Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hottest weather in 52 years, fire in our village, summer solstice, the Queen dresses down for the opening of parliament, to Montrondo for a long weekend and other stories.

Sunday 25th June 2017

Happy in Montrondo this weekend.
Hi my friends and readers,

This week I am writing from our beloved village, Montrondo, where we came on Friday to spend a few days and enjoy the cooler temperatures.

I left off last Monday which was a very flat day after the weekend birthday party which left Eladio and I pretty exhausted. I had put in many months of planning and suddenly it was all over. But on the whole I am really happy with how it went. It also shows I can put on a party without any external help; although I must say it would have come in handy. 

On Tuesday we took Norah to the vet for a check up after 2 weeks of anti tic treatment and also got the results for Elsa our lab's test. The good news was that she doesn't have the dreaded leishmaniasis. Pippa, on the other hand, is allergic to any of its preventive treatment, so we shall have to be careful with her.

On Tuesday we had a respite in the weather or rather, the extremely high temperatures we have been experiencing for the last 2 or 3 weeks gave us a break that day, if only for one day.  It was probably 5ºc less but it was a relief.  It even tried to rain but didn't manage to. Meanwhile in Portugal they were still putting out the dreadful forest fire which took the lives of more than 60 people. A photo later circulated on social media of the fire fighters taking a rest. They must have been exhausted.
Portuguese fire fighters taking a well needed rest
We heard on the news that day that we have had the hottest weather for the end of June in 52 years. Well I certainly do not remember prolonged extreme heat of nearly 40ºc for such a long spate at this time of year. I like the hot weather but this has been just too much. Thank goodness for the air conditioning. I can only conclude that it has something to do with climate change, the one that Donald Trump and the DUP Irish party deny is happening. Well it's pretty evident isn't it? 

Sick of the party food leftovers, we threw them all out on Tuesday and that afternoon I went to the luxury supermarket, Supercor as I had a craving for thick black cherries. It's the time of year for cherries. They are a bit like ham or melon, each one is different. You can only get the standard ones at our usual supermarket, Mercadona, and as cherries are my favourite fruit I decided to buy some of the luxury ones. I also bought the best ham available and dinner that night was just delicious. 

On Tuesday Olivia left for Valencia to be with Miguel. The next day would be their 5th anniversary together and they would be celebrating. What a lovely couple, what a lovely partner Miguel makes for Oli. I wonder when or if they will ever tie the knot.
Miguel and Oli on the eve of their 5th anniversary 
Wednesday was the first day of summer, the solstice and of course the longest day in the year. It was to be a long day for the villagers in Montrondo as a fire had struck the night before on the mountains looming over the village. It had been hot there too, hot and dry enough for a fire to start. It's said it started because of a thunderstorm, from lightning but you always wonder if it wasn't arson. I could not believe it when one of the villagers started posting photos. The area affected is called "Las Calenturas" (the hot place) rather fittingly.
The fire started at night 

In full blaze
It was to be a long day too for the firefighters from León who came with 3 helicopters and over 50 people. It wouldn't be put out till the next morning. I spoke to one of the villagers who told me she wasn't worried as it was 1 kilometre away. That to me seemed very close and dangerously near  the houses. 

It was to be a long day too for the 91 year old Queen of England. On Wednesday she attended the Opening of Parliament and the Queen's speech was much written about after the hung parliament result of the recent general elections. Her speech will have to be voted on and Theresa May still hasn't got the support of the Irish party, DUM. For the occasion Her Majesty dressed down. Instead of the usual ceremonial wear and crown, she wore an ordinary outfit. What wasn't ordinary though was her hat. She wore one that looked dangerously like the EU flag. Was this a sign she is for Brexit or against it? We will never know but of course Brexit is the main issue in the UK now and the hat was much commented on.
The Queen's EU themed hat at the Opening of Parliament
I'm not sure why she did not wear full regalia, one of the reasons possibly being she was in a rush to get the speech over and go to Ascot where she can be more herself. Her speech, written by the Government, was more about what was not included than what was included. For example there was no mention of the dreaded visit of Donald Trump.  The UK government right now is in a shambles, with no clear direction for the future, especially because of the Brexit negotiations. I wonder how that will turn out. 

I should add that my Aunt Valya, the wife of my Mother's younger brother, Nicky, turned 92 that day, just one year older than the Queen. I am sure she wasn't interested in her fellow nonagenarian's speech and would have been celebrating in her adopted country France where there is far more interest in their new and young President, Emmanuel Macron. Happy birthday Aunty Valya.  I look forward to seeing you again soon in August at Marie, my cousin's wedding. 

On Thursday our new Airbnb guests arrived. They were a group of 6 from Italy here for their daughter's graduation at the local University. I knew they would be difficult as Lisa, the lady who had booked, had been writing to me with questions for months. Those that write often with lots of questions always prove to be the most troublesome. She had wanted to hold a party for 15 (forbidden) and turned out to be quite demanding. They wanted to bring friends to our pool (not allowed) and insisted a lot. Eladio had to intervene. I suggested they go to the local pool in Boadilla which is a lovely public swimming pool in huge grounds. That day I hardly saw any of them but on Friday there would be more problems.

