Sunday, March 18, 2018

To Santa Pola for the week, RIP Gabriel, the new cold war, walks on the beach and to the lighthouse, RIP Stephen Hawking, home again and other stories.

Sunday 18th March, 2018
Enjoying the view from the lighthouse cliffs in Santa Pola  
Good morning everyone.

Wow, another week has gone by and pretty quickly too. Since I last wrote we have been to Santa Pola, to escape the bad weather, and back and here I am writing from home. This time last Sunday we were having breakfast with Oli and Miguel. To celebrate her return home from Mexico, my youngest daughter had a whim for "churros" for breakfast. Eladio and I obliged and went to buy them at our local "churrería". I offered some to our young Argentinian Airbnb guest, Esteban who is a professional car racer. He preferred my more healthy wholemeal home made bread. He's a nice guy and is a pleasure to have as a guest. He returned this Thursday and will be staying with us again in April and bringing his girlfriend with him. 

The main international news that day and over the past week or so, is of tension with Russia in the UK over the poisoning with a dreadful nerve gas of an ex Russian spy and his daughter living in Salisbury. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia were found on a bench in that quiet British town after collapsing from an attack by a dreadful nerve gas called "Novochok", a chemical developed apparently only in Russia. They are now fighting for their lives in hospital with the added complication that there is no known antidote for this type of chemical. Blaming the Russians, Theresa May  said the UK would not tolerate threats to British lives by Russia on British soil. The Russians have claimed innocent. Since then 23 Russian diplomats have been expelled and later this week the Russians retaliated. I asked my Father, an expert on all things Russian, what he thought and he replied simply that this was a return to the Cold War. It is and I added that it had never really left us.

Today there will be presidential elections in the USSR and it is very probably that Putin will be reelected for the 4th time. I don't like the man. He is very dangerous. However he is popular in Russia or perhaps people only vote for him because they don't dare do anything else. When Olivia was in St. Petersburg, one of her interviewees, a priest who has lived in Russia for many years, told her that many people thought Putin was actually only a puppet President, put there and manipulated by the ex powers of the KGB. Whatever the case, he is the new Tsar of Russia and the tension with the West is only looking to escalate. 

But perhaps the biggest international news this week, went unnoticed, and that was the announcement that in China, the President, Xi Jinpeng would now in effect be able to be in power for life. I feel sorry for the Chinese. He sounds like the new Mao Tse Tung. 

After reading the news and as soon as breakfast was over, I did all the preparations needed for our trip to Santa Pola. At about 11.45, off we went, taking little Pippa with us. We stopped for lunch at one of our favourite places on the road to Alicante, Mesón Los Rosales. As I opened the car door a huge gust of wind nearly impeded my exiting the car and it was a very cold blast too. We were encountering the hazards of "Storm Felix" which thankfully would hardly affect the Costa Blanca on the South East coast of Spain. We were heading there basically to avoid the bad weather. Meanwhile a new storm was threatening, Storm Giselle. When will they stop I wonder?

Just as we left, I read on my phone the dreadful news that Gabriel Cruz, the 8 year old boy from Almeria who went missing on 27th February had been found dead in the boot of his step mother's car, Ana Julia Quezada. She was the main suspect from the very beginning and the police had been following her and caught her on camera lifting the child's body from the grounds of the boy's father's property where she had killed, buried and hid him for 12 days, meanwhile faking the distressed step mother. 

The story of Gabriel has hit the nation hard and caught its attention throughout the search for the little boy and the aftermath of his death. I, like many many people in Spain,  have followed the case throughout. It has been the biggest search ever on Spanish soil for a missing child. Over 2000 police and some 3000 volunteers took part. Meanwhile the little boy's Mother, a loving and charismatic woman, Patricia, has also caught the hearts of the nation. She practically led the search. From the very beginning, the main suspect was the partner of her ex husband, Angel, Ana Julia Quezada, a 35 year old black woman from The Dominican Republic. We now know she killed the little boy, most probably because of jealousy, and thankfully she is now in prison facing a court case  for killing him.  We also now know that when he left his Grandmother's house to go and play with his cousins, she followed him and made him go with her to her father's property in the country. In her words which the police doubt, they had an argument and the little boy hit her with an axe. In apparent "self defence", she hit him on the head and then suffocated him and finally hid him under rocks and stones and left him there until last Sunday when she went to get his little body to move it elsewhere, afraid the police would find it. She is now accused of pre meditated murder, having dug the hole to bury her step son's body before killing him. And everyone accepts that the little boy who was very obedient, would never have threatened her. 

During the whole case, she put on a complete farce pretending to help look for the little boy she had actually killed. She has turned out to be the witch in the story of the end of the life of an innocent little boy, the worst step mother in the world. It has been a huge media case in Spain and we would hear more during the week. Gabriel loved the sea and loved fish. Thus the police dubbed the operation "operación Nemo" after the name of the film Finding Nemo.  
The parents hugging and the photo of their son Gabriel behind them. 
Drawings of fish have come to symbolise the little boy. He will not be forgotten. His mother in all her appearances wore the turquoise woolen scarf his grandmother had knit for him and which was his favourite. She finally took it off the day of his funeral and gave it to Juan Ignacio Zoido, the Spanish Minister of the Interior. She wanted him to have it in gratitude for his constant support. Amazingly this big burly Andalusian Spanish politician was emotionally overwhelmed by the gesture. He himself lost a child aged 17 in a car accident a few years ago and could perfectly understand Patricia's tragedy. For me he is a hero, as are all the Guardia Civil forces who carried out the most impeccable investigation for the whole of Spain to see. If I ever had doubts about their professionalism, they were swept away this week. 

I couldn't get the story out of my mind it upset me so much. The hardest thing in the world for any parent must be to lose their child. 

But life continued for us and I consider myself always very fortunate. We arrived at our flat near Santa Pola, some 13km from Alicante at about 5 pm to sun but wind. It was 21ºc. It was strange to find a window open in the flat. We must have not closed the latch. There is no other explanation. We settled in and when Eladio put on the new electric radiator we had bought and the gas stove, the flat was soon warm. It rained a bit but thankfully soon stopped. But it was too windy and cold for a walk. Besides, Eladio had left his coat behind in Madrid. Instead we watched the TV to follow the developments of the case of Gabriel Cruz. I went outside to take Pippa to do "her business" and took some photos of the gardens, pool and the sea beyond. Our flat is in a complex of white apartments on a cliff overlooking a long and natural beach with no housing. There are few beaches left like that these days. 
With Pippa in the gardens of our apartment complex the day we arrived
I was happy to see a new Airbnb reservation on my phone as we were out in the gardens. A Scottish family from Edinburgh has booked our place for a weekend in July. I now have 13upcoming reservations from now until August. Oli says, "who would want to come and stay here?"  Well amazingly, quite a few people. 

