Sunday, November 13, 2016

In love with Lord Melbourne, US Elections dominate the world, hearing my Mother’s voice, a fabulous Chinese party, remembering the 11th hour of the 11th day, RIP Leonard Cohen and more tales of this week.

Sunday 13th November 2016

Ready to go to the Chinese party (ZTE mobile phone manufacturer launch) on Thursday
Good morning all,

The week has been completely dominated by the US elections and the outcome - yeah Trump won, above all odds - as well as the aftermath of tales of doom once he takes over in January.  But there have been many more stories and experiences this week that have touched me as much or more. 

Last Sunday was a crisp cold and sunny autumn day and the weather would be like it most of the week with the temperatures increasing slightly towards the end.  I enjoyed my first morning walk in the sunshine, wearing my favourite Uniqlo ultra light down jacket, the blue "rain defender".  Here I am feeling good listening to my collection of best loved Sunday hymns, such as "Immortal Invisible God Only Wise" among others.
On my walk last Sunday morning
I made Sunday lunch for everyone; roast beef with lots of the trimmings; although I could only allow myself a few lean slices and some cauliflower.  Would have loved the roast potatoes and gravy - sigh - not to be if I seriously want to lose weight.

That afternoon, after my second walk, I treated myself to re watching episode 6 of The Crown, the Netflix lavish TV series about the first decade of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.  It was all about the denied romance between her dazzling sister Princess Margaret and the divorced Group Captain palace official, Peter Townsend in the mid 50's.  It's pretty ironic to think she couldn't marry a divorced man when later 3 of the Queen's own offspring were divorced one after the other.  
Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend in The Crown and in real life
She could have married him once she was aged 25 without the Queen's and the Government's permission, but to do so would have had to give up her title and rights, marry outside the church and emigrate from her beloved country.  It was huge news at the time with the establishment against the couple and popular opinion in favour of them.
The end of their romance in the newspapers at the time. 
Not so long ago I read an article about a letter she had written to the Prime Minister at the time, Antony Eden, which sets a question mark over whether she gave him up because of "duty" or because she had decided he wasn't the man for her. Whatever the case, their romance has gone down in history as a "famously doomed love story of a tragic princess who was forced to give up the love of her life in the name of duty."  I always felt sorry for her.  Interested in her fate this week I read the authorised biography of her, "A life of contrasts" by Christopher Warwick. She died young, just over 70 and just before her own Mother died.  Interestingly she chose the hymn, Immortal, Invisible, God only wise, my favourite one too and the one I mentioned above,  to be played at her funeral.  I would like that also. 

That night we had dinner at home with Oli after which we watched a programme by the famous Spanish inquisitive journalist, Jordi Evoli, about globalisation and global warming. It was pretty heavy stuff. 

