Sunday, April 22, 2018

The end of our stay in Santa Pola and home again, Oli back from Germany, the Windrush scandal, getting ready for the summer, flowers for the garden and other tales of the week.

Sunday 22nd April, 2018.

Buying flowers with Eladio and Oli this week
Last Sunday saw us still in Santa Pola enjoying time together at our lovely little flat. It was the warmest day with temperatures rising to 27ºc and we spent part of the morning sitting on the beach in the dunes to protect ourselves from the wind and enjoying reading in the sun. 
On the beach last Sunday, the Carabasi beach which lies below the cliffs where our apartment is.
Apart from reading, we did of course walk along the beach to the end and back. You may be wondering what I was reading. Well, I have to confess I am a sucker for books about the  British Royal family so when Andrew Norton of the Lady Diana biography fame (Diana, her true story) published his new biography which is about Meghan Markle, Prince Harry's bride to be, I couldn't resist downloading it as soon as I heard. "Meghan:  a Hollywood Princessmakes interesting reading I must say, especially about her life before the beautiful bi-racial American actress of TV series Suits fame met her Prince Charming.
Andrew Morton's new biography which I read this week
Sadly she has had to leave the series, had to forego her very popular "The Tig" blog and even her work with the UN on gender and race issues. Hopefully her new role will give her leeway to be herself and in a way modernise the very stiff Royal family or at least bring it a breath of fresh air. This is a love match with no opposition from within so hopefully it won't end in another divorce. It's amazing to think that a person who is Amercan, a divorcee and also half black and half white has been admitted into the Royal circle with what looks like open arms. . I wonder what the late Princess Margaret or her uncle ex King Edward VIII who abdicated in order to marry the also divorced and American, Wallis Simpson would think of how times have changed since the scandals throughout the British establishment when they wanted to marry divorced people.  Thank God things have changed I say and I wish them well. 

Meghan Markle is a true foodie and into healthy eating and loves cooking, something she will hopefully bring to the table when she marries into the Royal family who are not known for any great interest in fine dining or healthy eating. I find that funny. Well I am into food as you know and on Sunday had booked a table for lunch at our favourite restaurant in the area, Maria Picola where we hadn't been since last summer. On the road to Elche from Santa Pola it is more frequented by locals than by tourists. It is the locals of course who know all the best places.
The entrance to the Maria Picola restaurant we love so much.
We have been going there for 19 years and are always welcomed warmly by the owner. I once wrote a review on Trip Advisor which you can read here and then a while later when we returned we were rewarded with a plate of fresh local prawns, just for having written a positive review. I was amazed. We always ask to sit on the outdoor terrace and patio and here is Eladio sitting down last Sunday to enjoy another meal there.
Eladio sitting down for lunch at Maria Picola last Sunday
In the Alicante area it is very typical for restaurants to offer you bread or toast with home made ali oli mayonnaise and fresh crushed tomato. I love it and when we have it we usually skip a first course as it is so filling.
Toast, ali oli and fresh tomato, so typical of the area.
Being the traditionalists we are when it comes to choosing our favourite meals, we ordered a rice dish called "arroz a banda" which is  a variation of paella. Rice dishes hail from the Valencia and Alicante area although many people outside Spain think paella is a dish eaten by all Spaniards all over the country which is not exactly true. The best rice dishes always come from the Valencia region. This was it and wow was it delicious. 
The "arroz a banda" we had at Maria Picola last Sunday
Feeling happy and with our stomachs full we returned home to our flat for a siesta and of course to greet poor Pippa who had to stay behind. Spain is not a dog friendly country and I wish it was.

After the rice we needed another walk that afternoon and of course we chose to go to the lighthouse cliffs which never fails to delight us. My new Samsung Galaxy S9 takes great photos and that afternoon the island of Tabarca was very visible and I could make out the main landmarks easily. That could also be because of my new eyesight hahaha.
The island of Tabarca as seen from the Santa Pola cape and cliffs.
The views from the cliffs are great but we also enjoy the walk through the pinewoods to get there and back. Here is Eladio with Pippa on the path leading to the wood which takes us back to our apartment block.
Eladio and Pippa on our walk last Sunday
All in all Sunday was great except for an email that arrived from my accountant Pilar during the walk. It was to inform me of the hefty taxes I had to pay for the first three months of this year. I hate the way it works here for self employed people, especially the fact that when I invoice my customers I have to include the VAT. They then pay the VAT to me which 3 months later I have to return to the Treasury. It plays havoc with our finances. Damn the system. 

Dinner was just fruit that night, at least for me, the lovely fruit from the local market. Meanwhile Oli continued her adventures shooting her next programme for "Madrileños por el Mundo" in Bavaria. She was in Wuzburg and then off to Regensburg, neither of which I had heard of although my Father has of course. She sent us a photo that day with a group of Germans dressed in the typical Tyrolean, Austrian and Bavarian national dress. The women wear an outfit called "dirndl" and the men "lederhosen" .I remember my Mother buying my brother George a lederhosen outfit, sort of leather shorts with braces when he was a little boy and he looked very smart. 
Oli in Bavaria
That night Oli probably watched the series Peaky Blinders. We've already seen it so our choice was different. We watched the end of the film called Breathe which is very romantic and based on a true story. 

