Sunday, September 03, 2017

Suzy on holiday in Malaysia, Hurricane Harvey hits Texas, remembering Diana the Princess of Wales, Oli in Cyprus and other tales of the week.

Sunday 3rd September 2017.
With my best Spanish friend and ex Motorola and Nokia colleague, Fátima this week. 
Hi again everyone,

I told you last week that this week would be quiet and that I didn't have any exciting plans but that I would come up with something today. Well I haven't been anywhere but my daughters are away in Malaysia and Cyprus respectively so I am enjoying and following their travels vicariously. On the international scene, as you well know, there is lots to report. 

The biggest news this week was of the terrible floods in Texas (the size of Spain by the way) caused by Hurricane Harvey which hit the state actually on Friday August 25th. Since then the hurricane which turned into a tropical storm, killed at least 31 people and damaged or destroyed up to 185.000 homes. 
A street in Texas after the flood which looks more like a river
I later read 80% of the population  does not have an insurance policy against floods. The cost in damages is going to be around 80 billion dollars. Some weather people are calling Harvey the worst rainfall ever in the USA but Hurricane Katrina was much worse because it killed over 1800 people and damages came to 118 billion dollars. Donald Trump has a big headache on his hands to find the money, between 72 and 85 billion dollars.  He has called on people to make donations and he himself has donated 1m dollars which seems a little paltry coming from a billionaire like him. However, a fool and his money are not often parted as we will see below. 

We had rain ourselves here in Spain, but nothing compared to the likes of Harvey. It was news here as it has been such a dry and hot summer. It rained over most of Spain but here in Madrid only on Sunday and Monday. The rest of the week has been cooler than usual but now temperatures are rising and we can expect 30º C today. 

Suzy would be experiencing both rain and hot temperatures in Kuala Lumpur where she landed with her friend Chati that morning after a very long flight from London via Dubai. Once in the Malaysian capital they were to meet up with their other holiday partners, Chati's sister Elena and her boyfriend Antoine and the trip organiser, Rocío who had flown from Madrid.  But we would have to wait until the next days for the first photos of their trip. 
Suzy and her fellow travel mates in a mosque in Kuala Lumpur
And indeed on Monday morning I was treated to photos of their first impressions of Kuala Lumpur. The group had visited a mosque and to enter it had to wear suitable dress provided for tourists.  They also sent one of them with sky scrapers in the background.
The girls in Kuala Lumpur on Monday
That was a picture I recognised as I have once been to Kuala Lumpur although it was many many years ago. I went to a military defence exhibition with the arms company I worked for in the 80's in Madrid called Defex. I was away for more than a week and remember leaving poor Eladio with the girls who were babies at the time. So, yes, I remember the sky scrapers and the heat but do not remember feeling Malaysia was a particularly strict Muslim country. That happened afterwards. 

Monday for me didn't start very well as I broke the screen of my treasured Samsung Galaxy S7 and badly too. Luckily I still have a few contacts in the  mobile phone world so booked an appointment with the phone repairer, Anovo, where, if you remember, we did a scene of me repairing phones (hahaha) for the Undercover Boss programme I featured in in 2015. 

It rained on Monday too. Murphy's law didn't prevail though when we went on our morning walk as it started pouring down just as we got back. It was a bad morning to choose to go the hairdresser but I did go and was lucky that when I came out it had stopped. Thanks Murphy whoever you are. 

On Tuesday, one week after returning from my holiday in France and a few days dieting to offset any weight I may have put on this summer, I finally got on the scales. I was not happy to see the figure of 58.2kg and have been doing my best ever since to return to 56kg the weight I want to be. That has meant further reductions in my food intake, no meals out and longer walks in the morning. Let's see what the scales say next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, Suzy and her group had travelled on to the Perhentian Islands which Suzy later described to me like a fabulous desert island; although it wasn't deserted. They stayed at the Bubu Resort right on the beach which I heard was fantastic, as was the food, the colour of the water and the flora and fauna in general. They even went snorkeling and saw giant turtles. 
Beach on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia

Suzy on a boat going snorkeling in the Perhentian Islands
While she was snorkeling, I drove to San Sebastian de los Reyes, nearly 50km from home, to the Anovo HQ to meet an old colleague from Motorola, who would get my phone repaired. I couldn't believe it took over 2.5h but that was probably because I had asked for all the phone info and photos not to be removed. My colleague and I had a good long chat over a coffee in nearby bar about the old days and how the sector has changed. I left the premises at about 2pm and drove home happy to have my phone repaired and hungry for my lunch. It was a morning lost in a way but very productive in others. Since the phone broke, I have ordered a protective screen from Amazon which is taking a long time to arrive. I would have bought one a long time ago but never found one that fits the Edge model properly. I hope the one I have ordered does and meanwhile hope I don't drop my phone again.

Of note that afternoon, Eladio and I did the weekly shopping. Now the house would be full of food but not for long hahaha. 

On Wednesday I woke up with my right arm hurting so much I couldn't even lift the shower head. I wondered if I had arthritis. Is this the beginning of old age? Thankfully it got better and now no longer hurts. A 81 year old Spanish man who probably has all sorts of aches and pains, must have woken up happier than me that day. Publicity shy Zara founder and owner of Inditex, the largest fashion group in the world, Amancio Ortega with a fortune of 85 billion dollars - more than enough to totally cover the cost of the damage done by Hurricane Harvey - overtook Bill Gates to be the richest man in the world according to Forbes. As I shop so much at Zara I obviously have contributed to his fortune hahaha. Bill Gates has 84.9 billion, also enough to pay for damage in Texas. 
The 81 year old Spaniard, Amancio Ortega who fleetingly overtook Bill Gates this week as the richest man in the world. 
However, thanks to stock fluctuation or currency levels, Mr. Ortega moved down to number 2 again later in the week. Imagine being the richest person in the world? Would you give all your money, not just 1m dollars like Donald Trump, to restore Texas? Probably not. Or maybe you would spend it to pay the Brexit divorce bill. Brussels is requesting 100 billion euros so maybe even the richest man in the world couldn't afford it. This story has also been much in the news this week and The Times reported today that Theresa May is secretly agreeing to pay 50 billion!!  Now if that has to come from UK taxpayers' money, those who voted for Brexit will not be pleased. Well, they were stupid weren't they? Sorry for my crude and simplistic language but I can't find a better word in English than (plain) "stupid" to describe those who voted to leave the EU. 

Thursday 31st August was the 20th anniversary of the death of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales who died aged 36 in a car crash in Paris. Who doesn't remember that? Who doesn't remember her? Whether you liked her or not she was the most photographed woman in the world and arguably the most beautiful. The hard core part of the British Royal Family would like us to think she had a borderline personality order. She certainly had all sorts of problems, some caused by her parents' divorce, others caused by the shattering of her own marriage and subsequent divorce and of course what it must have  meant for a non royal to join the British Royal family and suddenly be the object of nearly all the eyes in the world. Who could have kept their head I wonder? For all her faults and she had many, including manipulating and using the press, I think there was more good about her than bad. She had so much charisma she dazzled anyone who came into her gaze, when that gaze was positive of course. She had so many ups and downs, I think the public at large sympathised with her and saw her as "one of them". She wasn't of course but she showed her feelings, she laughed, she giggled and she cried like a real person, not like the mystique figures of Buckingham Palace and for that, I, for one loved her. We continue fascinated with her even 20 years on and wonder what she would be like today. Underneath it all, I still do not completely rule out that the establishment had something to do with her death. There is no proof but proof can be hidden and like the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, maybe we shall never know.   She lives on, though in the hearts of the people, as the "People's Princess" so well coined by Tony Blair just after her death. I like to remember her just as that and of all the photos I have seen, this picture is the one I think sums that up best.
Lady Diana, The Princess of Wales, the "People's Princess". RIP 20 years on. 
My friend Fátima came to visit me on Thursday afternoon and cheered me up enormously. She is  my best Spanish friend. Fátima is also my  neighbour and ex colleague at Motorola and Nokia and I have known her now for more than 25 years. We first met as young women in our early thirties at Motorola. I was in marketing and communications and she was in sales. We have been inseparable ever since we were sent on a trip to Catalunya for a cycling race when the Motorola Cycling team existed. We have some amazing memories. together. When my friend was leaving, I got Eladio to take a couple of photos of the two of us. When I looked at the result I saw all the wrinkles and signs of ageing and laughingly said to Fátima that it is very different from the photo I have of the two of us in our lounge at home, when we were at the Paris Roubaix race in the early 90s. There we looked like pin up girls but didn't realise it at the time - well pin up girls compared to what we look like now haha. 
With Fátima at the Paris Roubaix with the Motorola Cycling Team in the early 90s. 
As the Spaniards would say, it "has rained since" then meaning a lot has happened since then. It certainly has and I like to think we both have and are living life to the full. It is one of these photos I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. I also posted it on Instagram with the footnote "friends will be friends".  

