Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bloody Palm Sunday in Egypt, Spanish golf victory, Korean Airbnb guests, hosting Kathy and Phil, to Montrondo for Easter, US bombs ISIS in Afghanistan and other tales of the week.

Sunday 15th April 2017
Enjoying our Easter holiday with the family in Montrondo.
Hi everyone,

I am writing from peaceful Montrondo; the place to get away from all the violence we have seen this week around the world and the place for me to relax after so much activity since I lost my job with Yoigo. 

Palm Sunday turned out to be a bloody Sunday. It started off quietly for us at home with Eladio mowing the lawn. It was quiet for Suzy too in London. They had great weather and that day  she relaxed with her friends, Vicky, Chati and Anita in Victoria Park basking in the sun.

Oli, meanwhile, had arrived the night before in the beautiful fishing village of Cudillero in Asturias in the north of Spain. They would be staying at the lovely Casona de la Paca a place we have stayed at now twice.

 Miguel outside La Casona de la Paca upon their arrival last Sunday
Oli showing off their room at the lovely hotel in pretty Cudillero
Sunday was spoiled and turned into a bloody Palm Sunday when two blasts targeting Coptic churches in Egypt killed at least 44 people.
Bloody Palm Sunday in Egypt
The day ended sadly when we heard that Spain's first woman Minister of Defence, Carmen Chacon was found dead in her home in Barcelona that night. She had a heart problem and used to say that everyday was a gift. Carmen, aged only 46, leaves a little boy behind. She once nearly became the leader of the Socialist party and was well loved and respected by all political parties in Spain. When she was first appointed Minister of Defence she was heavily pregnant. The image of her inspecting troops in Afghanistan is one that turned into something of  a symbol in Spain. I, for one, will never forget it or her. 
Carmen Chacó, Spain's 1st woman Minister of Defence, inspecting the troops in Afghanistan when she was heavily pregnant.
My 6 Korean guests arrived late that night. They came in a huge van which they parked inside. They would occupy our 3 spare bedrooms. As soon as they had settled in they wanted to cook their dinner so I left them to it. Thank goodness the next day I found the kitchen in a good state as I was a bit worried there would be funny smells and unwashed dishes.  No, they behaved perfectly. So far all of my guests have been very well behaved. So far, too, we have received 6 sets of guests since February and I now have 7 bookings until July. No doubt, there will be more in the meantime. It's quite a lucrative business and also quite fun to meet new people. As I am writing this, we have 3 Russians at home,  St. Petersburg! 

On Monday I woke up to the news that Spain's Sergio García had won his first Masters at Augusta in the US. He would be the 3rd Spaniard to win it, joining the prestigious ranks of his predecessors, Severiano Ballesteros and Chema Olazabal who both got to wear the coveted green jacket that comes with winning Augusta.

The 3 Spanish golfers who will go down in golfing history

He beat Britain's Justin Rose and if I had watched the end of the competition I'm sure my heart would have been divided. Sergio García is a great player, now aged 35, who has always played very well but somehow never managed to win a Masters Tournament. Well last Sunday he did and he did so on what would have been his hero, Seve Ballastero's 60th birthday. No doubt "Seve" would have been very proud of him as most of Spain was last week. 

Our Korean guests who just loved our house and garden left early. They were travelling around Spain and would be visiting Madrid that day. Here they are just before they left. 
With my Korean Airbnb guests on Monday morning. 
It was a beautiful day and Eladio and I decided to bring out the swimming pool terrace furniture. We rearranged it too to gain more seating space and even brought down a wicker sofa from the glass "gallery" in our room which we never really use. 
There is more sitting space now on the terrace by the pool.
Lucy helped us. She is turning into a gem of a home help and I really like her. The feeling is mutual and we now go together on my afternoon walk when my Father is reading in his room. And here she is enjoying the sun and the countryside.
Lucy on our afternoon walk last Monday. 
Of note on Monday, Olivia's latest programme was broadcast. It was called "For the love and God" and you can see it here. It was to coincide with the Easter week and the subjects of her programme were modern day priests and nuns. I loved it.
Oli with one of the nuns who featured in her programme.
Tuesday was a good day. That day I received my first payment from my first customers. Hopefully it will be the first of many. It may well be as I am being inundated with requests for PR plans. I now have a new customer, this time from Valencia and a potential one from Poland of all places which you will read about later.  Yes, life is very very busy at the moment. 