It was on Thursday, once again a very hot day, that we decided to go to Montrondo to escape the heat until the following Wednesday when I have to be back for an appointment to do a sleep test to check my apnea. In the afternoon I had a date to meet María an ex colleague from Yoigo. She wanted to give me a birthday present she had forgotten to bring to the party. It was a lovely Tous scarf I shall treasure although I won't be wearing it for a while because of the heat hahaha. The day was running late but I still had to do the food shopping to leave Lucy and my Father provisions and to take some to Montrondo. There are no shops in the village and I usually take everything we need, thus avoiding a boring trip to the supermarket in Villablino, about a 30 minute drive from our house. 

I was up at 6 on Friday morning with plenty of time for breakfast, a short read of the day's news from The Times before I started packing, mostly food, for Montrondo. I had to ring the vet before we left for them to come and give Norah her daily injection whilst we were away. We also said goodbye to the Italians and left them in the capable hands of Lucy. Once again they asked if they could bring friends to the pool and once again we said no. We thought we had been very clear but once on the road Lisa sent me a whatsapp message insisting on bringing them, telling me they had nothing else to do!  She then rang my phone and carried on insisting and even offered money. She got louder and louder with her request and even started crying. We couldn't believe her behaviour. The advertisement says very clearly, no parties and no outside guests. Eladio had to intervene and in the end she accepted. I rang Lucy to warn her and have not heard anything since. They are leaving this morning, Sunday, and I am glad I don't have to see them again. These are the "cons" of being an Airbnb host. There are many more "pros" but once in a while there will be guests who give you trouble.

We carried on our journey until we got to Rueda. You won't be surprised to read that we enjoyed a nice glass of white wine and plate of ham and bread at Palacio de Bornos as we always do when driving to Montrondo.
At Rueda (Palacio de Bornos) on Friday morning on our way to Montrondo.
We got to the village just before 2pm and were aghast to see 2 forest fires. The one in "Las Calenturas" had started again and there was smoke coming from "El Cueto", the mountain in front of our house. There were helicopters flying over them and offloading water. We couldn't believe it as we had been told the fire or fires had been extinguished. Throughout our stay helicopters came every day to check the fires had stopped.  Even though they had been extinguished days earlier, the problem apparently it that the fires go very deep inside mountains and can revive at any time.
A helicopter above El Cueto mountain. 
Thankfully since Friday afternoon they were put out completely and helicopters come twice a day to check the area. People here say that they haven't experienced Montrondo to be so dry in a very long time. Another effect of climate change. Both fires, from what I could see, were very near the houses.

I checked the temperature when we arrived and it was 27ºc, 10ºc less than Madrid. We had a late lunch then I had a conference call with my new Swedish telecom client. Thankfully they gave me a respite until Monday, so I was as free as a bird this weekend. We had a late lunch after which I lay down on a sunbed in the shade in the back garden enjoying my book. Eladio's brother was here with his wife and at around "tea time" we had tea and I served fruit, instead of the usual biscuits. I have plenty of them left from before my dieting which started in October, but prefer to avoid temptation and not serve them.

I was keen to go on my first walk as in Madrid, due to the heat, I have only being going on one early in the morning. My sister-in-law joined me and we would enjoy many walks together this weekend. Of course we were also joined by our dogs. Pippa was in her element. The countryside was blooming and we walked through swarms of pretty butterflies and past past lovely wild flowers. We chose our new path, the one that goes up into the mountains and across fields and woods parallel to the river and above Murias, the next village.
"El Camino Valle", one of the beautiful paths on our walks to Murias
We got back at around 9. It wouldn't be dark until at least 10.30. It was the night of Saint John here, Midsummer in other countries and many people would be lighting bonfires around the world. We didn't. We just had a simple but lovely dinner on our kitchen terrace, enjoying being here immensely. Our night finished with another episode of "Stockholm" on Netflix. As usual I fell asleep before it ended. 

Saturday came and I was awake at 6 a.m. I took Pippa outside and was amazed how cold it was, just 9ºc at that time in the morning. It was a welcome change from Madrid where the lowest temperatures were in the mid 20ºcs. We had a leisurely breakfast and while the men cut the grass, my sister-in-law and the dogs went on a morning walk to Murias and back, as always on the old path which is much nicer than the road. The village was looking at its best. I love it in the winter but far prefer it in the summer. 
Montrondo, our little paradise.
I snapped away and especially love the photo of the village with the horses in the fields. I also took a photo of the sheep in another field just as we approached the old path to Murias.
Sheep in the village
On our way back we took both dogs to drink water in the river. It was such a beautiful spot. That's where I took the selfie which is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. 
By the river yesterday
I came back to make an easy lunch, after having done some washing. I do like my domestic tasks here as they are so relaxing and also pretty easy if there are only 2 of us. Lunch was roast chicken leg with vegetables followed by a delicious fruit salad.  I fell asleep watching the news and slept until nearly 5. 5, of course is "tea time" and this time we had it at Eladio's brother's place as we watched the helicopters inspecting the mountains. Thankfully the fires were completely extinguished. There was more tea to be had a little while later at Eladio's sister's house and then again I went for a walk on the old paths and above the road with my sister-in-law and the dogs. I just love that new walk. 
Our beautiful and newly discovered walk.
Pippa loves it too and yesterday she walked, according to our fitbits, more than 12km which is a lot for her tiny little legs hahaha.
Pippa enjoying the walk yesterday. Notice just how dry it is.