I always write about Oli my younger daughter and not much about my older daughter Suzy (older by 1 year and 3 weeks by the way and no family planning hahaha) who is a dietitian and nutritionist living in London and soon to move to Bali. But that's because Suzy doesn't send photos. However, on Sunday she did. That day she also went out visiting a place called Surrey Hills near Dorking with friends. This is the photo she sent which she said was of a place called Wotton which I had not heard of either. She was out with friends, 2 boys who are  in the photo and we wondered who they were. We were only told they were friends. Interesting!

Suzy on a day trip with "friends" near Dorking last Sunday
Monday dawned and amazingly it rained. Later however it stopped and the sun came out and the temperature reached 23ºc but it was very windy, in fact seriously windy. It was to be our last full day at the flat. Meanwhile in Madrid, Lorena, a young woman from Venezuela but who lives in Dubai and has married a Lebanese man, arrived to spend the week with us while he was travelling. We weren't to meet her until we got home on Tuesday though. Her arrival was a little problematic as when she walked into her beautiful room (Suzy's room), Norah, our beagle, somehow got in and peed on the floor. OMG and I wasn't there. I had to ring Lucy, ask her to clean the floor and then profusely offer my apologies to Lorena. Lorena's stay would be full of little problems like that but she took everything cheerfully. Naughty Norah. It's very unusual for her to behave like that and I think it was to due to her excitement of meeting a new guest. Let's hope it never happens again.  

We spent the morning in the flat as it was too windy to go out. Luckily the terrace wasn't affected by the wind and we could sit and read in the sun. I did some work, pottered around, made lunch and also prepared a bowl of cut up fruit from the local market which is how we like to serve it and this is what it looked like. Colourful and lovely don't you agree?
This is how how we like to serve fruit.
We had a long siesta after lunch interrupted by a call from a head hunter. I find it funny I still get the calls. If they knew my age, no doubt they wouldn't bother hahaha. I also received some reading material from a new customer which I need to work on a PR plan for them. But that would have to wait until I got home and was something I would have to think about quite a lot as the target public is unusual, thus the target media too. 

Eventually we left the flat despite the wind and went down for a walk on the beach. It was still very windy so I wore a headscarf to cover my hair which was blowing in my face. I'm not sure whether I resembled a Muslim woman or an English woman with a headscarf the way the Queen of England wears them hahaha. Eladio with short hair never has that problem and here he is on the beach that afternoon with little Pippa at his side.
Eladio on the beach with little Pippa on our last day in Santa Pola
Of note that night we started a new TV series on Netflix called "La Casa de Papel" which I am enjoying thoroughly but Eladio is not keen so I shall have to watch it on my own when I have free time. 

Tuesday came, the day we were going home.  It takes us usually about an hour to clean the flat, pack and get ready to go. While we were doing so I got an alarm call from Lucy to tell me there was no water at home. OMG panic stations, mainly because we had an Airbn guest at home who would obviously want a shower. It turned out there were some repairs in the pipes in the neighbourhood and that there had been a warning notice posted in our mail box but Lucy hadn't seen it. We rang the water board to hear the water would be switched off from 9 until 3 pm. Thankfully though it returned much earlier. That was Lorena, our Airbn guest's second problem with her stay. I just hoped there wouldn't be any more. I would hope in vain as you will read later. 

Just before leaving I always go to the British supermarket, Quick Save across the road to buy chocolate bars for my Father which always include a bounty and turkish delight, his favourites. As I crossed the road to go back to the flat I took one last photo and it is of the view from the road of the bay of Alicante which I always love. Here it is.
The view of the bay of Alicante 
We were in the car and ready to go just before 11 am and would have the roads more or less to ourselves as there is little traffic during the week. We stopped for lunch at the same place we had stopped on our way to Santa Pola, our newly discovered roadside bar/restaurant. Bar restaurante San José is in a small village called Zafra de Záncara about 100 km or so from Madrid and is truly a new find. You can always tell in Spain when a roadside bar,cafe or restaurant is good when you see lots of cars and especially lorries. Once again we enjoyed a great meal for about 35 euros for the two of us and we shall be going back next time no doubt.
The restaurant we had lunch at on our way to and back from Santa Pola 
We were home by about 16h and happy to find good weather here too. In fact it has been lovely every day since we got back. Finally we are enjoying fine weather after so many weeks and months of cold, snow and rain.  After settling in, unpacking, etc, I took Lucy out to visit the new Carrefour that has been opened very near here. It is a Carrefour Market which I learned is the gourmet version of a supermarket the French company has among its different shops and stores and my goodness it is both gourmet and very expensive. But wow the quality is amazing as well as the range of products. It is in a different league to Mercadona where we usually shop. 

I came home to finally meet Lorena, our Venezuelan guest who must be in her 30's or so and found her charming. She joined us for dinner and all this week ended up being part of the family. It was like having another daughter at home. She hadn't brought a car so often she came with me when I went  out shopping or on errands. 

Eladio spent the afternoon of our return in the garden removing the huge branches of our Mimosa tree which had fallen in strong winds a few weeks ago. He also mowed part of the lawn. He would carry on sprucing up the garden over the next few days to get it ready for the summer and it's looking lovely.  

