Saturday, March 25, 2017

A visit to the Retiro, a birthday lunch, surprise goodbye dinner for Fátima, Suzy’s phone snatched in the street in London, terror at Westminster, snow in spring in Madrid and other tales of the week.

Sunday 26th March, 2017

At the Retiro park in Madrid last Sunday with little Pippa
Hi again everyone,

Last Sunday was Father's day in Spain.   As I told you in my previous post, 19th March is Saint Joseph's day and many boys born on that day are called Joseph or José in Spanish which is often shortened to "Pepe".  It was then Eladio's brother, José Antonio's birthday, his 70th and we had been invited to lunch to their house in the centre of Madrid where we used to live too.  We decided to go early and take a walk in the lovely Retiro Park.  

The weather was beautiful and the park, as always, on a Sunday, was full, both of "madrileños" and tourists.  As we walked along the main promenade alongside the lake, we talked about how we used to go there every Sunday when we lived in the city and the girls were small.  The photo illustrating this week's post is of me with little Pippa by the railings of the lake. As you can see it was a lovely sunny day. I think the temperature reached the mid 20's, in sharp contrast to the cold that came that came and even brought with it snow on Thursday and Friday.  

I had to take a photo of Eladio too and here he is with our miniature chocolate coloured dachshund. 
Eladio with Pippa at the Retiro park last week
As usual, children were attracted to her pointing out she was a "sausage dog" but I had to warn them not to come up too close as she is such a barker and I do not trust her with children.  I wish she wasn't like that.  2 American students were attracted to her too at the open air bar where we had coffee. I was pleased as punch when they said she looked "immaculate". That is, of course, because I groom her so well everyday, even brushing her teeth hahaha.

After our lovely walk in Madrid's main park, we made our way to José Antonio and Dolores' house. We would be just 4 for his birthday lunch as none of their "children" could make it. My sister-in-law had made one of my favourite meals; roast lamb with all the trimmings.  We sat down to a lovely quiet lunch together and I had to have a photo of the "birthday boy" and his wife.  I have known them now since I was 21 when I first came to Madrid as part of the student exchange programme of my degree in Hispanic Studies at Nottingham University. Little did I know when I first met Dolores who was a teacher of English at the school I was assigned to, Instituto de Moralataz, that one day we would become. 
Dolores and José Antonio on his 70th birthday last Sunday
Dolores had made his favourite cake, a sort of apple sponge and I had brought along some special candles which are more like fireworks hahaha.  I took a video of the occasion which you can see here

Thankfully the days are longer now and there is more light in the evening. As from last night when the clocks went one hour forward, they will be even longer.  Thus, Eladio was able to mow the lawn upon our return. 

On Sunday Saida, our new home help who is from Morocco, arrived.  She would be doing her "apprenticeship" for a week with the help of Salud who, very sadly, will be leaving us at the end of the month.

That night we watched a special Father's day programme where the son of the infamous Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar,  was interviewed.  He told the interviewer, Jordi Evole, that the Netflix series "Narcos" had glorified his Father who was even more of a monster than the series shows. We are watching it at the moment and my stomach churns sometimes at the sheer violence and power of this man who was also a loving Father.

Monday came and it was a bank holiday in Spain.  Most people had a day off but I didn't.  I had to do a  PR plan for a new customer and spent my morning doing it.  This new customer is actually Swedish but based in Barcelona, so really my main two customers are based there which is quite a coincidence.  But these days that doesn't matter as we nearly all work virtually and remotely. 

I went for my second walk of the day and I took Pippa with me.  Eladio was at his afternoon private lessons, so the other 2 dogs didn't get a walk that day. It was still beautifully sunny, the day before spring would officially begin and I did a photo shoot of Pippa on the walk. This is the best shot I got.
Pippa in the sun on our walk on Monday afternoon
That afternoon Samsung reminded me I had to update and install new software on my Galaxy S7 Edge.  So I did so.  Later I regretted it as I do not like the look of the new upgrade the so-called "nougat" by Android which makes the software.  The drop down screen font is ridiculously small with this new version and for people whose vision is not perfect, is a real obstacle. I rang the Samsung Customer Care line to see how I could enlarge it and you can't.  Most devices today are designed by very young people with perfect sight who do not take into account that people who are older than them can't see as well.  
The ridiculously small font of the Android "nougat" software on my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. I need a magnifying glass to see it!!!
If I was complaining about the new software update on my phone, Suzy had a much bigger complaint to make. That evening she was walking on the streets of London, using her phone as we all do, when suddenly a "hoodie" riding a bike, passed her by and snatched the phone right out of her hand and rode off.  It was a Samsung Galaxy S7 which I had given her for Christmas. She screamed and ran after him to no avail.  What an awful thing to happen. It was a huge shock for her too.  Later she would have to change all her passwords and get a new sim card. Thankfully she had another phone, her old Sony which was up and running by Monday afternoon.  It was a lesson to me too as I use my phone constantly in public and what happened to Suzy in London on Monday evening could happen to anyone nearly anywhere these days.  What a nasty sign of our times. 

Tuesday, the 1st day of spring, had its ups and downs. I was awake at 5.30 in the morning and after breakfast worked on modifying the comms plan I had sent to my new customer the day before, after receiving feedback. Later I spoke to Suzy who was feeling miserable after having her phone stolen. We had to use FB messenger to call instead of whatsapp. I felt so sorry for her; trying to be of help in a dreadful situation.

But no one could be of help to me that morning which turned out to be a kafkian like experience. I had an appointment at the Labour Exchange to get information about becoming self employed and capitalize the "dole".  That dole money will go exclusively to paying the social security tax towards my pension.  I don't know what you pay in other countries but it is 1.100 euros per month here, enough to put off anyone wanting to become self employed.  On top of that you have to pay 15% tax which of course goes up if you earn more.  There is little motivation to be an entrepreneur here I can tell you. Eladio came with me and I was glad he did as there would be no way I could explain later  the process I went through that morning. We were badly informed by the Labour Exchange who sent us to the "Tesoreria" (Treasury of the Social Security organisation). That was supposed to be our first stop. However, there, a very nasty and uppity lady told us to go to "Hacienda" (the Ministry of Economy) and treated us literally like a "piece of ****".  Eladio was so cross he asked to see the head of her department to complain. From the Treasury we were sent back to the Labour Exchange to get more precise information of the process. The silly thing is that the 3 organisations are independent of each other and each one can only inform the public about its competencies when as a citizen you need to see the whole picture.  At the latter,  we were attended to very unwillingly by a civil servant who was curt and totally uninformative. Whatever question we asked her, she referred us to the law, saying we could read it on their internet portal. I mean come on, what is she there for if it isn't to inform the public.? Fed up with the complicated bureaucracy we opted in the end to go to a "gestoria" (sort of accountant like office) we found on internet and which is near where we live in Boadilla. Here the treatment was far better and we were well informed by a nice woman called Pilar. She explained what was needed to be done would later get back to me with the best option. I far prefer her to the accountant I had been using up till then.  But my, what a difficult process it is to become self employed in Spain if you are on the dole like me!  

