Sunday, November 29, 2009

Barcelona again, a 3rd anniversary, dinner at Irene’s, a family trip to La Rioja and remembering Aunty Masha

The 5 of us together at the Márques de Riscal winery in Elciego.
Hi again

Well here I am this Sunday afternoon writing from our room in the Parador in Calahorra in La Rioja region of Spain. The girls are in their room resting as is my Father in his. We are on the awaited family trip to La Rioja. Soon though we may get together to watch the “clasiquísimo” derby as Barcelona will be playing Real Madrid later on this evening. I will probably just about tolerate the match and continue writing my blog as there is a lot to tell this week.

This time last week, Suzy and I were on our way to Barcelona on the AVE as the high speed train is known here. It takes just over 2 hours and since it came into operation many people stopped taking the plane, one of them being me. It was Suzy’s first trip and here is a photo of her with the free sun glasses that came with the Cosmopolitan magazine.

My mission in Barcelona was to attend the CMT international conference and also to site inspect possible locations for a press conference in February. Suzy joined me and we stayed at one of my favourite hotels, 1898 right on the Ramblas and very near the Mercado de la Boquería which we visited twice to buy fruit for ourselves and some amazing chocolates for my Father.
Suzy by one of the fruit stalls at the famous Mercado de la Boquería on Las Ramblas.
There was plenty of time for pleasure so on Sunday night we had dinner, as I do every time I come to Barcelona, with Grainne and with Marcel her son. It was a great evening catching up on the past (well we did go to school together) and on the present.
Suzy and Grainne
There was also time for walking and Suzy and I made our way, of course, to the beach, to the Barceloneta area and along to the Hotel Arts. The temperature was most agreeable with the thermometer reaching the early 20ºs at midday. We went again when we visited Bestial, a great restaurant, which is practically on the beach and which was the location we finally chose for our event in February. Great place!
Suzy and I on the beach in Barcelona.
Barcelona was great, as always. The trip was just slightly dampened by the theft of Julia’s iPhone when we went for dinner on the second night. Julia is an Austrian friend of Susana’s from when they both worked on the Nokia N-Gage tour some years ago. We hardly noticed when a man came up to our table and placed a piece of paper on it. He was asked to leave but later we realised he had stolen Julia’s phone right under our noses and we hadn’t seen him do it. Hopefully the restaurant will be able to claim insurance.

You can see the full set of photos of our trip to Barcelona here on Facebook.

Soon we were home again. On the Thursday I had the Yoigo 3rd anniversary press conference with things to announce so Wednesday was spent working non-stop on last minute details. The conference went really well. We held it at Eco Bar Spa in Paseo Rosales in Madrid. As we were announcing a new tariff of 6 cents per minute, we had built a giant 6 with over 15,000 lego pieces which took 3 days to build. You can see me posing by it with my new red glasses (classy eh? Or not? – not sure yet really) and the rest of the photos here.
Me and the giant lego 6 at the Yoigo press conference on its 3rd anniversary this week.
And this week was also the week we had dinner at Irene’s. Irene is Irene González from the González-Gálvez family, the family I lived with as a student in Spain in the late 70’s and whom I have written about many times recently as we have re-established contact and now see each other for dinner quite often.
Dinner at Irene's, from left to right: me, Gerardo, Vicky, Irene, Tomás
We hadn’t been to Irene’s house before and it’s lovely and cosy and beautifully decorated. Thomas, her husband, did the cooking and got full marks for a great vichyssoise and cod with peppers. We also got to meet their older kids, Paula and Tomás. The small ones, beautiful Celia and Nacho were there too to greet us before going to bed. We were joined, of course, by Irene’s brother, Gerardo and his lovely wife Vicky. Here are some more photos of that great evening. Our next meeting will in February and we look forward to that.

