Sunday, November 12, 2017

The antics and adventures of Puigdemont in Brussels, to Segovia for a foodie winter break, visit to Pedraza, home again, Oli went to the Maldives and other stories.

Sunday 12th November, 2017
Visiting Pedraza on Tuesday. Here in the medieval Plaza Mayor, the centre of the village
Hello again, this sunny and crisp Sunday morning in November. It has been an interesting week with lots happening both at home and in the news.

Last Sunday 5th November, Guy Fawkes Day, was the day the fugitive Puigdemont and 4 of his aides appeared before an investigative judge in Brussels after the European Arrest Warrant had been issued by the Spanish judge Carmen Lamela. He had chosen Belgium because of the support he hoped to get there from the Flemish separatists. His lawyer is also Flemish and in the past had defended Spanish ETA terrorists. They chose for the case to be held in Dutch so as to have a Flemish judge who they thought would be more sympathetic to his cause. As we all expected, they were set free late that night with conditions only. Since then he has been proactively looking for support from the EU which has not materialised and now  is criticizing the European Union. He has little support too from his own party, the PdeCat, many of whose supporters consider him a traitor.  He does have support though from the likes of Julian Assange and Yono Oko who are in the ex government's payroll for tweeting in their favour (!) and also from, unsurprisingly, both Russia and Venezuela. Russia seems to favour meddling in affairs in the west where it can help cause havoc or make things go the way Mr. Putin would prefer, as happened in both the elections that Donald Trump won and in the Referendum for Brexit. It seems now they also have a hand in unrest in Catalonia. 

Friday 5th was also the day the now famous Paradise papers leak became breaking news. It's all about the super rich, including the Queen of England, who have offshore accounts in tax havens where they can avoid taxation. It's all very dodgy and more and more names are emerging, including the ex President of Catalonia, Puigdemont's crony, Xavier Trillas. He at first denied the accusation then later had to admit it was true. 

But much worse was the mass shooting at a Baptist Church (Sutherland Springs) in Texas that day. A disturbed and deranged man, 26 year old Devin Patrick Kelley who was  not a terrorist , killed 26 and injured 20 people. He shot them while they were in the church service. How awful! He was shot by a male civilian and fled in his car which was chased by the police and later found dead after shooting himself in the head. The media have called it the "deadliest mass shooting by an individual in Texas and one of the deadliest in the US".  A church is the last place you would expect to be killed. This is just another story of mass shooting in the US and they will go on as long as individuals are able to buy weapons on the high street. I often ask myself in how many other countries can you do that so easily as in the US? 
The Baptist church where the mass shooting took place. 
On Monday Eladio and I set off for Segovia for our 2 day romantic winter break. It was too bad we couldn't take Pippa with us but no hotel in Spain allows dogs, at least the Spanish state run Paradors don't.  We were going to stay at the Parador there. The first night would be thanks to the Smartbox voucher my ex colleagues from Yoigo gave me for my 60th birthday. It included accommodation, breakfast and dinner. The second night would be on points I had with the Parador loyalty programme called "Amigos". We could have gone to any of the 95 establishments around Spain but chose the one in Segovia as it's just 90km from Madrid.  We chose the scenic mountain route instead of the motorway and stopped for a mug of hot broth at the Navacerrada mountain pass which stands at just under 2000m high. It was both freezing and foggy and the temperature was exactly 0ºc and we were glad of the hot broth hahah. Thankfully it wouldn't be so cold in Segovia itself

We arrived at the Parador at around midday. Located on a hill about 2 or 3km outside the city, it commands amazing views of Segovia's skyline, including the Roman Aqueduct, the ancient city walls, the Gothic Cathedral and Alcázar (Royal Palace) but as a building itself the Parador could not be uglier. I knew it was a modern construction but had no idea how ugly it was. Most paradors in Spain are converted historic buildings which are lovely. Some are modern and the modern ones I have seen or stayed at are at least pleasing to look at. Not so with the Parador in Segovia.
The ugly Parador in Segovia
It seemed a bit of a paradox that the medieval town of Segovia with its multiple historic buildings should then include such an ugly building. Thankfully inside everything was ok although I did not like the decor. Our room however was fine. One saving grace is that most of the rooms seemed to have a private balcony and ours had a view of the skyline of Segovia. Paradors are always a guarantee of quality in service, installations and food and this was no different.
The view of Segovia from the Parador
The room was nice, the bathroom needed some renovation and I, at least, was disappointed to find out that the indoor swimming pool and spa is only open at the weekends. As soon as we had checked in, we went out to explore the gardens and admire the view. Here we took lots of photos. It was a cold but sunny day and we were glad we had brought thick coats.
Eladio in the gardens of the Parador 
It was time for lunch so we drove into Segovia and parked under the famous Roman Aqueduct. It is a national heritage sight and was built by the Romans at the end of the 1st century or beginning of the 2nd.
Eladio by the Aqueduct in Segovia
The imposing aqueduct is the defining feature of Segovia and is supposed to be the most important Roman structure in Spain. I have seen it countless number of times but never tire of seeing it. It really is an amazing feat of engineering and attracts tourists from all around the world.

