28 medals.

Being back home meant back to routine.  So on Monday morning we went for our walk with the dogs.  Norah and Elsa were in much need of the exercise. 

After lunch with my Father, I spent the afternoon by the pool.  It was so hot I was in and out of the water most of the time. When I was out of it I spent my time reading a book about Cliveden, a stately home near Windsor built by the Astor family.  I read the biography of Rosina Harrison, a young girl from Yorkshire who became maid to Lady Nancy Aston, the American born and Britain’s first woman member of Parliament.
A book I enjoyed this week
“The lady’s maid; my life in service” made fascinating reading.  The Astons were part of the “Cliveden set” (The Cliveden Set were a 1930s, upper class group of prominent individuals politically influential in pre-World War II Britain, who were in the circle of Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor. The name comes from Cliveden, the stately home in Buckinghamshire, which was then Astor's country residence) later known for their involvement in the infamous Profumo – Keeler affair (sex spies and political scandal) in the early 60’s.  I was a child when it happened but I remember my Mother naming the pigs she had at our home in Ruskington (Lincolnshire) after the two call girls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. She even called one of them Nikita after Nikita Khrushchev, saying he looked like a pig anyway hahaha.  That was my Mother’s great sense of humour.

The book about life at Cliveden and with the Astors has inspired me to visit the gardens there with Suzy when I go to London next week.  It’s very near Windsor and looks a fabulous location.
Cliveden Stately home and gardens in Buckinghamshire
On Tuesday I went for a walk on my own, leaving Eladio to mow the lawn which was in dire need after 2 weeks away. 
A selfie on my walk on Tuesday morning
When I came back he had nearly finished and I must say the garden was looking great. Thankfully the irrigation system gave no problems during our absence.
Eladio mowing the lawn on Tuesday morning
That morning I did the food shopping as the cupboards were getting bare at home and also I had to shop for our trip to Santa Pola the next day.

In the afternoon I accompanied Eladio to the hospital.  In recent blood tests a high level of ferritin had been detected.  That is the protein that contains iron.  He has had a scan which showed all his organs are ok and now he is having a gene test done.  Meanwhile the doctor prescribed him therapeutic phlebotomy (extraction of the blood). That afternoon they were to extract 400ml of his blood. The idea behind this is that the new blood that is formed will use the extra ferritin in his body to do so. 
Eladio's phlebotomy session on Tuesday afternoon at the Quiron Hospital
I drove him back as he might have felt weak after the bloodletting session but he was fine.  The whole thing was a little scary because it took place in the cancer ward where we saw so many people receiving chemotherapy.  It made us feel so blessed.  I do hope we get to the bottom of why his ferritin blood level is so high soon.  We shall get the results of the gene test in a month’s time after which he will have an appointment with the doctor to see what the final diagnosis is.  Cross your fingers ok.

The whole process took a while and we were home in the early evening.  At 8pm an Ukranian lady called Natasha came for an interview.  We are looking for someone to take care of my Father and the house whilst Salud goes on holiday in September.  This 53 year old elegant looking Slav lady was 1.85m tall and reminded both Eladio and myself of my Mother.  We immediately gave her the job. I look forward to her working with us as she seems a very interesting woman. 

It was on Tuesday afternoon that Spain garnered another gold medal. It was for canoeing again, this time sprint canoeing. 21 year old blonde and blue eyed Marcus Cooper Walz, who is actually half English and half German but raised in Mallorca, came first in the Men’s Kayak single 1000 metres.  I wondered why he was in the Spanish team. In his interview with TVE he looked completely English or German but spoke perfect Spanish.  Later I read in an another interview that he said his heart was Spanish as although he was born in Oxford he has lived in Spain since he was born. In a way I feel a bit like him; more Spanish than English after living more years of my life here than in the country where I was born.  I was happy both for him and for Spain.
Marcus Cooper Walz - victory sign after wining the 1000 metre canoe sprint for Spain at the Rio Olympics
There was yet another medal for Spain that day.  It was for another adopted Spaniard, Orlando Ortega from Cuba. He won the silver medal in the 110 m hurdles.  I read he defected from Cuba at the last Olympics.  Funnily enough when he won the medal he was handed a Cuban flag and he had to hurriedly look for and find a Spanish one to celebrate the first medal in athletics for Spain.
Orlando Ortega sprinting  for Spain - the Cuban athlete won a silver medal for Spain in the 110 m hurdle race.
Meanwhile in London, Suzy was moving from Camden to the East End.  A sort of move down but I hear the East End is getting very fashionable these days.  She is moving to a new flat in Hoxton near Hackney of Hackney Cab fame I wonder? Here she is with all her stuff.
Suzy moved houses again this week - this time she will be living in Hoxton near Hackney
I will see the flat when I go to see her next week. She has now lived in Whitechapel, Canada Water, South Bermondsey and Camden and this will be her 5th move. 

