Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday in Montrondo, home again, week 3 of the diet brings good news, the end of the “jungle” camp in Calais, a weekend with friends in Peñacaballera, the clocks go back and more stories.

Sunday 30th October 2016

On our walk from Peñacaballera to Puerto de Béjar on Saturday morning.  From left to right: Javier, Ana, me, Dolores and Toño
Good morning all.  I am writing early on Friday morning to get ahead with this blog post before we set off for a long weekend in Peñacaballera (Salamanca) to spend the weekend with friends.  But more about that later.

Sunday was our last day in Montrondo and it rained. Even so we ventured out in our rain outfits, Pippa included.
Getting ready to go out in the rain.  Pippa in her raincoat!

All ready for the rain hahaha outside our house in Montrondo.
We only made it as far as Murias and back as the terrain was too soggy for our new walk through the woods.  The autumn colours were making their appearance and we just had to have a photo by the path called "el camino valle" with its nearly all yellow birch trees.  We remembered doing a similar photo there last year when we had just moved into our new house.
With Eladio, Pippa and Oli at the beginning of "el camino valle"
Once home Oli bathed Pippa in our clawfoot bathtub, as, being so short, she gets very dirty in the rain. I decided to follow suit and enjoy a luxurious hot bath after the cold and wet walk.  And here I am, photo courtesy of my dear husband who thought I looked very funny in the tub.  
The height of luxury, a warm bath after our walk in the rain on Sunday.  I felt like the lady of the manour hahaha.
We were having a lazy day in Montrondo.  Lunch together was next on the agenda and then a short siesta before leaving at around 5pm.  Meanwhile the socialist party was gathered in Madrid and voted, finally, to abstain in acting Prime Minister Rajoy's re-election.  The problem was the hung parliament result in 2 recent elections.  Rajoy needed them to abstain to be elected and they have made it very difficult for him.
Graphic from the WSJ 
This put an end to 10 months of political deadlock and uncertainty.  If all things go well he will be reelected by the end of this week although he will have to govern in minority, no mean feat with the budget coming up.  

Once in Madrid we drove Oli and Miguel to their flat in Mirasierra and weren't home till past 9pm.  A good time had been had by all but it was far too short a time in Montrondo, just 2 nights.

Monday brought more rain.  I did two walks on the trot first thing in the morning which left me feeling exhausted.  I would go on to do so for most of the week and I am hoping the intensive exercise is playing its part in my losing weight.

I was to see my weight management doctor at midday after having been on the Pronokal diet for 3 weeks.  I was nervous about his scales as usually clinic scales show higher numbers.  But no I was in for good news.  According to his scales I had lost just under 5 kilos!  Wow! I had done 3 weeks of phase 1 which includes just vegetables and Pronokal products. I think it is the hardest diet I have ever done but it works. Thankfully Dr Ramírez put me straight on to Phase 2b which meant I could eat real protein (150g of lean meat or 200g of white fish or sea food) both at lunch and dinner always accompanied by vegetables. I couldn't wait to eat real food as I was sick and tired of the Pronokal products which taste nice at the first bite but leave a nasty after taste.

Of note, on Monday night Eladio and I started watching Season 5 of Homeland. I had already seen it but was happy to watch Carrie, Saul and Quinn in action again.  The plot is so up to date, all about ISIS terrorism and based in Berlin. 

If Monday had brought good news from the scales, Tuesday brought good news too on my measurements.  I had lost 8cm around my waist and 7cm on my hips.  My BMI (body mass index) was down to to 25 - just one more figure to get to 24 which is healthy. If you are wondering what your BMI is, you check out this chart here.

Now I am getting into clothes I couldn't wear before and that is such an inspiration. My goal is to get into a black sleeveless size M leather dress from Zara which I probably only ever wore once. Can't wait.  

That day I had a lunch engagement with a former boss and was able to eat real meat for the first time and wow did it taste good.  Unfortunately I couldn't join him drinking wine but we had a good old gossip about the sector.  It was such fun to see him and exchange news. For the record lunch was at El Buey in Boadilla, perhaps the best restaurant in the area.

