Sunday, November 05, 2017

Puigdemont’s circus arrives in Brussels, I was sexually harassed too, a cake for Lucy, All Saints’ Day with Oli, RIP Aitor and other tales of the week.

Sunday 5th November 2017
Making home made pizza on Saturday. Cooking and baking are such rewarding and relaxing activities. 
Hi everyone.

It's November again. I have lived 60 Novembers and it's never been my favourite month. My favourite month is definitely June when spring turns to summer. Today though is 5th November, a date etched in my mind with good memories as a child in Yorkshire enjoying the activities of Guy Fawkes day aka bonfire night. That's one of the English things I miss while living in Spain. Another date I miss is Shrove Tuesday, aka pancake day. I brought my girls up on many English traditions but sadly not those two. What I don' like though is Halloween, that American tradition that started after I left England in the early 80's and which has caught on here too in Spain. It was Halloween this week and I largely ignored it. 

But let me go back to last Sunday when it was still October and the first day of "daylight saving" time, another day which I don't like as it plays around with my body clock. It certainly didn't stop the huge crowds of anti independence supporters demonstrating for unity in Spain that day in Barcelona. 
An image of the huge demonstration in Barcelona last Sunday in favour of the unity of Spain. 
What was a bit embarrassing for its supporters was the defeat of Real Madrid by the Gerona football team - a team at the bottom of the league and which is Puigdemont's home town and of course he is a supporter. That win was a symbolic win by Catalonia against Madrid.  Who was to know that the deposed ex President of the proclaimed and dismissed Republic of the region, was to flee from facing the courts the next day to Belgium?  He was to cause a diplomatic headache between Spain and Belgium, make a complete fool of himself as well as anger his political allies for having abandoned the ship so to speak. He brought the whole independence circus to Brussels. That was the story of the week in Spain and in Europe. 

But another story was being told on the TV that night on a different channel. The Undercover Boss programme I had featured in for Yoigo in September 2015 was being broadcast for the umpteenth time. I wish I was being paid royalties hahaha but I signed my rights away when I signed a contract with the producer Warner Bros. They didn't give me any other option. 
A shot of me featuring in the Undercover Boss programme for Yoigo which was broadcast again on TV last Sunday for the umpteenth time. 
Immediately people started writing to me on all the different social media platforms, many asking for a job or to help with a problem with their deficient phone of phone line. All I could do was tell them I had been fired from the company so lovingly portrayed on the TV that night.  On the other hand some people wrote just to tell me how much they liked me in the programme which was much appreciated. 

If the biggest story in Spain was the flight of Puigdemont, the biggest story, at least in the US and the UK were about sexual harassment in Hollywood and at the Houses of Parliament in London. If I haven't written about this before, when the news unfolded after accusations against Hollywood producer, the now infamous Harvey Weinstein, it was because it's not my favourite subject. 
Harvey Weinstein, the dirty old man from Hollywood. 
It's sordid and unpleasant and brings back nasty personal memories I largely try to forget. However as actor upon actor, be that Kevin Spacey of House of Cards or my once beloved Dustin Hoffman and now Members of Parliament, including the Minister for Defense, Michael Fallon, have been accused of sexual harassment, I think it is about time I also came out from the cold. Recently there was a campaign on social media where women all over the world posted two words on their status; "me too" meaning they too had been subjected to sexual harassment.  I posted those words and so did many of my friends. No, it's not just Hollywood actresses, it is probably the majority of women. All my life I have been the target of what I call "dirty old men". At the age of 12, I was groomed by our local and middleaged postman, Mr. Fox who finally dragged me into a shed and lunged at me with his horrible slobbery mouth and thick moustache. I screamed so much I must have surprised him and was able to get away. I never told anyone. I never told anyone either when I was 17 and our local Anglican priest forced another slobbery and unwanted kiss on me. At school a young Irish teacher tried to sexually assault me and thanks to my brother who walked in at the precise moment I was saved. In France, on school and on inter rail trips, I was leered at by Algerian men at  train stations in Paris. At University I was leered at too by Professor Tate, head of Spanish at Nottingham University as well as by Dr. Cardwell also of the Spanish department who once lunged at me too and I had to force his horrible fat arms off me. And no I never told anyone about that either. I even began to think it was my fault when aged only 15, my Mother's lecherous colleagues, prestigious lecturers of Russian at Leeds University, ogled at me at my parent's parties. Their wives noticed I can tell you but no one else. They made me feel guilty as if it was my fault that I attracted these sleazy dirty old men. Sexual harassment continued to happen to me even at work. But only, thankfully until I was married. But of course, by then I was 26 and not so attractive to these predators who had their eyes on younger women. Perhaps by then, I was more aware of how to deal with them and of course would no longer keep it to myself. These sleazes know that too and thus harass the young and vulnerable as it's easier to get away with.   And, so as women all over the world are coming out from the cold, I too hope that with my story, we can all contribute to the fall of this disgusting behaviour by sleazy and dirty old men who will now find it more and more difficult to get away with.  It has taken me more than 40 years to tell this story and I only wish I had told it before, to my Mother when I was aged 12. Then perhaps there would be fewer Mr. Foxes around. Hopefully young girls and boys will have more courage than me and the practice will not only wain but will be no longer acceptable as people thought it probably was 40 years ago. I can tell you that it was not acceptable to me when I was aged 12. It devastated me and has lived with me forever after. 

