Saturday, April 28, 2018

Uncovering the pool and getting the garden ready for the summer, scandal in the Madrid government, San Fermin wolf pack sentence causes uproar in Spain, Suzy came for her birthday as well as other tales of the week.

Sunday 29th April 2018
The four of us together with our dogs off for a  sunny family walk on Friday afternoon.  
Good morning everyone.

I'm feeling very happy today and that's because my family is complete this weekend after Suzy came on Thursday to celebrate her birthday with us. We miss her so much and any time with her is precious.

But let me start from the beginning, from where I left off last Sunday. The weather has been great and last week we started cleaning the terraces, planting new flowers and generally getting the garden ready for the summer. Eladio has continued the task this week. The biggest task of course is always removing the tarpaulin cover of the pool, lifting it off and it's heavy I can tell you, then cleaning the water, etc. My husband had me, Oli and Zena to help him. This by the way is the before photo. I hate the tarpaulin which during the winter gets covered in dirty green water and is unsightly. We wouldn't mind so much but it's not a good impression for our Airbnb guests.
The pool before uncovering it on Sunday
What we didn't expect was to find the water underneath all green. It shouldn't be like that. Here are Eladio, Oli and Zena after the herculean effort of removing the cover which reveled green water.
Green water
Eladio spent all morning and most of the afternoon in efforts to get rid of the green.

Meanwhile,  Oli and I chilled out as that day Zena did the cooking and was to make us one of our favourite dishes, "gloupsy" a Russian dish which is a variety of stuffed cabbage. Here I am wearing pink that morning with my new pink sunglasses. They may be fashionable but they aren't dark enough to protect my eyes from the sun. My poor eyes have given me a lot of trouble this week. They are still very sore after the operations.
Wearing pink last Sunday
We had Olivia to ourselves last weekend after her trip to Germany and it's always a pleasure to have her. I love her loyalty to us and that she enjoys our company. We enjoy hers too. 

While we were chilling out, Rafa Nadal, was playing the final of the Masters at Montecarlo to defend his number one ranking. Well he did it by winning the match which would be his 11th win there, in fact his 76th career singles win. He has now won more masters matches than any other tennis player ever. He is such a great ambassador for Spain. 
Rafa Nadal, one of Spain's best ambassadors.
It was not so warm on Sunday but very pleasant and the three of us enjoyed our afternoon walk with the dogs. For dinner on terrace that evening I made another of our favourite dishes, prawn cocktail. And here are Eladio and Oli sitting down to the lovely meal. I really think our kitchen terrace is a beautiful summer dining room. It's an oasis of greenery and peace with the sound of birds singing and spring in the air of course.  What I also love are the long evenings of light. It doesn't get really dark until nearly 10 pm these days. 
Dinner on the kitchen terrace with Olivia last Sunday evening.
Monday came and it wasn't a good day for me. I woke up to very sore eyes. After breakfast and a shower I decided to go back to bed. All I could do was lie down with my eyes closed. There was no way I could work or do anything that required concentrating my eyes on anything, only manual tasks. Eventually I got up and decided all I could do was use my hands so I made the lunch, a wonderful lamb casserole with lots of vegetables. This is it.
The lamb casserole
At 11.01 that morning Kate Middleton gave birth to her 3rd baby at an exclusive wing of the St. Mary's hospital in Paddington. Weighing 8lb.7oz the announcement of the baby's birth was big royal news but the baby had no name. I was surprised the parents hadn't chosen one before its birth even though they didn't know its sex until it was born. Amazingly, just 7 hours later the Duchess of Cambridge left the hospital carrying the baby to hide her bump with her husband the proud Prince William at her side. We would not know the name until the end of the week. The pundits' favourite was Albert but that wouldn't be it in the end.
The Royal couple showing off the new baby boy with no name, 5th in line to the throne as they left the hospital on Monday
Eladio, who would have been completely oblivious to the news, apart from totally disinterested, continued battling with the pool water to get rid of the green. He went out to buy all sorts of products and by Monday evening he gave up the battle and decided to drain the pool and then fill it again with new water. Sounds easy right? Well it is but it's also very expensive. The amount of new water the pool needs will come to a bill of over 600 euros. So that night he began draining it. He would start filling it on Tuesday morning and it would take all day to fill again and part of the next morning. 