On Wednesday Eladio and I set off for Santa Pola at 10 in the morning with our car full of beach stuff and food to last for a while (I hate food shopping when I am here). With just one stop on the way, we were here by 14.30. 

After a quick lunch of heated up leftovers of “spag bol”, we were interrupted by the gas man.  He comes every year (a different one hahaha) to check it out and we always have problems with the pressure of the water for the hot water to work. I don’t really care as it is so hot in August I am happy with a cold shower.

It was great to be here again. As I said at the beginning it is a home away from home.
The view of the bay of Alicante from our flat in Santa Pola
I spent that afternoon writing this post whilst Eladio rested.  I also dealt with my emails.  I was surprised to get a threatening one from Club Kviar an online restaurant booking service which said that if I didn't use it in in the next 10 days they would automatically unsubscribe me.  I often use Trip Advisor and The Fork and have never received threatening emails from them. Whoever runs the service has a bad strategy; especially warning people in the month of August when many of us are on holiday.  Well I won't be using the app anymore which, by the way sucks,  and will happily continue to use The Fork. 

At 7 pm when most people are leaving the beach after a whole day there, we made our way to it.  We try to avoid the midday sun and crowds, preferring to go when it is cooler and when it is easier to park. The beach we go to is in Arenales del Sol and belongs to Elche.  Recently there was news of a man bitten by a suspected shark on that very beach, our beach; fancy!  We didn’t see any sharks fortunately but I have to report that during our first bathe of the summer Eladio was bitten on his arm by something we never saw.  We suspect it was a jelly fish.  It didn’t seem to affect him much and said it felt like a nettle sting.  That made me a bit wary afterwards.

The beach was full, as full as I’ve ever seen it.  Of course this is high season.  That didn’t stop us going on a long walk to the end where people go fishing. Here is a selfie to record the moment.
On the beach with Eladio on Wednesday evening
We left the beach when the sun was about to go down, just before 9pm.  Eladio came up for a shower but I always like to go to the pool after swimming in the sea and before coming home.  That evening I had it to myself which was a luxury.
I had the swimming pool to myself on Wednesday evening when we came back from the beach
We watched more of House of Cards that night, this time on my pc using a Yoigo 4G modem which gave great reception.  We must get a smart TV adapter for our television set one day. Meanwhile the pc is the perfect alternative.

I didn’t sleep badly on our first night. Thankfully the apartment is quite cool as it is on a cliff overlooking the sea and there is always a breeze.  I was up at 6.25 on Thursday morning and decided to go for a sunrise walk to the nearby light house.  The walk there and back takes about 1 hour.  I had the place to myself again.
On my sunrise walk to the lighthouse cliffs early on Thursday morning
I always admire the views from the high cliffs overlooking the beach and the sight of the small island of Tabarca on the horizon.
The view from the light house cliffs - you can just spot the small island of Tabarca on the horizon.
I came back to find Eladio cleaning the windows.  That is a job I hate. I got on with making breakfast and let him finish the job hahaha.  On my walk I had spied the local market being set up just across the road from here so later we would visit it to buy fruit and veg.

At around midday we went to take a tour of the market.  There were the usual Chinese made fake shoes and clothes and the same stuff you see in markets the world round. None of this really interested us.  However this market sells excellent local fruit and veg at budget prices and it's well worth shopping for it here.
The fruit stall at the market in Gran Alacant where we bought some excellent local  produce
That was the stall we bought most of our fruit and vegetables at and here is Eladio standing next to it.
Eladio at the market on Thursday morning
From the market we went to have a coffee at a new ice cream parlour opposite our block of flats, Antiu Xixona, a local brand which I have always loved.  We also stopped at Quicksave, the British supermarket next door to get water and sundries.  Here I spoke to the British owner who after many years in Spain still does not speak the lingo. However he has multilingual staff and it was nice to talk to a Russian girl who is married to a Moldovan and speaks great English and Spanish.  As usual when I meet a Russian out come some faltering words from me as I try to connect and tell him or her that my Mother was Russian. I do regret her not having brought me up to speak the language.  It's very frustrating.  