Afterwards I went on an errand to the Quiron Hospital in Pozuelo to pick up the results of my recent densitometry test; a test that measures bones to diagnose osteoporosis, the dreaded illness of older women.  I jumped for joy when I saw the all clear.  My recent mammogram test and breast scan  had also given me the all clear.  These plus my recent blood tests taken during the diet, show I am fighting fit and I am extremely glad that I am.  I wonder if the walks have anything to do with it or perhaps I have inherited my 97 year old Father's genes. I do hope so. 

Whilst waiting for the results, I read the news on my mobile.  I was astonished to read that the Vatican or the Pope had announced it was to be forbidden to  keep loved ones’ ashes at home or scattering them. The church says they should be kept in sacred ground. I mean who is the Catholic Church to tell parishioners what to do with their loved ones' ashes?  I find that a complete intrusion. One interpretation is that they make money from them being kept in cemeteries.  As a friend of mine commented on FB "business is business".  Well, I think it is none of their business. 
No more urns at home says the Pope
Feeling great after leaving the hospital I drove to the upmarket Supercor supermarket to buy first class quality protein products for this next phase of my diet.  I had fresh prawns in a salad that night for dinner which tasted divine.  

Who did not have fresh prawns that night were the migrants being kicked out of the so called "jungle" refugee camp in Calais that day. It was being dismantled.  Some 6 to 10.000 occupants mostly from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan had fled violence in their countries and made their way to Calais hoping to get to the UK and begin a new life.
The dismantling of the refugee camp this week  in Calais called The Jungle

The camp has been called the a "symbol of Europe's failure to resolve its migrant crisis" and that is certainly true. The occupants are to be moved by bus to other areas of France.  Who knows what their eventual fate will be?  Meanwhile in the UK there have been promises of taking in unaccompanied minors who have families in England and this has caused a hoohah all through the country.  At the moment the UK seems to be getting more and more racist, especially after Brexit. As no one really knows their ages, there have even been suggestions the children should be submitted to dental tests to prove their ages before being admitted for entry to the UK.  I am ashamed of my birth country.  They have done little or nothing to help the migrant crisis.  Even today, days after the dismantling, some children have been left behind, alone and vulnerable to human traffickers in some of the remaining huts.  It's a disgrace and upsets me.  This is the greatest migrant tragedy since the second world war and no one wants the migrants who have suffered so much leaving their war stricken countries, often fueled by the west and now no one cares about them. This is a nasty world and the unsolved refugee crisis makes my blood curl. 

The weather on Wednesday was amazing. The thermometer reached 25c in Madrid that day. My Father remarked it was the second Indian summer here which is called "el veranillo de San Martín" which he said is called "the old woman's summer" in Russian!!!  My Father is always interested in the weather hahaha. I looked up the expression in Spanish and it seems the second Indian summer here is actually around 11th November.  So either it has come sooner than usual or its an effect of global warming. Whatever the case I love the unexpected sunshine and warm temperatures at this time of year, especially for my two morning walks. 

Whilst on my walk I was whatsapping with Oli trying to help her with contacts for a new programme she was making about entrepeneurs in Madrid.  She is amazed at the contacts I have. I am too but then again the technology world is the world I live in.  I hope some of them bear their fruit and that I can have helped her in her search for stories to report on. 

In preparation for our visit this weekend to Peñacaballera, Eladio and I went to the upmarket gourmet store called Mallorca in Pozuelo to buy our hosts a gift.  We decided on a hamper of lovely food which we chose ourselves.  And here it is. 
The food hamper from Mallorca we bought for our friends Javier and Ana
It contains a good bottle of Rioja, ham, asparagus, foie gras, biscuits, cheese, honey and other delicacies which I hope they will enjoy. We are invited together with Eladio's brother José Antonio and his wife, our sister-in-law, Dolores and we are all looking forward to a great weekend together at their house in Peñacaballera in the province of Salamanca.  What's going to make it even better is the weather as the forecast is dry and sunny for this weekend!  

Thursday was another beautiful sunny day.  Of note that morning, Eladio and I bought flu vaccine from the chemists after our weekly food shopping expedition.  Eladio had his jab done by a doctor at the small clinic near the supermarket.  Once home, Eladio, my own personal doctor, gave me my jab. So now we are protected from winter flu. 

There was relatively good news that day when it was announced that unemployment in Spain had fallen below 20% for the first time in 6 years. That is a sure sign of economic recovery although it should be pointed out that most of the new jobs are temporary ones! It's still very difficult to find a job here but no longer mission impossible. 

