Sunday, October 22, 2017

Back from Montrondo, Galicia on fire, Olivia returns from St. Petersburg, girly time, Spanish government to take control of Catalonia and other stories of the week.

Sunday 22nd October 2017

Girly time this week. Here with my lovely daughters Oli (in blue) and Suzy out shopping on Wednesday.
Hi again,

Tension has escalated in Spain over the Catalan crisis but last Sunday was quiet. It was our last day in Montrondo. There was lots to do to leave the house in order but I managed one last long walk to Senra and back with little Pippa.  
Happy on my walk to Senra and back last Sunday in Montrondo. See how dry the terrain is. 
I thought we had the old path to ourselves but no, just behind us came two men and two horses. It was our neighbours who were taking their lovely horses to another field where the grass would hopefully be greener. 
My neighbours with their horses on the old path on my walk last Sunday in Montrondo.
It was so dry everywhere, although, thankfully, since we left, rain came. The villagers, I hope, will be able to irrigate the fields and crops now which had been forbidden since the summer something pretty unheard of in Montrondo where the cost of water per household per annum is only 8 euros.  

Just as we left the path and joined the main road into Murias, I was startled by a noise coming from the field on my left. I was then delighted to see that it came from the pony and donkey that live in the fields outside Murias. Pippa, of course, barked at them. I was sorry I had no bread or sugar to offer them. They are such a lovely sight.
The pony and the donkey in the fields of Murias
After a coffee and a shared biscuit with Pippa in Senra, I walked back to Murias where I was joined by Eladio for a drink at the Palloza bar, the only one in the village. Unfortunately they don't let dogs in. Spain is not a very dog friendly country I am afraid.
Eladio at the Palloza bar in Murias last Sunday morning
I came home to make the last lunch of this stay in Montrondo. I went for an easy option; home made pizza which tasted just delicious. In fact we ate it all, apart from a little piece which would be Eladio's dinner that night.
Home made pizza for lunch on Sunday, our last day in Montrondo
We left at about 5.30. It would take us an hour longer than usual to get home as there was so much traffic on the roads it being the end of a bank holiday.  We were home by about 10.30 pm and after unpacking watched the news on Catalonia about Puigdemont's imminent response to Rajoy. But that turned out not to be the main news that night. The main news came from Galicia in the north west of Spain.  The region was literally on fire. There were more than 100  arsonist provoked fires and this time houses and people were in danger. The city of Vigo was under siege with people having to abandon their homes and smoke everywhere.  
The city of Vigo  in Galicia besieged by fire last Sunday
4 people would die and more than 30 lost their homes to flames thanks to what has been called "incendiary terrorism".  There were also fires in León, not so far from Montrondo, and also in the lovely province of Asturias.  Portugal fared even worse with many more deaths. I cannot begin to understand how anyone would want to start these fires. Are they pyromaniacs or there other motives behind their arson? I imagine it is very difficult to catch them but I do hope they are caught and soon. Thankfully 2 days after the fires started the rain came and Galicia, León, Asturias and Portugal are no longer on fire. 

Later that night, Suzy would be home too after a lovely weekend with her Whitechapel friends in Cáceres. It would be her last full week with us before she heads back to London tomorrow. 

On Monday Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan President, replied to Rajoy just before the 10 am deadline. He was to reply whether he had declared independence or not or otherwise face direct rule from Madrid who would invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. El País published the letter before the deadline. It was as ambiguous as his speech after the referendum.  So he got another letter from the Spanish Government with three more days to reply. We would all wait with bated breath for the next deadline on Thursday of this week. Meanwhile, more than 1000 companies have left the region, changing their HQ to other areas of Spain so as to remain within the EU if independence is proclaimed. 

Monday was a cool day with rain expected. We had a quiet day. I went on my walk with Eladio and the dogs and then did the food shopping with Suzy.  Olivia's day in St. Petersburg, her last day of work there, was much more exciting. She interviewed a Spanish Catholic priest from Madrid who lives there and who is an exorcist. In the  photo below you can see her with him on the rooftops of Peter the Great's "window to the west".
Oli with the exorcist in SP
She was keen to tell her father about it. After all, he was a priest too before we married. What she didn't know is that her father is also an exorcist although he has never practiced (hahahaha). When he was ordained a priest he was also ordained an exorcist. Later he would give Olivia his rather scathing opinion about the practice. After all, he is also a philosopher with his feet very much on the ground. 

