Saturday, May 06, 2017

Last day in the Cotswolds, goodbye London, home again, The Duke of Edinburgh retires, TV cameras came to film the house and our Airbnb guests and other tales of the week.

Sunday 7th May

The girls in the yellow fields (rapeseed) in The Cotswolds on our last day there.

Hi again everyone.

How was your week? I hope it was as good as mine.

On Monday May 1st my Father turned 98. It was the first time in many years that the girls and I were not with him. I had hoped for a photo from Eladio with the presents I got him or the cake I ordered but it was not to be. I was happy to hear he had a good birthday despite our absence. And long may he live. He really is in great shape for his age and is well looked after. I was also glad to hear that he had been well looked after while we were away and that he is happy with Lucy, our new carer and home help. We are very happy with her too. She is so cheerful and willing, I like her so much.

1st May was a holiday in England, as in most of the world. For Suzy, Oli and I it started with breakfast at our little Airbnb cottage in Woodmancote, our last one there.  We were leaving for London that day but not before seeing a bit more of The Cotswolds. Our first stop was in what are now famous rapeseed yellow fields for the girls and I, on our way to Bibury. That is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's blog, like the one of me in a similar field in last week's blog. The girls, giggling away, imitated me as I took a video of them which you can see here. We kept repeating: "it's all yellow" and laughing our heads off. We did a selfie too to remember the moment.
A selfie with the girls in the yellow fields 
Our first destination was the small but enchanting village of Bibury, famous for the Arlington Row of medieval Cotswolds stone cottages. We read that it is one of the most photographed scenes in Britain. It certainly was worth seeing.
Arlington Row in Bibury

The girls outside the famous cottages.
Bibury is beautiful in the same way that Castle Combe, Lacock, Bourton on the Water and many of the other villages we had seen. I loved these cottages, but the house opposite the river where we parked is the one I really fell in love with. It's a complete picture postcard and I envy anyone living there.
The cottage I fell in love with in Bibury
What I didn't envy in Bibury were the hordes of Japanese or Chinese. They seem to have a "thing" about The Cotswolds and I have read that they have built a replica village in China. I do hope they haven't yet discovered The Yorkshire Dales; probably not as you can't "do" Yorkshire in a one day tour from London hahaha. 

We walked by the river, enjoying the views and the swans and their delightful cygnets, unfortunately being fed by the tourists. Arlington Row cottages are on a small island called Rack Isle. The whole place seemed like something out of a fairy tale, like the scene by the wooden bridge where I took yet another photo of the girls.
The girls on Rack Island in beautiful Bibury. 
From Bibury we drove to  Cirencester, our last destination and the "capital" of The Cotswolds. There was a lot going on because it was May Day. We walked into the town from the proverbial pay and display car park which I hate because you don't know how long you are going to stay, yet have to pay beforehand and can only do so with coins. It was a short walk to the market square which was beautiful.
Approaching Market Square in Cirencester
There were bands playing and people sitting on hay stacks which gave a very farmer like atmosphere to the town. 
People sitting on hay stacks in Market Square in Cirencester on May 1st.
Some people were dressed for the occasion too, like this chap who was happy to have his photo taken hahaha.
May Day in Cirencester
There was an open air market too but what most attracted Suzy and I was a fund raising activity organised by students from the Royal Agricultural University for charities such as Mind.  One of the students had his head stuck in what looked like some sort of medieval torture device and for 1 pound you could throw 3 wet sponges at him. Thankfully it wasn't a cold day but of course he was soaked. Oli took a video of Suzy and I having fun throwing the sponge hahah. You can see the video she took of me here, during which, you might like to know, I got a kiss from the wet student and the one she took of Suzy here. At the end of our antics we had to have a photo with the wet "tortured" young student. He didn't seem to mind at all bless him.
Suzy and I with the wet "tortured" student
After that bit of fun, we explored the streets of the pretty town. 
A pretty street in Cirencester
We had lunch at a pub called The Bear. Service was a bit slow, the food was ok, but I must say meals out in England are much more expensive than here. The meal at The Bear marked the end of our trip to The Cotswolds, as we left after lunch for London. There was to be much traffic and it rained on and off the whole time. We stopped just once for a cup of tea and a visit to a "public convenience" and I realised that what used to be "motorway cafés" have now turned into sophisticated but not very attractive shopping centres where, if you want, you can even spend your time gambling. We didn't. 