There's not much else to report about Thursday except that is was another sunny day.  Oli was to be coming for dinner and we waited for her until 9.30 pm.  However she had some sort of crisis at work and didn't leave until very late, so we had dinner alone.  We haven't seen her since last Sunday when we drove back from Montrondo and hopefully we will be more lucky next week. We look forward to watching her latest programme of "Mi Cámara y Yo" on Monday coming about tourism. 

On Friday morning, we set off with José Antonio and Dolores at 11.15 for a 2.5h drive in the sun to Peñacaballera near Béjar in the province of Salamanca which is just on the border of Cáceres.  Our friends, Javier and Ana, were waiting for us with open arms.  It was lovely to be back but we just couldn't remember when we had last been there.  However we have happy memories of our stay at our friends's fabulous house on lots of occasions and were looking forward to another great time with them.  
Beautiful autumn colours were awaiting us this weekend

Our friends' house
Ana prepared a wholesome lunch I couldn't partake in.  No way was I going to break my diet so had unashamedly taken along my own food for the weekend. The weather was so good we ate outside.  Later we women enjoyed a long chat in the patio.  Below are Ana and Dolores happily nattering away.
Dolores and Ana happily nattering away after lunch on Friday
Soon Jorge, our friends' neighbour, arrived. He would invite us to visit his vegetable patch and orchard.  But what was most impressive was his huge greenhouse where he grows tomatoes and peppers of various varieties.  After so much rain and sun, we were stunned to see just how many and big they were. Here is the group holding some of the tomatoes to show you.

Toño, Ana, Jorge, Eladio and Dolores at the tomato greenhouse
Me holding tomatoes and a pepper at Jorge's greenhouse.

We had a lot of fun picking them.  We brought back two big bags holding about 40kg between them. I couldn't wait to taste one.
Ana and Dolores with just one of the bags full of tomatoes and peppers
 On the Pronokal diet I am allowed 100grammes of tomato a day which would only allow me to taste a small slice of these huge tomatoes.  To see how much they weighed I put one of the medium ones on the scales I had brought (I have to weigh everything I eat on this diet), I was amazed to see that this one weighed over 400 grammes hahaha.

Just one of the medium sized tomatoes weighed this much!
The tomatoes and peppers we brought back from Jorge's greenhouse
I would include the 100 grammes in my salad that night.

The load was pretty heavy so we could only go on a short walk that afternoon, back from the greenhouse. The countryside was a picture to see; cows and sheep in the fields, a horse in the distance, a glimpse of  a pigsty on the path home, walnut trees all enhanced by the autumn colours.  What a pretty area this is.
A view of the fields on our walk back. The tomato greenhouse is in the middle behind the trees.
We came back to have tea and coffee. Thank God I can drink tea on this diet.  We talked until late and our list of topics was long; religion, politics, homosexuality, Plato and Socrates and more mundane topics such as cooking or TV programmes.  We had a late dinner.  Well it was late for me as I was hungry and had got up at 6.15 that morning.
Dinner on Friday night. Notice the delicious home grown and hand picked tomatoes
Meanwhile Oli was busy at work, putting the finishing touches to her upcoming programme for Mi Camara y Yo about tourism in Madrid. It will be aired on Monday on TeleMadrid just after 22.30, prime time here but very late in my view.
The advertisement for Oli's upcoming programme on tourism in Madrid which will be aired on Monday
You can see the ad here.  The ladies in the picture are from a group of British tourists visiting Chinchón, a pretty medieval village outside Madrid. 

After dinner we retired to our hosts's cozy lounge where Javier had lit the fire.  We continued our conversations and added topics such as books, films and travelling as well as more anecdotes about Plato and the ancient Greeks - this coming from my erudite and intellectual husband and brother-in-law Toño.  I couldn't believe it when I looked at my watch and saw it was 12.30 at night.  I had been up since 6 in the morning and it was time for bed.  I was exhausted when my head hit the feather pillow I had brought with me.

