Sunday, September 11, 2016

Home again, nice to have my daughter Oli back, Mother Theresa beatified; a brand became a saint, sizzling Spain, my villages on fire, Apple removes sockets for headphones, Facebook bans iconic war photo, an international 50th birthday party and other stories.

Sunday 11th September, 2016
With friends, colleagues and ex colleagues at Bea's 50th birthday party on Saturday night
Hi everyone,

It’s another Sunday and blog time.  It’s not just any Sunday it’s the 15th anniversary of the attack on the twin towers in New York, the worst terrorist attack in history.  Who doesn’t remember what they were doing when it happened?  So many more terrorist attacks have happened since.  When will it come to an end?  I read on Saturday that Putin and Obama have come to an agreement on the war in Syria but will that really stop ISIS?  I think not.  I also think about the refugees of that war and from other violent areas in the world and feel for them.  Still there is no solution for them whilst they wait in Calais and in camps all over Europe.  Anne Frank’s family was once in the same situation and it came to light recently that her Father had written to US authorities begging for an entry visa that never came.  Sadly we know what happened to them.  Can’t the rich western world wake up and help the refugees today?

In my little micro world of peace, life goes on and my Anne Frank loving daughter, Oli, was back in the arms of her family last Saturday.  We hadn’t seen her since the end of July.  She had been working of course and I was away.  Wow wasn’t it wonderful to hold her in my arms.  We spent the day together.  I made bacalhau a bras for lunch which she loved.
My bacalhau a bras last Sunday
It’s now a firm favourite in our lunch menus these days.  It was so hot – more on that later – that the only place to be that afternoon was by the pool. We both swam and of course Pippa came in the water with me, although only up to her neck.  Both of us were reading. 
Eladio reading by the pool last Saturday afternoon after a refreshing bathe
My choice that day was Julain Fellowe’s Belgravia.  It’s not bad, very easy reading but I was expecting so much more and was a little disappointed.

Who weren’t disappointed that afternoon were the many Catholics around the world who were celebrating Pope Francis’ beatification of Mother Theresa.  She was headline news all weekend.  I mean, who hasn’t heard of her? Most revere her.  I did too and remember reading a biography of hers many years ago.  I loved the photo of her with Lady Diana and generally thought she was a saint in life, picking up and caring for the down and out and dying in the streets of Calcutta. 
Mother Theresa is now a saint but did she really deserve the beatification?
She became a household name, she got the Nobel Prize, she was photographed with famous people wanting to hang around with her and be seen as do gooders like her but she also reveled in poverty and in suffering.  I read that she once told a suffering man that he was being kissed by Jesus to which he replied please ask him to stop kissing me. Christopher Hitchens called her a “fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud”.  I’m not sure she was that bad but she has her critics who doubt the miracles she is supposed to have performed and who say she got her funding often from corrupt politicians and that despite the amount of money her order had, those dying or in pain were not looked after professionally and were not administered the medicines they often badly needed. Some even say she performed forced Christian baptisms on dying Indians.  Personally I think she is the best PR product or brand the RC church has and they are exploiting it to enhance the image of their damaged and declining institution.  I also wonder what the victims of pedophile Catholic priests would have to say about Mother Theresa becoming a saint.  My final words on her question her humility.  If humility is a nun’s vow maybe becoming a saint is not the best way to fulfill it.  However, the Catholic Church needs someone like her, hence the fast tracking of her sainthood and how a brand became a saint. 

Sunday came and brought with it another heat wave.  In the afternoon I joined Oli on a shopping expedition for a colleague’s birthday party.  She took me later to an ice cream parlour called Manolo in Majadahonda and just walking there from the car felt like walking in an open air sauna.  Oli enjoyed an horchata (tiger nut drink from Valencia) whilst I had a small scoop of mint chocolate  of ice cream to cool off.