We had a quiet dinner that night. In fact we never went out to dinner, preferring to eat at home, me in my pyjamas, and then watch TV, usually series and films on either Netflix or Amazon Video Prime. But that night we watched traditional TV, the weekly programme called Salvados, conducted by, who for me is one of Spain's best journalists, Jordi Evole. That night we saw him interview a Romanian girl called Amelia Tiganus who had been forced into prostitution and is now fighting against it. What a story. The programme was about the trafficking of prostitutes in Spain, nearly all of whom come from Nigeria, Romania, Paraguay and Bulgaria, most of them with the promise of a normal job. Spain is the country in Spain which consumes the most prostitution and there is legal limbo when it comes to the  prosecution of these girls' captors. What a horror story.

It was better to watch fiction. So later we saw the final episode of The Night Manager.  We went to bed feeling warm thanks to the new radiator. 

Monday brought the sun and we were able to have breakfast on the terrace contemplating the view of the garden and the sea beyond. The trees have grown so much since we bought the flat in 1999 that they now nearly hide the view of the sea beyond.

Being a Monday in March there was hardly anyone on the beach when we went down with Pippa for our first walk along the "Carabasi beach" which we love. Dogs are not allowed but no one cares in the winter so Pippa enjoyed the experience although she wouldn't go anywhere near the water after having taken one taste hahaha. It was sunny and windy but not particularly cold. The temperature at midday most of the time we were there was about 20ºc, much warmer than in Madrid.
On the empty beach with Pippa on Monday
We came home to lamb stew for lunch which I had prepared before our walk on the beach. Later in the afternoon we would go on another walk, this time to the lighthouse cliffs nearby. In fact we would repeat both walks nearly every day of our stay. It was sunny and warmer as the wind had dropped. I just love the views from the cliffs which are stunning. Here is Eladio sitting on a bench and posing for this photo together with Pippa who never left our side. The photo illustrating this week's post is of me on a bench on the cliffs contemplating the view. 
Eladio on the lighthouse cliffs with little Pippa
Just as we walked into the flat returning from our walk, I was pleased to see another Airbnb booking, this time from a German family who will be coming in June. I have to admit I really enjoy being a host for Airbnb, mostly because I get to meet really nice people from all over the world, literally. 

I will also be travelling in June as this week Sandra, my Nottingham University friend who lives in Brussels, has invited Adele, fellow Uni friend, and myself to her 60th. She is going to celebrate it at her brother's luxury bed and breakfast home in Tuscany, about 40 minutes from Milan. Ever since Sandra told us about his place, both Adele and I have been dying to stay at Villa Arabella.  It's going to be a real "girly weekend" and Adele and I shall be staying in the Blue Room which looks just gorgeous. So that evening after our walk, I bought my air tickets to Milan. That is going to be one long weekend to look forward to. Can't wait Sandie and Adele!

For dinner I made a healthy spinach omelette after which we watched TV using the Leelbox Android TV box I bought recently. For the wifi I had to connect it to my phone. In just 5 days or so, I used up about 9 gigas of my 20 giga monthly mobile tariff. That's quite a lot. Streaming uses a lot of bandwidth.  Our choice that night was Collateral on Netflix. I had a headache most of the day and watching TV and headaches is not a good combination. In fact I had a headache from Monday onward and it is still bugging me. Eladio reckons it has to do with being at sea level. Maybe he's right. 

Tuesday was 13th March, traditionally an unlucky day in Spain, the equivalent of Friday 13th. Well, we weren't unlucky that day. I don't think my continued headache really counts. We had breakfast in the sun on the terrace again, one of the highlights of being at our beach flat. After reading the news (we are news freaks hahaha), it was time to do some food shopping but thankfully not a lot as I had brought loads of provisions from home. We went to the proverbial Mercadona, the most popular supermarket in Spain which is not actually my favourite. However the one in this area was completely revamped in the autumn and is now pristine and has  a lot more variety than its Madrid counterparts. The guy serving us the wonderful ham we bought told us that all of the supermarkets would be revamped in the same style eventually. I was impressed and Mercadona has gone up now in my estimation. We also went to Quicksave, the small British supermarket directly opposite our house for a few English provisions. It is one of the few shops in the area that has been there for years; most of the others don't last long and are soon rented by other hopeful shopkeepers. 

That morning we went for another walk on our beach. 
The walkway to our beach, love it. 
That day there was no wind and I think it was the only time I walked with just a t-shirt on enjoying the air and sun. Once again we had the beach nearly to ourselves. Not so for Pippa as there were plenty of other dogs which for once she didn't bark at.  I took lots of photos as always and particularly like this one of Eladio walking with Pippa in front. 
Eladio on the beach with Pippa. 
From this beach you can see our apartment blocks up on the cliffs. We bought the apartment in 1999 and have never regretted it although we don't go as often as we would like.
The view of our apartment block from the beach
We did lots of walking this week in Santa Pola, to make up for the walks lost due to the heavy rain in Madrid. And true to tradition, once again we walked to the lighthouse cliffs and back that afternoon just before sunset. The sun sets around 7 or 7.15 pm now but next Sunday the clocks go back and we shall have another hour of daylight. Hurray.
The Santa Pola lighthouse on the cliffs which still works. 
Wednesday dawned. I was up at 6.50. Just a few hours earlier in Cambridge, where I was born, Britain's best known scientist, Stephen Hawking died peacefully at his home there aged 76. Diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) that attacked his muscle function at the age of 22, he was told he had about 2 years to live. However, the scientist who was known for his work with black holes and relativity, defied science himself by living 55 years more. He rose to fame when he wrote the book A brief history of time but I also think he was possibly more famous for being a crippled scientist. He had to learn to talk through a machine and in the end could only move one tiny muscle in his face to speak through the voice synthesiser. He himself once said "who can resist the idea of a crippled genius?".  Most people would have given up on life but not Stephen. He had to much to contribute to science and in the end he dumbfounded science itself. He was larger than life too. It's amazing how he formed a family and was married twice. His second wife was his nurse and I wonder what it was that attracted him to her. I really do. I also admire his first wife for taking on Stephen, his extreme disability and his physics. Indeed his story is remarkable and he will never ever be forgotten. RIP Stephen Hawking, you make me proud of my birth country.
Who can forget this image of Stephen Hawking?
Life carried on as it does, thank goodness, and that day I suggested to Eladio that we break with routine and do something different. I suggested we went to Benidorm, that tourist megalopolis on the Costa Blanca that tourists and senior citizens, many on their mobility scooters, flock to from colder parts of Europe practically all year round. If you haven't been there it is hard to describe. Perhaps the best way to define it is as the Blackpool of Spain. In many ways it is totally un-Spanish and  I hate its fish and chips shops, semi British pubs and all that it does to cater to the worst of Europe's tourists. However, it has its charms, mainly the two vast and well kept beaches, Playa de Levante and Playa de Poniente. Also it has a place in our hearts as it was on these beaches that our love story was first forged. 