Saturday was another sunny day. I was up early and as soon as it was light explored outside admiring the autumn colours and my surroundings.  I just love the countryside.  I am not a town girl and never have been.  
Javier and Ana's delightful patio with autumn colours, especially from the little maple tree with its bright orange and red leaves.
I am also a dog person as well you know.  I was missing ours, especially little Pippa, our miniature smooth haired chocolate coloured dachshund.  However our hosts' neighbours, Jorge and María have 2, a border collie and a miniature short haired dachshund called Gas.  Gas is very similar to Pippa and was to be her substitute this weekend hahaha.
Little Gas, so like Pippa in many ways.
At about 10.30 we set off for a long walk to the pretty village of Puerto de Béjar.  Our hosts Javier and Ana took us on a delightful and romantic path surrounded by lush fields with cows.  There were horses too and we were even passed by by a man on horseback.  Here I am making friends with a brown horse.  I held my hand out which the animal touched with care only to find nothing in it. But then I found some blackberries which it ate with gusto.
Making friends with a horse on our walk on Saturday morning
We walked through forests, on the flat, uphill and down and across bridges.  These days I stride ahead and in the photo below I am sitting on an old bridge waiting for my fellow walkers.  It was a moment of relax. I felt vibrant, happy and at home in the countryside.  Thanks Javier for the photo.  By the way, I was noticing from all the photos taken that I was looking slimmer thanks to the diet. That is sure motivation for me to continue.
Resting during our long walk on Saturday morning
We reached the pretty village of Puerto de Béjar.  It's very similar to all the villages in this region and has an air of the most famous ones such as Candelario or Alberca.  I particularly liked the main square where the town hall and church are the focal points.  Here I got into conversation with an old man sitting in the sun on a bench by the church.  We had seen there was to be a mass to welcome the new priest. He told me the priest coming was from Colombia; a sure sign there are fewer and fewer Spanish priests these days. I wonder how he will adapt to this area where it's much colder than his native country.
The town hall in Puerto de Béjar
We stopped for refreshments before continuing back to Peñacaballera this time on a different route.  For the record I just had a welcome glass of water.  As we left the village and took the path to the old rail track we came across a wizened old man pushing a heavily loaded wheel barrow and we stopped to talk. The man nicknamed "cartucho" (cartridge) because of his love of shooting, showed us the produce he had brought from his allotment.  It carried huge pears, fresh eggs and an enormous pumpkin.  He happily posed with us for me to share with you the moment. Javier later carried his barrow up the hill for him. 
The pumpkin moment on our walk to Puerto de Béjar on Saturday morning
We came home to see, thanks to my fitbit, that we had walked a total of 9km.  It was good exercise and a beautiful walk, one we will remember for a long time.

Ana had made a winter dish called "cocido madrileño" made with chickpeas, meat and vegetables.  I, unfortunately, had to have cauliflower yet again thankfully accompanied by grilled fish.

We were all in need of a short siesta afterwards after the morning walk.  The sun was still shining and I curtailed my siesta to read my kindle outside in our hosts' lovely patio.  Then it was time for tea. Before it got dark at 7.30pm, Javier and Ana took us out, by car this time, to visit another pretty village called Montemayor del Rio.  Here we are outside their 18th century gate where I had to have a group photo.  Or rather here are the rest of the group, as I took the photo.
Outside the 18th century gate leading into the patio of our hosts' house in Peñacaballera
We went in Javier and Ana's 7 seater Volvo which was such fun.  They took us along narrow country roads where we could admire the green and yellow trees but especially the view of the village Montemayor.  
The main square in the pretty village of Montemayor del Río
We stopped to see a 13th century bridge called La Malena (La Magdalena). Below are Toño and Dolores on the bridge; a romantic photo in my view.

A romantic photo of Toño and Dolores on La Malena bridge outside the pretty village of Montemayor del Río
From there we made our way back by car to the village and drove up to the castle. It has two names; The castle of Paradise and St. Vicent Castle.  
The castle in Montemayor del Río
Built by the first Lord of Montemayor in the 13th century, it commands an amazing view and has all an old castle should have with its moat and portcullis.

