Sunday, April 22, 2018

The end of our stay in Santa Pola and home again, Oli back from Germany, the Windrush scandal, getting ready for the summer, flowers for the garden and other tales of the week.

Sunday 22nd April, 2018.

Buying flowers with Eladio and Oli this week
Last Sunday saw us still in Santa Pola enjoying time together at our lovely little flat. It was the warmest day with temperatures rising to 27ºc and we spent part of the morning sitting on the beach in the dunes to protect ourselves from the wind and enjoying reading in the sun. 
On the beach last Sunday, the Carabasi beach which lies below the cliffs where our apartment is.
Apart from reading, we did of course walk along the beach to the end and back. You may be wondering what I was reading. Well, I have to confess I am a sucker for books about the  British Royal family so when Andrew Norton of the Lady Diana biography fame (Diana, her true story) published his new biography which is about Meghan Markle, Prince Harry's bride to be, I couldn't resist downloading it as soon as I heard. "Meghan:  a Hollywood Princessmakes interesting reading I must say, especially about her life before the beautiful bi-racial American actress of TV series Suits fame met her Prince Charming.
Andrew Morton's new biography which I read this week
Sadly she has had to leave the series, had to forego her very popular "The Tig" blog and even her work with the UN on gender and race issues. Hopefully her new role will give her leeway to be herself and in a way modernise the very stiff Royal family or at least bring it a breath of fresh air. This is a love match with no opposition from within so hopefully it won't end in another divorce. It's amazing to think that a person who is Amercan, a divorcee and also half black and half white has been admitted into the Royal circle with what looks like open arms. . I wonder what the late Princess Margaret or her uncle ex King Edward VIII who abdicated in order to marry the also divorced and American, Wallis Simpson would think of how times have changed since the scandals throughout the British establishment when they wanted to marry divorced people.  Thank God things have changed I say and I wish them well. 

Meghan Markle is a true foodie and into healthy eating and loves cooking, something she will hopefully bring to the table when she marries into the Royal family who are not known for any great interest in fine dining or healthy eating. I find that funny. Well I am into food as you know and on Sunday had booked a table for lunch at our favourite restaurant in the area, Maria Picola where we hadn't been since last summer. On the road to Elche from Santa Pola it is more frequented by locals than by tourists. It is the locals of course who know all the best places.
The entrance to the Maria Picola restaurant we love so much.
We have been going there for 19 years and are always welcomed warmly by the owner. I once wrote a review on Trip Advisor which you can read here and then a while later when we returned we were rewarded with a plate of fresh local prawns, just for having written a positive review. I was amazed. We always ask to sit on the outdoor terrace and patio and here is Eladio sitting down last Sunday to enjoy another meal there.
Eladio sitting down for lunch at Maria Picola last Sunday
In the Alicante area it is very typical for restaurants to offer you bread or toast with home made ali oli mayonnaise and fresh crushed tomato. I love it and when we have it we usually skip a first course as it is so filling.
Toast, ali oli and fresh tomato, so typical of the area.
Being the traditionalists we are when it comes to choosing our favourite meals, we ordered a rice dish called "arroz a banda" which is  a variation of paella. Rice dishes hail from the Valencia and Alicante area although many people outside Spain think paella is a dish eaten by all Spaniards all over the country which is not exactly true. The best rice dishes always come from the Valencia region. This was it and wow was it delicious. 
The "arroz a banda" we had at Maria Picola last Sunday
Feeling happy and with our stomachs full we returned home to our flat for a siesta and of course to greet poor Pippa who had to stay behind. Spain is not a dog friendly country and I wish it was.

After the rice we needed another walk that afternoon and of course we chose to go to the lighthouse cliffs which never fails to delight us. My new Samsung Galaxy S9 takes great photos and that afternoon the island of Tabarca was very visible and I could make out the main landmarks easily. That could also be because of my new eyesight hahaha.
The island of Tabarca as seen from the Santa Pola cape and cliffs.
The views from the cliffs are great but we also enjoy the walk through the pinewoods to get there and back. Here is Eladio with Pippa on the path leading to the wood which takes us back to our apartment block.
Eladio and Pippa on our walk last Sunday
All in all Sunday was great except for an email that arrived from my accountant Pilar during the walk. It was to inform me of the hefty taxes I had to pay for the first three months of this year. I hate the way it works here for self employed people, especially the fact that when I invoice my customers I have to include the VAT. They then pay the VAT to me which 3 months later I have to return to the Treasury. It plays havoc with our finances. Damn the system. 

