Saturday, July 30, 2016

Suzy at work, 84 year old priest Jacques Hamel beheaded by ISIS during mass in a church in Normandy, Alicia spent the day with us, 33 years ago, the Pope visits Auschwitz, Olivia reporting live for TV from Baoadilla, to Montrondo for Santa Marta and other stories.

Sunday 31st July 2016
A selfie with Eladio and Olivia on our pit stop at Rueda on the way to Montrondo on Saturday morning
Hello everyone,

I hope you are all fine.  I am in the best of spirits.  I started my holiday this weekend and we are in Montrondo.  I couldn’t be feeling happier.

When I last wrote it was on Monday and it was a national holiday in Spain.  My friend Fátima was coming to bathe with me that evening and was 2 hours late. She is not known for her punctuality.  In fact she came on time for dinner hahaha.  It was great to catch up with her and to hear the tales of her trip to the US to pick up her daughter, Fátima junior, who has spent a year with a family near Boston. Her daughter’s American family will be coming to visit them in August and we have the honour of accommodating them in our house – thus all the efforts for the new green guest room.  Unfortunately we won’t be here to meet them.

Just as my friend Fátima left, there was a new terror story from the US.  I could hardly believe that there had been another deadly shooting at a night club in Orlando.  As we watched House of Cards that night, I felt the series was a bit out of touch as the politicians there did not have to deal with the new sort of terror we are seeing all over the world today.

I told you last week that Olivia would be doing a report on the workers at the big Madrid Water Park, “El Aquopolis” that day.  When the girls were little we used to take them there very often and spend whole days there enjoying the 18 or so attractions.  Little did Oli know that one day she would be doing a report on the water park in Villanueva de la Cañada for TV.  This is the link to the report if you want to watch it.

I dug out the two photos below of the sisters enjoying the water park in July 1995, 21 years ago.  Oh how time does fly.
The girls, Oli in purple and Suzy in blue at the water park (Aquopolis) in July 1995
I was delighted to get a photo from Suzy on Tuesday morning of her at work at her new job.  She is a dietitian with the Spanish chain of diet clinics called Pronokal and her office is in Harley Street.  Doesn’t she look professional?  I’m very proud of her as I am of Oli too.  What wonderful girls I have.
Suzy at work on Monday
She tells me the diet really works. I have decided I shall try it out after the summer; after Paula’s wedding at the end of September.  Let’s see. 

I wish that was the only news to recount for Tuesday. If last week the horror stories were from Germany, this week it was France’s turn again.  Unbelievably ISIS terrorists entered a small church during mass that day and kidnapped the priest and the parishioners including 2 or 3 nuns.  The priest giving mass was Father Jacques Hamel aged 84 and a well-loved figure in his community in a church in Normandy.  The terrorists forced the old priest to kneel at the altar towards them and then they beheaded him and video-taped their barbaric act. 
Father Jacques Hamel R.I.P. a true martyr
One of the nuns managed to escape and call the police who later caught the terrorists and shot them down.  She then narrated that they had shouted out that it was Christians who were attacking them and this was their revenge.  There are no words to describe what they did.  Some like savage, ruthless or diabolical come to mind but they are not enough.  The world was shocked once again and especially the Catholic Church and Pope Francis who heard about it just before arriving in Kracow for the world youth encounter there. 

We spoke about this and other things that night whilst having a light dinner on the kitchen patio; just Eladio and I.
Our simple dinner outside on Tuesday night
On Wednesday I was delighted to receive the window cleaners. They were coming to clean two sets of windows that are very stupidly designed and too high up for us to reach.  One of them is the glass gallery just off our bedroom and the other one is above the lounge by the girls’ bedrooms.  I am slightly embarrassed to say it was the first time the gallery windows had been cleaned. 
The window cleaner who came on Wednesday morning
They look sparkling and we have decided that they will now be cleaned once a year, at least.  The visit reminded me of how at home at 6 Heaton Grove in Bradford the window cleaners used to come very often to clean the old Victorian sash windows.  I wish I could remember their names. They would always be given a cup of tea; not so here of course as no one drinks tea like in the UK.  I wonder if my Father remembers their names as he was the one who always called them.

Alicia was coming on Wednesday to spend the day with us and brighten it up for her grandmother and for me too.  It was her day off from her job this summer with the Intensive Care Unit at the famous Ramón and Cajal hospital in Madrid.  So I had my own personal nurse to accompany me to my doctor’s appointment at the Monteprincipe Hospital.  I was to see a traumatologist after having being diagnosed with “rhizarthritis”.  Thankfully it hardly hurts anymore and seems to be getting stronger. I was happy to hear from him that it was only at a very early stage. 

Just before lunch I got a whatsapp from Suzy telling me the 29th August was a bank holiday in England and wondering whether I would like to visit.  Well of course I would.  So there and then I booked  tickets for flights leaving Madrid on Thursday 25th and returning on Wednesday 31st August; nearly a whole week. So London here I come again.

