Saturday, February 17, 2018

George’s birthday, St Valentines dinner, Airbnb guests from South Africa and Taiwan and other stories.

Sunday 18th February, 2018
With my dear brother George in the late 70's in Guadalest (Alicante) 
Good morning everyone,

I hope you are enjoying your Sunday, that is if you are already up. I would love to be still in bed but my body clock awakens me very early in the morning these days unfortunately.

Last Sunday was a quiet morning. It was sunny outside and the temperature reached 15ºc that day. Eladio was up at his usual time, 8.30 am and had breakfast in the kitchen with our South African guest, Marc. It was nice to hear them try to chat. I'm not sure how much Eladio understands but I have to admit I find his accent a little challenging and have to get him to repeat much of what he says. Partly that's because he mumbles a bit. He came here to work and to have a meeting with the Santander Bank about some new digital currency or way of instantly transferring money and I wonder how much the Spaniards in the meeting will have understood him too. 

I was a little upset that morning to find the pearl had come off my thin gold ring, my birthday present. It did look a little flimsy and on Monday I went to change it and got something different. I didn't dare buy another ring with a pearl on it as most probably it would fall off too. 

I made my coq au vin for lunch which was much appreciated by Eladio and Oli, not so my Father who is not a great meat eater. While cooking that and my chicken noodle soup for too, I had a long video call with Suzy in London. I can't wait to see her again and miss her so much. 

After our afternoon walk Oli and I started making bread using her home made sourdough. As we weren't sure how it would turn out, we made half with packet yeast and half with her sourdough. Well, the latter didn't work out and I'm not sure we'll be trying it again. The bread with the packet yeast, using my now trusted recipe, turned out a treat as you can see in the photo below. 
The bread we made on Sunday
Before going upstairs to our bedroom, we put the dogs to bed as we do every night. And I couldn't resist this photo of little Pippa lying with or rather on top of her surrogate mother, our Lab Elsa. It's cute isn't it?
Pippa and Elsa sleeping together
After watching the Jordi Evole programme we saw another episode of the BBC's McMafia series on Amazon Prime Video I should add thanks to the new TV box I bought recently. It's violent to say the least but apparently very realistic. I do like James Norton as the trying to be good, London born Russian son, Alex Goodman. He was the vicar in Grantchester, awfully good looking by the way, and it's funny to see him playing such a different role. I do like him though. He's not such a good person in McMafia, although he tries as you will know if you have seen it. He says at the beginning "I'm a banker not a gangster" and he tries but it just doesn't work. No worries, no spoilers here.  But, if you are interested, here is the trailer.

Our series of the week
Monday was the 12th February and would have been my dear brother George's birthday. But he died so young, aged just 46 on 15th May 2001 only to be followed by his sweet and troubled Serbian wife, Sanya on 17th October 2008 also aged just 46. They are buried together at the St. Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley in London, two lost souls who had little luck in life but who found love together only to lose each other to death so early. 
Two lost souls, George and Sanya buried together.
What can I say about my brother George, my only brother, that I haven't said before? He was 6 foot tall, blonde, blue eyed and very talented. He picked up languages so easily and played musical instruments without the need of lessons. Yet he was not a happy boy, although he was sometimes and those are the times I want to remember. I don't have many photos with him but the other day came across the one I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. In the photo which must have been taken in the late 70's I was probably 19 and he would have been 21. I think the photo was taken at Guadalest, that pretty mountain village near Callosa where my parents bought a house in the early 70's. We both learned Spanish and fell in love with the language and culture. George went on to take a degree in Latin American studies and traveled all over central and South America. He also inherited the family travel bug from my Father and Mother. I do so miss him, especially on his birthday like this Monday. He would have enjoyed it, I know, as we both loved our birthdays. RIP my dear brother, you will never be forgotten. 

With George on my mind, I think Monday was the only day I didn't do any work for Adamo. I had just completed the Navarra project and thought I was free for a while. Later I would be proved otherwise. Being free, or so I thought, we would have gone to Montrondo. We haven't been back since the beginning of December and I am dying to go there. However we can't go until the plumbers install the new boiler. They were supposed to do that on Monday but it wasn't until Wednesday that they brought it here and they won't be installing it until tomorrow, or at least I hope they will. What a long story. The worst part is not having hot water on all the time. It has to be switched on upon demand which is very inconvenient if you have Airbnb guests like I do. I think this week I was more worried about Marc's shower than he was. 