We were home very late for lunch but managed a walk together afterwards before Eladio went off to his lessons.  That was the day I wished my new car had arrived as I had to go to a stationery shop to print the goodbye Nokia album I had done for Fátima for her surprise goodbye dinner that night in Pozuelo.  Eladio dropped me off without my knowing how I would get back. Ironically it would be Fátima I rang to pick me up and I had to tell her a fib as to why I was stuck without a car in Boadilla.  I could hardly tell her the real reason hahaha. Bad luck had it that the printer at the shop worked very slowly. Then I suddenly realised that each sheet was coming out wrong, with the print missing on the left side of the paper. Oh, no, we had to start again. By then Fátima had come to pick me up and was waiting outside and I had to tell her I was in a queue at the chemists, hahaha. 

Meanwhile, my 5 Airbnb guests had arrived from Chiclana. Unbelievably they were the mother and 4 women teachers of a girl who had reached the final of Spain's "Got Talent" show and they had come to see her perform.  The daughter, Mar Gabarre, sang and played the harp. She didn't win but my 5 guests were so pleased that she had even got to the final it didn't matter. 

I had about an hour to wind down over a cup of tea with Fátima, her dog Chispi and Pippa, before it was time to leave for her surprise goodbye dinner. And here I am with both dogs.  I think the footnote should be "surrounded by dogs" hahaha.
"Surrounded by dogs"
Fátima, my best friend in Spain, was made redundant by Nokia in January after 17 years with the company, the company she joined thanks to me in a way.  We were great friends at Motorola and when I joined Nokia in the year 2000 I wanted to take her with me.  It was really thanks to our now mutual great friend, Julio, who interviewed her and took her on when she was 9 months pregnant.  That says a lot about the company and about Julio!  She left the company with no goodbyes and not how she deserved. That's because it was Christmas time, there was no one there and she probably didn't feel like it.   Thus I planted the idea with them to organise a surprise dinner for old and new colleagues. But I had to deceive her and say we were going out to dinner with other friends. 

Fátima couldn't believe it when we walked into the private dining room of a restaurant called "Corner" in Pozuelo where, instead of meeting up with Eladio, Pedro and Ludi, there were many of her colleagues all lined up to greet her.  As I walked in with her, I couldn't take a photo but her face was a picture. She was so shocked, she broke down with emotion and happiness and I hugged her. I was so happy for her.  It was a super dinner and lovely to see so many of my ex colleagues, some of whom I hadn't seen since I left Nokia in 2005.  We gave her a beautiful Svarovski bracelet I knew she liked, as well as an engraved silver plaque of her times at Nokia. We also gave her the album with her colleagues' photos and goodbye words. Being her best friend, mine was the longest and I read it out to everyone as it was my "ode" to her.  The evening could not end without a group photo and here we are.

The group photo at Fátima's surprise goodbye Nokia dinner on Tuesday night
It was a truly magical night and my thanks go out to Cristina and Paloma who made it all possible. 

On Wednesday I went to another audition, as part of all the new and exciting things I am doing in my professional life after Yoigo.  It was a cold and wet morning when I made my way to the studios somewhere near Paseo de Extremadura.  This time the studio was full of people and of all ages. I found out it was for part in a shampoo advertisement!
A secret quick shot I took of the waiting room for the audition on Wednesday morning.
This time the room was not full of beautiful people. There seemed to be lots of men of all ages and all types of hair hahaha.  My turn came and I had to pose for the camera and answer some basic questions. I haven't heard since, so obviously my profile was not what they were looking for.  In the email, for my group, they had specified women of 60 with non died hair hahaha. I could see my competition in a pretty grey haired woman who probably got the part.  Well, no way am I going to let my hair grow grey to get a part in an anti hair falling shampoo advert!!!

Either an advantage or a disadvantage of being in the area of the audition studios is that there is a new women's clothes shop I have discovered called Mulaya. It is dubbed the "Chinese Zara" and oh my God I love it. There I bought these great jeans with white stars. Aren't they divine?
My new jeans from "Mulaya". 
So there I was spending the money I had not earned from being chosen at the auditions, on more clothes.  I also bought a lovely imitation black leather dress and coloured striped jumper. Please don't tell my husband. 

Wednesday 22nd March will of course go down in history because of the terrorist attack in London.  At 2.40 that day on Westminister Bridge just by the Houses of Parliament, a man called Khalid Masood, aged 52 but born Adrian Russel Elms, drove a Huyandai SUV hurtling into the public, killing 4 pedestrians and injuring 50 others.  He just literally "mowed" them down and one woman even fell into the River Thames.  He then drove towards the front of Parliament, burst through the gates and got out of the car holding 2 large knives. His first obstacle was an unarmed police officer, PC Keith Palmer aged 48 who he killed. Nearby a "close protection officer" who was armed shot him down before he could cause more deaths and injuries. 
Police officer Keith Palmer aged 48 was stabbed and killed by the lone wolf terrorist Khalid Masood.
London went into lock down and no one could leave Parliament for more than 4 hours.  The tube at Westminster was closed down and even the London Eye came to a standstill with passengers still on it. The first pedestrian to die was Aysha Frade who was a teacher of Spanish on her way to pick up her two children from her Mother's house. 
Aysha Frade with her husband, the first victim of the terrorist attack at Westminster on Wednesday
Of Spanish origin, it turns out she was a friend of a friend of mine, Juana who was my colleague at Nokia and who was at Fátima's party on Tuesday night.  Juana who is from Coruña had known Aysha whose Mother is from Betanzos,  since they were just 14. What a small world it is.

This all happened on the anniversary of the Brussels attacks. The next day Isis would claim responsibility.  However, it seems this crazy terrorist had a history of drugs, anger management problems and violence and has been confirmed as a "lone wolf".  When in prison he converted to Islam and obviously became radicalised.  However much security there is against terrorism today, it seems impossible to me to stop people driving a vehicle and going on the rampage to kill innocent victims as we have already seen happen in Berlin and in Nice.  What a horrible world we live in. 
I immediately rang Suzy to find out if she was ok. Thankfully, she no longer travels in the centre of London to work. My heart goes out to the victims, innocent tourists and passersby who would never have thought it possible that they would be attacked in such a way next to what is, perhaps, the most representative icon of democracy in the world. 