Dinner was just fruit that night, at least for me, the lovely fruit from the local market. Meanwhile Oli continued her adventures shooting her next programme for "Madrileños por el Mundo" in Bavaria. She was in Wuzburg and then off to Regensburg, neither of which I had heard of although my Father has of course. She sent us a photo that day with a group of Germans dressed in the typical Tyrolean, Austrian and Bavarian national dress. The women wear an outfit called "dirndl" and the men "lederhosen" .I remember my Mother buying my brother George a lederhosen outfit, sort of leather shorts with braces when he was a little boy and he looked very smart. 
Oli in Bavaria
That night Oli probably watched the series Peaky Blinders. We've already seen it so our choice was different. We watched the end of the film called Breathe which is very romantic and based on a true story. 

I always write about Oli my younger daughter and not much about my older daughter Suzy (older by 1 year and 3 weeks by the way and no family planning hahaha) who is a dietitian and nutritionist living in London and soon to move to Bali. But that's because Suzy doesn't send photos. However, on Sunday she did. That day she also went out visiting a place called Surrey Hills near Dorking with friends. This is the photo she sent which she said was of a place called Wotton which I had not heard of either. She was out with friends, 2 boys who are  in the photo and we wondered who they were. We were only told they were friends. Interesting!

Suzy on a day trip with "friends" near Dorking last Sunday
Monday dawned and amazingly it rained. Later however it stopped and the sun came out and the temperature reached 23ºc but it was very windy, in fact seriously windy. It was to be our last full day at the flat. Meanwhile in Madrid, Lorena, a young woman from Venezuela but who lives in Dubai and has married a Lebanese man, arrived to spend the week with us while he was travelling. We weren't to meet her until we got home on Tuesday though. Her arrival was a little problematic as when she walked into her beautiful room (Suzy's room), Norah, our beagle, somehow got in and peed on the floor. OMG and I wasn't there. I had to ring Lucy, ask her to clean the floor and then profusely offer my apologies to Lorena. Lorena's stay would be full of little problems like that but she took everything cheerfully. Naughty Norah. It's very unusual for her to behave like that and I think it was to due to her excitement of meeting a new guest. Let's hope it never happens again.  

We spent the morning in the flat as it was too windy to go out. Luckily the terrace wasn't affected by the wind and we could sit and read in the sun. I did some work, pottered around, made lunch and also prepared a bowl of cut up fruit from the local market which is how we like to serve it and this is what it looked like. Colourful and lovely don't you agree?
This is how how we like to serve fruit.
We had a long siesta after lunch interrupted by a call from a head hunter. I find it funny I still get the calls. If they knew my age, no doubt they wouldn't bother hahaha. I also received some reading material from a new customer which I need to work on a PR plan for them. But that would have to wait until I got home and was something I would have to think about quite a lot as the target public is unusual, thus the target media too. 

Eventually we left the flat despite the wind and went down for a walk on the beach. It was still very windy so I wore a headscarf to cover my hair which was blowing in my face. I'm not sure whether I resembled a Muslim woman or an English woman with a headscarf the way the Queen of England wears them hahaha. Eladio with short hair never has that problem and here he is on the beach that afternoon with little Pippa at his side.
Eladio on the beach with little Pippa on our last day in Santa Pola
Of note that night we started a new TV series on Netflix called "La Casa de Papel" which I am enjoying thoroughly but Eladio is not keen so I shall have to watch it on my own when I have free time. 

Tuesday came, the day we were going home.  It takes us usually about an hour to clean the flat, pack and get ready to go. While we were doing so I got an alarm call from Lucy to tell me there was no water at home. OMG panic stations, mainly because we had an Airbn guest at home who would obviously want a shower. It turned out there were some repairs in the pipes in the neighbourhood and that there had been a warning notice posted in our mail box but Lucy hadn't seen it. We rang the water board to hear the water would be switched off from 9 until 3 pm. Thankfully though it returned much earlier. That was Lorena, our Airbn guest's second problem with her stay. I just hoped there wouldn't be any more. I would hope in vain as you will read later. 