Again I was home by 9pm and starving for dinner. We laid the table outside but soon realised it was too cold to eat outdoors; what a difference from Madrid. Once again I fell asleep watching "Stockholm". I think it ended yesterday so I will have to ask Eladio for the spoilers hahaha.

And today is Sunday. The sun is shining but the forecast is for cooler weather. I don't mind as I've had enough of the heat. There will be more lovely meals and walks today and not much else to tell in my blog post next Sunday. It is so relaxing here and that's why we came, apart from to get away from the heat.

So my friends, I have come to the end of the tales of this week. As you will have read it's been a quiet week. Next week promises to be so too, although I will have work to do for my new client and will also be receiving more Airbnb guests from both Holland and believe it or not, Australia. Let's hope they are not as troublesome as Lisa's Italian group.

All that remains for me now is to wish you all a great week ahead,

Cheers till next time,

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rafa Nadal the champion, Oli’s programme on Norway, a towering inferno in London, 60th birthday weekend and party and other stories.

Monday 19th June 2017

The 4 of us after my daughters amazing performance at the party
Hi everyone,

I have been writing this post during the week as at the weekend I would be very busy with guests and my 60th birthday party on Saturday night.

I spent most of the week preparing for it with the help of Olivia who is off work until August as her new programme shuts down for the summer. It's a well deserved break for her  especially as last summer she hardly had any holiday. But she and Miguel will be making up for that big time and in July are off to Thailand and Cambodia for a 20 day holiday.

It is has been a very hot week with temperatures soaring to  40ºc. Thank God for the air conditioning in our bedrooms and the pool.

You may remember that when I left off last Sunday, Rafa Nadal was in the throes of a history making Roland Garros final against Stan Warwinka. He thrashed the Swiss man in 3 straight sets: 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 who never had a chance against the Spaniard who was on a personal mission to win his 10th French Open. He did it and there was no one more pleased than himself. He is only 31 and still has a lot of sporting life left in him but in recent years has been plagued by injury. So this comeback and winning "la décima" were sweet revenge and a warning to anyone who thought the champion was at the end of his career. He is considered in Spain to be the country's best sports person ever. He is also the only tennis player to have won the same Grand Slam more than 9 times in what is called the "Open Era".
Rafa Nada just after he had won his 10th Roland Garros last Sunday
It was the perfect end of the day for any tennis fan. For me the picture above was the picture of the week.

I spent much of Monday morning writing my birthday party speech and planning for the party. On Monday afternoon I was joined by our Airbnb guest, Aurea, from Barcelona. She had booked to stay for 5 nights and had come to the area to spend time with her daughter who was preparing for her first year medical exams at the local university. However, in the end she stayed at her daughter's residence and only spent Monday afternoon with us.

Tuesday was the 13th June, an unlucky day in Spain. Tuesday 13th is like Friday 13th elsewhere. I hoped that nothing would go wrong and nothing did at least for us. We went for our morning walk with the dogs and were joined by Oli. It was just after the walk that Suzy sent us pictures from the photo shoot she had been in for the private nutrition clinic she works for in Harley Street at the weekends, the Britzke Nutrition Clinic. I particularly like the one of her with her colleagues which I am happy to share with you in this week's post.
Suzy and her colleagues in the Britzke Nutrition Clinic photo shoot
I look forward to seeing them on clinic's website shortly. 

I spent the morning with Oli compiling a list of music on Spotify for the party. In fact we had to do 2 lists, one for background music and the other for dancing. In the end the former includes 85 songs many of which either mean something to me or are from the 60's and 70s. I do hope people don't find them too cheesy.

I spent the afternoon by the pool after lunch as I have done everyday this week. On Tuesday afternoon I was joined by Lucy, our Paraguayan home help. I had to persuade her to go in but when she did she loved it although she stayed by the steps as she can't swim. And here is a photo I took of her to send to her children.
Lucy in the pool on Tuesday
Whilst we were there, Aurea, my Airbnb guest, arrived by taxi. I thought she had come to stay or use the pool. But no, she had come especially to bring me a present probably because Eladio had invited her to the birthday party. I was gobsmacked to receive a beautiful Swarosvki bracelet from her when I hardly know her and when, although she had paid, has made no use of her booking. Isn't it absolutely lovely?
The surprise present from Aurea, a beautiful bracelet
I should add I was equally gobsmacked a few moments later when there and then my previous "bad egg" British Airbnb guests had posted a glowing review of their stay here. It was perhaps the best I have had. It left me wondering whether they had realised just how badly they had behaved. But I will never know. I just hope they never come back.

Oli loved the bracelet too and later the two of us went food shopping. I would go twice this week, on Tuesday to get lots of basics for the weekend and on Thursday with Eladio for all the drinks and the perishable food.

That night I made the perfect summer salad, a dish I would be making at the weekend too. It is one of the house specialities.
The tuna and egg salad I made for dinner on Tuesday night. 
As you can probably see from the photo, the ingredients are: lettuce, hard boiled eggs, tuna fish, spring onion, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus and avocado.

