Thursday, September 22, 2016

Montrondo, a visit to León and home again, Oli joined a new TV programme, Liesl from The Sound of Music dies, visitors from Geneva, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Madrid, Eladio’s birthday and other stories.

Friday 23rd September 2016

The birthday cake moment with Eladio  at lunch on Thursday, one day early.
Hi everyone,

I am writing today Wednesday so as to get ahead with this post and be able to publish it before we go to Malaga on Friday where we will be attending Paula and Pedro's wedding (my niece). It's being quite a frantic week and this has been the first moment of peace I have had to myself in quite a long time.  

As usual, let me start from where I left off.  That was on Sunday 18th September and our last day in Montrondo with my Spanish family, Gerardo and his wife Vicky, his sister Irene and her husband Tomas.  

I was feeling pretty fragile that morning after a huge migraine the night before; most probably caused by the glass and a half of red wine I had drunk for dinner.  Oh how I love wine and oh how bad it is for me, but I never learn.   I managed to eat breakfast (I have a stomach like a horse hahaha) but was too week and zombie like to join Eladio, Vicky, Tomas and Irene on another walk up the mountains. Instead I stayed at home and made the lunch - fabada (bean stew) - and also accompanied Gerardo who had a bad back and couldn't climb the mountains either. 
Even if I say so myself, the fabada I made on Sunday was delicious
The climbers were back by 12.30 when it was time to go out, this time to Murias to accompany our churchgoing friends to the mass there at the beautiful little church. I would have far preferred to take them to the church in Montrondo but it only offers mass every second Sunday which didn't coincide with our stay.
The lovely church in Murias where we went to mass last Sunday
There were very few parishioners and most of them elderly too so I think our group of 6 younger people added a breath of fresh air to the weekly mass and made the congregation look bigger.  It was very short; unusually so and Irene remarked it was like an emergency shot gun express mass hahaha.  

Once outside we were surprised to find a collection of vintage cars in the main square.

Some of the vintage cars in Murias last Sunday
The owners were out on a drive in the area and had stopped for lunch at the main bar in the village, La Palloza.  The black Mercedes looked exactly like the sort of car Franco, the Spanish fascist dictator, would have been driven in.  I particularly liked the old green Renault car in the second picture.

We stopped at La Palloza too after mass for a drink and tapas.  Our friends were bowled over with the beauty of the place; me too actually. It was packed full that day.  We had a very nice surprise when we came to pay the bill as we had been treated to by our neighbour in Montrondo, "Toño". Thanks so much. 

We walked back to Montrondo along the old road in the sunshine, looking forward to our lunch.  And here we are at the table that day.
Our last meal with our guests on Sunday in Montrondo
After a short rest our friends would be leaving. Whilst others slept, Irene and I sat outside at the back of the house chatting.  Adela (the older of Eladio's two sisters) and her husband Primo arrived out of the blue from León and gave us the latest update on my brother-in-law who was in hospital for tests after symptoms of drowsiness, sudden loss of memory, etc.  We decided to go and visit him after our friends left.

Meanwhile we all had a cup of coffee together before it was time to say goodbye to my "Spanish family".  They are so close to my heart. We had a very relaxed weekend, they felt completely at home and we enjoyed being their hosts.  Even Pippa liked them and she is very particular hahahaa. 

When they left, we followed Adela and Primo to León which is an hour's drive away.  We went to see our brother-in-law who was in hospital and all the family there.  He was a lot better since he had been admitted the Friday before. His daughter's wedding the following weekend was in danger and I felt so sorry for everyone - later there would be good news and it would be celebrated and he will be treated once the wedding is over (hurrah). 

On the way back to Montrondo in the car that night, I finally got to talk to Oli my youngest daughter. Last week I told you she had good news.  Well, the next day, this last Monday, she was to start working in a new job as a lead reporter for a programme called "Mi Camara y yo" emitted by Telemadrid. She had been "head hunted" for it something that doesn't happen much in television or rather there are very few openings, especially in Spain in these days. Well done darling! Unfortunately though she had to curtail her holiday short by one week and I think she was not yet ready physically or mentally to start a new stressful job. It is turning out to be extremely stressful with erratic long hours; just what she had complained about when she worked for the Aquí En Madrid programme.  Poor her. However, it is a step up in her career and she will be responsible for making a 45 minute report every two weeks. That doesn't sound much but I can tell you it is. When they made the programme I was in, Undercover Boss, which lasted 50 minutes it took 10 days of intensive shooting and much more to produce it. So, yes, she is going to be busy.  The first report is entitled "Raro, raro, raro" (strange, strange, strange) and will be broadcast on 3rd October so it's panic stations at the moment for her.  So far she has filmed pieces on a cemetery on a roundabout, a man who converted a container into a house, a family who live self sufficiently in a bamboo home and other amazing stories. 

