Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Aquarius migrant boat arrives in Spain, Oli in Florida, Suzy in Bali, World Cup brings surprises, summer solstice dinner with friends, off to Santa Pola and other stories.

Sunday 24th June 2018
All set for dinner with friends at home on Thursday the summer solstice
Hi everyone,

Well here we are in Santa Pola where we have come for a few days to enjoy the beach in between responsibilities and other stuff at home. Funnily enough you will read later that we have a very illustrious neighbour in these parts as this is where Mariano Rajoy, the outed Spanish Prime Minister, has returned to his job as a well paid property registrar believe it or not. 

A year ago on Sunday it was my 60th birthday party and I well remember just how hot it was then, over 40ºc .Well on Sunday last it reached 32º and that has been the tonic ever since and temperatures are going to rise next week even more. Thankfully, here at our apartment it's slightly cooler. 

It was on Sunday last that the Aquarius migrant ship with 2 others, arrived at the port of Valencia carrying over 600 refugees from Africa mostly; many of whom were unaccompanied minors.  These were the people the new far right wing Italian government refused to let disembark in Italy. They will only admit migrants rescued at sea by the Italian sea guard, not international ONGs as was the case of the Aquarius. 
Some of the migrants arriving in Valencia
The Aquarius migrants who will be well looked after in Spain and in France, and who had a huge welcome reception are just the tip of the iceberg though. Now that Spain has taken them in, there are literally thousands and thousands waiting on the shores of Libya or near Melilla and boats all over the Mediterranean sea about to come. The EU is not sure what to do and it's no easy question. I read of a proposal for a big  camp for them all somewhere in Africa where they could be held in decent conditions until they are sorted as legitimate or  non legitimate refugees, i.e they are escaping violence or war or are coming to earn more money. Frankly I feel for both types. I mean all those who populated the USA at the beginning of the last century were mostly people looking for a better life. The real solution lies in helping them economically in their countries of origin but I'm afraid I tend to agree with Jesus Christ who  said "the poor will always be with you". So yes, there was a huge reception for the Aquarius migrants but the problem has not gone away. 

Oli's boyfriend who is a TV cameraman and works in Valencia, paid us a surprise visit that morning with 5 of his colleagues who had been on a caravan holiday in Galicia. All of the them would be involved in covering the news of the Aquarius migrants upon their return to work in Valencia on Monday. I told Miguel how lucky he was to be part of what I considered "world wise news". 

I had quite a lazy Sunday, enjoying having the house and pool to ourselves with no Airbnb guests. The hen party girls left that morning without saying goodbye which was a bit rude, especially when they had come with 3 more friends and had a party when my 2 major house rules are: no extra guests and no parties. I think they were first time Airbnb guests and thankfully are the exception to the generally really nicely behaved people who come. 

Having finished Bill Clinton's book The President is Missing which I can highly recommend  if you like suspense, I turned to a completely different genre; North Korean defector biographies of which I have read many. "Dear Leader" is not just another escape story because of the status of Jan Jin-sung who worked in intelligence and even once met Kim Jong Il, the current dictator's frightening father. He is probably the defector with the most inside information  of how this hermetic country is run, ever to have made it to South Korea. His story is astonishing to say the least. 

In between reading I bathed as it was so hot. In fact last Sunday was my first bathe of the year. It was Oli's too when she came back from a barbecue with friends. 

Meanwhile, in Russia, the world cup was underway with some countries making their debut. There have been some shocks since it started with a lot of the big teams struggling. Mexico stunned the German champions by winning 1.0 and Brazil drew with little Switzerland, another shocker. 

But the good sports news for Spain on Sunday didn't come from Russia but from France. Fernando Alonso, the Formula 1 driver won the Le Mans 24 hours "endurance test". That was quite big although I would prefer him to perform better in F1. He won it twice a few years ago but has not done well since. He was pleased though as you can see in the photo below. 
Fernando Alonso won the 24h Le Mans last Sunday
I read later that it is one of the most prestigious car races in the world and has been called the "Grand Prix of Endurance and efficiency". It is part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport, two of which Alonso has now won, Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix. He now aims to try his luck with the Indianapolis 500. If he wins all three I think he will be the first Spaniard ever to do so.  

After time by the pool it was time for dinner, our last with Olivia for a while as she would be off to the west coast of Florida on Tuesday and not back until the end of next week. She is 6 hours behind us and Suzy in Bali is 6 hours ahead of us. It's funny to have both girls at different ends of the globe so to speak. They, by the way, speak at midnight Florida time which is the only time they can I think. 