Tuesday was my dear sister-in-law Dolores' 70th birthday.  Long may you live my dearest sister-in-law.  As you will know, it was thanks to her that I met Eladio.  I first met her as a conversation teacher at her school in Madrid in 1979 when she took me under her wing. Little did I know that one day we would become family!!!!

Oli and Miguel were enjoying their stay in Asturias and I was following their holiday, vicariously, from the photos they sent. That day they visited  Castropol where we once went on holiday with the girls when they were toddlers, and the very famous "Cathedral Beach" (playa de las catedrales) which is actually in neighbouring Galicia. They were lucky with the weather too. Oh  I do love Asturias and they do too.

Oli in Castropol this week
The famous "playa de  las catedrales" in Galicia.
On Tuesday we were having guests. Our dear friends from Yorkshire, Phil and Kathy on tour through France and Spain would be coming to spend the night. I went to school (St. Joseph's College Bradford) with Kathy so we go a long way back. It was a long time since we had seen each other too and it was great to have them. 

They were here just before lunch and we sat on the newly arranged terrace before the meal, enjoying the weather.
It was lovely to host our friends Kathy and Phil this week
After lunch I had a conference call with my new Valencian customers and Eladio went off to his lessons. The 3 of us enjoyed a cup of tea together before going for a walk in the afternoon sun. 

Soon Eladio was back and I was able to show my friends our new Mini which I know Kathy loved as she, like me, is a Mini fan. And here I am showing the car off while the courtesy Mini branded lights reflect on the floor of the garage hahaha.
My new Mini with its branded courtesy lights hahaha.
We had an enjoyable dinner together outside that night and for the occasion Lucy had made us some meat pies. I think they are common to both Argentina and Paraguay. They were really tasty. We look forward to trying more Paraguayan cuisine if that's what you can call it. And here are the 2 men enjoying each other's company before we sat down to dinner.
Elado with Phil on Tuesday night
The day did not end well on the international front. That night 3 bombs exploded near the Dortmund Borussia football team bus, just before they were due to play Monaco in the Champions League Quarter Finals. This is what the bus looked like after the blasts.
The Dortmund Borussia bus which was attacked by bombs on Tuesday 
It was another act of terrorism and a shock to the football world. Is nothing free of this new type of terrorism? Thankfully there were no fatalities and only one player injured. It was the Spanish defender, Marc Bartra. The match was postponed and the local fans rose to the occasion by offering free accommodation to the rival fans.

This would be in sharp contrast to the behaviour of the English fans of the Leicester football club who were in Spain for their team's Quarter Final match against Atlético de Madrid. The worst type of hooliganism took place during their stay in the Spanish capital. They behaved abominably, letting off smoke bombs and throwing bottles and literally destroying the beautiful 17th century Plaza Mayor whilst chanting "Gibraltar is ours". 
Leicester hooligans on the rampage this week in Madrid. I am ashamed of them. 
They are the worst ambassadors the UK could have and I am ashamed of them. They even taunted beggars by throwing coins at them. In the English press there has been more news about the reaction of the Spanish police and not much said about the destruction they caused or their abominable behaviour or ranting on about Gibraltar. I was happy to hear later they lost to Atlético. They well deserved to. 

Wednesday was hectic, very hectic really and by the end of the day I would realise I have to relax more and get more sleep as I am completely stressed and exhausted although I didn't know it. I had an appointment with "Hacienda" (The Treasury) to get my digital certificate as a self employed person. I then had to rush back to get ready to go to Montrondo. Eladio also rushed off, but earlier, to his last class before Easter which started at 8 am. I was home on time to pack the food and stuff for Montrondo and to say goodbye to Kathy Phil who would be heading to Nerja near Málaga via Don Quixote land. In the end we didn't leave until 12.15. I left Lucy behind to look after my Father and the 3 Russian Airbnb guests who would be arriving the next day. That was a bit of a risk as she has been with us for such a short time.