Ours was a summer love story that lasted, unlike most. We first met in the summer of 1980, shortly after I had graduated during a brief meeting in Madrid at Eladio's brother's flat. We then spent time together at my parents' summer house in Callosa de Ensarria in the mountains of the Alicante province, together with his brother's family. Within about 2 days I had fallen in love with Eladio who would become the love of my life. He, apparently, fell in love  the moment he set his eyes on me. Our love flourished on the beaches of Benidorm, in particular at two bars, El Cachirulo on the Levante Beach in the town and at the Vimi bar on the Poniente Beach, further out of Benidorm. So in a way it was like going back to the scene of our crime this week when we visited the old town and the Levante Beach. We had been back many times but hardly ever to the centre, always preferring the Poniente beach. It's such a cheesy working class coastal tourist trap and neither of us has ever liked Benidorm but as it holds a place in our hearts we were happy to revisit it on Wednesday. 

At this time of year it is full of retired people. It wasn't very warm, just 19 or so degrees but there were plenty of Brits on the beach hoping for a ray of sunshine. I suppose they found it warm compared to home. For me it was quite cold and I never took my jumper off. We walked along the seafront admiring the beach which is beautifully kept. And here is Eladio with little Pippa enjoying the walk.
Eladio by the Levante beach in Benidorm this week
Nothing seems to have changed much. The same high rise hotels and flats are still there but amazingly there is still building going on as well as a lot of renovation. We walked the length of the beach and back and then headed towards the old town. Our idea was to walk to the Poniente beach but Eladio was too hungry so we decided to have lunch by the Levante beach. We walked to the nicest landmark of the town, the small citadel or castle which has amazing views of both beaches like this one.
One of the view from the castle view point in Benidorm
We also stopped at the old blue domed church, so typical in this area. The San Jaime and Santa Ana church entrance was covered in garlands of flowers and I had to have a photo taken there. It was just beautiful and such a contrast to the rest of Benidorm which is oh so kisch.
Outside the beautifully decorated entrance to the old church in Benidorm
We found a place for lunch at the far end of the Levante beach near the castle view point. This is where my friend Fatima's mother used to have an attic flat where we stayed when we came searching for our own beach flat back in 1999. We chose a nondescript little bar just below  with views of the famous rock of Benidorm. 
The Benidorm rock
This rock also holds memories of the beginnings of our love story. It was towards this rock that we rode in a paddle boat when we first met. We enjoyed our own company so much we ended up riding very far out and nearly reaching the rock. It took us ages to return to shore and Eladio kept telling me not to get anxious hahahah. 

For lunch we chose "arroz a banda", my favourite sort of paella and typical of this area. It was good but I've had better I have to say.
The arroz a banda we had in Benidorm on Wednesday
Later we walked back along the seafront and had an ice cream in memory of the first ice cream Eladio treated me to in Benidorm. I had my favourite flavours which are coconut and pistachio, flavours which are usually hard to find in Spain.

We came home and went for another walk to the cliffs. I never tire of this walk or the views. Our day ended with a light dinner of tuna fish salad followed by another film on Amazon Prime Video, Atonement, a beautiful British drama set in the 2nd World War. 

Thursday dawned and this time it was Pippa who woke me up at 6.30 asking for her breakfast hahaha. It was a windy day and the coolest of our stay. The thermometer did not rise above 18ºc.  I had some work to do and did it peacefully until we left the flat to visit the weekly market just across the road. It has lots of locally grown fruit and veg. Otherwise most of the stalls sell the usual rubbish you see in markets all around the world. We came home laden with bags full of enormous oranges and mandarins as well as strawberries, pears, freshly cut pineapple and lots of vegetables. Everything was delicious and oh so fresh. We would consume just some of it in Santa Pola as most of it was to take home for everyone to enjoy. These were the mandarins which were gigantic and really juicy and sweet. 

The amazing mandarins I bought at the Gran Alacant market on Thursday
Of course we had vegetables for lunch. The artichokes were out of this world. In the afternoon we watched the film Man on Fire with Denzel Washington as a very dedicated bodyguard to a young girl in Mexico. I loved it but not the end which was far too violent. We interrupted the film to go on what would be our last walk to the lighthouse, despite the cold. We got there just before sunset and it was amazing to see how the small island of Tabarca some 5km away, was still lit by sunshine. Visibility was quite good and I caught the wonderful moment on my camera.
The small island of Tabarca as seen from the lighthouse cliffs
We have only ever been there once, the year we bought the flat in 1999. We weren't impressed but I feel like going again one day as there is a wonderful path along which you can walk all the way around the island. There are about 2 or 3 streets there and the population has dwindled from about 240 inhabitants in the early 70's to just 57 who live there permanently now. It must be a difficult life and I suppose the main source of income is from fishing. 

We came home again, refreshed from our walk, to a dinner of potato salad I had made in the morning after shopping at the market. We finished the film and then began watching another Spanish series, El Príncipe, on Amazon Prime Video. It is a police series set in Ceuta - Spanish territory in Morocco - and is about drug trafficking there which is so prevalent as well as jihadism.  There is also a wonderful and impossible love story between the main detective, Morey, and a local Moroccan girl, Fátima, the sister of the main drug trafficker. She is so beautiful, I'm surprised she is not more famous. Hiba Abouk who plays Fátima is actually a Spanish citizen of Lebanese descent. Here she is with Alex González who plays the main detective in the series. He's pretty dishy too I must say.
The main protagonists of El Princípe the Spanish TV series we are currently watching.

We are loving it and it has kept us up late every night since. 

On Friday morning, Eladio suggested we leave one day early for Madrid. His main concern was to buy the drops for my eye operation next week. Having left the papers and prescription in Madrid, neither of us remembered which day I had to start the medication. So, just in case, we left earlier than planned. We had cleaned and packed by 11 o'clock or so and left with Pippa and a car full of fruit and vegetable. We stopped just once, for lunch, again at Mesón Los Rosales. Just as we were approaching Madrid, there was traffic and we were stuck in it for more than an hour. So we weren't home until about 6 pm and my goodness was it cold. But it was lovely to be home and to see my Father, the dogs and Lucy, in that order hahahaha. There was also Esteban, our Airbnb guest from Argentina to greet. He loves our house and said he felt completely at home. It's a pity he has a girlfriend as he would be a great match for my older daughter Suzy hahaha. I mentioned that on the phone and she said you cannot trust Argentinian men as they are like the Italians, great flirts with little substance, according to her. I, of course, didn't tell him this. Oli would be home too for dinner bringing with her some first class ham which we would have with my potato salad, a firm favourite with her. The best thing about coming home is always sleeping in our own bed, at least for me. 

On Saturday the bad weather continued. It rained and snowed and there was sleet when Oli and I went to do the weekly food shopping. We had a lovely family lunch which I know my Father always enjoys. Later Oli and I went out again together. It was quality mother and daughter time as we went to the Centro Oeste shopping centre for her to buy birthday presents for friends and her boyfriend. Of course we also ventured into Zara and some other shops. I only bought one thing, a pretty long sleeved t-shirt from Algo Bonito. Buying spinach at Carrefour doesn't count of course. That was for the omelette I would make for dinner that night for Eladio and I and Zena our weekend carer. Oli, meanwhile, went out to a birthday dinner with the girls' "manada" friends. 