We were back at Suzy's flat in Haggerston early in the evening and there was even time for a long walk before dinner. Oh gosh, eating again. We ate far too much on our trip to England. This time we were joined by Suzy's flat mate Anita,who had returned from a visit to Spain for a hen party. Anita's English boyfriend, Simon was there too. I don't remember what we ate but I do remember what we drank, that delicious Swedish cider I told you about last week, "Rekorderlig", the passion fruit variety which is my favourite. 

Thankfully I had some internet at Suzy's flat, always having to use her hot spot. That night I got another Airbnb booking and it was for the next day. I had to tell Eladio and Lucy that Sandra, a 20 year old girl from Navarra, was coming to stay for 4 nights. Unbelievably she was coming to attend a drone pilot course which she needs as a photographer! Eladio and Lucy would have to welcome her instead of me. 

Tuesday 2nd May which was also a holiday in Madrid, was our last day in London. It turned out to be a topsy turvy day. Suzy was supposed to be going to Ipswich where she would be starting her new job on the Wednesday. However her accommodation at the Hospital there hadn't been sorted out. In fact as I write now, it still hasn't been sorted out and she has had to resort to Airbnb. You can't imagine the bureaucracy and the requirements involved to get a miserly 300 pound a week room with the Hospital. Suzy needed all sorts of references and even a guarantor. I offered of course, as her mother, but was turned down because I don't live in the UK. How insular can you get?  So I had to ask my dear friend Kathryn who was travelling in France and both Suzy and I were shocked to hear that she has to fill out some ghastly form with all sorts of financial personal details. Sorry Kath and thank you at the same time.

So, no, Suzy didn't get to go to Ipswich on Tuesday, although we packed her suitcase in her hired car, thinking we would go with her and return by train. In the end all our plans were scrapped and Suzy would go on Wednesday and start work on Thursday. So what did we do with the extra time on our hands you may ask? Well, shopping of course. Yes, we went to Westfield Shopping Centre at Stratford, that overwhelming place but the one with all the shops.  Oli wanted to buy lingerie at M+S where I had already been. We had lunch at a place Suzy and I had been to before; Bumpkin where, guess what, Oli and I had fish and chips for the 3rd and last time. Oli said they were the best. I think Poppies was the best. Maybe you can judge too from the photo below.
Fish and chips at Bumpkin at Westfield Shopping Centre
It was to be our last lunch together.
Suzy and Oli at Bumpkin where we had lunch on Tuesday
Before heading home, we stopped at Lindex, my favourite Swedish fashion store which I first got to know in Finland when I worked for Nokia. Here I made a beeline for their Holly and Whyte collection which I love. Here also, Oli and I who have similar tastes, had a field day buying t-shirts and other garments. I bought a pair of cream chinos, a pink cardigan, a white long sleeved t-shirt and a white and yellow striped top too. There were other things I wanted but they didn't have my size which, believe it or not, at least at Lindex, is an XS or an S. So, guess what? When I got back home, I ordered them and soon some more striped t-shirts will be arriving as well as a navy cardigan. All in all, this will be my new Lindex collection which you can see in the collage below.  Love Lindex, it rocks!
My new clothes bought at Lindex in London and ordered online too. 
We could shop no more so left to go home after raiding Lindex hahaha. I had some free time so went to visit my ex Nottingham University friend, Gill who lives nearby in a fantastic house. We had a great chat over a cup of tea. We caught up on our lives since we last saw each other in August but also spoke about our views on Brexit and Teresa May. For both of us she is a bit like Margaret Thatcher. 

I had to leave on time to have dinner with the girls (food again) but this time it would be at Suzy's flat. We had run out of stuff so walked to the Tesco Express next to Haggerston Station. Again I don't remember what we ate but yes, we had the Rekorderlig cider again hahaha.  It was to be a girls' night only with Suzy, Oli, Anita and the 3rd flat mate, Chati, who returned from Spain just as we sat down to dinner. It felt a bit like being a student, eating from the sofa with the girls and in a way I was missing our luxury house, my husband and of course dear Pippa.  That night, my last, I was to sleep literally on the floor on Suzy's Ikea fouton type mattress. That felt like being a student again hahaha. It was the home comforts I was missing I suppose although it was lovely to be with the girls. As we were having dinner, Real Madrid were playing Atlético de Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. Poor Atlético has never won and RM has done so at least 11 times  so it was only fair the former won. I felt for my neighbour, Julio, an ardent Atlético fan, when they didn't, after Ronaldo's hat trick and a final score of 3-0. But they still have a chance in the second leg. Let's see. 

