Saturday, March 18, 2017

Seven Sisters, Airbnb, Nutrition and Hydration day for Suzy, Salud leaving us, Oli with priests and nuns and other stories of the week.

Sunday 19th March, 2017

Happy on one of my sunny walks this week with Pippa, the apple of my eye.  Loved the green and blue background.
Hello everyone,

How has your week been?  Mine has been quiet, pleasant and quite busy but there has been time for everything. 

Last Sunday morning our French airbnb guests left. Camille and Jeanine wrote a super review which is now my 3rd.  Airbnb is a nice little sideline business for me, but more about that later.

We had guests that day for lunch.  Eladio's brother Toño and his wife, Dolores came for lunch. For the occasion I made "cocido madrileño" which is always a favourite in the winter. It's not that it's exactly winter though. On Sunday it was sunny but windy with a chill in the air. We were told the spate of warm days was over and that winter would be back with a vengeance this week. However, it was only so on Monday. It was just a bit cooler here in Madrid but in Alicante it was dreadful.  There was torrential rain; the same amount in one day as in a whole year.  The freak flooding caused havoc and made me wonder how our flat in Santa Pola was fairing. Thankfully it is on a 3rd floor. 

But back to Sunday.  After our walk we all had a cup of tea and out came my favourite Emma Bridgewater tea set.  And here are the 2 brothers sitting together on one of the sofas in our lounge.  It's not often they are together and they are so close; having been educated together in a seminary from the age of 12, I love seeing them relaxing and enjoying each other's company. They always have a lot to talk about as they are both philosophers and teachers.
Eladio and Toño having tea on Sunday
Of course I read the news on Sunday as I do everyday.  I always start with The Times online but then read items of news that catch my attention throughout the day via applications from my phone.  My Father keeps asking me what "apps" are; something difficult to explain if you don't use a phone.  Oh the digital divide has not been fair on him as he is too old.  I shall be a lot luckier when and if I reach his age as I am what is called now a "digital immigrant".

I read the international news of course and am following Brexit and have been following the Dutch elections this week.  But it's the trivia I love most.  One bit of trivia that caught my attention that day and which I want to share with you, if you haven't seen it, is the story of the 7 (or 8) nuns (sisters) caught on camera at the train station of the same name "Seven Sisters" in North London.  No doubt my daughter Suzy will have been there often. Well, that day or a few days before, a passenger called Ben Batey was on the train when he saw "real-life seven sisters" waiting on the platform. This is the picture he took which later went "viral", another word my Father won't know.  
The 7 or  8 or 9 "sisters" (nuns) at the Seven Sister overground station 

He later said he "took a double-take as it was one of those strange but amusing moments". You bet it was.  I just loved it.  Later there was discussion about the real number of nuns but who cares. The picture is what matters. I wonder who the nuns were and what they thought of the picture haha. 

On Monday I spent most of the day on a new Airbnb ad to include 3 double rooms in our house so as to be able to get group bookings. I already had two "listings", one for the "green room" and one for Suzy's room but would have to set up a separate one if I wanted to accommodate 6 guests.  But Airbnb is quite a tricky platform to use and is designed so that for multiple rooms you cannot charge per room but per guest.  The downside of a multiple room listing is that if you get just one guest the money is a pittance.  This week saw me get a 1 guest only booking and a more lucrative 6 guest booking in June. This by the way is the ad if you want to spread the word or come and stay here, hahahaha.  Some people criticise Airbnb for being a threat to hotels and there are stories of people buying up properties just to use them for Airbnb.  I'm not one of the latter in any way; as first, there are no hotels where we live, and second I have so much spare room in this house it's a good way to get some extra pocket money. These days, after losing my job, I am looking for all sorts of ways to earn money and this is one of them.  For the moment it is tax free but I wonder for how long. 