Today is Sunday and for once it isn't raining. I woke up far too early, at 5.56 but was happy to see a new Airbnb booking, this time from a US family who will be coming in April.

I shall be making bread with Oli today and not much else. It should be a quiet day.

I hope you all have a nice quiet Sunday too, if that's what you want. Now I am at the end of the tales of this week, I shall sign off until the next time.

Cheers till then,

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Oscars and my film of the week, death in London, Oli in Mexico, living without central heating and hot water, international women’s day and other stories.

Sunday 11th March, 2018

Olivia, our TV reporter and  younger daughter in her element in Mexico this week. Here at the Chipinque Ecological Park near Monterrey with "coatis" a local  type of raccoon which seem very friendly.
Good morning everyone.

It has been a very frustrating week due to the lack of hot water and central heating from Monday to Thursday because of the difficulty of  installing the new boiler we bought about 2 months ago. Eladio commented he could well live without central heating. Well, I can't. But one thing I have learned this week is to sympathise with those who cannot afford heating and have to live without it. I'll come to that story later. 

Last Sunday was the only day of the week it was sunny. The rest of the time the rain and bad weather continued and I'm rather fed up with it. This is so unusual in Spain. Now we hear it is about to get worse as we brace for a new storm dubbed "Felix". So we made the most of the sun that day and enjoyed our walk although it was wet and muddy on the path.

I came back to make homemade pizza which we all wolfed down. After our siesta we watched a film on Amazon Prime called Lion. It's based on the true story of a 5 year old Indian boy who gets lost and ends up being adopted in Australia and how 25 years later he makes the journey back to find his birth family. Coincidentally it was the Oscar awards that night and Lion was nominated for awards in 2016 so I was 2 years late in watching it. But wow was it worth it. It certainly has been my film of the week.  
My film of the week
The little boy who plays the missing Saroo, Sunny Pawar, was an instant hit at the awards. The film also starred Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire as the older Saroo Brierley. The only bad thing about the film is that it was produced by Weinstein, now associated with sexual abuse of actresses.  If you haven't seen the film, I highly recommend it. Here is the trailer by the way. I cried throughout but was relieved to know there would be a happy ending. 

The film is based on the book, A Long Way Home by Saroo which, after watching the film and drying my eyes, I immediately downloaded on my kindle. 
The amazing story of the lost Indian boy who 25 years later eventually finds his way home. 
Oli is a great film fan too and this week in Mexico she went to see quite a few that were up for Oscars in the evenings after filming. That was because her hotel was directly connected to a cinema. But what a cinema. It was a deluxe one, nothing like the ones we see here in Spain or even in Europe I guess. In the photo below she is about to watch Lady Bird. Oli was happy too that, unlike in Spain, foreign films in Mexico are not dubbed. I totally agree with her as I hate watching English language films dubbed into Spanish but I do not have much choice as my husband has to watch them dubbed. Thus I miss out on the original actors' voices which are an essential element of any film 
Oli at a deluxe cinema near her hotel in San Pablo (Monterrey)
She has been really enjoying filming herself in Mexico and that day saw her in a town called Santiago with one of her "madrileños". With them are a band of "norteños" which, she pointed out, are not to be confused with "mariachis". Well they look very similar. I well remember seeing, talking and listening to mariachis on my first visit to Mexico. It was with my Mother in about 1978 to visit my brother George who was spending his University year there and living in Jalapa near Veracruz. 

They played for me who, aged just 20 or so must have seemed very attractive to them with my long blonde hair. We kept asking them to sing "la malagueña" a song we loved. I also remember some of them boasting about how many children they had. One of them told us he had more than 20 but didn't know all their names.  In those days the more children you had the more "macho" you were. However, many of these children could not be fed and ended up on the streets. I also remember my Mother inviting a little boy from the beach who was drugged up on sniffing glue, to have breakfast at our hotel. I do hope things have changed now in that wonderful country which is so beleaguered by violence. I suspect that the #MeToo campaign will take a while to arrive there. 
Oli in Santaigo with one of her madrileños, his family and a local "banda norteña" last Sunday
In the evening we watched an interview with Alberto Núñez Feijoo, the President of the Galicia in the north west of Spain and who may well be Mariano Rajoy's successor. The interview was conducted by Jordi Evolé, one of the few journalists in Spain capable of cornering politicians on screen, much like in the UK. For me it felt like Feijoo was walking in a minefield avoiding the mines. He didn't do a bad job of it but must have sweated afterwards hahaha. What followed was a debate with top women politicians about the first feminist strike ever in Spain to take place on 8th March, International Women's Day. I felt solidarity and don't understand why the strike and demonstrations were not backed by the ruling PP party or Ciudadanos. I think they made a mistake and their attitude won't help them get votes in any future elections. This week too was the week the pensioners in Spain held demonstrations all over the country and well they should do as most earn a pittance, some 600 euros a month. Their pension had been increased by 0.25% which is an insult. It's a big issue in Spain and if Mariano Rajoy continues to say their pensions cannot be increased while there is high unemployment, he will lose votes too. If the money can't come from workers' taxes I can think of all sorts of places it can come from starting with life salaries for ex Prime Ministers and ministers. Yes, they continue to receive a full salary of more than 4 or 5000 euros per month after leaving their posts.  I always wonder how they would survive on 600 euros like the pensioners. They should try it and then surely they would change their tune. 

I woke up on Monday to the results of this year's Oscars. I was happy to see that yet another Mexican director, Guillermo del Toro, had won best Director and best Film awards for "The shape of Water".  I'm sure Trump wasn't happy to know that Mexican directors have won four out of the past five years at the Oscars. The full list of winners is here for the record.  I won't be watching The shape of water as I am not into fantasy in any film or TV series. I think the film I most want to watch from those that won awards is "Darkest Hour" for which Gary Oldman won best actor portraying my great idol, Winston Churchill. WW2 has a great hold on me as you probably well know.  

But the news of the day for me on Monday was the arrival of the plumbers who were to install the new boiler. Eladio had been searching for plumbers for more than a month. They switched off the heating at midday and we would be without it and without hot water until Thursday. That was not nice. We had hoped all would be working on Monday but it took them 2 days to install the boiler and when they had finished on Tuesday evening, they were not able to put it in motion. Thus we had to wait for the official technician from "Junkers" who wouldn't come until Thursday morning. It was a long wait and the house got colder and colder. 

I had to carry on with life though and decided to make bread that morning. At least that would warm up the kitchen hahaha. And here are the loaves I made, once again with multi cereal flours and lots of nuts and seeds.
The bread loaves I made on Monday
It rained again all day but I managed a walk with Pippa around the neighbourhood rather than in the muddy fields. It was on Monday that we heard the news of a Spaniard, Marcos Cervera, a young man who died in his hotel in London, the Mayflower in Kensington from carbon monoxide in his room. His friend, Esteban García, survived but is fighting for his life at the Chelsea Westminster Hospital. What a terrible story we thought but then when Oli told us she knew him the story hit us harder. It's amazing but they were colleagues at RTVE (Spanish state TV) where she began her career. 
Marcos Cervera, Oli's ex RTVE colleague who died in a hotel in London on Monday from carbon monoxide. So sad
In fact her very first TV report in her reporter career was with Marcos. They are the same age and probably both started their careers at the same time. Olivia was deeply shocked. But how can something like this happen in a London hotel I ask myself? This, by the way, was her first report when Marcos was her first cameraman. RIP Marcos.  