We had a delicious dinner of my home made gazpacho and the remains of the potato salad and cherry syllabub. Then she was off and the house was empty again. But not for long. That evening I got another reservation from Airbnb; an Italian family coming in September. I have a German family staying now and there will hardly be any free days without guests from now until September.  

We put the air conditioning on for the first time last Sunday. It was not a good night's sleep for me as, naughty naughty me had indulged in chocolate and wine at dinner,  a combination guaranteed to give me one. 

Monday came. Now that the days are so hot, we decided to go on our walks early in the morning. I came back to bathe in the pool and even shower there. That's a great way to start my day. Oli's day was deliciously different on Monday. She had been asked to take part in a real time online interview with spectators of her programme, "Madrileños por el Mundo" about the latest one on Croatia which would be broadcast on Tuesday evening. As it was live, I followed it and even sent in a question; mine was the first haha, just in case there weren't many. Miguel sent one in too but we shouldn't have worried as there were plenty. This is the photo they took of her answering the questions. I told her it was a great photo and she typically replied "but I haven't got any makeup on" hahah. Well, I like it. Judge for yourselves.
Oli doing something different on Monday
Here is the link to the interview if you are interested. 

On Monday I was busy with lots of little errands and was surprised to get yet another Airbn reservation for a few days free in the calendar next week. A French couple are coming to find accommodation for their son who will be studying dentistry at the University nearby. We get a lot of French people and they are always great guests. 

Oli wasn't the only one in my world to have an interview that day. Spain's new Prime Minister, the dashing socialist Pedro Sánchez, was to give his first TV interview that night on TVE. We watched it with baited breath as after the whirlwind of the vote of no confidence and his becoming Prime Minister he has given out many good signs. The most important thing he did was to appoint a majority of women in his cabinet. I have read in the international press that he is following a similar strategy to Canada's Trudeau. During the no  confidence vote session he had promised to call elections. However, in the interview, he revealed it is his intention to stay in power until the next general elections in 2020. So he lied, yes he did. So he likes being Prime Minister, yes of course. But let's give him a chance and see whether the economy continues to thrive and just how much he will have to concede to the Catalan separatists. He is doing everything differently which might not be a bad thing at all. The first international visit for a new Prime Minister in Spain is traditionally to it's neighbour Morocco. But Sánchez' first visit was to the Elysee to see Macron who gave him his support over the Aquarius. It will be good to hear him speak English to the French President and others as Sanchez is the first Spanish Prime Minister who speaks the language and that is in his favour when it comes to international politics. He may be all sorts of other things but for me he is a breath of fresh air. 

Pedro Sanchez' first interview on TV after becoming Prime Minister
Tuesday came, another hot day. While we were going about our day, Oli was flying to Tampa. It was to be her first time in the USA and I warned her about the strict security. It would take her all day to get there, flying via Atlanta. She left at 11 am Spanish time and got to Tampa at 1.30 in the morning, our time the next day. The poor girl was exhausted. She complained later at how difficult it was to eat healthy food for breakfast at her hotel, The Hilotn and that it was surrounded by burger joints! That didn't surprise me. 

As usual I was up early in the morning at about 6 am. I am avidly following the World Cup group standings although we only watch the Spanish matches. So I was happy to see that England had beat Tunisia but with a last minute goal. This World cup is certainly proving difficult for the top teams. That win should spur on England fans though to travel to Russia to see the next matches. I read that not many had gone after the tensions of the Salisbury poison attacks. I have also read that the Russian bars are quickly running out of beer as they hadn't factored in just how popular it is with football fans. 

After our morning walk, I had to work and then make  lunch. It was "fabada" (bean stew) that day. I also had time to change the flowers in the house for our next guests. I love our summer flowers, mostly roses and hydrangeas. It was on our walk we noticed Elsa had a problem with her ear, she kept scratching it. In the afternoon, it was obvious she was in pain so we quickly took her to the vet. To look properly they had to sedate her and then operate as it turned out she had yeast infection which caused otitis and must be very painful. We went back for poor confused Elsa later in the evening. She is now on antibiotics and I hope the infection clears up and doesn't come back. 