I was very sure to block my calendar for the days I will be accommodating friends coming for my 60th birthday bash in June.  I had set the date some weeks ago that would suit Suzy and my dearest friends Sandra and Adele and on Monday I also worked on the invitation and sent it out. This is the picture I chose. It's great isn't it? I have invited more than 80 people and so far have 35 confirmations. I was looking into catering but I think in the end it's all going to be homemade.  
The image I chose for my 60th birthday party invitation
For the invitation itself, I used a platform called "Evite" which I had seen before and it's very practical and easy to use. 

If the photo of the Seven Sisters station caught my eye on Sunday, on Monday by far the most endearing but sad photo I saw came from Syria.  It was of a man called Mohammed Mohieden Anis, a vintage car collector, from Aleppo. He is sitting on his bed in what is left of his bedroom listening to music on an old gramaphone.  Aleppo is just one big pile of rubble and the man and the music remind me of the scene from The Pianist in Berlin after the final attacks on the city at the end of the 2nd World War when Adrien Brody sits playing  a piano in similar surroundings to the man from Aleppo.  
The man in Aleppo listening to music and surrounded by rubble and destruction. 
I wondered what he was thinking and what music he was listening to. This is is his story as told by The Daily Mail, not my favourite "rag" by the way. 

On a totally different "note", that night for dinner we tried a new vegetable in our house.  I had seen a sort of long stemmed broccoli at our local supermarket, Mercadona. I asked what it was and was told it was a cross between broccoli and asparagus. Well the shop assistant was wrong as I later read it is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale whatever that is.  It also seems to be called "broccolini" but is more popularly known as "bimi".  One article I found about it called it "broccoli with a twist" which I find more appropriate. 
For dinner on Tuesday I ate "bimi" for the first ime. 
When I posted the photo above on Facebook I got lots of remarks from English friends who seemed amazed I didn't know it. Well, I didn't. You see, fashion in food comes late to Spain.  My verdict on bimi?  Well, nothing special and when I did the food shopping this week I didn't buy it again. 

Tuesday was an exciting day for Suzy and for once she sent me a photo.  That day, she and her colleagues had organised a "nutrition and hydration day" at one of the clinics which belong to the NELFT NHS Trust where she works as a locum dietitian.  I wonder whether the cakes and biscuits in the picture are nutritional hahaha.  I love to see Suzy happy with her new job and enjoying the company of new colleagues.  Finally her colleagues are nearly all English so I hope she gets to integrate a bit more into British society.  She tells me she doesn't watch any television so can't join in the conversation of what her team mates watched the night before!!  I wonder when the Spanish national health service will introduce a similar initiative. 
Suzy with her colleagues this week during their "nutrition and hydration day" 
Olivia, meanwhile, was doing a very different job and funnily enough about nuns. Actually she was preparing a programme about modern day nuns, monks and priests. On Tuesday morning she interviewed a little old nun who runs a shop that sells religious objects and priest robes somewhere near Sol.  And here she is with the nun. I wonder what she would have thought about the photo of the "seven sisters". I'm not sure how she fits in with a modern day nun but no doubt I shall find out when I watch the programme.  I love the photo don't you?
Oli with the little old nun, the latter holding her camera hahaha
Tuesday was a quiet day at home for me.  I got in my 2 walks which were windy but sunny. Sadly I also had to spend time on advertising for a new home help and receiving multiple phone calls and messages from hopeful candidates from a host of nations, mostly from South America.  I say sadly, because, sadly, Salud announced to us this week that she is leaving us to go and live in the Canary Islands with her new found love, Fran.  Of course we are happy for her but oh we will miss her. She is by far the best home help we have ever had.  I eventually found a candidate, Saida, from Morocco who will be coming tonight to stay for  a week learning the job with Salud.  If she passes the test she will start on 2nd April. Saida comes with good references and seems a nice cheerful lady. I look forward to eating some of the lovely Moroccan dishes, Fatíma and her sister Oufa used to make for us like pastela, couscous or roast chicken with caramelised onion.  Keep your fingers crossed this works out well. 

