Saturday, April 08, 2017

War talk about Gibraltar, I joined the Mini club, Oli making a programme on “Urban Tribes”, a week of terror, dinner with Fátima and other stories.

Sunday 9th April, 2017

Dressed for the occasion, off to another audition.
Good morning everyone.

It's not been a good week in many ways.  There have been terrible attacks in Syria, in St. Petersburg and in Stockholm, of all places and on a personal side there has been bad news.

Sunday was a good day.  I forgot to mention last week that as from 1st April I am now self employed.  It was a big decision to make, foregoing my "dole" but the only way to pursue my new career as a fledgling communications consultant and also the only way to be able to invoice my customers. On Saturday I sent my first invoice and on Monday my second.  I haven't been paid yet but, when I am I shall probably celebrate. I wonder how it's going to go.  This is a new life for me and very uncertain too. 

I spent Sunday morning sorting out all the bedding after our home help Salud left and what a mess it was in.  I needed to organise the sheets and duvet covers for our 7 en suite bedrooms and more importantly to make sure I had enough of everything for the 3 rooms I rent out on Airbnb. 

We had mini hamburgers for lunch followed by a naughty but nice raspberry and cream cake which both Oli and I were so tempted by at Carrefour when we went shopping on Saturday afternoon. 

I spent the afternoon, preparing documents for an application for a very interesting job as Director of Communication and Marketing for a public audiovisual company. This required, among so many other documents and information, a 5 page essay or document - called "memoria" here - on on the content, organisation and functions of the job.  Eladio and Oli proofread it and we were all happy with its content. I don't think I will get the job because of my age and also because one of the requisites is to be from the audiovisual sector which I am not.  But I had to give it a try. 

Dinner with Eladio and Oli was makeshift but wonderful. I made a Swedish dish called "skagen" which is basically prawns in mayonnaise on toast or brown bread decorated with slices of hard boiled egg. It's a dish I love and so do Oli and Eladio.
Sunday night's "skagen" which we had for dinner.
I don't know what Suzy in London had for dinner that night but I imagine she was out for a meal as she had guests last weekend. Her flatmate Chati's sister and Suzy's best friend, Elena and their Mother were staying. I didn't hear much but was thankful for photos posted on Facebook by Elena.  It looked like they had great weather for once. 
Suzy had guests in London last weekend
Monday started for me with another audition, this time to take part in an advertisement for Antena 3 TV.  It was fun and I enjoyed the experience but never heard back. I have now been to 4 or 5 auditions and although I have been told I look good on camera, so far I don't seem to have "passed" any of them.  Well I shall continue just for the fun of it and who knows, maybe one day I will be chosen hahaha.

The fun didn't last long when I heard about the bullish attitude of the UK concerning Gibraltar. The former leader of the Conservative party, Lord Howard, had said on Sunday that Theresa May would defend Gibraltar in the same way as Margaret Thatcher defended the Falklands in the 1982 war.  It's amazing, that so soon after triggering Article 50 to leave the EU, there are tensions between members. The tension came because the EU had stated that any negotiations of Brexit regarding Gibraltar would need the approval of Spain. The tension continued during the week and I just hated some of the news coming out of the "gutter presss", like this front page of the ghastly rag, The Sun.  It just sums up the worst of Britain.  
How the British gutter press reacted to the Gibraltar issue this week
The EU was set up originally to keep the peace in Europe after the Second World War and now with Brexit there is talk of war; the worst possible outcome of the most stupid decision the British voters have ever taken. Thankfully Theresa May laughed off the idea and said, quoting Churchill, that her position was not "war war" but "jaw jaw".  I personally consider it an anachronism that a piece of Spain still belongs to the UK even though it was ceded in the 18th century in the Treaty of Utrecht. Can you imagine a piece of land in Cornwall belonging to France? Spain too should think about giving up the parts of Morocco in its territory, like Melilla and Ceuta. 

But worse was to come on Monday and marked the beginning of this week of terror.  The St. Petersburg metro was attacked by a suicide bomber. Akbarzhhon Jalilov from Kyrgyzstan who blew up a carriage on the metro killing 14 people and injuring more than 50. We are not safe anywhere.  Well I suppose I would be safe in far away, remote Montrondo. 
Suicide bomber attack on the St. Petersburg metro on Monday
But life continued here and that afternoon Lucy, our new home help from Paraguay, joined me on my afternoon walk in the sun. I am liking her more and more and she seems to be very happy here. That afternoon I also received a brief from a possible new customer in Valencia. The project is very alien to me; to gain international press coverage for a TEDx event to be organised at the end of this month by a big music school and I didn't  know how I would tackle it. In fact I kept  putting off drawing up the proposal all week.  It's not up my street and I didn't feel inspired but would have to get down to it eventually. 