If Eladio is a philosopher with his feet on the ground, I am quite the opposite. Again I made bread on Monday, making both Suzy and hopefully him happy. Once again I used spelt flour but this time I added both oat and strong flour too and seeds. It was ready for dinner, hot out of the oven. Eating it that way with butter reminds me of how my Mother used to make bread at home and the lovely smells emanating from the kitchen.
The spelt and oat bread I made on Monday
I was very pleased on Monday to get two new Airbnb reservations. A student from Toledo who is doing a masters degree at the local University was coming the next day for 4 nights. The other reservation was for 2 women from Tarragona (Catalonia) coming for 6 nights to attend a handicraft fair they were exhibiting at. With all the question of Catalonia, I wondered whether they would be for or against independence. Many houses around us and indeed all over Spain, have Spanish flags flying in their homes after an upsurge in patriotism. With these flags they are telling society they want a united Spain. The Spanish flag has a negative fascist connotation, unlike the Nordic countries for example. It is only really used here to support "La Roja" (Spanish national football team) and now it is being used to show support for a united Spain. Maybe that is a good thing and the flag will finally lose its negative connotation. Certainly flag sellers these days are making a fortune. Our local kiosk sells them at 3.5 euros each. There are quite a few where we live but many many more in the towns. I couldn't believe how many I saw when Suzy and I went into the city centre this week.
There is a fever for hanging Spanish flags on houses and buildings since the call for independence in Catalonia. 
I was glad though, that we don't have one in our garden, as it might have put off our Catalan guests hahaha. Eladio later remarked when he saw so many flags in the houses in our area that maybe we should put up the Spanish, EU, British and even Catalan flags. Maybe we should hahaha. 

But back to my Airbnb reservations. These days, hosting Airbnb guests and managing the reservations, calendar, etc, seems to be my main job and source of income.  So every time I get a new booking I get a high. On Monday I got two so there was motive for celebration.  

The rain that was threatened on Monday finally came on Tuesday, breaking a spell of 49 dry days in Madrid and many other areas of Spain. But the real rain wouldn't come until Wednesday when it poured it down all day.  Luckily it held off on our morning walk. I was back on time  to accompany Suzy to Madrid for her appointment to renew her Spanish passport and Spanish national identity document.  The documents are issued at a police station and Suzy's appointment was at the one in the Santa Engracia street. First we had to get some photos which we did at a very lucrative little photography shop opposite the police station. The appointment was on time and after just giving her name and one photo, within a few moments Suzy had her brand new DNI (identity document) in her hands. We couldn't believe how fast the process had been and had expected the document to be sent to her weeks later. That was great. Even greater was learning she would get her brand new passport just 10 minutes later. Both documents cost just 37 euros, a lot less than a passport in the UK. As we were there waiting I thought just how lucky Suzy is to have both a UK and Spanish passport while Brexit looms. I only have a British one and may have to apply for Spanish nationality one of these days. It all depends, of course, on the terms of bloody Brexit. And here is my lucky daughter with her new documents outside the police station a few moments later.
Suzy happily clutching her new Spanish passport and national identity document outside the police station on Tuesday morning in Madrid.
We went to celebrate by having a coffee together nearby. We went to an English tea room, the only one in Madrid. Called "Living in London", it is a place I love to go to. And here is Suzy with her coffee served in very  genteel china cups.
Coffee at English tea room in Madrid with Suzy on Tuesday morning
We were home on time for lunch. I was also on time for my 5 pm dental appointment. I was to be given root canal treatment on a back tooth that had been giving me trouble. It was a horrible 50 or so minutes on the dental chair where I had to be given two doses of anesthesia and even then there was the odd sharp pain as the dentist pushed and pulled inside my mouth. I now have 3 more appointments to go and I'm not looking forward to them. 

Once home, my Airbnb guest, Cristian, a psychologist by the way, had arrived and settled into what is actually Suzy's room, one of the nicest in this house. As I walked in, Suzy was showing the house to the two Catalan ladies. One of the ladies was so enormous, Eladio was worried she would break the bed hahaha. Well, she hasn't so far thank goodness. 