Oli, unware that her favourite home help, Salud, had announced she was leaving, was shooting for the second time that day.  On Tuesday afternoon it was the turn of a priest, Padre Damian to be interviewed by her. Now he is a modern day priest as he is a singer and was an aspiring candidate to represent Spain for this year's Eurovision Song Contest.  He didn't win but he has become very well known.  Here he is with Olivia.
Oli with "Padre Damián".

On Wednesday morning I was a bit surprised to see I had lost another 300 grammes. It's not much but I'm now below 57 kilos which was not my aim. The solution of course was to eat a bit more hahaha, so I had a large roll of brown bread which I toasted and had with butter for breakfast.  It was delicious and much nicer than my usual watery porridge which is probably a bit like Oliver Twist's "gruel". 

That night we continued watching "Narcos", the Netflix series based on the infamous Colombian drug dealer, Pablo Escobar.  We're still getting into it and I'm not sure it's our sort of series as there is so much violence. I'm told the series gets better and better but we are still waiting. 

On Thursday Oli was off again shooting. This time she went to Valladolid to film modern day cloistered nuns who are famed for using social media and even have their own TV channel. They are cloistered but thankfully allowed her and the cameraman in, after much persuasion the week before. They are called the "Carmelitas Samaritanas del Corazón de Jesús" (The Carmelite Samaritans of Jesus of the Heart!).  Oli was delighted with their welcome although she never got to see their cells, just the garden and some of the inside of the convent. She has observed that nuns, monks and priests live in the best houses in Spain.  I think that's true of most of the world. And here she is in a picture reminiscent of The Sound of Music. It is the Mother Superior who is holding Oli's camera hahaha. I can't wait to see the programme.
Oli with the cloistered nuns. 
Thursday was another sunny but blustery day. There are signs of spring everywhere and the fields on our walk are now getting greener and greener. I just had to have a photo taken with Pippa against a backdrop of the beautiful green fields and the blue sky.  That is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. Me at my happiest!

Instead of going out to dinner on Friday night, we decided to go out on Thursday so as to take advantage of a Monday to Thursday promotion at one of our local favourites, Ginos. There I enjoyed my favourite dish, the green and white pasta with ham and a cream sauce which is called "paglia i fieno" in Italian. 
My favourite dish at Ginos, "paglia i fieno

This was accompanied by a bottle of lambrusco rosé wine and followed by a naughty but nice dessert; white chocolate and pistachio ice cream.

Friday was a busy day in all senses.  It was also food shopping day and as is usual now, Eladio joined me.  We took the time to have a cup of coffee in the sun and Eladio chose to order "chocolate con churros"; something my diet does not permit. They are a great favourite for breakfast in Spain. And here is my handsome husband enjoying this very Spanish tradition.

Eladio having "chocolate con churros" on Friday morning 
That afternoon, a new airbnb guest arrived, Conchi from Murcia. She was delightful and like having one of your daughter's friends to stay.  Oli was back soon that day and both of us witnessed my Father walking with his zimmer frame on the terrace outside our study.  It's amazing but he is walking better and better. It was so nice to see him doing so outside in the fresh air.
My Father walking with Salud beside him on Friday
Whilst they were walking, Oli and I were at my PC applying online for a job for her as a multimedia journalist with the BBC Spanish service which would be based in Miami. It's a chance in a million that she gets it but we can always dream.  I must say it took about 2 hours of work to complete the process. 

We got bad news on Friday.  My brother-in-law who was recovering from a brain tumour operation has had a relapse and was admitted to hospital this week with water on his brain. We heard that night that the tumour had grown and he will probably have to suffer another operation. If you believe in God please pray for him and his family.  

On Saturday I did something new for the very first time. Recently I registered with a "modelling agency" (another way of making a bit of extra pocket money) and was called for an audition for a promotional video of the nearby UEM University.  They were looking for international type students and teachers of Nordic, African, European and Asian profiles. When I got the email asking me to attend I thought, well why not? This will be an experience and an experience it was too hahaha.  

