Sunday, June 03, 2018

Airbnb guests from all over the world, Spiderman hero in Paris, raining cats and dogs, my royal mug collection, celebration dinner, new Prime Minister for Spain and other stories.

Sunday 3rd June 2018
With my best friends Fátima and Julio at the celebration dinner on Thursday night
Hi everyone,

It's Sunday again and blog day. 

Last Sunday we spent another lovely family day together and more time in the garden reading and chatting. It was the day my 2 French guests, Camille from Bayonne and her friend from Brest left. They had driven all the way from France just to spend 2 nights here and one day in Madrid. That's a pretty long drive I must say. They left another great review in my new guest book and later on Airbnb. 

The day ended with dinner just the four of us which is pretty rare these days but it was just great. Oh how we are going to miss Suzy and how she is going to miss us too but to Bali she will go and there is nothing we can do to stop her. All we can do is wish her well and support her from afar. 

Monday came and brought with it my first ever Airbnb reservation from Saudi Arabia. Saleh, his wife and their 4 kids (9, 11, 16 and 19) will be coming for the first week of July which is now practically full as is August. It will be interesting to meet them and to hear their version of life in that most backward country for women. I wonder if the women in the family will be wearing burkas or burkinis. The number of countries our guests have hailed from in the past year and few months is mind boggling. Of the upcoming 13 reservations I have, only 3 of them are from Spain which makes for a majority of "foreign" guests. Yeah the money is good for sure as our finances are not what they were when I had a full time job and we need it but meeting guests from all corners of the world is also a wonderful opportunity. My mother would have approved and in a way I am following in her footsteps as we at home used to have international lodgers on many an occasion. In fact she bought our huge house in Heaton Grove with its 20 rooms with them in mind. My Father with an equal interest in all things "foreign" (hahahaha) is always asking where my next guests are coming from and also which will be Oli's next destination in her TV travel programme. She told me yesterday it might be Tampa in Florida. Lucky her. 

It rained all day on Tuesday as it would do again during the week. We have had rainy weather now for weeks and weeks and it doesn't look as though it's going away any time soon. It rained so much that day and on Tuesday that we had to skip our walks. Thankfully we were able to resume them on Thursday and Friday. Last year we had a heat wave. I do wish we could have one again. 

It was back to work for Oli on Monday but we had Suzy with us for lunch. It was back to work for me too that morning as I had lots of work to catch up on after spending so much time with the family the week before.

In Spain the main news was about the upcoming motion of no confidence tabled by the PSOE (socialist party) against Mariano Rajoy's PP party after the sentence of the huge corruption scandal (Gurtel case). Abroad it was about a young immigrant from Mali who lived illegally in Paris. When he saw a toddler hanging on for his life on a fourth story balcony he didn't hesitate to climb up the building to rescue him. 
Spiderman in action
I'm sure you've seen the video of him making the impossible climb but just in case you haven't here is the linkMamoudou Gassama has been hailed the "spiderman hero".  The story went viral and soon afterwards he was rewarded with a meeting with the French President, Macron to give him a medal for the rescue.
Mamoudou Gassama  with French President Macron

He will also be given French nationality and a job with the Paris fire brigade. I've read the story and loved it but deep down feel that the young man from Mali has had to pay a very high price for his new legal status. If you look at the picture closely of him climbing to rescue the toddler you may also wonder like me why the person standing close to the latter didn't just pick him up. It's funny but none of the news on this story mentioned who that person was. In any case, it's an uplifting story and there are not many of them these days. 