That night it was a horror story we watched on Netflix, a documentary on the holocaust and how the Nazis came up with the dreadful "final solution".  It nearly made me sick and so I went off to bed unable to watch anymore.  How can people today say that the Holocaust never existed? The Nazis were stupidly efficient enough to film nearly everything they did so they left documentary evidence that proves it happened.  

On Monday morning I woke up in Montrondo at 06.30 with another headache, but at least it wasn't a migraine and after my first coffee it slowly began to recede.  I was horrified to read in the news that there had been a terrorist attack in Manhattan; this time with "pressure cooker bombs" .  Thankfully there were no fatalities but 29 people were injured.  When will this stop?
The aftermath of the terrorist attack in Manhattan (Chelsea area) on Monday
But the story that caught my attention that morning was the one about 73 year old Charmain Carr; Liesl in the Sound of Music, who had just died
Goodbye Liesl
She was the eldest daughter of the 6 "Von Trapp" family children in the film which is probably my favourite film of all time.  It was released in 1965 when I was 8. I loved it from the very beginning and forever afterwards. I have watched it countless times and know most of the lyrics of the songs off by heart as do my girls.  Apparently it has been seen by more than one billion people!!  Who cannot remember the beautiful Liesl singing and dancing    "Sixteen going on Seventeen" with "Rolf"?  She was actually 21 when she starred in the "blockbuster" film with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer and had no previous acting or singing experience.  
Beautiful Charmain Carr as Liesl in The Sound of Music
Kim Karath, who played "Gretl" (the youngest of the children) in the film, tweeted: "She has been like a sister throughout my life".  Reading her obituaries I learned that she had written a book in 2000 called "Forever Lieslon her experiences in the making of the film.  I bought it immediately on my kindle and am now enjoying it whenever I have a moment to myself. It is a must for Sound of Music fans like me.

The book written by "Liesl"
It was a very sad piece of news as I adore that film.  RIP "Liesl". 

I got on with life though and had many domestic chores to undertake before leaving the house spick and span until our next visit. My main task was washing, hanging out the sheets and remaking the beds as well as cleaning the bathrooms and as many surfaces as I could. Eladio was badgered into the hoovering hahaha. The new washing line he had built came very much in handy that day.
Hanging out the washing in the sun in Montrondo on Monday
It was dry very soon as it was another glorious sunny day in Montrondo.  We were sad to leave but had to get back.  

Lunch which was leftover fabada was interrupted with whatsapp messages from my daughter Suzy in London.  She told me she was  thinking of applying for a dietitian job overseas and that she had received a job offer application from a friend (what a friend!) in guess where?  One of the remotest islands in the world; St. Helena.  I was gobsmacked. How could she want to go there? It's so damned far, it was where the British exiled Napoleon after he escaped from Elba, knowing he would not be able to escape from that remote British overseas territory. It doesn't even have an airport that is functioning yet as it is so windy.  St. Helena is in the South Atlantic in the middle of the ocean in between South Africa and South America and you have to fly to Johannesburg then travel by ship for god knows how long to the capital Jamestown which has only 700 inhabitants! Suzy told me she would only go for a year and that it must be beautiful and peaceful.  By the end of the night between her friends and family we persuaded her against the idea.  Thank God for that but she did give me a scare.  I was already imagining her falling in love with someone there and settling down forever, lost to her family.  If Zuka my cousin is reading this she will understand as she lives in France and her daughter Katty in New Zealand which is tough for her. 

I was still googling St. Helena when we set off after lunch. On our way home we stopped in León to visit our brother-in-law who was looking much more like his old self.  We then went to see Eladio's mother, Ernestina, who is now living with her youngest offspring, Isidro and his wife Yoli in their house on the outskirts of the town.  She is losing her memory fast and doesn't really know who we are but welcomed us enthusiastically.  We certainly brightened up her day.  Yoli and Isidro have a kitchen garden and after a cup of coffee and a piece of Yoli's apple cake, they presented us with two huge tomatoes and an even bigger pumpkin. They insisted it was a pumpkin although it looked like a giant courgette to me.  As we were leaving I got everyone on camera, including my god-daughter Alicia with the foresaid vegetables  hahaha.

A farewell photo at Yoli and Isidro's house with my mother-in-law Ernestina and god-daughter Alicia, little Pippa, Eladio and the giant vegetables.

It was a long drive home (3 hours) and whilst Eladio was at the wheel I began reading "Forever Liesl" but driving and reading made me fall asleep. I woke up just before we arrived at past 11 pm.  My Father was asleep by then but the dogs gave us a very warm welcome.