After homemade lasagna for lunch and a quick siesta, we spent the afternoon by the pool.  I was the first in with little Pippa.  She likes going in with me if I hold her and as long as she only gets wet up to her neck. Here I am holding her on the steps.
With Pippa in the pool on Wednesday afternoon
Elsa, our lab, on the other hand, loves to go in but will only do so if we throw a ball.  We did of course, for the spectacle of it but also for her to cool off. Here she is; the swimming dog.
Elsa the swimming dog
We were joined by my mother-in-law who was knitting her second scarf.  Here she is doing so.  It’s what keeps her occupied most of the day.
Ernestina knitting away on Wednesday
Having fun with my iPad, Alicia decided to play songs for Ernestina from the 40’s.  So I looked up who were the top singers of those times in Spain and they were Manolo Escobar, Concha Piquer and Imperia Argentina amongst others. Also familiar to her was of course Lola Flores.  Then an impromptu dance began and my mother-in-law egged on by her youngest granddaughter, Alicia, started dancing together.  It was a sight for sore eyes and lovely to see Ernestina happy and smiling.  Thanks Ali for brightening up her day and ours too.
Alicia and Ernestina, my mother-in-law aged 94, dancing to Spanish 40's music from You Tube
Whilst we were enjoying the music and the dancing Olivia was working of course.  She was in Madrid about to do a live report when she coincidentally bumped into her best friend from school, Paula.  Paula was leaving her office and the two were delighted to be reunited so unexpectedly.
Olivia and Paula, a chance encounter on the streets of Madrid on Wednesday this week
Paula and Olivia were inseparable at St. Michael’s School when they were small until they left.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times I drove Oli to her house and back or ferried the two of them to birthday parties.  I actually haven’t seen Paula since they left school and it’s funny to see her now in a photo as a grown up woman; a successful architect I think. 

Just as I was getting into bed that night, Pippa beat me to the post and guess what?  Yep, she hit her favourite spot on our bed, my feather pillow.  Before gently removing her, I just had to take this photo.  Isn’t she lovely?
Pippa on my pillow
Thursday came and I was expecting the painters to come and do the “green room”.  They were supposed to be coming in September but had a free morning that day, to my delight.
Painting the green room, music to my ears
They did the job in just one morning and a good one too. To jazz up the room a bit more I decided to have the front wall painted a dark grass green colour and the rest of the walls the same colour but in pastel.  I am very pleased with the result which you can see below. So now the new room will be shipshape for our American guests and for whoever wants to come afterwards.

As usual we went for our walk that morning, early and before it got too hot.  As we were leaving, Eladio pointed out to me just how lovely and green our garden looked. He was right and actually he deserves a round of applause for keeping it this way after so many problems with the irrigation; most of which he has fixed himself.
Our garden is green thanks to Eladio
It was on our walk that I suddenly remembered the significance of the day. It was 28th July and the 33rd anniversary of our registry wedding in 1983.  We had to be wed at a registry office as the Catholic Church wouldn’t marry us because Eladio was a priest.  We had found a Protestant church where we would be wed three weeks later with our family and guests but it could not issue a marriage certificate valid in Spain. I have dug out the pictures of us on that day.  We kept it very simple with just Eladio’s parents there as witnesses.  We didn’t want the day to mean much as the real wedding for us was and always has been 21st August 1983. Thus the cross look on my face hahaha.
Our registry wedding day was 33 years ago on Thursday 28th July!
I can now confess that that night Suzy, our eldest daughter, was unknowingly conceived.  We weren’t to learn that we were to be parents until a week or so after the church wedding.  I have always been surprised to know that we got it right the first time round.  Oli was conceived in England a year and a week later, also unknowingly.  You see there was absolutely no family planning but I wouldn’t have it any other way as their arrival times turned out to be perfect if unplanned.

It was on Thursday afternoon that we announced the continuation of our summer promotion. Yoigo's Sinfín 20giga tariff would be extended until the end of August, making new customers happy I am sure.

Friday came and it was the last day before I was to start my holidays.  We had to get everything ready to be able to leave for Montrondo where we are staying for about 2 weeks. We had to do the shopping to take there and of course leave enough provisions for my Father and Salud in our absence.  With an organised list, we filled two trollies and were home within the hour.  Now the fridges are bursting at the seams haha. Let's see for how long.

The main news that day was that Hilary Clinton was elected Presidential candidate by the Democratic Party at a huge convention in the US.  I watched several of the speeches; those from Michele Obama, Barack Obama, her husband Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea.  I had hoped one of them may have mentioned the Monica Levinsky issue but it never came up.  Hilary's was the last and it was a good one.  Dressed in her favourite style, "a pant suit", she was full of confidence when she accepted.  During the Convention it was suggested that Russia had been behind the campaign as if Putin wanted to influence the presidential election.  Well I wouldn't put it past them.  Hilary Clinton could now become the first woman President in the US; unless that clown Donald Trump beats her and it's going to be close.  I will be watching just as the rest of the world will. P.S. Michele Obama's speech was by far the best and I couldn't help thinking that maybe she should have been the next US President. She is so popular and sensible, clever and pretty that  maybe one day she will; that is, if she wants to. 
Hilary Clinton is now the official Democrat President Elect. Here in a white pant suit at the Democrat Convention when she accepted the role with "full confidence.".
In the afternoon, Fátima senior and Fátima junior came to see us to get all the instructions about the house; clickers for the gates, clickers for the air conditioning and clickers for the alarm, as well as essential information for their stay here in August when we are away.