So I got on with life and on Monday I did what I love to do, lots of cooking to freeze food for "rainy days" which I find very relaxing and satisfying too. But first I had to do a bit of food shopping. I took Marc with me as he doesn't have a car and I knew he was running out of food. He ate the same food every day; eggs for breakfast and gnocci with tuna fish for either lunch or dinner. For the rest of the day he lived on my complimentary coffee and milk. We didn't see much of him as he stayed in his room working all day. But in the afternoon, while cooking, I needed his help. Eladio was out and my Father fell from his bed, thankfully not hurting himself. Lucy and I together were unable to lift him up and so my South African Airbnb guest came to the rescue. Thanks Marc!

So what did I cook? Well stuff I make a lot and which is very popular in this house;  chicken noodle soup, pirushki (Russian meat pies), bitki (Russian hamburgers) and giant prawns to have as prawn cocktail for dinner. I also made my cream of vegetable soup which I offered to Marc while he was making yet another meal of gnocci and tuna fish as I felt so sorry for him eating the same food every single day. I interrupted the pie making to go on our walk and came home to find that Lucy had made the rest in my absence. She is such a treasure at times.  I also made more bread believe it or not and we had it with our delicious dinner of soup and prawn cocktail. Eladio said he prefers my dinners to going out. Well I like both I must say. The day finished with more McMafia; such a violent and tense series which had us hooked. 

The next day was Tuesday and the 13th February. If Friday 13th is an unlucky day for people in Britain, it is Tuesday 13th that is unlucky in Spain. Maybe I was unlucky that day as my respite from work with Adamo was over when I was suddenly asked to organise yet another press conference for next Wednesday. I couldn't believe it, 3 press conferences in 1 month in 3 different provinces. This time the press conference would be held with the local government of an area about 1.5h from Madrid which would mean lots of protocol to follow. OMG I had to run, just as I had slowed down. But I had to do it and run I did, for the rest of the week actually.

That day we heard from Olivia that she was not going to Monterrey in Mexico for her next programme and I was very relieved as Mexico is just so dangerous. I googled safety in Monterrey and was appalled to read the Spanish Consulate's guidance with instructions on what to do for example if you are caught up in a shoot out. Oli, however, was very excited and not put off by the problems of safety telling me that the Spaniards living there  had told her it was not as dangerous as it was made out to be. That may be so but I was much relieved to hear that she will finally be going instead to safe and quiet Latvia. My Father was thrilled and remarked that she would hear a lot of Russian spoken. Well of course she will. It will be her first time in the Baltics. I have been to Estonia and to Lithuania but never to Latvia. In Spanish Latvia is called "Letonia" and Lithuania "Lituania" and many times these countries are mixed up in Spanish. I find it rather confusing too. In any case it will be another adventure for my lucky TV travel journalist daughter. 

My afternoon on Tuesday was brightened up by the arrival of a parcel from M+S. It didn't contain anything exciting, just winter vests and black leggings. I have or had a lot of the latter both from M+S and from Primark but they always seem to disappear. Eladio says that's the problem when you are the same size as your daughters and he is right hahaha. 

I worked hard all day on next week's rush press event, only stopping for lunch - my delicious "pirushki" with soup which my nearly 99 year old Father wolfed down like I did as we both have very similar tastes in food. After our siesta came our walk with the dogs and more work. Oli pleasantly surprised us by coming home for dinner that night which she doesn't often do during the week. She brought with her some amazing "ibérico ham" she had bought at a good market in Madrid. Both the ham and having her for dinner were a treat I have to say. 

Wednesday came and I nearly forgot it was St. Valentine's Day. My husband remembered though and even invited me out to dinner and made the booking. That was a first, bless him, in all our 38 years together but no flowers. However, there was nearly a card which he nearly bought in England but then didn't. I was brought up to believe it's the thought that counts, so I should appreciate his thought about buying me a card hahahaha. Well actually I didn't really deserve anything as I didn't buy anything for him either, so there ...

In any case I didn't have much time for love on Wednesday morning as I had to leave the house early for a meeting with a prospective customer in Madrid. It was quite strange for me going to see the general manager of a big, or the biggest PR agency world wide, the agency which I had worked with when I was at Motorola.  The last time I had been to their offices was about 25 years ago! The general manager at the time was a young girl like me and today is head of the whole agency. Good for her. We were both looking for a win win situation for them and for me. Judging by a phone call and an email from them during the week, it's looking good. I can't believe sometimes that I am still in the market so to say. And long may it last by the way hahahaha. That keeps me young to quote Suzy this week. 