The best place to have lunch in this medieval town which has been under the rule of the Celtics, Romans, Arabs and Christians, is at Mesón de Cándido. Here the most famous dish on offer is suckling pig. Their extensive menu also includes suckling lamb which is my favourite. Believe it or not my husband ordered tripe with chickpeas!!! 
Mesón de Cándido in Segovia which sits right next to the aqueduct
"Cándido" himself showed us to our table with a view as we requested. He deserves a mention as the owner of the restaurant. Alberto now at least 80, is the son of Cándido López who started the family business. He is quite eccentric and greets everyone personally. There are photos of him or his father next to kings and queens and famous people all over the walls of the quaint and old restaurant. We have been to Mesón de Cándido countless times too and never tire of it either.  It was funny to see how the other guests, mostly Chinese or of Asian extraction were tucking into suckling pig and using knives and forks. 
Eladio at Mesón  de Cándido
After lunch a good long walk was in order. So we walked the streets of medieval Segovia. Our first stop was the Plaza Mayor (every Spanish city has a main square) which is dominated by the Santa María Cathedral. It was consecrated in 1768 and was the last Gothic Cathedral to be built in Spain. We didn't go in as we have been in many times and I always find it freezing inside.
The Cathedral in Segovia as seen from the Alcázar (Royal Palace) inside the ancient city walls. 
From there we walked to the Alcázar (Royal Palace) which is quite a way. I love the Alcázar as it sums up just what a medieval castle should be like.It was first documented in 1122 but was devastated by fire in 1862 and thus built again. No wonder it is in such a good state. It was apparently the favourite residence of the Kings of Castille. Segovia was then considered the capital of Castille and it is in this city that the Catholic Queen Isabella I of Castille crowned herself Queen in 1475 following the death of her half brother Henry IV. I wonder if she celebrated the coronation in the Alcázar. I also imagine it must have been a very cold palace and castle with only fires to keep the court warm.  Segovia, I should mention, is one of Spain's coldest provinces nestled under the  Guadarrama mountains  with peaks of over 2000 metres high. 
The Alcázar in Segovia
It was getting cold and it was also time for our siesta so we walked all the way back to the aqueduct to get our car and drive back to the Parador. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening sleeping, reading and watching the TV in our room.  I had a bit of a headache and was not very hungry after lunch at Cándido, but dinner was free so we went down to the restaurant. The dining room is huge with lovely views of the skyline of the city or is it a town. Segovia is the capital of the province of the same name but only has some 56 thousand inhabitants. We were just 3 couples having dinner that night and the place seemed empty. But we weren't complaining as we had chosen to go on a Monday rather than at the weekend to avoid crowds. Thus we got perfect service. There were 3 waitresses for 3 tables hahaha. Both of us ate a very light dinner and I didn't touch the wine of course. 

Tuesday dawned and early in the morning the temperature was just 1ºc. Again I admired the views of the town from our room.  Before venturing out we went down for breakfast. In my mind possibly the best thing about staying in a good hotel is enjoying the breakfast and the Paradors do a very good breakfast buffet. Here is Eladio choosing his breakfast. He always goes for savoury and I always go for sweet. I have coffee, he has no drink - neither tea nor coffee and we both generally eat fruit. See how different we are hahaha.
Eladio choosing his breakfast at the Parador in Segovia on Tuesday morning. 
I especially enjoyed my breakfast which was a big break from the bowl of oat bran I have at home. I particularly enjoyed the pain au chocolat, my favourite. 