Tuesday was a busy day, catching up with work.  I had many errands to do and also had to prepare for a special dinner that night.  Marie who is the daughter of my cousin Masha who lives in Paris, and her fiance Anas of Indian extract but brought up in Tanzania, were on holiday in Madrid and would be coming in the evening.  For the record they both live and work in Geneva.  She is a consultant and he works as a Risk Manager for an oil trading company (brainy jobs to quote Olivia!). I was told Anas didn't eat pork and imagined he was Jewish but no he is Muslim. The lovely couple explained over a drink of wine (her) and a non alcoholic drink of lemonade (him) that he is an Ismaili Muslim; which I had never heard of. I was told they belong to the Shia branch of Islam and are quite moderate in their faith with women and men praying together for example.

My philosopher and ex priest of a husband knew all about them of course. Marie told me this branch of Islam being very moderate forbids women to wear a veil.  Their spiritual leader is Aga Khan whose name was familiar but I had no idea who he was.  You can find out more about him here. They will be married next year and we've been invited to their wedding in August!! We asked whether she had to convert as we know she is a Russian Orthodox believer. You will be relieved to hear that she isn't obliged to but that their children will have to be Muslims. I heave a sigh here.  I suppose we could have avoided the topic and talked about the weather but this was far more interesting.  Here are the lovely couple with me when we sat down to the pork free dinner. 

Anas and Marie who came to dinner on Tuesday night.
Just before we sat down to dinner, I got a surprise call from Oli to say she and Miguel were coming home, straight from where she was filming the piece about the bamboo home.  i was so happy as I hadn't seen her for ages. But she came home to disaster having heard that the owner of the house at the end of an afternoon's filming had refused that any of it be filmed. Oli had to pacify her and it was panic stations again at work.  She was told to come to a meeting immediately in the centre of Madrid after 9pm, poor thing. Thankfully the problem was solved on the phone and Oli calmed the woman down who finally agreed to most of the filming being aired.  It was such a stressful situation.  I felt sorry for my exploited TV reporter daughter. TV always seems glamorous but behind the scenes it is not.  I know from seeing Oli doing her job. 

Finally we were able to enjoy dinner together.  Marie and Anas were going to Valencia the next day on the final stage of their holiday after visiting Oporto and Madrid.  As Miguel is stationed there with TVE he was able to give them lots of tips, especially about the best types of paella to eat.

For Paula's wedding, all the guests had been asked to send a short video congratulating the couple which would be showed during the wedding party. It was the last day for submitting it and we were going to ask Anas and Marie to film Eladio and I. As Oli and Miguel were there we killed two birds with one stone and did a video of the 4 of us, courtesy of the impromptu cameraman, Anas.  We quickly had to brainstorm what to do and in the end decided on this: we all dressed up in wigs, wore wings on our backs (all this from our fancy dress cupboard); each of us came out from a different door or location in the lounge dancing to the sound of Cliff Richard singing "Congratulations".  It was absolutely hilarious.  I can't post the video, but here is the photo of the 4 of us dressed up for the "show". 
Dressed up for our video for Paula's wedding
Soon it was time for our international guests to leave as they would be having a very early start on Wednesday morning.  Before they left I insisted on a selfie to remember the dinner and to send to my cousin Masha.
As selfie at the end of the evening with our lovely international guests, Marie and Anas.
On Wednesday morning, Olivia continued her shooting for the first programme and believe it or not it was to be about the Russian Orthodox Church in Madrid or rather their new Cathedral which I didn't even know existed.  It is was built a few years ago and is the typical onion domed church you always recognise as being Russian Orthodox.
The Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Madrid
I was harassed by Oli to tell her very shortly the differences between the Russian Orthodox and the Catholic Church. Of course I know a lot because my Mother was of that faith and my Grandfather was an Orthodox priest.  But how to sum it up and tell her the most salient parts in under 5 minutes? I managed to tell her about the three barred cross, that the priests can marry but not divorce and have to have beards, the difference between a religious painting and the icons, the latter being sacred art, the difference in the calendars, that their Christmas is on the 7th January and not much more.  A few hours later, after the filming, she rang to tell me she had adored the experience, loved the church and especially the  priest.  Believe it or not, Father Andrey Kordochkin, who was born in St. Petersburg, studied at one of the most famous Catholic boarding schools in the world, Ampleforth in Yorkshire with which my Mother had many contacts and then at Oxford and Durham. He sounds like a very interesting chap and I would love to meet him. Oli agreed with him to take my Father there one day so I look forward to that.  She also told me she cried in the car when they left because her visit to the Russian church brought back so many memories of "Grandma", my Russian Mother.  "How touching my Father" said when I told him. I was glad Oli got the chance to visit and do a report on the church as this religion is part of her heritage; something I should perhaps have instilled in my daughters and never did.  Sorry girls!