I set off by car, taking my airbnb guest with me, Conchi, who was enamoured with our house and family.  I said goodbye to her at the station and carried on into Madrid by metro. I was soon near my destination and even had time to go into an alluring looking little boutique run by a young Chinese girl which had some lovely inexpensive clothes on sale.  

At 10.30 on the dot I knocked on the door of the studio to find the room full of beautiful looking people of all nationalities, race and colour. I was, of course, the oldest. 
The waiting room at the production studio where the audition took place yesterday
It was my first time but many of my fellow candidates knew the ropes.  I had to fill in a form, add my name to the list; I would be number 11 to be called and to learn 2 phrases off by heart for the audition.  The phrases were in English and were these which I quickly learned and also helped other candidates how to pronounce them hahahaha. 
The phrases to be learned by heart for the audition
Soon it was my turn and in I went into the studio. Two girls were waiting for me, one to ask the questions and the other to film me. They told me my "profile" (blonde, nordic, executive and mature) was in big demand.  I found that very funny.  For the audition I had to answer questions about myself and swivel around in front of the camera. Then I had to say the phrases with passion. I thought that was that, but no, there was another task to complete. I had to simulate I was giving a lecture to a bunch of students and could choose my own subject.  I chose Corporate Communication which of course is my field.  I loved the experience and could have carried on giving the fictional lecture all morning.  Soon I was told I had passed the audition and would be hearing from them for the real filming to take place next week at the University.  Now that will be fun. It will also be convenient as the UEM is a 5 minute drive from my house. It is where Oli studied. It is also where I once did a freelance project; the organising of an "Honoris Causa" ceremony for the Nobel Literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.  I look forward to next weekend.  

I came home just on time for a sunny walk with Eladio and the dogs. Then it was time to finish making the family's lunch which Salud had left all prepared before she went off for her weekend break. They were to have fish and chips.  I had my usual thin piece of steak and vegetables, plus 30 grammes (weighed raw) of pasta. 

In the afternoon I spent some girly time with Oli.  I accompanied her to the Centro Oeste shopping centre where she wanted to buy birthday presents for the girls' friend Elena and her boyfriend Antoine.  Thankfully I did not submit to any more retail therapy tempation, having bought 3 jumpers and a dress in the morning at the little boutique near the audition studios. 

Whilst we were out, once again, for the umpteenth time, the programme, Undercover Boss (El Jefe Infiltrado) where I had starred for Yoigo in September 2015, was being broadcast. It's very ironic that they keep doing so after I have been made redundant.  I always know when it's on as I get so many messages and friend requests on facebook. If you haven't seen it, you should be able to see it here. I heard recently from colleagues that the company that bought up Yoigo, Másmóvil, didn't like the programme being aired so much after they had made me redundant and even considered it a "plot" against them. Well there is no plot whatsoever. It's good publicity for the brand. But also when we signed the agreement we gave the producers and TV channel full rights to broadcast the programme. In a way it's quite good for my "personal branding" and it was certainly a unique experience; one of the highlights of my life that I shall take to my grave. 
A shot from the TV programme I featured in for Yoigo, the Spanish version of Undercover Boss (El Jefe Infiltrado)
When I got home I found Zena, our weekend home help, watching me on the television. It was quite a coincidence and both of us laughed out loud.

Once home, Oli and I  decided to sit outside by the covered pool, basking in the 24ºc temperature. Soon we were joined by Juli, one the girls' best friends who I hadn't seen for months and months.  Oli and Juli made a carrot cake before dinner.  It's not a cake I'm very fond of, so resisting temptation was pretty easy.

The day ended with more episodes of Narcos and last night's was certainly the most violent I have seen so far.  I kept having to look away. Later Oli told me that I had seen the most violent scene of all.  Uff.  I also learned that Pablo Escobar in real life was even nastier and more violent than he is portrayed in the series.  

And today is Sunday, the last day of my blog and time to publish it.  Today in Spain is Father's Day. But it is also generally the birthday of most men who are called "José". That of course includes my dear brother-in-law, Eladio's beloved second brother down, José Antonio.  But it's not just any birthday. Today he reaches his 7th decade. We have been invited to lunch to celebrate it.  Happy birthday dear Toño.  You are my favourite brother-in-law but then you know that already hahahaa.