As soon as we were home, the first thing we did was rush to the pool. It was 39ºc at 8 at night!! We were joined by the dogs as we always are. 
Oli in the pool last Sunday with the dogs around her
Then suddenly to our delight, Elsa, our lab, spontaneously walked into the water to swim with Olivia.  You might think that is the most natural thing in the world for a lab and it is except for Elsa.  Over the years we have coaxed her in many times but have only achieved success when throwing in a ball. Well there was no ball on Sunday, she just wanted to cool off I guess.  I caught her on camera and here she is.
Elsa in the pool with Oli last Sunday
Meanwhile in London, Suzy had finally got round to buying a new bike after hers was stolen a few months ago from the garden of her house (she had failed to lock it up).  Since then she has been using Barclay or Santander bikes which cost 2 pounds per 24 hours and it was time to get a new one.  And this is it, a lovely vehicle she got from Decathlon with a discount from a friend who works there.  Suzy cycles everywhere in London and I admire her for it.
Suzy's new bike
Just as I was getting into bed that night to enjoy one of the last episodes of season 3 of House of Cards, Pippa beat me to it.  You will not be surprised to hear that her favourite place is in between my two pillows.  I tried telling her they were mine to no avail of course.  She just loves that place hahahaha.  Eladio tells me that when I am away  that is where she always sleeps.
Pippa in between my two pillows, her favourite spot in our bed
Oli had spent the night with us on Sunday as she wasn't going in to work until 12.30 on Mondy morning.  Thus she joined us on our walk with the dogs.  Later we would say goodbye until Friday.  Eladio and I had to rush off to take my Father to the dentist.  He swears he swallowed his dentures but Dr. Garralda, our favourite family dentist, who is drop dead gorgeous looking by the way in a similar sense to Eladio, said that was impossible.  After examining my Father he very kindly recommended we leave him alone and do not submit him to wearing a  new denture which would be loose in his mouth and that he will end up not wearing.  So off we went, relieved in a way.  My Father's response was "well I'll manage" and he does.  I told Dr. Garralda that he has no problem eating chocolates and biscuits without the denture hahahaha.

The heat continued and Spain was literally sizzling but more frighteningly it was burning too in many places with  forest fires that were often provoked by arson. Most were in the Valencia and Alicante region including the famous sea side resort Javea where Eladio and I once spent a dirty weekend many years ago (don't be shocked!).
The wildfire in Javea this week
It was on Monday night that Eladio and I finished watching Season 3 of House of Cards.  Oh what an ending! Now we felt bereft as we have become addicted.  I am furious seasons 4 and 5 are not available on Netflix Spain. I proposed ordering them on Amazon but Eladio told me to wait.  However, it's his birthday soon isn't it?  So, we may not have to wait that long now.
We finished Season 3 of House of Cards this week and are now missing Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. 
Our house wasn't on fire on Tuesday but sizzling.  I mean that day I noticed our bedroom temperature was 30ºc. There's no way you can sleep in that heat.  Thankfully we have air conditioning and a lamp fan but I feel for those who don't.  In the sun that day it reached 51ºc in Seville, a record I think for September or probably all time.  Is this all because of global warming? I am no expert but suspect it is.
Talk about sizzling, it was 51ºc on this thermometer in Seville this week
I was stunned to hear that morning that there were forest fires in my villages of all places. My villages are Callosa where my Mother bought a house in the early 70's and in Bolulla where my Aunt did, as well as Tárbena a bit further up the mountainous road, all inland from the Costa Blanca.  That day the Bolulla fire was the first item reported on the lunch time TV national news.  It's such a small place it was amazing to see the media attention it was getting.  It must have been awful for the inhabitants, just over 400, 100 of whom were evacuated.  

Bolulla on fire this week, my village
It took days for it to be under control.  I could only imagine the devastation it caused, especially to the orange and lemon groves, the main source of living for the village.  I felt for the people and my beautiful "teen-hood" summer village.  The road was cut off and even the beautiful Fuentes de Algar were closed to the public.  I well remember one summer a forest fire in Bolulla where we were all terrified but the one this week has been a lot worse.  When we were there recently, Paco, "el sacristán", a retired orange grower told us it hadn't rained for 3 years in Bolulla, hence the raging fire.  It has been attributed to a barbecue held by a group of Germans but that has not been confirmed.  Thankfully it is over now but it still leaves more than 600 hectares of burnt land which will take decades to grow again.  Now the worst area in Spain for the wildfires is beautiful Galicia.  They say 90% of the fires are caused by arson.  That's a lot.  

Again the only place to be this week was in air conditioning or by the pool. It was on Tuesday that I finished reading a book called No Second Chance by a new author for me, Harlan Coben who is not new at all; it's just that I had never heard of him. 
A new author for me, Harlan Coben
To quote the net, "Harlan Coben is an American author of mystery novels and thrillers. The plots of his novels often involve the resurfacing of unresolved or misinterpreted events in the past, murders, fatal accidents and have multiple twists". I came across him when I saw the first episode of a French TV series based on the book. I had missed the successive episodes and unable to watch it online or buy the dvd, I opted to read the book and wow I am impressed.  Each page is a cliff hanger and the twists are so good.  

What was not so good was the original British version of The House of Cards made in the 90's which we started watching that night on Netflix.  We soon fell asleep and won't be watching any more of it. The US version is far superior.  

Wednesday saw me in the office for the first time in a while. I had various errands to conduct and it was nice seeing people again. 

