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,

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