Sunday, July 28, 2013

Suzy and the ice cream van, “the great Kate wait”, by George a future King is born, Olivia reporting in Galicia, a terrible train accident in Santiago and everything else seems irrelevant since then.

Olivia's face said it all as she was about to go live to report on the train accident in Santiago
Hi everyone,

Everything was normal this week until the terrible train accident in Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain on Wednesday night, the worst in Spain in 40 years and the worst in Europe in 25 years.  But let me start by telling you what happened before that.

On Sunday, we had the pleasure of the company of Olivia and Miguel for lunch. As usual Suzy was missing, as she is now living in London.  She seems to be living a sort of renewed student life and enjoying herself enormously.  Last Sunday saw her at Richmond Park. She has had fantastic weather ever since she left Spain in May and she and her friends are enjoying discovering London’s wonderful parks.
Suzy by the ice cream van in Richmond Park last Sunday

In the photo she is queueing up for an ice cream.  The picture brought back memories of my childhood in England when the ice cream van would visit our neighbourhood.  You would know it was there when it jingled a tune in the street and we children would come out shouting excitedly: “the ice cream man is here” whereby our parents would fork out for us to indulge.  Ice cream is my overall favourite dessert, pudding or sweet, whatever you want to call it.  The main offering the ice cream man had to make was of the soft type with a chocolate flake inside which was called a “99”. Ice cream vans were very much a fixture of my childhood in England and I am glad to see that they still are a feature of British life.  I wonder whether Suzy had a “99” and if she experienced the same thrill as I did when I was a child.
This is what a 99 ice cream looks like
Later that day, Olivia was off again. This time she was being sent to Galicia to report on the news there for her programme, La mañana de la 1.  Little did she know what was awaiting her.  She was accompanied by her friend Dave and off they went in his car in the middle of the afternoon for a very long drive.  Their journey was not incident free as it turned out that they punctured some 150km from their destination, Santiago, the capital of Galicia and the seat of the holy shrine of St. James which so many pilgrims walk to on the Way of St. James (the “camino”). Unable to change the tire they had to call a toll truck. The driver and mechanic said they had another tire about to puncture and that he would have to tow the car into Santiago.  Meanwhile they had to take a taxi to their hotel which must have cost a bomb.

On Monday they would have woken up in the hotel Olivia always stays at when in Santiago, the 5 star Obradoiro.  The story she covered that morning was in far away Lugo.  Here she interviewed a woman whose house had been damaged by the town council.  I missed the live report but was able to watch it later via streaming.
Olivia reporting from Lugo on Monday
That morning saw me at Yoigo for various routine errands I had to attend to at the office.  Always loving wearing my new clothes, that morning I chose to wear a yellow outfit I had bought at Zara, a very unusual colour for me.  However I am quite tanned at the moment and yellow looks better on me than it would if I was the usual white.
Me in yellow on Monday
I had quite a few comments when I posted the picture on Facebook.  I was most surprised at one from my childhood school friend Brenda who said: “you look so like your Mum it’s untrue”.  It was sort of nice to read although I never thought of my Mother as good looking or that I even looked like her.

I had bought the yellow outfit to match a beautiful yellow handbag Olivia’s boyfriend Miguel had bought for me, also from Zara.  This is it and I love it.
The yellow leather handbag Miguel bought for me at Zara
Monday of course was the day Kate Middleton was admitted to St. Mary’s hospital to give birth to her baby. The whole world was looking forward to the end of what has become known in the British press as “the great Kate wait”.  It wasn’t until the early evening that we knew she had given birth to a baby boy.  The baby boy born at 4.24pm who weighed 8lbs 6oz. (3.7 kg) will one day be King, after his Grandfather Prince Charles and his Father Prince William.  I think though he will probably have to wait until he is about 80 for that to happen.  The fact that he is a boy will make things easier for Royal legislation and there will be no need to revoke the Salic Law which would have happened if the Great Kate Wait had turned out to produce a baby girl.

England went crazy with joy and British pomp was at its best that day, although the important baby’s name was not to be announced until the next day.  As tradition dictates, staffers posted a bulletin on a wooden easel in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.
The easel announcing the royal baby's birth at Buckingham Palace
American press reported on an official royal crier announcing the birth, except that he turned out to be an unofficial one. 
The fake royal crier announcing the baby's birth
The British press had a field day with the announcement, vying, as usual for the best tongue in cheek headlines.  My favourite is the one from The Sun which needs no further explanation.
British press at its best announcing the royal birth
Part of the Great Kate Wait was waiting for a first glimpse of the baby. That happened quite quickly as Kate Middleton spent only one night in the exclusive Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital.  She appeared together with Prince William wearing a beautiful blue and white spotted dress which was much commented on as being similar to the dress Lady Diana wore when she first appeared in public to show baby Prince William.  What was also very apparent in the appearance was the baby bump which has also been in the news.  I think she was brave to show it off. After all why hide a perfectly natural physical state?  I mean it’s not as if it can disappear overnight.
Happy Kate and her bump with Prince William showing the baby as they leave the hospital
The next day, Tuesday, I had a lunch appointment with Marta, an ex colleague from Nokia who now heads up the communications department at a big insurance company.  Marta is an avid anglophile and also happens to be pregnant, so of course we talked about the royal baby.  Marta has already chosen the name of her baby girl which will be born at the beginning of October.  It is to be called Alejandra.  