Back in St Petersburg, Olivia had started her return journey to Spain. She had to fly first to Moscow and from there take an Aeroflot flight leaving at 6.30 pm which would get her to Barajas airport 5 hours later. She sent me a photo that day to show me the things she had bought for my Father that I had asked her to buy and knew he would appreciate. She got him a Russian newspaper called Pravda which I thought he would like but later he told us it was a tabloid. He preferred the higher brow newspaper she got  on the plane. She also bought his favourite Russian sweets called "karowka". Made of fudge, we used to call them "kruvki" when we lived in Yorkshire. The third item was Russian "halva" a sort of soft nougat which is really of Middle Eastern origin. We used to eat that at home too. My parents often sought these items from the various Polish shops in Bradford. 
Newspapers and sweets for my Father from Russia
Suzy would wait up for Oli who would be coming from the airport by taxi. The good thing was she would have the next day off and we would have quality girly time on Wednesday. It's not often we are all together and when we are we love it.  

And yes the rain came again on Wednesday and it poured so hard, Eladio and I had to skip our walk. Thus I was able to be with the girls while they had breakfast. It was great to be together again. The dogs were happy about it too. And here they are, all 3 of them, hoping for crumbs from their breakfast.
Our 3 dogs were happy to see Oli and Suzy and all of us together on Wednesday. They are so much part of our family.
But before the girls got up, the Catalan ladies came down before leaving for the exhibition. Maybe I was a bit daring but I asked them what their thoughts were on the bid for independence by the radical minority leading the process. They told me they were part of the silent majority against independence and that they feared for their business and hate what is happening. In no uncertain terms they told me the move for independence was a coup d'état. They also said they dare not express their opinions in public where they live for fear of being harassed and labeled "españolistas". They were very worried indeed. It was very interesting to hear their side of the story.  

So that morning, while the girls got ready to go out, I did what calms me down a lot during these difficult times and that is make bread. I made 4 loaves as the girls just devour my home made bread. These were the loaves I made on Wednesday.
The 4 loaves of bread I made on Wednesday. There's not much left now hahaha. 
Once my two daughters were ready, the three of us went on a shopping expedition to a big commercial centre not so far from here, Gran Plaza 2. They wanted to buy birthday presents for some of their "manada" friends who would be celebrating this weekend. The photo illustrating this week's post is of the 3 of us out shopping. I promise, I didn't buy anything. I don't need any clothes at all but it's always difficult to resist going into Zara. 

The family got fish and chips for lunch which made everyone happy. It was wet and cold so we couldn't go out in the afternoon either. Instead we all had a siesta and later watched a film on Netflix together, even Eladio. I don't know why, but we chose a 90s film called Awakenings with Robin Williams and Robert de Niro. I had seen it many years ago but it's a film well worth watching more than once. 

At dinner together, yes the 4 of us, talk was about Catalonia and also Olivia's experiences in St. Petersburg. Oli's exorcist priest had warned her never to play the Ouija board which according to him was playing with fire. I should know as I played it a lot in my last year at school and I will never forget one or two frightening moments.  Eladio was very disparaging about both exorcism and the Ouija game. 

Thursday was a quiet day. It rained again but only in the morning. The sun seems to have come back now but the temperatures are more typical  of the autumn. It wasn't quiet on the political front though. That morning Rajoy received Puigdemont's letter which was again ambiguous. There was no other option for him and the central government than to impose Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution withdrawing regional power. For that there would be a cabinet meeting on Saturday morning to decide on its application. 

I had breakfast with my girls and then Suzy drove Oli to work. I took the time to go to the hairdresser to cut my hair and dye my roots. I often think what a bore it is to have to do that, but, if I want to look less like a granny at 60, I don't have much option. I later accompanied Suzy to the local private doctor who is from the Dominican Republic and thankfully for me is happy to prescribe my sleeping pills which the national health service here won't do. They say I will get addicted. Well I might get addicted but at least I get a better night's sleep. While there I got locked in the loo hahahaha but not for long.  I was wondering whether I would have to climb over the door or if the fire brigade would have to be called, when eventually the door opened after a visiting salesman broke the lock. The last time I was locked in the loo was on holiday at the seaside with my Father and brother. I was 7 at the time and I think they had to put a ladder up the wall for me to get out via the window. 

Later I had another adventure in the loo when my smartphone fell out of my back pocket and into water which was clean I should add!!  I quickly retrieved it, dried it with a towel and switched it off. When I switched it on again, not only was it working but I had a message on the Airbnb app with a new reservation. A Brazilian student will be staying 8 nights here from tomorrow. He is attending a course for national triathlon coaches at the local university. We will be lending him Oli's bike to get to the UNI, about 3 km from here. It is a very ordinary bike, not a triathlon one and I hope it turns out to be suitable hahaha. 