We were going to visit Pedraza that day, a medieval walled village, considered one of the most beautiful in Spain but first we would explore a bit more of Segovia. We had been told there were equally beautiful views of the town from an area called the Alameda where there are various monasteries and churches outside the ancient city walls and on hills above the town.  The city walls were built, I read later, around 1088 during the "Reconquista" or reconquest of Christian states in campaigns to recapture territory from the Moors.  Segovia must have been well fortified.
The ancient walls surrounding Segovia
So we drove to the Monastery of Santa María del Parral. Here we followed a little path up the hill called "el camino del asombro" (amazement hill) and it really was amazing. Here we could see the main monuments of Segovia but at a much closer distance than from the Parador. Particularly close was my favourite, the Alcázar.
The Alcázar as seen from the hills outside the city walls. 
In fact it looked so near you could nearly touch it. Here I tried a little creative photography and got Eladio to touch one of the spires. Oli congratulated me on my efforts hahaha.
Eladio touching one of the spires of the Alcazar from a hill above the city.
From the monastery we drove down to the old Casa de la Moneda (Mint) by the river Eresma. Here we parked and took a lovely walk along the river enjoying the autumn colours. We would need a long walk in between the Parador breakfast and lunch in Pedraza.
Eladio on our walk by the River Eresma in Segovia on Tuesday morning this week. 
From here we drove to Pedraza, a small walled medieval village some 37km from Segovia. It is one of the most beautiful villages in Spain but also one of the best conserved medieval villages in the country. With a population of just 500 it is made entirely of stone. There is not one glaring modern advert nor coca cola sign or any sign in fact of globalisation and that perhaps is why I like it so much. When we were first married we would often drive the 125km from Madrid to have lunch there. If Segovia is famous for its suckling pig, Pedraza is famous for its suckling lamb, my favourite, as you know. We went many times and even took my parents there. Then in the early 2000s I did a big European event for Nokia (for the NGage for those of you in the know) where we used the whole village one night. I shall never forget how beautiful the stoned streets and squares looked with the candles we laid on the paths. I had not been back since there and was keen to see the pretty stone village once again, this time with very few people. 
Pedraza, the walled medieval village we visited on Tuesday 
We walked around the beautifully kept streets admiring the stone houses and buildings as well as the castle and village walls. At the centre of everything though is the Plaza Mayor (I told you every town in Spain has one - it means "main square") which has probably not changed on the outside since it was built in medieval times during the Reconquista I think. I chose a picture of me in this square for this week's feature photo. 
The Plaza Mayor (main square) in medieval Pedraza
I was so glad to see that the village was totally unspoiled which is not something you see often in Spain. 
Eladio walking on one of the streets in Pedraza
It was cold and although we weren't very hungry it was time for lunch and after all it was what we had come to Pedraza to do. There were various places to choose from but the one that looked most thriving and attractive was the one in the main square, Horno de Asar El Soportal 
The restaurant where we had lunch in Pedraza. Our table was at the window you can see in the photo. 
Lunch was wonderful and inexpensive. We both ordered roast suckling lamb and this is what we got. If you are hungry it may make your tummy rumble, that is if you like lamb as much as I do.
Our roast lamb at El Soportal in Pedraza
With heavy stomachs we drove back to Segovia. It was a 30 minute drive on a beautiful sunny autumn day on a country road. But once back at the Parador we would see no sunshine until the next day. We had a siesta and at about 6pm it now gets dark. We watched the TV too and it was on Tuesday that the fugitive ex President of Catalonia, Carles de Puigdemont held a makeshift meeting in Brussels for pro independence mayors from Catalonia who only really went to show their support. Also invited were separatist mayors from other regions in Europe such as the Basque Country, French Catalonia, even Ireland and the Italian LIga Norte. If Puigdemont could have his way his Catalonia would also include French Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the Valencian region all of which the separatists call "Paisos catalans" (Catalan countries).  The mayors with their batons arrived on a chartered plane and there have been questions on how the trip was financed; hopefully not from Spanish taxpayers' money. 
The separatist mayors with their batons showing support for Puigdemont in Brussels this week
That night neither of us were hungry so, very unusually, we skipped dinner. In this week's headline I was going to call our trip a romantic winter break but later changed it.  Yes it was of course romantic but I think it was more gastronomic or should I use the word "foodie" so in common today? Yeah, I'll go for foodie hahaha. 

Wednesday came, the end of our winter break. It was another sunny day. I was up at 7 which is very late for me. I was happy to finally read an article against Catalonian independence in the left wing broadsheet The Guardian. Entitled "Carles Puiddemont gambled and failed" it was written by a professor not a journalist so maybe that explains the change of mind. In any case you can read the article here by George Kassimeris who is chair in security studies at the University of Wolverhampton.  

Once again we enjoyed breakfast and I posted this lovely photo of our table calling it "breakfast with a view". I never tired of the view of Segovia from the Parador.
Breakfast with a view at the Parador in Segovia
Just as I was packing to leave, I got some very good professional news, news that will make my professional life a little more stable.  I shall still be freelance which is what I want but I shall be working on a continuous basis now with one of my main customers. That was really good news. Oli had good news too. The programme she had filmed and edited about St. Petersburg had been given the thumbs up; i.e. no changes to be made. It will be broadcast by the way this Tuesday evening on Telemadrid. She would be off to The Maldives on Thursday night (lucky her) on a new programme assignment so we agreed to go out to dinner to celebrate that night. 

We were home on time for lunch and this time came the quick way on the A6. I don't remember what we had that day as I wasn't really hungry after all the eating in Segovia and Pedraza hahaha. What I do remember though was a lovely photo and call on whatsapp from 3 of my favourite ex colleagues who now work for Qvantel, Dragutin, Marta and Laura.
The photo my 3 ex colleagues sent to me on Wednesday
They wanted me to organise with them a Yoigo Christmas party and we agreed to meet on Friday. They suggested holding it at a gin distillery belonging to the husband of another ex colleague. Called Santamania it is doing very well and has recently opened a very cool venue in Las Rozas. I rang my ex colleague and she was happy to collaborate. I was also happy to hear her good news that she and another colleague who had been unfairly dismissed from Másmóvil after the takeover of Yoigo, had been compensated outside court. That will be good news for other colleagues who have also been fired and not given their due dismissal severance pay. 

That afternoon Eladio and I went on our walk with the dogs who had missed their walk while we were away. The cupboards were bare at home so I also did the weekly shopping helped by Lucy.  Once we had packed everything away it was time to get dressed to go out again and to dinner again, this time with Oli and Miguel. We would be going to Filandón a lovely restaurant I remember well from my Yoigo days. Quite plush, it prides itself on good quality  food and being a country restaurant in a town. Filandón in Spanish usually means a cosy gathering of people talking around a fire and table or in the kitchen after a meal and is a word often used in Montrondo. And cosy it is and beautiful too. It's a very large mansion type place set in grounds with open fires outside. Inside there are spreads of vegetables which look amazing.
I love the decor at the Filandón restaurant
Filandón restuarant where we went with Oli and Miguel on Wednesday night.
 I had expected it to be very expensive but it wasn't really and we all loved it so much we shall be going again soon. For Oli and Miguel it was a short drive home to where they live in Mirasierra. For us it was a bit longer as we live out in the sticks as many of you know hahaha. 