That was on Friday and the next day, yesterday, we were to leave for Calahorra in La Rioja. The most difficult part was getting all of us in the car on time (09.30h) with the luggage. It was mission impossible and it was only achieved at 10.15 with very grumpy girls. Our first stop was just outside Burgos at the famous Hotel Landa Palace. It was too early for lunch so we made do with refreshments. We always stop there on our way to the north and back and love the place for the atmosphere and food.
Oli, Suzy and me at the Landa Palace near Burgos on our way to La Rioja.
A couple of hours later we finally arrived at Calahorra (the vegetable capital of Spain by the way) which is nearly 500km from Madrid. Yesterday’s programme was lunch at the Parador, exploring the town, a walk, a lovely long rest in our rooms and then dinner at La Rana del Moral, recommended to me by a friend at work, Pilar. It was a great recommendation.
The girls and I in Calahorra yesterday.
And today was dedicated to the Márques de Riscal winery in Elciego. I have been there many times but it was new for my Father and Olivia and, in fact, neither the girls nor my Father had ever visited a winery or bodega as they are known here.

The Márqués de Riscal winery is apparently the oldest in La Rioja but it is also famous for its hotel which was built by the Canadian architect, Frank O’Gehry. It is spectacular and very modern, in sharp contrast to its surroundings, which have probably not changed much since the last century.
Frank O'Gehry's Márques de Riscal hotel in Elciego
Elciego, the village where the City of Wine is located, is very pretty and typical of the area with its church and spire and cobbled streets.
The four of us in Elciego
After the visit to the winery and the village, we made our way to the hotel to the table we had reserved at the magnificent 1860 restaurant (1860 was the year the bodega was established). This was perhaps the most significant moment of the weekend’s programme.

You can see the full set of photos of our trip to La Rioja here.

Tomorrow we will be going back to Madrid and both Eladio and Oli will be in a bit of a rush as they have to work in the afternoon. I have a busy week ahead of me but not quite as stressful as last week, thank goodness.

I cannot finish this post without referring to my dear Aunty Masha. Last year today she passed away. She always seemed so eternal to me and was an important reference point in my life, as my Mother’s youngest sister and the maternal family member who was closest to me. She really was a character as you can read about her in my post from last year.

And on that note, I will end this week’s blog post.
Until next time, Masha.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spring in November, a very busy week, new internet applications, luxury food shopping, getting ready for Christmas and the spice of life

Tweetdeck, a great tool to manage your social network accounts.
Hi this sunny November morning.

Today is 21st November and the sun is still shining. It seems more like spring than nearly winter, as a taxi driver commented to me the other day. We have had constant good weather for months and months now and in fact this summer was the 3rd hottest recorded ever. I am off to Barcelona today and I know it will probably be even warmer there. Would you believe I have hardly worn a coat yet this Autumn.

I will be going to attend an international seminar organised by the CMT (government body that regulates the telecoms market in Spain, where everybody who is anybody in the sector will be invited.
It will take place at the Gran Teatre Liceu on the Rambla, a beautiful building in a great location.
The Gran Teatre del Liceu in La Rambla in Barcelona where the CMT conference will take place this week, an ideal place.
Whilst I’m in Barcelona I will take the opportunity to site inspect possible locations for a press conference I will be organising during the Mobile World Congress in February. I’ll be killing two birds with one stone so to speak.

I hardly every travel for my job with Yoigo, whereas I was forever on the road with Motorola and Nokia. So going to Barcelona today seems quite exciting. Suzy will be coming with me so I’m guaranteed to have a good time when I’m not busy. Tonight for example we will be meeting Grainne and Marcel, a must every time I go to Barcelona and on Monday night we’ll be going out with Julia, Suzy’s Austrian friend from the N-Gage Tour some years ago.

This week has been extremely busy. On Monday we had an interview with a financial rag called Nuevo Lunes. Thursday was the busiest. It started with a visit to El Economista which was both a breakfast meeting with the editors in chief and then a live online interview where my boss and I had to answer readers’ questions which were sometimes very candid. Our answers were transparent, direct and fun as you can read here in Spanish.

Then we had to rush back to the office as our blogger event was starting. At Yoigo we have a very frank relationship with this new kind of media; the ones who write about technology and our company. They are experts in their fields and more demanding than journalists. Some would call them freakies but I don’t. They were coming to a Yoigo at home event and it was the first time they were visiting the offices. Of course I had gone all out to put on a great event. The theme was “home” so the waiters were dressed in dressing gowns, the tables in the cafeteria had bunches of coloured sweets, there was a table football and darts and as a final touch we gave them a pair of microwaveble slippers as the goodbye gift. Here you can read just one of their impressions. That was one stressful day but thankfully everything went fine.