Just before leaving I always go to the British supermarket, Quick Save across the road to buy chocolate bars for my Father which always include a bounty and turkish delight, his favourites. As I crossed the road to go back to the flat I took one last photo and it is of the view from the road of the bay of Alicante which I always love. Here it is.
The view of the bay of Alicante 
We were in the car and ready to go just before 11 am and would have the roads more or less to ourselves as there is little traffic during the week. We stopped for lunch at the same place we had stopped on our way to Santa Pola, our newly discovered roadside bar/restaurant. Bar restaurante San José is in a small village called Zafra de Záncara about 100 km or so from Madrid and is truly a new find. You can always tell in Spain when a roadside bar,cafe or restaurant is good when you see lots of cars and especially lorries. Once again we enjoyed a great meal for about 35 euros for the two of us and we shall be going back next time no doubt.
The restaurant we had lunch at on our way to and back from Santa Pola 
We were home by about 16h and happy to find good weather here too. In fact it has been lovely every day since we got back. Finally we are enjoying fine weather after so many weeks and months of cold, snow and rain.  After settling in, unpacking, etc, I took Lucy out to visit the new Carrefour that has been opened very near here. It is a Carrefour Market which I learned is the gourmet version of a supermarket the French company has among its different shops and stores and my goodness it is both gourmet and very expensive. But wow the quality is amazing as well as the range of products. It is in a different league to Mercadona where we usually shop. 

I came home to finally meet Lorena, our Venezuelan guest who must be in her 30's or so and found her charming. She joined us for dinner and all this week ended up being part of the family. It was like having another daughter at home. She hadn't brought a car so often she came with me when I went  out shopping or on errands. 

Eladio spent the afternoon of our return in the garden removing the huge branches of our Mimosa tree which had fallen in strong winds a few weeks ago. He also mowed part of the lawn. He would carry on sprucing up the garden over the next few days to get it ready for the summer and it's looking lovely.  

The day of our arrival was Oli's last full day in Germany and she was in Munich from where she would be visiting the famous castle that inspired Disney and called Neuschwanstein (pronounce that if you can). 
Oli in Munich
I always remember my Mother telling me that when she came to London as a refugee after the 2nd world war and had to work as a cleaner in a hospital until she was given residency, she worked alongside a German girl whose family were the owners of the castle. Amazing! Apparently there were many aristocrats and princesses like herself who were in the same situation. She had many stories to tell of those times being penniless in London and far from home. 
Oli with one of her interviewees from Madrid by the famous Disney castle in Germany
Oli was loving Germany. She sent us a photo eating a pretzel, that very German hard bread ring which I find tasteless but which is so popular both there and of course in the US.
Oli eating a pretzel in Germany
She would be returning late on Tuesday evening but we weren't to see her until Wednesday.  

One of the reasons we had to come back from Santa Pola on Tuesday was that I had an appointment with the traumatologist the next morning after recent back pain. When I was a child I fell off a swimming pool trampoline while climbing the steps and landed on my back. At the time I was told it had caused a small fissure in one of the lower vertabras. Ever since I have had back pain on and off over the years. 10 years ago or so I was diagnosed with "spondylolisthesis" which apparently means one of the vertebra has slipped out of position and it can be dangerous. At the time I did lots of scans and eventually I remember the doctor telling me a miracle had occurred in that the affected vertebra had actually welded with the next one. So I took along the x-rays etc and told that story to the doctor on Wednesday who refused to believe they had welded as she said that wasn't medically possible. In any case she examined me and I have to do another "magnetic resonance" scan on my back. I will be doing another one too on my right hip  as I told her I have been experiencing pain in my groin. I hope and pray that doesn't mean I will have to have a replacement hip put in. Cross your fingers. The good thing though is that all pain has gone away for the moment. 