On Tuesday I was up at 5.30 - I have slept very badly this week. That morning I had something lovely to look forward to. We were going to go and get my new Mini from the main BMW car dealer in Madrid. And there it was gleaming and glistening with its lovely Union Jack side mirrors. The Mini salesman, Andrés, who was a charmer throughout, quickly showed me how to use it and I found it quite easy. It has been custom made. I prioritized the accessories I wanted over the power of the engine which I didn't care about. It's a 1.5 cylinder Mini but is equipped with a rear view camera, a full scale bluetooth and sat nav systems and most important of all it is automatic.  And here it was waiting for me at the dealer.
My new car waiting for me at the BMW car dealers on Monday

It was a bit daring to have the side mirrors with the Union Jack, possibly like a red flag to a bull in the midst of the Gibraltar issue but I love them.  They make it look so cool. I drove it home and it was a joy to drive. It's very smooth and hardly makes a noise. It's also very modern with features such as Mini branded courtesy lighting, coloured lights in the dark, remote key driving and you can even open the double door boot by just passing your leg underneath so that when you arrive carrying heavy bags there is no need to get your keys out to open it. 

Once home, I parked it outside to do a photo session hahaha. Here it is from the front and the back. Isn't it beautiful?  Yeah, I know it's no match for my former BMW X6 company car but it's the first brand new car I have ever bought and it has been made to my specifications. Love it. I now belong to a select but very large club of Mini owners.

My lovely new Mini
I used it for the second time when I went out in the afternoon to have coffee with a friend at the Alverán café in Boadilla. I was to meet Gunilla, the Swedish born mother of Suzy's once best friend at St. Michael's school, for the first time since the girls left the school more than 10 years ago. We have always got on and have many things in common, especially our daughters' school years. It was wonderful to see her. We sat and spoke at a table in the afternoon sun for more than 2 hours catching up on 10 years of our life. We have agreed to meet again and I look forward to that.  Lovely to see you Gunilla. 

Whilst I was living the luxury of my new car and having coffee with a friend, people had been attacked with chemical weapons in Syria. It was in the rebel town called Khan Sheikhoun where the strike happened. Using chemical weapons, gas or nerve gas or whatever these ghastly weapons contain is internationally banned. At least 70 people were killed 27 including children. Their death was the worst kind  possible. 
Nerve gas attack in Syria
The international community was outraged and most international leaders blamed the infamous Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Of course Russia has a big part to play here. Both Assad and Putin denied the accusations but the US CIA said they had proof. We all know that later Donald Trump ordered a retaliation. For once I am on his side.

On Wednesday  I was up early at 5.45 and the first thing I did was weigh myself as I had an appointment with my slimming doctor who had put me on the so-called 1000 calorie maintenance diet in January. That morning I weighed 55.7 kg which is well under 9 stone and had thus lost over 4 kilos instead of maintaining my weight. I was wondering what he would have to say about that.  But I would have to wait until the afternoon. 

That morning I sent off all the multiple documents, certificates, CV, etc for the job application which I probably won't get but there you are I made the effort. I had a nice chat with Suzy on my walk while she was driving to work. She loves working for the NHS I was happy to hear. I came back to start setting up the laptop I had bought for her on Amazon for her birthday but first I contemplated my lovely new Mini parked at home. I've never been very interested in cars but funnily enough have always had a soft spot for that very British car. Of course it is now German but it's still made in Oxford and is still so very British, especially with my Union Jack side mirrors hahaha.

My lovely new Mini parked at home the day after we went to collect it
I had bought Suzy a cheap laptop made by Asus. It looked lovely but turned out to be defect. It was impossible to use the @ key. So I rang their customer service to hear it was a factory defect and should get in touch with the seller.  The seller of course is Amazon and it is impossible to talk to them. I didn't dare return it for another one in case it was defect too, so I decided to return it. Thankfully these days returned items from Amazon work better now that the post office comes to pick them up. Not knowing what PC to buy on Amazon I decided to drive to the El Corte Inglés, Spain's one and only but very reliable chain of department stores, to the one in Pozuelo. There I was advised to buy a bigger one with more memory. Suzy wanted a small one but the cheap ones are rubbish and the others are very expensive. I got a beautiful purple blue HP. Once home I spent the morning figuring out Windows 10 which I am not familiar with. I managed to install an anti virus programme and later the Microsoft Office pack my dear friend Juana who works for Microsoft sent me. That took hours but it was successful. 

