Monday, April 30, 2012

April showers, more football, interior decorating, a special cake, Suzy’s birthday, Olivia off to Galicia and other stories

Suzy and her birthday cake
Hello again,

It is Monday morning and the last day of April and here I am writing my blog from the kitchen with the dogs asleep at my feet.  Sorry I didn’t write yesterday but we spent the afternoon with Susana helping her get her new flat in order and there didn’t seem to be another free moment in the day.

It’s Monday and it’s raining as it has been raining most of the month.  There are sayings both in English and in Spanish about rain in April; “April showers” and “Abril aguas mil”, which reflect that rain at this time of the year is very normal.  We haven’t had proper rain in Spain since the autumn, therefore it is much appreciated.

But let me start from the beginning.  Last Monday saw me in the centre of Madrid, in the Gran Vía to visit our new media clipping company, JP Media.  There I got to see how media clippings are done and the truth is that the written press clippings are read by people, line by line, as you can see here in the photo I took of their “news room”.

The JP Media clipping room

Tuesday brought with it more football.  That evening Barcelona was receiving Chelsea for the return match of the semi finals of the Champions League.  My Father watched the match with us and thoroughly enjoyed Olivia’s screams when Barcelona scored a goal, although they went on to lose the match.  That meant that Barcelona this year will neither win La Liga or the Champions League, a shame for probably the best team in the world. However, I don’t mind, as, if I am fan of any football team that is Real Madrid.  But then you probably already know that.

My Father watching the football with Olivia and Eladio

For the records that day, I must share with you a photograph collage that a friend of Olivia and Susana made of them and their group of friends.  They all appear here as mermaids from a photo of the marvelous Disney film.  The Little Mermaid was a great favourite with the girls when they were small and they used to act out the parts, reciting huge paragraphs off by heart which they still know today.  Susana has been forever enamoured with mermaids, something all her friends know, so the collage by Dave made a huge hit with us all on Tuesday.

The wonderful Little Mermaid collage.  Can you spot Olivia and Susana?

Wednesday brought with it more football.  Madrid was receiving Bayern Munich in the return match of their semi final of the Champions League.  Madrid played well at the beginning and seemed to dominate the match but things went sour in the second half and the match ended with a penalty shoot out.  The Germans won in the end, a terrible ending for hopes for a place for a Spanish team in the final and both my Father and I refused to watch the shoot out as it was just too much tension.  The result was very depressing for Madrid fans, but on the bright side, Mourinho’s team will be winning La Liga this year.  I always say it is better to laugh than to cry, so here is a photo which should do just that, make you laugh.  Let me translate the Spanish: Ronaldo says to Messi: See you in the final of the Champions League and Messi replies, at your house or mine? 

Neither Barcelona or Madrid got through to the finals. In this photo Ronaldo says to Messi: "see you in the Final of the Champions League"  and Messi replies: "at your house or mine?"

Thursday saw us at Suzy’s new flat in the morning. We went to take all sorts of things she needed.  I couldn’t stay long as I had to go to the office but Eladio spent most of the morning doing lots of needed handy work.

Whilst Suzy was decorating her new flat, we were redoing her now empty bedroom.  As you know we got everything in Ikea.  We then had the room painted in a light cream colour by our handyman, Antonio.  And this is what Suzy’s old room now looks like.  I am very proud of our efforts.

Suzy's "new" old room, as it looks after our interior decoration efforts.

I have never considered myself good at interior decorating.  I know what I like but am really no good at the decorating part, although I try.  Suzy, on the other hand, who has  a very particular taste, seems to be a natural at home decoration.  Like me, she loves colour, and mixes strong colours together, something I don’t really dare to do.  This, for example, is how her bed looks at her new flat, totally different to the style we have used for her “old room”, but lovely too, I think.  Which style do you prefer; the classical style of the room above or the colourful style chosen by Suzy?