Another Airbnb guest from South Africa came on Wednesday. Jason is Marc's  friend and colleague so now Marc had some company. It was interesting talking to them as Eladio and I both visited Cape Town, where they are from, some years ago when I was still working for Nokia. Funnily enough, during their visit, news of Cape Town was on the front pages of the newspapers here because of the incredible drought the population is suffering. Apparently taps will be turned off in May. I can hardly imagine that. No wonder, neither Marc no Jason were nonplussed about our hot water situation. The other big news about South Africa that hit the headlines this week was the resignation of the ANC supposedly corrupt Prime Minister, Zuma. My Airbnb South African guests were happy about that. Neither of them had ever visited Spain and I think Marc must have thought it's hot here all year round as he didn't bring a coat, or maybe because it's summer now where he lives, he didn't think to pack one. I ended up lending him my electric blue "puffer" jacket. The sleeves were too short for him hahaha. If he'd had time and the right clothing, I'm sure he would have liked to visit the snow clad mountains outside Madrid. Of course he has the lovely Table Mountain in Cape Town but the mountains here are much higher at over 2000 metres.  I told him Madrid was the highest capital of the world. However, he was here to work so of course he wouldn't be going up the mountains. 

It seemed like his work was over by Wednesday night and the two of them went out to dinner with a "local". They did not celebrate St. Valentine's obviously but rather went  to sample Spanish food. They also watched the 16th round of the Champions' League match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain. It would be a high tension match but also a big challenge for the top Spanish team as they have been performing very badly in La Liga this season. Thankfully they won 3-1 in this first leg at the Bernabeu stadium. Hopefully they will win the second leg too and go through to the next round. 

We, meanwhile, left the house early for our 8.30 pm table booking at La Txitxarreria in Pozuelo. We do love the food there. So over a bottle of Asturian cider, we enjoyed our St. Valentine's dinner together and look forward to many more in the years to come. That love is still in the air after 38 years together is quite an achievement. I often ask myself what the secret is and I suppose it has to do with respect and admiration as well as the fact that we enjoy doing lots of things together but at the same time give each other space. I certainly could not imagine life without my dearest Eladio. I feel very blessed actually. 
This year's St. Valentine's Dinner. A nice treat during the week. 
We came home to watch the end of McMafia. Roll on Season 2 is all I can say. It's a great series. 

Our Valentine's dinner was lovely. Generally St. Valentine's Day is pretty quiet and peaceful but on Thursday I read about the mass school shooting that had happened that day in Florida. Imagine.  A lone wolf, a disgruntled and disturbed ex pupil, Nikolas Cruz, shot and killed 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. I do not understand how any civilian is allowed to buy or use military weapons. But that's the way of life in the US unfortunately and Donald Trump is not going to change that. Instead he asked for prayers and focused on the issue of mental health. Nikolas Cruz may have been mentally unstable but he should not have been able to buy weapons. Hilary Clinton would surely have done something to stop the sale of arms and weapons in the US, to judge by her tweet the next day: "this week we lost 17 Americans in Parkland - the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012. Since then, 438 people have been shot and 138 killed in over 230 school shootings. That's 5 school shootings every month, 16 of which classify as "mas shooting".  It's funny but one man placed a shoe bomb on a plane a few years ago and since then we have all had to take off our shoes going through airport security. Aren't these mass shooting figures enough to stop the sale of guns? That's the question the Government in the US should be asking itself instead of asking for prayers. I'm not a praying person but if you are, please pray for this madness to stop. Thankfully, the perpetrator, 19 year old Cruz, was caught and will stand trial. In a way I'm sorry for him as he is a victim of a broken home and lack of family values. 
Nikolas Cruz the moment he was caught by the police after the mass shooting on St. Valentine's Day
It was a dark and gloomy day here on Thursday but amazingly the sun came out in the afternoon and has stayed with us since then. I could do with some good weather. 

That morning my two South African Airbnb guests left, but not before taking a selfie with us. I drove them to the metro station and off they went. We would have the house to ourselves until Saturday when we were expecting new Airbnb guests, a family from Taiwan!
With our Airbnb guests from South Africa when they said goodbye on Thursday
On Friday it was the 61st birthday of my dear friend Jacky from Bradford who is just 8 days younger than me hahaha. Like me, Jacky  also lives in Spain but far from here unfortunately. We have so much in common I wish she lived nearer. I hope she had a great birthday. 

I had to work on Friday morning too with lots of liaising with the press people from the local government of the city where I am organising the press conference next Wednesday. It feels like they have an army of press people while there is only me for Adamo. I always was a one woman show in PR hahaha. That morning Eladio and I did the food shopping. We had good news from Suzy who confirmed she will be here for her birthday at the end of April. We had been thinking of going out to London and surprising her. However, it's a lot easier and cheaper if she comes so this is really good news. I have already blocked the Airbnb calendar for when she comes so that she gets to sleep in her room and we all get our privacy.