Elsa after she came back from the vet on Tuesday, a bit drowsy and hopefully no longer in pain.
We had dinner on the terrace and as it was late we watched the news on my iPad. The most interesting news for me that day was about Mariano Rajoy. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that he is returning to  his job in Santa Pola, of all places, as a property registrar. He actually started on Wednesday. It was where he worked in the late 80's and is a well paid civil servant job in Spain (between 10 and 20.000 euros a month). I was quite amazed to hear he had rejected his right to a 80.000 euro per year stipend as an ex Prime Minister as well as one for 100.000 as part of the Executive Council.  He has also given up his status as an MP, thus completely severing ties with politics. He does though still have a bodyguard and chauffeur car. t seems funny that he is going back to an "ordinary" job and does not want any of the monetary trappings an ex Premiere is entitled to. At least this is what I have read. I do know for sure that he is now working here. This also means our flat comes under his jurisdiction. We might even meet him at his and our favourite restaurant in Santa Pola, "Batiste" where he has been seen recently. He will be living here too but I wonder where. I must say that his attitude is praiseworthy. He is actually living at the best hotel in Alicante, the Melia where he will probably stay until about October when he can opt for a transfer to Madrid with his job. He is apparently watching as many of the World Cup matches he can from there as he is an avid football fan. How many ex Presidents do we know of who have gone back to their previous jobs I wonder? None probably. If I ever meet him here I shall congratulate him on his decision. Meanwhile there is one big political battle in his right wing party (PP) to see who will succeed his leadership. By the way he was late for work on Wednesday as he had to attend to a huge group of journalists waiting for him to arrive.
Mariano Rajoy received by a crowd of journalists as he arrived for work on Wednesday in Santa Pola
Equally interesting that night was watching Oli's programme on Croatia, a country I know nothing about. She made me want to go after having seen it, especially to Dubrovnik and to Zagreb. 

A shot from Oli's programme on Croatia
Wednesday was another scorcher. I had a shower after breakfast, we went for our walk and I came home feeling so hot I had another shower and left my hair wet. Where it was just as warm and always is,  is in Bali. That morning Suzy sent us a photo of her relaxing in style. She looks lovely.
Suzy enjoying life in Bali
Oli sent us a photo too from the other side of the world. That day she interviewed a doctor from Madrid who works in cancer research at a hospital in Tampa. She told me it was very hot and humid in Florida too.
Oli on the job in Tampa - here with a Spanish medic who researches in cancer

At the beginning of July I am going to France (near Poitiers) for our annual cousin reunion, from my Mother's Russian side of the family. I had bought a return ticket a while ago via Expedia and would be flying with Air France to Charles de Gaulle where I need to land in order to catch the TGV to Poitiers. Well, it turned out I bought the ticket on Expedia's US site which gave me endless problems. It was on Thursday when buying my TGV ticket I realised my outbound flight was at 8.15 in the evening, too late to catch the last train. I had meant to buy the ticket for the plane leaving at 8.15 in the morning but due to the US way of showing the times of day, I made a mistake and bought a seat on the evening flight. Sadly, I had to buy another ticket and had to so on the Expedia US site again, hoping for a refund as I had bought a protected ticket. But no, I ended up buying a new ticket, this time with Vueling. I then bought my TGV ticket and in the end spent a small fortune on the whole trip. I shall never again buy a ticket on Expedia. Rather I shall do so direct with the airline. What a nightmare. Happily though, just afterwards I got another Airbnb booking, the income of which should cover part of the extra cost of my trip to France hahaha. 

Thursday saw Spain from  group B (Portugal, Spain, Iran and Morocco) play its second match and it was against Iran at 8 pm that night. In the first match Spain and Portugal drew so both had 1 point each. Just before the Spain match, Portugal played and beat Morocco but only by 1-0, thus they led the group by 4 points. That made it crucial for Spain to beat Iran and preferably with 2 goals. We had dinner watching the match which was so tense and so close mostly because the Iranian side did nothing but defend; they were like a brick wall. Finally the breakthrough came in the second half when Diego Costa scored a goal. The Iranians looked to have scored an equaliser not long afterwards but  the VAR, showed it was offside. That was a huge relief for Spain who now have 4 points like Portugal after beating Iran 1-0. Their last match will be against Morocco next week. 
Spain beat Iran 1-0
If anyone thinks beating Iran was a knockout they are completely wrong. This valiant team, managed by Queiroz, who was once a Real Madrid manager, came to the competition unbeaten throughout the qualifying stage and were not to be taken lightly. The big news of the match though had nothing to do with football but to do with Iranian women. In Iran women are not allowed to go to football matches and here they were to be seen in western style dress and non veiled faces, many of them with the Iranian flag painted on their faces. That was a lovely sight. I wonder what the ayatollahs thought about that back home?