That night we did not go to bed as early as usual as we were to watch Oli's first programme with Madrileños por el Mundo which was about Norway or rather Bergen and Stavanger, the gateway to the famous fjords. We were so proud of her and loved watching it with her. She had been out there to film and was also responsible for all the editing. Isn't she a clever girly?
Spot Oli on top of the famous Preiskestolen rock
Madrileños por el Mundo is about people from Madrid who live abroad and in the programme she shot and interviewed 4 of them. Perhaps the most spectacular part was the beginning where she is at the top of the Preiskestolen rock overlooking the Lysefjorden fjord. It stands 604 metres high. To get there it is a hard 3.8km trek upwards but the views once there are to die for. The rock is called both the preacher's rook or preacher's pulpit. People go there to take selfies and even sit at the edge. Oli, very daringly, lay down to observe the views. I wouldn't have dared. If you are interested, you can watch the whole programme here. My Father did, but then he has a vested interest in Norway and of course his granddaughter. As I have written many times, he lived there after the war and also studied Scandinavian languages at Cambridge University.

On Wednesday, I was awake at 5.45. It was going to be even hotter than the day before. After breakfast and our walk, I accompanied Oli to the job centre where she was applying for the "dole" while her programme shuts down for the summer. Amazingly all went well, not one hitch or missing document and we were out within 20 minutes. On our way home we stopped off at the Tres Aguas shopping centre (naughty naughty). We went into various shops but it was at Zara that I found a lovely pink dress I would wear for my party.  I have to say it looks better on me than on the skinny model and that the puffy sleeves actually suit me.
My new pink dress
I later bought 2 puffy sleeved t-shirts at H&M in pink and white like the one below.
Puffy sleeved t-shirt from H&M
We were home for lunch. The midday news programme warned the population that a heat wave was coming. For God's sake, we were in the middle of one. I wondered how it could get any hotter. The temperatures this week are not normal for the first half of June. 

But of course the worst news that day was about the burning tower block, Grenfell Tower, a public housing block of flats in North Kensington. Fire had started just after midnight, possibly after someone's fridge exploded (can that happen?).  Between 400 and 600 people lived in the block and not all could get out from the 24 floors. Later we would hear it spread so quickly because the cladding on the exterior was very inflammable. The whole thing was dantesco and looked like a scene after the US film, The Towering Inferno.
Grenfell Tower on fire 
The death toll has risen to 79 but it could be higher. It is a huge tragedy and many questions are being asked about how it could have happened. There was no fire alarm, no sprinklers and most people were caught unawares in bed. It doesn't bare thinking about. Awful, awful. 

Wednesday, thus, was not a good day. Thursday, though, was a quiet day. We went for our walk then did more shopping. Lunch was left over lentils in the air conditioned dining room. Later in the day, Ludy a friend and her son Pedro came for his lesson in philosophy with Eladio while Ludy and I chatted by the pool in the heat, cooled off with tea and fruit. 

Finally Friday was here, the day before my 60th birthday party and the day our friends were arriving. The first to arrive was my darling Sandra, my University friend who lives in Brussels. It was so exciting to see her again. We were home for lunch with the family and some quality time with her before everyone else arrived.  Just after lunch, Kathy and Phil announced their arrival by bus which amazed me as getting a bus here is quite a feat if you don't know the area. I went to pick them up in the sweltering heat and we came back to cool off by the pool. Sandra caught me unawares on her phone camera sitting under the trees in the shade and I like it.
By the pool in the shade with my English speaking friends on Friday afternoon
Soon I had to leave for the airport again, this time to pick up Adele who makes up the threesome friendship from our times at Nottingham University. This time darling Sandra came with me. When Adele finally came out we were overjoyed to be together again. The last time we had seen each other was at Sandra's place in Brussels in February 2016.

Again I was home just on time to make another meal; dinner for the 6 of us. My friends all helped me to make the tuna summer salad. At about 9.45 it was Eladio who had to drive to the airport, this time to pick up our last guests, dear Pernille and Thomas coming from Copenhagen. Pernille was the girls' au pair when they were 5 and 6 and we have been in touch ever since. Pernille was 19 when she came to live with us. I saw her last about 3 years ago and when I saw her that night night it felt like time had stood still as she melted into my arms. Age wise she is in between the girls and me. She is like another daughter to me but also a friend.  I love everyone who came but I have to say Pernille was and is our star guest. She holds a place in all of our hearts and I know the feeling is mutual.

We all gathered by the pool drinking gallons of wine and water - I only drank water hahaha - and Pernille and Thomas gave me a beautiful Danish present. But it was the words on the card that made me cry with emotion. They were so loving and touching. Of course I loved the Royal Copenhagen blue and white plate and it shall be placed in prime position in our dining room.

We didn't get to bed until 1 in the morning. I was pretty shattered as I had got up at 5.20. On Saturday morning I managed to sleep until 6.30. That would be the beginning of what I have called "the big day", the day of my 60th birthday party with nearly everyone I love around me. The person missing of course was Suzy but she too would be arriving. She caught an early morning flight from London and I managed to talk to her on the phone while she was at Stansted about to catch the Ryan Air flight. I couldn't wait to see her.