Once back at the flat we put all our purchases away and I washed the fruit and put it in a bowl.  I must say the thick black cherries make it look most appealing.  The fruit at this time of year in the area of Alicante is superb.
The fruit from the market
Just as we were having lunch on Thursday there was more good news for Spanish sport at the Olympics.  Carolina Marín, the Queen of badminton, was through to the final which guarantees this country another medal, hopefully a gold one.  Then there was another gold medal for canoeing again.  I had no idea Spain was good at this sport which I used to practice pathetically with the Girl Guides. This time it was for the K2 200 sprint doubles and the champions were Saul Craviotto and Cristian Toro.  
Another gold medal for Spain in canoeing. 
The news that day at lunchtime was all about Spanish politics and whether the parties can come to an agreement for the conservative party led by Mariano Rajoy to form a government, albeit a minority one or whether we will have to suffer a third general election in the autumn.  I didn't really listen to the newsreader. But I did listen when I heard about the "boy in the ambulance", a story which touched my heart and most of the online world too.

The image of 5 year old Omran Daqneesh covered in dust and blood and sitting in an ambulance, after a bombardment in the sieged city of Aleppo in Syria, shows the horror of the war there, a war we are no longer interested in but a war that goes on and kills and maims people daily. 
5 year old Omran, the boy in the ambulance
He looks so bewildered, lost, scared and alone, he is the epitome of the suffering of innocent men, women and children in this war torn country.  My heart goes out to him and I hope his family survived and he is reunited with them soon. 

José Antonio and Dolores were coming to stay with us on Thursday and would be with us for dinner.  They arrived at about 9pm and we greeted them with open arms.  They hadn't been to our flat since 2000 the year after we had bought it.  I made a Swedish dinner for everyone; salad made with lettuce, avocado, smoked salmon, prawns and boiled egg garnished with mayonnaise.

It was lovely to have company and after dinner we sat on our breezy terrace chatting until midnight.

On Friday our regime changed. We all agreed to get up early and head off to the beach after breakfast.  We were there by 8.15, the best time of day.  Below are Eladio and Toño walking down the wooden walkway to the Arenales del Sol beach.

The two brothers Toño and Eladio walking down to the beach on Friday morning
The beach was practically empty and we were the first to place our chairs and parasol.
The beach at 8 in the morning, the best time to go - our flat is above the cliffs in the distance
Eladio and I had a quick bathe and then the 4 of us marched along the beach for a morning walk.  We love this natural beach with dunes and thankfully no ugly buildings.

We stayed for an hour or two, reading and bathing again until we decided to leave before the hordes came and the sun became too hot.
Dolores and José Antonio on the beach on Friday morning
Dolores who is a great fan of Lidl wanted to shop there.  So we left Toño and Dolores shopping and we came back. I went straight to the pool to get rid of the sand and enjoy the water.  
Enjoying the pool after a bathe in the sea on Friday morning
The pool was practically empty; I had it almost to myself again.  I also sat on the grass in the shade taking in the lovely view.
The view from the pool
I came home to have a proper shower and then we set about making our lunch. It was to be bacalhau a bras, my new dish.

We spent the afternoon idly.  I carried on reading my book about the history of Cliveden. Meanwhile at the Olympics, 21 year old Carolina Marin of Spain was playing the women's badminton final against India's Sindhu Pusarla after having beaten Li Xuerui the Chinese former gold medalist in the semi final.  Carolina Marin is the current world champion (2014 and 2015) and the top player in the world.  If Michael Phelps is the King of the Olympics and Usain Bolt the fastest man in the world, this young girl from Huelva is the Queen of Badminton. For the record she won 19-21 21-12 21-5.  
Carolina Marin the Queen of Badminton
Ok so badminton is not swimming or athletics you may say. But her medal and status in the sport is extraordinary as there is no tradition for badminton in Spain and it has always been dominated by countries from South East Asia.  Carolina broke that tradition quite a while ago. She is not a prophet in her own land.  In Spain she can walk the streets unnoticed, but in China for example she is a famous sportsperson.  Well done Carolina, your gold medal is a huge victory for all the effort you have put into this sport.  Now you are famous in Spain.  It took a while eh?

The gold medal that most impressed me this this week came from 58 year old Olympic veteran Nick Skelton who won the individual show jumping for Great Britain on Friday. Wow, he is the oldest participant in the GB team and must be one of the most senior in the Games. Skelton is the oldest Briton ever to have won a gold medal.  His win in this discipline is also a first for GB.  But I was more interested to know about his horse Big Star; after all show jumping is a sport for man and his equestrian companion. 