That was not the case of William and Kate whose baby was nameless when it was shown to the world that morning. The big question of course was what they would call it.  I hoped it would be called George like my brother.  If so, the new baby could become King George VII.  My brother was named George after the patron saint of England but also after the current Queen’s Father, King George VI.  My Mother always told me how she joined the crowds in London to mourn his death in 1952.  There were bets on all the possible names of past English Kings: Charles, Henry, James, Edward, etc.  I was thus delighted when I heard that the new royal baby was to be called George; George Alexander Louis.  He will be known as His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.  That’s rather nice too as my dear brother George was actually born in Cambridge where my parents met and married and where we were born.

Again the English press had a field day with the announcement of the name which happened on Wednesday evening at 6.20pm.  Quite a few of them used the well known English expression: “by George” that I thought most fitting for the occasion. I now look forward to buying a royal mug to commemorate the occasion when I go to London in August. This mug will be the continuation of a collection of royal mugs started by my Grandmother and continued by my Mother and myself. 
My royal mug collection
Earlier on Wednesday Olivia told a typical story for her TV programme.  This one was about a chef in La Coruña who was teaching a group of mentally handicapped young people how to cook.  Similarly to Master Chef, the best person in the group will get a job in his restaurant.  You can see the clip here if you go to 13.25h
Oli and the budding chefs in La Coruña on Wednesday
 That night when we were on our daily walk, I checked my mobile phone and saw the terrible news.  A semi high speed train, known as Alvia, had derailed and crashed 4km outside Santiago on its way from Madrid to Ferrol on a deadly curve.  It apparently approached the curve at full speed, some 190kmph rather than the obligatory 80. The death toll in the first few minutes was rising rapidly from 10, to 20 to 30 and upwards. I immediately thought of Olivia who was in Santiago and sent her a whatsapp.  Being the journalist she is, by then she was on her way to the scene of the tragedy.  That night Eladio and I skipped our usual bathe and rushed to watch the live coverage of this terrible accident.  By then the death toll was at 50 and we were watching how the courageous neighbours of the small village of Androis were rescuing survivors even before the ambulances arrived.  I had only eyes and ears that day and the following for news of the accident. 
A scene from the train crash in Santiago on Wednesday night
We woke up the next day to the news that over 70 people had been killed and that some 40 were critically injured.  That was 25th July, the day of the Patron Saint St. James, Santiago and would normally have been a day of huge festivities in the Galician capital.  However, festivities were cancelled and I can only imagine that this date will always be tinged by the sad memory of the terrible train accident in which 79 people lost their lives.  It remains to be seen how well the critically injured fare. 

Olivia’s journalistic skills were to be put to the test on Thursday and Friday mornings as La Mañana de La 1 dedicated the entire programme to the accident.  This was, after all, the biggest news she had ever reported on and the most traumatic.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog was taken by Dave and the expression on her face sums up the enormous tragedy of this terrible accident and the toll it has taken on Olivia. 
Olivia working from the scene of the accident
She was on the TV live every few minutes and even though she later told me she felt like crying the whole time, she managed to keep a professional face for the camera.  She reported on the rescue work going on at the scene of the accident, interviewed village helpers, as well as a fire fighter and also reported on the reestablishment of the train line amongst many other stories that emerged from the traged.
Olivia with a very serious face reporting on the accident
At about midday on Thursday a video taken by the track side camera, leaked probably by employees, showed the world how the accident happened.  The footage of the train hurtling around the bend before flipping on its side is hair raising.  It was removed from You Tube but can be found elsewhere on internet.  If you haven’t seen it, take a deep breath before you click here.

On Friday morning Olivia interviewed the prestigious and well known BBC presenter Tim Willcox onsite for the BBC who told her that the news of the train crash was the biggest news item that day.  Tim Willcox, who studied Spanish at Durham University, spoke in quite passable Spanish during the interview here which you can see if you fast forward to 13.36.
Olivia interviewing the BBC news presenter Tim Willcox on Friday
Later, Olivia had a moment of glory as the world watched her interviewed by Tim Willcox for the BBC.  My Father, Eladio and I watched her on our satellite BBC World News as Susana watched her on the BBC UK news from London.  One of Tim’s questions to Olivia was whether she would be taking a train soon to which she replied that she had been on that same train a while ago but she would not want to take it now. Unfortunately I cannot find the clip of the interview so a photo of her on TV will have to do.
Olivia being interviewed on the BBC on Friday
Our conversation at dinner that night at La Vaca Argentina, was mostly about Olivia’s ordeal and the terrible accident.  I was hoping she would be returning to Madrid on Friday but she rang to say that she would be staying as she had to be in Santiago the whole of next week to report on the aftermath of the train tragedy.  

Everything after the train accident seems to be irrelevant and banal.  However life goes on as it always does.  Hopefully Olivia will have rested now and be ready to report again next week.  Meanwhile our lives continue normally.  It has been a very quiet weekend with no girls and no visitors. 

