Friday, December 30, 2005

Christmas highlights at Río Tajo, 5. Dec 05

Long time no write - I'm getting lazy but shouldn't so here's an update on activities here at Río Tajo this Christmas tide. Being out of work gave me lots of time for preparations and this year there was even a countdown master plan with elaborate menus (Christmas is all about eating, blast it) and secret present lists.

Quite a lot of wining and dining took place which included 2 now traditional meals - dinner with Mar and Mariano (my and our La Vanguardia journo neighbours). This year's dinner took place at our house and was the most exciting one yet as Mar and Mariano have just adopted Sam a 3 year old Chinese boy who is delightfully affectionate. He was a real plus to the dinner. Since then Mariano has been successfully operated after a cancer scare. We love them so much.

The next celebration meal on the agenda was with Julio and Fátima (my best pals). We all ate so much Julio needed a siesta afterwards. As is typical with Fati, she was only an hour late and, of course, no apologies on arrival!!! We ate the great fillet steak we had bought at a trip to Mercamadrid at the beginning of December.

In Spain the most important event is the Christmas Eve dinner but more about that later (and some pics) as we are off to the cinema to see Luther - people go to see the Narnia Chronicles and King Kong, etc but when you have a philosopher for a husband and a daughter (Olivia) immersed in journalist studies, you go to see more cultural things. Last time I studied Luther I was about 12 so I won't remember much. Well I'm back now (film was actually quite good) so I will continue where I left off:

Yes, Christmas Eve. It will probably have been our last Christmas Eve dinner here at Río Tajo. A very quiet and lovely dinner as usual; this year all prepared by me and not our household help cum cook Ana who made last year's dinner. Anyway my perushki (Russian pasties) are better than hers!!! This year just the family, no lonely strays like darling Berk Saglik a Turkish guest we had last year.

Christmas Day was purely English and as traditional as always - only change being we had capon instead of turkey; otherwise NO concessions. The day starts with the girls (now aged 20 and 21) finding Father Christmas' stockings in their rooms and we all go ooh and aah at everything they find. Then breakfast in the dining room with the best tea set. Once everything is put away and we are washed and dressed the opening of the presents starts. We go for volume in our house rather than quality, so we are often opening presents for nearly 2 hours - one at a time, of course, all "washed down" by a nice box of Cadbury chocolates.

The rest of the day consists of making the Turkey (or capon) lunch with all the trimmings (thanks again Anne for the sage and onion stuffing, etc), eating it, clearing away and then having a Spanish siesta for about 2 hours. There is NO dinner in the evening and the left overs get eaten on Boxing Day. The day finishes off with a family film we all watch together (with bloody chocolates again). This year it was the Choir Boys; lovely!!

Another highlight is and was dinner at Julio's. Julio is one and we are 6: Eladio, Masha, Susi, Oli, my Father and Oli's boyfriend José Luis. The rule is that the girls can only bring their boyfriends if they have been going out with them for more than a year and a half and, of course, that is never Susana's case. Fati also came this year so in the end we were 8 in Julio's delightful bacherlor flat. As usual the food was out of this world - most of it came from a very good catering group called Mallorca. Here we also exchange presents, each one with oohs and ahhs, too and this year Julio taught us all a game, the objective of which was to make us all drunk. Certainly a night to remember.

Well, Christmas isn't over. There is still New Year's Eve to come and that is always quite fun in our family. Tomorrow, as always we will travel up to León in the north of Spain to spend the evening with Eladio's family. With all his brothers and sisters, their offsprings and boyfriends and girlfriends there will be about 30 of us. The only sad note will be the absence of Eladio's father who passed away in May.

And after New Year's Eve comes "Reyes" or the Feast of the Three Kings on the 6th January. That is when Spaniards traditionally gave and still give their presents. As we love celebrations in this family, we will certainly be celebrating that too.

But meanwhile here are some photos to illustrate this post:

Top left Julio, Fátima and me at Julio's dinner

Top right: My Father, Susi, José Luis + Oli at Julio's dinner

2nd row left: My Father, Susi and me on Christmas Eve

2nd row right: Eladio and his girls on Christmas Eve

centre 1: Susi showing the thongs she got on Xmas morning.

centre 2: Eladio and I on Christmas Eve

Last photo: dear Sam stroking Henry our cat.

All in all a very nice Christmas time.

Cheers to you all/Masha

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat

Hello again

I haven't written for a long time - not much to post really is probably the reason. Also my 3 main projects are proving difficult: 1) lose weight fast (have lost 6 kgs but have not budged for a month despite HUGE sacrifices and now Christmas is coming - HELP!!!- CHANGE AND CORRECTION HERE: today Monday 19th I have lost 2 kg more, all in all 8kg!!!), 2) find a new job (not doing well on that scene either - also had a bit of a blow over one particular position - won't go in to that though because it's all a bit depressing) and 3) sell this house fast so as to buy the new dream house (see my last post) or the Argentinian one. There hasn't been much light so far but there may be positive movements soon so stay clued to this blog and I will let you know.