We all spent the day at home, chilling or trying to chill by the pool as it was so hot. It would reach 39ºc that day and 40ºc on Sunday.  That morning my dear friend Juana and her daughter Pati came to bring and set up her present, a sweet table for the party. I was most impressed and now know how to make one myself. It was a touching present and would help decorate the party a lot. Here are Juana and Pati when they had finished their job.
Juana and her daughter Pati and the lovely sweet table. 
But before the party I had to feed the house guests and at lunch on Saturday it was all hands on deck to make pizzas and salads for everyone. We were 11 around the table and it was one of the highlights of the weekend. I had no words to describe how happy the gathering made me.
My dearest University friends, Adele and Sandra

Kathy and Phil

With my dear husband

Suzy and her father

The girls with Thomas and Pernille, their au pair when they were little
Everything was planned and the only thing left to do before the party was to decorate the garden with bunting and white helium balloons. We left the balloons till the end and again it was all hands on deck to do so. But we had to do it in the dining rooms as the balloons tended to fly away hahaha. 

Blowing up the helium balloons 
Taking them down to the garden
At about 7.15 the caterers arrived. I had invited the guests to come at 20h but Spaniards are notoriously unpunctual and they arrived at all sorts of times. One, my ex Nokia boss, Félix, arrived at 1.30 in the morning hahaha. 

As we waited for our everyone to arrive, it was time to take some photos of ourselves in party dress.
The girls ready for the party

With Thomas and Pernille, our Danish family

With Sandra and Adele. 
People trickled in, the first guests being our dear neighbours, Katya and her husband Julio who provided the sound system without which the party would not have been the same. 
The party in full swing
Thank goodness we had caterers as I wouldn't have been able to concentrate on our guests and on the night's activities. I had friends and colleagues from Motorola, Nokia and of course Yoigo and even my Airbnb guest, Aurea. 
With my Nokia colleagues
When the party was in full swing the speeches began. Kathryn did a speech on me at school, St. Joseph's College in Bradford, Sandra did one on our times at Nottingham University. Then Eladio did a wonderful one on how he met me, followed by Oli who did a hilarious one on what it's like to be my daughter. Mine was the last, an emotional and funny recap on my life. My Father was with us too and enjoyed every moment of the evening.
With my wonderful 98 year old father at my 60th birthday party. 
The girls sang afterwards for me and had chosen a very special song, Dona Dona Dona. It was a song I used to sing to them when they were small for them to fall asleep. It was, I thought, a lovely end to the planned activities.

But more was to come. Suddenly both girls came out from the house to the  patio where the party was taking place, dressed as nuns!!! They stunned us all. Suzy had bought the habits from London where she had bought them on Amazon. 
The girls Sound of Music performance. What a hilarious present. 
I knew immediately which song they would sing. It was to be "how to solve a problem like Maria", in reference to me hahaha. Suzy knew I would love it as the three of us adore the film and have watched it many many times and used to sing lots of the songs together. The performance left the whole audience gobsmacked as it was wonderfully done and made us all fall around laughing in stitches. Thankfully someone took a video which you can see here. Afterwards Eladio and I went up to our darling girls to show our thanks. The photo of that moment is the one I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. I shall never forget their performance and we are still talking about it. 

But there was still the cake moment to come. I had ordered the biggest cake I have ever seen from a local cake shop in Boadilla. It's our favourite and is made with sponge, cream and fruit and covered in white chocolate. There was not much of that left over afterwards hahaha. The candles were of course the firework type I love so much.
The birthday cake 
Just before 2 in the morning the police arrived which is a sure sign of success for a party haha. Some neighbours had complained about the music which is only allowed until midnight. The policemen were actually very polite and even congratulated me on my birthday. Adele told them they were far nicer than the French gendarmes. So we had to stop the music but that didn't stop the fun.  I think the phrase of the night was "fuck the neighbours" which was pronounced also by Adele and which also had us in stitches. The party went on until 4 in the morning believe it or not and I had been up for nearly 24 hours. The worst part was the end when the caterers had gone and I had to deal with all the left over food in the kitchen with hardly any room in our fridges. But somehow I managed it with the help of my friends. 

On Sunday we were all shattered.  I could hardly attend to my guests breakfast but thankfully Suzy came to the rescue and served everyone. Thank you darling. All I could keep saying was what a wonderful party it had been and what fun we had all had. Our first guests to leave were our darling Pernille and Thomas. We were sad to see them go but so happy they had made the effort. You don't have to guess what lunch was that day. Yes you got it right, all the left overs hahaha. 

We spent the day by the pool. There was nowhere else to escape the heat and in the photo below Adele, Sandra and I are enjoying the water and of course being together.
In the pool with my University friends Sandra and Adele yesterday
The girls were there too with some of their friends and in a rather debauched moment, they served us some of the sweets from Juana's table. Oh how I love the marshmallows (nubes). My friends being mostly English enjoyed the wine a lot this weekend and drank copious amounts. I wish I could have joined them but I can hardly take just one glass as alcohol gives me a headache. 

My dear friends invited us out to dinner last night. I was very grateful as I couldn't face more leftovers or cooking again. And here we are all ready to go out with the girls who were even more tired than us and didn't join us. Suzy would go and sleep with Oli at her flat as she had an early morning fight today and the flat is nearer the airport than our house.
With our friends ready to go out last night, and the girls in the picture.
I wore my blue turquoise dress that I had bought in Hong Kong and was still not sure whether I should have worn it to the party as I like the pink one and this one equally. 