Yesterday Saturday I went to do some local shopping.  And that’s about all I have to report for Saturday.  However something important did happen in the family yesterday.  It was my brother-in-law, Andrés’ birthday and he spent it in Montrondo.  This is a photo of him working there with the usual big smile on his face.
It was Andrés' birthday on Saturday which he celebrated in Montrondo
I look forward to celebrating his birthday with the family next weekend during the big annual family get together in Montrondo.  It will be the first time Susana will be missing but to make up for that Olivia will be taking her boyfriend Miguel along for the first time.  

Last night on our walk I asked Susana for another photo for this week's blog.  This is what she sent me: a photo of herself with her head covered with a plastic bag, accompanied by Chati whose head is clad with a scarf, to protect themselves from  the rain.  They were on their way to a barbecue which I hope was going to be undercover.  It is quite obvious from the two photos of Susana in this week's post, just what fun she is having in London.  Hum, I hope she is having similar fun job seeking too, not just partying (sorry for the Motherly comment dear if you read this). 

Suzy and Chati, protecting themselves from the rain on their way to a barbecue in London yesterday
Today is Sunday and the house is even quieter than yesterday as Fátima our home help has left today for her weekly rest.  She will be back on Tuesday morning.  She really is making a difference in this household and in a way is company for me as the girls are not here.  When she came she hardly knew any Spanish and in just over a month her knowledge of the language has improved enormously.  We also enjoy her Moroccan cooking.  Yesterday she made a delicious chicken and potato dish accompanied by an extraordinary carrot salad.  I asked her to prepare today’s lunch so that I wouldn’t have to cook.  So we look forward to one of the dishes she excels at: lamb tagin with caramelized prunes and fried almonds, all accompanied by her yellow coloured spicy rice.  After that I think we will be having a very long siesta.  There will be no bathing in the pool afterwards as the weather has cooled down by about 10c in the last two days.  

Next week will be very busy for me work wise until Wednesday.  Yes, great, on Wednesday I start my summer holiday and Eladio and I will be going off to Santander for a few nights.  Then on Saturday we will drive to Montrondo to join the family for the annual get together – the big lunch on Saturday when nearly all the family is present – some 25 people.  It is funny to think that by this time next week it will be over.  So my friends, there will probably be no update from me next Sunday as I will be chilling out in the family village for a few days.

Meanwhile I wish you all the best,

Cheers till my next post

Sunday, July 21, 2013

We launched 4G! Moroccan food, the pain of getting a new passport, a lazy weekend by the pool, Nairo Quintana makes cycling history for Colombia at the Tour of France and other things.

The pool where we have spent this weekend lazing in the sun and shade
Hi everyone,

It’s Sunday again and the time to write this week’s post.  I’m not feeling very inspired this morning and keep putting off starting.  But here I am ready to tell you all about this week. 

On Monday I went into the office as I did several times this week.  It was mostly to work on our press activities for the 18th July “D Day” 4G launch.  I had coffee that morning too with Javier.  Right afterwards Olivia was live on TVE at 13.10 reporting on the case of the Madrid Arena New Year’s Eve party venue where 5 young girls lost their lives.  It is a very high profile case in Spain at the moment and Olivia did a good job as she excels reporting on court cases.  You can see her here if you go to 13.10.
Olivia as seen in the TV studio reporting on the Madrid Arena Court case on Monday
 On Tuesday the abuela (grandmother in Spanish and my mother-in-law) left for Montrondo, after her two week stay with us.  José Antonio, Dolores and Sara, their daughter who recently returned from China, picked her up at midday and they left with a very full car, including their mongrel dog Nuba.

I was busy that morning and missed Olivia reporting on a children’s summer camp but saw it later on this link.  You can too if you fast forward to 13.19h.
Olivia reporting on Tuesday on a children's summer camp
On Tuesday I had a lunch appointment with an old colleague from Motorola, Xavi M.  He now works for Blackberry in a senior role and one of his new responsibilities will be the Yoigo account so we had lots to talk about.  We had lunch at La Española in Pozuelo (a great place by the way), after which he had a very illustrious appointment.  He was off to see Iker Casillas and his beautiful partner Sara Carbonero.  Casillas, of course, is the Real Madrid goal keeper. He is also the club’s Captain as well as Captain of the Spanish National football team.  Xavi, who is from Barcelona, is naturally a Barcelona football fan and the connection with Casillas comes via Pujol, the rival team’s captain who is a friend of Xavi’s too.  You won’t be surprised that the object of the meeting was to help Iker set up his new Blackberry phone.  When I worked for Motorola and Nokia, I had plenty of these sorts of meetings with celebrities.  The first one ever was with Pedro Delgado, the Spanish cyclist and that first meeting led to a lifelong friendship.
My ex colleague Xavi with whom I had lunch on Tuesday
Wednesday was a crazy day work wise.  I was up really early to join a conference call with Stockholm to go over the company’s second quarter financial results.  Results days are always stressful, as we have to send out a press release before breakfast and also an internal release to the staff.  Yoigo’s results were excellent, as the press reflected in nearly all the national daily newspapers the next day.  Net sales went up 20% in local currency.  Even better was the increase in profits (EBITDA) which went up a mighty 51%.  I was proud to see that Spain is now the second most profitable unit within the Mobility Services group, behind Sweden but ahead of all the other Nordic and Baltic countries.