So, all in all a bit depressing. But, Christmas is coming and I love Christmas so refusing to go under being my main objective in this new period in my life, here I am with one week to go and practically no shopping done. But don't despair, all is planned and everything will be alright on the day, as happens every year. The first bout of shopping happens tomorrow when Susana (my oldest daughter) and I hit the shops at 10 am with the big spenders, my husband and my father - ready to spend money on the presents we tell them to buy. The second and hopefully last bout will be on Thursday when Olivia (my second daughter) and I will hit the shops for the rest of the presents.

To prove Christmas has arrived at Calle Río Tajo, 5 here is a photo of Eladio next to the tree we put up on Friday last.

So a Happy Christmas to you all and a great year ahead too for all of us.

Love Masha

PS Thanks Jill for the tip about getting Christmas crackers at Taste of America. They have them and tomorrow I'm picking up 4 boxes!!
PPS Thanks Anne for bringing me the needed English Christmas goodies without which our Christmas tables would not have been the same: cranberry sauce, Paxo sage and onion stuffing and Christmas crackers
PPPS Thanks darling Miguel for bringing me the nearly forgotten Christmas pudding from Waitrose.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

This could be it - our dream house?

Now that the pink house is no longer in the picture, the Argentinian a little pricey, we have come across this lovely Basque/Santander type country house. It is not perferct (not one is) but it is beautiful, great quality in the materials and I just love the architecture. A big plus is the huge country style kitchen. Don't like the driveway to the garage though so if we go to live there I shall be parking outside in the cul de sac.

Tell me if you like it


Monday, November 21, 2005

My latest news and a quick trip to León - 17th Nov 2005

Hiya again

I've been very quiet recently - still busy house hunting, job seeking and dieting (yes girl friends, I have lost 6kgs since 17th October - you want to know the method? It's called Herbalife!!!). Oh, and I must tell you that my Father has gone on holiday (all by himself at the good old age of 86) to Helsinki - good connections got a good price at the SAS Radisson Royal which he is enjoying immensely.

Made a quick visit to León last Thursday so that Eladio and his 5 other brothers and sisters and their Mother could sign some legal document to do with my recently deceased Father-in-law's will. It was a nice opportunity to be together. So of course we enjoyed a good lunch and not so good dinner out together. We also took a photo for memory's sake.

From left to right: Alejandro, José Antonio, myself, Adela, Pili, Ernestina (their Mother), Eladio, Primo, Isidro and Dolores (names in bold are the brothers and sisters). Missing were Andrés (Pili's husband), Yoli (Isidro's wife) and Marisa (Alejandro's partner).

Friday, November 04, 2005

All Saints' bank holiday in Istanbul 29 Oct - 1 Nov

Beautifully planned by Julio, off we went for a long weekend to Istanbul, Julio, Fátima, Eladio and myself. I had been there about 20 years ago but only really remembered the covered bazar.

Pretty packed but interesting programme which included the Blue Mosque, Santa Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, Topkapi, Turkish bath at the famous Camberlitas baths (one of the highlights of the trip - soapy massage by big naked Turkish ladies was something to be remembered), visit to the Taxim square and walk down Istiklal street, drinks at the famous Pera Palace Hotel of Mata Hari and Greta Garbo fame, the mosaic mosque, the spice bazar, the covered bazar (4 hours non stop shopping - great fun bargaining. Eladio turned out to be a great bargainer. Funny thing I got many compliments on my looks from so many Turkish men at the Bazar and so I kept telling them that Eladio was my husband which only made them congratulate him on his beautiful wife!! Maybe Turkey should have been my country!!!! Finally coffee at the famous Pierre Loti cafeteria and then a rip off dinner at the Kalamari fish restaurant. All in all a great time, despite the torrential rain most of the weekend.

Sultanahmet hotel was a great choice and the best thing was we complained about our room and got moved to the best one the hotel had with a view to the Blue Mosque - only downside being that we were woken up everyday at 5 am to hear the Iman calling the faithful to prayer!!

Photos are of Julio, Fátima and me on our balcony at the hotel, Eladio at the Kalamari restaurant and Julio, Fati and me buying ceramics at the bazar.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Goodbye 6 Heaton Grove

As you can see I have been silent for a a few weeks. Well that's because we have been in the UK in my old home city, Bradford, to finalise the sale of my Father's house and help him move out. It was quite an emotional time - going through my old desk and seeing letters from my deceased brother George written to me when I was at University in 1977. I threw so much junk out but kept things like an invitation to my 21st birthday party!!!

As a family we moved into 6 Heaton Grove in 1965 - 41 years ago. The house meant so much to us all but was becoming very lonely and empty with only my Father living in it as my Mother died 6 years ago.

41 years ago there were no asians living in England but now in Bradford there are 70.000 out of a population of 300.000. So it was no surprise that a Pakistani gentleman, Mr Nawaz (my Father's neighbour and owner of 6 other houses in the same street) bought the house. We saw him on several occasions last week and were actually invited to his house to a splendid Asian meal in a very gawdy and opulent asian style dining room - the surprise was that it was laid on for us alone although in the end his daughter, Shazia, sat with us. She told us she had just been to Pakistan to marry her cousin (arranged marriage of course) and was getting to know him on the phone while preparing the paperwork for him to come and live in England! Eladio and I enjoyed the meal enormously as we adore curries but my poor Father ate very genteely.