My contribution to the garden is actually only picking the flowers to fill the house and terraces and this week I discovered our 3 lilac trees, one white and 2 lilac, had blossomed and were in great shape. I put lots of the flowers in vases and would continue to cut more during the week. I just love the smell of the purple lilac. For some reason the white doesn't smell at all in comparison.

There's lots of lilac in the garden this week.
My eyes were better in the evening and I was able to watch the TV with Eladio at night in bed. We are loving our current Amazon Prime series, "La Sonata del Silencio", a Spanish series and family drama set in post Civil War Spain.

The awful thing about Monday was the news of yet another van attack, this time in Toronto Canada. Over 10 people were killed. For once the motivation was not terrorism but a hatred of women apparently. It's just so crazy. 

Thankfully, on Tuesday my eyes were slightly better but it would be a short respite. With the pool empty, Eladio began the task of cleaning it on the inside. Here he is doing that.
Eladio cleaning the pool on Tuesday morning
That didn't take him long as he had cleaned it while it was green. So, very soon he started filling it as you can see below.
The pool filling with water
Everything was looking lovely. After the pool, Eladio continued gardening and this time got rid of lots of ivy which was invading our roses. Here he is after that herculean task. Notice the size of the root in his hands which he removed manually. He's still so strong for his age.
Eladio gardening - spot Pippa
That was some serious gardening I can tell you. 

While he worked I had a long skype call with my oldest friend Amanda who lives in Devon. We hadn't spoken for ages. It was so lovely to "see" her and talk to her and catch up on each other's lives. We should do so skype calls more often. I do miss her.

Finally on Tuesday my eyes permitted me to get down to my main work task at the moment. I had to read a lot of documents my new customer had sent me  so that I could prepare a PR plan for them.  I didn't get very far as my eyes started smarting again. The feeling I have is them is the same as when you cut onions but the feeling doesn't go away. Oh, it's so annoying.  So when Eladio suggested going to the garden centre (Verdecora) to buy more roses for where he had removed the ivy, I jumped at the idea and left the documents feeling slightly guilty. 

That night we had another great meal outside and enjoyed the lovely spinach and onion omelet I now make quite often.  It was Lucy who cut the onions for me by the way.

On Wednesday my eyes were just awful, like on Monday so again all I could do were manual tasks. I chose to cook as I couldn't do much else and that morning prepared lots of veg for lunch. I also made wonderful bread with Suzy and Oli in mind. It's really enriched bread using at least 5 different types of flour and instead of water making up the liquid with milk, honey and olive oil. Ah and I also put in lots of nuts, seeds, some raisins and even dried apricots. It looked and tasted just amazing. Eladio said it was the best bread I have made so far.
I made some amazing bread on Wednesday
The smell soon invaded the house. Eladio did more gardening that morning but he also did a task which was much needed in that he bathed the two bigger dogs, Norah and Elsa. It's my job to bathe Pippa and I do so once a week. After this important task we sat down to "elevenses" on the kitchen terrace. We always have our morning coffee from my lovely collection of Emma Bridgewater pottery as you probably know.
Elevenses on Wednesday
While we were having a peaceful morning, the former Governor of Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes of the PP party, the one in government, resigned after a huge scandal. Weeks ago she was accused of falsely obtaining a masters degree from the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid. There was so much evidence it was obtained under false pretenses but she continued to deny it. The straw that broke the camel's back however came on Wednesday morning when a news portal (OK Diario) released video footage of her being detained after shoplifting 2 pots of Olay cream from a supermarket (Eroski) at 20 euros each some years ago.  Here she is resigning in a press conference that morning. This time she could not deny the facts.
Cristing Cifuentes resigning as Governor of Madrid
Cristina Cifuentes came on board as the Governor of Madrid ironically get rid of corruption so news of her illegal masters degree and shoplifting have been especially criticised. She should have resigned when the  scandal first erupted. Now she is politically finished although she is trying to hang on to her parliamentary seat. Her story was the main news of the week in Spain until Friday's sentence of the "Manada" (wolf pack) which I will come to later. 