I just loved how the British reacted the next day. 
I loved the British reaction to the attacks on Wednesday on Parliament

Apart from the demonstrations and speeches in Parliament what I loved most were their stoic and cool reactions which, as always, include some sort of humorous irony.  I particularly liked what turned out to be a false Underground message which sums up what I think too.
The fake underground message after the attacks
That morning, after a lovely breakfast of toast and butter, allowed as my scales told me I had lost 100 grammes (hahaha), I devoured the British press on my iPad. 

But life continued and that morning I had another appointment at the Labour Exchange. I am beginning to get quite used to going there and it's not  a place I like. After various conversations and emails with my new accountant, Pilar, I went there to start the official process of becoming self-employed. There were just a lot of forms to fill in. Later I would send them to Pilar by email with copies of my passport, etc and on 1st April she will put in an application for me to be officially self employed.  When that happens, I shall have to notify the Labour Exchange in person and hopefully that will be my last visit there.  After that I shall finally be able to invoice my customers; something I am looking forward to doing enormously hahaha. It will be the reward for all the hours I have put in for them. 

It was damned cold that day and whilst I was working on another PR plan for my Catalan customer for their participation at a trade show in Hong Kong in May, I realised it was snowing outside.  How could it possibly snow in Madrid when spring had started just days before and the week before the temperatures were a balmy 25 or 26c?  It was far too cold for a walk. 

It snowed in Madrid on Thursday and Friday for the first time in 2 years. It didn't settle of course. 
The snow didn't settle and amazingly the sun came out in the afternoon, so I braved the cold and went for my walk with Pippa. During the walk my new Swedish customer called. It seems they want to go ahead with my PR plan which pleases me enormously. What doesn't please me enormously is the Swedish way of working.  They can be so democratic that they take ages to approve a document or come to a decision. They use "google docs" which is a first for me and complicated if you've never used it before. It seems very practical but it's actually not very efficient when  6 different people are giving their opinions and making comments.  If it takes this long to approve a plan, I wonder how long it will  take to approve a press release or q+a document hahaha. I'm a much more hands on person and prefer there to be as few people as possible interfering.  

On Friday I was up at 5.20 (OMG) and after breakfast and reading the paper, prompted by Suzy, I decided to buy a ticket to go and see her at the end of April to be with her on her birthday. Later Oli decided to join me, although she will have to go out one day later than me.  We are going on Ryan Air which we used to dub "Ryan Dare" and flying to Stansted, another first for me.  That will be something really big to look forward to.  We haven't seen Suzy since 27th December and it's high time we did. I can't wait for we "3 girls" to be together in London.

It was snowing again but even so I went on my walk.  The weather was crazy as the sun came out later.  Eladio and I had to do the food shopping. First we went to Ikea to buy tons of their amazing black bread which has chocolate and orange in it.  I do wish they sold their foodstuff online but they don't.  From there we went to Mercadona to load up 2 trollies to last us a week. The nice bit about Friday's shopping is that when we got home, we had 2 women to unload it and pack it away, Saida and Salud.  

Just as we were finishing our lunch my second Airbnb guest of the week arrived, a young student from Castellón de la Plana who, as most of my guests, got pretty lost finding our house. He had come to do a weekend course at the UEM University in something related to sport. He is a lovely boy and I gave him some of our lunch which was a delicious Moroccan stew made my Saida. Food is not included in Airbnb but I took pity on the young boy who arrived at lunchtime after a long journey and obviously hadn't eaten

That afternoon, after my walk, I decided to take some time off and watch something on Netflix. I chose "The Eichmann Show". It is about how the trial of the infamous Nazi was televised from the court room in Jerusalem in 1961.  Some of the scenes the Nazi criminal was shown had my stomach churning but he did not bat an eyelid when the camera zoomed in on his face.  

I had to forget the terrible scenes to enjoy my dinner that night when Eladio and I went out to La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas. 

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of the company of my Airbnb guest Pablo for breakfast. He is a wonderful guest as he is so discreet and tidy. He is also very good looking which I told him he was and the dear boy blushed. One of the advantages of being my age is that I can often say things like that without my words being misinterpreted. 

Pablo went off to his course and I went on my walk.  Once home, I started making the day's lunch as we would be having  special guests.  Miguel, my nephew and his lovely Cuban wife, Claudia had returned from Cuba last week and on Tuesday next will be leaving for Utrecht in Holland to settle down there. I wanted to see them before they left, so invited them for lunch this weekend. I made chicken noodle soup, home made pizzas and salad but both Oli and Miguel, her boyfriend, Miguel, my nephew and his wife Clauda arrived half an hour late so the pizzas went a bit dry unfortunately. And here is the happy couple at lunch yesterday.
Claudia and Miguel
Later we spent some quality time together and we even dug into our wardrobes full of old clothes belonging to the girls and I, to find some warm clothing for my new niece who would need it in Holland as all her clothes are only suitable for the Caribbean climate hahahaha. And here is a photo of Claudia, Oli and me together. Pippa got into the picture too as usual.

With Claudia and Miguel yesterday at home and Pippa too of course. 
There is nothing much else to report about Saturday which ended with us watching more of the Netflix series about Pablo Escobar, called "Narcos".

And today is Sunday and last night the clocks went forward.  That will take some getting used to. Today is Mother's Day in England; something we never used to celebrate at home as my Mother was Russian and wasn't into Mother's Day or similar things such as Valentine's Day.  In any case she is always in my thoughts.  I'm not sure how today will pan out but undoubtedly you will hear about it in next week's post.

Meanwhile all that remains is for me to wish you all a great week ahead and to say "cheers" till next time.

So, cheers from Masha. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Seven Sisters, Airbnb, Nutrition and Hydration day for Suzy, Salud leaving us, Oli with priests and nuns and other stories of the week.

Sunday 19th March, 2017

Happy on one of my sunny walks this week with Pippa, the apple of my eye.  Loved the green and blue background.
Hello everyone,

How has your week been?  Mine has been quiet, pleasant and quite busy but there has been time for everything. 

Last Sunday morning our French airbnb guests left. Camille and Jeanine wrote a super review which is now my 3rd.  Airbnb is a nice little sideline business for me, but more about that later.

We had guests that day for lunch.  Eladio's brother Toño and his wife, Dolores came for lunch. For the occasion I made "cocido madrileño" which is always a favourite in the winter. It's not that it's exactly winter though. On Sunday it was sunny but windy with a chill in the air. We were told the spate of warm days was over and that winter would be back with a vengeance this week. However, it was only so on Monday. It was just a bit cooler here in Madrid but in Alicante it was dreadful.  There was torrential rain; the same amount in one day as in a whole year.  The freak flooding caused havoc and made me wonder how our flat in Santa Pola was fairing. Thankfully it is on a 3rd floor. 