The night before we left we were invited to dinner by the Wrights (Susan the daugher aged 71 and Margaritte the Mother aged 97!!!). They had been my family's neigbours since they moved into Heaton Grove. The dinner was a different affair to the Pakistani one the night before. Susan and Margaritte will be moving out now that my Father has left. Mr Nawaz, of course, wants to buy their house but they are not on good terms with him as his daughter once called Susan a "racist pig".

It was amazing to see tears in Margaritte's eyes as we left. They have been great neighbours, despite their funny little ways. They have also "looked after" my Father by inviting him over every Sunday afternoon for afternoon tea to do the Times crossword together.

Life in Heaton Grove will never be the same.

Still searching for a new house

Well we chose the pink house but negotiations are proving difficult so it just may not be. Only time will tell.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Searching for a new house


A few days of silence as we had an internet blackout for a few days but actually we are really busy searching for a new house.

A lot of you know that Eladio and I shall be selling our current house because my Father is coming to live with us and we need more space - actually a bedroom on the ground floor.

We have probably looked at about 70 houses in the same area where we live now and finally have come across the dream house, but actually 2 dream houses. We are having trouble choosing.

Our first choice is a British looking pink house with ivy and the second is a more modern (yellow house) built by an Argentinian football player who has just left Spain.

I wonder what your choice would be .......

Let me know.

Photos are of the pink house with ivy, our current (white) house where we have lived for the last 18 years!!! and the yellow Argentinian house.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My husband, Eladio's surprise early retirement party - Madrid 25th June 2005

In July I organised a surprise retirement party for my darling husband Eladio. It took me 3 weeks and with a little help from my friends and daughters we created a great do. We held the party at home in the garden and more than 40 people came, including some old colleagues he hadn't seen for 20 years or so. We also created a little album with the graphic history of his life - cool! The girls sang (beautifully - Oli cried when she sang Edelweiss for him) and his brother Alejandro had us in stitches with a comic act at the end of the night.

It was difficult for me to keep the secret for so long and I was having kittens on the last day. The hardest thing was getting him out of the house for the party to be created - the chairs and table, food, banners, balloons, people to arrive and park in another street. My friend Fátima texted me to say everything was ready. When we got out of the car Eladio saw the balloons and thought the girls were having a party and so suggested we went out for dinner so I had to drag him in.
The pictures are of his surprised face, the people waiting for him and lovely one of his mother hugging him - his Mother now in her 80's and not very mobile had made a huge effort to be there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

My blog became public - Tuesday 14th September 2005


Today my blog became public, I sent the link to my English speaking girlfriends and they were suitably impressed, mostly because I am not supposed to be very computer literate, I suppose - a friend once told me I should use a Fisher Price PC!! A good friend from Helsinki answered "old ladies are kicking IT's asses" . Another good friend based in Mexico City actually left me a comment. So did some people I don't even know!!!

So they have all motivated me to continue and continue I will.

Thanks girls for your enthusiastic comments.

All my love/Masha

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mummy and the girls

This is a photo of the girls and me. Susi on the left of me and Oli (next to the window) on the right of me. Posted by Picasa
Oli hates this picture but I love it cos I look so young. It was actually taken when we went to Pernille and Thomas' wedding in Copenhagen some 5 years ago.
Published on my blog 13.9.05

My family

I am Mother to Susana (aged 21) and Olivia (aged 20). They are stunning looking girls. Susi is studying Food science (the idea that as she loves food so much she might as well study it) and Oli is doing Media studies - well actually it's a triple degree in media studies, advertising and audiovisual communication.

I have been married to Eladio for over 22 years now. It's quite normal for me but often some of my English girlfriends ask me if we are still together. Well we are and that proves that some marriages can be successful. Eladio has just retired (early retirement) after being a teacher of philosophy and before that a Catholic Priest.

My Father, Charles Courtenay Lloyd, now 86 is going strong. He is shortly coming to live with us - he will be moving out of his house in Bradford (UK) after 40 years. But he's looking forward to being with us all here in Madrid.

Pictures are of Eladio (relaxing in the garden at home), Olivia in the middle (at Amanda's wedding do) and Susi (close up) on the right.

Published 14th September 2005

Andy and Amanda's wedding party do - 11th September 2005

This weekend I went to a wedding party do in the UK. It was to celebrate Andy and Amanda's wedding. Amanda and I are best friends from wayback (Bradford, UK in the 60's). Posted by Picasa

Helsinki July 2005

This is me, photo taken in Helsinki in July 2005 Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hello everyone

Hello everyone.

Well, as a communications professional it was about time I created my own blog. So, with a lot of help from Google, here I am.

When I've posted some more content, I'll let you all know my blog address.

12th September, 2005