Monday was another cold and sunny day. These days I am wearing my blue ultra light down Uniqlo coat with my Yoigo electric blue touch screen gloves, my sketchers and more importantly my newly acquired blue fur collar, like the one I had before but which got left behind at Uniqlo in Oxford Street. Very recently I was lucky to find another one which I shall be looking after better I promise this time.   I know it's made of rabbit fur - a no no these days - but I love it.
My walking outfit on cold days
Early in the evening, back from my second walk, I settled down to start watching the new ITV Series about the early years of Queen Victoria's reign and wow am I loving it.  
Loving this TV series about the first years of Queen Victoria's reign.
It was created by Daisy Goodwin and Queen Victoria is played by Jenna Coleman.  Tom Hughes plays Prince Albert but I was much more interested to get to know Rufus Sewell (aged 48) who plays the 58 year old Lord Melbourne, the Queen's first P.M.   You see, he's drop dead gorgeous and I was to fall in love with him this week.  
Queen Victoria played by Jenna Coleman and the dashing Lord Melbourne played by the drop dead gorgeous Rufus Sewell, my discovery of the week. 
I'm a sucker for British period dramas.  Of course I had learned about our famous Queen at school but am learning a lot more watching the series.   To refresh your memory and mine, Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria 24th May - 22nd January 1901) became Queen of Great Britain on 20th June 1837 aged just 18 and measured just 5 feet.  To quote the series, she was "every inch a queen". Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, the fourth son of George III. It was never on the cards that she should inherit the throne but the King and all his sons died, leaving it empty for the young teenager who had been protected by her Mother more or less in confinement with only her dog and dolls for company. She had no preparation to be a Queen and has Lord Melbourne to thank  for his mentoring and belief in her during the first 3 years on the throne whilst her Mother and other courtiers and politicians were plotting a regency which never came about thanks to the strong personality of the young Queen and the help of Lord M.   
A painting of the young Queen Victoria - not as pretty as Jenna Coleman I am afraid.
Her first Prime Minister was the dashing and charming Lord Melbourne.  He was aged 58, 40 years older than the teenage queen, but there must have been something about him that attracted her deeply. Maybe she saw him as a father figure but later she would have strong feelings for him as he would for her.
The real Lord Melbourne 
It was not only Queen Victoria who fell in love with him.  I did, as I imagine many other female watchers of the series did too.  He's everything you want in a Prime Minister and man and I am swooning.  In the series she declares her love to him.  He obviously loves her too but sees the match as doomed because of his age and position so declines her love in the most beautiful romantic way in the setting of the gardens of his country home, Brocket Hall and had me nearly in tears.   Prince Albert doesn't appear until episode 4 and although she falls in love with him fairly soon, he leaves me cold.  Not a favourite of young German princes hahaha. For the records, he was the penniless son of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.  It was a pretty good match for him. He married the most eligible woman in Europe but. as it was for the penniless Prince Philip in his marriage to Elizabeth II, it would be difficult for him to find his role in the partnership, although theirs was also built on true love. 
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Consort on their wedding day
Tuesday 8th November was the day of the US Elections.  The campaign had been going on for too long, I, for one, was sick of it.  It was nearly 2 years when the term of a President is 4.  It has been a nasty campaign, with the larger than life billionaire business man and showman, Donald Trump running as the Republican candidate against the no-need-to-introduce Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. He has been brash and bigoted, with his misogynist comments and actions and downright racist with his ideas of building a wall with Mexico or not allowing Muslims into the country.  The race was fierce and the polls led us to believe that Hillary would just pip him to the post which is what most of the world hoped for, except for the white mostly "rusty belt" American men as well as women and possibly Russia and certainly fascist politicians like Marie Le Pen or UKIP's Nigel Farage.  I had my doubts, remembering the polls about Brexit. We would know for sure on Wednesday morning when we would wake up to what would seem like living nightmare. The news was dominating the worlds' headlines as if nothing else was happening around us. 

The day started off well for me though, as my scales told me I had lost a total of 6,5 kilos. That is just over 1 stone.  Well done I hope you say as this diet is very uphill.  Since 4th October not one morsel of carbohydrates, fruit, fat or alcohol have touched my lips; or better described as only having eaten vegetables and protein.  I can't wait for the next stage when at least some fruit may be introduced.  I will know on Monday when I see my diet doctor who I hope will be pleased with me. My prizes for the sacrifice are getting into clothes I couldn't wear before. But there are still many garments to go until I reach my goal. 

If it was good news for me, it was bad news for one of my favourite British stores, Marks and Spencer.  They had issued what I think were their worst results in history that morning and had announced the closure of some 60 shops in England and 10 or more of those in Europe which had only been re-opened a few years ago; alas never in Madrid. 
Not good news for M+S this week - too many people outside the store and not enough inside says this photo to me.
How sad.  Their problem is the clothes.  Young people don't buy them and even older women like me, are not attracted. They have lost touch with their previously loyal and I think older customers. What does sell well is their food and I suspect their underwear.  I was sorry to see the one in Brussels would be shut down too, where I had shopped with my friend Sandra when we were last there.  I know she will miss it.

Wednesday was a holiday in Madrid to celebrate La Almudena; the Virgin Maria La Almudena and the patroness of Spain's capital.  Oli had the day off too and was at home with us. 