You will hear all about it in next week's post. Meanwhile my friends, it just remains for me to wish you all the very best and hope you have enjoyed the tales of this week.

Cheers till next time,

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Life is good, the Nokia spirit lives on, flowers for Olivia, lessons with Carmen, International Women’s Day, BBC interview "videobombed" and other stories.

Sunday 12th March 2017
A selfie with Pippa, the apple of my eye. I took her with me for moral support to return the Yoigo mini on Friday.
Hi again everyone.

This week has been very quiet compared to last week which was so hectic.  So what have I been up to since last Sunday? Read on and you will find out.

Sunday last was quiet for us.  It wasn’t so for Olivia who went to the very popular “La Latina” area to have tapas for lunch with her former co students from the TVE master she did after leaving University, Giovanna and Paula who are also journalists. One of the bars they went to was the one owned by the famous Lucío in the Cava Baja where the speciality is broken eggs with chips.  No, not your normal English type egg and chips I can assure you. And here they are together:
Oli with her journalist friends Giovanna and Paula.

Monday dawned and it was my first full day at home in quite a while.  I always have the odd errand to carry out from my list of pending things to do.  I have to admit I wouldn't be so organised if it weren't for these lists.  Well one item which was well past its due date was to pick up a repaired watch from a jewelry shop, Yaguë, in Majadahonda at the Centro Oeste shopping centre.  Eladio, tired of preparing for his afternoon classes, joined me. I was happy to get my watch back.  It is gold plated and Eladio bought if for me more than 20 years ago. I have many watches and choose carefully which one to put on according to what I am wearing, but this is one of my overall favourites.  Thankfully it's working again. 

That morning a new project landed on my desk, or rather the request for a communications plan.  Believe it or not it was for a famous international themed restaurant to be opened in Madrid in the summer.  Hahaha, I thought. Well if I can do "mission critical push-to-talk mobile communications" (i.e. walkie talkies) I can surely do PR for a new restaurant.  The most difficult thing will be or would be compiling the media list and I would have to do a lot of research to come up with one.  This was thanks to a lovely lady called Margarita who heads up the press clipping agency I used at Yoigo. She is forever looking out for projects for me. 

I worked on the plan that afternoon. The next morning it was finished and I sent it to the "client". On Friday he rang to say he liked it and now he has to tailor it for the customer and I shall join him in a meeting with them to further fine tune it.  I hope they like it too.

Monday would end very late as that night Telemadrid was broadcasting a programme Oli had made about castles and palaces, mansions and churches where people actually live or that were on sale.
A clip from Oli's programme on Monday night. 
It was on at nearly 11pm which is considered prime time here and far too late for me. I loved the programme but unfortunately fell asleep through bits of it. Thankfully I was able to watch all of it again the next day online.  You can too if you click here

Many things have happened this week that have made me realise just how good life is, or how good life is for me and my family at the moment. We all have our ups and downs and it's important to recognise and appreciate the positive moments. 

I should also mention that it was my Mother-in-law, Ernestina's 95th birthday.  Being a Tuesday, the family in León, celebrated it with her the weekend before when they all went out to a restaurant.
The family in León celebrating my mother-in-law, Ernestina's 95th birthday
We would have loved to join them but it's a 3 hour drive there and Eladio is tied down by his afternoon private lessons. He of course called his Mother that day to wish her a happy birthday.  She is in good health but has mild dementia so I do hope she realised why he was calling.  

On Tuesday I spent quality time with my great friend Fátima. I hope she doesn't mind me telling you here that she is fighting cancer at the moment and it is my objective to give her as much moral support as possible.  She had lunch with us and I made a special dish for her so that she could follow her very strict anti cancer diet prescribed to her so lovingly by Suzy my daughter.

