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. 

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