It was a delight to see Mother and daughter reunited after the latter's adventure in the USA this year. She will be going back at the end of August to do the American "high school" which I imagine is the equivalent to UK 'A levels" or the Spanish "Bachillerato".  She is 16 going on 17 and like Lisa in The Sound of Music is a beautiful girl about to become a poised and lovely woman.

On a more sombre note, on Friday the Pope who was in Poland for the anniversary of the country becoming Roman Catholic and for the World Youth Day in Kracow, visited the Auschwitz death camp.
The Pope visits Auschwitz - here walking uder the famous gates to the Nazi death camp
Earlier in the week after the beheading of the Catholic priest in France he had said the "World was at War".  No doubt that must have been in his thoughts as he walked under the famous gates with the words "Arbeit Macht Frei" - work sets you free. He made no speech. He didn't need to.  He just prayed by the "Wall of death" where the inmates were shot to death near the pile of rubble which were once the gas chambers.  He made a special visit to the cell of a Polish Catholic monk who was made a saint in 1982; Maximilian Kolbe, who sacrificed his life for another man. He also talked to some survivors and had the privilege of meeting some "righteous among nations"; that is, non Jews who risked their lives to save Jews  during the Holocaust; an honorific title given by the State of Israel.

Ronald Lauder, of the World Jewish Congress thanked him for the visit saying that it was an important signal against hatred and that this "dark chapter must never be forgotten". I applaud his visit. It is my objective, once in my life, to make this same trip.  I shall never forget visiting The Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem (Yad Vashem) where I wept buckets of tears, especially when I reached the Hall of Names, the memorial to each and every Jew who perished in the Holocaust. 

On Friday afternoon whilst I was cooling off by the pool in what may well have been the hottest day of the year so far, I got a message from Olivia to say she had a live TV report to do from nearby Boadilla and could I pick her up.  Well of course I could and did but I also wanted to see her in action. The report was at a police spokesperson's own home where he was to give advice on how to protect your house for the holidays.  The main holidays in Spain started this weekend; including mine.  I arrived on time but had trouble parking.  I was embarrassed to tell the policeman (Serafín) that I had parked illegally. Thankfully I wasn't there long enough to get a fine.  Up I went to the flat in one of the main streets in the village to find Oli, the producer, the cameraman and the policeman preparing the scene for the shoot.  Here they are a few minutes before they went live.
The TV team in Boadilla just before they went live.  Oli in the beige skirt is second from the left.
They did a good job and I enjoyed watching the live report on the spot. Being behind the scenes is always fun.

We got home to find Eladio in the pool so we joined him immediately.  Being Friday night we went out to dinner and chose Ginos in Boadilla.  We had to sit inside with the air conditioning rather than on the terrace as at 9 p.m. at night it was 36ºc outsideª. The minimum temperature that night would be 24ºc!  Dinner was lovely.  This was my choice; pasta with prawns and asparagus in a creamy tomato sauce.
My choice of pasta at Ginos on Friday night.
Saturday came. I was awake at 6.20 even though we had been watching House of Cards until late. We were to leave for Montrondo at 09.40; Eladio, Oli, Ernestina and Pippa.  We were leaving behind my Father who would be well taken care of by dear Salud.  Thank goodness for her.  We trust her so much.  She is like a family member in many ways as she cares about us and the house so much.

The atmosphere in the car was very holiday like.  Oli and I sat in the back with Pippa, Eladio drove and his Mother, excited to be seeing her daughter Pili again and be in Montrondo, sat in the front.  Oli and I spoke to Suzy on the phone during our journey and we listened to The Beatles on Spotify.
Oli and I in the car with Pippa on our trip to Montrondo on Saturday morrning.
Any journey to Montrondo includes a pit stop at Rueda for a lovely glass of white wine and a plate of ham.  The photo illustrating this week's post is a selfie of Olivia, Eladio and I about to devour the ham.  I also caught Oli on camera just as we were setting off again.  Spot Eladio and his Mother in the background hahaha.
The pit stop at Palacio de Bornos in Rueda on our way to Montrondo.
We were to the be the last of the family to arrive for the annual family gathering in Montrondo for the local fiestas to celebrate the village patron saint; Santa Marta.  The programme for the activities is below and Olivia and I were very upset to miss the games which had taken place the day before rather than on Saturday which has always been the norm.
The programme for the Santa Marta fiestas this weekend in Montrondo.
This year the family lunch (we were 27 people) was to be held at La Palloza in Murias.  Here we are all around the table in the lovely gardens of the bar and restaurant.
The family lunch took place at La Palloza in Murias de Paredes this year
I wasn't hungry after our stop at Rueda but the truth is I didn't really like the food. It was very run of the mill.  But it was nice to be with the family although rather hot to eat outside.  I couldn't believe it was 30ºc in Montrondo which is very high for the village which stands at about 1.200m high below some serious mountains.