Wednesday was touch and go all day on what to say in our press release the next day when we would be going live with 4G – the new super fast mobile internet.  I didn’t have the final text until very late in the evening.  However my mind wasn’t on the press release when Fátima prepared our dinner that night.  We nearly always eat the same sort of dinner (Gazpacho, Spanish cured ham, salad and fruit) and this time I asked her to come up with something different.  So she made a new Moroccan dish for us.  It’s called “msemen” and we had huge laughs as to what this could also mean.  What it really is, is a square version of “rghayef” – flat Moroccan bread.  She stuffed it with a minced meat concoction and it was truly delicious.  I think the photo below doesn’t do it justice.
Fátima's delicious "msemen" Moroccan stuffed flat bread
My mind was on the food of course (I am such a foodie) but also on my daughter Susana as that evening she was meeting another old colleague of mine from Motorola: Antonio A.  He heads up a huge American advertising company worldwide and I think out of all my former colleagues he has climbed the highest on the professional ladder.  He lives in London and I had asked him to help Suzy in her quest for a job; not necessarily giving her one but coaching her or leading her in the right direction.  He very kindly took her out to dinner in London and then, as the true gentleman he is, he took her home in his car.  From what I heard the next day they hit it off immediately. That didn’t surprise me as I have always had a special chemistry with Antonio and it is natural that Suzy would feel it too as she is so similar in character to me.  I look forward to seeing him myself in London when I go there with Eladio to visit Suzy at the end of August and to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.

Suzy’s life in London seems to be one endless party.  The weather has been great almost since she arrived in May.  Right now the UK is having a heat wave, or what they think is a heat wave.  If they had the temperatures we have in Spain I think they would not know what to do.  Here is a photo of her last Sunday with some of her new found friends; mostly Spanish I think. 
Suzy partying with friends in London (red haired and dark glasses in the middle)
And finally Thursday 18th July arrived and Yoigo launched 4G.  The launch was to take place in Madrid (the capital and province) and we will be rolling out the network in all towns with over 70.000 inhabitants in the rest of the country in various phases.  By December we shall cover almost 50% of the population and will continue to increase that number next year. I was delighted to see that I already had a 4G signal when I saw the LTE abbreviation (another acronym for 4G – means “long term evoloution”) on my phone just as I left our “urbanization”.  So I stopped my car and took a screen shot and immediately posted the photo on Twitter and Facebook to demonstrate 4G was live and working.  People asked me to do a speed test. However the speeds on the Yoigo employees’ phones will be lower than usual because of our mobile email application which slows it down.  Even so I noticed the lack of latency (or buffering or little round circle which appears when you are trying to open a page or app on your smartphone) when accessing internet on my phone and was amazed at the speed and quality.  
The first 4G signal on my iPhone, how exciting (see the letters LTE in the left hand corner at the top)
I was driving to work to attend a press interview with the Spanish news agency and it was lovely to greet my colleagues and congratulate some of them on making 4G happen.  I really felt part of it.  
 On Friday I had time to attend to my own projects and the number one project on my home to do list was getting a new passport to replace the one I left on the plane when I came back from Ibiza.  I scoured the internet to find the instructions and the forms which I filled out and got counter signed by a colleague at work, Tony.  Olivia had to renew hers too so we decided to go together to the British Consulate that morning.  Miguel, her boyfriend, came along for the ride.  We couldn’t believe what we heard when we arrived at the reception of the consulate at the very imposing Torre Espacio building in the Castellana.  The bad news for us was that you can no longer process a passport at the Consulate. Everything had to be done online at  The problem is this was not evident when I first scoured the net or tried to ring the local consulate (I say try because they don’t answer). Thus I spent the bigger part of Friday afternoon downloading new forms and filling them out just as the 30 odd page guidance document told me I should.  The whole “palava” is very complicated.  I now need to get the new form counter signed by Tony again and will then send off the forms in two separate envelopes to Her Majesty’s Passport office in Belfast of all places. I am worried now I may not receive the new passport before I travel to England on 21st August as it can take up to six weeks.  The new procedure to get a passport is a real pain and not at all easy to do.  But anyway I now have everything nearly ready to send.  It would be Murphy’s luck if my previous passport left on the airplane turns up in the meanwhile.  Even if it does it will be no use as it has already been cancelled.  Let’s hope my new passport arrives on time and that I don’t lose it or have it stolen again as has happened on various occasions in my life.

As I enjoyed another Moroccan meal on Friday with the family, I was kicking myself for having lost the previous passport.  But that didn’t stop me enjoying more of Fátima’s wonderful Maghreb food.  This time she had made lamb tagine with caramelized prunes and fried almonds, accompanied by her unique rice.  

For me Friday afternoon is already the weekend. And our weekend started by the pool as it has continued until today.  It has been so hot it is the only place to be during the day.  At night we have needed full blast air conditioning every day this week without which it would have been impossible to sleep. Eladio took a great photo of the pool overlooking one side of the house.  It is so good that it is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week’s blog.  I hope you like it too.
In the evening, skipping our walk as it was far too hot, Eladio and I went out to dinner as we do nearly every Friday night.  This time we chose De María a steak house in Majadahonda where we ate outside on the terrace.  To cool off, the outdoor air conditioning included sprinklers so every now and again we got a little wet. But we didn’t mind.  