And Friday brought with it a pleasurable lunch (interview) with ABC with one of my oldest media acquaintances, Fernando who is now the Financial Editor in Chief and the new reporter on telecoms, María Cuesta. It was a good end to a busy week.

On the social front, on Tuesday I had lunch with María and Pilar from Yoigo. It’s good to make friends in the company and I don’t have that many as I work mostly from home. On Thursday, yeah the very busy Thursday, we went out with José Antonio and Dolores to Eco Bar and Spa Madrid which is where I am organising a press conference this Thursday. We went to check out the food which is absolutely superb. It was great seeing them. Somehow we are losing contact with them. José Antonio is Eladio’s next brother down and possibly his closest. When the children were younger we saw a lot of them but sadly that is not so any more. In fact we see them more in Léon than we do in Madrid. I wish they were more in our lives really.

Then the weekend came and Juli, the girls’ lovely Colombian friend came to stay. He was up early yesterday morning and as he is an internet freakie, I got to get 2 new internet applications. One is called Tweet Deck and is a great tool for managing your Twitter and other social network accounts in one. Thus I can control here both my accounts and Yoigo’s. It’s great.

The second application is Google Wave, the next thing in email (and more) that was apparently developed by Google engineers who had to spend one year on a beach in Australia developing it, or so the story goes. Right now it’s only in beta and only works with invitations. Juli, of course, managed to get one for me. Now I have to think what to do with Google Wave.
Google Wave. I still have to figure out how it works.
It’s funny how I love new internet applications. Not many women of my age are interested but I am. I wonder if it has anything to do with wanting to be always one step ahead in everything. That’s me, always up to date. On the other hand applications like these help you organise your life in more ways than you can imagine. I laugh when people ask me: “but how do you have the time?”. Of course I have the time, posting stuff on social networks takes seconds and can be done in between many other tasks of the day.

And that brings me to the next topic in my headline, luxury food shopping. Yesterday Eladio and I went to visit a new shopping centre in Pozuelo called Zielo (pronounced the same way as heaven in Spanish). The place is amazing but not enough to impress me who has seen one too many shopping centres in the world and come to believe they are pretty much all the same. What most attracted us was the supermarket, Sánchez Romero. It is Spain’s most up market chain of supermarkets and is where I hear Real Madrid players do their shopping. There were Christmas hampers on sale for 3000 euros. It’s not quite Fortnum and Mason but Spain’s equivalent; spotlessly clean with the most enticing produce on its shelves. I bought some peeled garlic in a jar plus raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and billberries - the ingredients of the afternoon snacks of my diet. And, by the way, I have now lost 8 kilos. I’m so relieved you can’t imagine.

Being the end of November I am of course gearing up to Christmas. Thanks to dear Amazon. Com the girls now have some lovely low fat (i.e. without chocolate) advent calendars. And thanks to Emma Bridgewater we now have a stock of lovely crackers which are nearly impossible to find in Spain. And some not so low fat Roses chocolates are also on their way. We won’t, however, decorate the house till mid December.
One of the boxes of Crackers from Emma Bridgewater
And the box I like best with the festive Union Jack.
That is all the news for this week. Life however, at least for me, would not be as exciting if there wasn’t something to look forward to and I always need something to look forward to in my life. So what are we looking forward to you will ask? Of course, travelling, as that is the spice of our life. To start with the whole family will be going to stay at the Parador in Calahorra in La Rioja next week (all on points by the way!).
The Parador in Calahorra where we will be going next week.
Then in February we will be going to stay with Sandra in Brussels who I went to University with. Adele, another friend from University will be coming too. Our husbands will have their own programme which already sounds like a sort of joke as one is American, one is French and mine of course, is Spanish. Eladio is a little reluctant but I know we will have a great time.
La Grande Place in Brussels.
The other trip we are looking forward to is to the capital of the world, the big apple, otherwise known as New York City. That will be at the end of March for 8 nights with Eladio. I have travelled all over the world but would you believe I have never been to New York. I can’t wait, it’s going to be good. It’s great to have something to look forward to.