Suzy's colourful bed and bedroom in her new flat

On Friday I started preparations for Susana’s birthday the next day.  She was to be 28 and of course at an age when it is time to move on.  I have felt funny all week.  She has just moved out but I am not used to that yet and it gives me an empty feeling. She has only been back home to take more and more things to her new flat and each time she has done so, it felt like another stab in my stomach.  I totally understand she has to move out and support her one hundred percent but it is still sad.

I made her a beautiful birthday cake.  The recipe came from our old Trex cookery book, a book I have been using to make cakes since I was a small girl.  My Father used it too, to make biscuits many years ago and Susana has gone on to use it also.

The Trex cookery book I have been using since I was a child.  It was my parents and was published in 1956.

The recipe for her cake is the recipe which you can see below for the Victoria Sandwich, a classical cake recipe. The page, as you can from the photo, is much stained from use over the years.

The dog eared page in the Trex cookery book of the Victoria Sponge recipe

The cake came out marvelously as you can see in the photo below, rising to perfection; something that doesn’t always happen.

The cake, just out of the oven

And, after some careful slicing in two to fill the sandwich with whipped cream and bilberry jam, I made pink icing and decorated it with fresh raspberries.  This was what it looked like when I had finished.

The finished "special cake" for Suzy's birthday

As I was making Suzy’s birthday cake, news was breaking that Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s coach, said to be the best ever of the dream team, was leaving.  If anyone has any doubts that this is because of Barça not winning this year’s league or Champions League, they can be dispelled.  Guardiola, who has been with the team since he was a player, is going to take a sabbatical as he totally burned out.  It was a very sad story for Spanish football and he will be much missed.

It's goodbye from Pep Guardiola and a sad day in the history of Spanish football

That evening, Friday, we had a dinner date with José Antonio and Dolores, in Madrid.  We went to Quënco, a place that means so much to Eladio and I as it was where we held our wedding party nearly 30 years ago.  We have been back on a couple of occasions but José Antonio and Dolores hadn’t.  When I rang to make the reservation, Nimes, the owner and daughter of the lady from the Andalusian family that has always run the place, remembered me and referred to me as the “English bride”!  She gave us a warm welcome when we arrived and we felt very much at home.  Quënco, a family run place, is quite a humble looking restaurant but the food is fantastic and we realised just how popular it is when we saw the tables filling up after we arrived.  We will be back in the summer and look forward to eating outside in the lovely terrace where we held our wedding party on 21st August 1983.

Quënco, the restaurant where we held our wedding party in 1983 and where we went to dinner on Friday evening

Finally Saturday came and with it the celebration of Susana’s birthday.  She arrived for a family breakfast and all 5 of us sat down just before 10 am to a feast of croissants, ensaimadas, pain au chocolat and other delicacies.  This is when we gave her our presents, a laundry basket and towels, very needed for her new home.  She will be getting many more presents next Saturday when she will be having a huge party to celebrate her birthday with her friends.  That will be held at home, this home, rather than her new flat as I think more than 30 guests will be coming.  But, more about that next week.

Suzy at the family breakfast on her birthday on Saturday

Later, whilst Oli went back to bed, having come home after 5 in the morning, Eladio and I went with Susana in the pouring rain to Ikea to get more things she needed for her new flat.

At Ikea on Saturday, Suzy and Eladio

With the car full to the brim with kitchen utensils, bedding and lots of what I call Ikea “bits and bobs” we returned home to make Suzy’s birthday lunch.  I prepared what we also call “bits and bobs” for that too, always a favourite with all of us, consisting of mini gourmet hamburgers, Olga’s croquettes, homemade potato salad, salmon and prawns with avocado pears and of course the piece de resistance, my cake.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog post is of Susana blowing out the candles.

Here is a photo collage I made myself of some of the photos taken on Susana's birthday, not as good as Dave's but nice anyway.

A collage of some of the photos of Suzy's birthday
Sunday was quiet with Suzy at her new flat.  Oli was missing too as she had slept with Suzy.  Their cousins came from León to see them for a short while.  They had originally been invited by Susana to spend the birthday weekend with her but in the end preferred to spend their time in Madrid as they hadn’t been to the capital for some time. We never got to see them unfortunately.