On Wednesday I should mention there was a general strike in Catalonia in favour of separatism and in protest for the politicians in prison or those who had fled justice to Brussels. It was not backed by the main trade unions but even so caused havoc. Some people used small children as human shields on motorways as you can see in the photo below. For me that was outrageous.
Children were used to block roads in the strike in Catalonia on Wednesday
Hundreds of radicalised students blocked the railways and interrupted the service of the high speed trains. More than 150.000 people were affected. In any normal circumstances, police would have used force to stop them but I suppose the central Government is now wary of using force after the criticism of what happened on 1st October in the illegal referendum. And yesterday, Saturday, there was yet another huge demonstration in favour of independence. I just wish those who are not in favour, the so-called silent majority, would be half as active or vocal as the separatists. 

Thursday was "La Almudena", a holiday in Madrid in honour of the patron saint of the city, Almudena. It felt like a Saturday. I cooked in the morning making coq au vin for lunch. I also made multi cereal loaves of bread and in between managed the walk with Eladio and the dogs. Here is my lovely bread.
The bread I baked on Thursday
I made a special effort as Olivia was coming for lunch and bringing the girls' oldest friend, Copi whom we don't see often these days as she now lives in Victoria. Oli was busy that day getting ready and packing for her trip to The Maldives. She was leaving that night for 9 days there. I must say she does have a dream job. She would fly first to Dubai on Emirates and again on the same airline onto Malé. I did not know the capital of the Maldives and had to learn it from Olivia who now knows a lot about this small Muslim country made up mostly of islands and a population of just 400.000 nestled underneath Sri Lanka and just a few hundred kilometres from India. I also learned it was an ex British colony which didn't surprise me. We wouldn't hear from her until Friday morning.  She was mostly looking forward to the good weather. Right now the maximum temperatures are around 29ºc and the minimum is 26ºc. 

She left and we got on with life. Who was fighting for her life (outside prison) that day was Carme Forcadell and 5 of her aides. She is the speaker of the ex Catalan Government and one of the main instigators of the unilateral declaration of independence. That day she faced questioning from the supreme court. In contrast to the government members who were imprisoned the previous week, she and her colleagues, answered questions (the others refused only answering to their lawyer). They even said the declaration was symbolic, not something the lady had said before and they agreed to abide to the Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution as well as not entering into any politics that go against it. She was granted bail for 150.000 euros which would be paid for by the separatist organisation ANC of which she was the previous President. She spent just one night in prison until her get out of jail card, the cheque from the ANC, was paid the next day. She got off lightly but of course still has to face a proper court case. Everyone said afterwards that she had lied to get out of jail and she had. She certainly did not appear at the demonstration on Saturday as advised  by her lawyer. 
Carme Forcadell arriving at the Spanish High Court on Wednesday

That night I was expecting 3 French Airbnb guests, 3 women who were coming for 3 nights. Later, Celine, the girl who did the booking, told me they had come to do a course at the local university on hearing aids of all things. Maybe I didn't hear right hahaha. 

As I waited for them to arrive I settled into bed and started watching a film I have had an eye on for a while now on Netflix. Called "First they killed my Father. A daughter of Cambodia remembers", it is directed by Angelie Jolie and reminds me very much of the film The Killing Fields also about Pol Pot's Khmer regime which killed 2 million people, a quarter of the country's population. 
 
Angelina Jolie's film about Cambodia

Set in 1975 it is the memoirs of 5 year old Loung Ung who was forced to be trained as a child soldier while her siblings were sent to labour camps during the dreadful regime of the deadly Khmer Rouge. After seeing the film I have downloaded the book written by Loung Ung as an adult. It makes for terrifying reading. 

When I was awake on Friday morning, Oli was still travelling. She wouldn't arrive in Malé until 11 in the morning Spanish time.

I missed my walk on Friday but walked a lot in the centre of Madrid instead. I went into the city to meet my ex colleagues from Yoigo. We met at their Qvantel offices bang in the centre of Madrid. Qvantel provides IT business services to telecom operators and is Finnish based. They only opened the office in Madrid very recently and I was amazed to see they already employ 70 people, my colleagues included. After seeing their offices we walked across the road to the Suecia (Sweden) hotel which was quite coincidental as Yoigo was Swedish owned and I had once done a press event there. It was great to see my colleagues and I think we have put in motion the organisation of a lovely Christmas party for all our ex colleagues and friends.
With my ex Yoigo colleagues on Friday
It was nice to dress up to go out, to walk the busy streets of Madrid and do something different for a change. I left at about 13h and walked from the Calle Alcalá to the Plaza de España where I would take the metro. On my way I couldn't help going into Zara where I spied a few items I liked but it was so busy I had no time for queuing and vowed to go to my local branch the next day. 

That afternoon I had a conference call with my telco customer. I was also happy to hear another Yoigo colleague who had been unfairly dismissed, had been employed by them too. They are very much into google and so the conference call was using Hangouts. It was a first for me but I soon got the hang of it hahaha. 

Saturday was another sunny day. I got to meet the other 2 French Airbnb guests who I hadn't even seen as they had arrived at midnight, hours after Celine arrived on Thursday night. Finally on Saturday we got news from Olivia. She sent us a photo of her with a young Spanish pilot of a hydroplane who will feature in the programme. She flew in the plane with him over resort islands which looked just like paradise.
Oli in the Maldives - here with the Spanish pilot who will feature in her programme.
She told us the capital Male was nothing special but that the resorts were beautiful. She doesn't have much wifi so news from her will be sporadic.