We took our friends to La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo and I got lost on the way in the Mini with Adele and Sandra as we were talking nineteen to the dozen and I got distracted.  We were so distracted in fact we forgot to leave keys for Lucy who was returning from her time off. So poor Eladio had to drive home, open the gate for her and come back. That will not happen again hahaha. 

Dinner as always at this restaurant was splendid and again our friends drank copious amounts of wine. I wish I could but had to suffice myself with the Basque cider which is lovely but I would far prefer wine.
At dinner last night
We were home by just after midnight and I all I could do was go to bed. I had hoped to be up in the morning to see Kathy and Phil off, the first to leave, but I'm afraid I overslept until 7.30, quite a record. I had a quiet breakfast with Sandra, Adele and Eladio. Sadly I read this morning about the dreadful forest fire in inland Portugal that has already taken away more than 60 lives. What an awful way to die. 

Everything was coming to an end, after so much planning and I have to admit I am now feeling a little flat. Sandra left at around 10.30 and as Adele wasn't leaving until 2.30  guess what we did? Yes you guessed right, we went clothes shopping to El Corte Inglés, Spain's main chain of department stores. I wanted to buy some cool white trousers which I actually didn't find. But thanks to Adele I found some lovely pink ones at Gap. In fact I love them so much I went to their online website and found them in white too and have just bought them:-)

Thankfully the temperatures dropped from around 40 to around 30 today giving us a respite. After our shopping and a welcome coffee from Starbucks we drove home happy with our purchases. I should add Adele bought an elegant colourful scarf from Bimba y Lola.

It was great not to have to cook today. Lucy made us lentils again, a healthy option and a favourite dish with all of us. Adele, though was so full of food she couldn't eat hahaha. Just as we finished her taxi came. She was the last to leave and suddenly the house seemed empty. Well, not quite empty as Oli was home and her friend Laura from the Scouts came with her two year old toddler Maya.  

And that my friends and readers is the end of the story of this week.  I'm sorry I'm late with my blog this week but I think you will understand why after you have read this post.  

 I shall leave you now, publish it and print it out for my number one reader; my dear Father.

Meanwhile I wish you all a great week wherever you are and whatever you are doing,

Cheers till next week,

PS Here is the link to more photos of this weekend. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Our first bad Airbnb guests,the Spanish skateboard hero, Pippa gave us a scare, a hung parliament in the UK and other stories.

Sunday 11th June 2017
Cooling off in the pool this week with Oli
Hi again everyone.

It's Sunday again and blog time and what a hot Sunday it is. We've been having a heat wave here this week and the forecast is for the hot weather to continue.  It will reach 37ºc (over 98 Fahrenheit!) today and the only way to cool off is either shut inside with the air conditioning on,  in the pool or under the trees in the garden. That is where I have spent most afternoons.

Last Sunday I continued to chill out after the exhausting week working for for my most recent customer. That night Eladio and I went out for dinner instead of on Friday when I was just too tired. We went to Ginos where we have been very often recently.

On Monday I had more work to do for my new customer. I had to compile the final media coverage report. It took me quite a while but I was over the moon with the results which were pretty amazing for a relatively unknown company or brand. In all we got 10 offline clippings, 8 of them from nationwide media, 118 online clippings, 3 TV and 4 radio. The tone was both neutral and positive and it all added up to an equivalent advertising spend of approximately 308.000 euros! 

Oli and Miguel were here for dinner that night. I hadn't seen Oli since her birthday so we it was great to be together again. What spoiled the night a bit were the awful Airbnb guests, the only bad eggs we've had so far. Since the end of February we have had more than 26 sets of guests from all over the world and I am sad to say that the only bad ones were  this group from England. Actually one of them was from South Africa and he was by far the best behaved of the group. They had organised a barbecue and with my reluctant permission had invited 4 girls to come - will never allow that again - The only thing I asked them was to leave everything as they had found it.  My words fell on deaf ears. They didn't trash anything but the next morning it took us a good half hour to clear up. They had left at 5 in the morning without saying goodbye, all the lights on and without paying for breakfast. They were not unpleasant people, just very untidy, messy and  rather cheeky I should add.  There was no respect for us or the house and they treated the place like their own. I sincerely think they are more suited to staying at a hotel. I mused about writing a negative opinion on their stay and in the end decided not to write one at all, rather than getting into a possible online verbal fight. It was their attitude I didn't like. I really think they have no idea that they behaved badly but that's probably because of their arrogance and lack of manners; something obviously inborn in them.  I was happy to see them go.  Thankfully our next guests who arrived on Friday from France, were a delightful group of people. 

After clearing up the mess they left, I had another unpleasant task to perform. I had an appointment at the job centre for the umpteenth time. I had to take along some corrected Social Security tax receipts; part of the process of becoming unemployed. It's a long story and I hope I have now come to the end of the tunnel. This time I didn't get lost coming home from their offices in Alcorcón; an area I always get lost in, despite my sat nav hahaha. That was because Eladio took me, bless him.  

That afternoon Lucy joined me on my walk as she often does. She loves to get out and is a country girl a bit like me. She was brought up on a farm and is always outside, either clearing the leaves, sweeping the terraces or even planting roses, jasmine or potatoes. Her company is always pleasant. She may have been brought up in a modest Paraguayan farmstead, but her attitude and manners are impeccable. She's a great addition to this household. 