But back to Sunday.  After our walk we all had a cup of tea and out came my favourite Emma Bridgewater tea set.  And here are the 2 brothers sitting together on one of the sofas in our lounge.  It's not often they are together and they are so close; having been educated together in a seminary from the age of 12, I love seeing them relaxing and enjoying each other's company. They always have a lot to talk about as they are both philosophers and teachers.
Eladio and Toño having tea on Sunday
Of course I read the news on Sunday as I do everyday.  I always start with The Times online but then read items of news that catch my attention throughout the day via applications from my phone.  My Father keeps asking me what "apps" are; something difficult to explain if you don't use a phone.  Oh the digital divide has not been fair on him as he is too old.  I shall be a lot luckier when and if I reach his age as I am what is called now a "digital immigrant".

I read the international news of course and am following Brexit and have been following the Dutch elections this week.  But it's the trivia I love most.  One bit of trivia that caught my attention that day and which I want to share with you, if you haven't seen it, is the story of the 7 (or 8) nuns (sisters) caught on camera at the train station of the same name "Seven Sisters" in North London.  No doubt my daughter Suzy will have been there often. Well, that day or a few days before, a passenger called Ben Batey was on the train when he saw "real-life seven sisters" waiting on the platform. This is the picture he took which later went "viral", another word my Father won't know.  
The 7 or  8 or 9 "sisters" (nuns) at the Seven Sister overground station 

He later said he "took a double-take as it was one of those strange but amusing moments". You bet it was.  I just loved it.  Later there was discussion about the real number of nuns but who cares. The picture is what matters. I wonder who the nuns were and what they thought of the picture haha. 

On Monday I spent most of the day on a new Airbnb ad to include 3 double rooms in our house so as to be able to get group bookings. I already had two "listings", one for the "green room" and one for Suzy's room but would have to set up a separate one if I wanted to accommodate 6 guests.  But Airbnb is quite a tricky platform to use and is designed so that for multiple rooms you cannot charge per room but per guest.  The downside of a multiple room listing is that if you get just one guest the money is a pittance.  This week saw me get a 1 guest only booking and a more lucrative 6 guest booking in June. This by the way is the ad if you want to spread the word or come and stay here, hahahaha.  Some people criticise Airbnb for being a threat to hotels and there are stories of people buying up properties just to use them for Airbnb.  I'm not one of the latter in any way; as first, there are no hotels where we live, and second I have so much spare room in this house it's a good way to get some extra pocket money. These days, after losing my job, I am looking for all sorts of ways to earn money and this is one of them.  For the moment it is tax free but I wonder for how long. 

I was very sure to block my calendar for the days I will be accommodating friends coming for my 60th birthday bash in June.  I had set the date some weeks ago that would suit Suzy and my dearest friends Sandra and Adele and on Monday I also worked on the invitation and sent it out. This is the picture I chose. It's great isn't it? I have invited more than 80 people and so far have 35 confirmations. I was looking into catering but I think in the end it's all going to be homemade.  
The image I chose for my 60th birthday party invitation
For the invitation itself, I used a platform called "Evite" which I had seen before and it's very practical and easy to use. 

If the photo of the Seven Sisters station caught my eye on Sunday, on Monday by far the most endearing but sad photo I saw came from Syria.  It was of a man called Mohammed Mohieden Anis, a vintage car collector, from Aleppo. He is sitting on his bed in what is left of his bedroom listening to music on an old gramaphone.  Aleppo is just one big pile of rubble and the man and the music remind me of the scene from The Pianist in Berlin after the final attacks on the city at the end of the 2nd World War when Adrien Brody sits playing  a piano in similar surroundings to the man from Aleppo.  
The man in Aleppo listening to music and surrounded by rubble and destruction. 
I wondered what he was thinking and what music he was listening to. This is is his story as told by The Daily Mail, not my favourite "rag" by the way. 

On a totally different "note", that night for dinner we tried a new vegetable in our house.  I had seen a sort of long stemmed broccoli at our local supermarket, Mercadona. I asked what it was and was told it was a cross between broccoli and asparagus. Well the shop assistant was wrong as I later read it is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale whatever that is.  It also seems to be called "broccolini" but is more popularly known as "bimi".  One article I found about it called it "broccoli with a twist" which I find more appropriate. 
For dinner on Tuesday I ate "bimi" for the first ime. 
When I posted the photo above on Facebook I got lots of remarks from English friends who seemed amazed I didn't know it. Well, I didn't. You see, fashion in food comes late to Spain.  My verdict on bimi?  Well, nothing special and when I did the food shopping this week I didn't buy it again. 

Tuesday was an exciting day for Suzy and for once she sent me a photo.  That day, she and her colleagues had organised a "nutrition and hydration day" at one of the clinics which belong to the NELFT NHS Trust where she works as a locum dietitian.  I wonder whether the cakes and biscuits in the picture are nutritional hahaha.  I love to see Suzy happy with her new job and enjoying the company of new colleagues.  Finally her colleagues are nearly all English so I hope she gets to integrate a bit more into British society.  She tells me she doesn't watch any television so can't join in the conversation of what her team mates watched the night before!!  I wonder when the Spanish national health service will introduce a similar initiative. 
Suzy with her colleagues this week during their "nutrition and hydration day" 
Olivia, meanwhile, was doing a very different job and funnily enough about nuns. Actually she was preparing a programme about modern day nuns, monks and priests. On Tuesday morning she interviewed a little old nun who runs a shop that sells religious objects and priest robes somewhere near Sol.  And here she is with the nun. I wonder what she would have thought about the photo of the "seven sisters". I'm not sure how she fits in with a modern day nun but no doubt I shall find out when I watch the programme.  I love the photo don't you?
Oli with the little old nun, the latter holding her camera hahaha
Tuesday was a quiet day at home for me.  I got in my 2 walks which were windy but sunny. Sadly I also had to spend time on advertising for a new home help and receiving multiple phone calls and messages from hopeful candidates from a host of nations, mostly from South America.  I say sadly, because, sadly, Salud announced to us this week that she is leaving us to go and live in the Canary Islands with her new found love, Fran.  Of course we are happy for her but oh we will miss her. She is by far the best home help we have ever had.  I eventually found a candidate, Saida, from Morocco who will be coming tonight to stay for  a week learning the job with Salud.  If she passes the test she will start on 2nd April. Saida comes with good references and seems a nice cheerful lady. I look forward to eating some of the lovely Moroccan dishes, Fatíma and her sister Oufa used to make for us like pastela, couscous or roast chicken with caramelised onion.  Keep your fingers crossed this works out well. 

Oli, unware that her favourite home help, Salud, had announced she was leaving, was shooting for the second time that day.  On Tuesday afternoon it was the turn of a priest, Padre Damian to be interviewed by her. Now he is a modern day priest as he is a singer and was an aspiring candidate to represent Spain for this year's Eurovision Song Contest.  He didn't win but he has become very well known.  Here he is with Olivia.
Oli with "Padre Damián".

