Sunday, November 06, 2016

Last day in Peñacaballera, home again, a new Government in Spain, All Saints’ Day holiday,“The Crown” on Netflix and other stories.

Sunday 6th November 2016
A photo of myself in the mirror in Suzy's empty bedroom on Saturday morning,  looking decidedly slimmer.  I hope you can notice it too.
Dear all,

It's Saturday 5th November and if you are British and in England you will probably be celebrating Guy Fawkes' night with a bonfire and fireworks; eating "parkin", home made toffee, baked potatoes and sausages. I won't as that was one of the things I had to give up when I left England for Spain so many years ago in 1981.  In any case I wish you all a great time.  "Remember remember, the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot".  All I can do today is "remember".

It's raining today.  Just one week ago we were in Peñacaballera staying with friends and the sun shone all weekend.  I left off last Sunday morning from their delightful house, so let me start from there.

It was to be our last day.  Dolores was interested in buying wicker goods so our hosts took us to nearby Baños de Montemayor which is actually in the province of Cáceres, on the border of Salamanca.  Baños is equally famous for its spa and wicker making and there were plenty of shops with hand made local goods.  Dolores was the one who was interested but it was I who did the buying hahaha.  I bought two lovely baskets, an old miniature iron and a lovely miniature wicker chair for Eladio to sit on whilst lighting the fire in Montrondo.  There and then Javier and I got him to pose outside the shop with my purchases hahaha.  It was a freak moment with people going by thinking I was a bit eccentric which I suppose I am.
Eladio with my purchases at Baños de Montemayor last Sunday
After exploring the little town, our friends took us on a steep walk up the hill to see a pretty house which is now a rural apartment type hotel called Villa Asunción. The views on the way up were to die for, especially those of Baños like this one.
The view of Baños de Montemayor on our way up the steep hill to Villa Asunción.
The walk down was even more beautiful through thick woods and paths carpeted in autumn leaves. We came across a flour mill with waterfalls and stopped to admire our surroundings.
Eladio by one of the waterfalls near Baños de Montemayor
Once back in the village my companions enjoyed a drink and some tapas.  All I could have was water so I wondered off to see more wicker shops.  One of them sold walking sticks which Toño and Eladio couldn't resist. They both have quite a collection and bought the ones you can see in the picture below.  Dolores, if you are reading this, Toño left his in the back of our car!
The two brothers, Toño and Eladio, pleased with the new walking sticks they bought in Baños de Montemayor
Once back in Peñacaballera or "Peña" as the locals call it, it was time for lunch which we had outside thanks to the pleasant weather.  Here is the table we would sit around later.  Someone mentioned it looked like a scene out of Tuscany with the pretty blue chairs.  I tend to agree.
The table set for lunch last Sunday in Peñacaballera
Whilst the men dozed a short siesta, we women went out to gather chestnuts for Dolores.  We also went to get more tomatoes from Jorge's greenhouse but it seemed as if the locusts had been there, hahaha.  All his friends and relations had been after us and there were hardly any left.  However we did not go home empty handed as our hosts gave both couples a bag of the amazing sweet and juicy tomatoes to take home.  The difference in taste between them and the supermarket kind is just vast.

All good things come to an end and at around 5pm we said our goodbyes and thank yous and started on our journey home. It should have taken 2.5 hours but due to an accident on the A6 coming into Madrid, it took a further 30 minutes and we were not home until 8pm.  Oli and Miguel were there to greet us but left shortly so we had a quiet and frugal meal for dinner alone together.  We fell asleep that night watching another episode from Season 5 of Homeland.

Monday, the last day of October, was a lovely sunny day.  I got good news on my walk. The results my brother-in-law was waiting for after his operation a month ago were negative.  I jumped for joy.  I was so happy for him and all the family.   I would go for another walk in the afternoon.  Believe it or not I was wearing shorts and a short sleeved t-shirt. I probably won't be wearing them again until the spring.  I would be in for a shock later in the week when the temperatures plummeted and the rain made its appearance with a vengeance.