On Tuesday our food supplies were depleting after so many people in the house. It was as if the vultures had been hahha. There was no option but to do some emergency food shopping before our weekly shopping. We went off in the sunshine and just as we were leaving Mercadona it began to pour it down. It was torrential rain with little rivers forming on the tarmac of the car park and we had to wait for quite a while before we made  a dash for the car to load our provisions and drive off.
The flooded car park at our local supermarket on Tuesday
Of interest on Tuesday, my latest royal mug arrived, the one commemorating the wedding of Harry and Meghan Markle. I added it to the collection of royal mugs my maternal great grandmother began in 1904 with  the coronation of Edward XIII believe it or not. My Grandmother continued it although I am missing the coronation of George V and the current Queen and my Mother added to it too with all the marriages of the Queen's offspring. I shall be searching the web for second hand mugs of the coronations I am missing and have already seen they are cheap and easy to find. The royal mug collection sits proudly in our dining room next to my Mother's favourite icon, one she smuggled out of Russia in the 60's.
My royal mug collection which has just increased with the arrival of my latest which commemorates the marriage of Harry and Meghan Markle. 
You probably think I am a huge royalist. Well I am and I am not but I do like collections hahaha and this is one I am particularly proud of. 

That morning after the shopping I finished updating the PR plan I had done for my new customer and sent it off. It felt like a huge load had fallen off my shoulder and now the ball is in the court of the customer. I hope they like it. I do. 

Suzy was home for lunch again on Tuesday. She has had a busy schedule of meeting lots of friends so having her for lunch in between  was a treat. In the afternoon we went to the Corte Inglés together to get her PC mended, the one I had bought her for her birthday the year before. She complained it worked very slowly. We both learned a lesson from the IT support service who told us the most common problems with PCs is caused by interrupting new software being updated. So we would always let the updates go on and restart the PC afterwards. 

Of note on Tuesday I got my first Airbn reservation, not to sleep at our house but to use the pool for a photo shoot which will be used in a catalogue. We agreed on a special fee and also  copy of the photos. They are coming next week and that will be another interesting experience in my Airbn hosting role. 

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of Suzy's company before she left for Alicante. We went on errands together and had coffee too. Here she told me she was a little scared about her upcoming adventure and that she would miss us a lot; as if she hadn't in London. I told her that we too would miss her but that if it didn't work out there would be no loss in pride if she comes back. I also promised to gift her a ticket back to Madrid for Christmas. I mean Christmas would just be not be the same without her and she has to be here with us if our family is to be complete. We then went to the new Lidl where Suzy was much impressed with their BIO section. They get bigger and bigger these days. In the queue we had a hilarious moment when a fellow shopper recognised her from the TV programme she had been in the week before. Oh the power of TV and don't I know it as the programme I featured in, Undercover Boss, has been aired about 20 times and people still write to me hoping I can give them a job which I can't. It's rather frustrating to hear it's been on again as of course it's related to Yoigo which I would rather forget about as I get on with my new life. 

Just before our lunch, Eladio drove Suzy to the station. She was taking the AVE (high speed train), using my loyalty points by the way (:-)) to Villena near Alicante. She was going to see the girls' friend, Merce, who lives in Yecla and who they first met when we bought our apartment in Santa Pola in 1999. Later she sent us a photo of her with Merce, her little boy and her sister.
Suzy in Yecla with Merce
If at the beginning of the week I got a reservation from a Saudi family, on Wednesday I got a new reservation from Israel believe it or not. What a contrast. They will not coincide which is probably a good thing. The Israeli guests are a retired Judge and his sister who are coming to visit their mother who lives nearby but in a tiny apartment. I sent him my house information pack later by email writing that we had been to Israel in 2010 and loved it to which he replied; "I am glad to hear you have found Israel interesting (with all troubles around (sic))". It will be equally interesting to meet these Jewish guests to get their version of the conflict in Israel. 

