Saturday, October 07, 2017

My thoughts on the Catalonian referendum, leaving Santa Pola, a week at home with Suzy, dinner at Oli’s, keeping calm and carry on making bread and other stories.

Sunday 8th October, 2017
The 4 of us having breakfast at our apartment in Santa Pola last Sunday and watching aghast at events unfolding in Catalonia. Our faces say it all. 
Good morning everyone.

It's been a week since last Sunday's illegal referendum in Catalonia commonly called 1-0 for 1st October and what a day it was and what a week of tension it has been and still is. I think there is not one family in Spain who doesn't argue or talk about  how to solve the issue across meal tables all over the country. It is dividing society, especially in Catalonia. It is the biggest constitutional crisis since the aborted coup d'état by Tejero who stormed the Spanish parliament in 1981. Thankfully that came to nothing after the King's intervention. The idea of an independent Catalonia would be both a catastrophe for Catalonia and for Spain. If the Catalans left, they would be out of the EU, the UN and Nato as well as the Euro zone. Right now in Spain this is the only topic of conversation. However the main parties involved for and against are not talking to each other because they are at deadlock. It's easy  for institutions and media outside Spain to advise for dialogue but that solution has long ago shown to be a dead end when the radical secessionists will only talk about independence and the Madrid government will only enter new dialogue if the former abandon their stance and return to adhering the Spanish constitution. The constitution could be rewritten to include the allowance for a legal referendum  but it would have to be voted for by everyone in Spain. That perhaps is the proposal the government could offer the Govern who cannot carry on  taking the law into their own hands. Meanwhile if Puigdemont and his radical partners do go ahead and declare unilateral independence, the Spanish Government still has a few cards to play. To start with the declaration would be considered illegal and if it came to it, Rajoy could invoke Article 155 of the Constitution and take over control of the Autonomy of Catalonia. Meanwhile the police forces will remain there until the crisis is over. 

I have read many articles this week about what is happening in Catalonia and think perhaps the one that explains it best is this story from El País in English. I invite you to read it to understand what is happening here. 

As the 1st of October dawned, we all woke up in Santa Pola at our apartment. We looked forward to a lovely last breakfast together before packing and cleaning to return to Madrid. The girls and I went out to buy more croissants and pastries for breakfast which were amazing. However, when we turned the TV on to see how the referendum was starting, we soon lost interest in our food. The photo above is of us with our eyes wide open and expressions aghast as we watched Spanish police using force to stop the referendum at school voting stations. It looked awful and it was but what we also saw was that the police were actually being provoked by indoctrinated and frenzied separatists who formed a human wall preventing the police from removing the plastic made in China ballot boxes. They were taunted and insulted. Parents thrust their small children at them inciting them to insult the police. I hate violence as well as the image it projected abroad this week. But the referendum was illegal and the organisers who are threatening unity in Spain,  well knew the police would try to stop it. They had to use force just as happens at the G20 when there are violent demonstrations. In a way the organisers actually used the frenzied masses to do their job and make them look like victims and martyrs when what they really are the enforcers of a coup, the biggest constitutional crisis in Spain this century. It has to be said too that the police violence has been exaggerated with many false images circulating on internet.  The Catalan authorities later expressed their disgust at the use of force by the Spanish police. Yet their own police, the "Mossos d'Escuadra" who, by the way, were divided last Sunday, have used force many many times  as they did against the 15M demonstration, the anti system movement not so long ago.  They were looking for martyrdom and continually sell the untrue story of Catalonia being oppressed by Madrid.  Neither is that true nor is it fair to compare Sunday’s events to Franco’s times which the international media love to do.  In Franco’s times the Catalan local government would never have got away with passing a law to hold the referendum with a non-majority vote.  But I have to say they did a good job with the international media getting them on their side but at the same time creating an oppressive climate for media freedom where journalists complained of unprecedented harassment by the authorities and on social media. I am quoting here a report by RSF which you can read here. The Spanish government, on the other hand, has handled the media badly and has not told their side of the story as well as they should.