Whilst she was here, I received a phone call from a number beginning with +47 and I just couldn't think which country the person was ringing from. It turned out to be a call from Poland from an ex Nokia colleague, Marcel.  Wow! He wanted some PR advice for the launch of a special new phone and I was happy to provide it.  Later he wrote and thanked me and said that the "Nokia spirit lives on". He's damned right it does.  You see we Nokia colleagues all trust each other and what I said to him made sense and he immediately changed his PR strategy for the product.  Nokia lives true to its tagline; "connecting people". But Nokia too lives on or at the least the mobile phone business has made a comeback and what a comeback it has been. Remember last week when I told you that Nokia had overshadowed all other talk at the recent Mobile World Congress? Well that was just my impression. However I now have evidence. A company called "Brandwatch" did a survey on the most talked about brands at the MWC and Nokia came top.  Next came the organisers themselves, the GSMA and then Huawei with their 6 million euro stand who are shortly to be the Kings of mobile phone manufacturers.  Samsung, watch out.
Nokia was the most talked about brand at this year's Mobile World Congress
Later that day, after my second walk, I had a conference call with my first new client and it was about an upcoming fair they will be attending in Hong Kong.  I had expressed an interest in going there and helping them with the project and the phone call was to discuss this.  It seems now I will be going unless things go wrong.  I was over the moon. I mean Hong Kong is rather an exotic destination for a newly set up freelance communications consultant. I have a friend, ex Nokia again, Keka, who lives there and it will be great to catch up with her if I go.  I have been trying to reach her all week as she seems to have disappeared from the social media map. Thankfully I have her local mobile number.  So that was good news.

Even better news came that day and it was for Olivia.  When she went into her newsroom on Tuesday afternoon after a TV shooting session in the morning, it was to find that her production company had sent her a bunch of red roses as well as a buffet lunch for all the staff. Why you may ask?  Well, it was because her programme on Monday had beaten the share record of all times for "Mi Cámara y Yo" and all the bosses and TV people were delighted with her and the programme. It's not often in Spain that success is celebrated in the work place. She was so astonished and at the same time pleased that this is the face the camera caught of her with the lovely roses. Well done my darling. I am so so proud of you.
Oli receiving flowers for the successful programme on Monday night.
I got more good news that day but of a much lesser nature.  You see I recently advertised "afternoon tea and talk" English conversation lessons targeted at people in the area. I already have one pupil, Carmen, who comes every Wednesday afternoon. Well on Tuesday I got another call and now have another pupil, also called Carmen. She will be coming on Thursday afternoons.  It's not that I like giving English conversation lessons, but it's something I need to do at the moment to get a bit of extra income. It's peanuts really but doesn't cost me much effort. Funnily enough the second Carmen turned out to be a huge coincidence.  She just happens to be the Mother of an internee, also called Carmen (there are many Carmens in Spain hahahaha), who worked for me at Nokia years ago. She is the eldest of I think 12 brothers and sisters!!!!   The family went to live in England years back for the children to learn English and now her parents are moving back to Spain to the house they bought in this area some years ago. Isn't it a small world?  Undoubtedly, we shall have lots to talk about in her conversation lessons which I now look forward to. 

So you see, life is good and I realised that this week and can only give thanks for all my blessings. I commented this on Facebook and a friend replied that good things happen to good people. She's probably right and it's not the first time I've heard it but it's not completely true as lots of bad things happen to good people too. But what really made me think recently, was an article about success. I can't find it now but the gist of it was that "success is determined by how you tackle failure" and here I think I am on the right track.  

Wednesday was International Women's Day. I'm not sure if all the women I have mentioned so far in this post celebrated it.  Did the Carmens, my daughters, my mother-in-law, etc?  I don't know but I know I didn't. In fact I had mixed feelings all day.  I kept asking myself why there should be one and what there was to celebrate.  What I wrote to a friend the next day sort of sums up what I think: "while discrimination exists, international women's day is not a bad idea.  I had mixed feelings yesterday but mostly I was cross about the need for it. We've come a long way since how women had it in my mother or grandmother's lives but it is not enough and I fear it never will be. We have too many examples of outright and hidden discrimination that I do not even envisage equal rights for my future granddaughters". While many of my women friends were sending me videos and far too feminine pictures with flowers and hearts, the picture that made most of an impact is the one below which shows where women feel they lack equality and Spain, my friends, comes top of the chart. 