It was a lovely day and I came home to find Eladio once again in the garden getting it ready for the summer. We went for our walk in the afternoon and it was so warm I wished I had worn shorts. I came home in need of another shower and afterwards got out all my summer jeans and trousers and tried them on. I was dreading them not fitting but most of them did thank goodness. Those that were tight are a good motivation to keep to healthy eating after our stay in Santa Pola. 

If it was warm here on Wednesday it got warmer the next day. Amazingly in London on Thursday it was the hottest day in England since 1949 with temperatures at 26 or so degrees which is hardly sizzling by Spanish standards but is a big thing in the UK hahaha. The papers are full of warnings of what to do and not to do in "hot" weather. 26ºc is definitely not "hot" for me after having lived in Spain for more than 30 years. "Hot" here is generally over 40ºc and 26ºc is considered mild.  

Thursday morning saw us with a sort of fever to get the summer terraces ready for the good weather. The swimming pool terrace and kitchen patio were looking awful but we soon had them looking clean and tidy with all the summer furniture out. But what we needed were flowers to make everything look more attractive and we would go out shopping to "Verdecora" (garden centre) in the afternoon. 

In the morning I went out to buy, believe it or not, a muzzle for Pippa and Lorena joined me. Pippa is not good with people outside the family and with other dogs and she has been known to go for people's ankles, especially men's. She hasn't actually bitten them but has certainly tried. She also eats all sorts of stuff from the ground that she shouldn't. We took her to a lovely pet shop which is dog friendly called Petuluku or something like that and there we got to know the "muzzle world". Some of them looked like the muzzle Anthony Hopkins wore in the film "The silence of the lambs". We looked for the most gentle and least aggressive of all them and tried them on her. Poor little Pippa, she was absolutely terrified and just stood still and trembled. I did buy one but haven't put it on her yet and  probably never will. 

We came home and I made a simple lunch for the family. Soon Oli arrived and we greeted her after her return from Germany. It was lovely to see her. Both Oli and I spent time together on the swimming pool terrace afterwards "chillaxing" as she calls it and I couldn't have thought of a better way to spend the afternoon. Later we went to buy flowers to put in the pots around the pool and Lorena came with us as if she were part of the family. It was Lorena who took the photo of the three of us in the queue at Verdecora with our trollies of flowers, the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's blog post. It was a happy moment.
Lorena our Venezuelan Airbnb guest with us buying flowers at Verdecora this week
Eladio would plant them the next day but meanwhile I got Lucy to plant the lovely daisies Lorena had bought for us and which are now decorating the kitchen patio wooden table where we would have dinner that night for the first time this year.
The kitchen patio table and chairs with flowers
We came home happy with the flowers we had bought but we came home to no electricity. Oh my goodness yet another breakdown during an Airbnb guest's stay. Eladio tried his best to find out where the problem was coming from as the mains was down the whole time. It was nearly 9 pm and getting dark and I was envisaging a night without light, hot water or central heating when an electrician came. He charged Eladio 50 euros and only confirmed my husband's suspicions that the cause was the central heating. That meant we had to call the technicians from the firm who had sold us the new boiler and which we only had installed last month. Thankfully though we at least had light and on Saturday morning they came to put in a new pump and everything was working again. 

It was this week and mainly on Thursday that I became much more aware of what is being called the "Windrush scandal" in the UK.  Thousands of people were invited by the UK Government between 1948 and 1973 to come and live in England to do jobs necessary, especially after the Second World War, to rebuild the country.  They were mostly from Jamaica and other Caribbean countries and I well remember their smiling faces, many of whom were bus drivers.  They are being called the "Windrush" immigrants as the first of them arrived on a ship of that name in 1948. 
Caribbean immigrants arriving on the Windrush ship in England
They came at an invitation from the government but were never given any papers that made them officially legal or British or whatever and now in a crack down from the Home Office which started when Theresa May was the Home Secretary, many of these people who have led their whole lives in England are being declared illegal and being asked to prove they came legally. They were never told or they never knew they had to formalise their residency status and now they are in a totally kafkian like situation. Astonishingly we have learned that the Immigration body or authority recently destroyed all their landing cards.  Many of the affected are risking deportation, have lost their jobs, their houses and are not allowed health care.  Anyone who lived in England between 1948 and 1973 knows of their existence so it seems astonishing that the Government is now denying that they are in England legally. It is just appalling. This is not the England I know.  In a way, this attempt by the government to create a hostile environment for immigrants when as a government they have no records of most immigrants' entry into the country is what has caused the scandal and will continue to cause more scandals such as threatening to deport spouses married to English people as we have seen in the wake of Brexit. I find it rather ironic that one of the fundamental reasons for voting to leave the EU was immigration but that the majority of immigrants in the UK actually do not come come the EU but  from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, itself, that body that encompasses representatives from all the countries which once belonged to the British Empire for me is a bit of a joke if the UK government is now trying to deport the very people who came from them at the invitation of the Empire. I am utterly in shock with the whole affair, the Windrush scandal and its consequences and am ashamed of those governing the country where I was born and which invented democracy. 