On Saturday I fancied a little clothes shopping excursion, so telling Eladio I was going out to pick up some ear rings, off I went to the Centro Oeste shopping centre in Majadahonda.  I was in search of white t-shirts which I seem to be running out of.  I have to admit I came back with t-shirts of all sorts of colours and patterns, not just white. 

That afternoon whilst I was by the pool, Eladio was watching the last mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France.  I was really happy to hear later that a 23 year old Colombian of the Movistar team, Nairo Quintana, this year's best young rider (hence the white jersey) had won the stage (you can watch the last km here).  It happened to be the national day of Colombia, their Independence Day and I can only imagine just how pleased his cycling enthusiastic countrymen would be with this victory.  Nairo, who is racing his very first Tour de France, will now have a second place on the podium which is a first for Colombian cycling history.  The last Colombian to be on the podium before Nairo, was Fabio Parra who came third when my friend, the famous Spanish cyclist, Pedro Delgado won his legendary Tour de France in 1988.
Nairo Quintana after winning the mountain stage yesterday
So what you may say? Well to me, it means quite a lot.  You all know my background in cycling when I worked for Motorola and went to many Tours of France and Spain and other races.  I know from my time in professional cycling just how much the sport is followed and loved in Colombia.  I remember the radio commentators from Radio Caracol and Radio Nacional de Colombia who would commentate sometimes non top during a 6 or 7 hour cycling race and always in a very excited Latin way.  Yesterday when Nairo Quintana won, I can only begin to imagine just how excited the Colombian radio journalists would have been when they reported on his victory.
The Colombian radio stations in the 1996 Tour of Spain   - a picture from my archives.
The Colombian’s feat yesterday made me remember a Colombian cyclist on the Motorola Cycling team I became quite close to. That was Alvaro Mejía.  He raced first in Postobón and in 1991 was, like Nairo Quintana, the best young rider in the TDF.  In his debut with Motorola in 1993 he came fourth in the Tour de France.  He was a lovely gentle young man who didn’t speak very good English and I remember very well how the likes of Lance Armstrong used to bully him.  When I saw that I decided to befriend him and of course it was easy to do so as we had the Spanish language in common.
Me with Alvaro Mejía in the Clásica San Sebastián race . 1993 I think, also from my cycling photo archive
I would often find myself mothering him and realizing just how much he missed his native Colombia I always looked him out and spoke to him.  Then in the 1996 Tour of Spain which I was attending, he crashed on a stage in Galicia.  No one from the team could accompany him to the hospital, so I did.  I went with him to a nasty little hospital in Orense and guess what? The radio commentators from Radio Caracol and Radio Nacional de Colombia followed us. It was me they wanted to interview later to report live on the medical diagnosis.  I can’t quite remember but I think he had broken his collar bone and of course was out of that year’s Tour of Spain.  At the same time it meant he would be returning to his beloved Colombia to recover.  I spent the evening cheering him up by telling him his Mother would be looking after him soon and in reply I got a wan smile.  I am sure yesterday Alvaro Mejía was also very happy for Nairo Quintana yesterday.

The Tour de France ends today and will be won by Christopher Froome, the second British cyclist to win the Tour in two consecutive years after Bradley Wiggin’s win last year.  The Spaniard Alberto Contador, a contender for the final victory, will have to be satisfied with a fourth place which I am sure he is not.  There will be another Spaniard in the podium though, Purito Rodríguez, who gained more points in yesterday’s mountain stage together with Nairo Quintana.  

Whilst Contador was licking his wounds after the stage, there I was with Eladio enjoying the peace of our pool, with no visitors for a change or group of the girls’ friends.  At about 20h, Eladio left so that Fátima, our Moroccan home help, could enjoy a bathe with me, or rather a walk down the steps in the shallow end as she cannot swim. It was her second experience.  Afterwards she told me it had helped her revive from the stupor the fasting of Ramadan causes her poor body in this heat – I mean 17 hours of no food or water from 4 am to 9.45pm can hardly be healthy.  

Later we went for our walk and once home, although it was nearly 11pm, we decided to have another dip in the pool before going to bed.  The evening swim is my overall favourite time to do so.  It’s so cool and peaceful.

And today is Sunday, the last day of the tale of this week’s blogpost.  Olivia and her boyfriend Miguel were here this morning for lunch. But now they have gone. Miguel has gone back to Valencia where he works as a cameraman for Spanish TVE and Olivia has gone off to Galicia where she will be reporting for her programme all of next week, La Mañana de la 1 (TVE).  She has taken her friend Dave with her and they will be driving all the way to Santiago in the north of Spain.  We look forward to watching her live reports on TV next week which always brighten up our days.

Next week will be busy for me too with more projects coming to a fruition that I am working on.  I can’t wait for our holidays in August and some mental reprieve.  We had booked a holiday in Cádiz in July but because of too much work this month I had to cancel it.  At the beginning of August we will be off to Montrondo to join the rest of the family for the annual gathering and later we will spend some time at the beach at our flat in Santa Pola near Alicante, after which we are looking forward to a week in London.  These are all nice things to look forward to.