But my mind wasn't on that story on Monday. That morning I was busy  compiling a media coverage report for my Barcelona based telco operator customer. I was pretty happy to report that I had garnered 37 articles, the equivalent advertising spend of just under 100.000 euros.  My work was interrupted though when I heard that Carles Puigdemont and 5 of his ex-counsellors had fled to Brussels, presumably to request political asylum. He astounded everyone in Spain. What the hell was he doing there? The obvious reason was to escape facing the courts for rebellion, sedition, embezzlement, disobedience and prevarication after organising an illegal referendum and declaring independence,  crimes that he faces justice for. He is a coward and a clown. But more about him later. 

On our walk that evening and, sadly, it now gets dark at just after 6pm, we found someone's smartphone on the path. I picked it up just as someone called it; the wife of the owner who had been on the same walk as us and was out looking for it. When we gave it back to him, both he and his wife were extremely grateful. I could imagine his relief, as I too had recently lost my phone and thanks to an honest person, got it back again. The incident made me reflect on how well brought up I was. My parents instilled honesty in me and for the most part of my life I have been honest. However, I also reflected to myself, what would I have done if I had found an envelope with a large amount of money in it? So far it has never happened so I have no answer to my own question hahaha. 

On Tuesday, Halloween, Puigdemont held a surprise press conference in Brussels. The Belgian government refused to let him use their press premises so the chaotic event was held at the Brussels Press association, a venue fit for 80 people, not the more than 300 present. The whole event was chaotic and badly organised. 

Puigdemont's circus arrives in Brussels as portrayed by this chaotic press conference he held there at the beginning of the week. 
The man himself, as ambiguous and disorganised as ever, arrived late and then decided to speak in 4 languages, French, Catalán, English and Spanish. Eladio and I watched it live on my iPad finding it very difficult to understand what he was trying to say. He then only allowed questions from chosen international and Catalan media. He told the astonished press that he was in the Belgian capital not to seek asylum or escape justice. That was a total lie as his first call of port was to see the Belgian lawyer famous in Spain for representing Basque terrorists. He also said he was in the EU capital to internationalise the cause for  Catalonia and that he would not return to Spain until he had guarantees of a fair trial. He accuses the Spanish courts of being in cahoots with the Government and there he is totally wrong. What he doesn't want to face to is imprisonment for his deeds and he is a coward and also a clown as he is turning into being the laughing stock of Spain and many parts of Europe. Neither the EU nor the Belgian government have given him shelter. There are lots of jokes going around and the one I like best is the one that likens him to Tintin, the Belgian comic hero.
Puigdemont fleeing like Tintin
Eladio and I have been glued to the news this week as Puigdemont and his circus are like a an addictive soap opera. You never know what is coming next and it gets more and more absurd. 