Friday came and Eladio would plant the flowers. But first Lorena and I arranged where everyone of them would go as we wanted harmony and all of them matching. But of course the hard work was done by Eladio. I had to do the food shopping and lots of little errands and Lorena joined me. When we got home we found my dear husband had planted them all perfectly and everything was looking great, except of course for the pool. The cover had to come off but we would until today to do it just in case it rained in between time which actually it didn't.  When Olivia came home from work that night she would see all Eladio's handy work.  
Some of the flowers around the pool
Yesterday Lorena would be leaving but first her Lebanese husband came to pick her up after flying into Madrid from the USA. They are a lovely couple and we spent time with them having coffee and chatting .I do  hope they come again.

Oli and I had to go out and do more food shopping and we chose to go to Carrefour Market. This time I took a closer look at the fruit stall and it is simply beautiful. I met a woman who makes fruit arrangements as a job and decorates some of the stall, like the water melons in the photo below. I asked for her contact number as she showed me lots of pictures of over fruit centres she does and they were spectacular.
The amazing fruit stall at the new Carrefour Market recently opened in Boadilla near where we live
We came home with our purchases and to say goodbye to Lorena and her husband. I then made our lunch; fish and lots of vegetables but before sitting down to eat, Eladio, Oli, the dogs and I went for our daily walk. Thus we had a rather late lunch. 

New Airbnb guests were coming, a family from Denver, Colorado; wife and husband Amy and Mike and their daughter Rachel who is studying at the University of Seville. It was their very first trip outside the USA and they had been touring the north of Spain.  Their stay at our house yesterday was their last night in Spain and I think they fell in love with the country. I liked them immensely and think the feeling was mutual but I couldn't have much time together as just after they arrived Eladio and I were leaving to go out to dinner. Also they left this morning at about 5.30 pm as they had an early flight to catch. Both my husband and I commented while driving into Madrid last night for dinner at our friends' house in town, that we have met some very lovely and interesting people thanks to our Airbnb hosting and very honest people too. 

We went to have dinner at Pedro and Ludy's house. Pedro is the famous "Perico Delgado" of cycling fame in Spain, having won 2 Tours of Spain and 1 Tour of France. His wife comes from Villablino which is really near Montrondo and we have lots in common as well as  a friendship that goes back at least 20 years if not more.  We always feel at home with them and Ludy is a great cook. They have 3 lovely young sons, Pedro aged 17 and non identical twins Pablo and Alvaro aged about 14. Their eldest son is mad about philosophy so was keen to talk to Eladio who as you know is a a philosopher. While they talked, I talked more mundane matters with both Pedro and Ludy. We were there until nearly 1 in the morning which is very late for us and weren't in bed until nearly 2. 

I was awake at about 5.30 maybe hearing my American guests leave but made myself stay in bed until 7 am. 

Today the main task will be to remove the swimming pool cover and get it ready for the good weather. Pictures no doubt will be in my post next Sunday. But there will be more important pictures next week as on Thursday Suzy will be coming for her birthday which is on Saturday and we can't wait to see her. She will be the main subject of next week's post for sure.

So my friends and readers, I have come to the end of the tales of this week. It is late and I must print this for my Father. 

All the best everyone until next Sunday 

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