Wednesday was the warmest day of the year so far with the temperature reaching 29ºc,  By Wednesday the main jobs of getting the gardens and pool ready for the summer were done and we were able to relax by the pool.
The pool and surroundings of the house all ready for the summer
It was on Wednesday that our Airbnb Argentinian car rally driver guest,  Esteban, arrived for his 3rd stay with us. He feels quite at home and we love him. He was the first person to enjoy the sun by the pool and he was even joined by Pippa who usually doesn't like men. I couldn't quite believe her lying with him on the sunbed.

Esteban by the pool
But she  did not join him when he jumped into the pool, thus becoming the first person to bathe in it this season. 
Our first bather of the year
I sat by the pool too but did neither bathe nor sit in the sun. Rather I sat in the shade with my PC reading my new customer's documents and beginning on the PR plan I have to do. It tired my eyes though I must say. 

And the day finished with a lovely walk with the dogs, dinner on the terrace and another episode of "Sonata del Silencio".  Eladio would have preferred to watch Real Madrid play Bayern de Munich in the first leg of their semifinal in Germany but these days most football matches are pay per view and you can't see them on mainstream TV.  

On Thursday I woke up to read Real Madrid had beaten the German team 2-1 but was surprised neither goal was from Ronaldo. Let's just hope he scores in the second leg which will probably be against Liverpool who thrashed Rome in their first semifinal.

It was another wonderful spring day. Our new roses were beginning to bloom. Ever since Eladio planted the new ones, I keep inspecting them to see if they have bloomed. I also look to see if the mock orange has flowered although I know it will soon. That morning we said goodbye to Esteban who will be back next Tuesday, this time with his Argentinian girlfriend, for 4 nights. He was off to a car race in Hungary and I wish him well. 

I had an appointment to see the eye specialist at 12.15 but before that I went to do the weekly shopping. I did it on my own and it was huge owing to having extra people in the house this weekend, Oli, Miguel and of course dear Suzy. 

Once home and with everything packed away and lunch planned, I drove again to the Hospital Quirón in Pozuelo. All the tests I did had good results, i.e. my eyes are fine after the operation. The only thing is that they are irritated and apparently dry. I was given new drops and instructions on keeping them hydrated and was given another appointment in one month's time. 

In between the tests and with great difficulty I read the news on my phone. It was difficult as they had dilated my pupils of course. But that didn't stop me seeing the sentence read out  from  Pamplona in the high profile rape case of 5 nasty individuals from Seville who had gang raped an 18 year old girl during the famous Bull Run fiestas (The San Fermines) in 2016. Known as "La manada" (the wolf pack) they have been in prison since and their court case was a highly sensitive one. The sentence was to be read at 13h and was much awaited for. In Spain this is our "me too" movement to to support survivors and end sexual violence. We were all expecting them to get a long prison sentence of up to 22 years for rape. So when we heard they got away with just sexual abuse and not rape with a sentence of 9 years; probably only 3 of which will see them well and truly behind walls, the reactions around the country were passionately against the ruling of the judges. That afternoon and all around Spain there were protests, including many people outside the courthouse itself.
Protesters outside the court in Pamplona after the sentence was read.on Friday at 13h. 
There were 3 judges in this case and believe it or not one of them wanted to acquit these 5 ****ards. Since the ruling, there have been demonstrations all over the country. So why isn't the sentence rape we all ask? Well apparently Spain's penal code is pretty blurry on this and for rape there has to be violence and aggression which the judges did not see evidence of. But the country is not buying that argument. I have been happy to read later that all the political parties want the penal code reformed. Meanwhile, of course the sentence will be appealed. Apparently these 5 rapists are requesting respect for their privacy.. 4 of them will soon face trial in Córdoba for a similar incident, both of which they recorded and shared on whatsapp.  So how dare they ask for privacy? I ask you, if you haven't already, to share their photo and their names so that everyone knows who they are and never forgets. 