The day of our arrival was Oli's last full day in Germany and she was in Munich from where she would be visiting the famous castle that inspired Disney and called Neuschwanstein (pronounce that if you can). 
Oli in Munich
I always remember my Mother telling me that when she came to London as a refugee after the 2nd world war and had to work as a cleaner in a hospital until she was given residency, she worked alongside a German girl whose family were the owners of the castle. Amazing! Apparently there were many aristocrats and princesses like herself who were in the same situation. She had many stories to tell of those times being penniless in London and far from home. 
Oli with one of her interviewees from Madrid by the famous Disney castle in Germany
Oli was loving Germany. She sent us a photo eating a pretzel, that very German hard bread ring which I find tasteless but which is so popular both there and of course in the US.
Oli eating a pretzel in Germany
She would be returning late on Tuesday evening but we weren't to see her until Wednesday.  

One of the reasons we had to come back from Santa Pola on Tuesday was that I had an appointment with the traumatologist the next morning after recent back pain. When I was a child I fell off a swimming pool trampoline while climbing the steps and landed on my back. At the time I was told it had caused a small fissure in one of the lower vertabras. Ever since I have had back pain on and off over the years. 10 years ago or so I was diagnosed with "spondylolisthesis" which apparently means one of the vertebra has slipped out of position and it can be dangerous. At the time I did lots of scans and eventually I remember the doctor telling me a miracle had occurred in that the affected vertebra had actually welded with the next one. So I took along the x-rays etc and told that story to the doctor on Wednesday who refused to believe they had welded as she said that wasn't medically possible. In any case she examined me and I have to do another "magnetic resonance" scan on my back. I will be doing another one too on my right hip  as I told her I have been experiencing pain in my groin. I hope and pray that doesn't mean I will have to have a replacement hip put in. Cross your fingers. The good thing though is that all pain has gone away for the moment. 

It was a lovely day and I came home to find Eladio once again in the garden getting it ready for the summer. We went for our walk in the afternoon and it was so warm I wished I had worn shorts. I came home in need of another shower and afterwards got out all my summer jeans and trousers and tried them on. I was dreading them not fitting but most of them did thank goodness. Those that were tight are a good motivation to keep to healthy eating after our stay in Santa Pola. 

If it was warm here on Wednesday it got warmer the next day. Amazingly in London on Thursday it was the hottest day in England since 1949 with temperatures at 26 or so degrees which is hardly sizzling by Spanish standards but is a big thing in the UK hahaha. The papers are full of warnings of what to do and not to do in "hot" weather. 26ºc is definitely not "hot" for me after having lived in Spain for more than 30 years. "Hot" here is generally over 40ºc and 26ºc is considered mild.  

Thursday morning saw us with a sort of fever to get the summer terraces ready for the good weather. The swimming pool terrace and kitchen patio were looking awful but we soon had them looking clean and tidy with all the summer furniture out. But what we needed were flowers to make everything look more attractive and we would go out shopping to "Verdecora" (garden centre) in the afternoon. 

In the morning I went out to buy, believe it or not, a muzzle for Pippa and Lorena joined me. Pippa is not good with people outside the family and with other dogs and she has been known to go for people's ankles, especially men's. She hasn't actually bitten them but has certainly tried. She also eats all sorts of stuff from the ground that she shouldn't. We took her to a lovely pet shop which is dog friendly called Petuluku or something like that and there we got to know the "muzzle world". Some of them looked like the muzzle Anthony Hopkins wore in the film "The silence of the lambs". We looked for the most gentle and least aggressive of all them and tried them on her. Poor little Pippa, she was absolutely terrified and just stood still and trembled. I did buy one but haven't put it on her yet and  probably never will. 

We came home and I made a simple lunch for the family. Soon Oli arrived and we greeted her after her return from Germany. It was lovely to see her. Both Oli and I spent time together on the swimming pool terrace afterwards "chillaxing" as she calls it and I couldn't have thought of a better way to spend the afternoon. Later we went to buy flowers to put in the pots around the pool and Lorena came with us as if she were part of the family. It was Lorena who took the photo of the three of us in the queue at Verdecora with our trollies of flowers, the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's blog post. It was a happy moment.
Lorena our Venezuelan Airbnb guest with us buying flowers at Verdecora this week
Eladio would plant them the next day but meanwhile I got Lucy to plant the lovely daisies Lorena had bought for us and which are now decorating the kitchen patio wooden table where we would have dinner that night for the first time this year.
The kitchen patio table and chairs with flowers
We came home happy with the flowers we had bought but we came home to no electricity. Oh my goodness yet another breakdown during an Airbnb guest's stay. Eladio tried his best to find out where the problem was coming from as the mains was down the whole time. It was nearly 9 pm and getting dark and I was envisaging a night without light, hot water or central heating when an electrician came. He charged Eladio 50 euros and only confirmed my husband's suspicions that the cause was the central heating. That meant we had to call the technicians from the firm who had sold us the new boiler and which we only had installed last month. Thankfully though we at least had light and on Saturday morning they came to put in a new pump and everything was working again. 