Eladio caught Javier and I on camera with our backs to the castle admiring the view and I thought it was a lovely photo summing up the moment: two old friends in peace and harmony enjoying the twilight view from the walls of the castle.  I should add I was happy to see that my bottom is getting smaller.  Did that make you laugh? It was intended to.
Admiring the view from the castle at Montemayor del Río
We were home just as Spain's caretaker Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy had been re-elected in Parliament.  Finally we were to have a government after 10 months of deadlock.  Pedro Sánchez, the previous leader of the socialist party (PSOE) who had resigned last week, gave up his seat yesterday because he refused to abstain.  The socialist party's abstention was what allowed Rajoy to be re-elected.  He will, however, have to govern in a minority which could make it difficult to govern.  We shall see what happens in the coming months. 
Rajoy was re-elected PM yesterday after 10 months of political deadlock.
Just as the voting was finishing, Laura and María, Javier and Ana's oldest and youngest daughter arrived to join us in Peñacaballera.  What good looking girls they are.  Dinner was a bigger affair and joy of joys I had an omelet and lean ham with salad for the meal.  I say joy of joys because I hadn't eaten an egg or ham for over a month haha.
Our hosts with 2 of their daughters at dinner in Peñacaballera last night
We all went to bed quite early last night after a long day of exercise and sun.  We were to have an extra hour's sleep as the clocks went back an hour during the night.
The clocks went back last night.
However, I still woke up early; at 6.40, which for me was 07.40.  I hate it when the clocks go back as it means we have an hour less sun in the evening and tonight it will be dark at 6.30pm.  Not fair!  If I had a say in it, I would keep the same time throughout the year.  In the Balearic Islands, for example, in the far east of Spain, there is a motion to keep summer time all year round and they have a reason; tourism.  The lighter it is at night, the happier the tourists will be and of course it would be good for business.  Anyway, they have turned back now and we shall all have to adjust.  But I'm not for it.

Last night, apart from the clocks turning back, it was also Halloween.  But none of us in Peñacaballera cared. I have never liked this Yankee holiday which has been adopted in Spain and gets bigger and bigger each year.  

And today is Sunday morning and the last day here in Peñacaballera. We look forward to another sunny day and walk.  And now it is time to sign off and wish you all a great day and week ahead.

Cheers till next time,

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Week 3 of the Pronokial diet, Oli in a hot air balloon, Pakistani blue eyed tea seller turns model, remembering Aberfan, off to Montrondo for another family wedding,

Sunday 23rd October 2016
With Pippa on our walk on Friday afternoon
Good morning all from Montrondo.

It is Saturday morning and we are here for the weekend or rather we have come to celebrate my niece Laura’s wedding to her fiancé Dani.  Actually they got married in a registry office in the middle of the week with just their parents and god parents. There will be a family lunch in León today to celebrate.  It’s our 4th wedding this year, after Lucia’s, Miguel’s and Paula’s.  More about it later.

The week was quiet but intensive, work wise, especially to do with the merge after MásMóvil bought Yoigo in which I am involved and affected as are all the employees, 420 from our new owner and 100 from Yoigo.  Imagine the challenges but there are also lots of synergies.

Let me start from where I left off last Sunday.  It was a quiet day at home and it was nice to be joined by Oli.  The two of us went shopping to El Corté Inglés where we went to pick up a watch of mine which had been repaired.  Of course once there we did some shopping.  It’s such an amazing store; as soon as you go in you are tempted by so much.  Later we had dinner together and we all watched Jordi Evole’s Salvados documentary on the plight of migrants at sea in the Mediterranean.  I had expected so much more from this singular and popular journalist but I was disappointed.  I really should have watched a rival channel’s first episode of a documentary on the reunion of the participants 15 years on of Operación Triunfo (successful reality singing talent show). 
Just loved the Operación Triunfo reunion
Thanks to the internet I was able to watch it the next day and loved every minute of it.  You can see it here. I can imagine my Finnish friend Anne adoring every moment of it as it was aired when she lived here when she worked for Nokia Spain and she watched it every week. The whole of Spain fell in love with the participants; especially the finalists, the winner Rosa and runners up, David Bustamante, David Bisbal, Chenoa and Manu Tenorio.  I look forward to episode two on Sunday which again I shall probably watch online later.

On Monday, the end of week 2 of my Pronokal diet, I got on the scales.  The week before I had lost 2 kilos and was hoping for another 2 to be shed. I was disappointed when I had only gone down 900 grammes.  Luckily I weighed myself on Friday morning too and had gone down a further 400 making the total weight loss so far 3.8 kilos.  I am certainly noticing it in my clothes. I can even notice it in my hands as my wedding ring is looser.  I am feeling great although I have to admit the diet is probably the most difficult I have ever done but I shall stick to it, come what may. Soon you will see the slimmer Masha. Then we will see how long it lasts hahaha.