On Wednesday morning I was a bit surprised to see I had lost another 300 grammes. It's not much but I'm now below 57 kilos which was not my aim. The solution of course was to eat a bit more hahaha, so I had a large roll of brown bread which I toasted and had with butter for breakfast.  It was delicious and much nicer than my usual watery porridge which is probably a bit like Oliver Twist's "gruel". 

That night we continued watching "Narcos", the Netflix series based on the infamous Colombian drug dealer, Pablo Escobar.  We're still getting into it and I'm not sure it's our sort of series as there is so much violence. I'm told the series gets better and better but we are still waiting. 

On Thursday Oli was off again shooting. This time she went to Valladolid to film modern day cloistered nuns who are famed for using social media and even have their own TV channel. They are cloistered but thankfully allowed her and the cameraman in, after much persuasion the week before. They are called the "Carmelitas Samaritanas del Corazón de Jesús" (The Carmelite Samaritans of Jesus of the Heart!).  Oli was delighted with their welcome although she never got to see their cells, just the garden and some of the inside of the convent. She has observed that nuns, monks and priests live in the best houses in Spain.  I think that's true of most of the world. And here she is in a picture reminiscent of The Sound of Music. It is the Mother Superior who is holding Oli's camera hahaha. I can't wait to see the programme.
Oli with the cloistered nuns. 
Thursday was another sunny but blustery day. There are signs of spring everywhere and the fields on our walk are now getting greener and greener. I just had to have a photo taken with Pippa against a backdrop of the beautiful green fields and the blue sky.  That is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. Me at my happiest!

Instead of going out to dinner on Friday night, we decided to go out on Thursday so as to take advantage of a Monday to Thursday promotion at one of our local favourites, Ginos. There I enjoyed my favourite dish, the green and white pasta with ham and a cream sauce which is called "paglia i fieno" in Italian. 
My favourite dish at Ginos, "paglia i fieno

This was accompanied by a bottle of lambrusco rosé wine and followed by a naughty but nice dessert; white chocolate and pistachio ice cream.

Friday was a busy day in all senses.  It was also food shopping day and as is usual now, Eladio joined me.  We took the time to have a cup of coffee in the sun and Eladio chose to order "chocolate con churros"; something my diet does not permit. They are a great favourite for breakfast in Spain. And here is my handsome husband enjoying this very Spanish tradition.

Eladio having "chocolate con churros" on Friday morning 
That afternoon, a new airbnb guest arrived, Conchi from Murcia. She was delightful and like having one of your daughter's friends to stay.  Oli was back soon that day and both of us witnessed my Father walking with his zimmer frame on the terrace outside our study.  It's amazing but he is walking better and better. It was so nice to see him doing so outside in the fresh air.
My Father walking with Salud beside him on Friday
Whilst they were walking, Oli and I were at my PC applying online for a job for her as a multimedia journalist with the BBC Spanish service which would be based in Miami. It's a chance in a million that she gets it but we can always dream.  I must say it took about 2 hours of work to complete the process. 

We got bad news on Friday.  My brother-in-law who was recovering from a brain tumour operation has had a relapse and was admitted to hospital this week with water on his brain. We heard that night that the tumour had grown and he will probably have to suffer another operation. If you believe in God please pray for him and his family.  

On Saturday I did something new for the very first time. Recently I registered with a "modelling agency" (another way of making a bit of extra pocket money) and was called for an audition for a promotional video of the nearby UEM University.  They were looking for international type students and teachers of Nordic, African, European and Asian profiles. When I got the email asking me to attend I thought, well why not? This will be an experience and an experience it was too hahaha.  

I set off by car, taking my airbnb guest with me, Conchi, who was enamoured with our house and family.  I said goodbye to her at the station and carried on into Madrid by metro. I was soon near my destination and even had time to go into an alluring looking little boutique run by a young Chinese girl which had some lovely inexpensive clothes on sale.  

At 10.30 on the dot I knocked on the door of the studio to find the room full of beautiful looking people of all nationalities, race and colour. I was, of course, the oldest. 
The waiting room at the production studio where the audition took place yesterday
It was my first time but many of my fellow candidates knew the ropes.  I had to fill in a form, add my name to the list; I would be number 11 to be called and to learn 2 phrases off by heart for the audition.  The phrases were in English and were these which I quickly learned and also helped other candidates how to pronounce them hahahaha. 
The phrases to be learned by heart for the audition
Soon it was my turn and in I went into the studio. Two girls were waiting for me, one to ask the questions and the other to film me. They told me my "profile" (blonde, nordic, executive and mature) was in big demand.  I found that very funny.  For the audition I had to answer questions about myself and swivel around in front of the camera. Then I had to say the phrases with passion. I thought that was that, but no, there was another task to complete. I had to simulate I was giving a lecture to a bunch of students and could choose my own subject.  I chose Corporate Communication which of course is my field.  I loved the experience and could have carried on giving the fictional lecture all morning.  Soon I was told I had passed the audition and would be hearing from them for the real filming to take place next week at the University.  Now that will be fun. It will also be convenient as the UEM is a 5 minute drive from my house. It is where Oli studied. It is also where I once did a freelance project; the organising of an "Honoris Causa" ceremony for the Nobel Literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.  I look forward to next weekend.  

I came home just on time for a sunny walk with Eladio and the dogs. Then it was time to finish making the family's lunch which Salud had left all prepared before she went off for her weekend break. They were to have fish and chips.  I had my usual thin piece of steak and vegetables, plus 30 grammes (weighed raw) of pasta. 

In the afternoon I spent some girly time with Oli.  I accompanied her to the Centro Oeste shopping centre where she wanted to buy birthday presents for the girls' friend Elena and her boyfriend Antoine.  Thankfully I did not submit to any more retail therapy tempation, having bought 3 jumpers and a dress in the morning at the little boutique near the audition studios. 

Whilst we were out, once again, for the umpteenth time, the programme, Undercover Boss (El Jefe Infiltrado) where I had starred for Yoigo in September 2015, was being broadcast. It's very ironic that they keep doing so after I have been made redundant.  I always know when it's on as I get so many messages and friend requests on facebook. If you haven't seen it, you should be able to see it here. I heard recently from colleagues that the company that bought up Yoigo, Másmóvil, didn't like the programme being aired so much after they had made me redundant and even considered it a "plot" against them. Well there is no plot whatsoever. It's good publicity for the brand. But also when we signed the agreement we gave the producers and TV channel full rights to broadcast the programme. In a way it's quite good for my "personal branding" and it was certainly a unique experience; one of the highlights of my life that I shall take to my grave. 
A shot from the TV programme I featured in for Yoigo, the Spanish version of Undercover Boss (El Jefe Infiltrado)
When I got home I found Zena, our weekend home help, watching me on the television. It was quite a coincidence and both of us laughed out loud.