It was this week and mainly on Thursday that I became much more aware of what is being called the "Windrush scandal" in the UK.  Thousands of people were invited by the UK Government between 1948 and 1973 to come and live in England to do jobs necessary, especially after the Second World War, to rebuild the country.  They were mostly from Jamaica and other Caribbean countries and I well remember their smiling faces, many of whom were bus drivers.  They are being called the "Windrush" immigrants as the first of them arrived on a ship of that name in 1948. 
Caribbean immigrants arriving on the Windrush ship in England
They came at an invitation from the government but were never given any papers that made them officially legal or British or whatever and now in a crack down from the Home Office which started when Theresa May was the Home Secretary, many of these people who have led their whole lives in England are being declared illegal and being asked to prove they came legally. They were never told or they never knew they had to formalise their residency status and now they are in a totally kafkian like situation. Astonishingly we have learned that the Immigration body or authority recently destroyed all their landing cards.  Many of the affected are risking deportation, have lost their jobs, their houses and are not allowed health care.  Anyone who lived in England between 1948 and 1973 knows of their existence so it seems astonishing that the Government is now denying that they are in England legally. It is just appalling. This is not the England I know.  In a way, this attempt by the government to create a hostile environment for immigrants when as a government they have no records of most immigrants' entry into the country is what has caused the scandal and will continue to cause more scandals such as threatening to deport spouses married to English people as we have seen in the wake of Brexit. I find it rather ironic that one of the fundamental reasons for voting to leave the EU was immigration but that the majority of immigrants in the UK actually do not come come the EU but  from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, itself, that body that encompasses representatives from all the countries which once belonged to the British Empire for me is a bit of a joke if the UK government is now trying to deport the very people who came from them at the invitation of the Empire. I am utterly in shock with the whole affair, the Windrush scandal and its consequences and am ashamed of those governing the country where I was born and which invented democracy. 

Friday came and Eladio would plant the flowers. But first Lorena and I arranged where everyone of them would go as we wanted harmony and all of them matching. But of course the hard work was done by Eladio. I had to do the food shopping and lots of little errands and Lorena joined me. When we got home we found my dear husband had planted them all perfectly and everything was looking great, except of course for the pool. The cover had to come off but we would until today to do it just in case it rained in between time which actually it didn't.  When Olivia came home from work that night she would see all Eladio's handy work.  
Some of the flowers around the pool
Yesterday Lorena would be leaving but first her Lebanese husband came to pick her up after flying into Madrid from the USA. They are a lovely couple and we spent time with them having coffee and chatting .I do  hope they come again.

Oli and I had to go out and do more food shopping and we chose to go to Carrefour Market. This time I took a closer look at the fruit stall and it is simply beautiful. I met a woman who makes fruit arrangements as a job and decorates some of the stall, like the water melons in the photo below. I asked for her contact number as she showed me lots of pictures of over fruit centres she does and they were spectacular.
The amazing fruit stall at the new Carrefour Market recently opened in Boadilla near where we live
We came home with our purchases and to say goodbye to Lorena and her husband. I then made our lunch; fish and lots of vegetables but before sitting down to eat, Eladio, Oli, the dogs and I went for our daily walk. Thus we had a rather late lunch. 

New Airbnb guests were coming, a family from Denver, Colorado; wife and husband Amy and Mike and their daughter Rachel who is studying at the University of Seville. It was their very first trip outside the USA and they had been touring the north of Spain.  Their stay at our house yesterday was their last night in Spain and I think they fell in love with the country. I liked them immensely and think the feeling was mutual but I couldn't have much time together as just after they arrived Eladio and I were leaving to go out to dinner. Also they left this morning at about 5.30 pm as they had an early flight to catch. Both my husband and I commented while driving into Madrid last night for dinner at our friends' house in town, that we have met some very lovely and interesting people thanks to our Airbnb hosting and very honest people too. 

We went to have dinner at Pedro and Ludy's house. Pedro is the famous "Perico Delgado" of cycling fame in Spain, having won 2 Tours of Spain and 1 Tour of France. His wife comes from Villablino which is really near Montrondo and we have lots in common as well as  a friendship that goes back at least 20 years if not more.  We always feel at home with them and Ludy is a great cook. They have 3 lovely young sons, Pedro aged 17 and non identical twins Pablo and Alvaro aged about 14. Their eldest son is mad about philosophy so was keen to talk to Eladio who as you know is a a philosopher. While they talked, I talked more mundane matters with both Pedro and Ludy. We were there until nearly 1 in the morning which is very late for us and weren't in bed until nearly 2. 

I was awake at about 5.30 maybe hearing my American guests leave but made myself stay in bed until 7 am. 

Today the main task will be to remove the swimming pool cover and get it ready for the good weather. Pictures no doubt will be in my post next Sunday. But there will be more important pictures next week as on Thursday Suzy will be coming for her birthday which is on Saturday and we can't wait to see her. She will be the main subject of next week's post for sure.

So my friends and readers, I have come to the end of the tales of this week. It is late and I must print this for my Father. 

All the best everyone until next Sunday 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Oliva in Bavaria, her programme on Monterrey, Airbnb Super host again, off to Santa Pola, US attack on Syria and many other stories of the week.

Santa Pola, Sunday 15th April 2018
On our walk to the Cape of Santa Pola with views of the lovely island of Tabarca during our stay here this week.
Hi again everyone and hi again from Santa Pola. This is our 3rd consecutive trip here in the last 2 months and we have come again seeking the sun and escaping from the cold and rain in the rest of Spain.

