Sunday, January 27, 2008

The History Boys, a fresh look for my Blog but I didn’t read the instructions, did I and no news from Stephanie yet ……………..

Hiya again

Well this weekend has been extremely quiet and I have practically nothing to report. Eladio and I are still feeling a bit under the weather so we have spent most of the time resting, reading, listening to music. The only thing of note was watching the fantastic film sent to me by Amanda called The History Boys, based on the play by Alan Bennet. It’s the story of a group of A level students at a Grammar School in Yorkshire in the 80’s who are taking the Oxbridge entrance exam. It is a comedy, with some pretty strong language, but also a story of human emotions including some quite erotic homosexual moments. It is a great British film. As I went to school in the north of England at around that time I can relate to this film a lot.The History Boys

Oh and yes, as I have had quite a bit of time on my hands I decided to freshen up my blog. I had had the same design since I started it back in September 2005 so it was about time for a change. I use Blogspot which is quite simple but unfortunately when I changed the template I didn’t read the instructions properly so I never saved the old template. Thus I lost all the widgets or tags as they are commonly known. I.e. I lost the links to my friends’ blogs, the translation application, the web counter, the number of visitors online counter as well as the map of where my visitors come from.

It has been a pain to restore them all and I am still having trouble restoring the link to Facebook. Re the others, I think I am there.I hope you like the new image. I do.

And on Friday I wrote to Stephanie and copied Brenda and Amanda suggesting a weekend reunion in Manchester. I have been checking my mail ever since but no reply yet from Stephanie.

Cheers and let’s hope this week will be a good one.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Long time no write, lots to tell you, a black week in general, friends, voices and music from the past. Oh and Oli got a Cum Laude

Is this Tarzan?
Hi again

I haven’t written for 2 weeks but that’s because I’ve been very busy work wise and also I’ve been ill with a flue virus which I didn’t know I had till the other day.

So let me recap on what has happened since I last wrote.

At least 2 weeks ago I had lunch with Fati and Julio to celebrate her birthday. She took us to the Albufera and we had the best fideua I’ve ever had. If you thought paella was good, you should try Fideua. It’s the same but made with pasta. Umm.

And yes, Eladio and I went to the cinema last week to see Love in times of Cholera which was actually a bit disappointing. As the author is Gabriel García Márquez I should have suspected the story to be a bit fantastic to say the least. But still it is worth seeing, just not the love drama you expect.

Eladio finally got a replacement needle for our old record player and we have been able to listen to music we haven’t heard for years, such as Bruckner’s Mass Nº 3 in F Minor which I sang at St. Joseph’s College School in 1973!!! It took me back years. However as the record was not in a very good state, I went and ordered it on I also ordered a record I haven’t heard for over 25 years and which used to be an all time favourite at University: Joan Baez’s “Gracias a la Vida”. I cried tears of nostalgia listening to Rosiñol and De Colores. I went straight back in time and in my mind to my room at 10 Church Avenue in Nottingham in 1979!!

Talking about Nottingham in 1979, I got a call from Sandie, yes Sandra Lizioli, one of my best friends from Nottingham University. Sandie, whose Father was Italian and Mother is Hungarian, was born in India, went to school in the UK and now lives in Brussels. Sandra is great!!!! She rang me last Saturday to tell me she was meeting up with Sally Hughes in Brussels that very day for lunch. She and I haven’t seen Sally since we left University in 1980. Sally was a house mate at 10 Church Avenue and today she is a lawyer living in Lincoln and has 3 sons. Sandra and I have spoken about organising a Church Avenue reunion this year in Nottingham. How about it girls? We just have to find the other Sally and get Gillian to agree.

Eladio and I had dinner with Roberto and Mari Carmen at Los Pescaitos last weekend to celebrate her birthday. That occasion, I am afraid, was the start of my feeling ill. I slept badly that night and the headache that had started 3 or 4 days earlier got more and more intense.

Meanwhile Eladio got what we thought was gastroenteritis and Monday last turned out to be “Black Monday” which then turned into Black Tuesday, and so on. I got gradually worse with pains all over and a bad stomach and finally I went to the Doctor on Wednesday. She took one look at me and described my symptoms before I opened my mouth. It turns out there is an epidemic on but my version is the light one, as is Eladio’s. She told us the average duration of the flu was 7 to 12 days. As that was day 6 or 7 I realised I had another 6 to go!!! Oh, poor me!

I managed to spend that afternoon in bed feeling ****** lousy and if I swear on internet, that means it was really bad. I have to thank dear Eladio for taking wonderful care of me. The massages were the best!!

The worst thing about this week was that on Monday, with my flu, I had to give a public presentation at a Branding Conference by Marcus Evans for marketing professionals. I have decided I will never do a public presentation again. The conference organisers are a mafia. They charge attendants over 1000 euros but do not pay the presenters. We presenters spend weeks thinking about and preparing the ****** presentation which only takes up our time and, of course, gives us no money. So no, never again.

Yesterday I began to feel better and managed to attend the Nokia Spain annual January press lunch. It was a better feeling than last year. Again I sat with the other mobile phone operator Communications Manager, plus my successor at Nokia. The party was good, just a different style from what I used to organise.

And today I had lunch with my dear friend and ex Nokia colleague, Marta Acebo – the link to her blog is on mine. She visited my office and got given a nice pack of goodies and then we went off for a lovely girly gossipy lunch. Marta is starting a new job on Monday and I wish her loads of luck, although I know she won’t need it. Un beso Martita.

Talking about friends, Amanda has been in touch and it seems she and Andy and her brother Simon and his wife Gill will be over to see us at the end of February for a great Anglo Spanish weekend at our home. That’s going to be fun. Thanks Amanda for sending me the History Boys – described by you to me as “a bit of northern nostalgia”. I look forward to seeing that.

The voice from the past was from Stephanie Mandzuik (now Stephanie Wright). I got an email from her 2 days ago to which I still have to reply. Stephanie and I went to school together in Bradford and I haven’t seen her since. So an e-mail, nearly out of the blue, with a recap in 20 lines of the past 3 decades was quite a shock. Apparently she lives near Brenda Maher and Helen King, both classmates at St. Josephs. I have kept in touch erratically over the years with Brenda but had no news of Stephanie or Helen. I am now thinking of a girly reunion in Manchester where Brenda, Helen, Stephanie, Amanda and I could have a blast. How about it girls????

My final note is of praise for my daughter Olivia who, like Susana, is going through the worst exam period of the year. Oli announced very casually the other day that she had got a “Matrícula de Honor” (sort of cum laude) in journalism. We are very proud of her. Suddenly she seems to have gained a wonderful talent for writing which I can only imagine will grow. Well done darling!!!

So that’s about it for the moment. I’ve told you nearly everything that has happened and that is publishable of the last 10 days or so and reading it over makes me realise how intense this time has been in many ways.

I don’t have any pictures to illustrate this blog, except for one of Eladio pruning the trees during one of his better moments this week. He is not Tarzan but maybe sometimes he likes to think he is!!!

Cheers till the next post


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cats, cooking, the cinema and important decisions

Hi again

This week has been mostly about cats, cooking and the cinema but there have also been some important decisions taken in my life.

Dear Phoebe was operated on Wednesday and the whole episode has been quite traumatic for her. We picked up her after she had woken up from the anaesthetic but was still drowsy and couldn’t walk properly.

Phoebe when we picked her up from the vet
She must have been in some pain and obviously not trusting us for what we had done, she very soon disappeared. We found her later in cupboard under the stairs behind the suitcases but she was to disappear again later on in the evening when she ran out of the kitchen door and into the dark. The mistake was mine and I felt very guilty, specially as she did not appear again until mid morning the next day. We were so worried she would be run over or attacked by a dog as she is so un streetwise. Thankfully now she is home and safe and recovering from her operation and seems to have forgotten the bad time she had. The only good thoughts I have about this is that we have saved her from a life of constant motherhood.

Our 2 lovely neutered pets, Phoebe and Henry living a cats’ life, sleeping on the newly upholstered window seats!
The highlight of the week was lunch with my PR Agency to celebrate the new year. They took me the Hotel de las letras in Gran Vía which is quite a chic place with semi Asian cuisine. They have the best white wine from Rueda I have ever tasted!

The weekend has been back to normal after the Christmas period. I did some cooking for relaxation, more than anything and came up with the best chicken and mushroom pie ever. And today I made some excellent prawn and crab stuffed peppers. I got top marks from the family for both creations! I am absolutely convinced that the best food is cooked when you are relaxed and enjoy what you are doing. It’s a bit like plants; if you look after them lovingly they grow well. Anyway, believe me or not, here is a picture of the pie. The flower and leaves are courtesy of Susana.

Back to normal also means going to the cinema again. On Friday we saw Atonement and yesterday we saw The Last train to Auschwitz. They are both great films in their own way. Atonement is obviously more entertaining with its story of love, passion and guilt. The last train to Auschwitz is as horrific as its title suggests and is a little claustrophobic because the story begins and ends on the train. I am now looking forward to seeing the Kite Runner which should be out soon as well as the film based on the book “Love in the time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez which will be out next week.

Back to normal also means going to La Alpargatería restaurant again. It was there we went on Friday for dinner after the film and sat at our usual table, number 7 where we had our usual dinner. Well, Eladio actually tried something different on the menu, but I did not!

Talking about dinner, that brings me on the subject of decisions. Since Tuesday I have decided to go on a diet like 65% of the population after the excesses of Christmas and not just Christmas. And what diet is that you may well ask? Well, it’s quite simple: breakfast: a glass of orange juice from one orange and coffee with milk; lunch: free choice (so I end up eating what I want); dinner: a piece of fruit and a yoghurt. And that’s it. The exception is dinner out once a week on either Friday or Saturday. Keep your fingers crossed this works because if it doesn’t I’m in trouble and will have to find some other solution to this widening with age which seems never to stop.

And the other decision regards our silver wedding anniversary trip. Our choices were Africa, China, Vietnam, Israel and India but not necessarily in that order. Really we both wanted to go to India. It has been my dream, at least, ever since I saw the film Gandhi by Richard Attenborough. I am attracted by the colour, by the people, by the music, by the food, by the culture, yet know so little about the country. I got some very valuable advice from Olivia’s wonderful Indian friends, Sandeep and Sumit who strongly advised us that August was the worst month to travel in India because of the heat. So after much debate we have decided, that yes, India is our destination but that we will not go in August which is when our anniversary is but in December just after Christmas. So now we have a whole year to plan the trip of our lifetime.

Just before I finish this post, I must say Happy Birthday to my dear sister-in-law Sanya whose birthday was on Monday and also Happy Birthday to my best friend, Fátima whose birthday it is today.

And that’s all for the moment folks.

Have a good week.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Poor Phoebe, I hope she doesn't feel like this

Hiya again

Dear beautiful Phoebe was taken to the vet this morning to be neutered. She is only 6 months old and this was her first trip away from home. We took her in the cat transporter which she hated from the moment she entered it.

It was very difficult to get a picture of her as she wouldn't stop moving, trying to get out, even though she was on my lap and both Eladio and I were making soothing noises.

Poor Phoebe in the cage

Eladio making cooing noises - actually saying "musina"

Anyway we have left her at the vet and will be going back for her later tonight. Meanwhile I received a funny email from Anne about mental health and the illustration was so appropriate to how poor Phoebe is probably feeling, that I had to use it for this post.

Cheers till later

Monday, January 07, 2008

Family gathering for t 3 Kings’ day, goodbye Christmas, congratulations Mario and "reise fieber"

Susi in the morning of the 3 Kings' day by the tree. Funnily enough the 3 Kings brought us a few goodies this year!
Hi again
Just as we thought our visitors were over for this Christmas, we got a surprise call on 4th January from Alejandro, Eladio’s younger and somewhat unpredictable brother at times. Pili and Andrés had just left for Mérida and we were not expecting anyone else for a while. Alejandro rang to say they were thinking of either going to Galicia or Madrid for Reyes (The 3 Kings). Eladio said he was welcome anytime, of course, but would he please let us know his final plans for the sake of logistics. And they did come, but at about midnight the next day when we were just going to bed!!!

We were very pleased to welcome them and settled them in for the night after sitting and chatting for a bit. José Antonio and Dolores were coming the next day for lunch, so 3 of the 6 brothers and sisters would be together for the final Christmas festivity.

Lunch was thus a big affair as we were to be 9. So I made very British roast lamb and trimmings which I hope they liked. I was not without help as Marisa lent a very welcome hand.

In the afternoon we spent time in our candlelit lounge and Alejandro played my Grandmother’s piano, much to the delight of my Father. To work off the lunch and get some appetite for going out to dinner, we took our visitors on our daily walk which we extended in length for the occasion.

Dinner was at Los Pescaitos, the place we discovered with Amanda in Boadilla and a good dinner it was in all respects. Some of it was spent reminiscing on how I had met Eladio which was, of course, through Dolores. She reminded she had told me at the time that he would make a great husband!!! Well, she wasn’t wrong there was she.

Eladio, Alejandro and Toño at Los Pescaitos

The 6 of us at Los Pescaitos

Toño and Dolores very romantic together. You look great.
And today, 7th January is a national holiday which for us has been spent resting a bit after the excesses of Christmas. Today we also put away all the decorations, lights and trees which is such a sad affair. And here are the pictures to prove it.

Eladio putting away the Xmas stuff

Tomorrow will be the start of a new chapter in our lives. The girls have to face stiff annual examinations (some final) and I have a lot of work to do preparing for media activities at the 3GSM congress in Barcelona next month, to mention just one heavy task coming up.

Eladio and I have something to look forward to and that is our still unplanned 25th wedding anniversary honeymoon. Will it be China, will it be India, will it be Vietnam, Africa, where will it be and when? I am already travelling in my mind and each time I visit flight pages such as edreams, for example, I begin to feel the “reise fieber”. I don’t know if that’s how you spell it but it’s a German term my Mother used to use every time we used to travel and is equivalent to “butterflies” in your stomach from the excitement of travelling.

There will me more about that when we have done some more planning.

Just before I sign off, a word of congratulations to Mario and his Castilla León handball team who won the championship played this last week in Mérida. They beat Madrid to play the semi final against Galicia. They then beat Galicia and faced Cataluña in the final which they won yesterday. It is a great feat to be national champions.

Cheers till my next post.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Visit to El Escorial, New Year’s Eve in León, snow, lunch in La Moraleja, surprise visit from Pili, visitors from Moscow plus birthday greetings

Hi again

Well it’s still Christmas and there is one festivity to go still which is the Three Kings' day on Sunday 6th January. Unfortunately after that we will have to take down all the decorations and get on with cold and non festive January which is always difficult.

The day before Eladio’s mother, Ernestina’s visit came to an end, we took her and my Father to the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) where Franco is buried and to El Escorial nearby for lunch and a visit to the famous monastery. Her visit has been full of outings in contrast to her other visits and this is because she is so much more mobile after her hip replacement operation in the Summer. We all had a good time on this outing. Even though Eladio and I are very familiar with both locations they represent such important times in Spanish history that they are forever fascinating.

Eladio and his Mother in the sun at the Valley of the Fallen
New Year’s Eve was spent in León, as it has been ever since we married with NO exception. As I write the “NO” in capital letters something in my mind tells me maybe next year we will do something different!! We went on our own this year as the girls preferred to party in Madrid and their staying behind was an excuse for my Father to rest at home quietly which is quite understandable as he is 88.

The journey was pleasant and we had lunch on the way at the Parador in Tordesillas. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you. I think it was Eladio’s Mother’s first time and I know she enjoyed it.

Mother and son at lunch in Tordesillas
The New Year’s Eve dinner was held at the same restaurant as last year, Zuloaga in the heart of downtown León. This year we were far fewer than usual; the girls were missing as were Roberto and Marta and their partners. However my crackers, masks and annual present raffle once again cheered up the party. Two things though were amiss, one was the lack of heating on a minus zero centigrade night and the other was the poor quality food. Somehow I think we won’t be going back to the same place next year.

Primo and Isidro with my Christmas market (Plaza Mayor) disguises

Toño and the reindeer hat

Sara, Laura and Paula

Alicia and Juan, great glasses!
One always looks forward to New Year’s Eve but in a way, after the “grapes” at midnight things tend to become a lot less fun and I, at least, only really want to go to bed. However one is expected to go out for drinks and “party” and I never really want to. We managed to get to bed at about 3.30 and slept till 11, on time to have breakfast with Alejandro and Marisa in front of the wonderful New Year concert from Vienna. That for me is always a New Year’s Day must and this year was to be no exception.