Whilst Oli was filming the church the world was learning that Angelina Jolie had filed for a divorce with Brad Pitt.  Really I don't care about this Hollywood couple but the media are full of it. 

In the evening Oli called me to say she would be dropped off by the cameraman near home and could I pick her up and bring her home. Well, of course I could.  By 7 she was home, the earliest time since she started the new job. However she had not slept well the night before and nor had she eaten on Wednesday.  I soon put remedy to the latter and when Miguel came off we went to have dinner  at Ginos. 
Miguel and Oli at dinner with us at Ginos on Wednesday night
Oli was with us in body but not in spirit receiving messages and emails and phone calls until late that night with instructions on the videos she had to do the next day.  I think the production company is not very well organised as the plan for Thursday was filming in a far away village in Guadalajara; a story on a stone house and in the afternoon a story on an enchanted wood in San Martin de Valdeiglesias.  Both locations are really far apart and it would be nearly a 2 hour drive to the first one and over 2 hours to the second one. 

On Thursday I was up at 7 and able to make her breakfast.  I wished her a calm and productive day.  The Rudyard Kipling poem "If" came to mind and I sent her the verse which starts off like this: "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs".  I hope she takes my advice. 

For the record Thursday was the first day of Autumn.  However, the warm weather continues here and this week I have been bathing in the pool after our morning walks.  I'm not sure how long it will last but while the going is good I hope to continue to use the pool. 

Eladio's birthday was on Friday 23rd but as we would be travelling to Málaga that day we decided to celebrate it with a special lunch on Thursday so that my Father wouldn't miss out on the occasion.

And here is the birthday "boy" who, as you can see from the candles on the cake, was celebrating his 72nd year.  Amazing right?  Natasha, our Ukranian temporary carer,couldn't believe her eyes.  She said he didn't look a day over 60 and I agree with her.  For his birthday I had bought Season 4 of House of Cards and a brand new touch screen kindle; from my Father and I. I must have made the right choice as he was pleased with them.
Eladio with his cake and candles, birthday card and presents.
My Father loves birthdays. Here he is tucking into the delicious chocolate and fruit cake.  There was loads left and I told him there would be enough left for him to have a piece every day in our absence.
My Father happily tucking into Eladio's delicious birthday cake on Thursday
On Friday we would be celebrating his birthday with all the family, including Suzy who was flying from London on Thursday night.  It will be great to be all together. 

Shortly after lunch I had to go to the office for an all staff meeting about the integration of our company which has just been bought.  For the moment there are plans on the table but they are ambitious and I look forward to being a part of them.  As the new Austrian CEO said, this is the biggest corporate project in Spain at the moment and he is right. 

Last night we had the pleasure of the company of Olivia and Miguel for the 3rd night this week.  Oli remarked how lovely it was to have two homes. This is because her main point of reference with her new job is often the Ciudad de la Imagen (CIty of Image) where TeleMadrid is based),  So it was dinner again together last night and we ate it outside.  

Then guess what we watched on TV last night when we went to bed? Yes, you knew, the beginning of Season 4 of House of Cards.  We had missed Kevin Spacey and Robin Weight - Francis and Claire Underwood - and this season promises to be just as good as the rest.

Whilst we were watching the TV, Suzy had landed in Málaga from London.  It was quite late but waiting for her to have dinner were dear Paula and Pedro (the bride and groom - Paula is our neice and Andrés and Pili's daughter) in that big Andalusian city, one of the biggest towns in Spain by the way. And here are Suzy and Paula, two beautiful cousins who love each other so much. Don't they look happy?  
Suzy and Paula in Málaga last night
Hopefully we will be having dinner with them and all the family tonight, the night before   their wedding at the St. Augustín Church in the old city on Saturday.

Well yes, the big day has come.  It is Friday morning and at 08.30 we shall be leaving by car with José Antonio and Dolores and hopefully arrive in Málaga on time for lunch with my darling daughter Suzy.

It's going to be a great family wedding; all of us in Málaga and of course the weather will be glorious in that part of Spain. I have only ever visited Málaga once. We shall be staying at the Parador which is on the beach so of course I have packed our swimming costumes. 

I will publish this now. I know it's Friday and not blog day but I want to be free of writing this weekend and to able to enjoy the family wedding.  But also I want next week's post to focus completely on Paula and Pedro's big day.

Wishing them a long and happy marriage, I will sign off now but not before saying Happy Birthday to my dear dear husband.   We celebrated yesterday but shall continue to do so today.

Cheers for now/Masha

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