Last Sunday when I posted my blog, I forgot to mention that Ulpiano, from Montrondo, died suddenly last week. Many of you who have been with us to our village met him as he always featured on our tour of the village when we went to buy his eggs. He was just a few years older than Eladio and seemed eternal. I am very sorry for his widow Serafina. He was an emblematic figure in the village and his presence will be missed. It's difficult to imagine Montrondo without him. Here is a photo I took of him probably in about 2011 on one of our trips to his old farm to buy eggs. Going there was like revisiting Montrondo in the 30's or 40's, thus its charm and inclusion in our guided tour of the village. I liked his smile. RIP Ulpiano.
RIP Ulpiano
On Sunday our French Airbn guests left. They will be coming back in May. I was busy in the morning making "cocido madrileño" (local stew with chickpeas vegetables and different sorts of meats) for Miguel and Oli who were coming for lunch that day. At lunch my Father was eager to hear about Oli's trip the next day to Germany. She would be there all week preparing her next programme on the region of Bavaria this time.  My Father studied German (and Scandinavian languages) at Cambridge University and his first visit to Germany was before the war but he well remembers it and knows the names of many towns in Bavaria. These were towns she would be visiting and couldn't pronounce hahaha. She told him she would be going up the highest mountain in the country and he told her the name and the altitude - the Zygspitze at 2.962m. His memory is amazing. It used to be a habit of his to recite the names of towns, rivers, lakes or mountains from Northern European countries or from Russia to fall asleep. But hang on, he did so by finding names for each letter of the alphabet and per country. Miguel tested his geography of the area and asked him the name of the longest river in Finland. He actually got it wrong and said the Torne which is 521km long when it is in fact the Kemijoki which is just a bit longer. However, when we looked it up it seems there is a slight dispute as to which of the two is actually longer. He told us he had been given a book by the to be Finnish Ambassador in London once in Helsinki in the 30's about the River Torne and even told us his name but of course it went straight out of my head.  His head is much fuller of facts than mine and he is amazing for a man who is going to be 99 in May. What a memory, what a brain. At lunchtime that day he  also gave Oli a basic lesson in German.

While we were having lunch, Spain was playing precisely Germany in the Davis Cup Quarter Finals in Valencia, in the Bull Ring by the way.  It was very much touch and go. Thankfully Nadal won his singles match against Roddick. The deciding match was afterwards when David Ferrer who is from Valencia played Philipp Kohlschreiber (pronounce that Olivia). He won it by the skin of his teeth in a 5 hour match and thus the Spanish team have got through to the semi-finals. It was great to see Rafa on form again. Ferrer, who played the match of his life, was lifted up by his team mates in celebration after the epic tennis he played.
The Spanish players celebrating their victory over German in the Davis Cup quarter finals in Valencia last Sunday
Meanwhile in France, the famous one day cycling "classic" race, the Paris-Roubaix, dubbed  the "hell of the north" was taking place. It is a very tough race as most of it is on cobbles. I once went there with my great friend Fátima when we worked for Motorola and witnessed just what a difficult and hair raising sporting event it is. Sadly the news is not about the winner but about a cyclist who died of a heart attack after crashing during the race. The Belgian cyclist Michael Goolaerts, aged just 23, lost his life in the Paris- Roubaix last Sunday. It seems unthinkable but of course it can happen. I well remember and very sadly too, being in the Tour of France when one of our Motorola cyclists died also after a crash. RIP Fabio Casartelli. Aged 25 he died in the greatest race of all, Le Tour de France in 1995 and I shall never forget him nor will the team members or anyone who was there. What a sad day. My heart went out on Sunday to young Michael Goolaert's family and friends and to the whole professional cycling team family because it is like a family and I once belonged to it. 

It was on Sunday that I got the official photos of the Adam event with local mayors in Toledo which took place the Friday before. You can see them here. I had no idea the photographer was taking pictures of me while I spoke to the audience. It was funny to see myself again without glasses. Also the expression on my face in the photo below seems to me to resemble my Mother. I think as I get older I look more like her.  Those of you who knew her can probably judge better so please tell me.
One of the official photos from the Adamo event in Toledo. Me looking more and more like my late Mother I think.
It was cold and blustery on Sunday but it was at least sunny. So we got our walk in with the dogs. Before dinner I went to see my friend Fátima and took her some of the first flowers that have appeared in our garden apart from blossom. She was getting over the side effects of her first session of immunotherapy which was administered the Monday before. The side effects gave her the symptoms of full blown flu and dreadful conjunctivitis. It also affected her throat and she became completely hoarse. Even so, she was in good spirits and we managed to chat although she had to whisper. We have been friends since she joined Motorola about one year after me in 1991 and all I can do is look on and support her as best I can as she fights the disease. But what a fighter she is. Hang on in there my dearest, you are a champion and you'll come through and no doubt soon you will be here in Santa Pola staying at the flat you have opposite ours. I'm looking forward to that day.  

Soon after I got home, my next Airbnb guests arrived. We were to be honoured with the stay of an up and coming Spanish golf player, Adria Arnaus, who aged just 23, would be taking part in the Spanish Open this week. He came with his caddie, Alvario, who is from León like Eladio, although he lives in the town of Ponferrada. They have been perfect guests and I would have them again any time. Adria's father joined them on Saturday but I wouldn't get to meet him. I hope his son does well in the championship. 