Totally oblivious to the main subject of news in Spain, was Paulo, our Airbnb triathlon Brazilian guest. It was his last day with us on Tuesday. He wasn't flying back to Brazil until late that night but I happily let him stay with us until he needed to go instead of "checking out" at 1pm. He has been a pleasure to host and a bundle of fun. It was quite a coincidence that that day Eladio would be giving his weekly lesson in philosophy to his Brazilian pupil, Luciano. So on Tuesday afternoon we had 2 Brazilians in our house and of course we introduced them both to each other. It was quite a fun moment. Lucy, our Paraguayan home help and my Father's carer, was there too and I thought it would be very appropriate to immortalise the moment with a selfie of all of us together. So here we are, Europe and South America united in one photo.
The fun moment when our Brazilian Airbnb guest Paulo meets Eladio's Brazilian student Luciano. Europe and South America united in one photo at our house hahaha. 
As Paulo was preparing to leave, I was in the middle of making a cake for Lucy's birthday the next day and also making more bread. It was a busy and happy afternoon for me. My bread turned out wonderfully. This time I made multi cereal loaves. And here they are. Olivia would be coming the next day, All Saints' Day, and she is the person who most appreciates my new addiction hahaha.
My multi cereal bread loaves
Just as Paulo was probably starting his flight back to Brazil, people all over the world were celebrating Halloween and perhaps nowhere as intensely as in the US. However it was to be a nightmare and bloodshed night in New York when a lone wolf ISIS terrorist drove a hired van into a cycling lane in lower Manhattan, near the memorial to the Twin Towers. He killed 8 people and injured many more. 5 of the dead were a group of Argentinian friends. After smashing into a school bus, 29 year old Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek citizen, who cried out "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), was shot and caught by the police before he could do more harm. 
The terrorist ban in Manhattan on Tuesday night after it smashed into a school bus. 
These lone wolf ISIS van attacks of pedestrians are the new way of creating terror and they are difficult to predict or to stop. What an awful night for New Yorkers.

Wednesday was All Saint's Day and Oli would be joining us for the day which was a national holiday in Spain. It was also Lucy's birthday, her 53rd. Knowing she had to work that day and that she is so far from her kids in Paraguay, I went all out to make it a special day for her. She would,  though, also be celebrating this weekend with her sisters in Madrid. I had made the victoria sponge cake the day before and in the morning, before our walk and Oli came, I turned it into a proper birthday cake. I sliced it into two to make a "sandwich" which I filled with raspberry jam and whipped cream. I then put icing made with fresh raspberries on the top and decorated it with miniature meringues and more raspberries. Here you can see all the steps taken to create Lucy's birthday cake.
The steps to make Lucy's birthday cake. 
Lucy loved it and so did Oli when she came but of course we wouldn't touch it until lunch. We also had presents and a card which are mandatory in our house for birthdays. Lucy was very happy and emotional to receive them. I was happy to see her happy and she deserved all the efforts we made for her that day as she looks after my Father so well.

Suzy was also working that day but in London, for the NHS. 1st November is not a bank holiday in the UK. She sent me this photo of her at work which I am happy to share with you here. 
Suzy at work on Wednesday 
So I had the pleasure of the company of one daughter, Olivia, that day.  We went for a walk with together with Eladio and the dogs and then she helped me to make lunch. I can't remember what we had but I do remember how happy we made Lucy when we lit the candles on her cake. Here she is having her birthday cake moment. The cake, by the way, was out of this world.
Lucy's birthday cake moment. 
Apart from our walk and lunch together, we went shopping to Ikea in the afternoon. Shopping with my girls is one of  my favourite pastimes and of course Oli and I both love Ikea. We went to get towels for her flat and also new bed linen for her bed here at home. Hers, from Zara Home, was getting very old as we bought it in 2006 when we moved into this house. Shopping at Ikea is always dangerous for your purse and although I tried to restrain myself, there was no way I was leaving without shopping at the food store. There I got chocolates for my Father, smoked salmon, meat balls, jams of all sorts, especially cloudberry jam, again for my Father, as well as prawns. Its difficult to find peeled and cooked prawns or shrimps in Spain but you can always get them at Ikea. And here is a photo to record our trip to Ikea on All Saints Day this Wednesday.
Shopping with Oli  at Ikea on All Saints' Day
We came home with our purchases and the first thing we did, after giving my Father his chocolates, was to change Oli's bed linen. This is the new look; black and white stripes. In fact it's the same duvet cover as the one we have in our room in Montrondo but Oli and I both agreed it was the one we liked best for her room which has a lot of black and white.
New bed linen for Oli's bedroom 
The option for dinner that night was an easy decision to make. I served a lovely prawn salad which we all enjoyed, made the Swedish way.  