At about 4 we all left for Montrondo and Eladio, Oli and I had the task of settling in and bringing in all the food I had brought for our stay.  We shall be here for about 2 weeks.  Unfortunately Oli will be returning this evening (by high speed train from León) as she works tomorrow.

Not all the fiesta activities were over and at 6 there was a lawn mower race on the common in El Campo where it seemed all the village and its mother were there to watch.  I have never seen so many cars in Montrondo.
The lawn mower race yesterday.
While we were there I took the opportunity to show Olivia the latest village landmark; the new bridge and restored spring called La Fleita.  It was quite crowded that day.  The water there is cool and fresh as it comes straight from the mountains.
Oli by La Fleita with Pippa
When the race over most of the family gathered in "el corral", the stretch of grass in front of our houses.  Here I introduced the family to the Finnish bowling game called Molkky.  It was such fun. But I played pathetically being disqualified after three rows of not scoring.
Playing Molkky in Montrondo yesterday
Last night was the dance and band which would start at nearly midnight.  However, Oli, Eladio and I were tired and not being party animals stayed at home.  We had a lovely dinner together and lounged around until it was time to go to bed.

And here I am now writing at the crack of dawn.  I woke up at 6.15.  Once I have published this week's tales, I shall go on a walk with Adela my sister-in-law and Pippa.  We will be back by 9 on time for breakfast with Oli and Eladio.

Today our friends Javier and Ana will be coming to stay but of course I will tell you about that in next week's post.

Meanwhile my friends, I wish you all well and will leave you now until next time,


Monday, July 25, 2016

Eladio’s Mother came to stay, rhizarthrosis, Yoigo press conference, a new guest room, Alicia and Julio visited, Miguel and Claudia got married, Constante’s son, Eadberto (Roche) visits Montrondo for the first time, terror in Germany, a weekend with Oli and Miguel at home, Suzy has guests in London and other stories.

Monday 25th July 2016

Eladio and I ready to go to Miguel and Claudia's wedding on Friday
Hi everyone,

How’s your day going?  Today is a holiday in Spain to celebrate Saint Jacob (Santiago) so I have left the story of last week until today which is really the only quiet day I have had recently.

Today is also the 3rd anniversary of the terrible train accident in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia and where the Saint’s remains are supposed to be buried. Three years ago Olivia was there reporting for TVE in perhaps the most important and serious piece of news she had ever covered.  Here she is doing a live report that day with an extremely sad face.  She told me later she had difficulties in keeping away her tears.
Olivia reporting on the tragic train accident in Santiago de Compostela 3 years ago today
But let me start from where I left off which was Saturday 16th July. That day, Toño and Dolores were bringing my Mother-in-law, Ernestina, aged 94 from Montrondo to stay with us for 2 weeks. In the summer she is shared between her offspring, staying 2 weeks with each of them.  It’s rather bewildering for her as she is very hard of hearing and her memory fails her.  She keeps asking where her daughter is and getting her name wrong.  The house has resembled a “senior citizens” residence these past few days.  It’s thanks to Olivia’s visits that the average age has gone down occasionally thank goodness. It’s also thanks to our home help Salud that we have not been too tied down, although of course we can’t go anywhere in the circumstances. 
Eladio with his Mother in the shade in the garden last Saturday after she arrived from Montrondo to stay with us.
Unlike my Father she doesn’t read books or watch the TV.  Her only past time is knitting and we have had to coax her to do some. She has now knitted a nice green scarf and is being coaxed into making another one.

Before they arrived, Oli and I went to Centro Oeste to do some shopping.  However we suddenly realized neither of us had a clicker to open the gate.  Eladio was out and Salud our home help had just left.  We were trapped in our own home which was very frustrating. It took us a while to find the special key to open it and when it did it felt like opening Ali Baba’s cave.  We felt so triumphant.
Oli opening the gates manually after being trapped - nothing was stopping us from going on a shopping expedition
Once there Oli went on the rampage buying lots of clothes, mainly t-shirts, in the sales.  I resisted as I have bought so many already this summer hahaha.  It was a nice mother and daughter trip out together which doesn’t often happen. I treasure those moments.
Toño and Dolores stayed for lunch and I made meatloaf from a trusted English cookery book I still have from my Nottingham University days. Here we are around the table.
A family lunch with Ernestina, my Mother-in-law last Saturday
After lunch we spent time by the pool.  In the evening I went with Oli to her new flat to deposit all sorts of things she needs there.  That was when my left wrist began to hurt and I realized I couldn’t really use it much without it hurting. 

On Sunday I woke up to terrible pain in my wrist.  The pain seemed to come from the base of my thumb and I was unable to clench my hand into a fist.  Whilst making breakfast and getting washed I realized just how difficult it is to do things with one hand only. Thankfully it was the left hand and not the right. Eladio drove me to the Accident and Emergency unit at a local private hospital; El Hospital de Montepríncipe. Being a Sunday it was quiet and I was seen to very soon. They did an x-ray and the diagnosis was very clear: “rhizarthrosis”, a term I had never heard of.  It really means arthritis at the base of your thumb and it is very painful.  I was told to wear an orthopedic wrist brace, apply ice every hour or so and prescribed Voltaren (anti-inflammatory tablets) and paracetamol.  Later I would ditch the Voltaren as one of its side effects is headaches and I got quite a few of them thanks to the tablets. This is the brace I have been wearing for the last week and actually it’s quite effective because it immobilizes the thumb.
My wrist brace:-(
The advice helped and the pain thankfully diminished although it still hasn’t gone away completely.  I have an appointment with the traumatologist on Wednesday and I’m pretty sure she will prescribe collagen or something similar.  When the diagnosis was made I thought that the arthritis was due to age but apparently it can happen to anyone from about the age of 30 onwards.  Anyway I just hope it gets better and doesn’t need an operation. Cross your fingers.