Funnily enough I slept well on Suzy's floor and was up at 6 am British time with a small headache. That was obviously due to the over eating and over drinking of the Swedish cider. I desperately needed to get home to start detoxing. We spent the morning chilling out, packing etc and Oli and I left at about 11.45 to get the 15.30 Ryan Air flight from Stansted. It was a ghastly journey really. Air travel is not what it used to be. We finally got to Stansted which had just been evacuated after someone smoked in the loo, bringing in the fire brigade. Aren't the British a little too exaggerated? When I checked in after queuing for quite a while, I was in for a shock when I was told I hadn't paid to check in my 20 kilo suitcase for the return flight. I then had to queue up at Customer Care for about 30 minutes, with the clock ticking against us, and had to pay 45 pounds for the suitcase. Oli commented Ryan Air wasn't the low cost airline it claims to be if that's what they charge for luggage. They also charge over 40 pounds if you don't come with a printed boarding pass!  I hate low cost flying for their nasty tricks of making more money out of vulnerable passengers. This delayed our trip enormously and we still had to face security which had enormous queues and made me feel as if I were part of a herd of cattle. As I say, flying is not what it used to be. I wonder when will air companies begin to think of passengers as customers and treat us better. I just hate flying these days. At the end of security we really had to rush to the departure gate, grabbing a sandwich on our way. We were starving as it was 3 o'clock (4 in Spain) and had to eat it whilst queuing to board the packed plane. We hardly had enough fingers on our hands to eat the sandwich, hold our passports and boarding passes and carry our thick coats, my pc, our handbags and Oli's cabin luggage which, thankfully, was not removed from us to be put on hold as happens often. Finally we were on board and I felt exhausted and as if I had just done an obstacle race. Thankfully the plane caught up on lost time and we arrived in Madrid on time at 19.05. We came home to 25ºC in contrast to the rain and wind in England and how happy I was to be back in Madrid. London can be very stressful and flying is too, as I have just described.
It was lovely to come back to warm weather in Madrid on Wednesday evening
Oli had to leave me to go to work, poor thing. She had to finish editing her last programme with Mi Cámara y Yo, before starting with Madrileños por el Mundo next Monday. Eladio came to get me and it was wonderful to see him. It was wonderful also to arrive home, to our peaceful family haven, to greet my Father, Lucy and the dogs. Pippa was ecstatic to see me as usual. How lovely to sleep with her and Eladio that night in our big comfortable bed; no more mattresses on the floor hahaha. 

Before dinner, I unpacked. What I most wanted to unpack was the Emma Bridgewater pottery I had bought at Bourton on the Water. It had been wrapped in bubble paper and I had hand carried it, worrying it might break in my suitcase. Well, the nasty journey took its toll and one of the mugs was cracked which upset me a bit.
The Emma Bridgewater mugs I bought in England
However, I soon remedied that by ordering more the next day. You see, I have a collection which is now getting a bit old and there are lots of cracked mugs and plates and was adding to it with the lovely new patterns called Wallflower and Rose and Bee. I can't wait for my order to arrive. 

Eladio and I had a quiet dinner together and I got to meet Sandra, our new Airbnb guest who was charming. That night we watched another episode of Designated Successor on Netflix soon after which I fell asleep in our wonderful big bed with Eladio and little Pippa. 

On Thursday, the big news in the UK was the announcement from Buckingham Palace that the Duke of Edinburgh would be retiring aged nearly 96, from his public engagements after the summer. Recently he had dubbed himself as "the world's most experienced plaque-unveiler". We will miss his wit and fun loving character although he is also known for being rather intimidating. My Mother used to love him. I'm not sure whether I do or not, but it can't have been easy adapting to become the Queen's husband. He is around my Father's age who retired more than 38 years ago, so probably it was high time Prince Philip retired too. The Queen, though, will carry on and on. She is 91 and I don't think she really can carry on for that much longer although of course she will be helped by the younger members of what the Royal family call "The Firm".  I wish him a happy retirement. 
Prince Philip, "the world's most experienced plaque-unvieler" to retire aged nearly 96.
That morning, I was up early with lots of things to do. Back to my home routine and determined to lose any weight I had put on during my trip to the UK, I went on my early morning walk. Later in the day I got another Airbnb booking; this time from 2 Danish brothers who are coming later in the  month to take part in a drone race in Boadilla del Monte. More drone guests, how droll! Our guests do come for all sorts of reasons. I have some South Africans and Brits coming at the end of the month to attend the Crossfit games in Madrid, for example. They must be great fans of the strenuous sport, the sport that only the very fittest in the world can ever win or so I read.