It seemed to be a day of adventures. Suzy's was the worst by far. That night she took my Mini to Madrid where she would be meeting a friend for dinner. At the restaurant her bag fell off her chair and she only realised the car keys had been left at the restaurant when she went to get her car at the end of the evening. By that time the restaurant had closed. She rang us for help at about 1 in the morning. What worried me most was that the other set of keys for the Mini were also missing and I envisaged a keyless car parked in the centre of Madrid for days while we got new keys which can't be an easy task. In the end she took a taxi home and the next day I found the missing keys in the garage. The restaurant also had kept the other keys and she went back to Madrid for the car the next day. All in all a bit of a nightmare but all's well that ends well thank goodness.  

Friday was a quiet day but it was also a red letter day. Suzy who had taken 2 months off from locum jobs in London, had spent some of her time here in Spain searching for a new job before she went back. It was on Friday that she got the green light for a band 5 post as a dietitian with the NHS at the same Trust she had worked for before, the North London Trust. She will combine this job with her Harley Street consultation work at the Britzke clinic. She has to start next Wednesday so on Friday booked her flight back. It means her time with us will be cut slightly short and she will now be leaving tomorrow. It has been great to have her and I wish her all the luck in the world in this new chapter of her life in London. Go girl go. You will always have our support. 

When the rain stopped on Friday, Eladio took the opportunity to mow the lawn and I went on our walk with little Pippa. Suzy spent the night at Oli's as Miguel was back from Valencia and Eladio and I decided that if the cat's away the mice will play and we went out to dinner. We chose Ginos as I had a craving for pasta.  

On Saturday I did not have the pleasure of the girls' company at breakfast. They were enjoying it together at Oli and Miguel's house. But I did get a photo of Suzy having a very healthy breakfast at their place. This is it.
Suzy having breakfast at Oli's place on Saturday morning
I realised when I saw the photo with all the fruit that we had run out of fruit at home, even though I had done the weekly shopping on Monday. Furthermore I had to make lunch for everyone so had no option but to do more food shopping on Saturday morning. I came back to see the kitchen invaded by the girls as Suzy was making cakes for her friends' birthday do that night.  Thank goodness it is a big kitchen. While Suzy made the cakes and we put the shopping away, Oli helped me make a huge dish of coq au vin for lunch. As it was baking in the oven, we turned on the TV on my iPad to watch Mariano Rajoy  announce the application of Article 155 which still has to be approved by the Senate. In a few words it means elections will be called in Catalonia within the next 6 months, the current President and counselors to be removed and the central government to take control. He has the full backing of both the socialist and new central party,  PSOE and Ciudadanos. Immediately afterwards there were huge protests in the streets of Barcelona protesting the direct rule but also the imprisonment of the 2 Jordis, the masterminds behind the referendum who have been sent to prison for locking police in a building for 24 hours who were removing electoral material in September and also setting a police car on fire. I wonder now whether Puigdemont will dare declare independence. If he does, he may well face prison too. At the moment the tensions could not be higher. I hate the whole situation. The pro independence followers call the imposition of the Article 155 a coup d'état but what they won't recognise is that the illegal referendum they organised is also a coup d'état and Article 155 would not have been imposed if they had not gone against the law. Now they will practice civil disobedience. It is not a pretty picture and I don't know what the final outcome will be as I can't really see new elections changing much. Time will tell. 
Deadlock with the Catalonian independence forces
The girls I guess are less worried about the situation.  They went out that night to celebrate their friends, Anita and Chati's birthdays. We stayed at home, mostly glued to the TV to watch events unfold until we could take no more. 

Judging by Suzy's message this morning at 8 am, telling me she was just going to bed at Oli's house, they must have had a good night out. This is a photo of some of them having fun yesterday evening.
Oli and Suzy having fun with their friends last night. 
Today, Sunday, is Suzy's last day in Spain before going back which is a bit sad. I will miss her. Thankfully we shall all have dinner together tonight at Oli's, our last time together until Christmas probably.

And so my friends, I have come to the end of the tales of this week. I hope you have enjoyed this post and look forward to writing again next Sunday. The clocks will go back next weekend; something I always find difficult to adjust to. I imagine you do too.

Cheers then until next time,

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