It was such a hot day on Sunday and not a particularly pleasant one for me what with the pain in my wrist and only being able to use one hand.  On the plus side Oli was at home with us all day. In the afternoon I accompanied her on another shopping expedition. We went to El Corte Inglés where she wanted to exchange a book in Spanish she had been given for her birthday. She ended up buying George Orwell’s Animal Farm in English. Who doesn’t remember his famous phrase: “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”? A proclamation by the pigs who control the government in the novel Animal Farm, by George Orwell. The sentence is a comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite”which of course is valid still today and always. 

Monday came and my wrist hurt less. But of course I couldn’t drive.  I needed to go to the hairdresser (I couldn’t wash my hair either with just one hand), so my dear husband did the chauffeuring.  That day I was wearing one of the t-shirts Oli bought during our shopping expendition to Centro Oeste.  It’s white with a glittery pink heart – right up my street – from a shop called “Algo Bonito”.  It’s lovely isn’t it?
Back from the hairdresser wearing Oli's lovely new t-shirt
Monday 18th July was the hottest day of the year so far and temperatures reached 40º C in Madrid.  So there was no better place to be than at Ikea that afternoon. We went to order bedroom furniture for Olivia’s old study which she never uses now that she has semi moved out haha.  We were to turn it into a new guest room; our third! This was what it looked like before we cleared it out.
Oli's old study which we turned into a new guest room this week
Tuesday had Eladio and Salud clearing out the old study which was full of Olivia’s clutter. She is like a magpie, hording all the things she accumulates over the year.  There was so much it was difficult to start. This is what the corridor outside the room looked like; lined with bags and boxes of her stuff.
The corridor full of Oli's stuff from her old study
The study furniture had to be taken downstairs – God knows what we will do with it? - as well as most of her stuff. It was a titanic task and only finished this weekend when Miguel lent a hand to Eladio to carry the heavier furniture down to the garage.

Wednesday was my big day. The Ikea people would be coming to install all the furniture and fittings we had bought but I couldn’t be there when they came. That morning at 10.30 we had an important press conference.  It was to announce the 2nd Quarter financial results which were to be good ones, with increased sales as well as increased profits!  The event took place at Hacienda Warehouse, a lovely location near María de Molina.  We did it outdoors and gave the whole place a summer look.
At the Yoigo press conference on Wednesday
There was a good turnout too as you can see in the photo below of just some of the journalists who came.
Some of the journalists at the press conference
Our freebie that day was a lovely summer kit; a beach basket with a beach towel, a panama hat and flip flops inside.  They went down very well. 
The summer kits we gave out 
The event went well and more importantly the coverage was positive.  I was happy to see we were also trending topic that morning.
There is nothing more pleasing to a Communications Director than for your news to become Trending Topic on Twitter. We achieved that on Wednesday when we announced the 2nd quarter results. 
By the end of the day we had garnered nearly 100 online clippings.  The next day even more would be generated.

Whilst I was busy with the press conference, in Havana, my nephew Miguel (Toño and Dolores’ eldest son) and his fiancée Claudia of Cuban origin were getting ready to fly to Madrid and get married in Spain.  They were to bring with them a man called “Eadberto” (commonly known as “Roche”) aged 80.  He is the son of Constante (R.I.P), my Mother-in-law, Ernestina’s first cousin who she was to meet for the first time this week.  Constante was the brother of her Mother Lecinia, Eladio’s maternal grandmother.  At the age of 20 in the year 1920 he left Montrondo to seek a better life cutting sugar cane in Cuba.  He was never to return thanks to Fidel Castro’s isolationist policy.  His daughter, Rosa María, the granddaughter of Constante, who visited us and Montrondo some years ago, made Roche’s dream come true by making it possible for him to travel to Spain with Miguel and Claudia.
Constante walked through the gates of the family plot when he left for Cuba, never to see them again. This is a photo of Rosa by those very gates when she visited Spain a few years ago.
Constante's granddaughter and Roche's daughter, Rosa outside the family plot gates in Montrondo a few years ago.
Roche would walk through them too this week, in a way, in lieu of his father Constante who never ever passed that threshold again.  As I wrote last week in my blog, there is talk in the family of doing away with them and making a shed.  I don’t want to see them go as they are a symbol of the past and harbour cherished family memories.  Thankfully Roche will see them before they are destroyed.  Constante would hate to learn they were no longer there.