On Friday morning my usual routine was interrupted as I had an appointment at 9.30 am at the Labour Exchange; at least my 5th till now.  I had to give in yet another document for my self employed status and I will have to go back as the document issued by the Social Security people here is incorrect with the wrong pension base. What a palava! I hate going to the place and am always attended by the same rather unprofessional and unsympathetic junior civil servant. To make things worse, despite the sat nav on my new Mini, I got completely lost on the way back home. Just as I arrived home, Sandra, our 20 year old Airbnb guest was leaving. She will be coming back though, to take exams for her drone pilot course and we look forward to seeing her.

No sooner had she left then Lucy and I got into action to get her room and the other rooms, ready for our next set of guests. 6 Colombians were arriving that night. We would find out later that Paola, a lawyer and her husband, Juan, a book seller and historian, together with Paola's brother Reinaldo and 3 of his sons who live in Canada, were taking a trip round Spain and Europe. Today as I write, they leave for Paris. The house and rooms had to look extra clean and pretty as TV cameras were coming too. They were coming from Oli's old programme, Mi Cámara y Yo, with the new reporter, Paloma, who replaces her and her favourite cameraman, Hugo. They were doing a report on alternative accommodation in Madrid. 

Soon everything was ready for the guests and the TV programme. I had lovingly cut roses from the gardens for all the rooms, placed a jug of water and glasses, as well as  plate of fresh fruit in each of them. I also added a lovely picture of Arlington Row to the Green Room that I had bought in Bibury. This is what the "green room" looked like.
The green room ready for our Colombian guests
When everything was in order, off I went to do the weekly food shopping. Once home, I found the time to do some work for my Catalan customers for the exhibition they will be attending in Hong Kong in a couple of weeks. Believe it or not this time next week I shall be with them. I will be flying out on Friday 12th. 

I also managed an afternoon walk with Lucy, then came home to make home made vegetable soup and some steamed artichokes (all good for the detox diet). Soon I had to get ready for the TV cameras. For the occasion I wore my new Lindex chinos and a blue and white striped top. I also had to put makeup on for the first time in ages, in fact since the Bell's palsy and my right eyelid is still droopy. I hope  it's not permanent. Unfortunately when Paloma and Hugo came, it was cold and raining and getting a little dark. Thus the outside of the house and the pool which is not yet ready for the summer, would not look as good as I hoped on TV. We had a grand time together. They interviewed me with little Pippa in my arms most of the time, showing them the house, the rooms and explaining my little Airbnb business which, of course, I have started  since I lost my job in January. They loved the house. Paloma said it was like a museum. Well, she's probably right.

We had finished my part of the filming just before the guests arrived at 9pm and I suddenly remembered to have a photo taken of the occasion, to send to Olivia, who could not be there on Friday as she had left for Valencia to stay with her boyfriend Miguel this weekend. 
With Paloma, the reporter from Mi Cámara y Yo who came to film our house on Friday
I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience as I suppose I am quite used to TV cameras by now, because of my previous jobs but also because of my appearance in the Spanish version of Undercover Boss.  My guests arrived on time. Their arrival and taking of the rooms was filmed by Hugo and Paloma and they were interviewed on camera. I must say I thought they were all very good at it, being quite cultured and very educated people. They are delightful guests.

That night we had dinner at 10pm and went to bed quite exhausted after the day's exertions. I can't wait to see the programme which I think will be aired on 21st May, the day I will be travelling back from Hong Kong. 

Saturday was quiet. I was up early as usual while the Colombians and the rest of the house slept. They were going to visit Madrid and I gave them all sorts of advice for their day. Meanwhile back home, I went for the first walk of the day with Eladio and the dogs, after which I went out on several errands. The rest of the day was spent peacefully. 

And today is Sunday 7th May and will go down in history for being the day the French vote between the right wing Marine Le Pen and the new ex socialist leader, the youngest ever candidate, Emmanuel Macron. I imagine he will win but I might be wrong as I was wrong both about Brexit and Trump winning in the UK and the US. 

I am at the end of the tales of this week. All that remains for me to say is happy Sunday everyone and hope you all have a great week. Mine is going to be busy but of course you will hear about it next week, from Hong Kong of all places.

Cheers till next time,

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