Lunch was just the “three oldies”, my Father, Eladio and I.  In the afternoon we went to see Susana, for Eladio to do more handy work.  He spent the time putting up shelves and mirrors and carrying out other minor tasks around her pretty little flat.  It is looking nice and cozy.  This is a photo Suzy posted in Facebook last night of one of her favourite corners.  Again, as you can see, there is a lot of colour, her typical style.  

Suzy's new flat is looking lovely.

Of note yesterday, Sunday, it was the first anniversary of the English royal couple, Kate and William.  A very happy anniversary comes from these pages to the popular royals.  

It was the first anniversary of the popular royal couple's wedding yesterday

This week will be quiet, with just “the oldies” at home.  Olivia will be gone too as she went yesterday to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, as a correspondent again for the TV programme she works for.  We will miss her but hope to see a lot of her on the television this week, which I myself will be reporting on in next week’s blog post. So watch this space.

The week will be even quieter as there are two holidays, tomorrow 1st May and on Wednesday, 2nd May, a holiday in Madrid to celebrate the uprising against the French in 1808.  The highlight of the week will be my Father’s 93rd birthday tomorrow, 1st May where will be joined by Susana, at least, to brighten up the birthday.  

I hope you all have a good week.  Cheers till next time,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The King said sorry, shopping at Ikea, lots of football, a wedding and other things

My beautiful daughter Suzy, dressed to go to Caju's wedding on Saturday

Hello again,

It is Sunday afternoon again and it’s time to write my blog.  I am writing at my desk at home whilst everyone seems to be taking a siesta, that most noble of Spanish sports.  When I say everyone, I mean the whole family; Grandpa, Eladio and both girls.  We all had lunch together for the first time in a while which is always a pleasure, but especially so on a Sunday, the day of the Lord as it is often called.

The week has been so, so;  good in parts, like the story of the Curate’s egg, a quote my Mother used to use a lot and which I like so much.  I wrote about it once in a post which you can read here. Ah, and here comes the illustration again, from that most English of publications, Punch.

An expression we use a lot in our family comes from this picture called "True Humility" by George du Maurier. It was originally published in Punch in 1895 to illustrate the "curate's egg" joke. The conversation goes like this: Bishop: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones"; Curate: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"
On Monday we woke up to the news that Argentina had seized the Spanish oil firm Repsol, or rather 51% of the shares of the branch called YPF they have in that country and which was legally bought from the Argentinian government many years ago.  It has been in the news ever since and is the topic of most conversations at work and at home.  Much echo has been made of this illegal measure by Cristina Fernández, the country’s President, in the world’s press.  I’m not sure how things will work out as right now the European Union is supporting Spain and will be taking measures in reprisal for the outlandish mode in which this happened.  Time will tell, but the gesture will do no good for relations between the two countries, both immersed in their own financial crises.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchener, President of Argentina

Tuesday was not the best day on the home front and unfortunately I have to censor myself here as, however transparent I am, some things I cannot put into writing for all to see.  Tuesday was not a good day for Real Madrid either who lost to Bayern Munich in Germany in the Champions League semi final.  It is only to be hoped that they play better on their own turf in the return match this coming Wednesday.  Who knows they may meet either Chelsea or Barcelona in the final, although Barcelona lost to Chelsea too in their semi final the next day.  That was the beginning of this week’s football for me, as I was subjected to watching or trying to watch three matches.  Eladio likes football more and more and the only alternative is go and read a book on my own which I think is a bit selfish and antisocial.  That evening, to cheer me up I decided some comfort food was in order and went to get a McDonald’s meal for us all to eat whilst watching the match in the lounge together.  I can assure you it was heavenly. But then you know that don’t you?