It is thanks to Fátima that I have a cushy little job coming up next week. She has asked me to fill in for a trip she can't do as she has a sprained ankle. So on Wednesday and Thursday I shall be accompanying a Spanish businessman to Montpellier in France to be his interpreter in meetings and negotiations at a marketing congress there. It's an unusual job for me but the pay is not bad and of course it's quite easy peasy for me. It's not difficult to translate anything about communication and marketing for me from Spanish into English and vice versa. If it were a medical or legal congress I would have had my doubts. Hopefully it will be pretty plain sailing. When I told my Father I was going to Montpellier, he informed me it's the French nougat capital. Oh and I love nougat hahaha. You'll be hearing all about my adventures there in next week's post. Meanwhile, thanks Fátima for that bit of business which is very welcome and will help pay the hefty annual September IBI property tax bill which has just made its unwelcome arrival. The IBI is a Spanish property tax levied by local governments which gets higher every year and in my mind is their way of making more money out of the tax payer when they overspend funds from the central government. 

Friday 1st September did not begin well. That day, the time of looking after my Mother-in-law was coming to an end and she was going to stay with another sibling.   Before she went, Lucy, our home help, had come to the end of her tether after the extra strain and stress and even though she would be relieved of it from that morning, she burst into tears saying she couldn't take any more, she was exhausted and that she was leaving us.  I was devastated, tried to calm her down, saying things would be as they were before from now on and basically please don't leave us in the lurch as it's so difficult to find someone new who can learn the ropes quickly. She agreed to come back on Monday but that she needed a few days off but I'm not sure she will return. Our whole status quo will be turned upside down if she doesn't  and I write that sighing with worry.  

My way of dealing with my own stress and calming down was to go on a 2 hour walk. In fact that day I decided to do a 2 hour long walk every morning. That way, I burn more calories:-) When I got back Olivia was home but just for a couple of hours before leaving for Cyprus. It's funny but some of my Franco Russian cousins are there on holiday now and I have put them in touch hoping they will be able to meet up. Oli, though will be very busy as she has just 1 week to tour the island and shoot interviews with 4 "madrileños" who live there for her programme "Madrileños por el Mundo". She really has a cushy job. She loves travelling and her job is as a TV travel journalist now. It was while she was with me, the first photos of the promotion for the new season's programme were released like this one below  with her fellow reporters. I'm so proud of her but I'm sure you understand that.
Oli with her fellow reporters for the TV programme she works for, "Madrileños por el Mundo". Oli is in the pink jump suit.  
She doesn't tell us much about her work but just before she left I found out that the day before she had been invited to coffee in a 5 star hotel by the Cypriot Ambassador in Madrid to discuss her visit. She was also to be hosted in Cyprus by the Tourist Board there. She also told me the latter were not happy when they heard she intended to visit the Turkish occupied part where one of her interviewees lives. Good for her. Before being given her latest destination she knew literally nothing about Cyprus but since then knows so much the Ambassador was impressed!  Good girl for doing your homework. I look forward to pictures and also to seeing the programme on TV.  Her flight that day was at 4pm and would take 4.5h to arrive in Cyprus where, by the way, there is a heat wave with temperatures reaching 40ºc! 