Lucy with my Father who she looks after so well. 

On Wednesday Spain mourned the death of one of its citizens, Ignacio Echaverría from Las Rozas in Madrid. He had died on London Bridge last Sunday trying to help a woman being stabbed by the terrorists. He had only his skate board to help him. But it wasn't until Wednesday that his death was official, although his family and friends had informed the British authorities of his actions and his being missing since that dreadful night.
Ignacio Echaverría, the Spanish skateboarder who died trying to help a woman being stabbed by the terrorists last Sunday night. 
He was in the news all week and the British press dubbed him the "skateboard hero". Of course he was a hero. What he did was very courageous but this 39 year old Spaniard who worked for the HSBC trailing down terrorist funding around the world, didn't think twice before defending the woman only to be killed himself. I kept thinking all week that he could have been Suzy or any of her friends. So when she told me this morning that she and her friends Chati and Anita had actually been on London Bridge 2 hours before the attack a shudder went down my spine. They had been to Brighton for the day and took the train back to London Bridge station where they picked up bicycles, just like Ignacio and his friends at the Tate Gallery. But instead of Suzy it was Ignacio. Life is a question of chance and these days there is a lot more chance, at least in London, of dying from terrorism than there ever was before. My heart goes out to Ignacio's family and friends. If I had a hat which I don't, I would take it off to him, this brave and decided Spaniard who will now go down in history as a hero. Chapeau is all I can say and I say it sadly as his was a horrible way to die. 

Wednesday 7th May did not go unnoticed by my Father, nor by me. It was of course the date of my beloved Mother's birthday. She would have turned 97, one year younger than my Father but, sadly she passed away on 1st October 1999, aged 79, after fighting cancer. She would have enjoyed the sunshine on Wednesday. Oh that she were still here to enjoy our family life, the girls and our dogs and of course be company to my Father who has missed her sorely ever since she took her last breath. Her last words I was told,  were "siof paratki" (everything is ok) in her native Russian. I wish I had been there but I wasn't and that's something I have to live with. So throughout the day, she was on my mind as she often is. My beloved, bohemian, life embracing, rebellious, aristocratic, witty and also clever linguist of a Mother was missed on Wednesday, her birthday, as we miss her always. Thinking of you Mummy. Can never ever forget you. 
My amazing Mother whose birthday it would have been this week
She would have been worried about Norah our beagle who has leishmaniasis, an illness caused by the deadly mosquito of the same name. There are many of them in this area. Eladio took Norah to the vet a while ago after we had noticed she looked a little down and wasn't eating as hurriedly as before, or barking at motorbikes and bicycles on our walk. A little test showed she had been infected by the dreaded mosquito whose bite is life threatening. We had an appointment that day to get her treated after receiving the results. We also took along Elsa our lab and little Pippa, our adored chocolate coloured miniature dachshund to takes tests on them too and also protect the three of them from the mosquito by way of a special collar and pipette. The tests proved Elsa was possibly infected but would need more tests and thankfully little Pippa was free of it. So there and then the vet spread liquid from a pipette along their backs and placed a special white anti tic collar around their necks. We felt pretty bad we hadn't done that before. We had, but not often enough. 

We came home and life continued as normal or so we thought that morning. Eladio and I read on the wicker sofas on our swimming pool terrace and little Pippa, with her new collar, joined us.
Eladio and Pippa sitting peacefully on the sofa on the swimming pool terrace on Wednesday
That night she wasn't so peaceful and just couldn't seem to relax and fall asleep. She kept having funny spasms although she didn't look in pain but her behaviour was very strange. On Thursday morning, the day of the British General Elections, I rang the vet to tell her about Pippa. We were sure it was a consequence of either the collar or the anti tic pipette. At the clinic they took it very seriously saying she could be intoxicated by either of them. I felt like asking why they hadn't pointed out the possible side effects before giving her the protective treatment which could potentially kill her. They insisted in keeping her in "hospital" for 24h for observation. I protested, saying we could observe her at home to which the vet said she should stay as she was in mortal danger. Mortal danger! Oh those words made me cry.  Maybe I was being over dramatic in my response but I love her so much I just can't envisage her dying. What an awful word. 
Darling Pippa, a photo of her on our walk this week.
It seemed so ironic as we had tried to protect her but had in fact harmed her. They took her from my arms to remove the collar and bathe her to get rid of the poison from the pipette and I left her with a very heavy heart, feeling like a criminal. Poor little thing, she depends on us and we had let her down. How could she understand? I cringed knowing she would be in a cage for 24 hours not understanding why I wasn't there. I offered to stay with her but they wouldn't let me. In order to see her that afternoon I even had to have an appointment. I immediately made one for 19.30 that evening.

The day seemed so long afterwards with Pippa at the hospital. I had a lunch date that day with an English colleague, Corinne. It was Corinne who passed on her Valencian customer to me recently for which I was very grateful. We had lunch at La Txitxarrería and got up to speed on each other's lives in the past few years. It was great to see her and I hope we will do lunch again if only to chat in English to a friend here in Madrid. I don't have many English friends here and those I do I cherish, like my ex colleague at Yoigo, Tony. 