There seemed not much to celebrate on Wednesday morning.  I was up early, off to do my blood tests, when I read on my phone that Donald Trump had won and will be the next President of the USA and the first one ever to have no political experience - how scary!  
This is how the world felt when we heard Donald Trump had been elected the next President of the US
We heard it was the disgruntled, unemployed white men mostly, but women too, who had been seduced by his messages.  They are supposedly fed up of of the "establishment" which the Clintons represent.  I too am fed up of the establishment but would not prefer a candidate like Trump who is brash, bigoted, megalomaniac, racist, sexist and misogynist and many other negative things.  I actually can't think of any positive adjective to describe him.  He even looks awful.  I mean with all the campaign people around him advising him, hasn't any told him to get a new hairdresser or lose some weight? In a way I could ask the same question of Boris Johnson who in the UK is described sometimes as a buffoon.  But I far prefer an Eton educated buffoon to him.  
I hope Donald Trump changes his hairstyle when he moves into the White House.
The voting system in the US is complicated and the votes are not counted as individual votes for the candidates, rather through electoral colleges.  What I do know is that Hillary won the popular vote; i.e. more people voted for her than for Donald Trump which makes the current system seem completely archaic and unfair.  Look at the numbers and think for yourself.  Also very interesting is how many people did not vote.  Like with Brexit, if they had got off their couches and bothered to do so, the outcome may well have been different.  
The results of the popular vote

The news put the world in shock with the dollar plummeting. Funnily enough the pound gained meanwhile.  There comes now an age of uncertainty.  Will Trump really put into action his frightening promises?  Thankfully his acceptance speech was surprisingly moderate and none of the diatribe we are used to hearing from his lips was there and no mention of the actions we most fear. Also the threat of not letting Muslims into the country suddenly disappeared from his website, or so I read. So maybe, just maybe, there is a glimmer of  hope his bark is worse than his bite.  The next day he met with President Obama in the White House which was to be their first encounter.  It was expected to be very tense but we later heard it wasn't and that Trump had even ventured to say he would study the Obama Care health law before repealing it which is what he had said in the campaign.  Time will tell. Meanwhile young Americans and those who fear him and voted for a first woman president, have taken to the streets to protest and the first acts of racism are occurring, just as they were and are  in the UK after the Brexit referendum.  Let's hope it dies down, but somehow I think Trump being elected is a game changer for the bad.  Time, again time, will tell. 

On Wednesday I was shocked by the news of Trump winning but I was in for a more personal shock that day.  You see I was to hear my Mother's voice for the first time since she died in 1999.  I had recovered the tapes of an interview the ex husband of my best friend Amanda had done in 1993 when he interviewed her with my Father present at their home in 6 Heaton Grove in Bradford with the idea of writing her biography.  She was 73 at the time.  I had the notes from the interviews as well as his first 3 chapters of the book which my Mother rejected for being too novelistic but did not have the tapes. She gave them at the time to my cousin Zuka who had intended to transcribe them.  She lost them and I only got them back this summer. They were damaged and I had them remastered although part of them is lost for ever.  

So it was on Wednesday evening that I sat down at my PC with my headphones on in great trepidation to listen to her voice.  So many years have passed and I couldn't remember it.  My Mother as you know, was Russian though born in Rome, went to school in France, lived in Bulgaria and left for Germany 6 months before the Russian invaded after the Nazis had gone. From Germany she went to Vienna then Salzburg to escape the Russians at the end of the war and after the war, unable to return to Bulgaria to her parents as the iron curtain had closed it, decided to start a new life in England from scratch, alone and without a penny in her pocket. As she said at the time, she knew, Russian, Bulgarian, Italian, French and German but she didn't know English and wanted to learn it. She would end up living the rest of her life in her newly adopted country, Great Britain, a country she fell in love with. She would, however, remain Russian and a staunch Orthodox at heart.  