As we were watching television that night (interview by Jordi Evole with the ex Spanish PM Felipe González) I realised my right eye, the eye that was operated on first, was hurting and bothering me. The next day I would go to the hospital to have it checked on. It got me a bit worried I might be suffering from post operative complications.  

Monday came and I had breakfast with my golfing guests. In fact I offered them breakfast as being very young men they had not thought to bring anything. I took the morning off and went shopping. I wanted to return to H&M and Zara where I had spied clothing I liked when I went shopping with Miguel and Olivia. I bought a lovely dress from H&M in a typical style I like, tunic shaped and a flowery pattern. 
My new dress from H&M
I also got a green blazer from Zara and a couple of scarves. 

My right eye was not getting better so I rang the hospital and they gave me an immediate appointment. I seem to have been going so often recently to the Quiron hospital in Pozuelo I now know my way backwards.  After a few tests it seemed my right eye was inflamed despite having taken all the drops I had been prescribed. The doctor thus prescribed new ones with antibiotics and I think steroids. Thankfully they have done the trick.  It took a while though and watching the TV was rather strange as my vision was a bit blurred. This last week we saw a new series on Amazon Prime which, by the way, we are  now preferring to Netflix, called The Father of Cain (El Padre de Cain) and which I can highly recommend. 

Olivia who had arrived in Munich on Monday, was doing her first day of filming. Her next travel report would be interviewing and following the lives of "madrileños" who live in Bavaria except for Munich itself which the programme has done before.  She sent us photos which I showed to my Father of her in Garmisch (skiing resort I think) and at the top of the Zugspitze mountain, the highest in Germany and which my Father had taught her how to pronounce hahhaa. Thank goodness she had gone prepared for snow.
Oli on the peak of the Zugspitze mountain on Monday
It was cold up there of course but funnily enough this week it has been generally warmer in Germany than in Spain.

That morning I had a meeting in Madrid with an ex Yoigo colleague who is helping set up a new company in Spain and to judge by how well the meeting went, looks like a new customer for me. It was weather for ducks though that day so I needn't have bothered wearing my new dress and blazer as I never took my coat off haha. This is me in the new clothes by the way. 
My new blazer from Zara and dress from H&M
It bucketed it down that day all day so there was no walk for us on Tuesday. However, I was out again in the late afternoon and back to the Hospital Quiron, this time for my periodical "MOT" (mammography test and scan). The test was done quickly but I had to wait 1.5h for the scan which is unusual for the hospital but it meant I didn't get home until really late. 

The highlight of Tuesday was watching Oli's programme that night of her last trip about Monterrey in Mexico. I have been to Mexico three times in my life but never there, only to Mexico DF and Acapulco. 
Oli introducing the programme about Spaniards living in Monterrey
I loved visiting Mexico, despite how dangerous it is. Oli told me though that she thought it was a little less dangerous now. Thank goodness for that. I must say she has a great job. For a journalist who likes travelling she's very lucky to be working for the programme "madrileños por el mundo". I wonder where she will be going after Bavaria. She travels once a month but never knows where she is going until about 10 days before. I find that rather exciting. By the way, you can watch the programme here

While we were watching Oli's programme, my golfing guests who are Barça fans were watching the Barcelona Champions League match, the second leg of the quarter finals against Rome. They had won in the first leg 4-1 so were bound to win, except that they didn't. They ended up losing 0-3 which was a huge disappointment for their fans and the club itself. Unexplainable really but there you are. 

On Wednesday I was up early again and did something I haven't done for a while. Yes, I weighed myself for the first time since February. Since coming back from our last trip to Santa Pola I returned to healthy eating and to my diet as I knew I had put on weight. Thankfully not too much damage was done. I had put on half a kilo since the last time but even so I have to lose another kilo or two to be back to my ideal weight. Well being here in Santa Pola hasn't helped and I shall have to start all over again when I get back. I am only capable of dieting at home for some reason, equating trips away and holiday with eating more or less what I want. Wrong Masha wrong!

Oli told us that morning that she was loving Germany. That day found her at Starberg Lake some 20 minutes from Munich. 
Oli by Starnberg lake near Munich on Wednesday 
I wondered for a moment whether I had been there. You see my Aunty Masha, my Mother's youngest sister, lived in Erding (Bavaria) in the 60's and 70's and my first trip as a child abroad was to visit her. I was 9 at the time and adored our trip to Germany. She ran an unsuccessful bar much frequented by the local US forces who I liked to talk to. Being the owner's niece I was allowed to use the jukebox for free and remembering playing and replaying Frank Sinatra's Strangers in the Night which was a huge hit then. I also remember depleting the ice cream lollies from her deep freeze. But I also remember days spent by a beautiful lake which I thought might be Starnberg. But Google Maps told me it was an hour's drive from Munich so it must have been another one. It seems there are many in the area.  A few years later, my Aunt and her son Sasha had to leave Germany not only because my Aunt's business wasn't going well but because she had a violent partner called Zvonko from Serbia who was abusing her. She had a baby daughter from him, named Sophie, after her mother who, very very sadly, died 10 days after her birth having being born premature at just 6 months. My Grandmother Sophie on her death bed made my Mother promise she would look after Aunty Masha all her life. This was a promise she kept always. So 2 years or so after our holiday in Bavaria, my Aunt and my cousin Sasha packed their bags and arrived with 2 suitcases each one night in Bradford. They lived with us for a year and I shall never forget that. Both only spoke Russian or German at home and my Mother spent the whole time translating for them and us, not my Father of course. Maybe that's where I picked up some of my very basic German vocab. So, yes Oli's trip to Bavaria is bringing back many memories for me. 