The members of the rapist "wolf pack". may they rot in prison. 
You may know the girls group of friends is called "La Manada". Well ever since the 5 rapists were detained, the girls changed the name of their group. I think it is now called "Las chicas de oro " (the golden girls).

Feeling very cross with the judges' sentence I was home late from the hospital but on time for lunch with Eladio and my Father on our lovely kitchen terrace.

That afternoon, Suzy was to begin her journey home. She was to catch a Ryan Air flight from Stansted, arriving just before midnight. Oli and Miguel would be picking her up and she would stay overnight with them so we wouldn't see her until Friday morning.

Knowing she loves "salmorejo", a sort of thick gazpacho that is typical in Córdoba, I made it that afternoon for her birthday this weekend. Lucy helped me once again with the onions but I peeled all the tomatoes. The basic recipe is half old bread and half tomatoes with lots of olive oil, a clove of garlic and if you want some spring onion. I also add a little water as otherwise it gets very thick. It is eaten cold and served with chopped boiled egg and Spanish ham. Well, Suzy doesn't eat the ham of course as she is vegan. 
The salmorejo I made for Suzy's birthday
While I was making the salmorejo, my eyes were smarting even more after the new drops and would continue to do so all day until I went to sleep. The day ended with another lovely sunny walk, this time wearing shorts, dinner on the terrace and more of our TV series.  

Friday dawned, the big day of seeing Suzy for the first time since January when we were in Manchester together. I went to pick her up at Oli's house where she had stayed the night. Early that morning, the girls' good friend, Anita, was visiting them for breakfast as she would not be at Suzy's party this weekend which of course was the May Bank holiday here. Anita who went to University with Olivia and lived with Suzy in London, is an amazing cake maker. She had made  a very special one for Suzy's birthday shaped in an "s". Unfortunately I would only get to see it, not eat it, as it would be for the girls' party not for the family. This was it and it's just beautiful.
The cake Anita made for Suzy for her birthday
You can browse some of her creations here

Suzy was delighted. For the record, here she is with Anita that morning at Oli and Miguel's flat.
Anita and Suzy on Friday morning
We had lovely "girly" time together before it was time for Oli and Anita to leave. Shortly afterwards Suzy and I drove home careful not to damage the lovely cake.

Suzy greeted all and sundry at home, her father, Lucy who adores her,  my Father and of course the dogs. I always loves those moments but sometimes wish she lived here in Spain near us like Olivia. 

We had lunch together, outside and then Suzy went off to see her other great girlfriends Elenita, from her Uni days, and Chati, Ele's sister, the nurse with whom she left Spain for London some 6 years ago. They are very close. But she was home by about 5 pm and we had tea together. Soon Oli and Miguel were home to stay with us for the weekend and thus the four of us and the dogs were able to enjoy our walk that day together. Miguel took the photo illustrating this week's blog but couldn't join us on the walk as he wasn't feeling too good. What a joy it was to go on our walk with both girls and in the sunshine. 

Just as I was making dinner, prawn cocktail again, I heard the news that the name or names of the new royal baby had been announced. It had taken the parents 4 days to decide upon. In the end the fifth in line to the throne will be called Louis Arthur Charles or commonly known as Louis of Cambridge. All of England I think wondered how the name would be pronounced, the French way "Louee with the stress on the last syllable or as in "Lewis" in English. Well they've gone for the French pronunciation. Funny eh?

Actually the biggest news that day or the biggest news of the week was the meeting of the two Korean premieres. On Friday Kim Jon-un and Moon Jae-in met at the border of the divided country which is technically still at war since laying down arms in 1951. It was the first time a South Korean leader would step on North Korean soil. The meeting, however, took place just inside South Korea. After hugging and greeting, the 2 premieres planted a tree of peace on the border.
Planting the tree
The most important news that came out of the summit was the agreement to stop developing nuclear weapons. Also the reunion was the beginning of a thawing in relations and hopefully a better future for the inhabitants of North Korea, the most hermetic country in the world where human rights just do not exist. 

