Saturday, March 24, 2018

Father’s Day in Spain, the Auschwitz exhibition, a new phone, my eye operation and other stories.

Sunday 25th  March, 2018

My emoji gif taken with my new Samsung Galaxy S9 plus.
Hi everyone

I hope you are not all feeling tired after the clocks went forward at dawn today, robbing us all of an hour's sleep. On the plus side that means an hour's more daylight in the evening. It coincides with the beginning of Spring although it still feels like winter here.

Last Sunday saw me making bread in the morning. It was a cold but sunny day and Eladio and I took the dogs for our daily walk before lunch. Lunch was made by Zena, our Ukranian weekend carer, who prepared stuffed cabbage, one of my favourite Russian dishes. It's called glouptsy and both my Father and I love it.

After our siesta, Eladio and I watched more of our latest series, El Príncipe, which we are binge watching. Later I made vegetable soup with Oli and just before dinner we had a video call with Suzy in London who told us it was snowing there. There has been a smaller version of the  Beast from the East in the UK and I saw it also snowed heavily in my beloved Yorkshire. I hope all my friends there, including Kathy and Phil, kept warm. 

We continued watching our TV series using the Leelbox Android TV box which I bought recently. However the streaming quality is rather poor and there is trouble viewing Amazon Prime Video, apparently because Leelbox does not pay the license. Thus we switched to using my iPad. The resolution is great but it's not comfortable to watch when you are in bed. Plus, I have been experiencing back pain for some weeks now with a tingling feeling all over my body. I hadn't had any pain for years but it's returned. I made an appointment with a traumatologist which won't be until 18th April. Meanwhile, I'm on pain killers:-(

The main news on Sunday was the predictable win of Vladimir Putin in the Russian elections garnering 70% or so of the votes.  It will be his 4th term in government and each term is 6 years so he'll be around for a while. He didn't get many congratulatory calls from his government leader peers or so I heard but that didn't surprise me either. But what is the alternative? There doesn't seem to be one. 

Monday 19th March was Father's Day in Spain, although it wasn't a holiday. The girls have the best father in the world but then they know that don't they haha? And here they are together in a photo I dug out during the week for this post.
Eladio and his daughters who love him so much
Father's day is also St. Joseph's day, the father of Jesus. This means that all Josés, Josefas, Pepes, Pepas, etc, celebrated their Saint's day too on Monday. Many people in Spain who are born on 19th March are called José or one of the many variations. It was Eladio's brother, José Antonio's birthday too and we all congratulated him.  I was not brought up at home to celebrate either Father's Day or Mother's Day probably because my Mother was Russian and it was not a tradition in her family. It's the same with St. Valentine's day. However these sort of dates tend to get bigger and bigger each year from a purely commercial point of view. So, I have mixed feelings on whether to celebrate or not. One day I refuse to celebrate is Halloween as I have often told  you. 

It was on Monday that, fed up with my Leelbox Android TV box, I decided to investigate the alternatives. Of course I turned to Amazon and there I found the Amazon TV Fire Stick which I ordered there and then, after consulting our in-house technician, Miguel - Oli's TV cameraman boyfriend. Who better to ask?  I would only find out later in the week whether I had made the right choice.

Monday being a quiet day with no urgent issues, errands or appointments, we decided to buy tickets to go and see the Auschwitz Exhibition in Madrid. It is, by the way, a travelling exhibition with the first stop being here in Spain in Madrid.  I'm not sure where it's going to next as it doesn't say on the website.  We bought tickets for 5pm and didn't have to queue. Even though it was a Monday there were quite a few visitors. So what did I think? Well, as Eladio and I saw the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, the exhibition in Madrid is not a patch on it I'm afraid. But for those who haven't been to Poland to see the infamous camp, the symbol of the Holocaust, or to Yad Vashem, it is definitely worth visiting. 

For some reason my mind was not on the exhibition or the stories. I had a few work related calls during the tour and it was a long one. It was hot inside, I had my coat on, my handbag was heavy and my back hurt - not the right ingredients to become immersed in the exhibition. It's a very long walk round through the different  halls and for some reason the audio guide doesn't always coincide with the posters, photos, maps, etc which is a little frustrating. The survivors' stories on video are of course authentic and very interesting but it's always the same people. Even so, the exhibition still pulled at my heart strings, especially listening to their stories. It's very sad but soon there will be no survivors left. Thank goodness we have their testimonies.  Perhaps the most poignant of the 600 original objects, some never seen before,  are the shoes and other personal belongings. The suitcases taken away by deceived victims arriving especially upset me. 
The exhibition is revealingly called Not long ago. Not far away. Even though I was not in the mood for it on Monday, I have to say the exhibition is unique and is a great way of reminding  the world that something like the Holocaust must never be forgotten and must never happen again. 