As I had promised myself on Friday, I went to our local Zara branch yesterday afternoon. Funnily enough I could not find the items I had seen in the branch in the centre. But I did buy myself a black and white striped jumper haha. I also got some winter leggings from Calzedonia. And before heading home I went into Carrefour to get some smoked salmon for dinner - theirs is the best in the world - as well as some cabbage and minced meat for Zena, our Ukrainian weekend carer, to make "gloubtsy" for lunch today (stuffed cabbage rolls). 

And today is Sunday and I seem to have been writing this blog post on and off all day. I said goodbye to our French Airbnb guests early this morning who will be returning in 2 week's time. Then I went for a lovely sunny walk with Eladio and the dogs. I say lovely but there were weekend hunters shooting rabbits and pigeons and Eladio said it sounded like warfare. Thankfully they don't shoot on the path but you never know if a bullet might go stray. Zena's "gloubtsy" was divine. It is one of my Father and I's favourite dishes. 

The week coming will be busy and will include a day trip to Barcelona for work purposes on Wednesday. I do hope there will be no strike that day and no disruption of the high speed train service. 

So my friends and readers, I have come to the end of the tales of this week. I hope you enjoy the stories. Of course there will be more tales in next week's post.

Meanwhile I wish you all the best,
Cheers Masha. 



Sunday, November 05, 2017

Puigdemont’s circus arrives in Brussels, I was sexually harassed too, a cake for Lucy, All Saints’ Day with Oli, RIP Aitor and other tales of the week.

Sunday 5th November 2017
Making home made pizza on Saturday. Cooking and baking are such rewarding and relaxing activities. 
Hi everyone.

It's November again. I have lived 60 Novembers and it's never been my favourite month. My favourite month is definitely June when spring turns to summer. Today though is 5th November, a date etched in my mind with good memories as a child in Yorkshire enjoying the activities of Guy Fawkes day aka bonfire night. That's one of the English things I miss while living in Spain. Another date I miss is Shrove Tuesday, aka pancake day. I brought my girls up on many English traditions but sadly not those two. What I don' like though is Halloween, that American tradition that started after I left England in the early 80's and which has caught on here too in Spain. It was Halloween this week and I largely ignored it. 

But let me go back to last Sunday when it was still October and the first day of "daylight saving" time, another day which I don't like as it plays around with my body clock. It certainly didn't stop the huge crowds of anti independence supporters demonstrating for unity in Spain that day in Barcelona. 
An image of the huge demonstration in Barcelona last Sunday in favour of the unity of Spain. 
What was a bit embarrassing for its supporters was the defeat of Real Madrid by the Gerona football team - a team at the bottom of the league and which is Puigdemont's home town and of course he is a supporter. That win was a symbolic win by Catalonia against Madrid.  Who was to know that the deposed ex President of the proclaimed and dismissed Republic of the region, was to flee from facing the courts the next day to Belgium?  He was to cause a diplomatic headache between Spain and Belgium, make a complete fool of himself as well as anger his political allies for having abandoned the ship so to speak. He brought the whole independence circus to Brussels. That was the story of the week in Spain and in Europe. 

But another story was being told on the TV that night on a different channel. The Undercover Boss programme I had featured in for Yoigo in September 2015 was being broadcast for the umpteenth time. I wish I was being paid royalties hahaha but I signed my rights away when I signed a contract with the producer Warner Bros. They didn't give me any other option. 
A shot of me featuring in the Undercover Boss programme for Yoigo which was broadcast again on TV last Sunday for the umpteenth time. 
Immediately people started writing to me on all the different social media platforms, many asking for a job or to help with a problem with their deficient phone of phone line. All I could do was tell them I had been fired from the company so lovingly portrayed on the TV that night.  On the other hand some people wrote just to tell me how much they liked me in the programme which was much appreciated. 

If the biggest story in Spain was the flight of Puigdemont, the biggest story, at least in the US and the UK were about sexual harassment in Hollywood and at the Houses of Parliament in London. If I haven't written about this before, when the news unfolded after accusations against Hollywood producer, the now infamous Harvey Weinstein, it was because it's not my favourite subject. 
Harvey Weinstein, the dirty old man from Hollywood. 
It's sordid and unpleasant and brings back nasty personal memories I largely try to forget. However as actor upon actor, be that Kevin Spacey of House of Cards or my once beloved Dustin Hoffman and now Members of Parliament, including the Minister for Defense, Michael Fallon, have been accused of sexual harassment, I think it is about time I also came out from the cold. Recently there was a campaign on social media where women all over the world posted two words on their status; "me too" meaning they too had been subjected to sexual harassment.  I posted those words and so did many of my friends. No, it's not just Hollywood actresses, it is probably the majority of women. All my life I have been the target of what I call "dirty old men". At the age of 12, I was groomed by our local and middleaged postman, Mr. Fox who finally dragged me into a shed and lunged at me with his horrible slobbery mouth and thick moustache. I screamed so much I must have surprised him and was able to get away. I never told anyone. I never told anyone either when I was 17 and our local Anglican priest forced another slobbery and unwanted kiss on me. At school a young Irish teacher tried to sexually assault me and thanks to my brother who walked in at the precise moment I was saved. In France, on school and on inter rail trips, I was leered at by Algerian men at  train stations in Paris. At University I was leered at too by Professor Tate, head of Spanish at Nottingham University as well as by Dr. Cardwell also of the Spanish department who once lunged at me too and I had to force his horrible fat arms off me. And no I never told anyone about that either. I even began to think it was my fault when aged only 15, my Mother's lecherous colleagues, prestigious lecturers of Russian at Leeds University, ogled at me at my parent's parties. Their wives noticed I can tell you but no one else. They made me feel guilty as if it was my fault that I attracted these sleazy dirty old men. Sexual harassment continued to happen to me even at work. But only, thankfully until I was married. But of course, by then I was 26 and not so attractive to these predators who had their eyes on younger women. Perhaps by then, I was more aware of how to deal with them and of course would no longer keep it to myself. These sleazes know that too and thus harass the young and vulnerable as it's easier to get away with.   And, so as women all over the world are coming out from the cold, I too hope that with my story, we can all contribute to the fall of this disgusting behaviour by sleazy and dirty old men who will now find it more and more difficult to get away with.  It has taken me more than 40 years to tell this story and I only wish I had told it before, to my Mother when I was aged 12. Then perhaps there would be fewer Mr. Foxes around. Hopefully young girls and boys will have more courage than me and the practice will not only wain but will be no longer acceptable as people thought it probably was 40 years ago. I can tell you that it was not acceptable to me when I was aged 12. It devastated me and has lived with me forever after. 