Miguel helped too with the visa thanks to his contacts in the Cuban capital.  For all the news of Cuba opening up to the world, it still hasn’t really happened and the US blockade continues. This is the photo of the 3 of them at the airport in Havana on Wednesday last.  Rosa wrote this week that her grandfather Constante never stopped speaking of his beloved Montrondo to both his offspring and his grandchildren.  So of course it is natural that they would have a longing to see his village and understand his roots.  It was to be some journey for the 3 of them.
Constante's son, Roche, Miguel and Claudia at the airport in Havana this week before flying to Madrid.
I came home to find the new room newly furnished.  However it still needed a few more touches.  As I wrote that I was reminded of the song in Calamity Jane “a woman’s touch” and a woman’s touch it would get from me as I turned it into the “green room”.  The only touch I can’t give it and which it really needs is a lick of paint or two but because of the holiday period the painter I have contracted can’t come until September. 
The before and after photo - from study to new guest room.
The photo above is the before and after photos of the study and new bedroom. However I was to purchase more bits and bobs later in the week making it even more “hyggelig”, that lovely Danish word meaning cozy and comfortable which I learned from our au pair, Pernille, many years ago.  But that was to be on Saturday when I went with Oli and Miguel to Ikea.

On Thursday I woke up to more than 900 news clippings after our press release and press conference.  It really was worth the effort.

Our day was brightened up by the visit of our youngest niece, Alicia, who is also our god daughter.  She is a fully fledged nurse and is working this summer at the A+E unit at the big public hospital, Ramón y Cajal.  Thursday was her day off and she chose to spend it with us.  She was soon in the pool and joined by Elsa with Pippa looking on.
Alicia in the pool with Elsa and Pippa looking on
She made the “abuela’s” (grandmother) day too. Ernestina might not be able to engage in much conversation or remember who is who but she loves to have people around.  Before lunch we took my Father out to the shady area of the pool to have a drink (aperitivo) and here are the two of them together.  As you can imagine there is zero conversation haha, but I’m sure both them enjoyed the moment.
Eladio's Mother and my Father in the shade by the pool this week
Later that day we had another visitor.  My friend and ex Nokia colleague Julio came to see us.  The more the merrier in Ernestina’s mind I think.  She is definitely a party person hahaha.
It was great to see Julio this week when he came to visit.
It was great to see him as don’t see each other as often as we would like.  It was so hot that day that I offered all the array of drinks we had in the fridge: beer, shandy, horchata, zero caffeine free coke, coconut water and iced water.  It’s very important to keep hydrated in such heat; although I’m not sure beer or shandy count.

And Friday came and was the absolute highlight of the week. It was the day Miguel my favourite nephew was to marry his lovely Cuban fiancée Claudia.  And it couldn’t have been a more beautiful day.  I had the honour of making the bride’s bouquet. For that I picked white and pink hydrangeas from our garden.  Using pink crepe paper I created one to the best of my ability.  This is what it looked like. Claudia would be wearing mini pink and white flowers in her hair to match the bouquet.
The bridal bouquet I made for Clauda from flowers in our garden
Eladio and I dressed up for the occasion and Salud took a photo of us by the hydrangeas just before we left. I was carrying the posy and Salud said we looked like the bride and groom hahaha. That’s the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week’s story. It’s a super photo and I now have a copy of it in a frame hanging in one of the bathrooms – there is not much space left in the house for any more photos so they are now going in the bathrooms, hahaha.

The happy couple was to be married in the registry office in the small town of Villanueva del Pardillo not far from Majadahonda.  Of course we took Ernestina who would be meeting her cousin Eadberto (Roche) for the first time. She would have a splendid day and enjoyed every moment of it. It was the highlight of her stay with us.

Roche and Ernestina, first cousins, met for the first time at Miguel and Claudia's wedding. 
It was very special to meet Roche.  Later we would take him in our car when we drove to the restaurant and then to our home where we all came back after the celebrations.  In those journeys he spoke of how his Father Constante arrived in Cuba and how he himself fought on Castro’s side against Batiste.  He even told us he had been one of the founding members of the Cuban communist party.  Later at home I introduced him to my Father who is totally opposed to communism having married a refugee aristocratic white Russian, my Mother.  I introduced them in my father’s study bedroom where he has a reproduction of a painting of Tsar Nicholas II who was killed by the Bolsheviks.  I remarked they were on the opposite sides on the political scale but could be friends too!  They both laughed.  I wonder whether my Father is the first Englishman our Cuban cousin, who has never left the island until last week, has ever met.  Probably.

It was to be a small and intimate wedding with just some of the family.  There will be a lunch celebration near Montrondo later in August and the proper wedding will be in Cuba on 3rd January.  Guess what?  I’ve persuaded Eladio to go and he has agreed.  I think I may well be the only family member to be present at all three celebrations.  But you see, Miguel means so much to me.  I have known him since he was a small baby and there has always been great chemistry between us.  I wish both him and Claudia a happy marriage and many years together.  If they can be just as happy as Eladio and I, that would fulfil my wishes for them.

There was little protocol at their wedding so I was able to take photos of the bride and groom before the ceremony took place. Here they are with Eladio, the proud uncle.
Eladio with the bride and groom
And here is Claudia on her own, the pretty, happy and radiant pride carrying my posy. Her dress is beautiful. Dolores sent her two to Havana to choose from and this is the one she is wearing.  It comes from Mango and was more than perfect for the occasion.
Claudia, Miguel's radiant bride
And here they are sitting down just before the marriage ceremony began. I couldn’t wait to hear them say “I will” (Sí quiero).