And on that note, I’ll sign off. Hope you have a good week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A visit from China, a new look, new wine for my collection, Goodbye Miss Fair, and more

Miss Fair at the Centenary gala dinner in May 2008. You made a lasting impression on all of us, may you rest in peace.
Hi again

This time last week we were enjoying Pernille and Thomas’ visit and suddenly it’s Sunday again. The week has been busy but for me marked, sadly and nostalgically, by the unexpected news of the death of Miss Fair from my school, St. Joseph’s College, which I will come to later.

The week was busy indeed. It included all sorts of things. On the home front, the terrace furniture we ordered on internet from a small company in Salamanca, finally arrived. It’s lovely; wicker and white cushions but we won’t be enjoying it till next Summer.
The new terrace furniture which arrived this week.
On the same day the people from the firm we had ordered a swimming pool cover, came to install it. It’s well worth the money as Eladio will no longer have to fish out all the leaves and will keep the water underneath reasonably clean. They told him that it was strong enough to walk on. However I have not yet seen either Norah or the cats daring to do so.
The new swimming pool cover.
You can see the full collection of photos of both the new furniture and the swimming pool cover here.

This week at work I spent a whole morning trapped in a windowless room doing attending the first of a series of what seems to me to be a very mediocre coaching course on the rather old hat concepts of observing and listening. Thankfully Julio and Fátima came to rescue me at lunchtime and we had a great meal together.

This week too we had a visit of a delegation of people from China Mobile. They were here to learn how we do CSR in Yoigo. They are the biggest mobile operator in the world with 500.000 employees and we are obviously one of the smallest with just 84, so it was quite an honour to receive them. Of course they were very Chinese throughout the whole visit except for the end when one of them actually hugged me. I think they liked the way I hosted them. Well I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. Here is the souvenir photo for the records:
The delegation from China Mobile who visited us this week.
The rest of the week was taken up with interviews and more preparations for events I am organising this month and next. I’m quite busy but that’s how I like to be. On Friday afternoon there was time, however, for my girls or rather they had time for me when they came with me to choose a new pair of glasses after last week’s accident. They chose some green and red ones. They should be ready by next weekend when a photo will of course be published on this blog.

The new glasses, together with my recent new hairstyle, should help accentuate the new look, very unusual in me. Perhaps it has something to do with my diet. Yes, it’s slow but working. I have now lost 7.5 kgs. The hairstyle is news as I haven’t changed it for years, just like Nancy Reagan, to quote my “friend” Julio Navío. It’s not a revolution but a small change. The difference is that it is now shorter at the back than at the front which seems to be the latest fashion. Take a look here:
My new hairsytle, short at the back and longer at the front.
The new wine for my collection refers to an order I made for 2 boxes of Real Provisión. It comes from the Ribera del Guadiana in Extremadura from the Dolores Morenas bodega near Badajoz. So why on earth would I want to buy wine from there if the best wine in Spain comes from La Rioja and La Ribera del Duero you might say? We tasted this lovely wine at the Hotel we stayed at in La Parra and loved it. I couldn’t find it in the shops so surfed the web until I finally found the bodega it came from. I now have 22 bottles that have joined my collection which mostly comes from my membership with Vinoselección as well as some purchasing I did whilst in La Rioja in the summer. And by the way, nearly all the wine regions in Spain produce great wine these days, not only the famous ones, like La Rioja.
Real Provisión wine from Ribera del Guadiana, try it, it's superb.
And now I have written about the wine, the moment has come to write goodbye to Miss Fair. It’s terrible, I have googled her and absolutely nothing has come up. So I will have to rely here on my rather shaky memory as I first came into contact with her when I was a young girl at St. Josephs College and only saw her once since I left school which was more than 30 years ago. That was at last year’s centenary anniversary and I’m very glad I had the opportunity to see her there. So who is or was Miss Fair you may ask? I got to hear about her death through an email last week from the school inviting me to a Past Pupils and Staff day and it was in this email I learned that she had passed away. This is what it said:

We will particularly thank God for the life of Miss Marie C Fair who died on October 28th this year. We pray in thanksgiving for her life of dedication to the College and Catholic Education in Bradford and the Diocese of Leeds. Miss Fair was a pupil, member of staff and Headteacher from 1981 to 1992 and was known, loved and revered by countless numbers of pupils and staff whom she served.