Early on Thursday morning the motion for the no confidence vote against Rajoy began at 8.30 in the morning and would go on all day. His speech was fabulous but it would not help him keep in power because the members of parliament had already decided on their votes. He could have read out the bible or recited the alphabet over and over again; it would not have made any difference. His opponents were just hell bent on kicking him out, fed up of the institutionalised corruption in his party which he has largely ignored and which has caused his undoing.
Rajoy during the debate on Thursday
My husband sat glued to the TV watching the debate unfold. The Spanish lower camera, "El Congreso" (Parliament) is so divided in seats as you can see in the picture below and it was touch and go as to how the voting would go; either ousting Rajoy or Sánchez becoming President. I think Rajoy thought he would win thanks to the 5 Basque moderate separatist party votes but he would be proved wrong. 
The Spanish parliament seats - so fragmented
The PSOE has only 84 seats and the motion had to be won by 176 votes. Sánchez had the support of the far left party Podemos with their 67 seats. The PP had the support of Ciudadanos making for 166, short of 10 votes. To win, Sánchez needed the support of the separatists, including the radical Catalans. He has been much criticised for making deals with the separatists as who knows what he has promised to them in exchange for their votes in the motion. What was clear though was that even if he did win, he would govern in a minority and would have his hands tied by both the Basques and Catalans. Spain is divided and always has been. It's sad. 

By midday the PNV (Basque party) announced they would support Sánchez. When Rajoy heard this, stunned I imagine, he left the Lower House and went off to have lunch with his closest allies for 8 hours. His absence was much criticised. No doubt during that long lunch he and his closest supporters spent the time debating whether he should quit before the final vote. If had done so, he would have had to call elections and would have stopped Sánchez from becoming Prime Minister. In the end he did not quit as we all know. There was still hope he would do so before the voting began the next morning but the man is stubborn as we well know and that did not happen. 

Life continued for our family as life does, come what may and Suzy, totally uninterested in Spanish politics, was enjoying the beach in San Juan with her friends and ex Whitechapel flat mates, Chati and Mónica. Thankfully for them there was no rain in that part of Spain (south east coast - the Costa Blanca). 

Thursday 31st was an important day for me too. That morning I had an appointment with the eye specialist who had performed cataract surgery on my eyes on 26th March (right eye) and 2nd April (left eye), Dr. Castillo from the Quiron Hospital. He had also inserted intraocular trifocal lenses which were supposed to restore my eye sight completely. As you know, I have had a lots of post operative problems with dry eye syndrome etc. That fortunately has cleared up. My right eye seems to have quite good vision and I was able to quit glasses after the second operation. However, the sight in my left eye never improved and I have been back many times. Each time tests were performed on the retina, the macule and also to determine whether the lenses were in place correctly and I was prescribed different eye drops. That morning the tests were repeated and this time I insisted on a vision test to see what was wrong with my left eye which has cloudy and blurred vision. The Doctor, supposedly one of the best ophtamologists in Spain, found that my left eye still had astigmatism and had absolutely no explanation as to why. If he doesn't know why I wondered, who does?. He prescribed glasses (again) when at my first appointment with him before the operation he told me I could trust him as he does more than a 1000 operations a year, bla bla bla and I did trust him. I'm not so sure now. He wants me to wear glasses for 3 weeks to see how my left eye responds. He vaguely hinted that I may have to have a different lens put in or laser surgery. I left the hospital with even less sight as they had dilated my pupils and feeling rather depressed. The operation on my left eye had been a failure. Thankfully I can see quite well out of my right eye although the vision there is not perfect:-(

I came home to find a doctor and a nurse there too who had come to visit my Father to examine a nasty wound on his leg after his recent fall. They prescribed antibiotics and healing cream. They have also prescribed new sleeping pills as my poor 99 year old Father does not sleep well at all even with strong sleeping pills. I was happy to hear the nurse and lady doctor comment how well my Father was looked after.  No way could we have 2 nonagenarians who need full time care although some consider it our responsibility as one is a full time job, not to mention the cost. 

We had lunch together while the vote of no confidence debate was continuing. But, perhaps the biggest story that day was the announcement of the departure of Zinedine Zidane, the French Algerian born, football star who was Real Madrid's manager for the last few years. Just 4 days after garnering his 3rd European Cup for them, he shocked the football world telling them he was leaving. That was not good news.
Zidane announcing he was leaving Real Madrid on Thursday
So what were his reasons? He said that if RM were to continue to win they needed a change and that he needed a change too. I think it hurt that his team had done so badly in La Liga. He has no intentions of managing another team this next season. However, there is a strong possibility he could be the next manager of the French Squad. A humble and brilliant man with a great sense of humour and highly admired by the players, he will be sorely missed. 