Tuesday will have been a great day for Massoud Hossaini, an Afgan photographer with AFP.  He won a Pulitzer award, in the breaking news photography category, for his photo of an Afghan girl screaming after a suicide bomb attack in Kabul.  The photo was described as heartbreaking.  You can judge for yourself when you see the reproduction below.  The terrible thing is that Tarana Akbari, the 12 year in the photo is screaming after the attack which saw seven of her family killed including her seven year old brother Shoaib. 

Massoud Hossaini's Pulitzer award winning photograph

And on Wednesday, the 74 year old King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, said sorry as he left the hospital after the emergency operation on his hip  His words were: “Lo siento mucho, me he equivocado y no volverá a ocurrir”.  In English that would be: “I’m very sorry, I made a mistake (was wrong) and it won’t happen again.  You probably know he was apologizing for galavanting off to Botswana to kill elephants on a safari whilst the people of his country are suffering one of the worst crises of their history. This episode has caused much criticism in Spain, a lot of it online and of course the King will have been given the clippings. According to Pilar Urbano, the King and Queen’s biographer, it was the Queen herself, his advisors and his son Crown Prince Felipe who advised him to apologise.

The King when he said sorry!

The apology has been well received by most, with some 70 or so percent satisfied with the gesture.  However more than 50% thinks the Spanish monarchy has been much damaged by the incident and I tend to agree here.  The King was apologizing for the elephant incident but there are other things he should be apologizing for, not least the corruption scandal his son in law Iñaki Urdangarin is immersed in and in which he may well have been involved in himself.   What is much more latent, though, is his ongoing affair with the German princess by marriage, the apparently spectacular 46 year old socialite Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.  The King, a typical Borbon, has had many extra marital relationships but this one seems to have broken the straw on the camel’s back for Queen Sofia, his Greek wife,  who for some time now lives a separate private life from the King, only appearing on official occasions.  Up until now the written press had avoided commenting on the “affair” until this week, when the story has hit the front pages of the main newspapers and now the whole of Spain knows who Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein is.  Next month will be the King and Queen’s 50th wedding anniversary and it has still not been decided how this will be celebrated.  I think it would be a total sham if it was.  In many people’s minds, it is time for the King to abdicate and for his son, Prince Philip and journalist wife, Leticia Ortiz, to take over.  Perhaps that is what was being discussed when the Queen urged the King to say sorry, maybe to save what was at stake, the crown, his crown and future as King of Spain.

The King with his nearly official mistress the German born Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein

Thursday was a long and busy day.  It was the 1st Quarter results which were published by TeliaSonera at the unearthly hour of 07.30h Stockholm time.  My first mission of the day was to take part in a conference call with the HQ and then agree on the text for the local external and internal releases.  The good news was that Yoigo had reached 3.2 million customers and that is despite the crisis in Spain.  To top that, the best news really was that Spain is now the 4th most important contributor within the group, having bypassed countries like Norway. In the afternoon I went to the office for a very long meeting.  When I left after 19h I gave thanks to God for letting me work from home and not having to face the awful traffic every day.  There was an accident on the M40 and I was not home until 20.30!  1.5h on the road was pretty boring and frustrating I can tell you.

That night I was subjected to football again, this time Barcelona who was playing and would lose to Chelsea.  The TV lounge was occupied with Olivia and her friend Dave watching a DVD, so we had no option but to have our dinner and watch the match in our bedroom.  Oli came in at one stage and thought the sight was quite funny – well it was – and took this photograph.

Watching football in our room

Whilst we were watching the football, Cristina from my events agency QuintaEsencia, a keen reader of this blog was giving birth to her third child, Alvaro who was born in the early hours of Friday morning.  Welcome to this world  Alvaro and congratulations Cristina and Javier.  Cris later sent me a photo of what she called her little "doll´.  I'm not very keen on babies, but he looks absolutely lovely.

Cristina's new "doll", baby Alvaro born on Friday morning

Friday was very busy and pretty productive too.  In the Morning I had a date at El for a live online interview with my boss.  I love these kinds of interviews because you have to be fast and on your toes and come up with frank and imaginative answers to the questions posed by the readers.   It is pretty exhausting too but I think we did it quite well.  If you can read Spanish you can read it here and let me know what you think.