As I got into the tape, my memory of her voice came back.  The voice of my dear, fascinating, fun loving, bohemian, badly dressed, intelligent, academic, aristocratic, coffee drinking and heavy smoker of a Mother soon became familiar and I could hear her BBC English coming through with strains of her Russian accent.  I say aristocratic because she was born Her Serene Highness Princess Elena Andreivna Lieven; albeit penniless. When she was alive I never noticed she had a Russian accent, only on the phone, so I suppose it is normal that I hear it too on the tapes.  I cried as I listened to mainly familiar stories of  neglection by her Mother, being sent to school in France at the age of 6 because of her bad behaviour and only being allowed back 4 years later, only to live in a fanatical religious home where everything was a sin.  It was too much for my high spirited Mother. These stories I knew and they were sad to listen to. But it was her stories of the War, of her arrival from Sophia in 1944  in Vienna and Berlin and internment in transit camps where she had to go naked with all the women and be showered and deloused in public and shut in horrible cold huts with little or nothing to eat that shocked me to the core with all their detail and her amazing memory of events and people.   The camps she was sent to were not concentration camps but the next worst type. Amazingly she escaped and joined her brother Sasha in Berlin but soon she was found out and the Gestapo put her in prison and that was frightening.  I won't go on because her story is too long for this post.  What I will say though, is now that I have the tapes and the notes, I have nearly all the material I need to write the book that I shall write about her and her family, their life in riches under the Tzar, their escape from Russia and how her family was scattered all over the world thanks to the Bolsheviks and the Nazis. It will make very interesting reading and is my obligation to my daughters Susana and Olivia who have to know the story and their heritage.  Wow, Mummy, I wish I had listened to you with more interest when you used to talk about your past. Love, you, wonderful to hear your voice again.  The tapes brought you back to me.  And now the girls have them too and are listening to them with joy and amazement. You are irreplaceable. 

Thursday came and there was more good weather. Eladio decided to start on lots of pruning needed in the garden.  It's pretty tough work so he is taking it in stages.

That evening I had an engagement; I was going to a "Chinese" party. Actually it was the launch of a new mobile phone, the Axon 7 by the Spanish branch of the ZTE company which is one of the largest Chinese telecommunications companies.  It was to be held at the Capitol Cinema in Gran Via and would be teeming with people from the sector.

Just as I had put on my lovely black dress which I now fit into, poor little Pippa who was rushing around, suddenly got the nail and toe (or is it digital pad of?) her paw  stuck in the groove of the radiator in our room, while trying to reach for a soft toy.  She was completely stuck and bleeding and screaming; yes, literally screaming.  I nearly died watching her suffer. Eladio of course came to the rescue. He cleverly forced open the groove as much as he could until her paw came out. Salud came to the rescue too. I was only able to be of help afterwards by cuddling her and cleaning her. The whole episode must have lasted about 10 minutes, 10 minutes of dreadful suffering and fright by poor little Pippa who whilst screaming, looked at us with eyes of fright and dread as if begging to be released from her pain. Finally she was, thank goodness and now her toys are no longer placed on top of the radiator. She gave me such a scare but thankfully nothing was broken and she is perfectly alright. 
Little Pippa with her favourite soft toy, the orange crab, curled up on our bed after the horrible incident.
I had to put makeup on a puffed face from crying but I hope no once noticed.  The party was very glamorous and it was great to see familiar faces and especially to catch up with ex colleagues from Motorola such as Gonzalo E, Carlos G, Lubas or Vicente H, not to mention lots of other people.  We were in for a surprise when the launch started.  We sat down in the cinema seats and a famous model was the compere.  Her name was Laura but I can't remember her surname.  She was very thin but completely dressed in black as if she were a nun and all her bones stuck out.  The dress did not look good on her. She made a faux pas at one time saying HTC, a rival phone manufacturer, instead of ZTE.  Then my friend and ex colleague Gonzalo E introduced the new phone and wow it seems amazing with much focus on the audio and the camera.  
Gonzalo right who presented the new phone. In the middle the Ara Malikian and to the left Jia who works for ZTE
The theme of the night or the phone was "touch the sound" which I liked. Then we were in for a delightful concert by the hands of the Lebanese violinist, Ara Malikian and his guitar playing Argentinian partner Fernando Egozcue.  
A unique concert at the ZTE party on Thursday night.
Ara, by the way, doubles as a comedian in his accented Spanish.  Their music was a delight to us all. Later I tried out the phone with some amazing head phones and wow is the sound good. The ham and drink looked good too but were not for me. Instead I drank water and surreptitiously ate my Pronokal protein bar during the concert hahaha.  Being like Cinderalla, I left before midnight as I had a long journey home. But it was nice for a change to go out and be invited to a party and see people from the sector.  Well done ZTE for a great event and a great phone too. That was one good "Chinese" party. But actually there was absolutely nothing Chinese about the party except for the origin of the company hahaha.