If Wednesday was All Saint's' Day, Thursday was All Souls' Day, the day people traditionally visit their loved ones' graves. However, in Spain, at least, they do this much more now a days on All Saints' Day. So the news was full of images of cemeteries and people taking flowers to graves. 

All Souls' Day here in Spain will be remembered for because it was the day Judge Carmen Lamela remanded in custody, the VP of the ex Catalan Government, Oriol Junqueras and 7 of the ex counsellors, including two of those who accompanied Puigdemont to Belgium. 
The ex members of the Catalan government as they arrived at the courts on Thursday
They were remanded in custody, i.e. sent to jail, pending a court case, because the judge feared they would flee the country, like Puigdemont. Only one of them was given bail, Santi Villa, who had resigned from his post one day before the illegal proclamation of independence. Another reason for remanding them in custody was the fear of their destroying evidence and continuing their crimes. Their being sent to jail is no favour to the Spanish government because it will be fuel for the followers of independence. Many of the separatists denounced the move as anti democratic and accused the government of the harsh judicial treatment. However, they forget it is not the government who has a say in the legal system here, however much they want that to be portrayed abroad. Really I was not sorry for them. They knew the consequences they faced when they started their defiant fight for legal independence and were warned many times. Ada Colau, the left wing mayoress of Barcelona, said on Twitter it was a black day for Catalonia as the democratically elected government members had been imprisoned and she called for the freedom of "political prisoners". Many people pointed out they were not political prisoners but "politician prisoners". Socialist politician, Guillermo Fernandez Vara replied it was a black day, the consequence of black days caused because some people decided to act against the law. I totally agree. Meanwhile, the same judge began preparations for a European arrest warrant for the fugitives in Brussels. 

From the moment of the ex government members' detainment, Eladio and I remained glued to the TV through the afternoon and until late after dinner until we could take no more.  The plot was thickening and no one knew or knows how the story will end. 

Friday was a grey day but we got some sun on our walk. Devoid of any more interesting news in the Puigdemont tales, I turned to reading again. I started reading the book I had bought for my Father, Thirteeen Years at the Russian Court (a Personal Record of the Last Years and Death of the Czar Nicholas II And His Family) by the last Tsar's children's French tutor, Pierre Gilliard. It is very interesting but it's a book and the typeface is small which is difficult for my eyes. I far prefer reading on my Kindle where I can enlarge the typeface to my heart's content.  This month is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Russian revolution so it seems fitting to be reading these stories from a 100 years ago. As I commented to my Father at lunch this week, there are no longer any people left who were alive then and all we have now are history books. It is the same for the sinking of the Titanic and the First World War and very soon there will be no one left alive who remembers the Second World War. I find that very sad.  

Oli made our day on Friday by suggesting dinner out with her. In fact she treated us to a wonderful dinner at an Asturian restaurant in Pozuelo. Called Carus, it has one of the biggest menus I have ever seen at a restaurant. 
The tables at the restaurant called Carus in Pozuelo where we went with Oli on Friday night.
We loved the place, and although we had been once a while ago, we shall now probably add it to our list of favourite places to have dinner at on Fridays. Thanks Oli, it was wonderful. 