I drove and whilst I had my foot on the accelerator I realised something was wrong with my face. My right eye had been twitching since Monday and I had noticed the day before that I was spilling water as I tried to drink a cup of tea with my friends. Wednesday got worse when I even found difficulty talking! My mouth felt lopsided and numb and my eyelids were drooping - they still are and my face looks awful. But I carried on, not very worried, and soon we would stop at Rueda at the lovely Palacio de Bornos for a platter of ham for lunch.
Eladio at Rueda on Wednesday
Before driving to Montrondo, we were to stop at León to visit my brother-in-law who is in hospital.  Oli and Miguel, who would be driving from Asturias were to join us in León and we were to meet at the hospital. We were there by 4pm but Oli hadn't arrived and  my sister-in-law was at home resting. So we decided to go to her house. It was there that I mentioned the problems I was encountering in my face. There and then, she insisted I go to the doctor. Both of Eladio's sisters were a bit alarmed. I was too when the doctor thought I had had a minor stroke. She sent us to A+E at the same hospital my brother-in-law is at. It was rather ironic that I had come to see him at hospital and ended up having to go myself. Oli and Miguel were soon there. After seeing 2 doctors I was diagnosed with what is called "Bell's palsy", or facial paralysis. I was prescribed steroids and artificial tear drops and was told to be careful with my eye which I realised at the hospital wouldn't shut properly. I would have to wear a patch on it at night. I was told there is no apparent cause for Bell's palsy but have since heard it can be caused by a virus, stress or a lack of sleep. It's quite obvious it was the latter. 

We left after visiting my brother-in-law.   It was nearly 9 by the time we left and we didn't get to Montrondo until past 10pm. Dear Dolores had made dinner for us all and it was pleasure to sit down at their table and enjoy a family meal; not to mention that we were all starving. 

On Maunday Thursday I was awake at 5ish but forced myself to stay in bed until 6.15. I woke up to read an email from Poland from an ex Nokia colleague who wanted to hire me as their PR consultant for a special mobile phone app that allows medical students to share cases. They want me to do the PR internationally. I took one look and the first thing I saw was an operation on Siamese twins! As usual I said yes, not knowing at all how to tackle the subject but somehow I will. Next week I shall be very busy starting on the Valencia music school PR plan, doing a PR plan for another ex Nokia colleague and friend on a walk and dance school in Madrid as well as working on the PR plan for my Catalan clients' participation in a communications fair in Hong Kong. Just the thought of all that brings back the stress I mentioned earlier. A friend of mine who is also a freelance consultant advised me not to accept all requests but at the moment "beggars can't be choosers". 

But I was determined to enjoy my Easter break here in Montrondo and try to disconnect. I did so by going to nearby Villablino with Miguel, Oli and Dolores that morning to do the food shopping at Gadis, a great supermarket I wish we had in Madrid. And here I am filling the trolley with Miguel.
Shopping in Villablino on Thursday
Afterwards we went to have a coffee with Teresa, Pedro Delgado's mother-in-law who lives in Villablino and who we know very well. We were joined later by lots of her family; mostly cousins who treated us to the coffee and drinks. It was a fun moment and here we are all together.
With Teresa and her cousins in Villablino on Thursday
We returned to Montrondo to find more of the family had arrived; Eladio's youngest brother, Isidro, his wife Yoli, their daughters Laura and Alicia, as well as my Mother-in-law. After lunch I tried to take a nap but was interrupted constantly by Lucy ringing for me to talk to the 3 Russian Airbnb guests who had arrived from St. Petersburg. I wish I had been able to meet them. Lucy was afraid they were from the Russian mafia but later I was comforted to hear from my Russian neighbour Katya, that they were normal people, designers of some sort. Suzy rang too. She is in the throes of getting a new job with the NHS. One was to work in Great Yarmouth and the other in Ipswich but neither has materialised yet. Good luck Suzy!

Later we went on a walk, just the women, Miguel and the dogs, Dolores and I took them on our newly discovered path above Murias and along the river, through the woods. The photo illustrating this week's post is of us on the walk enjoying the afternoon sun and being together.