Once home, Oli and I  decided to sit outside by the covered pool, basking in the 24ºc temperature. Soon we were joined by Juli, one the girls' best friends who I hadn't seen for months and months.  Oli and Juli made a carrot cake before dinner.  It's not a cake I'm very fond of, so resisting temptation was pretty easy.

The day ended with more episodes of Narcos and last night's was certainly the most violent I have seen so far.  I kept having to look away. Later Oli told me that I had seen the most violent scene of all.  Uff.  I also learned that Pablo Escobar in real life was even nastier and more violent than he is portrayed in the series.  

And today is Sunday, the last day of my blog and time to publish it.  Today in Spain is Father's Day. But it is also generally the birthday of most men who are called "José". That of course includes my dear brother-in-law, Eladio's beloved second brother down, José Antonio.  But it's not just any birthday. Today he reaches his 7th decade. We have been invited to lunch to celebrate it.  Happy birthday dear Toño.  You are my favourite brother-in-law but then you know that already hahahaa.

You will hear all about it in next week's post. Meanwhile my friends, it just remains for me to wish you all the very best and hope you have enjoyed the tales of this week.

Cheers till next time,

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Life is good, the Nokia spirit lives on, flowers for Olivia, lessons with Carmen, International Women’s Day, BBC interview "videobombed" and other stories.

Sunday 12th March 2017
A selfie with Pippa, the apple of my eye. I took her with me for moral support to return the Yoigo mini on Friday.
Hi again everyone.

This week has been very quiet compared to last week which was so hectic.  So what have I been up to since last Sunday? Read on and you will find out.

Sunday last was quiet for us.  It wasn’t so for Olivia who went to the very popular “La Latina” area to have tapas for lunch with her former co students from the TVE master she did after leaving University, Giovanna and Paula who are also journalists. One of the bars they went to was the one owned by the famous Lucío in the Cava Baja where the speciality is broken eggs with chips.  No, not your normal English type egg and chips I can assure you. And here they are together:
Oli with her journalist friends Giovanna and Paula.

Monday dawned and it was my first full day at home in quite a while.  I always have the odd errand to carry out from my list of pending things to do.  I have to admit I wouldn't be so organised if it weren't for these lists.  Well one item which was well past its due date was to pick up a repaired watch from a jewelry shop, Yaguë, in Majadahonda at the Centro Oeste shopping centre.  Eladio, tired of preparing for his afternoon classes, joined me. I was happy to get my watch back.  It is gold plated and Eladio bought if for me more than 20 years ago. I have many watches and choose carefully which one to put on according to what I am wearing, but this is one of my overall favourites.  Thankfully it's working again. 

That morning a new project landed on my desk, or rather the request for a communications plan.  Believe it or not it was for a famous international themed restaurant to be opened in Madrid in the summer.  Hahaha, I thought. Well if I can do "mission critical push-to-talk mobile communications" (i.e. walkie talkies) I can surely do PR for a new restaurant.  The most difficult thing will be or would be compiling the media list and I would have to do a lot of research to come up with one.  This was thanks to a lovely lady called Margarita who heads up the press clipping agency I used at Yoigo. She is forever looking out for projects for me. 

I worked on the plan that afternoon. The next morning it was finished and I sent it to the "client". On Friday he rang to say he liked it and now he has to tailor it for the customer and I shall join him in a meeting with them to further fine tune it.  I hope they like it too.

Monday would end very late as that night Telemadrid was broadcasting a programme Oli had made about castles and palaces, mansions and churches where people actually live or that were on sale.
A clip from Oli's programme on Monday night. 
It was on at nearly 11pm which is considered prime time here and far too late for me. I loved the programme but unfortunately fell asleep through bits of it. Thankfully I was able to watch all of it again the next day online.  You can too if you click here

Many things have happened this week that have made me realise just how good life is, or how good life is for me and my family at the moment. We all have our ups and downs and it's important to recognise and appreciate the positive moments. 

I should also mention that it was my Mother-in-law, Ernestina's 95th birthday.  Being a Tuesday, the family in León, celebrated it with her the weekend before when they all went out to a restaurant.
The family in León celebrating my mother-in-law, Ernestina's 95th birthday
We would have loved to join them but it's a 3 hour drive there and Eladio is tied down by his afternoon private lessons. He of course called his Mother that day to wish her a happy birthday.  She is in good health but has mild dementia so I do hope she realised why he was calling.  

On Tuesday I spent quality time with my great friend Fátima. I hope she doesn't mind me telling you here that she is fighting cancer at the moment and it is my objective to give her as much moral support as possible.  She had lunch with us and I made a special dish for her so that she could follow her very strict anti cancer diet prescribed to her so lovingly by Suzy my daughter.

Whilst she was here, I received a phone call from a number beginning with +47 and I just couldn't think which country the person was ringing from. It turned out to be a call from Poland from an ex Nokia colleague, Marcel.  Wow! He wanted some PR advice for the launch of a special new phone and I was happy to provide it.  Later he wrote and thanked me and said that the "Nokia spirit lives on". He's damned right it does.  You see we Nokia colleagues all trust each other and what I said to him made sense and he immediately changed his PR strategy for the product.  Nokia lives true to its tagline; "connecting people". But Nokia too lives on or at the least the mobile phone business has made a comeback and what a comeback it has been. Remember last week when I told you that Nokia had overshadowed all other talk at the recent Mobile World Congress? Well that was just my impression. However I now have evidence. A company called "Brandwatch" did a survey on the most talked about brands at the MWC and Nokia came top.  Next came the organisers themselves, the GSMA and then Huawei with their 6 million euro stand who are shortly to be the Kings of mobile phone manufacturers.  Samsung, watch out.
Nokia was the most talked about brand at this year's Mobile World Congress
Later that day, after my second walk, I had a conference call with my first new client and it was about an upcoming fair they will be attending in Hong Kong.  I had expressed an interest in going there and helping them with the project and the phone call was to discuss this.  It seems now I will be going unless things go wrong.  I was over the moon. I mean Hong Kong is rather an exotic destination for a newly set up freelance communications consultant. I have a friend, ex Nokia again, Keka, who lives there and it will be great to catch up with her if I go.  I have been trying to reach her all week as she seems to have disappeared from the social media map. Thankfully I have her local mobile number.  So that was good news.