Once work was out of the way that day, I sat in the sizzling shade by the pool, taking a dip every now again whilst reading my second novel by Harlan Coben called Tell No One and it's good I can tell you (that's two "tells" in once sentence hahahaha). But that's all I'm telling you as the book says "tell no one" hahahaha.
My second novel by Harlan Coben
One of the reasons for going into the office was because of a problem with the sim card in my iPad.  I love my iPad but am not really a fan of iPhones. My favourite brand is Samsung and I use an S7 Galaxy Edge.  I would die for the new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 but this week there has been a recall - something unique in the industry- apparently because some of them have blown up. That must have been crushing for Samsung.

But it was Apple who stole the stage on Wednesday.  They were launching yet another look alike iPhone, this time the number 7. It doesn't do anything much different from the previous models but the company did something very stupid. It did away with the socket for the headphone or what is called the headphone jack.  They then announced you have to use the new phone with their new cordless air pods or ear pods which come at a price of 159 usd!  So they want to make even more money out of you, maybe to help pay the taxes they have been evading in Europe. Who knows?
Apple's new air pods which some say look like toothbrushes.

Well I won't be buying either but the sheep out there will.  However, soon they will realise the disadvantages.  I agree with The Guardian when it said it's "like a tampon without a string", easy to lose of course. I, for one, hate putting anything in my ears and when I want to listen to music, well I use good quality non wireless head phones. With the new iPhone that won't be possible.  The disadvantages are endless; the price, easy to lose, need to be charged, and you can't listen to music and charge the phone at the same time or use other devices requiring the socket. Apple thinks they have been courageous in doing away with what they call "old technology". I totally disagree. Why do away with something which works perfectly well?   Please Samsung and the rest of you, don't follow suit ok. 

Netflix Spain's content is very limited compared to the US or the UK but after a bit of browsing that night, we found just the film for us.  It was Septembers of Shiraz, set during the Iranian Revolution in 1979 just as the Shah leaves and the fanatical Ayaytollah Khomeini takes over. 
One of the films we watched on Netflix this week

It stars Adrien Brody as a rich jeweler of Jewish origin who is imprisoned as an enemy of the new regime, how he gets out, loses all his wealth and finally escapes with his family to Turkey.  The film is loosely based on a real story which inspired Iranian Dalia Sofer to write the book of the same name.  Here is an interview with her which I found fascinating.  Sorry for the spoilers.  

Thursday was a quiet day. The temperatures were supposed to drop a few degrees and they did although it was still very warm with maximums of 35ºc or approximate. We were able to go on our normal morning walk in the fields rather than on the streets in the shade.  And here for the record is our dog walker, the one and only Eladio, my dear husband, with our 3 dogs.  
Eladio with our 3 dogs on the walk on Thursday morning
I should add he always takes the two big ones as I have a tendency to fall that you all know about and so just take little Pippa.  However for the photo he is with all three of them, God bless them. I bet some of you are thinking he should be riding a horse with his Marlboro man look.  That's just what I thought as I uploaded the photo too.

We read a lot and watched a lot of films this week and on Thursday night it was the turn of a film called Freedom Writers, a fascinating portrait of a disruptive classroom rife with violence and racism.  Their teacher, who wrote a book about her experiences, was able to bring them all round to form a close group and they would be the first in their families ever to finish high school or go on to university. Anna Frank comes up in the story too when Erin Gruwell, the young teacher, tells them the story of the Holocaust and gets them to read the famous teenager's diary. She even manages to invite Miep Gies to the school in Los Angeles all the way from Holland to tell them the story in person.  I think Erin deserves a big wow. 
Great film, great story.
Friday came and as usual I read the news on my iPad at breakfast. I usually read The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Well the story that made most impact on me that day came from Norway.  The main newspaper there denounced on its front page how Facebook censored and deleted the iconic photo of nine year old Kim Phuc fleeing from a napalm bomb in Vietnam. The photo was taken by Huynh Cong, more commonly known as "Nick Ut".  Furthermore the newspaper acused Facebook of abusing power.  I totally agree
The iconic photo that Facebook banned
The reason for deleting it comes from their prohibition of nude photos. Well come on Mark Zuckerberg, don't tell me you don't know the difference between porn and the world's most iconic war photo? That really sucks. Funnily enough Mark, your name, "Zuck" rhymes with "suck".  The internet world went up in arms and thankfully Facebook finally gave in and allowed the photo to be published.  It is yet another story of how Facebook censors our lives. Who are they to do so, the editors of the world?  No they are not. 