Meanwhile I have to slog a bit before that happens.  Whether you are on holiday or at work, I wish you all a great week ahead.

Cheers till next week

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ramadan, Olivia reporting from Córdoba on the high profile Bretón filicide court case, a chance meeting with old neigbours, another family Saturday together, JK Rowling unmasked and other things.

Olivia reporting live from Córdoba every day this week
Good morning everyone this warm and sunny Sunday morning.  

It’s not just any Sunday morning as today the French will be celebrating their Fête Nationale which is also called Bastille Day.  I like to think the celebration is to mark the taking of the Bastille on 14th July 1789 which is the symbol of the beginning of the French Revolution. However, whilst investigating its origins, I learned that it was chosen to commemorate the  Fête de la Fédération, "a feast to celebrate the establishment of the short lived constitutional monarchy in France and what people of the time considered to be the happy conclusion of the Frency Revolution". Be that as it may, I hope our neighbouring country is enjoying the day.

Today the French celebrate the Fète National, 14th July is a date ingrained in most people's memory from their history classes.

I wonder whether the many Muslims living in France will be celebrating.  More likely they will be suffering the difficulty of fasting during Ramadan in this heat.  Monday 8th July, my own particular “fasting day” marked the beginning of the month long Ramadan.  I have been experiencing it vicariously through our Moroccan home help Fátima who is stoically sticking to her religion. The meaning of the word Ramadan is “scorching” which rather befits the time of year.  This annual observance considered the most holy month of the calendar is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is obligatory for adult Muslims, except those who are ill, travelling, pregnant, diabetic or going through their period.  They fast from dawn to sunset with no food or water (or any liquid) and they are not allowed to have sex, smoke or bad thoughts.  Ramadan during the summer is particularly hard as the sun sets just before 10pm and dawn is at 04.30.  Fátima tells me that the most difficult part of the fasting is not to be able to drink for so many hours and that she feels parched from about midday until she can break her fast at the meal called “Iftar”.  However, with a twinkle in her eye she told me her “time of the month” will be soon. I can only commiserate with her as I see how ashen she looks in the afternoon.  I laughingly tell her she should change her religion but it is so ingrained in her DNA, she would continue to fast even if she fainted.
The symbol of Ramadan, tough time of year for Muslims, especially in the this heat

Meanwhile Olivia had gone to Córdoba in the south of Spain and which was once the Muslim capital in Spain.  She would not even know though that Ramadan had just started as she was in the throes of reporting everyday for the TVE programme La Mañana de la 1 that she works for.  She was covering the most high profile court case in the last few years in Spain, the trial of José Bretón who is accused of killing his own children, José and Ruth aged 2 and 6 in revenge for his wife filing for divorce.  He has always said he was innocent arguing that he had lost the children in a park in Córdoba two years ago.  However there is proof of his having burnt his children alive in the family home called “Las Quemadillas” and of having bought fuel to do so because their small bones remained afterwards and were found to be of children aged two and six, although it was impossible to check the dnas.  Olivia covered the case all through the week while the jury was deliberating to make their final verdict.  She did so along with representatives from all the main Spanish televisions and media and I think they all became quite friendly, having to cover the same story in the hot sun outside the Córdoba courts.
Many members of the press "family" covering the Bretón filicide case in Córdoba this week - Olivia is on the extreme right

The verdict came on Friday at midday and José Bretón was found guilty on all counts.  He will probably face 40 years of imprisonment although under Spanish law the maximum time he can spend in prison is 25 years.  The judge still has to pass the sentence and probably the whole country wishes for that to be a life sentence. 
The monster Father killer as he listened to the jury's verdict

Meanwhile the culprit’s lawyer has said he will appeal.  So the story will continue in the media for quite some time and no doubt Olivia will continue to report on it.  We all watched her everyday and my Father commented that his granddaughter “knew her stuff”. And she did, as I always think that Olivia is at her best when she is reporting live on television about court cases.  There is something of a lawyer in her and before I knew she wanted to study journalism I thought she would make a great lawyer.
Olivia reporting from Córdoba -. she did so many times throughout the week

This week I am not including the links to her reporting as there were so many I would bore you.  Some days, especially Friday, the last day of the trial, she appeared at least 5 times. 

Suzy and I thought she looked beautiful every day as she wore lovely summer outfits, always taking care not to wear the same dress.  One day she sent us a photo where she appears on the front page of the local newspaper, El Diario de Córdoba in an article on the interest of the media in the case where her photo illustrates the article.  It is also the one I have chosen to illustrate this week’s blogpost.  As I commented to her boyfriend Miguel, I am sure the journalist chose her because she is the most stunning journalist covering the case.  Well I would say that wouldn’t I, as I am the interested party?  However, I am sure I am right hahaha.