In between time I went for my doctor's appointment at 16h. He was half an hour late. When I explained I had lost over 4 kilos on his maintenance diet he explained that he prescribed 1000 calories only as the majority of people never stuck to it. Well I did and the proof was in the pudding. He has now put me on a 1500 calorie diet, allowing me to break it a couple of times a week. So it was with great gusto that I ate bread and butter with my dinner that night hahaha.  One thing for sure is that my motivation is intact and I am determined not to put on any weight in the foreseeable future.  Only time will tell of course. 

One thing I am continuing with are my 2 hour long walks every day. Lucy now joins me on my afternoon walk. She tells me she grew up on a farm and loves the countryside. So, we have something in common. 

Meanwhile my Catalan customer, Genaker, was taking part in a Conference for Heads of Security in Barcelona.  I had done the plan for their participation so it was good to see how it rolled out. It went well which was very satisfying for me and of course for them. Here is the CEO, Miquel, my ex colleague from our Nokia days.
Miquel the CEO of Genaker, my Catalan customer, at a conference in Barcelona this week.
Later that day I spoke to Oli on the phone. She had been shooting "urban tribes" for her next programme. I didn't really know what they were. In my youth they would have been groups like the Mods and Cons. These days there are viper gothic vampires, Parkour boys (free running whatever that is), graffiti people and even pin up girls haha. She sent me this amazing selection of photos with some of them. 
Oli with the Viper gothic vampire girl

Here with a "pin up" girl, my favourite

Here with a grafitti painter

Oli with the "Parkour" boys.
It was that night that we got some unsettling news. Eladio rang his sister to find out how my brother-in-law was faring after the second operation of major brain surgery the week before. The news was not too good but they were waiting for the results of the biopsy the next day. I was so worried and upset I slept really badly that night and was awake at 4.45 on Thursday morning unable to sleep anymore. 

I was tired all day on Thursday. I worked on everything but the Valencian project and kept feeling guilty. It's what my Father would have called "procrastination", not something I do a lot but I did this week. Exhausted, after lunch I was going to try and get a few winks when we got the bad news from another of Eladio's sisters. It turns out the tumour is malignant even though it had been diagnosed as benign in the autumn. Well apparently it must have turned malignant as it grew. This is a tragedy for him and his lovely family, his wife, daughter and son. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes. I cried and cried and cried wanting to be with them. But I can't go until next week. I got more bad news that day when one of my best friends came to see me. I knew she was fighting cancer which has spread and is undergoing chemotherapy. But when she told me it was Grade IV I burst into tears. We hugged and cried together. She is fighting it hard and she will have me by her side always. 

On Friday, as we know, Donald Trump retaliated to the Syrian gas attack. The world was stunned and surprised. The world was surprised because when Obama was in power Trump urged him not to get involved even when the red line of the use of chemical weapons was crossed. It seems he was very affected by TV coverage of the children's suffering and could also have been influenced by his daughter Ivanka and the King of Jordan, a staunch opponent of Assad, who was with him this week. The Russians were furious. Their argument was that the bombing on Tuesday had been carried out by rebels. There are other theories, such as Assad having bombed a chemical weapons arsenal by mistake. The world tends to believe it was the deliberate work of the Syrian President. That night or in the early morning 60 Tomahawk missiles were fired from two US navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean and according to The Times "One Tomahawk was aborted over the Mediterranean. The other 59 smashed into the Shayrat airfield, close to Homs, destroying about 20 Syrian aircraft, an air defence system, ammunition bunkers, plane shelters and fuel storage sites".  
One of the missiles being launched
For once I agree with Donald Trump. 

Friday was Oli's boyfriend, Miguel's 42nd birthday. They began the celebrations at their flat where they live when he has his 7 day leave as TVE cameraman in the Valencia region every other week. Oli had ordered a sumptuous breakfast online to be delivered that morning. 
Miguel, the birthday boy on Friday
Her main present to him was 3 nights at the lovely Casona de la Paca hotel in Cudillero, Asturias. They will be going today. I had recommended the place to Oli as Eladio and I have now been there twice and adore the little "Indiano" mansion and area. If you are interested you can read the review I wrote about it on Trip Advisor here
The beautiful Casona de la Paca hotel near Cudillero in Asturias
I went on with life as normal on Friday, although my thoughts constantly wondered to León where Eladio's family were gathering around my brother-in-law. 