We got through our first night without central heating ok as the temperature only dropped 2 degrees or so from the standard 21.5 to 19. From then on it went down slowly until we reached 16ºc which for me was COLD. 

The plumbers were back on Tuesday morning. As I couldn't have a shower I washed myself the best I could using our kettle hahaha. It was another cold and wet day and that morning I did the food shopping alone which is a huge task. However I wasn't having lunch at home as I had a date with my friend Fátima who wasn't able to make it the week before when she had forgotten to come to the birthday lunch with Julio and I. Thankfully she remembered on Tuesday and came to pick me up. We went somewhere new, Pasiones Argentinas which probably doesn't need a translation into English. Fátima gave me the belated birthday present from Julio and her and here I am happy to receive it. Thanks guys, loved the scarf especially.
Lunch on Tuesday with Fátima receiving my belated birthday presents
We shared a first course of grilled vegetables which was delicious if too large to finish and a bit too smothered in olive oil. Here is my dearest Spanish friend showing it to the camera.
Fátima at Pasiones Argentinas on Tuesday
She took me home to a cold house. That evening Oli's programme on Manchester was to be broadcast on Telemadrid. 
Oli presenting the programme in Manchester
It meant more to us than her other destinations because we had been with her in Manchester. We also had a walk on part, Suzy and I that is, hahaha, at the end. We had to watch it in the TV lounge, one of the coldest rooms in the house and even colder that night of course. For the occasion I wore my thick tartan 10 euro Primark pyjamas and then I wore a dressing gown and on top of that a blanket!!  Here I am in the blessed pyjamas.
In my warm pyjamas
Eladio was torn between Oli's programme which you can watch here by the way, and the Champions match between Real Madrid and PSG. It was the second leg of the last 16. I was pleased to hear they won but was not torn at all. I far preferred to watch Oli in Manchester. Both Suzy and I were tickled pink to see ourselves in the programme at the end clapping at a Spaniard playing a song in the street. Here we are hahaha. 
Suzy and I during our walk on part in Oli's programme
Wednesday came and fed up of not being able to have a hot shower, I drove to Fátima's house - she lives in the neighbourhood - to use one of hers. She came to the rescue more than once this week. 

I came home to find the electricity had gone. There's not much you can do with no electricity. It seemed like everything was breaking down. Even so I soldiered on and that morning worked on a press release for Adamo to announce better mobile tariffs. At least it kept me busy and it was nice news as most operators increase prices and never decrease them. 

It was on Wednesday that Oli sent us the photo of her with the raccoons, the one illustrating this week's post. She was staying in San Pedro and filming there that day and told us it is the richest town and hopefully the safest too, in Latin America. She even met the mayor and told us he was a drug lord and that his house was more like a museum with all the incredibly expensive objects he had. He even has the original sword King Carlos V gave to Hernán Cortés as well as a skeleton dinosaur, a tyrannosaurus rex, one of the only two that exist in the world! Rich is stinking rich in Mexico, like nothing she had seen before. When I spoke to her yesterday just before she left, she told me that she had not felt in danger although she took all the necessary precautions. I'm happy she is coming home unscathed and has had a great time in Mexico. 

Thursday dawned. 8th March was international women's day and there were women's strikes all over Spain that day, the first ever, as well as many demonstrations in all the big towns. They were fighting for equality, equal pay and of course the end of domestic violence which is such a issue in today's world. It is everywhere even in Scandinavia where women have more rights than anywhere else.  The main motto was if women stop working half the world stops and they are right. I meant to go to the demonstration but it was in the evening and would be dark and raining. My heart was there but not my body. My main argument is that I hate crowds and I do. So no I didn't go but I totally supported my fellow women's protests that day. 
Women's demonstration in Madrid on Wednesday
So why do I support them? What are my feelings on inequality? To tell the truth, as a woman I have been mainly lucky in life. In my personal life I have always felt equal but at work not so much. As I once told you, I have been harassed at work by men on many occasions and often felt the odd one out in the corporate world. Many times I was the only woman in a room or meeting and I know for certain I was paid less and given worse benefits then meale colleagues. Also I am absolutely sure I never got higher on the career ladder precisely because I am a woman. I had to ask to become a member of the management team at Yoigo when I was the only person reporting to the CEO who was not on it. I won the battle but it was very unfair. At my first management team I was welcomed because I was "good looking"!  But compared to many other women I have had it quite easy.  Perhaps what I find most difficult to accept is that women are in constant danger from men when doing something so simple as walking in the street. That happens to us all . Sadly I think that will always be so. However, if I want to be positive, I have to say that the 8th March in Spain was hopefully the beginning of a new chapter for women in this country as the issue of inequality and domestic violence and equal pay are now subjects politicians will have to face and resolve seriously. Time will tell. 

While women were striking in Spain, I wasn't. As I am self employed I couldn't and actually didn't want to, so that day I sent out the press release I had written and prepared the day before. New tariffs or tweaks in tariffs don't usually get much coverage so I was happy with the 12 or so articles that were published. 

The plumber and technical service arrived later than they said and just as they came the electricity went again. It seemed like Murphy's law. Our lovely neighbour, Julio, came to the rescue meanwhile. When the electricity went I decided to go out in my car to have a coffee somewhere but believe it or  not I couldn't as the gate wouldn't open. I felt trapped and cross. That was when my friend Fátima came to the rescue and came for me in her car and we went for a coffee together. Thanks dear friend. She took me home at about 13h ish and my oh my was I glad to see that the light had come back but above all the central heating was working and we would have warm radiators and hot water again. It was back to civilisation. Hurray. What a nightmare it has been but now it is over. This by the way is the machine in question, the boiler which is apparently quite some boiler hahaha. 
The new boiler is up and working
Friday came and the big news was that Kim Jong Un has invited Donald Trump for talks and that during the talks he will stop his nuclear testing. When I posted the news on social media, a friend commented it would be a clash of hairstyles.  Yes it will hahaha that is if the talks really happen. I wonder where they will take place. 
Clash of hair cuts!
It was great to have a hot shower on Friday morning. You only appreciate heating, electricity, water etc when you are without them. After the shower I had a long chat with Suzy on the phone. I was happy to hear she was in good spirits. I can't wait for her to come for her birthday at the end of April. Love you darling.