The El Mundo newsroom on Friday morning

Then we had to rush back to the office as we had another interview, this time on the telephone with the Spanish news agency, Agencia Efe, about our results the day before.  This was more relaxed as it was with Ana.G whom I have known for years and who is a very professional and extremely decent woman.  

Eladio and I spent the afternoon at Ikea getting everything needed to furnish Susana’s now empty room.  Thursday was officially her last night at home, although her leaving seems to be very gradual, thank goodness.  We spent most of the afternoon there buying a double bed, bedside tables, curtains and what seemed like enormous amounts of bedding.  Of course being at Ikea I had to visit the food store and stock up on lovely Swedish fare, including Ikea’s most popular product of the whole store, “meat balls”. 

The bed we bought from Ikea for the room Suzy has left empty

In the evening I invited Eladio out for dinner, after our walk of course, to La Vaca Argentina.  I imagine no one from Repsol would be dining there, hahahaha.  We hadn’t been for a while and they had changed some items on the menu.  We were delighted to see they had added “salmorejo” to their first courses.  Salmorejo is a sort of thick gazpacho with chopped eggs and ham and it is a favourite with us.  This is what my dish looked like.

The salmorejo we ate at La Vaca Argentina on Friday night
On Saturday, Suzy, who had slept at her new flat for the first time, was off to a wedding in Toledo.  She was going with her beloved school friends, Rocío, Erika, Estefanía, Copi and others to see Caju, the first friend from their class, to tie the knot, marry her beau, called Coti (not sure what his real name is). 

Caju and Coti newly wed on Saturday, the wedding Suzy went to in Toledo

Suzy came back today, Sunday, just in time for lunch with wonderful tales of a great wedding which was fun and creative, so much so that she got to bed at 8 in the morning and came home with little or no voice.  The photo illustrating this week’s blogpost is of Suzy ready and dressed for the wedding, taken from the hotel they stayed at in Toledo.

Whilst Suzy was at the wedding, Eladio and I had to return to Ikea for things we had forgotten the day before.  It is very difficult to go to Ikea and get just what you want.  I think it is designed so that you always leave paying much more than you had ever anticipated.  On the plus side you always come home with delightfully practical and beautifully designed products.  

And yesterday, Saturday, there was more football.  It was what is commonly known in football language worldwide as “el clásico”, i.e a match between Spain’s biggest rivals, Barcelona and Real Madrid.  It was a pretty decisive “clásico” too as Madrid’s winning La Liga depended on it.  That would be no easy feat for Mourinho’s men as they would be playing in el Camp Nou, where they haven’t won since 2008.  This match, as happens more and more, was only to be seen on pay tv which we do not have, so Eladio had to suffice with following it on the radio.  So we missed watching Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-1 and become virtual winners of this year’s Liga.

A great photo that illustrates so well "el clásico" as posted on Facebook by my Uzbeki colleague, Davron, a fan of Barcelona

The news about “el clásico” now brings me to Sunday and back to the present and nearly to the end of this week’s blog.  It has been a lovely sunny day and we had the pleasure of the company of Olivia most of the morning.  She joined us on our walk and here is a lovely photo of our dogs when they encountered a new friend, a pretty looking terrier who was seemed an equally enthusiastic a canine as our own.

Our dogs Elsa and Norah met a new friend on their walk this morning

Lunch today, as I told you, was all together.  Whilst we were enjoying our meal, Nadal, who is plagued with a knee injury, was playing Djokovic in the Montecarlo Master Series final.  I am pleased to end this week’s blogpost then with the news of the Spaniard’s win against the Serb by 6-3 6-1. For the records it is his 8th win in Montecarlo in succession.

Nadal and most of Spain, happy at his win against Djokovic in Montecarlo today

Well done Rafa!

And that’s all for this week my friends. I wish you all a great week ahead.

Cheers till next week Masha