That night, Oli, Miguel and I made the the dinner; vegetable soup, home made croquettes and ham. Oli and Miguel also made their favourite cake, carrot cake. And here we are in the throes of cooking together.
Cooking in Montrondo with Oli and Miguel
It was while we were cooking that we heard that Donald Trump had given the order for the US to drop what would later be called "the mother of all bombs" on ISIS caves and tunnels where they store weapons, in Afghanistan. 

"The Mother of all bombs"
The strike followed last week's death of a US soldier fighting ISIS in Nangarhar. The Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) weighing 9.800 kilos was built in 2003 but had never been used in combat before. It is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used by the US. Apart from destroying ISIS arsenal of weapons, it killed over 90 ISIS militants and who knows how many innocent people. Donald Trump called it "another successful job". He is turning into quite a Presidential warmonger. ISIS is one thing but North Korea is another and now Trump is taunting Kim Jung-Un who is enjoying the limelight and says his country is ready for a nuclear war. That is frightening. 

The next day was Good Friday. This year, unable to find any hot cross buns, I brought scones and crumpets instead. I ate them with gusto, despite their including palm oil of which there is much fuss at the moment. Hopefully I worked some of it off after our long walk up the mountains that morning. It was another sunny day and we enjoyed the views and new signs of spring on our way up. Here is Eladio climbing up the very familiar path.
Eladio coming up the mountain path
Our destination was "El Abedular", the birch tree forest where there are views of the snow capped Tambarón mountain which we climbed last summer. Here we took the traditional photos, first one of us and then one of Oli and Miguel. I had to wear sun glasses as my eye looked awful with my drooping eye lid. I am so worried it will stay like that and if it does, I shall have no other option than to operate it.
On our walk in the mountains on Good Friday

Oli and Miguel with the Tambarón mountain in the background.
On Good Friday we had a family lunch and all ate outside. Everyone chipped in. From our house we contributed with salads and fruit and Miguel made a delicious risotto. Dolores made roast chickens and Yoli barbecued steak. So you see we did not observe any sort of Good Friday fasting and ate meat, rather than fish hahaha. It was lovely to have lunch all together although many members of the family were missing and they were in my mind.
Family lunch on Good Friday

In the evening Isidro and his family left, leaving my mother-in-law with us. Oli, Miguel and I went on another walk a bit later and I was pleased to see that my fitbit later registered I had walked more than 20.000 steps that day.  

On Saturday there would be more walking and in the morning, Oli, Miguel, Pippa and Dolores' dog, Nuba, walked to Senra and back; about 8km. But we had a little reward on arrival in Senra when we sat in the sun having a coffee. 

Once home I hung up the washing on the new lines Eladio had installed last summer and Oli caught me on the camera. You have to admit it is a beautiful place to hang out the washing. 

Lunch was fish and chips, naughty but nice. What was really naughty was the eating of delicious milk chocolate Easter eggs afterwards. I had ordered 2 online (Cadburys and Lindt). As Oli would be leaving that day we opened them on Saturday instead of Sunday. I binged on chocolate, something I hadn't eaten for months. Later I slept a long siesta and woke up feeling drugged hahha. I came down to find members of the family pottering around in the front "garden" and spent some quality time with them.  That was me because Eladio was working as you can see in the photo here with his brother Toño.

Adela, Marta, Oli and the "abuela" watched them also enjoying family time, together outside our house on our lovely wooden bench.

Soon Oli and Miguel were to leave as they wanted to avoid any heavy traffic on Sunday. With time on our hands, I went for another walk, this time to Murias and back with Adela and Dolores.

For dinner I carried on digging into the Easter egg and also drank a glass of delicious Marqués de Riscal Rioja wine. Thankfully, for once, I didn't get a headache and in fact slept relatively well last night. This morning, Easter Day I was awake at 5.30 but made myself stay in bed until nearly 7 am, quite a victory for me hahaha.

Being Easter Day I carried on eating the scones and crumpets and gave no thought to the scales. There will be time to go back to my diet once I am home hahaha.

It's another lovely day, our last in Montrondo and I intend to make the most of it. Of course you will hear all about it in next week's post.

So Happy Easter to you all. And to my Russian friends and family, Xristos Vaskresi as Russian Christmas, unusually, coincides this year with non Orthodox Easter. I shall be polishing off the rest of the Easter egg with no guilty feelings, well just a few hahaha.

Cheers all until next time everyone,


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