Miss Fair was my geography teacher and the teacher that stands out most in my mind in all my memories at St. Joseph’s college Bradford which I attended from 1969 to 1975, my formative years. Indeed I think I am right in saying that this was so for all the girls who were taught by her in all her time at the school. I was not a good pupil I must admit but have gone on to be a supposed “pillar of society” to quote my best friend Amanda who went to school with me and maybe Miss Fair had something to do with this, who knows.

Miss Marie C (wonder what that stands for) Fair, a spinster, academic and blue stocking was unknown to us really. Somehow though she made a great impression on us all and was impossible to forget. I can only guess what was underneath that strict and serious veneer. She had a winey sort of voice and was an excellent teacher, although I do remember her making a terrible mistake with our Geography O’level in that she taught us the wrong syllabus and we nearly all failed. She was not particularly friendly but had a lot of character and we enjoyed sniggering at some of her remarks such as her description of the M62 being a “marvelous feat of engineering”. Andrea Longstaff remembers her for the line: “and remember girls ….. don’t think Bournville is just a bar of chocolate”.
A photo of Miss Fair probably in 1975 at school. She is the dark haired lady who is smoking (oh yes, she smoked, I'd forgotten that!)
Deep down I would have wanted her to like or admire me more but that was not to be. She only had eyes for those of us who went to Oxford or Cambridge, like my friend Amanda and I’m afraid that wasn’t me. I went to Nottingham University, did Spanish and got a 2.1 but that was not enough. And then when she didn’t remember me at first at last year’s centenary, I felt devastated. She did later but didn’t show much interest, when in fact, I had come all the way from Spain for the occasion and the person I most wanted to see was her.
A photo of us with Miss Fair (with the white jacket) at the centenary reunion last year.
The news has left me feeling nostalgic. I heard from “girls” I am in touch with who still live in the Bradford area that she died of bone cancer. I never knew her age, she seemed immortal and was always very fit, but if she retired in 1992 she must have been in her early 80’s.

Miss Fair, may you rest in peace. I wish I had known you better because for some reason I don’t really understand, you were an important part of my formative life. I wish I could have been at your funeral which Catherine Breen thinks you would have approved of as it was a really fitting tribute to you. You will not be forgotten and you will have a place in my memory forever.

And on that sad and nostalgic note, I have come to the end of this week’s post. The weekend has been quiet but today was lovely as both girls were here for lunch. Later on, we will be going for our walk with Roberto and MariCarmen. I will enjoy it as always but Norah will too of course, even more.

Cheers till next week

Monday, November 09, 2009

Coughs and colds, a visit from Pernille and Thomas and broken glasses

Dinner last night at De Brasa y Puchero in Boadilla with Pernille and Thomas, a great reunion.
Hi again,

I am writing today Monday 9th November which is a holiday in Madrid, la Almudena, the patron saint of this city. Eladio is at his University tutorial class which is outside Madrid so he doesn’t get a day off. Oli is working as she has been all weekend and Suzy is off to Carolina’s house for a girly evening and Oli will join them later. My father is emptying the washing up machine in the kitchen and will not be taking his walk this evening as he has been having problems with his knee. Thankfully it is getting better.

So this is the perfect time to write my blog except that there isn’t a lot to report apart from Pernille and Thomas’ visit. But I’ll come to that later.

We have all had coughs and colds recently except for my Father, thank goodness. Eladio had bronchitis and is on his second dose of antiobiotics. I have a terrible cough which only appears at night but keeps me awake for hours. I feel ok during the day but dread the nights. Luckily though, we have not been affected by swine flu which has spread a lot since it started this summer in Mexico. It has not muted into a more dangerous kind but is still a lot in the news. We have had our first case at work too.