For the purpose of correctly documenting the information about the photo, I researched it a bit and was interested to read how that photo actually changed the life of Kim Phuc and I think that of her village; although her body was scarred forever from the burning bomb.
Kim Phuc, the 9 year old napalm bomb girl, as a grown up woman.
She is now married with two children and lives in Canada.  She travels the world to talk about the anger she felt and that she says, she left behind.  She also said that after years spent in internal pain, she forgave those who scarred her for life.  I will not forget her name and the picture is the living image of the horror of war.  I'm glad life turned out well for her, despite the horror she suffered as a child. Thanks also to  the famous photographer Nick Ut.  
It was not until after our walk on Friday morning that I heard about the train crash in the north of Spain, in Galicia.  
The train crash in O Porriño (Galicia) on route to OPorto on Friday morning
The Portuguese train on route from Vigo to Oporto derailed at a bridge in O Porriño just 12km after having left Vigo. The reasons are still not known.  Four people died including the driver and 48 were taken to hospital; none of them in danger of their lives.    The terrible news made us all remember the train accident in Santiago (Galicia) in July 2013 when 81 people died.  Olivia covered the tragedy for TVE and I know will never forget the worst story she has ever had to cover for television.  I saw the suffering on her face as she reported live and I have never seen her look so serious.  

That night we spoke about it of course when she came for dinner with Miguel.  I made a special dinner for both of them on the eve of their holidays; Oli's well deserved fortnight off after having worked all summer. We had a long drawn out lovely dinner on our patio outside and talked until late. 

They were leaving on Saturday morning after breakfast for the north and would be staying in various places in the regions of Santander (Cantabria) and Asturias. We won't see them again until Paula's wedding in Málaga at the end of September.

We said our goodbyes yesterday morning, just before our walk and spent the morning chatting on whatsapp with both girls.  Oh it's such a great application to keep in touch and I can't wait for the 4 of us to be together at Paula's wedding.  

Saturday was quiet. Also going on holiday was Salud, our home help. In her absence, a new woman, "Natasha" would be taking her place. Zena, our Ukranian weekend carer came at 3 pm, having arrived from The Ukraine by bus that morning!  What a sacrifice. She told me later that her pension there would be the equivalent of 35 euros per month and that you could do nothing with that paltry sum.  That's why she has to leave her family and come and clean houses in Spanish homes.  It's a sorry story.  

But on to a happier one.  On Saturday we were invited to a special 50th birthday party in the swish area of La Moraleja.  My ex Swedish boss from Yoigo, Johan has returned from Switzerland to live in Spain with his family. His wife, Bea, or Uruguayan origin, turned 50 yesterday and she had invited us to her big party.  There would be lots of familiar faces; ex -pats who had worked at Yoigo and others. It was to be a truly international birthday party, one I was really was looking forward to going to, after such a quiet week.

And here we are ready to go.
Ready to go to the party
My ex boss and his wife had just moved into their new house in La Moraleja.  Its huge, measuring over 10000 m2 and believe it or not they bought it from a Spanish celebrity, Isabel Pantoja, who is now in prison.  She needed to sell it to pay her debts. They got it for a song, considering the area.  It was in dire need of renovation and in 5 months they completely transformed the house.  The only trace of the celebrity are her initials on the swimming pool floor.
The house from the back, what a great party
I think everyone at the event was truly bowled over by it, it was just so incredible, especially after its complete renovation. It felt like being at a Hollywood party. However at a Hollywood party I would have felt completely out of it but here I knew so many people, it was great to catch up. The photo illustrating this week's post is of me with friends and Yoigo people.  It was great to capture the moment.  It was truly international too although most people were either Swedish or Spanish.  They all looked like very beautiful people to me and I wish I had worn a pretty dress in the end rather than trousers as I was a bit under dressed for the occasion.

I was especially happy to see Gloria and Bea from my events agency, as well as past colleagues from Yoigo such as Sami, Ove, Javier Sonia and others. There were lots of big names from the sector too.  Bea and Johan had gone all out to create an incredible event and they welcomed everyone into their fabulous new house.  Now that they are living in Spain I hope to see more of them, as they are a unique couple. Well, he was a unique boss.  
With Gloria and Bea at the party on Saturday
Being the "cinderella" I am, Eladio and I said our goodbyes at just before midnight. I would have loved to stay on, but if I had I would drunk more of the wonderful champagne on offer and know that this morning I would have woken up with a headache.  As it had it, I didn't. Thanks Bea and Johan for a wonderful wonderful gathering and party.

And today is Sunday and time to publish this post.  Next week we will be off to Montrondo taking guests with us, Irene and Gerardo and their spouses Tomas and Vicky, but of course I will be telling you all about that in my next post.

Meawhile have a great week,

Cheers for now/Masha

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