Even better news came that day and it was for Olivia.  When she went into her newsroom on Tuesday afternoon after a TV shooting session in the morning, it was to find that her production company had sent her a bunch of red roses as well as a buffet lunch for all the staff. Why you may ask?  Well, it was because her programme on Monday had beaten the share record of all times for "Mi Cámara y Yo" and all the bosses and TV people were delighted with her and the programme. It's not often in Spain that success is celebrated in the work place. She was so astonished and at the same time pleased that this is the face the camera caught of her with the lovely roses. Well done my darling. I am so so proud of you.
Oli receiving flowers for the successful programme on Monday night.
I got more good news that day but of a much lesser nature.  You see I recently advertised "afternoon tea and talk" English conversation lessons targeted at people in the area. I already have one pupil, Carmen, who comes every Wednesday afternoon. Well on Tuesday I got another call and now have another pupil, also called Carmen. She will be coming on Thursday afternoons.  It's not that I like giving English conversation lessons, but it's something I need to do at the moment to get a bit of extra income. It's peanuts really but doesn't cost me much effort. Funnily enough the second Carmen turned out to be a huge coincidence.  She just happens to be the Mother of an internee, also called Carmen (there are many Carmens in Spain hahahaha), who worked for me at Nokia years ago. She is the eldest of I think 12 brothers and sisters!!!!   The family went to live in England years back for the children to learn English and now her parents are moving back to Spain to the house they bought in this area some years ago. Isn't it a small world?  Undoubtedly, we shall have lots to talk about in her conversation lessons which I now look forward to. 

So you see, life is good and I realised that this week and can only give thanks for all my blessings. I commented this on Facebook and a friend replied that good things happen to good people. She's probably right and it's not the first time I've heard it but it's not completely true as lots of bad things happen to good people too. But what really made me think recently, was an article about success. I can't find it now but the gist of it was that "success is determined by how you tackle failure" and here I think I am on the right track.  

Wednesday was International Women's Day. I'm not sure if all the women I have mentioned so far in this post celebrated it.  Did the Carmens, my daughters, my mother-in-law, etc?  I don't know but I know I didn't. In fact I had mixed feelings all day.  I kept asking myself why there should be one and what there was to celebrate.  What I wrote to a friend the next day sort of sums up what I think: "while discrimination exists, international women's day is not a bad idea.  I had mixed feelings yesterday but mostly I was cross about the need for it. We've come a long way since how women had it in my mother or grandmother's lives but it is not enough and I fear it never will be. We have too many examples of outright and hidden discrimination that I do not even envisage equal rights for my future granddaughters". While many of my women friends were sending me videos and far too feminine pictures with flowers and hearts, the picture that made most of an impact is the one below which shows where women feel they lack equality and Spain, my friends, comes top of the chart. 

The picture was shared by a wonderful woman friend, Juana, who reads this blog. She is the shining example of how women should be today but she is one of the lucky ones. I wonder how women in Saudi Arabia celebrated International Women's Day or what was going on in the minds of the members of the families of women killed in domestic abuse crimes by their partners or ex partners. Not a pretty picture. 

On the bright side, Wednesday was a lovely sunny day. I spent most of it working but also went on my walks which I enjoy much more in the good weather. 

On Thursday I was up at 5.30 which had me thinking my sleeping pattern is not normal. Plus I have the odd episode of what I think is called "sleep apnea" and the other night I had a terrible one.  The sensation I have is that I am asleep or so I think and suddenly cannot breathe and feel that if I am not shaken to wake up I will die.  Usually Eladio hears me making a whining sort of noise which is the maximum effort I can make to alert him to my "attack" or episode. He then pushes me to wake me up but what I need is a huge shake.  I have had these episodes off and on through the years since I was a child. Well on Thursday I thought it was about time I went to see a "sleep doctor" for this and my bad sleeping patterns.  I didn't even know what the speciality is callled. Well, I found out soon by ringing the hospital. Depending on the type it is either with a "pulmonologist" or a neurologist.  I decided to go for the first and have an appointment on 4th April. 

If I was worried that morning, Barcelona football fans around the world were rejoicing.  They had beaten PSG (Paris St. Germain) in the second round of the last 16 in the Champions League by none less than 6 goals to 1, 3 of them being in the final minutes. They had lost 0-4 in the first leg and no one in their wildest of dreams could have predicted such a comeback, one of the biggest in the history of football.  Now, I am not a Barça fan but merit is due when its due. It was a fantastic victory and I am proud of Spanish football.  They will, of course, have to meet my favourite team, Real Madrid, in the next phase.  But for the moment they are true champions.
Barcelona's amazing victory against PSG on Wednesday night

I was amused to hear later on the news that the noise level emitted from the stadium after the goals was equivalent to a low level earthquake hahaha. 

That morning at breakfast I checked my blog statistics.  They never cease to amaze me.  So many people read it from all over the world.  I mean, it really is only a very humble blog and I can understand people who know me wanting to read it but what puzzles me is what interest it has for those who don't.  The dots on the map of the world of where my readers come from reveal that I have readers the world over and from some of the remotest places you can imagine. If you are one of those readers far away from Europe or the US and don't know me, I would love you to leave a comment on this post about why you read my blog. In any case, thank you all for reading my weekly stories.  
My blog reader statistics always amaze me. 
My morning continued with a walk on a beautiful sunny day. Later I went to the hairdressers to get my roots seen to (you ladies will understand hahaha).  It was lovely to hear the girls who work at the salon say that I looked so slim. I seem to forget that I do as I have got used to my new weight.  After the hairdressers, it was such lovely weather, I decided on a nice cup of coffee in the sun.  Before lunch, I went on my second walk with Eladio and all 3 dogs. It was so warm, I had to take my jumper off. Out of interest I glanced at the temperature for Madrid at that moment and it was 24ºc!!!
Great weather this week.
After a diet lunch I tried to sleep a short siesta as I had been up at 5.30 a.m.  But I just couldn't sleep so I got up and sat at my desk most of the afternoon working on various things from my famous "pending list".  I am always glad when I can cross my "to do" things off the list! 

Eladio was home for dinner at around 8.30pm after his private lessons and we enjoyed a chicken salad together.  That night we finished watching an Israeli TV series, a thriller called "Hostages" which I can highly recommend.
Hostages, a pretty entertaining Israeli TV series available on Netflix.
Friday was another glorious day.  It felt like spring and yes spring is in the air with fragrant blossom on so many trees.  After my first morning walk, Eladio and I went food shopping. Before going home we went to have a coffee at a new bar in our neighbourhood. We sat in the sun and there and then I had a conference call with an English "chap" called Tom who works for a specialised walkie talkie online magazine which organises this year's Critical Communications World exhibition, an event in which one of my customers is involved and which I will be helping them with.  It's always nice to talk to fellow Brits when you live in another country as there is immediate chemistry. 