That morning Eladio and I went on errands in Boadilla. That is not the town we live in but we live near it and it is where our old house was so we feel much at home there. After going to the bank I wandered into the old food market where we used to do our shopping many years ago when there were no hypermarkets nearby. I thought it had closed down but it hadn't. It's still going quite strong although there are far fewer stalls than before.
The food market in Boadilla
I came across a great butcher stall as well as a fishmonger and bought meat and fish at both. It felt like old times and I shall be going back again for sure. We then went to have a coffee at Alverán, my favourite cafeteria in the area before it was time to head home. Being the busy bee I am, I had made lunch  -  bean stew - early in the morning so all I had to do was to heat it up. It's a delicious soup for cold weather.
Homemade bean, meat and vegetable stew for lunch on Friday
I had a chat with both girls that day. This is news my friends as we hardly ever talk on the phone. Oli called me from Mexico 6 hours before leaving Monterrey for Mexico City. She was in good spirits too but had a hell of a journey ahead of her. We would not see her until after she landed yesterday, Saturday, at midday. 

It rained all day on Friday so we didn't go for  a walk. Instead, in the evening, we went to the cinema. That is news too as we hardly ever go. However, I have felt rather cooped up at home and needed to get out.  We went to see a new Spanish film called "Loving Pablo" (Escobar) produced by and starring the Spanish actors who are a married couple, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. I wondered how it would compare to Narcos which we had seen on Netflix and actually it was even more violent. There were three scenes when I had to hide my head on Eladio's shoulders and even cover my ears. 
The film we went to see on Friday night
The film is based on a book (a true story) written by Escobar's ex mistress, Virginia Vallejo, a beautiful Colombian TV news presenter who fell in love with the Colombian drug lord.  You can see the trailer here.  I have to say that Javier Bardem does a great portrayal of Escobar. He had to put on weight to play the part and also put on a Colombian accent. Penelope Cruz, apparently, hated him in the part and has no doubt put him on a diet afterwards.

We didn't diet afterwards hahaha. Rather we went to have dinner at Ginos to celebrate the week and our marriage as we often do on Friday nights. 

Saturday came and as usual I was up shortly after 6. While drinking my first cup of coffee of the day I watched and listened to the official video clip of the song "Tu canción", Spain's entry into this year's Eurovision Song Contest. Yes it's cheesy, probably won't win but I love it. The singers are two love birds who met at the talent show Operación Triunfo, Amaia and Alfred and they are so sweet, talented and positive the whole of Spain loves them. I actually think I preferred the first version when they both played the piano but apparently they aren't allowed to at the contest. 
Amaia and Alfred singing "Tu canción".
While Olivia was flying back from Mexico City, I spent the morning preparing lunch and at Ikea and Carrefour with Eladio. It was raining cats and dogs yesterday which has been the norm for the last 2 or 3 weeks and I have had enough. So yesterday we decided to go to our flat by the beach near Alicante today as the Costa Blanca seems to be one of the only sunny places in Spain at the moment. We went to Ikea to get some stuff we need for the flat and to Carrefour to buy a portable radiator for the nights. We have a gas stove there but prefer not to use it at night. 

We were home just before lunch and as I was making the final touches to our meal, my darling daughter Oli arrived together with her boyfriend who I consider my son-in-law, Miguel.  She was super tired but delighted to be home. Lunch was full house and I made fish and chips for the occasion, always a favourite with Oli. 

It rained so much in the afternoon we couldn't go for our walk again. Hopefully we will get lots of walks in Santa Pola. Thus, while Oli slept part of her jetlag off, we watched more of our new series, the spy story by John Le Carré called The Night Manager. Later I made more bread, mostly to take to our flat by the beach and Eladio started the mammoth job of clearing out the garage and garage annexes which is mostly full of Oli's stuff. She is a real magpie and hates to throw things away. Well Saturday saw both my daughter and husband throwing many things away. Oli was rather remorseful afterwards when she told me she had thrown away her whole "university career", i.e. all her notes from when she studied. I know the feeling from when I did the same job. Well, you can't keep stuff forever.

 At about 8 pm I got a sudden Airbnb reservation, an Argentinian car racer who described himself as a "sportsman" had made an instant booking and would be with us in 20 minutes. Thank goodness the rooms were ready. So much for my telling Oli there would be no guests this weekend hahaha. Estéban is a lovely boy and very good looking too I should add. When I showed him into his room and gave him the basics, he said he had read my reviews and that I was as kind and accommodating as they said. That was so nice. 

Oli and Miguel went out to celebrate Copi's birthday, the girls' friend from childhood while Eladio and I had a simple dinner before retiring to bed. We watched more of The Night Manager until we fell asleep at about midnight.

Today is Sunday and I was up at 5.45 when I heard my Father's alarm go off. I couldn't sleep after that so got up to get on with the day. I have much to do before we leave for Santa Pola and I just can't wait to get to the sun. There is no rain forecast there and it seems the sun will be shining every day and the maximum temperature will be in the low 20's. That's fine for me.

So my friends, as I often say, I will love you and leave you now. Until next Sunday, have a great week,

Cheers Masha

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Beast from the East meets Storm Emma, this year's MWC which I didn't attend, Oli in the sun in Mexico, Suzy in the snow in London, rain in Madrid and other stories.

Sunday 4th March 2018.
Father seeing daughter off, umbrella in hand on Wednesday morning. She was off to sunshine in Mexico. 
Good morning all

Well what a wet week it has been here.  It seems to have rained everyday with hardly any respite and many a time we were robbed of our walk or had to turn back. In Spain, according to the song from My Fair Lady, "the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane". Well this week it rained, or snowed everywhere in the country.  There has been extreme weather in most parts of Europe with heavy snowfalls bringing countries unused to it to a standstill. Both Ireland and the UK were on red alert this week.  We have seen images such as Venice or Rome covered in white which is highly unusual and even snow at sea level. This week the best beach in Spain according to Trip Advisor, La Concha in San Sebastian, was covered too in snow. Believe it or not some people even bathed and apparently they are part of a group that does so everyday, come rain or shine.
Snow in Rome
The culprit at the beginning of the week was an icy blast from Siberia, a polar vertex I read. That was   dubbed "the beast from the east" and  was bad enough. But then Storm Emma, bringing blizzards from the Azores in the Atlantic, made its appearance and caused tension as the two weather phenomenons met and clashed. If you want to understand a bit more about how this happened, read here. And apparently the extreme bad weather is here to stay for some time until the battle or clash is over.  Floods will replace the snow too. This was no joke as the death toll rose during the week to over 60 with 23 in Poland alone. Even in Spain we had at least 3 deaths, 2 from avalanches. 

However, last Sunday was dry and sunny. Our young Airbnb guests from Latvia, Estonia and the UK slept late after their "gig" the night before. While they slept I prepared the lunch, a Sunday roast and had to go out to get an extra leg of lamb. When I came back they were already up but didn't leave until just before we sat down to lunch which didn't please Olivia as she hates coinciding with my Airbnb guests. They were a nice bunch of kids and one of them even interviewed me for his Latvian blog about music hahaha. He asked me about music trends in Spain and being my age and no fan of very modern music I was a bit stuck for an answer hahaha. 
Last week's international Airbnb guests
Later Maxsim, the Estonian guest who had made the booking, wrote a wonderful 5 star review for which I am extremely grateful.  