We got another sunny afternoon walk on Friday and were later joined by Oli for dinner. It was the perfect end to a quiet working week at home. 

Saturday was the much commented on beginning of the Chinese New Year of the Dog which is one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. 

Knowing nothing about the Chinese zodiac I read that  "the Year Of The Dog signals a fortunate 12 months ahead for most of those born in the 'dog' years of 1935, 1947, 1959, Jan 1971, 1982, 1994 and 2006. It also influences the fortunes of the other 11 animal signs, depending on their relationship with the dog". Interested to know what my Chinese zodiac sign was I looked that up too and it is The Rooster. Apparently in the Year of the Dog, for Roosters this means the focus will be related to relations with others. Thus it will in be Roosters' best interests to think of others more. I already do that don't I, or so I thought? How complicated.

On the subject of the year of the dog, Facebook reminded me that it was 3 years ago yesterday, 17th February, that little Pippa arrived aged just 3 months. She was tiny then, possibly weighing 2 or kilos and is still tiny today, at about 5. She is, of course, a miniature chocolate dachshund. And what joy she has brought to this family, joy, love and fun I should add. Oli and I remarked today that we can't possibly imagine life without her. So dearest sweetest sometimes barking Pippa, Happy New Year of the Dog to you too hahahaha. To quote Suzy again, "love you to the moon and back". And I do as you all well know if you know me or read my blog on a regular basis. She features heavily, oh yes she does hahaha.
Pippa 3 years ago, the day she arrived on 17th February 2015. We can't imagine life without her. In the photo Oli had just met her for the first time!
Our Airbnb guests from Taiwan, a family of 5 with 3 children were arriving on Saturday but hadn't given me an arrival time. I was dreading them a bit, mostly because as children were coming I would have to make Pippa disappear, i.e. hide her hahaha as she does not like kids and barks a lot. We would be waiting for them all day. Not knowing when they would come, I got on with the day. We bathed the dogs in anticipation as I didn't want my new guests to find smelly dogs, something I hate and which is why we bathe them so often. Here is Elsa having her bath in our jacuzzi in lovely warm water. However, she doesn't look convinced hahahaa. Eladio does a very thorough job I must say. 
It was dog bath time yesterday
We had a quiet morning and I made a firm decision not to do any work this weekend. I really needed a break. I made lunch of course, something I nearly always do while Lucy cleans the house and looks after my Father so well. I baked a home made pizza including the dough and I think it's probably the best one I have ever made. Eladio certainly thought so as did Oli who tried it reheated for dinner as she didn't join us for lunch yesterday.
Yesterday's homemade pizza
After such a heavy lunch I slept quite a long siesta, from 3.30 to 4.30. Eladio slept until 5.30 when it was really time for our walk before it got dark. These days it gets dark later, at nearly 7 pm. Finally as I got home I got  a sign from my Taiwanese family; they were in Toledo and would be arriving between 9 and 10 pm. I had begun to believe they were not coming.

Once home and on the spur of the moment, I decided to drive to Carrefour, the great big one in Majadahonda, to get ingredients to make chicken curry today and also to buy their delicious smoked salmon we would have for dinner. I was worried the guests would arrive as we were having dinner, but no they didn't. In fact they did not arrive until nearly 10.30 pm. They probably got lost. This time Eladio came out with me to greet them, a task I usually do on my own, while I hid Pippa in our bedroom hahaha. They seem to be a lovely united family,  Daniel and his wife and their children, 2 girls aged 14 and 11 and a young boy aged 9. 
The family from Taiwan who are staying with us until Tuesday
They are touring Spain on holiday. I wonder why they chose February, not the best month for weather in this country. We were amazed to see that Daniel, the father, speaks perfect Spanish. That is probably unusual for anyone from Taiwan but he explained he had lived for 10 years in Buenos Aires. We settled them in and left them to cook their dinner in the kitchen, only hoping Norah and Elsa would not get in their way and went back to bed. I soon fell asleep as it was nearly midnight by then

And today is Sunday and I am at the end of my tales of this week. It has been a quiet week with no travelling and not much to report really. Next week will be busier, what with the press conference and hopefully if all goes well with the installation of the new boiler, on Thursday we should be able to go to Montrondo, weather permitting of course.

Wishing you all a great Sunday, cheers for now,

No comments: