Monday, March 31, 2008

Spondylolisthesis, lunch with my new Chinese friend and on the telly again

Hi again

Usually, as you may have noticed, I only mention the good things in life in my blog and, of course, the publishable stuff. Therefore my life probably sounds perfect. I have nothing to complain about but, of course, it isn’t perfect.

To prove it isn’t perfect, I’m telling you about my new ailment. I have been having a lot of back pain in the last few months. I tried to ignore it but it persisted and I finally went to see a specialist. To cut a long story short, the diagnosis is degenerative spondylolisthesis which, I cannot for the life of me pronounce.

From what I have read on internet, degenerative spondylolisthesis develops when the stabilizing spinal structures begin to deteriorate. This usually occurs in the lower back, which carries most of the body's weight. Sometimes the spinal joints become arthritic and wear out, which may cause spinal instability. As vertebrae lose normal alignment one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below it. When this happens the neural foramina (space where nerves leave the spinal canal) may become closed causing nerve compression and sciatica.

So what does that mean for me? Well, I don’t know yet. Today I am doing the super scan and will see the doctor again on Thursday. Meanwhile the pain seems to be receding and the number of pain killers I am taking has also gone down.

A more cheerful piece of news was lunch with my new Chinese friend, Lisa Wang last week. Lisa and I met at the first TV programme we went to. It’s fun to have a Chinese friend and she is my first. I learned from her how she first came to Spain at the age of 13, how she had to learn Spanish and integrate. Her parents, very typically, had a Chinese restaurant!! I also learned that there are 1.3 billion Chinese people, about one fifth of the world’s population and that Mandarin is the unifying language although there are hundreds of dialects. Lisa works for Inter China Consulting in Madrid which is an agency that helps Spanish companies enter the Chinese market.

And on Friday, the day my friends were coming from England, I went on the TV news chat show again. This time the coverage was nationwide as the channel, Intereconomía has now opened up its signal for the whole country. This time my companions were of Korean and Palestinian origin which made me feel the least exotic of the lot. Anne was American of Korean origin who works for an NGO in Madrid which promotes free trade. Radi was Palestinian and heads up a Moroccan owned bank in Spain. One of the great things about going to this programme is meeting the other “foreigners” and learning about their walks of life.

If you want to see it, you should be able to download it here: Intereconomía (go to the calendar on the left, change from radio to TV, then click on March 28th and then find the programme and time which is: 11.36, Foros Capital).

My contribution was commenting on the visit of Sarkozy to the UK last week and how the main protagonist was Carla Brunni. When the conversation turned to the economy and the sub prime mortgages in the USA my comments were what that might mean to the family economy!!

And then I had to rush home to rustle up lunch for Amanda and Andy and Simon and Gill, whom, as you know from all my previous posts were coming to stay the weekend. But more about that in my next post.

Cheers till then,


Sunday, March 23, 2008

From Granada to Santa Pola and back home for Easter

Hi again,

From Granada, we made our way to our seaside home in Santa Pola last Monday to enjoy a few days by the beach. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and we were treated to a few blustery and rather cold days. That, however, did not deter us from taking walks on the beach at our usual hour, as you can see from the photos.

On Tuesday evening we went out with Alicia, a former boss of Eladio’s, who has just bought a flat in Alicante thanks to winning El Gordo, the Christmas lottery!! We had booked a table at the famous Hotel Montíboli, belonging to the Relaix Chateaux chain, once again. It is located in Villajoyosa, that lovely jewel of a town in between Alicante and Benidorm. However, it is not well sign posted and the address could not be found on our sat nav. When we finally arrived at 11 o’clock at night, the restaurant kitchens were shutting and we were turned away. That was rather disappointing. So we went on to the port in Villajoyosa for dinner and were joined for drinks by Olga and Alberto and the evening turned out to be a really pleasant reunion.

The next day turned out to be “black Wednesday” for me as I had a terrible migraine, probably one of the worst in my life. Eladio had to take me to the clinic where they injected me with something which sent me straight to sleep but which at least took away some of the pain!

That same night Susi and her boyfriend Gaby arrived and their friends, Carolina and Copi and her boyfriend were coming the next day and we, of course, were going home. It was lovely to see them and we took them out for lunch as we were having natural gas installed in the flat and we could not cook. That was a great excuse for having an “arroz abanda” (sort of paella) at Vistabella.

From there and after a quick stop at the flat to clean up after the gas man, we drove back to Madrid. The whole trip had been great, but really, one of the best things about travelling is coming home. There is nothing better than your own home comforts!

It was lovely to see Olivia again. Oli had stayed behind to study and enjoy her free time with her friends. It was pleasing to hear that she had missed my cooking! The first day at home was Good Friday for which I had bought the traditional English hot cross buns at an English supermarket in Santa Pola. And for lunch, I made fish, which, for me, for no real religious reason, is somehow a must on Good Friday.

And since we have been home, we seem to have done nothing more than washing clothes, sheets and towels. There are mountains of them to iron now which is a task neither of us is looking forward to! Our only jolly was dinner last night at La Vaca Argentina.

And today is Easter day and there will be a traditional roast meal and chocolate Easter eggs afterwards. Susi will be returning today and will have to face enormous traffic queues to do so.

Tomorrow will be back to work and back to normal, but with many new and good memories in our heads.

Next week, Amanda, Andy, Simon and Gill will be visiting us and I just know we are going to have a great Anglo Spanish weekend. But more about that in next week’s post.

Meanwhile, cheers


Me and Gibraltar today, and 28 years ago.


After my post on our trip to Andalucía and Gibraltar, I decided to scan the photo my Father has on his bedside table of me. It is the one Eladio took of me 28 years ago by the closed frontier between Spain and Gibraltar.

And here below is the photograph taken, again by Eladio, of me by the rock of Gibraltar which we were freely able to visit last week.

And to think I thought I was fat in 1980!!!


Friday, March 21, 2008

Journey to Andalucía and Gibraltar, 28 years later - 13th to 17th March

There are orange trees everywhere in Andalucía and even though I have lived for many years in Spain I still find them attractive and very exotic.
Hi again

And so the long awaited trip is over and now I am back home, sorting out photos and deciding on doing an album with all the paper memorabilia I have brought back. It was one of those trips that deserve the effort.

Our first stop was Córdoba where we stayed in the old Jewish quarter in a hotel overlooking the Mezquita (Mosque), that wonderful piece of Moorish and Christian architecture that for me, at times rivals with the Alhambra and which was actually built before.

Inside the Mezquita
Our arrival was special in many ways and actually quite funny. We had made a reservation at the El Caballo Rojo restaurant one of the most famous in Córdoba and of special sentimental meaning to Eladio and I but also very famous for its oxtail dish which, of course, Eladio ordered. The restaurant is right in front of the Mezquita and because it is impossible to park the latter offers a parking service. To get out of our BMW car and find the “parking man”, I had to fight off a gypsy who was semi assaulting my poor elderly English father dressed in his panama hat. I just wish someone could have taken a photo of the moment.

Outside the Caballo Rojo; my father in his panama hat
After lunch we did what I once did 30 years ago and that was to take the nostalgic horse carriage trip to see the main sights of the old town. We were lucky with the weather throughout but especially in Córdoba where the thermometer reached the high 20s.

The horse and carriage we toured the old town on. Me with "Paco", the assistant horse carriage driver and gypsy.
Then we toured the smaller streets on foot and specially enjoyed revisiting “la calle de las flores” (flower street) or the wonderful statues of Maimonides and Averröes, those 2 famous and contemporary Jewish and Arab men who were both doctors, theologians and philosophers and lived in Córdoba in the 12th century when Córdoba was one of the Arabian capitals.

Eladio and I posing in the Calle de las Flores, that wonderful street with the view of the Mezquita.
The next day we set off quite early for Gibraltar. As we were passing Málaga and Marbella I thought it might be fun to show both my Father and Eladio Puerto Banus, that most expensive bit of territory in Spain where the rich and famous keep their yachts. And what a wonderful place it is!

Eladio in Puerto Banus
We reached Gibraltar in the early afternoon, booked into the Rock Hotel and immediately set off for Main Street which is the street where all the shops are. I left the men outside and begged for 1.5h on my own in Marks and Spencers. M+S is probably my favourite shop in the world. I love their casual wear, underwear, household goods and cosmetics best. I could have done with double the time and still wouldn’t have been finished. Luckily enough I was able to revisit it the next day to get a few more things, this time for the girls.

Me and my M+S purchases in Main Street.
After M+S we headed off for Morrisons, the British supermarket, to stock up on British goodies I cannot get in Spain, such as decaffeinated tea or sage and onion stuffing, not to mention chocolate Easter eggs, which unfortunately melted in the car later!!

Saturday morning was dedicated to visiting the Upper Rock which is all along very windy narrow roads which are not very well sign posted. Because of that we missed out on the famous St. Michael’s caves and Jew’s gate. We did, however, get our full of the famous Barbary Macaques (monkeys without tails) throughout our visit. Unfortunately 2 landed on poor Grandpa’s shoulders to his utter disgust.

The monkeys even climbed on our car!

The views from the Upper Rock are superb. Here you can see the airstrip which the main road entering Gibraltar goes through and includes traffic lights for when airplanes are landing or taking off!!
In the evening, whilst my Father enjoyed room service at the Rock, Eladio and I went for a light dinner to the famous Waterfront restaurant
in Queensway Quay Marina. That was a lovely restaurant, lively yet romantic at the same time with some great food, of course.
We enjoyed the hotel thoroughly, mostly because of the amazing views of the straits of Gibraltar, Tarifa and Morocco but also because of the beautiful gardens and the lovely Wisteria Terrace.

Me outside The Rock Hotel

Eladio on the Wisteria terrace. Note the monkey key ring!

The view from our bedroom of the straits of Gibraltar
We also enjoyed sitting outside a pub on Main Street on Saturday afternoon and watching the people going past. Gibraltar, although British, has Spanish and Moorish legacies as well as Jewish which give it a multi cultural combination that is irresistible. Add the sea and the climate and you have a place that is quite unique. Gibraltar, although a little down run these days, did fulfil my expectations. It is well worth a visit.

From Gibraltar we made our way to Granada. I looked up a place to have lunch on the way in my wonderful “Guía de Campsa” – road map and restaurant guide - and came up trumps. It turned out a hotel I have always wanted to visit, called La Bobadilla was on the way. It is near Loja, about 60 km from Granada. And wow, was it worth stopping there. It is a luxury Andalusian oasis and one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen. Needless to say lunch was out of this world in all respects. It was interesting to note that the ex Minister of the Interior with Aznar’s Government, Angel Acebes, was also having lunch in the same restaurant!

Just one view of the fantastic Bobadilla hotel near Loja, Granada.

Daddy and I posing outside the restaurant we had lunch at in the Bobadilla hotel.
From La Bobadilla we made our way to Granada and to our hotel in the centre of the old town, completely forgetting that it was Palm Sunday and that of course the Easter processions would be on and traffic diverted from the main streets. Once that obstacle was overcome, we went out into the streets ourselves to witness this timeless Easter tradition which is actually quite awesome.

One of the processions we saw in Granada on Palm Sunday.
Then to work off our lunch at La Bobadilla we walked up to the Alhambra which is a very steep and long walk and a bit much for my Father. Later on in the evening Eladio and I walked up to that old neighbourhood called Albayzin from where there are amazing views of the Alhambra. The walk probably took us over an hour and it was getting very cold, all of which finally made us just hungry enough to order a small dinner at the lovely San Nicolás restaurant which has amazing views of the Alhambra. It’s a very beautiful and romantic place.

And Monday morning brought with it the highlight of the trip, a guided tour of the Alhambra palace or palaces. How can I describe the Alhambra here in my blog? Wow, well it is one of the most visited places in the world and narrowly escaped being included in the new wonders of the world. I really think it should be. For example the Taj Mahal is one of the wonders of the world, yet the architect of the Taj Mahal copied the mirror effect caused by water in the Patio de Arrayanes for example!

View of the Nazaries palaces in the Alhambra

Eladio in the gardens of the Genaralife, the Summer palace
The guide told us that it is the best conserved medieval Moorish architecture in the world. The Alhambra (Al-Hamra; literally "the red" in Arabic) is a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish monarchs of Granada in southern Spain (known as Al-Andalus when the fortress was constructed), occupying a hilly terrace on the southeastern border of the city of Granada. It’s beauty is unrivalled in Spain, although the Mezquita probably comes a close second. Of course I had visited the Alhambra but one’s memory fades so it was wonderful to see it again. The Alhambra is one of the most magical places in the world, really.

Eladio in the Alhambra
Here in Granada was where our journey to Andalucía ended. From here we were going on for a few days to Santa Pola. But that is another story which I will write about in my next post.
The trip was lovely and in many ways a trip down memory lane. Córdoba means so much to me as I once had a great trip there as a student. It was also where Eladio was first “stationed” as a teacher. And visiting Gibraltar also had a special meaning for all of us. My Father had been there in the war in 1942 so this visit must have meant quite a lot for him. When Eladio and I first met, in the Summer of 1980, we traveled in Andalucía and Morocco. I have a picture of myself outside the border of Gibraltar when the frontier was closed and you could not enter into Spain or Gibraltar by foot or by car. It was quite frustrating for me at the time and I vowed to come back one day. And this was just what I did, 28 years later, in this visit!!!

Me by the Rock of Gibraltar. I finally made it 28 years later!
Cheers till next time,

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Hi again midweek

Today I had lunch with Laura Iniesta. Laura was my student internee at Motorola quite some years ago. I hadn't seen her for a whole year, since my birthday last year, so I think the occasion is certainly worth a post in my blog.

Laura and I at lunch today in The Lighthouse in Las Rozas. I'm afraid the photographer's pulse was a little weak to judge by the blur of the photo.

Laura is now the proud mother of Gonzalo aged 6 and Belen aged 3. She was once my scatty but very professional PR assistant at Motorola when she was a student. We were sort of a Mother and daughter duo and enjoyed working together. I will never forget events such as the Devota and Lomba fashion evening, the Real Madrid basket ball sponsorship, the Champions League hospitality activities, to mention just a few. Laura is one of those charismatic, easy going, smiling people who naturally attract others whilst not really realising the gift she has which, actually, makes her even more attractive.

She may not know this, but I still have a copy of the beautiful letter she wrote to me when she left. It's a bit dog eared now but it's something I will want to keep for ever.

Laura, keep smiling.

Thanks for today.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

A typical week in March but a sad week for Spain

Eladio and Masha looking like the Lord and Lady of the Manor at Valdepalacios in Oropesa. Note the flower arrangement.
Hello again

This week has been quite typical with no great news to report on a personal level. I had lunch with Sonia, Ana Lorenzo and Fátima and Julio. The latter was to celebrate my belated birthday. Thanks guys for yet another box of Flower Bomb by Viktor and Rolf, my favourite fragrance. I now have nearly enough to open a small shop!!!

It was with Julio and Fátima that Eladio and I started the weekend when we visited the Valdepalacios Hotel in Oropesa (Toledo) on Friday. What a wonderful place it is. It belongs to the Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel and gourmet restaurant chain. Julio and Fátima wanted to check it out for an event and we went along for the ride and to spend some time with them. I have come back convinced Eladio and I will go there one day on a special occasion. The rooms cost around 400 euros a night, so the occasion will have to be very special. What a beautiful place it is.

The main house of the Valdepalacios Hotel estate

Julio, Fátima and Masha, the 3 musketeers, at Valdepalacios

A horse with no name. I encountered this beautiful horse on our walk around the Valdepalacios estate. It was being used for filming. When I asked what the horse was called, no one seemed to know. It was very interested in the contents of my bag!
What I also brought back from Valdepalacios was the impact made on me by the floral decoration they had there. They had wonderful flower arrangements everywhere but made by artificial flowers; the really nice ones. So Saturday morning had Eladio and me visiting Verdecora and Fronda and now we have similar floral arrangements in our house as you can see from the pictures.

After our daily walk we went to see the The Kite Runner. I had great expectations in the film as I had loved the book and would venture to say it is one of the best I have read in the last decade. It has all the ingredients I love, the backdrop of a fascinating country like Afganistan, its recent turbulent history and of course, the human relationship in the story of 2 little carefree boys, Ali and Hassan and the adored Father, Baba. Often when you love a book, the film can be a disappointment. This time it wasn’t. The way to judge whether I have enjoyed a film is how many tears I shed. And last night I shed quite a few. It is a beautiful and moving story and the film did it credit.

And today are the General Elections in Spain. Unfortunately I cannot vote as I am not a Spanish citizen. That’s a bit silly really as I have lived here for about 25 years now and am far more interested in Spanish politics than in English politics. When I referred to “a sad week for Spain” in the title of this post, I referred to the killing of the ex Socialist county councillor, Isaías Carrasco by the ETA terrorist group yesterday in his home town of Mondragón. It came as a complete surprise to the nation 2 days before voting and dampened the country’s spirits but not the country’s intention to vote today.

On a brighter note, next week Eladio, my Father and I will be going on our trip to Andalucía which will include Córdoba, Gibraltar and Granada before ending up for a few days in Santa Pola before Easter. Gibraltar is one of those destinations that have always fascinated me. I think I shall enjoy visiting a little bit of England in Spain. It is, of course, an anachronism but still quite a curiosity in itself. We will be staying at the famous Rock Hotel and I thoroughly look forward to shopping in places such as Boots, M+S, Smiths etc. I’m also looking forward to trying out the local fish and chips and curry houses. But more about that on our return.

Meanwhile have a good week,


Sunday, March 02, 2008

So much to look forward to: Gibraltar, the Alhambra, an Anglo Spanish weekend, Cavalia and back to school.

Hi again,

It’s always great to have something to look forward to. That’s the spice of life really. Right now I am immersed in organising trips and encounters that will be part of my agenda in the next couple of months.

I have planned a trip at Easter and Eladio, my Father and I will be visiting Córdoba, Gibraltar and Granada and will also spend a few days at our apartment in Santa Pola. I have never been to Gibraltar but have always wanted to visit it. We will stay 2 nights at The Rock which is the hotel to stay at in Gib. In Córdoba we have booked a hotel right next to the Mezquita and look forward to dinner at the famous Caballo Rojo. In Granada, of course, we will be revisiting the Alhambra after many many years. The task of booking tickets has proved quite difficult but we will get to visit it I know.

At the end of March Amanda and Andy and her brother Simon and wife Jill will be visiting us and I know we are going to have a great Anglo Spanish weekend.

In April I have booked tickets for Eladio and I to see an amazing show called Cavalia. It’s a horse and music show made by the same people who organised Cirque du Soleil. It will only be in Madrid for a couple of weeks and as soon as I heard it was going to be here I quickly booked us some tickets.

The really big thing to look forward to on my agenda is a school reunion of my class at St. Joseph’s College Bradford coinciding with the school’s centenary this year. I am doing my utmost best to get together some of my closest friends from our class called Kappa (1969 – 1975) and go the Grand Dinner for past pupils and teachers at the Bankfield Hotel (now called Ramada) on 9th May as well as the open day on 10th May. So far it looks like I will be joined by Amanda, Brenda, Ellen, Helen and hopefully a few others. I am so much looking forward to seeing people like Helen King who I haven’t seen since I left school in 1975. It will be amazing to see each other again, reminisce about the past and also exchange news on how life has treated us since then. I would also love to see some of our old teachers but most of all, Miss Fair who was once our Geography teacher and then went on to be the Headmistress after our time. Who else will be there that I remember, I wonder?

So, as you can see, there is quite a lot to look forward to in the next 2 or 3 months.


A very social week, another voice from the past, more news from Andy and Spring is in the air!

Eladio having breakfast outside on 2nd March!
Hi again,

I can’t complain about life. It’s so busy at the moment with lots of social events and also lots of things to look forward to as you will see from my next post.

This week I had lunch with Javier García and Juan Carlos Fernández Galindo, whom I call "Pin and Pon" for many reasons. They are my counterparts at Telefónica, Spain’s number one company. Javier could have been my boss and never was and certainly won’t be now as he is going to live and work in the Big Apple. Hopefully, we will be able to visit him there.

Javier and I at Aspen

Juan Carlos and Javier
I also had lunch with José Luis Pérez, an ex Motorolan who is now the Country Manager of Nokia Siemens Networks. He gave me some amazing Rioja wine, one of the bottles being from 1977!!!! Life is full of coincidences because at the same restaurant we bumped into the old Chairman of Motorola, Ignacio Camarero who looked the same age as ever!!!

There was also time this week for lunch with Susana and Juan at a place called The Fish Club, great food, not so great place. They were doing fine.

Midweek there was my company party to celebrate our number of customers. I organised it and wish to thank Quinta Esencia for a great job in making it happen. We did it at Moma, a super discotheque in Madrid. The evening was great as it wasn’t just food, drink and music but a whole load of simple fun fair attractions with great little prizes which made the whole party huge fun.

Midweek the voice from the past came from Keith Johnson, once the Marketing Director for Europe with Motorola and my boss. It’s funny how much Motorola has been in my life again this week. Well, after all, I did dedicate nearly 9 years of my life to that company in the 90’s. It’s sad to hear they may well be selling their infrastructure and mobile phone divisions when they were once number 2 and number 1 in the world respectively. Keith was a great boss and today is working freelance, I think. He keeps in touch just occasionally. Cheers Keith!

Since hearing from Andy (Andrew Dale) we are now corresponding regularly and funnily enough, thanks to my example, he has set up a blog for his wife Alexandra!! Andy sent me some scanned photos of my family during our Callosa days back in the late 70’s. They were quite a shock to see but very much appreciated.

Me aged about 20 in Callosa with Izzy
The best thing about this week, though, has been the change in the weather. Definitely Spring is in the air to judge by our garden and all the blossom on the trees. Also we have had lunch outside for the first time and made use of our super new table. You can see Eladio above having breakfast on it this morning with our usual selection of newspapers (El Mundo, Público and The Sunday Telegraph).

Me and the new table
And that’s all for the moment.
Cheers everyone