My sight was feeling funny on Wednesday and it felt that instead of gaining sight I was losing it. So I made a rushed appointment to see the eye specialist, Dr. Castillo, who had operated on me, for the next morning. I was getting more and more worried. And I told Suzy so on the phone when we had a long chat that afternoon.  

That night Real Madrid nearly lost too this time to the Juventus team they had beaten in the first leg 3-0. We didn't watch it as these days football matches are only pay-per-view. However I would read later how when they two teams were both at 3-0 at a draw and about to play the prologue to decide which team would go through to the semi-finals, the British referee called a penalty against the Italians because of contact in the goal area (I think hahha). I am no expert or judge but my husband said it was clearly deserved. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the penalty goal and Real Madrid are now through. They will now play their eternal European team rival, Bayern Munich in the semi-finals and Rome will play Liverpool. May the best teams win. 

On Thursday I woke up to see I was super host on Airbn for the 3rd time in a row. That certainly lifted my spirits that day. This is the certificate I got.
I'm super host again!
This is a badge that goes on your listing which of course increases reservations. To earn it you have to have a minimum rating of 4.8 stars. I have 4.9. You have to have over 80% 5 star reviews, I have 89%. Also required is a 90% response rate. Mine is 100%. Then you must not make any cancellations and host more than 10 trips - I have hosted more than 60 and finally you must get 50% of your guests to make a review. 76% of mine have left one. I now look forward to my next badge and meanwhile continue my Airbnb hosting. Today Sunday, my golfing guests leave and tomorrow I have a Venezuelan lady coming who lives in Dubai! It's all very exotic hahaha. 

Thursday saw Oli at a flower festival in Germany in the town of Wüzburg with an "umlaut". No doubt my Father can tell my daughter why hahaha. This is her enjoying the atmosphere.
Oli at the flower festival with ladies dressed in flowers on Thursday
We had decided that on Thursday we would escape to Santa Pola in search of sun as it was such bad weather in Madrid and we had no engagements coming up. We would have loved to go to Montrondo where we haven't been since the beginning of December but the weather there was awful. First, though, I had to go to the hospital once again to get my eyes and sight checked. I would be there until 11.30. After lots of eye tests I was happy to hear that nothing organic was wrong and I had none of the typical complications that can occur after cataract surgery. It was just a question of my eyes getting adjusted to the artificial lenses and it seems I take longer than others. Also I had the lingering inflammation in my right eye. So I was told to continue with the drops and I must say that since Thursday morning my vision has improved and I have less blurry moments and no pain. Thank goodness for that. 

I was home by just before 12 and by just before 13h with our suitcases in the car and lots of food and of course Pippa sitting in the back, we left.  This time we did not stop at Los Rosales for lunch on the way. I was getting tired of it as it is crowded and expensive. Instead we found a great place in a village called Zarza. I don't remember the name of the bar or restaurant but the lunch was superb and cost half of what it would have cost at Los Rosales. Not many people travel on the roads on a Thursday so we had no traffic and arrived at our flat at around 6 pm to 21c and sun. How lovely. We settled in and also put down the new Ikea mats I had bought this week to replace the awful mats we had inherited from the Norwegian couple who sold us the apartment 19 years ago. I must say the flat looks a lot nicer with the new mats and the new sofa covers. 

The apartment looks a lot better with the new Ikea mats and new sofa covers too
When we finished  I went for a walk with Pippa to the Santa Pola cape with its cliffs and amazing views.
The view from the lighthouse cliffs on my walk the afternoon we arrived
Eladio preferred to stay behind in the flat and change the light bulbs in all the house for new led lighting which I actually  find far too harsh. I was back in the light as it only gets dark now at just before 9pm. I love the long hours of daylight at this time of year as you can pack so much more into a day.  

The day finished quietly and it felt cosy to have dinner just the two of us in the apartment and then watch our series on the TV thanks to my Amazon fire stick. It was great to be back.

Friday was Friday 13th but thankfully not unlucky for us. We woke up to a nice sunny day although the temperatures would not rise above 19c but that was good enough for us. We had  a lazy morning in the apartment only venturing out to buy some provisions at Mercadona. We also visited the new shopping complex it is housed in and which we don't go to often. I'm not really impressed with it. Eladio took a photo of me at the centre or "mall" as the Americans call them hahaha.
Out shopping on Friday morning
I don't remember what we had for lunch but I do know we both had a long siesta after which the three of us went for a walk on "our beach", the Carabasi natural beach below the apartments on a cliff above Arenales del Sol.  It was windy and slightly cool and we had the beach to ourselves. As usual, once at the far end with views of the Tabarca island, we sat on "our rock" where we have taken countless photos over the years. Here are the ones we took that afternoon.