Nick Skelton wearing his gold medal after winning the individual show jumping race for Great Britain
Big Star, described by Horse and Hound as the "run away train", is a 13 year old stallion who loves his job.  He "neighs" and "whinnies" as soon as he spots a fence and apparently just loves what he does.  His happy owner said of him: "He is an absolutely amazing horse. He has all the right attributes and he is the best horse I am ever likely to have. Asked whether he would retire after his triumph, he replied: "I only ride Big Star at the moment. When he stops, I will stop. For definite. I hope Big Star gets to celebrate too with more than a few lumps of sugar hahaha. 
Big Star Nick Skelton's winning horse
Life continued in Santa Pola. We stayed on the terrace in the afternoon to avoid the heat. Just before sunset we took Toño and Dolores on a long and strenuous walk to the lighthouse cliffs and far beyond.  It was an amazing evening.  The photo illustrating this week's post is of Eladio and I by the cliffs overlooking the island of Tabarca. 
Eladio, Dolores and Toño on the pier near the lighthouse 
On Saturday Dolores and I had a girly date.  Jackie, my friend from years back when we were children in Yorkshire (Bradford), who lives not too far from here was coming to pick us up in the morning.  She arrived at 10 on the dot and after greetings in our flat, the 3 women went off to Guardamar.  My dear friend took us to the port (La Marina) where we sat having coffee and chatting for a good hour and a half.  It's always great to see her and we had tons to say to each other I think we must have felt like machine guns talking to my sister-in-law Dolores.  Whilst at the port we had to have photos to record the reunion. Dolores kindly took this one of the two of us.
With Jackie at La Marina (Guardamar) on Saturday morning.
From there Jackie drove us to the English shop she wanted to show me; "Pick 'n' Pay" (next to the crematorium hahaha, as is printed on their business card). But first we spied a second hand shop with English goods.  Dolores is a sucker for such establishments and we just had to go in.  
Dolores at the second hand shop in Guardamar on Saturday
Most of the stuff was so kitsch it was just fun to look at.  No we didn't find anything there that we fancied. But we did find lots of things to stock up on at the English supermarket.  Here Dolores and I bought boxes and boxes of meringue nests.
The English supermarket in Guardamar
Apart from the meringue I bought imperial leather soap, Indian naan bread, polos (for my Father), "utterly butterly" low fat butter, Paxo sage and onion stuffing as well as some glittery birthday cake candles. 
From left to right: Jackie, me and Dolores coming out of the British supermarket in Guardamar on Saturday
As we drove back to Gran Alacant past Santa Pola I couldn't help but admire the views on either side of the road of the salt mines and lagoons with pink flamingos. The latter was like a scene out of Africa. We must go back there one day and take a proper look and some photos of course. 

We were home at 1, just as the two brothers were back from shopping for fruit and the newspaper.  We said our goodbyes to Jackie, hoping that soon she and John will come and visit us in Madrid. Jackie, please make that happen.  Ah and thank you so much for taking us out.  It was a memorable reunion and wonderful "girly" morning. I hope you enjoy featuring in this week's post:-) 

After our siestas and reading sessions, it was time for another trip down to the beach for a bathe and a long walk.  We went at 6.30 and it was overcrowded.  After all it was a Saturday in August!  But we still enjoyed a bathe and a long walk on the beach.

Last night was our fish and chip night. We wanted to introduce Toño and Dolores to "Darby's Chippy" in Gran Alacant. It is run by a delightful Scottish couple and John the husband is a reader of my blog.  We asked for normal sized portions and this is what we got hahaha.
Fish and chips at Darby's Chippy last night
The quality of John's fish and chips is equal to any such top establishment in the UK; the equipment coming from Leeds!

"Pudding was a mini magnum each on our terrace at home; the perfect end to a perfect day!

And today is Sunday and I was awake at 6.20.  It's going to be another great day; our 33rd anniversary as I mentioned when I started this post.  I look forward to our celebration dinner tonight at Nou Manolin

I was delighted just now to read that Spain had garnered another gold medal and this time for athletics.  37 year old Ruth Beitia had won gold in the Long Jump.  Wow that is a big achievement as Spain does not usually excell in athletics.  Here she is celebrating her amazing victory at what will be her last Olympics. That is a great end to her Oympian career!  
Ruth Beitia wins gold for Spain in the high jump at the Rio Olympics
And now I will love you and leave you and get on with making breakfast for everyone as this morning we want to go down to the beach early, ahead of all the people.

Wishing you a great Sunday and week ahead, all the best


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