Monday was the day the newly elected Spanish President Mariano Rajoy took his oath during a ceremony at the Zarzuela Palace with the King.  If you notice in the photo below you can see that he has his hands on both the bible and the Spanish constitution with a Christian cross on the table while he takes the oath. This was much commented on here as Spain is supposed to be a lay state.  I have no comments to make by the way. So finally we were to have a new government, albeit the same one as before.  That's not to everyone's taste but you have to give it to them that they have turned around Spain's economy which is now set in the right direction. They have also lessened the unemployment figures but there is still so much need for improvement.  Rajoy and his party will govern in minority which is good and bad.  Only time will tell how things work out.
Mariano Rajoy taking his oath on Monday as the "new" President of Spain's government. Notice the bible and the cross as well as the Spanish constitution on the table where he takes his oath. 
Meanwhile in the UK, the high court ruled that Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the EU; i.e. invoking the now famous article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.  This has caused a hoo-hah in the UK and even brought a glimmer of hope that Brexit might not actually mean Brexit anymore.  We have one person to thank here and that is a young woman caled Gina Miller who singlehandely took on the government on this issue.  This London based investment manager is described as "the woman leading the Brexit legal battle". She said as the ruling was made: "This result is about all our futures" and she is damned right.   Straight afterwards Teresa May said they would fight the sentence and I'm sure she will; although I believe she has met more than her match in Gina Miller.  
Gina Miller speaking to the press after the historic ruling from the High Court
Monday night saw the showing of Oli's third programme with "Mi Cámara y yo" which this week was about tourism in Madrid.  Did you know that Spain is the third most visited country after the US and France?  Yeah well it is.  There is of course a battle between Barcelona and Madrid and I think the former is the winner in the tourism market although more and more people are visiting Madrid and many of them are Japanese and Chinese.  Oli was critical of the programme but I was pleased to learn of new places to see and take future visitors.  She gave a bird's eye view of 3 lesser known gems of museums such as "El Museo Cerralbo", "El Museo Lázaro Galdiano" or the Museum of Romanticism.  They are well worth visiting after you have seen The Prado, the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Thyssen Museum. But Madrid is not only about musuems, there is wonderful gastronomy too and Oli included a piece on the Bar La Campana which serves the famous calamari sandwiches (bocadillos de calamares) and has been doing so since 1870.  Here is Olivia making one of the 1000 sandwiches served there every day. I have to admit I've never been but now I shall put Bar La Campana on my Madrid to visit list. 
Oli making and serving a calamari sandwich at Bar La Campana in her programme about tourism on Monday night
Another bar to add to this list is the "Chocolatería San Ginés" which is famous for its "churros" - you know the Spanish fritters which you dip in thick chocolate.  The programme ended with a visit to Chinchón, a famous medieval village outside Madrid, where Oli joined a group of British tourists.  I particularly liked it when she got them to try and pronounce the name of the town and also made a toast in Spanish - the words being "chinchin in Chinchón"; chinchin meaning cheers. We thoroughly enjoyed the programme which you can browse here if you are interested.

Tuesday was 1st November, All Saints' Day and a national holiday in Spain. It's the day people traditionally take flowers to the graves of their loved ones; although Eladio pointed out to me that the official day for that is 2nd November. 
All Saints' Day in Spain
It was also Halloween, a festival, I have said here many times, means nothing to me.  In any case it was a nice day at home and we were joined by Oli and Miguel for lunch. It's always lovely to have them, one of the reasons being they bring down the average age in the house by quite a few notches hahaha.

The worst thing about this week was getting used to the clocks having gone back an hour resulting in it being dark at 6.30pm.  That meant that on many of our evening walks we would come home in the dark.  On All Saints' Day I was back at 7pm and found Oli and Miguel making pancakes in the kitchen with nutella and cream. This was in stark contrast to the prawn salad I would have for my dinner.

I had a long chat with Suzy on the phone that night before going to bed to watch more of Homeland Season 5. She was well or seemed to be and had no particular news.  I was happy to hear she is still pleased with her job as a dietitian for Pronokal (my diet remember!) in Harley Street and is getting on very well with her "Manada" flat mates, Chati and Anita.  She has been commenting lately that she thinks this might be her last year in London. She's not sure where she wants to go but Barcelona seems to be in her plans. Well, it's still far from Madrid but nearer than from London.  I imagine one of the reasons is the weather.  If it's dark here at 6.30, it's getting dark in England even earlier and that would be something she is taking into consideration and I totally understand.  Time will tell .......

On Wednesday I was very busy. I had a meeting that morning and I also went into the office on a few errands.  On my way back I went to pick my watch up from a local shopping centre and very naughtilly ventured into H+M. There I bought a pair of trousers and two jumpers. I know I should wait until I shed all the weight I need to before I reward myself with new clothes but I couldn't stop myself. For the first time in my life I bought some fashionable "torn jeans".  It wasn't the torn bit that made me buy them actually but the good fit. If you are interested these are the ones I got. They are called "patchwork jeans" and this is their description: "5-pocket low-rise jeans in washed stretch denim with hard-worn details and slightly wider, tapered legs with patchwork details".
My new "patchwork" and "torn" jeans from H`M
 In any case I'm happy with them. Soon they will be too big as this week I made more progress with my diet and have now lost almost 6 kilos.  Still more to go and I am sticking to this incredibly difficult diet. I think when it's over I will never want to eat cauliflower, mushrooms, courgettes or lettuce ever again as I will always associate them with the diet.  But, I shall soldier on I promise.

Oli was busy this week filming for her upcoming programme which will be about young entrepreneurs in Madrid.  Wednesday saw her at the astonishing Google Campus in the city which she came back entralled about.  In the picture below she is with an organiser and a woman entrepreneur who takes her baby to work.  
Olivia at the Google Campus on Wednesday
She and Miguel joined us for dinner that night as she would be off shooting the next day near home. I'ts always lovely to have them.