The weather wasn't good that morning and feeling very downhearted at the events in Catalonia, we spent the rest of the morning cleaning the flat. Oli and I drove to Alicante to pick up her boyfriend Miguel who would be coming home with us. We left at about 1h in 2 cars and stopped for lunch in Villena, a medium sized town in Alicante which is famous for manufacturing shoes. The meal at La Despensa there was copious and left me, at least, with no appetite until Monday morning hahaha.  

We were home by about 7pm and both Eladio and I had a cold which is still with me. Thankfully Miguel and Suzy took turns driving our car and my husband was able to get a rest. It was good to see my Father, Zena, Lucy and the dogs. I unpacked in our room watching the news of the end of the referendum which was just as awful as the beginning. What a nightmare for Spain and Spanish unity. 

Some of you might think the Spanish government is being undemocratic but you are wrong. There is more than one side to this story and if you don't have the facts it's easy to sympathise with the underdog. But the pro independence Catalans are no underdog nor are they repressed by Madrid. It is the "Govern", the Catalan government who is being undemocratic as they are going against the law and doing so knowingly.  They are anti democrats, revolutionaries and bent on splitting the country. They do not even represent the majority as, although popularity for independence is growing higher after their stoking the fire, it is well under 50%. If the former let the latter have their way, first we would have the Basques knocking on our door and then the Gallegos and it would be the end of a united Spain.    The story would continue throughout the week with tensions only rising higher.  

Monday came. I was dreading the news from Catalonia, the news of a declaration of unilateral independence but although it has been threatened, as I write now at the end of the week, it still hasn't happened. The result of what was later deemed by the international supervisors to be a flawed election (people voting more than once, voting with ballot papers printed at home, people being able to vote at any polling station, ...) was a turnout of just over 2 million people out of 5.5 million eligible voters with 90% in favour. Well of course there were more in favour as really only those who wanted independence voted!!!! The referendum was one big pantomime and the procedure a farce. 

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, a lone wolf shooter  killed 59 people and injured more than 500. Stephen Paddock, aged 64, opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel shooting randomly at people attending a music festival. He later committed suicide. The motive for the killing is still a mystery although his crime was well organised. 
Mystery man Stephen Haddock responsible for the worst gun attack in US history

In his hotel room and house the police found a real arsenal of deadly weapons. This was the worst gun attack in the US history. Isn't it time they stopped the sale of weapons and the licences to own them? Will that ever happen I wonder.  

Life continued as normal here at home. I went for my long morning walk with Suzy and also made more bread. I would make bread at least 3 times this week. Making bread is my way of relaxing and keeping calm in these tense days of the unlawful Catalonian bid for independence.  Thus when I post photos of my bread making on Instagram, I have invented my own hashtag: "keep calm and carry on making bread". 
The mixed flour bread rolls I made on Monday

I experimented with different flours and included wheat, barley and rye and added walnuts. I made rolls for the first time so the shapes are not perfect. You see in our house everyone, except me, prefers the crust to the crumb and there is always a fight for the crust end of bread loaves so with rolls everyone gets the crust hahaha. Eladio was especially pleased as you can see in the photo.
Eladio with my experimental bread rolls on Monday
Tuesday came and it would be Olivia's big day, the day her programme broadcast the interviews she had done in Cyprus with Madrilenians living there. I didn't get to watch it though as it was broadcast so late. 
Oli in Cyprus
Prime time in Spain is 10.30 or 10.30 pm, far too late for me hahaha. But no worries I was able to watch it online on the programme website. You can now see it also on You Tube

The other reason I couldn't see it that night was because of a dreadful headache.  I had been to see a neurologist that afternoon about my "artificial sleep" which came out in the recent sleep test I did. The doctor prescribed melatonin for what she called my "fractured sleep", as I wake up so many times during the night. Melatonin is a natural ingredient I later read which helps regulate the body clock. Well it might be natural but it gave me a god almighty headache that night and when I read the side effects later, that was top of the list. The headache didn't go until 2 days later so no more melatonin for me I'm afraid. 