One of the things I did on Monday was go to the appointment with the social security office to get the 2 years I had been on the dole in 1999 and 2005 incorporated into my “vida laboral” (work life register) which are important for my future pension.  Oh the bureaucracy!  I had to fight at the office in Alcorcón where I was told I should have gone to the one in Majadahonda.  On the automated phone call to book the appointment because of my post code I was sent to Alcorcón. So we protested and thankfully got this office to do the paperwork.  At least we found out that those 2 years are on their system but now we have to wait probably more than a month for them to appear on the register.  And I will get no notification and will have to find out myself when that happens. What a stupid system!!!  We came home feeling cross.  I can’t stand bureaucracy and old fashioned systems and wish the Spanish administration would keep up with the times. One phone call or an app on mobile phones should do the job as happens in other more modern countries.

Tuesday was a historic one for Yoigo.  The Swedes were coming to say goodbye and I had arranged the employee event where we all get together and which I call Yoigo Mornings. I invented them at Nokia and they are a great success. It was a historic day as it would be the last one we would celebrate as a Yoigo team of employees as we have been bought by a small Spanish operator. 
Our last Yoigo Morning was on Tuesday
When the final negotiations took place a few weeks ago, I wrote here that I had missed a goodbye from our previous owners, TeliaSonera (now called The Telia Company). Well we got it on Tuesday but were all a little bit disappointed as we had hoped for some token of recognition for our efforts over the last 10 years to build Yoigo to what it is today; a company that has nearly 4 million customers with just 100 employees.  But Swedes are Swedes and all we got was a cup of coffee and some snacks, none of which I could partake in because of my Pronokal diet.

Work went on and that morning there was a press release issued by the BNB branch Cetelem to announce financing of our terminals to customers.

I also had a tense time that morning over, who in the future would be in charge of events; my domain and something I have been doing for 10 years with great success. On Wednesday, a wet and nasty day,  I would be notified in very unusual terms that this area would be removed to a new super department.  The whole episode left me feeling rather orphaned.

If it wasn’t a good day for me, it was an interesting one for Oli.  This week she has been shooting stories for the next programme she is preparing for Mi Cámara y Yo which will be about tourism in Madrid.  Wednesday saw her with a group of retired British tourists visiting Chinchón, a pretty village outside Madrid.  She sent a selfie with them  to greet me. It made me laugh.
Oli with the British tourists in Chinchón
I’m sure Oli would have been interested in my favourite news item of the day; the blue eyed tea seller from Islamabad who turned model after his photo was instagrammed.  He is just so good looking.  18 year old Arshad Khan, a tea seller (chai wala) at a bazar in Islamabad was photographed by Javeria Ali, a young photographer who loves to capture human life. When she saw Arshad pouring the tea she was struck by how good looking he was and posted her picture on Instagram.
The blue eyed Pakistani tea seller
It immediately became an internet sensation and now she has become a famous photographer with the photo she took being compared to the famous one of the Afghan girl. Arshad’s fate was immediately affected by the internet fame and soon he was snapped up by a modelling agency and now has a contract with them. 
The tea seller (chai wala) turned model
He looks a lot more attractive in his work shirt than he does as a model, don’t you think? The Chai Wala who previously earned 60 euros a month for selling tea will now see his earnings rise astronomically and he and his big family saved from poverty and all because of his blue eyes and this wonderful picture.  The power of internet is amazing.