While I was having lunch at home, many of my telco colleagues from around the world were attending the Mobile World Congress in Spain or would be arriving that day in Barcelona. It would be the first time I was not there for many  years. The organisers, delegates and anyone with a bit of common sense, were shocked to hear that the radically left wing Mayoress of the city, Ada Colau and the President of the local Government, The Generalitat, had publicly stated they would not greet the King of Spain that evening at the opening dinner although they would attend the dinner.  Her reason was that she did not agree with his televised statement after the illegal referendum calling for the unity of Spain, accusing him of being unsympathetic to their cause.  The separatist issue in Catalonia is an open threat to the GSMA taking the fair somewhere else such as Dubai so the Mayoress' gesture will not have helped to keep it in Spain. Some 110.000 delegates attend and the MWC brings an estimated 450 million euros to the city each year being the biggest exhibition in the telco sector in the world. To make matters worse there was a huge demonstration in the centre of the city that night protesting at the King's presence in Barcelona. An ex colleague from Nokia told me it was very tense and she had great difficulty returning to her hotel. 
Protests against the King of Spain in Barcelona last Sunday
It's rather sad that the news about the Mobile World Congress around the world the first couple of days was precisely about political tension in the city rather than what was on show. In my mind this is like cutting the hand that feeds the  mouth or are the protesters so radical they don't want the fair to be held in Barcelona? I wonder which of the two is true. 

Luckily things died down after a couple of days and there was news from the fair which wasn't political. The main topics were 5G, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and connected cars and machines or devices. One headline in El País caught my attention and it is that there are now more mobile phone lines than people in the world. Wow, I remember when I worked for Motorola in about 1990 that the mobile phone penetration in Spain was less than 2%. How the world has changed. According to El País there were 5 billion users in 2017 (66% penetration) but 7.8 billion sim cards. To check the newspaper got its numbers right I looked up the world population for 2017 and it is about 7.6 billion people, so yes there are more sim cards in use than people in the world. But it is not all people using them, it is "things" or machines, what is called The Internet of Things. We have examples everywhere and I don't have to look outside my own house or houses to count. Here we have our own phone lines and 2 machine lines, one for the alarm system in this house and another one for the remotely controlled cental heating in Montrondo. The numbers will surely increase as 5G is rolled out. The other news was about new flagship phones launched by the big guns, including Samsung's S9. In my mind there is always a lot of hype about a new phone when in reality it's not much different from the previous model. Mine is an S7 and I won't be changing it any day soon hahaha.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind having the new model but I'm not paying the  nearly1000 euros it is going for. 

One thing I didn't miss at this year's show was the amount of people, 1000 less than last year apparently but far too many for me. 
 I don't like the crowds at the MWC.
I hate big crowds and always have. So no I didn't really regret not going. 

Thus on Monday morning while my colleagues were queuing to get into the congress, I was making bread in my kitchen. This week I had hardly any work to do and spent a lot of my time either cooking, reading or watching TV series as well as going for walks in between rainfalls. 
The bread I made on Monday
This time I put lots of different seeds and nuts in and maybe overdid it although Oli told me I hadn't. 

A funny thing happened on Monday when I got a message from one of the agencies I registered with last year. They wanted me to attend an audition to appear in a sausage advert. Well, that did not interest me hahaha. In fact I have given up going to the auditions as  the dates are often awkward but also the agency world for walk on parts in TV ad's seems to be a bit of a mafia and I cannot compete with the old hands. So, no, I won't be appearing in an El Pozo TV advert about sausages. 

In fact one of the reasons I don't watch mainstream TV these days is that I generally hate TV adverts. We now watch mostly streamed TV on either Netflix or Amazon Prime. On Monday night we finished El Accidente and started on a new series called "I know who you are" (Sé quién eres). It would have us riveted all week and entertain us on rainy afternoons. It's another Spanish TV series; some of them are extremely good. This one was broadcast recently on BBC4 and had many rave reviews like this one  The Guardian. It's an amazing whodunnit legal thriller about a missing girl with much suspense but is so fast paced we often have to rewind to catch up with the plot.
Our current TV series
On Monday I must have been extremely relaxed as on Tuesday morning I woke up at 7.15 instead of 6 a.m. I gave poor Pippa a huge scare that morning as when I bathed her I left the water on too hot and nearly scalded her. My reflex was to grab her out of the bath and then lower the temperature of the water coming out of the tap. I felt so guilty I must have spent the whole of the next hour trying to make it up to her. That will never happen again.  Meanwhile, poor Eladio, was continuing the search for a plumber to come and install the new boiler he bought a few weeks ago. We have had estimates ranging from 250 to 5000 euros which is a bit baffling. Eladio continued his search all week and more and more plumbers came to see the boiler and work they would have to do. Finally my husband accepted one of the estimates and the plumber chosen has promised to come on Monday. Let's hope he does and let's hope all goes well and we don't have to be without central heating for more than a day. It's been extremely awkward for my Airbnb business I can tell you. 

We did the food shopping on Tuesday morning and I think we bought enough to last us, hopefully, at least 2 weeks as I seemed to buy 2 of everything. Oli came for dinner that night and it was great to cook with all the cupboards and fridge full of food. I made my new onion and spinach omelette, a dish I really like. It is nearly as tasty as the real Spanish "tortilla" which is made with potatoes. My spinach omelette looked just like it. 
The spinach and onion omelette I made for dinner on Tuesday night.
Oli had come to spend the night with us before flying to Mexico the next day. I was worried about her going to Monterrey, a dangerous city if ever there was one, but was happy to hear she and her cameraman would have a private driver throughout their stay and would be lodged at a very good hotel in the least dangerous part of the city, San Pedro. Oli was roaring to go and I must say I would envy the sunny weather she would experience there. Her suitcase was full of clothes for cold and warm temperatures but really she should have concentrated on the latter as the  temperatures there this week have been in the mid 20's a far cry from the rain, cold and snow in Europe. 

Oli was off to the sun while Suzy would be weathering the cold and snow in London. What a constrast.  We had a lovely video chat with her after dinner, the 4 of us, something we should do more often. Suzy was having her "pudding" which was raw apple with a spoonfull of peanut butter. Suzy always tries to tell me that peanut butter is healthy but I don't believe her as I think it is the most calorific food in the world possibly after mars bars fried in batter apparently common in Scotland hahaha.  We were worried she was cold in London where the temperatures were below zero. She was wearing the thermal pyajamas Oli had bought for her at Primark for Christmas and told us she was fine. I didn't like hearing she has no heating in the kitchen or other parts of the flat. If it was freezing cold in London it was even worse in Yorkshire. So I was rather sorry for our friends Kathy and Phil who were returning to Keighley that day from their holiday in sunny and warm Marrakech. 