But at 9 pm that night and before the headache came on, I did watch the "King's speech". Felipe II, the new king of Spain spoke to the country in a very surprising broadcast as he only ever addresses the nation at Christmas. He had been criticized for being absent or missing during the Catalan referendum so I was interested to hear what he would say and how it would go down. The truth is he was very serious and did not say anything new we had not heard already. I'm not sure his speech has helped. The Catalans were not happy especially as he did not mention the police violence or the need for dialogue. He spoke platitudes but it was important that he backed the constitution. In my mind he does not have the clout or backing his father had, King Juan Carlos, when he intervened in the military coup in 1981 and helped restore democracy after the death of Franco. 

The King during his serious speech to the nation this week

Wednesday came and Norah our beagle who has leishmaniasis was not well. She was in obvious pain, throwing up and when she had diarrhea we took her to the vet. They put her on a bland diet and gave her pain killers and medicine to relieve her symptoms. I saw to her bland diet and she adored the real chicken and rice as a change from her dry food. Thankfully she got over her bad spell quite quickly but she does need more care and attention these days, not only because of her illness but because she is getting on and will be 9 at the end of the year. Poor Norah. 

I made more bread on Wednesday. This time I made bread rolls with spelt, oat and wheat flour and added seeds. Suzy said it was the best bread I had made so far. I made it for dinner that night at Oli and Miguel's. We had all been invited there as during the week they live in their rented flat nearer the centre of Madrid and we don't see much of them. 
The delicious spelt, oat and wheat flour rolls with seeds I made on Wednesday 

Just as I was taking them out of the oven I got a sudden Airbnb booking for that very night. Alfonso, a Rioja wine salesman from Logroño, arrived half an hour later. It was a good job we keep the rooms ready for sudden instant bookings hahaha. Later he would give me a lovely bottle of wine from his bodega called Tobia. We have yet to try it but I'm sure it tastes really good. 

It was lovely to go to Oli and Miguel's place for dinner that night with Suzy ah and little Pippa. We've never been there all together and don't go there often so it was  a pretty special evening. Miguel is the chef in their twosome and is pretty good at it too. That night he prepared stuffed tomatoes, prawns with garlic and a potato and cod omelet made to perfection. And here are Eladio and I about to attack the delicious food and of course enjoying being with our family. I'm sorry we never got to take a photo of all of us. 
Dinner at Oli and Miguel's place on Wednesday evening. 

Of course the meal was dominated by the Catalan independence issue. If the King had given a speech the night before, the man behind the cause for independence, Carlos Puigdemont, addressed the nation too that night. We were all afraid he would declare independence. He didn't and I'm not sure if or when he will dare although the most radical part of his coalition government, the "CUP" are pressing him to do so. Instead, rather ironically, he asked for dialogue, as if that path hadn't already been explored. He has also asked for mediation from the EU and even the Pope who have both condemned his illegal referendum and declined the offer saying this is a Spanish affair. Interestingly, for the first time that night, the so-called "silent majority", the catalans who do not want independence, took to the streets of Barcelona to protest during his speech. The rest of Spain was relieved. Finally the frightened silent majority dared to raise their voice. And they will do so again today in a big demonstration in the centre of Barcelona. 

I spent most of Thursday with Suzy as I have all of this week and it is a pleasure to have her back if only for a month and a half. It is good quality mother and daughter and family time. We have lunch with her everyday as does my Father and often we have dinner together too.  She has been enjoying the good weather. It is amazing but the warm weather has not gone since it started in early June. This week the temperatures have reached about 30ºc every day which is extraordinary for October. It is of course thanks to global warming but I'm not complaining this week at least. 