Thursday was a long and tiring day for me.  I had an intense day which started before sunrise and ended long after sunset.  It was spent mostly in a hotel room in the centre of Madrid and was focused on the integration of the two, or rather three companies, as the small operator Pepephone had also been acquired.  As usual the majority of the attendants were men.  There was a lot of energy at the beginning of the day but as the time passed it waned.  You can only take in so much information in a few hours, when they drag on your attention span drops but the organisers were a consultancy and I think they have never learned the basics of how to capture an audience’s attention when a meeting goes on for so long.  The best thing about the day was getting to know so many new colleagues.
The work day in a hotel on Thursday which lasted from sunrise to after sunset
Oli’s day was much more exciting. On Thursday she went up in a hot air balloon with a group of Japanese tourists near Segovia. 
Oli in the hot air balloon this week
It was to be her first ever experience.  I warned her that hot air balloons are very sensitive to wind.  I remember bringing one over from the UK to Málaga many years ago for a Motorola event.  Due to wind, wind which as person standing outside you would probably not even notice, it never took off and had to be tethered. I have never used one ever again in an event. Luckily Ol’s did take off although they had to wait from 7 to 11 in the morning for the balloon to fly. Here she is with the Japs:-)
Oli with the group of Japanese tourists by the hot air balloon this week
I didn’t get home that day until past 8 in the evening and had to continue work when I got home.  The next day we were sending out a press release on Yoigo’s earnings for the third quarter of the year.  These earnings were still under the ownership of the Swedes and would be our last results with the company.  The press release needed lots of fine tuning until it was ready to be released on Friday morning at 7.15 am.  Yes, the Swedes do things early hahaha.  Thankfully I was up early as usual and the release went like clockwork. The best thing is that the results were good and earnings had risen.  We got lots of articles like this one from El Economista.

Friday was the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan tragedy when a coal tip collaped over the village of Aberfan in South Wales, mostly hitting the Pantglas Junior school.  It happened at about 9 in the morning on 21st October 1966 just after assembly and on the last day of school before half term.  It killed 116 children and 28 adults.  Those who died, had no chance and those who survived have lived with the memory for ever afterwards as has the whole village. 
A picture of the aftermath of the Aberfan coal tip disaster 50 years ago
When it happened I was aged 9, like many of the children who died in their class rooms suffocating from the terrible onrush of the slurry which came down the hill and swamped the school and nearby houses.  I remember the story on the news.  It was a national disaster and one that has gone in history and will never be forgotten.  I had been reading all about the disaster in the last few weeks as the anniversary was coming up.  My memory was sketchy and I wanted to find out what happened.  I came across a book by survivor Gaynor Madgwick who lost her brother and sister in the tragedy.  Her account is harrowing but well written if you really want to know what happened which was my case.  
The book I have been reading this week.
The tragedy doesn't bear believing.  How awful to be starting your day at school, having said goodbye to your parents in the morning and then never to return or to have to survive that terrible accident.  RIP Aberfan victims. May nothing similar ever happen again. 

With thoughts of the anniversary on my mind, we left for Montrondo on Friday morning just after 10 am.  There was to be no stop at Rueda for the usual glass of wine and ham thanks to the Pronokal diet.  It took just 3.5 hours to arrive, most of which I spent working thanks to my mobile phone.

We arrived to brilliant sunshine and a welcome from José Antonio, Dolores, their daughter and her baby Lucas.  After settling in and having lunch, Dolores and I went for a long walk to Murias and back via our new walk, a real discovery. 
A selfie with Dolores on our walk on Friday afternoon
 t's a good 1.5h with beautiful scenery.  Montrondo was looking lovely with the beginning of autumn colours to be seen everywhere.
Autumn colours in the sunshine on Friday in Montrondo.
Oli had requested a photo of me with Pippa and Dolores obliged. And that's the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. 
It was wonderful to be back in Montrondo where I could get away from "it all" and relax and wind down.  I couldn't believe the sunshine and on the way back took off my cardigan and walked in my short sleeves. Imagine!  It had been raining and cold when we left Madrid in the morning.

Once home I offered  tea and biscuits to everyone and we all enjoyed time in our kitchen catching up on our news. Sara's baby is now 8 months old and is such fun to watch.

As the evening progressed it got colder.  We had the central heating on but feeling a little chilly I decided to use our claw foot bath tub.  It would be only the second time I was to use it.  But wow did I enjoy the hot bath. The shape of the tub is very ergonomic and is very comfortable to lie in. Pippa wondered why I wanted to be inside as she shuns water hahaha.