I couldn't wait for the day to pass by quickly enough for it to be 19.30, the time to visit Pippa. Oli and MIguel would join me when the time finally came. The moment came and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that she was visibly better. We had a huge cuddle and then it was Oli's turn and mine again until we all calmed down. We had to wait a while to see the vet who gave us the great news that we could take her home as she was better, although we had to look out for any further symptoms. I don't know who was happier, Pippa or I as we drove home and she trotted into the house to greet her canine friends, Norah and Elsa. It's now over thank goodness but what a scare she gave us. We shall now have to see how to protect her from the dreaded mosquito as she is allergic to or can't tolerate the collar or pipette. 

Meanwhile in England, it was the General Elections in which I cannot vote as I have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years. But of course it affects me because of Brexit. We wouldn't get the full results until Friday. I had actually predicted a hung parliament and that is what we got. Theresa May's strategy of calling the elections to increase her majority in order to have more clout in her own party when negotiating Brexit, backfired. Instead of increasing it, it decreased, much to her amazement. Her party, the Tories, lost 13 seats, down from 331 to 318, not enough to govern alone. For that they would have needed 326. Labour did well but not enough to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the latter won't go down that road again with the Tories. By the by, Nick Clegg of the coalition with Cameron fame, lost his seat. So did many others. 
The results of the General Elections in the UK this week
I could hardly believe Theresa May who the Sun called "Theresa Dismay", kept on her talk of unity and strength as if denying the obvious and is now going to govern with the help of the DUP (Northern Ireland Unionist Party) who got 10 valuable seats. She should resign instead of clinging onto power via a pact with the radical Irish party founded by the infamous Ian Paisley.  The DUP is anti gay marriage, anti abortion, even for rape victims and even denies the climate change. I mean who would want to cohort with them? Well yes, obviously Theresa May as it seems all she is interested is in keeping power. But I wonder for how long. I also wonder if the alternative in for example Boris Johnson may be even worse. Whatever the case it is interesting times ahead for Blighty. My only hope now is for a soft Brexit and not a hard Brexit as proposed by this now very unpopular PM. Only time will tell although it is not exactly as if the PM has lots of it. Quite the contrary in fact. 

Life continued of course and on Friday I decided it was time to concentrate efforts on my upcoming 60th birthday party. The caterers came this week and I really had to know exactly how many we would be. 

Talking about guests, I also had to prepare for the arrival of a group of 6 French people coming by car from Bordeaux. They said they would arrive at 20.30 and at 20.35 they arrived, unlike the English group who got lost and arrived at 2 in the morning! I was amused they were coming to take part in a Chinese martial arts tournament in nearby Villaviciosa this weekend. They brought with them a huge Chinese guy who only spoke Chinese. I only know one word in Chinese so I said it: "nihau" to which he smiled. They told me he was a Kung Fu champion. They certainly added to the unique list of guests I have had so far who have come for lots of different reasons, such as drone racing or drone piloting. 

We left them at home making their dinner in the kitchen whilst we popped out again to Ginos for our own dinner. 

Yesterday was another scorcher. I was up at 6.30 as usual, enjoying a quiet breakfast with The Times online on my own with all 3 dogs. 

We took the time on Saturday morning to go and do some party shopping for next week and went off to a shop called Fiesta Party. Here we bought helium gas and balloons, garlands for the swings and bunting to hang on the trees, as well as lots of candles to put on the steps and even paper flowers with t lights to float on the pool. 

Talking about parties, Oli had one yesterday at home, another birthday party, this time for her colleagues from the programme she used to work for; Aquí en Madrid. She invited 17 people. What with all her guests and my French guests we felt a little invaded and perhaps should have gone out to dinner on Saturday instead of Friday. Of note it was my dear friend Sandra's birthday yesterday. We shall celebrate that too when she comes next week. 

As if I didn't have enough guests already, yesterday afternoon I got a firm booking from 6 Mexican students who are coming for 2 weeks at the beginning of September to attend a course in sports physiotherapy at the nearby University (UEM) where Oli studied. Our house is certainly popular with Airbnb travellers:-) 

And today is Sunday and as I write Rafa Nadal is playing in the Roland Garros French tennis open final. With both Djokovic and Andy Murray out, his opponent is Swiss, not Federer, but 32 year old Stan Warwinka. If the Spaniard wins it will be the 10th time he picks up the coveted Coupe des Mousquetaires, quite a feat.  As you can imagine I am on the Spaniard's side. 

I was up early again today and spent the first hour of the day clearing up after yesterday's party, so that the French guests wouldn't wake up to see any mess. I was worried as they had told me one of the reasons they had chosen our house was because it was quiet and peaceful - well it wasn't yesterday I am afraid. 

As soon as we could, Eladio and I took the dogs for our walk and before 10 am it was already boiling hot. When we got home, Eladio's pupil, Luciano was waiting for him to receive a lesson on Nietzsche!!!

I did more mundane things like organise lunch - bitki (Russian hamburgers) and chips which we had outside where it was far to hot. I think from now on we shall be having lunch in the dining room with the air con on. 

And that my friends is the end of the tales of this week. So let me leave you to publish this post and print it out for my Father and also check to see how Rafa is doing.

So, from here, cheers to you all until next week.

Have a good one/Masha