But my mind wasn't on that story on Monday. That morning I was busy  compiling a media coverage report for my Barcelona based telco operator customer. I was pretty happy to report that I had garnered 37 articles, the equivalent advertising spend of just under 100.000 euros.  My work was interrupted though when I heard that Carles Puigdemont and 5 of his ex-counsellors had fled to Brussels, presumably to request political asylum. He astounded everyone in Spain. What the hell was he doing there? The obvious reason was to escape facing the courts for rebellion, sedition, embezzlement, disobedience and prevarication after organising an illegal referendum and declaring independence,  crimes that he faces justice for. He is a coward and a clown. But more about him later. 

On our walk that evening and, sadly, it now gets dark at just after 6pm, we found someone's smartphone on the path. I picked it up just as someone called it; the wife of the owner who had been on the same walk as us and was out looking for it. When we gave it back to him, both he and his wife were extremely grateful. I could imagine his relief, as I too had recently lost my phone and thanks to an honest person, got it back again. The incident made me reflect on how well brought up I was. My parents instilled honesty in me and for the most part of my life I have been honest. However, I also reflected to myself, what would I have done if I had found an envelope with a large amount of money in it? So far it has never happened so I have no answer to my own question hahaha. 


On Tuesday, Halloween, Puigdemont held a surprise press conference in Brussels. The Belgian government refused to let him use their press premises so the chaotic event was held at the Brussels Press association, a venue fit for 80 people, not the more than 300 present. The whole event was chaotic and badly organised. 

Puigdemont's circus arrives in Brussels as portrayed by this chaotic press conference he held there at the beginning of the week. 
The man himself, as ambiguous and disorganised as ever, arrived late and then decided to speak in 4 languages, French, Catalán, English and Spanish. Eladio and I watched it live on my iPad finding it very difficult to understand what he was trying to say. He then only allowed questions from chosen international and Catalan media. He told the astonished press that he was in the Belgian capital not to seek asylum or escape justice. That was a total lie as his first call of port was to see the Belgian lawyer famous in Spain for representing Basque terrorists. He also said he was in the EU capital to internationalise the cause for  Catalonia and that he would not return to Spain until he had guarantees of a fair trial. He accuses the Spanish courts of being in cahoots with the Government and there he is totally wrong. What he doesn't want to face to is imprisonment for his deeds and he is a coward and also a clown as he is turning into being the laughing stock of Spain and many parts of Europe. Neither the EU nor the Belgian government have given him shelter. There are lots of jokes going around and the one I like best is the one that likens him to Tintin, the Belgian comic hero.
Puigdemont fleeing like Tintin
Eladio and I have been glued to the news this week as Puigdemont and his circus are like a an addictive soap opera. You never know what is coming next and it gets more and more absurd. 

Totally oblivious to the main subject of news in Spain, was Paulo, our Airbnb triathlon Brazilian guest. It was his last day with us on Tuesday. He wasn't flying back to Brazil until late that night but I happily let him stay with us until he needed to go instead of "checking out" at 1pm. He has been a pleasure to host and a bundle of fun. It was quite a coincidence that that day Eladio would be giving his weekly lesson in philosophy to his Brazilian pupil, Luciano. So on Tuesday afternoon we had 2 Brazilians in our house and of course we introduced them both to each other. It was quite a fun moment. Lucy, our Paraguayan home help and my Father's carer, was there too and I thought it would be very appropriate to immortalise the moment with a selfie of all of us together. So here we are, Europe and South America united in one photo.
The fun moment when our Brazilian Airbnb guest Paulo meets Eladio's Brazilian student Luciano. Europe and South America united in one photo at our house hahaha. 
As Paulo was preparing to leave, I was in the middle of making a cake for Lucy's birthday the next day and also making more bread. It was a busy and happy afternoon for me. My bread turned out wonderfully. This time I made multi cereal loaves. And here they are. Olivia would be coming the next day, All Saints' Day, and she is the person who most appreciates my new addiction hahaha.
My multi cereal bread loaves
Just as Paulo was probably starting his flight back to Brazil, people all over the world were celebrating Halloween and perhaps nowhere as intensely as in the US. However it was to be a nightmare and bloodshed night in New York when a lone wolf ISIS terrorist drove a hired van into a cycling lane in lower Manhattan, near the memorial to the Twin Towers. He killed 8 people and injured many more. 5 of the dead were a group of Argentinian friends. After smashing into a school bus, 29 year old Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek citizen, who cried out "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), was shot and caught by the police before he could do more harm. 
The terrorist ban in Manhattan on Tuesday night after it smashed into a school bus. 
These lone wolf ISIS van attacks of pedestrians are the new way of creating terror and they are difficult to predict or to stop. What an awful night for New Yorkers.