Then it was time to drive the Yoigo branded Mini car the firm had lent me until 10th March for the last time, as Friday was the due date for returning it.  That means we will only have one car between us from now until my new Mini is delivered at the end of the month or the beginning of April.  I took Pippa with me for moral support.  Funnily enough I got Pippa through Yoigo but I was not returning her; no way hahahah.  There is still a flutter in my heart just at the sheer mention of the company that bought Yoigo after having been made redundant.  But, funnily enough, I have a good relationship with the guy who replaced me, Fernando (thanks for reading my blog Fernando) and the head of HR, Roberto, who fired me. It wasn't their fault.

Eladio brought me home in the old Volvo which is actually the car I had at Nokia and which we bought when I left.  It'll have to serve us well for quite a few years now. On the way back home, Suzy called.  We don't speak to her often and we should really. I'm a bit lazy about phone calls. She had just come back from a dietetic community home visit where she had had to assess a severely mentally, deformed and physically handicapped 19 year old who could not communicate and can only be fed via his stomach!  She said that the visit had had a huge impact on her and that how could she complain about the silly things in life compared to the boy and his family she had just visited.  How right she is. 

After lunch I had another conference call, this time with my Catalan customer. He was, of course, delighted with the Barcelona Football Club 6-1 score against PSG and I congratulated him on the win. 

Eladio joined me on my second walk at around 5pm and "golly" my phone registered 26ºc!!! We had to get out shorts and summer t-shirts and Eladio even donned his panama hat. The weather is amazing at the moment but unfortunately will not last past today.

I continued working that afternoon until I got an email from Oli with the news of what is now a viral video from the BBC.  Professor Robert Kelly, an expert on South Korea, had been interviewed that morning live on the BBC on skype from his home about the political crisis there.  What happened in the interview will make him famous forever, but not for his expertise on South Korea. His interview was "videobombed" by his children and I am sure you have already seen it.  As he is talking, his little daughter dances in and he tries to push her aside. Then in comes his baby on a baby walker strolling in. The interviewer alerts the professor to the fact but there's not much he can do.  He gets stuck for words and then in comes the Mother to remove the children unceremoniously from the view of the public and ends up trying to pull the door shut whilst lying on the floor hahahaha. These are the perils of live television and working from home. If you haven't seen it,  here it is and enjoy it because it will make you laugh so much. I commented on Twitter that Robert Kelly's little daughter and baby on its baby walker videobombing the interview had made many people laugh that day.  Unsurprisingly it was the talk of the day. 
Professor Robert Kelly on the BBC videobombed live interview

If you are English and living in England, there are 2 words from the above 2 paragraphs which you will not have noticed but are interesting to point out.  One is "videobombing", a completely new word which means barging into a video being taken.  The other word is "golly" which is not used any more but that was much in use before I left England in the early 80s. I read today in an article in The Times that "golly", "tara", "gosh", etc are going out of use.  New words have crept into the English language and most of them are to do with technology. "Golly" has been replaced by the Americanism "awesome" which I hate. But there are others like "video or photo bombing" which are new, as is the word "24" which now means 24 hours a day, or one I learned the other day "mansplaining".  All I can say is that "golly" or "gosh" my English vocab is getting rapidly out of date hahaha. 

On Friday evening our Airbnb guests arrived from Avignon in France.  They are a married couple, Camille and Jeanine, whose son is studying physiotherapy at the UEM University nearby, where Oli studied too.  They arrived in a hired car at around 7pm and seem a lovely couple.  Jeanine, the wife, speaks some Spanish but her husband doesn't know a word nor do either of them speak English. So both Oli and I had to bring our rusty French out of the closet. They had booked the new "green" room but when I offered them Suzy's large "pink" room they chose the latter.  

Being Friday night it was time to break my maintenance diet and go out for a well deserved meal.  Oli and Miguel would join us and we chose to go to a restaurant advertised on "The Fork" (El Tenedor here) called La Sarten por el Mango. It had good reviews and we were keen to try somewhere new. 
Dessert at La Sarten por el Mango on Friday night
The food was really good but I ate too much. I felt so damned full afterwards I regretted having gorged myself too much on the food and wine and slept badly on Friday night. Of course I woke up with a headache.

After the big meal the night before I didn't have much of an appetite for breakfast on Saturday morning. I worked off some of the calories I had consumed on my first walk that day.  It was yet another wonderful walk in the sun. I came home to make the family lunch; "bitki" (Russian hamburgers) with potato and carrot puré.  It was 11th March and I had nearly forgotten it was the anniversary of Europe's worst terrorist attack ever, the train bombings at 4 stations in Madrid. It happened in 2004 killing 193 people and injuring more than 1.900. How could I forget that?  Certainly the families of the victims didn't and memorial events were held around the capital yesterday. 
The 11th March  train bombings in 2004 never to be forgotten. 
After lunch and the shortest of siestas, Eladio went off to his private lessons.  Oli left too. She had to work yesterday.  The subject of her TV shooting was the Spanish rock group called La Voz del Desierto (The Voice of the Dessert) made up by 3 Catholic priests and 4 laymen.  Their songs are about love but love for Jesus! This is one of the stories she will be telling in a programme about the Church or rather stories of modern day nuns, monks and priests.  This last week she has spent most of her time researching for the programme and finding people and stories to film.  I was very amused when she showed me an email from a cloistered nun which at the end of it had the words "sent from my iPhone".  Wow they are modern today. She also told me how the nuns greeted her when she rang them with the Latin words "Ave María Purísima" hahahah. It sounds like an interesting topic and I look forward to seeing the programme when it is aired. Let's hope it beats audience records too. 
The Spanish priest rock group, La Voz del Desierto, who Oli filmed yesterday
My afternoon was very boring compared.  Well, actually it wasn't. I spent a lot of it sitting on the sofa in the freshly spring cleaned swimming pool terrace.  My latest book is called "Freedom at Midnight, Viceroy's House" and was recommended to me by my great friend Sandra who was born in Bombay. It is the story behind the independence and partition of India.  Apparently the Director of "Gandhi", one of my all time favourites, was inspired by it when making the film.  It was written in 1975 and has been updated and now a new film has been made called The Viceroy's House where of course the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, lived.  Well, I am loving the book as Gandhi is my hero and the story is so compelling. Written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, neither of them British, they taped Lord Mountbatten for more than 30 hours as the main ingredients of their book. It's a pity they couldn't have taped Gandhi too who of course was dead by then. 
My latest book, the story behind the independence and partition of India. 
Today is Sunday, the last day of the week and the day to publish this blog post which I hope you will enjoy.

We shall be having guests for lunch, Toño and Dolores, and I have already begun making it; "cocido madrileño" (Madrid meat, chickpea and vegetable stew).  

I shall tell you all about the rest of the day in next week''s post. Meanwhile, I wish you all a happy Sunday and a great week ahead.

Cheers till next time,