That afternoon after a short siesta to catch up on so much lost sleep, I woke up to read that there had been a terror attack in Stockholm of all places usually such a haven of peace and democracy. It was another horrible lorry attack, this time in the heart of Stockholm in their most commercial street Drottninggatan which I think means Queen's Gate. The stolen lorry was driven at around 60km/h into pedestrians, until it smashed into the entrance of the famous Ahlen department store. 4 people were killed and many injured. It was to be yet another terrorist attack. 

Terror in Stockholm on Friday
I couldn't believe what was unfolding in my beloved Stockholm a city I love and have visited so many times when I worked for Yoigo as our major shareholder was TeliaSonera (now called Telia Group), the main telecoms operator in Sweden. I rushed to Facebook to see the page where many of the people, mostly ex colleagues, had marked themselves safe!! Oh my God. I later expressed my feelings on Facebook and these are them: "I know I should be more shocked or upset about the gas attack in Syria but what happened in my beloved Stockholm shook me to the core . Its a city I know well and adore and where I know so many people. It is a city of peace untouched by terrorism. That is why I am so shocked. This kind of terrorism is unforeseeable and could happen everywhere as we have seen. My thoughts are with my lovely ex TeliaSonera colleagues. I'm so glad they are safe. What happened there is unthinkable of in Sweden and my heart goes out to the victims and their friends and family".

The reaction of the Swedish population could not have been more exemplary. They started an initiative called #opensweden where the ordinary population reached out to those stuck after the lock down in the city offering food, refuge and transport.  You can read more about how the Swedes got going when the going got tough here

So you see, it really has been a week of terror. 

The best moment of Friday was in the evening when we had dinner with my friend Fátima. She joined Eladio and I at a new Asturian restaurant near where we live. And here we are together, best friends forever.
Dinner with my closest friend Fátima on Friday night. 
The dinner was nothing special and I don't think we shall be going back but the company was the best, as was the delicious Asturian cider.

Yesterday I finally sat down to do the PR proposal for the Valencian music school. I got Eladio to proof read it and he thought it was fine. I hope my prospective customer thinks the same. It was another sunny day and I went for my morning walk and then another one with Eladio just before lunch. For lunch I showed Lucy how to make fish and chips hahaha.  PS I didn't eat it but had a small fillet of steak and vegetables. In the afternoon Oli and Miguel came to see us and while Eladio was at his tutoring lessons, the 3 of us sat by the pool "chillaxing" to quote my funny daughter Suzy who now knows more modern expressions in English than I do.  When Eladio came back, we showed Oli and Miguel my new Mini which I think they really liked. As the weather was so good, I suggested that afterwards, Eladio, aided by Miguel, bring up the kitchen patio wooden table. And that's where we had dinner last night. For the occasion I made 3 small delicious Spanish tortillas. 

And today is Sunday, another lovely day. In fact we are on the cusp of a spate of fantastic weather which will apparently last all through Easter. The most significant thing to happen today is the semi official disarmament of the Spanish Basque terrorist group ETA.  About time too I thought. 

Today will be a quiet day at home. But tonight I shall be receiving 6 Korean guests who have rented the 3 spare double bedrooms on Airbnb. That will be fun hahaha. I'll tell you all about it next week. Next week in fact we shall be receiving more guests for Easter, 3 Russians from St. Petersburg although we shan't be here. I'm not sure how they and Lucy, our new Paraguayan carer will understand each other. Hopefully my Russian neighbour, Katya will be at home to lend a hand whilst they are all "lost in translation". Of course my Father will be able to help too. 

I can't wait for next week. On Tuesday my school friend Kathryn and her husband Phil, an ex teacher of Spanish, will be visiting us on their way from the North of Spain to Nerja in Málaga. We ourselves will be going to León to see my brother-in-law on Wednesday. We will be joined by Miguel and Olivia after their stay at La Casona de la Paca in Asturias. From there we shall make our way to our beloved Montrondo where we look forward to spending the Easter break. Next Sunday I shall be writing from our house there.

So my friends and readers, I shall leave you now. It just remains for me to wish you all a great week ahead.

Cheers till next time.

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