The news of his leaving was probably nearly as important as the fate of the Spanish government. Often in Spain, football, especially Real Madrid, and politics go hand in hand. 

Thursday was a long and interesting day as you can see and there was more to come. We went for our walk as we always do, weather permitting, and just as we got home, our new set of Airbnb guests arrived. They would be repeat guests. I love it when guests come back. So, on Thursday, I greeted Marga and her partner Santiago who are Spaniards living in Switzerland and their colleague, Roger. I greeted the latter in French, telling him my Mother was Russian, my husband Spanish and my Father English - all this in French, until he admitted he too was British. Amazingly, his parents, like mine, met and married in Cambridge. We have hardly seen these 3 guests since they came. Roger told me they make loudspeakers for big organisations, including the Bolshoi ballet and were in Madrid on business. 

Thursday would end with a celebration dinner. My friend Julio, from my Nokia days, had invited Eladio, myself and Fátima, our mutual friend, also from Nokia, out to dinner. He had chosen one of my favourite restaurants, "Filandon" to celebrate with us his new appointment as a professor of the UNED University. I'm so proud of him. We were to be there by 8.30 and, as usual, Fátima was late but then she always is. It was one of the best dinners I have been to in a long time, because it was with my closest friends with whom I always feel totally relaxed. The food at Filandon is out of this world in my opinion. For dessert I chose their lemon meringue pie which I know I shall be ordering again as I just fell in love with it. It was divine.
Dinner at Filandon on Thursday night
Friday was the 1st June but it felt like 1st March, weather wise. I was woken up by the dogs barking at 5.55. I understood why when I opened our bedroom door to find Phoebe our cat there who had remained in the house all night. 

I had a busy morning with lots of errands to do. It felt like a marathon race. The first stop was the chemist to get my Father's prescriptions. Then to Vision Lab to order my glasses. That was not a happy errand. From there we went to Centro Oeste where we stopped for a coffee before we went into Carrefour to stock up on decaf tea - the only place I can find it. Our last stop but one was to El Corté Inglés to pick up Suzy's PC. While there I got a gel protective screen for my new Samsung S9 Plus. Amazingly these days, they can print the covers to perfectly fit the screen, although it's not cheap.  Hopefully, now, if I drop my phone again it will be protected, unlike my previous phone the S7 with its curved screen which I broke. 

Our last stop was Mercadona for the weekly shopping and then home to make lunch. By the time we were home, the voting in the motion of no confidence was over and Pedro Sánchez had ousted Rajoy by 180 votes against 169. He was to be and is now the new Spanish Prime Minister. Dubbed Mr. Handsome - he's not bad looking - the ambitious and stubborn 46 year old ex basketball player, Sánchez, backed by the separatists and far left party, stunned himself and everyone else by becoming Prime Minister. He now has to form his minority government and rely on the support of the Catalans and Basques. It's now goodbye to Rajoy. Corruption in his party was his downfall. It may also be that of Sánchez as his PSOE party in Andalusia is embroiled in a huge case of embezzlement and when that sentence comes out, who knows what will happen. I love Spain but I hate its corruption. I am keenly reading the international press to see the reactions outside the country and one article from Bloomberg (international financial news agency) gave me hope. Entitled "Spain's crisis is desperate but not serious" it explains that due to Spain's fast growing economy and the PSOE party's allegiance to the EU, there is room for hope despite the political scene being somewhat unstable. In Italy things are far worse.  

My favourite piece of news though that day was seeing a video at a press conference at Roland Garros (French Tennis Open) of the German player Alexander Zverez being questioned by a Yorkshire journalist. Johnathan Pitfield with quite a strong Yorkshire accent - though there are stronger - asks the German a long question about tennis to which the latter replies "where are you from buddy?". When Pitfield replies he's from Yorkshire there is laughter and Zverez says he hasn't understood a thing but loves the guy's accent. Pitfield tries to draw the questioning back to tennis and when he says to Zverez: "you love tennis", he replies "not as much as your accent". This had me in stitches. If you are from Yorkshire and haven't seen it, then here is the link .