Thursday 21st June was the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. It was hot again even on our 8 o'clock in the morning walk. We had to do the weekly shopping that day as our cupboards were getting bare. Also we were having guests for dinner that night and I had to get the ingredients for the dishes I would serve.

I love the summer fruit here, especially the juicy black cherries and  we always buy lots. You probably know by now that we  are great fruit and veg consumers. Here is just some of the fruit I got at Mercadona that day. I posted the photo on Instagram with the caption "wonder how long this will last?" and usually it's not that long hahaha.
Some of the fruit we bought on Thursday
I was able to relax by the pool in the afternoon but not for long as I had to prepare the dinner. Our friends Javier and Ana who we hadn't seen for possibly a year were coming and I was looking forward to it. Being the summer solstice made the dinner even more special. It didn't get dark till past 10 pm. that night. For the occasion I made prawn cocktail, Italian risotto which I'm afraid had got a bit dry when I served it, and mango and raspberry Hagen
Dazs ice cream with mango and raspberry fruit. I do love ice cream with fruit. 

Everything was ready just 10 minutes or so before our friends arrived. I wore my coolest dress, a white creation I had bought at the Majadahonda market last year. The photo illustrating this week's post is of me just before our guests arrived. I look so old. 

Our friends arrived on time. It was lovely to see them. They had lots of news, especially the upcoming wedding of their daughter Laura this September which we congratulated them on. We had drinks by the pool and chatted non stop until it was time for dinner. And here they are at our kitchen patio table about to begin.
Summer solstice dinner with our friends Javier and Ana
Since we met last time, Javier has set up an editorial, Volcano Libros which focuses on books about nature. He has already published 10 books and is living his dream. We talked a lot about books that night when my philosopher husband recommended one he has just read called La Edad de la Penumbra. You won't catch me reading it haha as I am not into philosophy. It's probably a pity I am not. We were up chatting after dinner till past midnight when it was time to go to bed. 

We missed watching the news that night, but thanks to our mobile phones were up to date. The main international news this week has come yet again from the US. The main story is that of migrant children being separated from their parents and put into detention, while their parents are put in jail. It has caused an uproar all over the world. The next day, The First Lady, Melania Trump, who has been trying to persuade her stubborn husband to revoke the law, visited some of the children. She wore a very unfortunate jacket for the occasion, with the words "I really don't care, do you?" on the back of it, a green Zara jacket. That also caused an uproar. Whatever was she thinking of when she wore it to visit the children? The story is now being called "jacket gate" true to US fashion in news.
Melania Trump's unfortunate choice of jacket when she visited separated migrant children this week.
If that was the main story on the international front, the main story in Spain was that of the provisional release from jail of the now famous "wolf pack" gang, 5 men from Seville, who had sexually abused and raped, in most people's minds, a young girl aged 18 during the Pamplona bull run in July 2016. They were released despite the non firm sentence of 9 years in prison which is not yet final as both sides are disputing the sentence. Both the sentence and the release have caused huge demonstrations all over Spain and the news of 
their release this week just added insult to injury. 

Friday came, the day we were off to Santa Pola and the day a German family of 5 were coming from Kiel for 3 nights. But before leaving, I had an appointment with my eye doctor, the one who had operated on my eyes about 3 months ago.

While I was waiting at the hospital (Qurión in Pozuelo), I was glad to see whatsapps posts from Suzy of photos of her in Bali, especially this one on her scooter. She looks so happy.
Suzy on her scooter in Bali
She was on her way to a place called Uluwatu with "2 sweet Germans" as she told us. It is on the south western tip of the Bukit peninsula of Bali and is known for its cliffs and beaches which are popular with surfers. I don't think she is into surfing but maybe she will try it. 
The cliffs of Uluwatu in Bali
The appointment I was waiting for was important as  my left eye did not respond well to the intraocular lens he put in as I still had astimagatism. He had told me to wear prescription glasses for 3 weeks and when he did more tests that morning, he advised laser surgery on my left eye. According to him it will correct some of the astigmatism but not all. To sum it up I will see without glasses as well as I do now with those he prescribed which is not great I can tell you. There is nothing organically wrong with my eyes and when I asked, my doctor told me my case was the first he had ever seen and was difficult to explain. The laser surgery will be done on 16th July so cross your fingers my friends that it will be successful and that I will be able to see better than I do now and that I won't need glasses. 