I woke up to yet another message on my phone to see a friend (Lars) from Sweden had sent me a photo of himself in the snow in Stockholm. So I could hardly believe my eyes when I drew the curtain to find it had also snowed in León. I quickly took a photo of myself to send it to Lars for him to see that it had also snowed in Spain!!!!
Before leaving León, we had lunch with Eladio’s younger sister Pili and her husband Andrés. Their daughter Paula who is nearly 20 obviously has a different view of New Year’s Eve as she returned home at 10.30 in the morning!!! Thus we did not have the pleasure of her company for lunch. Neither did we have their son’s Mario who had gone to Mérida to play in the Spanish youth handball championship. The bus taking the Castilla León team had left at 10 in the morning; Mario had been partying till 5 but some of his team mates went straight from the discotheque to the bus in their suits and ties!!!

Thursday brought a lunch with a long lost colleague, Eusebio, at my favourite restaurant Aspen in La Moraleja, that oh so posh area of Madrid! Eusebio and I had both worked at Motorola but had not seen each other for 10 years!! He now works for the competition and is a grandfather - a very young one at that. Thanks Eusebio for a lovely lunch and it was lovely to bitch about you know who.

As I was in La Moraleja I dropped into the delicatessen called Embassy and bought a traditional Roscón de Reyes (sort of round sponge cake) for the Three Kings' day plus some great home made turrón as we were having guests from Moscow at home the next day.

Just after that we got a surprise phone call from Pili to say she and Andrés were coming to stay the night on their way to Mérida to see Mario playing on Friday morning. That meant a few preparations such as heating their room, making their beds and, of course, preparing a nice evening meal. Pili and Andrés were to be in luck in that respect as we had done the weekly shopping that very morning.

It was lovely to have them and the evening was quite magical; a beautifully laid table and then drinks in the candle lit lounge with Christmas lights and great Diana Crall music playing in the background.

They were off pretty early this morning and we got up to prepare them a nice breakfast but also to start more preparations, this time for lunch for my cousin Sasha and his Moscow family, Masha, Sasha, Edward, Ana and Ana. Wow, we were gong to be 10!!!

I spent the morning cooking “cocido madrileño” (sort of stew made of chick peas, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and various types of meat – you drain the broth and make a soup out of it with vermicelli and serve the rest without any liquid as the second course). Eladio drove to Madrid to fetch them as even though it was Sasha’s second visit here, he would never have found our place. He is a very clever chap but as he himself admits, has no orientation skills, despite being a professional tour guide! I think he just needs a sat nav.

He brought with him his step daughter Masha whom we had once met when she was a teenager some 15 years ago, her husband Edward, their 4 year old daughter Ana and their accountant, another Ana. They brought with them a host of Russian goodies including caviar!! Lunch was a melée of eating, conversation, mixed languages, going out to smoke (at least 6 times) and chasing the cats as Ana the little girl was far more interested in Henry and Phoebe than in her soup which is understandable for a 4 year old. I think my Father thoroughly enjoyed himself and was able to practice his Russian. Masha, who had never met him, said his Russian was perfect, completely accent free and that she had never heard a foreigner speak such good Russian. I must say I was proud to hear that.

Visitors from Moscow
And all too soon the visit was over as they were going out in the evening to a Flamenco show.

And so now we are alone, as I write, but not for long because tomorrow Alejandro and Marisa will be coming to stay and on Sunday, the Three Kings’ Day (Reyes) José Antonio and Dolores will also be joining us for lunch. So, as you can imagine, I will be cooking again soon ………………….

Just before I finish this post, I must congratulate my niece and nephew Sara and Roberto whose birthday it was on 31st December as well as Mari Carmen whose birthday was yesterday 3rd January. We have yet to celebrate the latter.

And that’s all for the moment folks.

Happy New Year just once again,


Links to new friends' blogs


I have just added the links to 3 friends blogs you might find of interest (quite far down on the left hand side of this blog). I follow them a lot, so guessed you may be interested too.

Jorge,based in Madrid writes (in Spanish) about communication mostly from the PR agency angle.

Roberto, based in London, writes about all sorts of stuff, but a lot about business, often, e-business and new technology

And Camilla, based in New York, writes about food and includes loads of great recipes and restuarant recommendations.

After all blogging is often about linking other blogs, so I thought it was about time I added some good ones.

Hope you enjoy them,

Cheers till later