On Monday I had my first telephone conversation with Suzy since she left a few weeks ago.  She is having a blast in London.  She seems to have made lots of new friends and the weather has been so good since she went to live there that one of her favourite past times is enjoying the many London parks.  Here is a photo of her at Victoria Park looking very happy.
Suzy at Victoria Park in London

It may not seem very motherly not to talk to my daughter often but that really is because we are in constant contact via the family whatsapp.  As you know we have booked a week’s holiday in August and I look forward to seeing her there and going shopping together.  Hopefully though, we will see her before if she comes to Spain for the annual family gathering in Montrondo at the beginning of August.

On Tuesday, just before watching Olivia again on television, my Father had a surprise visit. The local doctor and nurse were coming to see him to give him his blood test results.  The results were fine; amazing really for a man of his age.  I think he liked the visit but I was a bit disappointed with the doctor’s inability to talk to an elderly man who is hard of hearing.  I would have thought she would know how to do so; speaking slowly and clearly and looking in his eyes, rather than talking fast Spanish and not realizing he wouldn’t understand.  When I told her to talk slowly and clearly, she was absolutely incapable of doing so.  In any case the doctor and nurse gave him a clear bill of health and perhaps more importantly they saw he is completely cognitive and in good spirits for someone his age.  I told them, as I tell many people, it is from my Father that I learned to enjoy the little things in life, such as reading the newspaper with a family member. 
Eladio and my Father reading the papers after breakfast in the "outside dining room" or kitchen patio.

He also taught me to see beauty even in the most awful places in the world.  They certainly liked his surroundings; our outside dining room which is where we have all our meals in the summer and where my Father spends his mornings, surrounded by trees and beautiful flowers, like these hydrangeas.
The hydrangeas in the kitchen patio

On Wednesday we took the abuela (my mother-in-law who is staying with us) to Madrid to have lunch at José Antonio and Dolores’ place.  That was quite convenient for Suzy too as I was able to drop off a parcel of stuff for her friend Elena, the sister of her flat mate, Chati, who was visiting London the next day with her parents. Suzy is very taken with both sisters and I am sure they are having a lovely time together in London this week.
The bosom friends in London.  Suzy (in the middle) and Chati (in pink) reunited with Elena (Chati's sister) who came to visit them this week in London

In the evening before our walk at sunset, I went to the Gran Plaza 2 shopping centre with the excuse of having to buy some hand wash I “needed” from Rituals.  Once there, of course, I was tempted by the sales.  I did not find anything I really liked at the usual stores: Zara, H+M, Mango, Blanco, Cortefiel or Sfera and so ventured into a small boutique called Luján where I found three lovely summer retro frocks.  This is one of them.
Just one of the new frocks I got at Gran Plaza 2 this week

Eladio loves them but Olivia was not impressed telling me they were for older women.  Now I am not quite sure I made the right choice.

It was on Wednesday that a famous Spanish TV presenter and journalist, Concha García Campoy died of leukemia.  She used to present the news with another famous TV presenter, Manuel Campo Vidal, whose daughter Claudia was Olivia’s best friend at school when they were small.
This week marked the death of the beautiful Spanish TV journalist and presenter, Concha García Campoy

That day too, another friend from St. Michael’s school, Begoña was to let Olivia know that her Father Jesús Robles had died that same day also of cancer and aged 54, just like Concha García Campoy.  He and his wife Silvia own a famous cinema book shop which is frequented by the likes of Almodóvar.  I well remember Begoña’s parents from birthday parties and parents’ days when they used to come all the way from Madrid by taxi as they could not drive.  I remember Jesús as a very jolly friendly man and can hardly begin to imagine the deep hole he leaves in the lives of his daughter, wife and friends.  Olivia was devastated of course.
R.I.P Jesús Robles

On Thursday, my fast day, we had news of the other members of Eladio’s family who are on holiday in Chipiona in Cádiz.  It was where we were going on holiday this month but I cancelled our hotel booking as I have a very busy July this year.  The photo below is of Adela, Eladio’s sister, her daughter Marta, our sister-in-law Yoli and her daughters Laura and Alicia who you probably know is our god daughter.
"The beauties" in Cádiz

In the late afternoon I did the weekly food shopping with Fátima.  It is the highlight of her week with us and what she probably likes best is meeting and talking to her fellow Moroccans, two of the shop assistants, Zara and Ahmed, at our local gourmet super market.  It is thanks to Ahmed that I acquired some halal chicken which he delivered to our house that day.  Fátima will now be able to eat chicken too, of course, slaughtered the Muslim way.  That will have to be when she breaks her fast at the allowed meal times dictated by Ramadan.  Thursday being my “fasting day” I commiserated with her not just in spirit but in body too. 