It was on Tuesday that the interview with the CEO of Adamo with a Spanish news site called "El Español" was published. It was great to get some media space for Adamo during the week of the Mobile World Congress. It got lots of views. I was pretty pleased, it being my first interview for Adamo with the Spanish media. On my LinkedIn profile I posted it and got more than 270 views. Whenever I post anything about Adamo, I get lots of views from my ex employee which is always curious to see.  Are they following me? If you can read Spanish, here it is

Wednesday dawned and brought with it snow in London, snow that settled. Suzy sent us a photo and it was unbelievable. I remember snow as a child in London when we used to spend our Christmases with my Grandmother and Aunty Gloria in Ickenham. I remember very vividly the slides we used to make on the pavements outside their houses. Well the snow in London was still there this weekend. It was amazing to see Big Ben covered in the white stuff too as it doesn't happen much these days.
Snow in London this week
I also spent Wednesday baking but not before Oli left. She was leaving at around midday and Eladio saw her off in the rain. I took a photo of the two of them just as he saw her off and have chosen it as the main picture to illustrate this week's post. My youngest daughter will be away for 10 days. However it is a long journey there, 11.5h from Madrid to Mexico City and then an 1.5h to Monterrey. She wouldn't get there until the next morning for us, midnight in Mexico. 

I cooked and baked a  lot on Wednesday, making vegetable soup and oxtail soup for lunch, perfect dishes for cold weather.  In the afternoon, inspired by Easter coming up, I tried my hand at making home made hot cross buns. I have never made them before always buying supermarket packs but I decided as I had time on my hands I might as well try. First I found a recipe. There were loads but I went to the first one that came up which was from the BBC Good food site. This is the recipe by the way if you are interested.  It's a very similar process to making bread except that the dough is very sticky as it has butter, warm milk and eggs in it. It has to prove 3 times which means that the buns when they are placed on the tray tend to stick together. Next time I shall make the rolls smaller . The recipe also seems very similar to that for brioche which I wouldn't mind making too one day except that I should stop baking fattening things. Don't worry though we only had one each and I froze the rest for Good Friday. I have to say it was delicious, nothing like the bought hot cross buns. Ah and here are mine which I am very proud of, as baking is not really my skill but I am learning.
My hand made hot cross buns
Thursday was the first day of March. Soon it will be spring but not yet unfortunately. Just as we were getting up, Oli was arriving at her hotel at midnight in Monterrey after a nearly 18 hour door to door journey. She was shattered but nothing that a good night's sleep wouldn't cure. Meanwhile, in London Suzy woke up to even more snow in London. Thursday was the day the so-called Beast from the East met Storm Emma. Somehow she managed to get to work. Many people didn't with trains and buses unable to make their journeys. Then when Oli was just waking up in Mexico, around 15h our time, we got a photo from both girls, Suzy in the snow and Oli in a t-shirt in the sun. What a contrast. 

Suzy in the snow in London with her NHS colleague and fellow dietitian, Jenny from Ireland
Oli in the sun in Monterrey

They could not be more contrasting pictures. The weather here was so bad on Thursday we could not leave the house. We spent the afternoon and evening binge watching the TV series "I know who you are" only stopping for dinner. 

At about 10.30 that night, our French Airbnb guests arrived after their plane had been  delayed by an hour and a half, probably because of the weather too. Celine and her fellow students who have stayed with us twice before, arrived in torrential rain and we welcomed them in. Unbelievably, they went out again afterwards to have dinner. I wouldn't have risked it. They are here to do a course in hearing aids. The local University (UEM) does offer a very varied syllabus I thought when they told me.  Thankfully they understand the hot water situation and know themselves how to turn it on and off. I was pleased too that day to get another booking also from repeat guests. A family from the UK who was with us last August is coming again in the summer. They were lovely, especially their talented and comical little boy Brody. I loved him. I am very pleased to see that I have lots of bookings for the summer, mainly for July and August, the high season, whoopee!! 

Friday brought more rain. That day I had a lunch appointment with my friends Julio and Fátima in Boadilla. However Fátima never showed up, nor did she answer our phone calls or whatsapp messages. It was a complete mystery and worried us that something might have happened to her. She is not known for her punctuality but complete silence was rather strange. The next day, we finally got a message from us to say she had forgotten our appointment. So it was just Julio and I for lunch. We went to a place I had been recommended, "Denominación de Origen".  Julio and I caught up on each other's lives over a "menu del día". And here we are together in a not very good selfie just before we parted.
Lunch with Julio on Friday
We had both arrived in the rain and left in the rain. The rain has really got me down this week but I suppose I shouldn't complain as it is good for the reservoirs which were well below their normal level after the drought. I do wish it would rain at night and be dry during the day and commented to Julio during the lunch that maybe, one day, scientists will come up with a way to control the weather. If we can have driver free cars and drones and all the other amazing new technology, this could be possible one day. It would be great wouldn't it?

Eladio and I managed a walk with the dogs in the afternoon but turned back before the end. Just as we got home it poured it down. 

While we were on our walk, Oli was filming in Monterrey. That day her subject was a Spanish missionary priest, Father Martín. She had got his contact through my friend Juana who lived in Mexico for some years. Gracias Juana!  Oli was in her element that day as she filmed him and the children he works for. You can tell by the smile on her face and all signs of jet lag gone.
Oli filming the Spanish priest and his pupils in Monterrey on Friday
Being Friday, Eladio and I went out for dinner, even though I had been out to lunch with Julio. However, I, at least, needed to get out after being cooped up in the house most of the week because of the weather. We went to Ginos and I ate comfort food, pasta, my favourite and something I hardly ever eat at home. We came back to watch more of the TV series and again went to sleep very late. 

Saturday came and I had slept badly. I am quickly running out of sleeping tablets that I can no longer get because the private medical centre where a Cuban lady doctor used to prescribe them has now closed. 

We woke up to sunshine. Wow sunshine and it was sunny all morning. We thus went for our walk shortly after breakfast to beat the rain and we did. Facebook reminded me that 9 years ago to that day had been Norah, our beagle's first walk as a puppy. I can't find the photo now. 

I came home to make lasagne for lunch which my Father loves. Oh dear more pasta:- And guess what we did for the rest of the afternoon? Well we followed the pattern of the whole week and watched the final episodes of the TV series, "I know who you are", only stopping for dinner, and once again till past midnight. Well I did also stop at one point to reply to a new Airbnb enquiry, an English family who wanted to come at Easter. A few minutes later they booked which now means I have 9 new bookings to look forward to. Whoopee! 

So that's the end of the series for us now. There was little closure in the final episode with the baddies winning. I would have preferred a happy ending but I didn't get it and I suppose life is like that. I am now looking forward to watching Season 2 when it is available. 

And today is Sunday and once again I have woken up to rain. My French Airbnb guests have just left and I saw them off in rain just as we welcomed them in rain. They will be coming again in April, their 4th stay with us. Thanks Celine, it's always pleasure to have you.

So now I am at the end of this week's rather boring tales. I do hope next week will be a bit more exciting. 

Loving you and leaving you now until next Sunday,

Cheers Masha.