This last week I was busy as I will be this week preparing some events for this month and Christmas. On Tuesday I went into town to look at possible locations. Amazingly in just one day we found the perfect places. As I was in town I took the girls for lunch and we had a great time together. The place we went to has a terrific terrace with great views of Madrid as you can see in this photo of Suzy and I.

This week was also my monthly meeting with Elena a colleague and neighbour who is looking for a job. As I know what that’s like I’m trying to help her find one. We’ve become good friends and I enjoy talking and having coffee with her once a month.

This was the week I finally got a Pandora bracelet which I have been wanting for a while. Thanks girls for the present it was lovely. It’s silver and came with 2 charms, a ghost and a doll. I have now been twice to the Corte Inglés and now have 7 charms. I just love it. Hopefully I will get more for Christmas. I will won’t I Suzy?
A typical Pandora bracelet which you make up yourself with different charms.
But most of all this was the week Pernille and Thomas came to see us. Pernille, my princess, was our Danish au pair from 1991 to 1992. She was about 18 at the time and the girls were 6 and 7. A friendship was forged forever. We even went to her wedding to her childhood sweetheart Thomas which I must say was the most beautiful wedding we have ever been to. That was in 2001.
Here are Pernille and Thomas on their magical wedding day with the girls who actually sang at the ceremony as a surprise.
I saw them again briefly when I went to Copenhagen in 2004 and Suzy saw them when she went to visit her friend Estefanía in May. However neither Oli nor Eladio had seen them since their wedding. They are now the proud parents of 8 year old Julia and 5 year old Alberte. Thomas works for Microsoft in a global position and darling Pernille is a nurse. In fact she was voted the nurse of the year in the hospital she works for in Helsingor outside Copenhagen. But that doesn’t surprise me as she is as beautiful inside as she is outside.

Thomas had a business meeting in Madrid so Pernille decided to come too. They stayed with us yesterday and are now in Madrid having a small holiday together. Eladio went to pick them up yesterday whilst I was preparing the food. It was a great day catching up on each other’s news, talking about the time when Pernille lived with us and just being together. We showed them the house, had a lovely meal then a siesta and a walk and in the evening Oli joined us and we took them out to dinner to De Brasa y Puchero in Boadilla.

This morning we all had a lovely leisurely breakfast together, although I had to try and stop Pernille working in the kitchen and remind her she was a guest! Oli had to leave for work and so I went outside to take a photo. As they were saying goodbye, Pernille cried with emotion and I caught this delightful photograph of them hugging each other. It’s amazing how much this lovely golden Danish girl means to us.

After taking a few more photos (you can see the rest here) Suzy and I drove them to Madrid to their hotel close to the Puerta del Sol.
Pernille, me and Thomas in our garden this morning.

They will have had a great time today as it has been sunny all day. We said our goodbyes but this time we know we are going to see each other sooner. For starters the girls have been invited to stay with them in May and we shall probably see them at their parents’ place in La Herradura near Málaga the next time they go.

The rest of the day was fine except that I lost my varifocal glasses and then found them at the car park in the Corte Inglés crushed by a car. It’s terrible to think that a new pair will cost me at least 700 euros but I immediately decided not to be upset. I told Suzy that life was generally so good to me I had no reason to complain. Eladio took the loss well and saw it as an opportunity to buy me a pair that suited me better. He’s right they didn’t suit me very well. This time, though, Suzy will come with me to help me choose.

And on that note, I’ll leave you to go upstairs and make Eladio and my Father’s soup for their dinner.

Till next week

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The girls are back from India, a bout of sickness, new clothes, Halloween and Dorothy the chimpanzee

The girls with Summit their guardian angel in India, from left to right: Suzy, Rocío, Summit and Olivia
Hi again.

Today is Sunday 1st November and the good weather is still with us with temperatures around 20ºc which is wonderful for this time of year. We have just come back from our evening walk with dear Norah (as gorgeous as ever and if you don’t believe me look here) and it’s quite late to be writing my blog. The girls are having some friends round for drinks (Erika, Carolina, Rocío, Estefanía, etc) and my Father will be making his frugal dinner and probably eating my home made vegetable soup.
Norah was also happy to have the girls back.
So what has happened since last week? The major news is that my dearest girls, Suzy and Oli came back from India. They have had an amazing time, first in Delhi and the experience at the NGO for children where their friend Arancha works, then in Agra where they went to see the Taj Mahal. Afterwards they went to the Punjab in Chandigarh to stay with Sandeep’s family and in Ropar with Summit’s family. Summit was their guardian angel in India and made sure they had everything they needed.

Oli with a beautiful little Indian girl at Arancha's NGO.
Oli commented that he and the families treated the girls as princesses. They also visited Shimla, the so called “queen of the hills” in the mountains near Chandigarh and after their visit to the Punjab made their way by train to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. In Rajasthan they also visited Pushkar, that very hippy destination with the dirty but holy lake, and of course Jodhpur which Oli loved most. Their final stopping point before returning to Delhi to make their way home was Varanasi, the holy city by the Ganges where the famous cremations take place. They seem to have bought half the markets in India and I for one, got a lovely silver ring with a red stone which I love. Thanks girls!

The day the girls came home coincided with a terrible bout of sickness which came upon me last Wednesday night after having had dinner with my Swedish colleagues, Birgitta and Anna in Alcobendas. The bout started with a terrible headache and had me throwing up in the middle of the night until there was nothing left in me. I had to go into work on Thursday morning because I was to do a presentation for the Swedish girls who had come specially to see me. Somehow I drove to work but it was very soon obvious I could not stay on at the office so I ordered a taxi to go home and left my car at work. I continued throwing up in the taxi much to my chagrin. Eladio took me to the local doctor who immediately gave me an injection to get rid of the sickness and another one to get rid of the headache. I then slept for 2 hours and woke up with the sickness gone but the headache still there. In fact the headache did not go until yesterday Saturday and is still with me really. I’m not sure whether the bout of sickness was a migraine or something caused by what I had eaten. I tend to think it was the former. I have always suffered from headaches but in the past year or two have had similar attacks to last week’s. Migraine or not, I had a nightmare of a time and hope I won’t get another one ever again, except I probably will.

So yes I had a terrible migraine and was k.o. for two or three days, but on the bright side my diet seems to be working (now over 6kgs) and I am beginning to fit into my old clothes. But who wants old clothes? To cheer myself up I went shopping and bought a whole new range of clothes and enjoy wearing my new outfits. I felt very guilty coming home with so many bags but on the other hand I feel I deserve the treat. I do don’t I?

Oli didn’t go to her flat so we have had both girls with us over the weekend which has been great. On Friday we went to the cinema with Oli to see a Mexican film called “Sin Nombre”. It’s very violent but informative too and is about the Latina American Mara gangs (frightening) where disloyalty is paid for with your life, as well as the terrible train journey the immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico take to try and enter the “promised land” which for them is the United States. You can see the trailer here.
Great but violent film, Sin Nombre.
Yesterday the girls got ready to go out to celebrate Halloween and looked great. Oli was dressed as a vampire type bride and Suzy as a horror school girl. Believe it or not she can still get into her old school skirt! I don’t particularly like Halloween and I’ve always considered it more an American celebration and as a child enjoyed Guy Fawke’s Day on 5th November and the English equivalent of Halloween, Mischief Night on 4th November. The girls, however, have been celebrating Halloween ever since they started school at St. Michael’s at the age of 3 and 4 and always enjoy it. You can see the full set of picture I took here on Facebook.
My halloween girls, ghastly but good.
The weekend is nearly over but it has been great to have the girls back. Today we had a lovely Sunday lunch all together outside, of course, because of the great weather. Eladio took this photo of the table which I had just laid and where my Father is sitting and enjoying a glass of wine before his meal.
The table laid for the family lunch today.
My final note this weekend is about a chimpanzee and not any chimpanzee. I read about Dorothy today, an ape from a zoo in Cameroon who had been mal treated. You can see in this amazing photo the moment when she was laid to death and how her fellow grief stricken apes mourning her death.
Rest in peace Dorothy. It is good to know that apes can feel the same grief as humans.

And that's it for this week. Cheers till the next.