Meanwhile, Suzy had travelled from the Perhentian Islands to George Town, a beautiful colonial town on the island of Penang and the second largest in Malaysia. That morning we were sent more photos and George Town looks very beautiful. 
Suzy with her fellow travellers in George Town, Malaysia. 
I had a bad night and woke up really early on Saturday morning. It was good to get more photos from Suzy from George Town. First things first and after breakfast we went on our walk. Eladio, Elsa and Norah did one hour and Pippa and I did 2 hours. This is how the dogs looked after the exercise; asleep and "belly up" under the sun on the terrace outside the kitchen. 
Our dogs sleeping in the sun "belly up" after their walks yesterday
We were very busy yesterday morning, getting the house ready, without the help of Lucy, for our 6 Airbnb Mexican guests arriving that day. They are physiotherapy students and have come to do a course at the UEM University near us. When I had done the rooms, I rushed to Majadahonda to the local market, once again to get my cushions for Santa Pola which weren't ready. Truth to tell though, that was just an excuse to go as I love the market. Yesterday I got a white hand bag for 7 euros and a pair of black espadrilles for only 10. I also bought the must succulent tomatoes imaginable as well as fresh grapes and figs. I was home just on time to make our lunch. 

Our Mexicans arrived in fits and starts as they didn't travel together. The first two, Iñigo and Lupita,  came without a car and got lost.  I went to rescue them and felt so sorry for them as they were obviously very hot and tired.  Later Angeles came by taxi and a couple of hours later Janet also arrived by taxi. The 5th student, Gad, arrived today and Lupita's husband will be coming next week. So we have a very full house. Friends of theirs were staying in other Airbnb places nearby and I realised, after surfing the app a bit, that I have new competition locally. So more people in my neighbourhood are doing the same as me. I hope that doesn't mean fewer guests for me as Airbnb is now my core business or certainly has been this summer.  They will be staying for 2 weeks so let's see if all goes well. So far, so good though. They seem a lovely bunch of young people. Despite their jet lag, they went into Madrid last night, informing me Trip Advisor had announced Madrid had the best night life in Europe or was it the world!! We didn't hear them coming back but when I got up this morning, Iñigo was having breakfast. It is now 5 in the afternoon and they are still asleep hahaha. 

After their arrival yesterday, finally Eladio and I were able to read and relax by the pool which he cleaned for them and which they haven't used yet. I am currently engrossed in a book called "Beneath a Scarlet Sky" by Mark Sullivan. It is the story of Pino Lella, an unsung WWII boy hero who rescued many Jews in Italy from the holocaust in Nazi occupied Italy. He went on to become a spy inside the German High Command when his Mother insisted he enlist with the German Army when he turned 18 as it was safer than joining the Italian Army where he would have been sent to the Russian Front and probably died as cannon fodder at the end of the war. 
The book I am reading now and which I an engrossed in. 
Now aged 91, he never told his story to anyone until Sullivan contacted him over a decade ago now. If it hadn't been for the book to be published as an e-book on Amazon his story may never have been told and he would have gone to the grave an unknown hero. He now deserves to be included by Yad Vashem as a new member of the honoured list of the Righteous among nations. I haven't finished the book yet but I am already convinced he should. What a man, what a boy, what a story. I encourage you to read it if the 2nd WW interests you. As you know, I was brought up on its legend. 

In fact I was so engrossed with the book yesterday that I carried on reading it as Eladio, and most of Spain, watched the World Cup qualifying match against Italy. I was, though, delighted that my adopted country thrashed their rivals 3-0 and also happy for the Real Madrid player, Isco who scored the two first goals, a brace I learned from the British press. 

I also have my eye on Flushing Meadows and was happy to hear both Nadal and Muguruza have got through to the last 16 of the US Open. Wouldn't it be great if it was an all Spanish win. But first Nadal has to try and beat his bête noire, Federer and Muguruza deal with the come back of Sharapova. This time next week we shall know the end of the story.  

Today is Sunday. Today Suzy and her fellow travellers left George Town for the jungle in Taman Negara. Suzy wrote to say they were in the jungle and surrounded by monkeys and other wild animals. They will be going night trekking in the jungle (she is afraid of spiders OMG), canopy walking on hanging bridges, rafting and also visiting the settlements of he Orang Asli tribe. It sounds very exciting to me, maybe too exciting.  

Hopefully, while my daughters are in exotic locations,  next week will be a bit more interesting for me.  I hope yours will be too.

Cheers then friends and readers until next time,


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