When I was dry and dressed in my pyjamas, I came upstairs to find Eladio had lit the fire.  It looked so warm and welcoming.
Eladio lit the fire on Firday night, the day of our arrival
After a very frugal dinner, we sat down to watch the news followed by the last two episodes of the American TV series we have been watching recently; American Odyssey. 
The TV series we have been watching this week on Netflix
It's an intriguing thriller about the American military forces against Al Qaeda and the corporate power and money that funds terrorists to force war and increase the business of the sale of arms. It's not as good as Homeland, the script is sometimes silly, but the story is riveting. We finished the series last now and are now feeling a little orphaned and missing the main characters. Let's see what our next Netflix TV series is to be. 

Saturday came and brought mist and rain. I was up at 7.15 and Pippa and I had breakfast together after which she sat on the couch whilst I started writing this week's post.

Meanwhile Oli and Miguel were on the high speed train to León from Madrid and would be arriving at 11.45. 
Oli and Miguel on the high speed train to León from Madrid on Saturday morning
Back in Montrondo we got ready to go to the wedding. We had been told the dress code was free and informal but we were in for a surprise as when we got there nearly everyone was dressed up to the nines.  It was apparently a last minute decision we were not told about. 

The sky was grey and it was raining and would be doing so all day.  We arrived in León at the Hotel Las Infantas where the wedding lunch would take place, just after 1.15.  Shortly we were joined by Oli and Miguel who were also informally dressed. Then all the very dressed up guests trickled in.  The bride in the end had decided to wear a proper wedding dress which was short and made of a beige lacy fabric.  She looked radiant with her handsome husband.  That was the moment we chose to give them our present.  Remember the one I told you about last weekend.  The present was a basket full of household goods from Zara Home which I hope they like.  Here they are happy to receive it.
The bride and groom receiving our present
The dining room was set out beautifully and the food I was told was fantastic.  It certainly looked like it. But I wasn't to taste it.  My will power prevailed and I had ordered a plate of asparagus followed by another one of grilled mushrooms and courgette.  It was rather frustrating not to be able to enjoy the food at the wedding but you see I didn't want to break my diet, especially as my next doctor's appointment is on Monday. 

I couldn't indulge in the lovely array of sweets on display either.  Those who enjoyed it most were my great nieces, Diana and little Lidia who were impatient for the moment to come when they could they could eat them haha.
The sweet display at the wedding reception on Saturday
The music was provided by Eladio's brother, Alejandro, who plays the accordion and Miguel, Oli's cameraman boyfriend, was in charge of the photos. I haven't seen them yet so unfortunately cannot include any of them here today.

Dancing started soon after the lunch.  Eladio and I are terrible dancers whereas all the rest of his family are born dancers.  Even so, we got up and did our best.  It was the snake dance I liked best of course as there are no steps to follow hahaha.  The bride was the main protagonist yesterday but it was our youngest great niece, Lidia, who stole the show.  She has so much personality and is a little devil but such fun.  Olivia, who adores kids, enjoyed her company immensely.  Here they are together in the foyer of the hotel.
Oli with little Lidia
They would dance together too as you can see in the photo below.
Oli dancing with little Lidia
The group photo was a bit of a disaster. Not everyone was there and I had to go and find Eladio to get him to join.  However when I found him the shoot was over. I only got a shot of when the group started getting together hahaha. Note my mother-in-law aged 94 who is at the front.  She had a grand time. She always loves family gatherings.
Trying to get the wedding guests together for a group photo. 
We didn't leave until nearly 7pm.  I guess the drinking and dancing would go on much later but we had to go as we had left Pippa stuck in the house since 12 that morning.  She was delighted to see us and I felt guilty for having left her behind. If Spain was a more dog friendly country she could have come with us.  

We were all tired and were soon in our pyjamas; well, Oli, MIguel and I were, and it was time for dinner.  No one was very hungry so I just made a simple meal of salad and scrambled eggs. Needless to say my dinner was more bl**** vegetables. This diet is so so hard.  

Netflix was the evening entertainment. We watched a rather violent film called Olympus has Fallen about an attack on the White House until it was time to go to bed.

And today is Sunday and it is still dark outside.  It will be even darker next Sunday when the clocks go back. It is raining again and I can only imagine we shall go for a long and wet walk. Yesterday, unfortunately, there was no time for one.

We shall be leaving Montrondo after lunch and tomorrow will be back to routine and work.  

So, my friends, I have come to the end of this week's tales and it only remains to wish you all a great week ahead and sign off until next time.

Cheers all