Wednesday was All Saint's Day and Oli would be joining us for the day which was a national holiday in Spain. It was also Lucy's birthday, her 53rd. Knowing she had to work that day and that she is so far from her kids in Paraguay, I went all out to make it a special day for her. She would,  though, also be celebrating this weekend with her sisters in Madrid. I had made the victoria sponge cake the day before and in the morning, before our walk and Oli came, I turned it into a proper birthday cake. I sliced it into two to make a "sandwich" which I filled with raspberry jam and whipped cream. I then put icing made with fresh raspberries on the top and decorated it with miniature meringues and more raspberries. Here you can see all the steps taken to create Lucy's birthday cake.
The steps to make Lucy's birthday cake. 
Lucy loved it and so did Oli when she came but of course we wouldn't touch it until lunch. We also had presents and a card which are mandatory in our house for birthdays. Lucy was very happy and emotional to receive them. I was happy to see her happy and she deserved all the efforts we made for her that day as she looks after my Father so well.

Suzy was also working that day but in London, for the NHS. 1st November is not a bank holiday in the UK. She sent me this photo of her at work which I am happy to share with you here. 
Suzy at work on Wednesday 
So I had the pleasure of the company of one daughter, Olivia, that day.  We went for a walk with together with Eladio and the dogs and then she helped me to make lunch. I can't remember what we had but I do remember how happy we made Lucy when we lit the candles on her cake. Here she is having her birthday cake moment. The cake, by the way, was out of this world.
Lucy's birthday cake moment. 
Apart from our walk and lunch together, we went shopping to Ikea in the afternoon. Shopping with my girls is one of  my favourite pastimes and of course Oli and I both love Ikea. We went to get towels for her flat and also new bed linen for her bed here at home. Hers, from Zara Home, was getting very old as we bought it in 2006 when we moved into this house. Shopping at Ikea is always dangerous for your purse and although I tried to restrain myself, there was no way I was leaving without shopping at the food store. There I got chocolates for my Father, smoked salmon, meat balls, jams of all sorts, especially cloudberry jam, again for my Father, as well as prawns. Its difficult to find peeled and cooked prawns or shrimps in Spain but you can always get them at Ikea. And here is a photo to record our trip to Ikea on All Saints Day this Wednesday.
Shopping with Oli  at Ikea on All Saints' Day
We came home with our purchases and the first thing we did, after giving my Father his chocolates, was to change Oli's bed linen. This is the new look; black and white stripes. In fact it's the same duvet cover as the one we have in our room in Montrondo but Oli and I both agreed it was the one we liked best for her room which has a lot of black and white.
New bed linen for Oli's bedroom 
The option for dinner that night was an easy decision to make. I served a lovely prawn salad which we all enjoyed, made the Swedish way.  

If Wednesday was All Saint's' Day, Thursday was All Souls' Day, the day people traditionally visit their loved ones' graves. However, in Spain, at least, they do this much more now a days on All Saints' Day. So the news was full of images of cemeteries and people taking flowers to graves. 

All Souls' Day here in Spain will be remembered for because it was the day Judge Carmen Lamela remanded in custody, the VP of the ex Catalan Government, Oriol Junqueras and 7 of the ex counsellors, including two of those who accompanied Puigdemont to Belgium. 
The ex members of the Catalan government as they arrived at the courts on Thursday
They were remanded in custody, i.e. sent to jail, pending a court case, because the judge feared they would flee the country, like Puigdemont. Only one of them was given bail, Santi Villa, who had resigned from his post one day before the illegal proclamation of independence. Another reason for remanding them in custody was the fear of their destroying evidence and continuing their crimes. Their being sent to jail is no favour to the Spanish government because it will be fuel for the followers of independence. Many of the separatists denounced the move as anti democratic and accused the government of the harsh judicial treatment. However, they forget it is not the government who has a say in the legal system here, however much they want that to be portrayed abroad. Really I was not sorry for them. They knew the consequences they faced when they started their defiant fight for legal independence and were warned many times. Ada Colau, the left wing mayoress of Barcelona, said on Twitter it was a black day for Catalonia as the democratically elected government members had been imprisoned and she called for the freedom of "political prisoners". Many people pointed out they were not political prisoners but "politician prisoners". Socialist politician, Guillermo Fernandez Vara replied it was a black day, the consequence of black days caused because some people decided to act against the law. I totally agree. Meanwhile, the same judge began preparations for a European arrest warrant for the fugitives in Brussels. 

From the moment of the ex government members' detainment, Eladio and I remained glued to the TV through the afternoon and until late after dinner until we could take no more.  The plot was thickening and no one knew or knows how the story will end. 