We came home to more news about Puigdemont's flight to Belgium. On Friday evening he appeared in an interview on Belgium TV. He told the spectators he would stand as his party candidate to govern Catalonia (PdeCat) in the elections to take place on 21st December. On the one side he says he is the legitimate leader of the Republic of Catalonia and on the other that he will take part in the elections for the Catalonian autonomy of Spain. It's difficult to know what he is playing at. As he was talking, the European arrest warrant was issued. He also said, as he has said repeatedly, that he wants guarantees of a fair trial in Spain. What he wants is freedom and immunity. But that he must understand this is not in the hands of Rajoy but in the hands of the Judges. I found out that night on TV that when he had negotiated with Rajoy before the application for direct rule (article 155 of the Spanish constitution), he had agreed to call elections if it was not applied. If he had done that he would still be in power but he asked for the impossible too: that his status stayed the same, that his money and property would remain intact and that he would have legal immunity.  Doesn't he realise that politics and the legal system are separate in a democratic country like Spain? He is trying to tell the world otherwise. He and his cronies have brought this upon themselves. The international media, who don't usually really understand the whole story and have a somewhat sympathetic view of Puigdemont as a victim of "Spanish fascism", have an exception in Robert Schrimsley, a journalist from the Financial Times. He wrote an excellent and tongue in cheek article this week which I urge you to read, if only for you to have a laugh. The BBC, on the other hand, have disappointed me with their bias in reporting and I even saw a Twitter post from them asking their audience to vote on whether Spain was fascist or not!! Franco died more than 40 years ago and there has been no fascism since then but call a dog a bad name is what it's all about, apart from gaining luring headlines.  

Saturday came and while Oli went swimming, Eladio, the dogs and I went on our walk. I came home to make a pizza, including the dough and Oli was back on time to help me with the final stages. She caught me on camera too and that is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. Cooking and baking are so relaxing and rewarding. I'm afraid the shape is not perfect but I must say the pizza tasted delicious.
Yesterday's home made pizza
A bit put off by the tiny typeface of my book, I turned to Netflix yesterday for my afternoon entertainment.  I chose to watch a documentary called The Keepers about the killing of a nun and school teacher Cathy Cesnik, aged just 25, in 1969 in Baltimore. I had no idea it was also about sexual abuse and am finding it rather uphill. 

And today of course is 5th November, Guy Fawkes day and I'm at the end of the tales of this week. But not quite. I was upset to hear this morning from a journalist colleague, MAM, that another journalist colleague, Aitor Urraca, had died yesterday, aged just 51, of a heart attack in Boadilla near where we live. 
RIP Aitor Urraca
I was shocked and upset. I have known Aitor since my Motorola days when he always came to my press events. He wrote for a publication called On Off and he continued to come to my press events when I went on to be the Nokia and latterly the Yoigo Comms Director. He was a charming man, very polite, the perfect gentleman and loved by everyone. He was of course a good journalist but he was also a wonderful, kind and caring person. If I conjure up in my mind, as I do every now and again, images of my professional past, he is in those images. All I can say is RIP Aitor, you will be sorely missed by us all in the sector and so much more by your family.  

The story of Puigdemont turned an exciting page again today just before lunch. He and his fellow counsellers, turned themselves into the Belgian police. The chief Belgian prosecutor made a statement on TV at midday to say they had been detained and would be put before an investigative judge who would have 24 hours to decide whether to execute the warrant issued by Spain. They could either  be arrested, released under conditions or granted bail and we now have to wait until Monday for the next chapter in this Catalonian soap opera story.  

And now I really have come to the end of my story of this week. But just let me finish today's post by giving you the heads up that Eladio and I will be off on a jolly tomorrow until Wednesday.  We will be going to stay at the Parador in Segovia to use the smartbox voucher my ex Yoigo colleagues gave me for my birthday as well as the points I had from their loyalty scheme "amigos del parador". We will have to wrap up well as the lowest temperatures are going to be around zero. No doubt, next Sunday, you will read all about our adventures in medieval Segovia and surroundings. As they say, a change is as good as a rest, and I am looking forward to our little winter break. 

Cheers till next week,

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