We came out at 8 pm after 3 hours in the exhibition. Being hungry, as we know hunger - not like the starving Auschwitz inmates, we decided to have dinner at La Vaca right next door to the exhibition centre (Canal de Isabel II by Plaza Castilla). As we sat down at our elegant table to be served delicious food I reflected how lucky I am to be living in these times and to be able to afford a nice lifestyle. One has to appreciate these things I always tell myself. Dinner was slow and we got the wrong bill twice which was not very efficient hahha. We left the  restaurant late at night and walked as quickly as we could in the freezing cold and wind to our car. What a nasty night. It was lovely to be home in our warm house and soon we were in our comfortable bed watching more of El Príncipe. 

Tuesday saw me in Madrid for morning work meetings. One was cancelled suddenly. It didn't turn out to be my lucky day as just as I was walking to my events agency in the Calle Lagasca, somehow my phone, my lovely Samsung Galaxy S7, fell and hit the street. It has fallen many times but this time the screen was completely smashed meaning I couldn't use my phone at all. What an awful sensation. After my meeting I took a taxi to the nearest Samsung store. As I couldn't wait to have my own phone mended, I decided to buy a new one. It would be the second time in my life that I was buying my own phone as I have always had free ones with my job or jobs. So forking out nearly 1000 euros hurt quite a lot. It also hurt to hear that repairing my S7 would cost 250 euros. So there and then I chose the brand new Samsung Galaxy S9 plus. The model is new and had only arrived at the store the day before. I had a choice of black, grey, blue or lilac and chose lilac which is actually more purple. I'm still not sure I chose the right colour. This is it.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Plus
The guy in the shop set most of it up for me and soon I had it working well although it would take a day or two to completely install all the apps I needed, etc. So what's the difference between the S7 and the S9 you may ask? Well, not much from appearance at least. It is supposed to be much more resistant to falls and is slightly heavier. The greatest difference is probably the camera which is better apparently. As to the other features, such as iris recognition or the "Bixby" voice assistant like Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa, I'm still getting used to them. I stayed on in Madrid after buying the phone as I had an important video call at 3pm. Thus I went to have a bite to eat and then returned to my agency to use their office for the call and more importantly charge my new phone to do so. At 3pm the call was cancelled which was rather infuriating. I had gone into town for nothing in the end and only to break my phone. Aaaaargh:-(

Once home, the first thing I did was to order a case to protect the new mobile - I was petrified of dropping it hahaha. I bought the Samsung original "clear view standing cover" and within 1 hours El Corté Inglés (Spain's only department store) had delivered it. I ordered it just before our evening walk in the freezing cold and it arrived before we got home. That's efficiency for you. Even Amazon can't beat a 1 hour delivery like that at least here in Spain.  

The first thing I did with the phone was to use it's much publicised selfie emoji gif photo mode. It's a bit of a gimmick but a lot of fun. That's the photo or gif I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. Notice this photo is with glasses. Hopefully soon, after my second eye operation after Easter, I will be able to see well without specs and will be able to get a new emoji without them:-) 

Wednesday came, 21st March and the beginning of Spring but only in theory as there has been snow and bad weather all over the country this week. We are experiencing storm "Hugo" this time. But it was my big day, the day of the first operation on my eyes, my right eye. I was to have my cataracts removed and trifocal intraocular lenses implanted. Eladio accompanied me and would look after me all morning. The operation was at 9.15 and after being sedated and given a local anesthetic I felt my eye being operated on but no pain. I think it lasted about 10 minutes. I was told to keep the operated eye shut for 2 hours afterwards at the hospital where I had to stay for observation and until I got home. Thus I could only see with my left eye using my glasses. I was starving when the op finished and Eladio brought up my breakfast,  a much needed coffee and piece of toast as I was not allowed to leave the waiting room. Feeling groggy and sleepy because of the operation I still managed to use my phone and it was just then that I got an instant Airbnb booking from a Frenchman, Philippe and his son Valentin who were coming to stay that day for one night, to see their daughter and sister who studies at the University near us. I left the hospital in the sun with Eladio's sun glasses on and we went straight to an opticians to remove the right lense from my glasses, all this with my right eye tightly shut. I came home and removed the sun glasses. Vision was blurred but I could see but all I wanted to do was to sleep as I felt so drowsy from the sedation. It would take some days before vision became clearer. As I am writing now, it has improved a lot and I can now see better from my right eye without glasses than from my left eye with glasses. I can even read articles in magazines which I couldn't do before even with glasses. As Eladio reminded me, if this had been 50 years ago or so I would have been destined to become blind as there was no cure for cataracts and certainly no artificial implant lenses. Since the operation I have had to apply all sorts of drops which is a bit of a bind but important. I was not allowed to read or write but it was ok to watch the TV thank goodness. Otherwise I don't know what I would have done. 