On Friday we took the abuela shopping to Centro Oeste to get her out of the house really but also to buy some presents for her great granddaughters Diana and her baby sister.  Neither Eladio nor the abuela had a clue about what to buy for a four year old and a six month old baby so it was up to me to make the right choice at Imaginarium that delightful educational toy shop. 
Eladio's Mother aged 92 enjoyed her outing to the Centro Oeste shopping centre on Friday

As we were leaving we bumped into our old neighbours from our previous house in nearby Parque Boadilla.  It was amazing to see Dulcinea again after so many years.  She was accompanied by her three daughters, Graciela, Alma and Carolina.  They used to be our daughters’ baby sitters but they are now grown up women with their own children.  It is Carolina, their eldest daughter I was closest to.  She studied hard and went on to be an international cooperator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which took her to many war torn countries.  She gave us a huge shock a few years ago when she and her family got caught up in the terrible hurricane in Haiti. I well remember her coming back on a Spanish military airplane and her husband later being interviewed on Spanish television, something Olivia organized.  Thankfully they came to no harm.  After our chance meeting on Friday I agreed with Carolina to go and see her next Friday and meet her little girls and generally catch up on her life.  It was great seeing you all again Dulcinea, Carolina, Alma and Graciela and some of your toddlers.
The chance meeting with Dulcinea and her family on Friday

It was on Friday that Olivia finally returned exhausted from her work and the heat of Córdoba but happy with all her reporting and that finally justice had been done and the filicide monster was behind rails.  I spent some quality time with her whilst she unpacked and then we went to have a swim in the afternoon heat. 

Later that night Eladio and I went out to dinner, true to Friday night tradition.  This time we chose Tony Romas as we fancied eating outside and tasting their delicious barbecue ribs.  It was funny as we left, as it turned out Olivia was there at another table with her dear friends Dave and Pulgui (Elena).  What a coincidence!

Saturday was the highlight of the week, as it has been for the past few weeks, because José Antonio, Eladio’s beloved second brother down, and his wife Dolores, not to mention their adorable mongrel, Nubah, came to spend the day with us. 

That day Fátima prepared an amazing Moroccan lamb dish with caramelized prunes and fried almonds.  She also made Moroccan rice and I contributed to the lunch with my favoured lamb korma.  Oli and Suzy’s friend Juli, my “adopted son” joined us for lunch and this is what the table looked like yesterday when we had the Indian Moroccan meal together in our “outdoor dining room”.
Saturday lunch with the family

The afternoon was spent by the pool in peace and harmony.  Rocío and her little black Labrador Inda joined us and I was amazed to see the delightful three month old puppy jump right into the pool.  It is supposed that all Labradors adore water, but that is not so for Elsa who kept at a discreet distance.
Inda came to visit on Saturday and swam in our pool with us.  I just adore her!!

Whilst we were enjoying ourselves at home, a few hundred kilometers south of Madrid, the inhabitants of British owned but Spanish disputed Gibraltar were celebrating 300 years under British rule. It was the Gibraltarians day as today is the French people’s day.  I’m not quite sure why Spain, and I would have to do lots of reading to find out, permanently ceded the rock of Gibraltar to the British under the famous Treaty of Utrecht in 17.13 during the reign of Philip V of Spain. The treaty has always been a matter of controversy.  We talked about this over afternoon tea by the pool and got bogged down in history as none of us really know the full reason.  But I think we all agreed that it is ridiculous in this day and age that a small part of Spain belongs to England. However the final decision lies with the inhabitants who will probably remain under the British crown forever as they have no wish to change the ownership of this important little rock in the South of Spain.

The Treaty of Utrecht
 We gave no more thought to the issue as we went on our lovely evening walk with the dogs, after which we came home to dinner laid of course on our outside dining room table by Fátima. When we came home she was having her “iftar” meal and looked bloated and tired poor thing.  I mentioned again that she might want to consider changing her religion if Ramadan was so difficult but all she managed in return was a weak smile.  Who am I to suggest such a thing I told myself later.

José Antonio and Dolores left just before midnight, excited to go home as the next day, today, they would be going to the airport to pick up their daughter Sara who was returning after a six month stay in China.  Meanwhile we spent the last moments of the day, or the night, by our pool in the dark contemplating what a wonderful place we live in. 

And today is Sunday and I am coming towards the end of this week’s tales.  Everyone in this house reads the written papers on the table over breakfast in the outside dining room but I prefer to read the news on my iPad in the kitchen.  I flit between the online versions of The Times, The Daily Telegraph, El Mundo and El País.  Whilst everyone else was glued to more news this morning about the ex ruling party (PP) treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, in prison for embezzlement and illegal payments to top members of the current government, I was far more interested in the story of JK Rowling.  I read that she had written a detective novel called “The Cuckoo's Calling” under a pen name – Robert Galbraith.  It was only discovered recently that she is the real author and that she had been unmasked possibly because the book is published by the same editor and publishing house.  In any case, it spurred me on to order it immediately on Amazon, as I am sure has happened with many of her fans around the world.  I liked her first non Harry Potter book, the Casual Vacancy and I know I will like her new book.  I read that she decided to use a pen name, so as not to have put up with all the pressure and “palava” of a new book released by her, perhaps the famous modern author of our times.  She probably also wanted to know what people’s reactions to the book would be without knowing the author.  It obviously hasn’t sold as much as it would if they had known but it has had some great reviews, which I suppose is not surprising.
I look forward to reading this detectve novel which it now transpires was written by JK Rowling under a pen name.

Now I am at the end of the post.  We have had the leftovers of yesterday’s delicious lunch, the “oldies” are asleep and Olivia is out in the mountains near Madrid with her friend Dave, so this is a great time for me to finish and publish this week’s blog.  Next week is going to be hectic but that’s how I like it as you probably know.  

I don’t wish you a hectic week, but I do wish you good weather and peace and all good things.
So my friends, I love you and I leave you, until next week,