Thursday was a big day for a British writer, Kazuo Ishiguro, who was as anyone would guess from his name, born in Japan. Against all odds he won this year's Nobel Literature prize and when they rung him he was stunned and even thought it might be a joke. I have never heard of him, although he is quite famous (Man Booker winner, The Remains of the Day). He was apparently awarded the prize for his "novels of great emotional force". 
This year's Nobel Literature prize winner, British writer Kazuo Ishiguro who was born in Japan. 
On Friday our delightful guest from Logroño left for La Coruña. He would be attending a wine tasting event there that night. As he left I though what a wonderful job he has hahaha. I then had to prepare for our new guests arriving that night, Víctor, a recent widower and his two small children who were coming for a weekend in Madrid to go to theme parks with friends. Suzy helped me to prepare plates of fresh fruit and I cut flowers from the garden. This is what the green room which the children would occupy looked like.
The green room ready for our new Airbnb guests on Friday night. 
We spent the afternoon by the pool reading, or rather we read and Suzy sunbathed. I think she appreciates the sun here more since she left to live in England 5 years ago. She even swam and I caught her on camera hahaha. It's funny but she's got her hat on!
Suzy was very happy to use our pool in the good weather this week. 
The news that day regarding Catalan independence was of big and small Catalan companies deciding to leave the region for fear of independence which would mean being cut off from the Euro Zone. Big banks such as La Caixa or Sabadell will move to Valencia and Alicante. Yesterday we even heard that Gas Natural is moving to Madrid as is the Barcelona water company. This is the worst news the "independentistas" could have. One of the reasons they want independence is because Catalonia is one of the richest areas in Spain and they claim they pay more to the central government than they receive. Well, if their main money making companies up and go, where will that leave them? Later I read that Quebec never got its independence for a very similar reason. They are also suffering the consequences of a declined rate in tourism which could hurt just as much as Barcelona is one of Spain's biggest attractions. 

If on Thursday the Nobel prize for literature was announced, on Friday it was the turn of the Nobel Peace prize. In my mind these are the two most interesting of the prizes. This year it went to the ICANW, an organisation I had never heard of I'm afraid to say. It stands for the "international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons". In these troubled nuclear times with threats from North Korea and problems with Iran and with 8 countries in the world owning nuclear weapons, perhaps it is a good thing that this organisation gets  recognition. 

While waiting for my Airbnb guests to arrive from Jerez, Eladio watched Spain play Albania from Alicante. It was a qualifying match to get through to the World Cup in Russia in 2018. Of course they won and the score was 3-0. It's their ticket to Russia although they still have to play a match against Israel in Jerusalem on Monday although technically they are already through.

Saturday was to be a family day again. I was up really early after an awful night coughing because of my cold. It's funny that even though I don't get much sleep I never seem to be very tired during the day.  I mentioned this to the neurologist this week and she thought that maybe I was one of those people who doesn't need much sleep. So there I was yesterday reading the news on my iPad with the dogs at my feet. They are such company. Here are Elsa and Pippa who love to be together. All 3 dogs love going to sleep again after breakfast, unlike me, hahaha.
Elsa our labrador and Pippa our mini sausage dog together in their bed in the kitchen. 
Oli and Miguel would be with us that day as from lunchtime. So, after our walk, I was busy cooking. Eladio, meanwhile, like many other Spaniards attended a small demonstration against Catalan independence in the village nearby. Much bigger ones were held in Madrid and other cities in Spain. Having to stay at home to cook was my excuse not to join him but I hate crowds and my few experiences with demonstrations have put me off for life. For lunch yesterday I had decided to make a home made pizza with my own pizza base, as inspired by my friend Jacky. I also made vegetable soup and of course more bread rolls which we would eat for dinner and on Sunday. 

This is the pizza piled high with toppings we all love. The base was nice and crusty but most of all we enjoyed being together.
My home made pizza which I made for our family lunch today. 
We enjoyed time by the pool together in the afternoon too. Suzy continued sun bathing, determined not to lose the tan from her trip to Malaysia and Indonesia, and Oli and Miguel lounged by the pool. Miguel even ventured in.
Oli and Miguel by the pool yesterday afternoon enjoying the last rays of sunshine
Later we played cards ("culo" hahaha) and then the three of them went out for dinner. Eladio and I stayed behind. 

And today is Sunday and we shall be going with Suzy to Montrondo for the week. Luckily it seems the weather will hold.

Now, before I sign off, I should just offer an apology to any pro independence Catalan friends I have and I do have them I know. I offer an apology as they may not agree with my thoughts on the Catalan referendum but they are my thoughts. On the other hand I want to remain friends with them. 

And that's it for this week everyone. Wishing you all well, cheers until next time,


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