Claudia and Miguel minutes before they were married.
And here they are after those all-important words posing for the cameras.
Miguel and Claudia after being pronounced husband and wife
But I wanted a more passionate picture and I got one. Here they are kissing.
The newly weds.
I have printed that photo and put it in a frame to take to them in Montrondo. I can only imagine it will be their first printed photo of the wedding and I’m happy it comes from me.
After hundreds of photos outside the registry office we all drove off to El Pardo, some 17km away to the El Torreon restaurant where the wedding banquet would take place.  I thought it was rather ironic that the town where Franco had lived and the current King lives near, El Pardo, had been chosen when we had a Cuban guest with us.  I pointed out  the two palaces to Roche with a smile on my face.

The lunch was lovely; an intimate affair with family present of all ages, from months old to the matriarch of Eladio’s family, Ernestina.  I think one of the happiest people that day apart from the bride and groom was the groom’s mother, my dear sister-in-law Dolores to whom I am forever grateful for having introduced me to Eladio so many years ago.  Here they are together.
The groom and his Mother
From the banquet nearly all the guests drove after lunch to our house to cool off in and outside our pool.  It felt like a party and the atmosphere was fantastic. 

Oli couldn’t make it to the wedding as the producer of her programme wouldn’t give her the day off – a day off for a wedding in Spain is only for first blood relatives unfortunately. But she made it on time to greet the bride and groom and congratulate them on their marriage.
Whilst we were at the wedding, she was doing a report on a new initiative in Madrid; a bike and beer circuit.  For the report she interviewed a big group of women from Manchester in Madrid for hen party.  For once her English came in useful.

Oli and the group of women from Manchester here for a hen party - she interviewed them in relation to the new bike and beer circuit in Madrid. 
The climax to the whole day was when Miguel’s best friend, Jonás, a very accomplished musician and teacher of music at the Conservatory in Amsterdam where he lives, sat down at my Grandmother’s beautiful but rather untuned piano in our lounge and played.  But only he noticed it wasn’t tuned.  We didn’t.  It was pure joy to listen to him.
Jonás playing my grandmother's piano at Miguel's wedding.  Wow!  If I had known we would have had it tuned for the occasion.
We even got him to play “here comes the bride” and got the bride and groom to dance in our lounge whilst we all looked on and clapped with joy.  His recital was really a wonderful end to a wonderful day. 

You can see more photos of the wedding here.

We were exhausted at the end of the day and felt a little forlorn having a small dinner late that night with Oli outside on the kitchen patio.  But House of Cards awaited us on Netflix later.  It’s all the rage or rather it was and is very popular.  A couple of years ago I watched the first episode and didn’t get hooked.  However Oli and Miguel are watching it now and Oli encouraged me to try again and we did.  We are now on episode 5 of Season 1 and it is getting better and better; not that American politics is my favourite genre or Kevin Spacey my favourite actor. It is Zoe (Kate Mara) the young and ambitious journalist who draws me most.

On Saturday we woke up to the news of horror and terror in Germany.  In the first of various attacks, we read that on Friday there had been a mass shooting attack in Munich at McDonalds and the nearby shopping centre. The lone gunman killed 10 people, most of them children and injured many others.  We all immediately thought that the perpetrator, Ali Sonboly, an 18 year old Iranian refugee had attacked in the name of Isis.  But we were wrong.  Every time there is an attack of this sort we all immediately link it to Isis. 
Horror in Germany - the Munich shooting
We learned later that the teenager who had been badly bullied at school was obsessed with mass killings and may have been keen to imitate the Norwegian far right terrorist Anders Breivik. He committed the killings on the 5th anniversary of the massacre in Oslo.

The same day, Saturday, in another incident in the north of Germany, panic broke out on a train when a 22 year old threatened passengers with a knife.  Later we would read he had psychological problems and was drunk.

There was more terror in Germany all through the weekend.  On Sunday evening a pregnant woman was killed and two other people injured in the south west of the country.  The attack came from a 21 year old Syrian asylum seeker who killed his ex-girlfriend with a machete.  Again we thought it was an Isis incident but it turned out to be domestic violence. 

The final horror incident was on Sunday night when a failed Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up and injured 12 others with a rucksack bomb in the south of Germany in Ansbach.  This time it was most likely carried out in the name of Daesh/Isis. 

If recently it has been France that has suffered, this week it was Germany.  When will it stop I ask myself?

On Saturday morning life continued as normal at home of course.  How lucky we are to live out in the country and away from all the dreadful news we see and read about. 

Happy to have Miguel and Oli at home I joined them on their trip to the new Ikea in Alcorcón, quite near where we live and supposed to be the biggest one in Europe.  They had quite a few things to get for their new flat and I had a list of things I needed to add the finishing touches to the “green room” such as more cushions, photo frames, candles, a chair and some green towels for the ensuite bathroom.  We spent quite a few hours there.  The photo below is of Oli and Miguel doing what Ikea call the “picking”, a term I learned when I appeared in the Undercover Boss programme and had to work at an industrial warehouse where phones are stored and sent all over Spain.
Miguel and Oli at Ikea on Saturday morning
We were late for lunch but just on time to join the “abuela” and my Father.  The rest of the day, after a quick siesta, was spent by the pool.  Saturday was another scorcher.