No doubt they enjoyed top Korean cuisine together whatever that would be. We, meanwhile, enjoyed our family meal outdoors that night and enjoyed our own reunion with Suzy. Here I am with both girls just as we were about to start.
With my girls on Friday evening, about to start our family dinner
Note we were wearing evening dress, i.e. our night gowns and pyjamas and dressing gowns, hahah which is how I always dress for dinner at home. I like to be relaxed as you probably know. 

Saturday 28th April dawned, the day of Suzy's 34th birthday. To think 34 years ago I was heavily pregnant. No, actually I had just given birth and it was no easy birth I can tell you as by the time I was taken to the birthing room my contractions were over and Suzy had to be delivered with what I think is called a "vacuum". Anyway there were no thoughts of those awful moments as I greeted Suzy yesterday morning. It was terribly early, 6.30 or so and I had woken everyone up by leaving the room without switching oft the alarm hahaha. So Suzy was up with me really early and joined me outside on the kitchen terrace for our first cup of coffee of the day. Suzy recorded the birds singing as well as me cutting flowers from the garden. For birthday breakfasts we usually go heavy on croissants or churros but this time Suzy prepared a healthy breakfast for us all which I frankly preferred. 

Always on a tight schedule, I urged the girls to get ready after breakfast to go and buy ingredients to make Suzy's family lunch cake. Yes, I'm always on a schedule to meet the times for lunch (2 pm), our walk (5.30 pm) and dinner (8.30 pm) and with extra people in the house, the schedule seems even tighter as I am in charge of planning and making all the meals. The girls of course and Eladio don't think about time like I do. They took ages, so I decided to make more bread as they had devoured the batch I made for them on Thursday. I was able to go out with them and not watch the dough, etc as dear Lucy did that for me. In fact she took care of the rest of the process and it was in the oven and nearly ready when we came home. 

In the end we bought a cake from Alverán cake shop after having bought the ingredients. We did so as I was running against schedule and there would be no time to bake a cake before lunch hahaha. Suzy chose a "sachertorte" (black forest gateau) which was just delicious, better than anything we could make. 

Just as we were sitting to lunch; salmorejo, fresh grilled hake with garlic and parsley from the garden, followed by the cake, a very sad death occurred in England. Little baby Alfie Evans, aged just 23 months and with the most terrible degenerative and rare  illness that  exists, mitochondrial disease, passed away just a week or so after being removed from a life support machine in a hospital in Liverpool.  He had been in a coma and connected to the machine for over a year. His poor young parents fought a huge legal battle to keep him on life support and also to take him to Italy for a possible miracle treatment but that was denied to them. Who am I to judge who is right or wrong? What is true though is that the child had no possible chance of living when most of the white matter in his brain was no longer there. But how terrible for the parents and also how terrible for the baby who must have suffered until the very end. RIP baby Alfie Evans you will never be forgotten. 

After the festive lunch and with too much cake in my stomach, it was time for a siesta. Pippa joined us and I just had to take a photo of her lying in Eladio's arm against his pristine white shirt. It's lovely isn't it?
Eladio and Pippa about to have a siesta
I didn't actually sleep and preferred to watch La Casa de Papel on Netflix. When I got up Suzy, Oli and Miguel were all dressed up and ready to go to their party which would take place at a bar called "La Manuela" in Majadahonda. I was invited but was lazy and preferred to stay at home and go on our walk with the dogs.  I asked the girls for photos and got some. I particularly like the one of them with the other two sisters, Elenita and Chati.
Oli and Suzy beginning  the party yesterday. 
While they partied, we went to bed before it was dark hahaha. Last night we watched a film called Prisoners on Amazon Prime which turned out to be quite intense and depressing and we regretted watching it afterwards. 

And today is Sunday and I woke up to rain. In fact rain has been forecast for most parts of Spain today and there will be much cooler temperatures this week. I do hope the sun comes back soon so that we can enjoy the summer terraces we have so lovingly prepared this week, not to mention the garden and all the flowers. 

Today we shall continue to enjoy being all together. Trust me, you will hear all about it in next Sunday's post. Until then, I wish you all a great week.

Cheers till next time
Masha. 


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