Friday was a grey day but we got some sun on our walk. Devoid of any more interesting news in the Puigdemont tales, I turned to reading again. I started reading the book I had bought for my Father, Thirteeen Years at the Russian Court (a Personal Record of the Last Years and Death of the Czar Nicholas II And His Family) by the last Tsar's children's French tutor, Pierre Gilliard. It is very interesting but it's a book and the typeface is small which is difficult for my eyes. I far prefer reading on my Kindle where I can enlarge the typeface to my heart's content.  This month is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Russian revolution so it seems fitting to be reading these stories from a 100 years ago. As I commented to my Father at lunch this week, there are no longer any people left who were alive then and all we have now are history books. It is the same for the sinking of the Titanic and the First World War and very soon there will be no one left alive who remembers the Second World War. I find that very sad.  

Oli made our day on Friday by suggesting dinner out with her. In fact she treated us to a wonderful dinner at an Asturian restaurant in Pozuelo. Called Carus, it has one of the biggest menus I have ever seen at a restaurant. 
The tables at the restaurant called Carus in Pozuelo where we went with Oli on Friday night.
We loved the place, and although we had been once a while ago, we shall now probably add it to our list of favourite places to have dinner at on Fridays. Thanks Oli, it was wonderful. 

We came home to more news about Puigdemont's flight to Belgium. On Friday evening he appeared in an interview on Belgium TV. He told the spectators he would stand as his party candidate to govern Catalonia (PdeCat) in the elections to take place on 21st December. On the one side he says he is the legitimate leader of the Republic of Catalonia and on the other that he will take part in the elections for the Catalonian autonomy of Spain. It's difficult to know what he is playing at. As he was talking, the European arrest warrant was issued. He also said, as he has said repeatedly, that he wants guarantees of a fair trial in Spain. What he wants is freedom and immunity. But that he must understand this is not in the hands of Rajoy but in the hands of the Judges. I found out that night on TV that when he had negotiated with Rajoy before the application for direct rule (article 155 of the Spanish constitution), he had agreed to call elections if it was not applied. If he had done that he would still be in power but he asked for the impossible too: that his status stayed the same, that his money and property would remain intact and that he would have legal immunity.  Doesn't he realise that politics and the legal system are separate in a democratic country like Spain? He is trying to tell the world otherwise. He and his cronies have brought this upon themselves. The international media, who don't usually really understand the whole story and have a somewhat sympathetic view of Puigdemont as a victim of "Spanish fascism", have an exception in Robert Schrimsley, a journalist from the Financial Times. He wrote an excellent and tongue in cheek article this week which I urge you to read, if only for you to have a laugh. The BBC, on the other hand, have disappointed me with their bias in reporting and I even saw a Twitter post from them asking their audience to vote on whether Spain was fascist or not!! Franco died more than 40 years ago and there has been no fascism since then but call a dog a bad name is what it's all about, apart from gaining luring headlines.  

Saturday came and while Oli went swimming, Eladio, the dogs and I went on our walk. I came home to make a pizza, including the dough and Oli was back on time to help me with the final stages. She caught me on camera too and that is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. Cooking and baking are so relaxing and rewarding. I'm afraid the shape is not perfect but I must say the pizza tasted delicious.
Yesterday's home made pizza
A bit put off by the tiny typeface of my book, I turned to Netflix yesterday for my afternoon entertainment.  I chose to watch a documentary called The Keepers about the killing of a nun and school teacher Cathy Cesnik, aged just 25, in 1969 in Baltimore. I had no idea it was also about sexual abuse and am finding it rather uphill. 

And today of course is 5th November, Guy Fawkes day and I'm at the end of the tales of this week. But not quite. I was upset to hear this morning from a journalist colleague, MAM, that another journalist colleague, Aitor Urraca, had died yesterday, aged just 51, of a heart attack in Boadilla near where we live. 
RIP Aitor Urraca
I was shocked and upset. I have known Aitor since my Motorola days when he always came to my press events. He wrote for a publication called On Off and he continued to come to my press events when I went on to be the Nokia and latterly the Yoigo Comms Director. He was a charming man, very polite, the perfect gentleman and loved by everyone. He was of course a good journalist but he was also a wonderful, kind and caring person. If I conjure up in my mind, as I do every now and again, images of my professional past, he is in those images. All I can say is RIP Aitor, you will be sorely missed by us all in the sector and so much more by your family.  

The story of Puigdemont turned an exciting page again today just before lunch. He and his fellow counsellers, turned themselves into the Belgian police. The chief Belgian prosecutor made a statement on TV at midday to say they had been detained and would be put before an investigative judge who would have 24 hours to decide whether to execute the warrant issued by Spain. They could either  be arrested, released under conditions or granted bail and we now have to wait until Monday for the next chapter in this Catalonian soap opera story.  

And now I really have come to the end of my story of this week. But just let me finish today's post by giving you the heads up that Eladio and I will be off on a jolly tomorrow until Wednesday.  We will be going to stay at the Parador in Segovia to use the smartbox voucher my ex Yoigo colleagues gave me for my birthday as well as the points I had from their loyalty scheme "amigos del parador". We will have to wrap up well as the lowest temperatures are going to be around zero. No doubt, next Sunday, you will read all about our adventures in medieval Segovia and surroundings. As they say, a change is as good as a rest, and I am looking forward to our little winter break. 

Cheers till next week,
Masha