I rushed home after my appointment to finish packing and also load lots of food into the car as I hate having to do food shopping when we get here. We left at around midday with quite a lot of traffic it being a Friday. It was also the San Juan midsummer feast in Alicante and all over Spain so there was even more traffic than usual. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant bar in Zarza de Záncara we like which was full too. The waiter took ages to bring the bill and all in all our stop there was 1.5h. That meant we didn't get to our flat in Gran Alacant, some 7km from Santa Pola until the early evening. 

I was dying to go down to the beach but first we had to clean a bit and settle in. Eladio would have preferred to read on the terrace afterwards as he was tired from driving.
Eladio resting on our small terrace after our arrival on Friday evening
However, in need of a walk, I persuaded him to go to the beach. We had to leave Pippa in the flat as, sadly, dogs are not really allowed on beaches in Spain, at least in the summer. It was to be the first bathe in the sea this summer and we both enjoyed it. We can never go in together as one of us always has to look after the valuables: my phone, our kindles and the car keys. Here is Eladio coming out of the sea after his first bathe. The water was quite warm and very calm and we both enjoyed it immensely.
Eladio's first bathe in the sea this year
We then went for our customary walk to the end where the rocks are and from where we can see our apartment and of course the island of Tabarca. We came home late at around 9 pm. I went to the pool to wash off the sea water and sand and had it practically to myself. Dinner was a small affair, scrambled eggs on toast after which we watched a film about the Roman invasion of Britannia until we fell asleep. 

Yesterday Saturday 23rd June was San Juan a feast celebrated all over Spain and especially in the Alicante area where St. John is the patron saint. People light bonfires at night  on the beaches all over Spain and here too of course and have barbecues with their families and friends. I'm sure the experience is lovely but the many  signs of no parking after 5pm put us off going to  what we would imagine to be large crowds, something we both hate. We decided, instead, to go the beach from 10 to 12 in the morning after which it would get very hot and crowded. Again we left Pippa behind and we were a bit worried about her as she had had bouts of diarrhea since we left Madrid. I looked up veterinary surgeries close by just in case and found one at a nearby shopping centre which was open until 10 pm or so we thought.

We took our kindles, bathed, read and went for our usual walk. By 12 we were home and chillaxing, to quote my daughter Suzy hahahah. By the late afternoon Pippa was vomiting so we whisked her into the car and took her to the surgery I had found on internet only to see it was closed due to the San Juan holiday. It was to be the same with all the others. I searched on the internet desperately until until I found one in Elche, a big town about 15km from here. Despite our GPS we always get lost in Elche,  a town made rich by shoe manufacturing, but luckily, this time we didn't. 

A nice young vet called Veronica analysed the sample I had taken, took Pippa's temperature and also took 2 x-rays. It seems there was no bacteria lurking although she could be incubating something.  It was the x-ray which worried Veronica because she thought she saw the shadow of some sort of obstruction "foreign matter" in her intestine. She gave Pippa a couple of injections to relieve the symptoms but we have to go back today to repeat the x-ray and most probably do a scan. If there is something obstructing her;  possibly something she ate on one of our walks, she will have to be operated on. Please cross your fingers that won't be the problem and that it is just gastroenteritis.

We were back late to the apartment but happy to have found a vet for Pippa. Luckily she has no temperature and apparently no pain. We could see the bonfires on the beach below our flat which was a  pretty sight but difficult to capture on camera. We had a very simple dinner and then watched half of a soppy film on TV. We had missed the news but I was up to date with the World Cup group standings. Germany had beaten Sweden and amazingly Switzerland beat Serbia. 

Meanwhile, in Florida, Oli continued her work filming there if you can call it work hahaha. She sent us a photo last night together with a group of girls scantily dressed. I asked her who they were and she replied "Hooter Girls", as if I knew what that is. She then told me they are waiters of the famous chain of Hooter restaurants which i had never heard of. I have now hahaha. You can read more about them here

Oli with the "hooter girls"
The photo was taken at the Hooters restaurant on Clearwater beach. Oli had told me it is ranked one of the  best beaches in the USA. I had never heard of that either hahaha but I do hope she got to try the food at Hooters and at least walk on the famous beach. 

Today is Sunday, the last day of this blog post and the end of this week's tales. I was up early. Pippa had a relatively good night but the diarrhea has not cleared up and we shall be going back to the vet this afternoon. Poor Pips.

Hopefully, after publishing this post we shall go down to the beach for a couple of hours but of course I will be telling you all about our day in next week's post.

Therefore my friends, I shall sign off now. Wishing you all a good Sunday and great week ahead,

Cheers til next time,

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