Friday 11th September was Armistice Day or Poppy Day as it is often called in England. That is another tradition I have had to forego when I came to live in Spain.  But I still take part in spirit.  
Friday was Armistice Day.  Let us never forget
Did you know that on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War, World War I came to an end?  There would be 2 minutes silence at 11 o'clock that day to remember the country's dead and Prince Harry would place a wreath at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. He would would also be reciting  one of the most famous WWI poems by the WWI laureate Rupert Brooke called The Soldier. He himself died in that war but his words have lived on and I happy to reproduce them here for you.  If you went to school in England you will have heard this poem of course.  I always loved it. I also loved In Flanders Field with the reference to the poppy fields but the poem is by John McCrae from Canada not Britain haha.

IF I should die, think only this of me:
    That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
        Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
        In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

It's very patriotic isn't it?  I hope you liked reading it whether you have read it before or not. It always makes me feel nostalgic for England.. 

Perhaps it was fatalistic that the great Canadian poet, song writer, singer and guitar player, Leonard Cohen,  died aged 82 or his death was made known to us on Armistice Day by his family.  Since his death I have created an album of my favourite of his songs which include Hallelujah and Suzanne. He, by the way, loved the poem In Flanders Field by his Canadian compatriot and you can hear him recite it too if you search  You Tube. 

Leonard Cohen in the 60's. An exceptional artist, an exceptional man. RIP
Later I read in an article by The Local how much Spain gave to his music.  He learned 6 basic flamenco guitar chords from a Spanish guitar player who gave him lessons in Montreal which would inspire all his music from then on.  I also learned he found his voice through the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca and that he even called his daughter Lorca.  Lorca was my favourite poet too when I studied Spanish at Nottingham University. In 2011 when he was awarded the prestigious Principe de Asturias prize for arts, he told this to the audience. He also said that his guitar of choice was a "Conde" one made in Spain and bought at a musical instrument shop at number 7 Gravina Street. This story told during his speech at the awards came as a surprise to me. You can watch and listen to his speech here in English.  He was an exceptional man and an exceptional artist. At least we can still listen to his music.  RIP Leonard Cohen. 

Friday 11th November wasn't all bad news. It was also St. Martin's day, the supposed start of a second Indian summer (veranillo de San Martín) and it is true we are having a period of unseasonably warm dry weather which I hope lasts at least a few more days.

Well it lasted and on Saturday I enjoyed my first walk of the day in the sun.  Once home I put my hands to acquiring our tourist visas for Cuba.  Thanks to my nephew Miguel who provided me with the correct website, I filled in the form and paid 44 euros each for visas to visit Havana.  I booked the flights in August and now the trip is coming closer and we are much looking forward to visiting Castro's Cuba.  I can imagine Trump's election will not have gone down well in the island after the restoring of relations with  the US Government and Barack Obama's visit.  Again, time will tell.

And today is Sunday and the Indian summer - St. Martin - continues.  Now that I have got to the end of the tales of this week, I shall don my Uniqlo coat, sketchers and touch screen gloves and go on my first power walk of the day. The rest of Sunday will most likely pan out as it usually does; a quiet day at home with my family and dogs.

Wishing you all a great Sunday and week ahead, let me leave you for now until next time,

As ever, all the best,


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