Oli and Miguel in the pool this weekend with the dogs.
There was also time to put the finishing touches to the “green room” and this is what it looks like now.  The first guests to use it will be my friend Fátima’s American friends who are coming in August.  I hope they like it.

The new guest room -"the green room" with the final touches except for painting.
This weekend and today I think too, Suzy has guests in London.  Her fellow London adventurer, Chati’s Mother and sister, Elena – Suzy’s bosom friend – were coming to stay and they would all be housed where Suzy and Anita live, another member of the girls group of friends “la manada”, in Camden in North London.

The weather was good and they spent most of the day outside.  I know from the photos on Facebook posted by Elena that they went to London Fields and also to Victoria Park near the Albert Memorial.  Here are the 4 girls in London Fields.
Suzy with her friends and guests in London Fields on Saturday this week
Suzy is obviously on a high these days.  She is looking stunning. Radiant I suppose is the best way to describe her.  In this lovely photo below she is having a “me” moment laughing and smiling and looking more and more like me; or so people say.  I am so happy for her.  There is nothing that makes me happier than my girls being happy.  I suppose that is a mother’s life objective and what we all strive for.  Suzy you look lovely.
Suzy looking radiant this weekend in London
On Saturday I should also mention that the bride and groom and their parents, Toño and Dolores drove to Montrondo for a few days, taking our Cuban cousin Eadberto (Roche) with them.  So when I saw the photo of him by the old family gates, together with Toño, I could only imagine what was going on inside his head.  He truly made that trip in his Father, Constante’s name.  He came to visit the beloved village of his Father which he had heard about all his life and which Constante was never able to see again; having left in 1920 at the tender age of 20.  He stood by those family gates his Father crossed when he left, never looking behind and never knowing that nearly a hundred years later his son would return and stand by the very same gates he walked past. 
Constante's son outside the old gates in Montrondo (right striped shirt)
We shall be going to Montrondo next Saturday and I look forward to talking to Roche and taking more photos of him in his Father Constante’s village, on the trip of his life.
On Saturday night we went out to dinner with Oli and Miguel.  Oli treated us all to a super meal at Tony Romas where we all had ribs. The portions were so big we had to get a doggy bag.  The evening ended with another episode of House of Cards.

Sunday came and it was another scorcher. Eladio, Oli and Miguel went off in two cars to their flat in Mirasierra to install the rest of the things they had bought at Ikea.  They weren’t back until lunch. I had gone all out and made a Sunday roast; chicken with all the trimmings including cranberry sauce and sage and onion stuffing. Later I would make a chicken waldorf salad for dinner out of the remains.  I also made a chicken noodle soup; ever the thrifty cook hahaha.

The rest of the day was spent by the pool, reading in my case; a rubbishy book by Barbara Taylor Bradford.  Oli spent the time listening to the French course Miguel bought her for her birthday. He left in the evening as he had to return to Valencia where he will be working from today until next Sunday. He has an amazing timetable as a TVE cameraman, working 7 full days and resting 7 days.  Good for him.

Suzy and her guests were having a grand time in London.  From the pictures I saw they spent time at Hampstead Heath, went for drinks to a place called Oblix and even went up The Shard.  Here they are at the latter.
Suzy with her friends and guests this weekend at The Shard
Our day ended with a quiet dinner again outside on the kitchen patio watching the 9 o’clock news on my iPad Plus.

In Paris yesterday  the Tour de France ended with a third win for the British cyclist, Chris Froome.  It was another sporting win for Britain after Wimbledon and also the Formula One yesterday when Hamilton came first.  
Britain's  Chris Froome won his third Tour de France yesterday in Paris. 
Eddy Merckx has said he is likely to go on and join the select club of those who have won 5, like himself, Anquetil, HInault and Spain's Indurain.  We do not count the cheater Armstrong. Who knows it's possible. People only ever remember who came first, apart from those themselves who came second or third and their families.  So, in honour of the mothers of his podium companions, let me tell you that Frenchman Romain Bardet came second and Colombian Nairo Quintana came third.  Well done to all. 

And today is Monday and Oli left this morning.  Thankfully today she will be reporting on something far nicer than the train crash in Santiago 3 years ago.  She has been sent to the water park; “El Aquopolis” in Villanueva de la Cañada, where we used to take the girls when they were little.  I look forward to seeing the report.

The day is very quiet.  It is a national holiday and hot again as I have said repeatedly in this report.  As soon as I have published this, I shall get straight into my bathing suit and hit the pool.  No doubt I will be joined by Ernestina, the dogs and eventually Eladio but only I will go in the water.

Now I’m at the end of this week’s tales and it’s time to sign off.  I wish you all a great week, whether you are at work or on holiday and wherever you are. 

All the best till next time when I will be officially on holiday and writing from Montrondo.

Cheers till next time,