The German tennis player who had trouble with the Yorkshire journalist's accent at Roand Garros this week
That afternoon we had a respite from the rain. The sun came out, briefly, but long enough for us to go on our walk. When we got home, Oli was back to stay with us for the weekend and we had the pleasure of her company for dinner that night. Dinner, for once, was on the terrace outside. 

I was happy to hear on the news that night when we got into bed that the Trump Kim Jong-Un summit is back on for 12th June. Now that is news. 

Saturday was another rainy day. It was also the day Sánchez was sworn in as Prime Minister. For the first time ever in Spanish history, the new head of government did away with the bible and crucifix. The ceremony was very short but long enough for me to notice there was just one woman in the picture (she's behind the king so you can't see her). Let's hope Sánchez puts lots of women in his cabinet. Ah and let's hope he can keep the Catalan separatists at bay and let's also hope he calls elections soon as the Spanish people did not vote for him. 
Sánchez sworn in as Spain's new PM
While that important ceremony was being performed and Sánchez was visiting the Moncloa Palace where he will be living soon, I made lunch, ordinary spaghetti bolognese (spag bol as we call it at home). I made it early as I wanted to go out shopping with Oli and not be stressed about making lunch. We spent a lovely morning together. Sadly we went to get my new glasses - or rather my old red glasses with a new lens for my left eye and a neutral lens for my right eye. I'm wearing them now as I write and I'm not sure I actually see better with them than without. We then went to Stradivarius (Zara's younger women's brand and cheaper too) to pick up a blouse I had ordered online. While there I fell in love with a black and white polka dot soft blazer and just had to buy it for 19.99 euros. This is it. I think it is out of stock now and I am not surprised.
My new blazer
There were lots of things we liked at Stradivarius where I don't normally shop. Oli seemed to buy half the shop hahaha. From there we ventured dangerously into other shops and boutiques and then had a nice mother and daughter cup of coffee together. Our last stop was to Verdecora (garden centre). I was in search of new cushions for the terrace chairs at Santa Pola but didn't find any. Instead I bought more roses for our garden. Oli took a photo, my first photo with glasses on again aagghh.
With my roses and glasses
We were home for lunch with my Father and Eladio. Afterwards we all had a siesta, Pippa too but she couldn't decide whose bed she liked best, Oli's or ours. I had to have a picture of her "queening" on our beds hahaha.
Pippa lying in prime position on Oli's bed
Pippa lying on our bed with Eladio
I didn't sleep at all although I could have done with some shut eye. Instead I watched my current favourite series, "Tiempos de Guerra" (War times), a Spanish series about the war in Africa in the early 20's to maintain the enclave of Melilla. I am loving it.

I watched it until it was time for our walk. Off we went in the sun but soon thunder threatened and strong winds came followed by very cold rain. We had no option but to turn back on our heels and head home as fast as possible. Soon after we were home, Suzy arrived from Alicante. Oli had been to the hairdresser and got a new hair style. I love it and it's a bit like mine I think. The girls were going out to dinner to celebrate a friend, Rocio's birthday so they had to dress up to go out. I was going nowhere and, dressed in my "evening wear", i.e. my nightie and dressing gown, I watched them getting ready, offering all sorts of items from my wardrobe. This was them just before they left, looking gorgeous.
My gorgeous girls ready to go out last night
For us it was a quiet evening; a simple supper followed by the news and more of our latest series. 

I didn't fall asleep until about 1 and was awake this morning at 6.05 which means I shall need a siesta. It was very gloomy when I woke up but now as I am finishing this post, the sun has come out. Let's see for how long.

Next week Suzy will be leaving for Bali but also next week I shall be publishing my blog from Italy where I am going to join Sandra who will be celebrating her 60th birthday. No doubt these will be the main stories in next Sunday's post.

So I will leave you now to get on with the day. Cheers to you all and have a great week,


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