Thursday was the last sunny day of the week. It was also the day Mariano Rajoy announced the cabinet reshuffle.  It certainly wasn't a new one as only 3 members left.  This is the new government.  5 men and 8 women. 
The "family photo" of the new Spanish cabinet. Soraya stands next to Rajoy and Cospedal is far right.
Rajoy has 2 strong women he depends on in his close circle and the main one is Soraya Saenz de Santamaría, his right hand woman. The other is Dolores de Cospedal who was appointed Minister of Defence; a very unpolitical post really.  Rumour has it the two women can't stand each other and the clear winner of the two was the former when she was reinforced and remains the only Vice President, the Prime Minister's deputy and also his troubleshooter.  Soraya is more popular than Dolores and actually much more popular than Rajoy himself and will have as her main task to deal with the Catalan issue. Let's see how she does that.

While the country was digesting the news broadcast that night on television, we turned to Netflix for our entertainment. Having finished Homeland Season 5, we started watching Peaky Blinders, a British saga based on the story of the gang of the same name based in Birmingham in 1919.  We've only watched 2 episodes so far and have yet to get hooked. I'm not sure we will. The next day, season 1 of The Crown, the story of the first decade of Queen Elizabeth's reign would be premiered on Netflix and I know where my loyalties lie and couldn't wait to watch it.

As predicted, the rain came on Friday.  It poured it down putting an end to the St. Martin's summer (veranillo de San Martín) which had come early this year.  It was a very grey and cold day. The highlight was having Oli for lunch as she had been shooting nearby at El Ganso, a new Spanish clothes chain with shops in over 150 countries believe it or not. She came loaded with a tray of cakes as she had also been shooting the story of a woman entrepreneur who left her legal career to become a very successful confectioner. Here is Oli with her.
Oli shooting the story of a woman who left her legal career to become a successful confectioner
When Oli left late on Friday afternoon it was still raining and so there and then I decided to start watching The Crown on Netflix. I didn't think my Spanish husband would be interested but he was game for it. However, I inisted this time that I had to watch it in English. After all, I couldn't possibly hear the Queen speaking in Spanish and he  agreed as long as there were subtitles in Spanish:-(
The beautiful series about Queen Elizabeth II by Netflix
We went on to watch 2 more episodes that night and we are rivetted.  I had big expectations as everything about the series created by Peter Morgan was supposed to be lavish, including Princess Elizabeth's 35.000 pound replica wedding dress; despite it supposedly having been made thanks to ration coupons at the time!  They even got real surgeons to perfom surgery of the time on a dummy of the sick King George VII in a ballroom at the palace.  Amazing. My only complaint is that the actors who play the Queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother and Churchill don't look like them enough.

Season 1 spans the first decade of the life of the Queen since she married Philip Mountbatten, a penniless Greek prince,  in 1947 and became Queen at the tender age of 25 when her beloved Father died in 1952 of lung cancer.  He smoked, by the way, until the very end.  I am loving it but still after 3 episodes I keep having to explain to my non British royalist husband who is George V, George VI, Queen Mary and who is Princess Margaret not to mention the Duke of Windsor  and then go on to explain that he was Edward VIII who abdicated in favour of his brother "Bertie" who was crowned George VI to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson and whose real name was David!.  My explanations go on to tell him who was The Queen Mother Elizabeth (Bowes Lyon), George VI's wife as well as Antony Eden, Peter Townsend, Lord Mountbatten, the origins of Prince Philip and a long etc. It's such recent history to me but chinese checkers to him I'm afraid.

On Saturday it rained again, but when there was a glimpse of it stopping, out we went for our walk. It rained again until the mid afternoon when I ventured out again for my second walk, always accompanied by my music lists on spotify thanks to my cordless bluetooth headphones. I came back to re watch episode 3 of The Queen as I had slept through parts of it the night before.  After my diet dinner last night, we were to watch 3 more. Talk about binge watching!  I can't get enough of it although, today Sunday, I shall have to re watch episode 6 as I partly slept through that too.  It's dreadful to think we have only 4 more episodes to watch of season 1 and that season 2 is only being filmed now.  Maybe I shall resort to re watching the whole of Downton Abbey for the 3rd time as a substitute.  That remains to be seen hahaa.

So yes today is Sunday and thankfully the sky is clear and I shall go for my first walk shortly.  The music I play on Spotify will be my collection of favourite church hymns; suitable music for a Sunday and will take me straight back in my mind to morning assembly at my school, St. Joseph's College Bradford, or to evening service at St. Peter's church in Shipley.

It's a happy Sunday for two men in particular.  Yesterday Andrew Murray became the number one tennis player in the world. That's great for British sport.  A less known achievement comes from the prowess of Spanish ice skater, Javier Fernández who  yesterday won the prestigious Rostelcom Cup in Russia for the third time by the way.  Ice skating is no big sport in Spain and I am always disappointed in such achievements being under reported in the Spanish press.  I have had to resort to finding the news from Canadian media.  Isn't that sad?

Javier Fernández, the unsung hero of Spanish ice skating whose prowess is under reported on in his home country
I'm not sure how the day will pan out for us as Olivia hasn't told us her plans for lunch.  My lunch, of course, will be according to my strict diet which is the norm these days.

So I will leave you now, publish this and print a copy for my Father before my walk.

Wishing you all a great week ahead,

Cheers till next time

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