On our walk on the beach on Friday afternoon
Do please notice Eladio's new jeans. They are skinny denims from Primark. Until recently I thought skinny jeans were only for women while my poor husband continued to wear his very baggy trousers until I cottoned on to the fact that you can get them for men too. Since then he hasn't quite become a "fashion icon" like my friend Kathy (according to Phil her husband) but he's getting there hahaha. No doubt he will not be pleased with me mentioning his clothes in my blog. Let's just hope he only looks at the photos and doesn't read all the way through. 

Saturday came and it was the 14th April and a day that will go down in history because of the night bombings of Syrian chemical sites by the US and its allies France and my country Great Britain. It was the first thing I read yesterday and although we all knew it could happen I couldn't help but think that if this wasn't war it was certainly a very big chapter in the new cold war with Russia. Russia, of course, is the only country in the world together with Iran which openly backs President Assad's regime. The bombing was in retaliation for Syrian chemical attacks in Douma on 7th April which killed dozens of civilians. Using chemical weapons is a crime against humanity and in international law is totally prohibited. Both the Russian and Syrian governments deny their involvement in the chemical attacks. The US and allied intelligence says otherwise. Today, though, I read in The Times, the former head of the SAS, Major General John Holmes thinks differently. He claims that Assad has already won the war and has no need of bombing the population with chemical weapons and that the authors are probably the rebel forces who want to force the US and allies back into battle against the current regime. Who knows what to believe? I mean do you not remember when George Bush and Tony Blair went to war with Iraq because they said Sadam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which later turned out not to be true? Well maybe I shouldn't pay any attention to the words of the former SAS chief as  he is now being accused of joining a society "endorsing the Assad regime".  The Russians themselves claim the chemical bombing was staged by the rebels but how can you stage what we saw on the television on 7th April?  I see Russia's hand there and I don't like it. And I don't like to think how Putin will retaliate to Saturday morning's attacks on Syrian chemical compounds. Before the night bombings he had warned that any military reaction from the US could spark a war. It's an ugly picture.  

I'm so glad I was born and live in the relatively peaceful area of Western Europe. Unlike the poor population of Douma, I was able to go out fruit and vegetable shopping yesterday where everything was in abundance and all was peaceful. 

It was a lovely sunny day yesterday with temperatures rising to 23c, at least 10c more than in Madrid. On Saturday mornings there is always an open market in Santa Pola village or town so off we went to buy lots of oranges. They are so fresh here and come straight from the trees. They haven't been washed and even have leaves on still. We bought some from the pile you can see in the photo below.
Buying oranges at the market in Santa Pola yesterday
They were going for 3 euros for 5 kilos and we bought at least 12 kilos which made for very heavy carrying I can tell you. We also got grapes, mangoes, strawberries, huge mandarins, runner beans, leeks, onions, asparagus, avocados and sweet and ripe tomatoes. Once our fruit and veg was in the car, we drove down to the port with Pippa to take a walk on the promenade. But first for a cup of coffee at one of the news bars on the new boulevard by the port. And here I am enjoying my "cuppa".
Enjoying a cup of coffee in Santa Pola yesterday
I remarked to my husband yesterday while enjoying my coffee with views of the port, that life was good. I feel free as a bird professionally and have the best of both worlds after leaving Yoigo. Being freelance makes me free. I have work to do for customers but it up to me how and when I do it. I also remarked that we are at an age, in my case nearing retirement, that we should make the most of life and travel and live well as in 10 or 15 years time we will be too old and too gaga to want to travel or eat out. Or who knows? This year in August it will be our 35th wedding anniversary and 38 years ago since we met. We shall have to celebrate in style and not wait for our golden wedding anniversary when Eladio will be in his 90's. No, life is for living and living now before it is too late. I should add that in order to make our life work balance function properly a lot of it is down to efficiency and organisation something I learned when working for the blue chip companies I was employed at. So, yes, if you are organised, work permitting and despite important responsibilities, life can be enjoyed to the full.

After our coffee we walked along the promenade again and saw people sunbathing and enjoying the beach. We came home with all our fruit and veg and ate some of it for lunch. The thick local asparagus were just divine.  

Later in the day we went for our second walk which was again to the Santa Pola cape cliffs, our nearest walk and which takes about an hour to do there and back. For once we got someone to take a photo of the two of us, or should I say the 3 of us to include little Pippa? That is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. It's funny to see we were both wearing yellow in the photo. It looks good against the blue sky and sea. The visibility was great yesterday and we could make out the local landmarks of the island of Tabarca: the church, the prison, the lighthouse and the cemetery.
The island of Tabarca as seen from the lighthouse cliffs
It was Saturday and most people would be out for dinner or drinks. But not us. We prefer to have dinner at home and then watch our current series via streaming. It's much cosier. That is what we did again last night. We finished the series "Hermanos" and started watching a lovely British film, based on a true story, called "Breathe". I'm loving it.  

Today is Sunday, the end of the week and it promises to be a good day. It will be the warmest day today with a maximum temperature of 26c. We haven't decided yet what we are going to do but no doubt you will read about it in next week's  post or see photos I publish on Instagram.

So folks, that's it for this week. Have a great Sunday, love to you all until next time,