Thursday morning saw me at the hospital again to see the eye specialist who had operated on me for a follow up appointment. He said everything was fine and that my vision would improve daily, to take my drops and that I would only really experience full vision when I had the other eye operated on. 

From the hospital we drove to a suburb outside Madrid, San Sebastian de los Reyes to Anovo, a mobile phone repair centre. It's the one I was filmed at for my role in the Undercover Boss programme for Yoigo. I went to get my S7 repaired. I needed it repaired so as to have a spare phone in case I ever lose or break my S9. We had to wait an hour and went to a bar called La Madruga, an Andalusian flamenco themed bar. It was very colourful. Here, over a cup of coffee and with time to spare, I fiddled with my new phone and experimented with the camera. This is the photo I took of the inside of the bar, one of my first photos.
The Madruga bar in San Sebastian de los Reyes
I tried out the various modes, including the "live focus" one where the lense concentrates on the subject and blurs out the background if wanted. My subject was Eladio and I'm pleased with the photo I took which I have now printed and is on my desk.
One of the first photos taken with my new S9
Within the hour my 2 year old S7 was repaired and more importantly all the information inside intact. We were home by 2pm and on time for lunch with my Father.

On Thursday in between our afternoon walk I made more bread. This time I experimented by including figs and dried apricots. Oh my God was it delicious.
Wholemeal bread with figs and dried apricots
On Friday my vision was definitely much sharper. The morning saw me at the hairdresser for a much needed cut as well as my bi monthly dying of the dreaded grey roots hahaha. There was even time for a walk. For lunch that day I made boeuf stroganoff, a regal Russian dish apparently a favourite with the Tsars or so my Mother once told me. She taught me how to make it. It is another favourite Russian dish of mine.

It was on Friday afternoon that I set up the Amazon Fire stick, a TV streaming device. I did it all on my own with some help from Eladio for extending the cable and putting in the batteries the right way hahaha. This is the little device which produces a much better screen resolution and was so easy to set up. The great thing is that you can take it anywhere with you and use on any non smart TV such as at hotels, not to mention our flat in Santa Pola. Amazon very conveniently registers it with your Amazon Prime account when you buy it so it works almost immediately. It's pretty cheap too as is the Amazon Prime fee, just 19 euros or so per year in Spain, for the moment at least. 
Our new and latest TV streaming device. 
While we were setting it up, the story of the Catalan Independence rebels was taking a new turn. The Supreme Court Judge Llarena stepped up legal action  against 25 of the separatist leaders who are to be tried for rebellion, embezzlement and disobeying the state. Some have fled justice like Puigdemont.  5 of the leaders were detained pending a trial in October. One of them, Turull, was the separatists' candidate to be the head of the Catalan government. Now the political parties in Barcelona will have to choose a new candidate, hopefully one not facing legal action. Meanwhile there were clashes in Barcelona with protesters and a lot of tension. This is not an easy situation but all I can say is that those detained acted outside the law and now have to face the consequences. Meanwhile the Judge also issued an international detention warrant for Puigdemont and his cronies. He was in Finland while that happened and escaped the police there to return to Belgium, preferring facing detention in Brussels rather than in Helsinki. For me he is a coward, not a hero. 

Saturday was another cold and very windy day. Eladio and I did the weekly food shopping. I worked too that morning on an event I am organising for Adamo on 6th April. The highlight of the day was the arrival of Oli and Miguel who were coming to stay the night. I made vegetable soup and spinach omelette for our dinner. Miguel had also bought an S9 plus and the two of us spent most of the time playing with our phones, our new toys and gadgets which are so addictive. 

And today is Sunday and the clocks went forward during the early hours of the morning. I was awake at 6.45 which would have been 5.45 yesterday. It now gets light at around 8 in the morning and the sun goes down at 8.30 pm. Wow. 

I'm not sure how today will pan out. We are going to Santa Pola for the Easter week with Pippa and haven't decided yet whether to go today or tomorrow. We would have preferred to go to Montrondo but the weather forecast there was terrible. 

Next Sunday will be Easter Sunday and you will be hearing from me again in 7 days time. 
Meanwhile, let me wish you all a Happy Easter. Don't eat too much chocolate hahaha. 
Cheers then until next Sunday. Have a great week, wherever you are.

All the best Masha

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