The picture was shared by a wonderful woman friend, Juana, who reads this blog. She is the shining example of how women should be today but she is one of the lucky ones. I wonder how women in Saudi Arabia celebrated International Women's Day or what was going on in the minds of the members of the families of women killed in domestic abuse crimes by their partners or ex partners. Not a pretty picture. 

On the bright side, Wednesday was a lovely sunny day. I spent most of it working but also went on my walks which I enjoy much more in the good weather. 

On Thursday I was up at 5.30 which had me thinking my sleeping pattern is not normal. Plus I have the odd episode of what I think is called "sleep apnea" and the other night I had a terrible one.  The sensation I have is that I am asleep or so I think and suddenly cannot breathe and feel that if I am not shaken to wake up I will die.  Usually Eladio hears me making a whining sort of noise which is the maximum effort I can make to alert him to my "attack" or episode. He then pushes me to wake me up but what I need is a huge shake.  I have had these episodes off and on through the years since I was a child. Well on Thursday I thought it was about time I went to see a "sleep doctor" for this and my bad sleeping patterns.  I didn't even know what the speciality is callled. Well, I found out soon by ringing the hospital. Depending on the type it is either with a "pulmonologist" or a neurologist.  I decided to go for the first and have an appointment on 4th April. 

If I was worried that morning, Barcelona football fans around the world were rejoicing.  They had beaten PSG (Paris St. Germain) in the second round of the last 16 in the Champions League by none less than 6 goals to 1, 3 of them being in the final minutes. They had lost 0-4 in the first leg and no one in their wildest of dreams could have predicted such a comeback, one of the biggest in the history of football.  Now, I am not a Barça fan but merit is due when its due. It was a fantastic victory and I am proud of Spanish football.  They will, of course, have to meet my favourite team, Real Madrid, in the next phase.  But for the moment they are true champions.
Barcelona's amazing victory against PSG on Wednesday night

I was amused to hear later on the news that the noise level emitted from the stadium after the goals was equivalent to a low level earthquake hahaha. 

That morning at breakfast I checked my blog statistics.  They never cease to amaze me.  So many people read it from all over the world.  I mean, it really is only a very humble blog and I can understand people who know me wanting to read it but what puzzles me is what interest it has for those who don't.  The dots on the map of the world of where my readers come from reveal that I have readers the world over and from some of the remotest places you can imagine. If you are one of those readers far away from Europe or the US and don't know me, I would love you to leave a comment on this post about why you read my blog. In any case, thank you all for reading my weekly stories.  
My blog reader statistics always amaze me. 
My morning continued with a walk on a beautiful sunny day. Later I went to the hairdressers to get my roots seen to (you ladies will understand hahaha).  It was lovely to hear the girls who work at the salon say that I looked so slim. I seem to forget that I do as I have got used to my new weight.  After the hairdressers, it was such lovely weather, I decided on a nice cup of coffee in the sun.  Before lunch, I went on my second walk with Eladio and all 3 dogs. It was so warm, I had to take my jumper off. Out of interest I glanced at the temperature for Madrid at that moment and it was 24ºc!!!
Great weather this week.
After a diet lunch I tried to sleep a short siesta as I had been up at 5.30 a.m.  But I just couldn't sleep so I got up and sat at my desk most of the afternoon working on various things from my famous "pending list".  I am always glad when I can cross my "to do" things off the list! 

Eladio was home for dinner at around 8.30pm after his private lessons and we enjoyed a chicken salad together.  That night we finished watching an Israeli TV series, a thriller called "Hostages" which I can highly recommend.
Hostages, a pretty entertaining Israeli TV series available on Netflix.
Friday was another glorious day.  It felt like spring and yes spring is in the air with fragrant blossom on so many trees.  After my first morning walk, Eladio and I went food shopping. Before going home we went to have a coffee at a new bar in our neighbourhood. We sat in the sun and there and then I had a conference call with an English "chap" called Tom who works for a specialised walkie talkie online magazine which organises this year's Critical Communications World exhibition, an event in which one of my customers is involved and which I will be helping them with.  It's always nice to talk to fellow Brits when you live in another country as there is immediate chemistry. 

Then it was time to drive the Yoigo branded Mini car the firm had lent me until 10th March for the last time, as Friday was the due date for returning it.  That means we will only have one car between us from now until my new Mini is delivered at the end of the month or the beginning of April.  I took Pippa with me for moral support.  Funnily enough I got Pippa through Yoigo but I was not returning her; no way hahahah.  There is still a flutter in my heart just at the sheer mention of the company that bought Yoigo after having been made redundant.  But, funnily enough, I have a good relationship with the guy who replaced me, Fernando (thanks for reading my blog Fernando) and the head of HR, Roberto, who fired me. It wasn't their fault.

Eladio brought me home in the old Volvo which is actually the car I had at Nokia and which we bought when I left.  It'll have to serve us well for quite a few years now. On the way back home, Suzy called.  We don't speak to her often and we should really. I'm a bit lazy about phone calls. She had just come back from a dietetic community home visit where she had had to assess a severely mentally, deformed and physically handicapped 19 year old who could not communicate and can only be fed via his stomach!  She said that the visit had had a huge impact on her and that how could she complain about the silly things in life compared to the boy and his family she had just visited.  How right she is. 

After lunch I had another conference call, this time with my Catalan customer. He was, of course, delighted with the Barcelona Football Club 6-1 score against PSG and I congratulated him on the win. 

Eladio joined me on my second walk at around 5pm and "golly" my phone registered 26ºc!!! We had to get out shorts and summer t-shirts and Eladio even donned his panama hat. The weather is amazing at the moment but unfortunately will not last past today.

I continued working that afternoon until I got an email from Oli with the news of what is now a viral video from the BBC.  Professor Robert Kelly, an expert on South Korea, had been interviewed that morning live on the BBC on skype from his home about the political crisis there.  What happened in the interview will make him famous forever, but not for his expertise on South Korea. His interview was "videobombed" by his children and I am sure you have already seen it.  As he is talking, his little daughter dances in and he tries to push her aside. Then in comes his baby on a baby walker strolling in. The interviewer alerts the professor to the fact but there's not much he can do.  He gets stuck for words and then in comes the Mother to remove the children unceremoniously from the view of the public and ends up trying to pull the door shut whilst lying on the floor hahahaha. These are the perils of live television and working from home. If you haven't seen it,  here it is and enjoy it because it will make you laugh so much. I commented on Twitter that Robert Kelly's little daughter and baby on its baby walker videobombing the interview had made many people laugh that day.  Unsurprisingly it was the talk of the day. 
Professor Robert Kelly on the BBC videobombed live interview

If you are English and living in England, there are 2 words from the above 2 paragraphs which you will not have noticed but are interesting to point out.  One is "videobombing", a completely new word which means barging into a video being taken.  The other word is "golly" which is not used any more but that was much in use before I left England in the early 80s. I read today in an article in The Times that "golly", "tara", "gosh", etc are going out of use.  New words have crept into the English language and most of them are to do with technology. "Golly" has been replaced by the Americanism "awesome" which I hate. But there are others like "video or photo bombing" which are new, as is the word "24" which now means 24 hours a day, or one I learned the other day "mansplaining".  All I can say is that "golly" or "gosh" my English vocab is getting rapidly out of date hahaha. 

On Friday evening our Airbnb guests arrived from Avignon in France.  They are a married couple, Camille and Jeanine, whose son is studying physiotherapy at the UEM University nearby, where Oli studied too.  They arrived in a hired car at around 7pm and seem a lovely couple.  Jeanine, the wife, speaks some Spanish but her husband doesn't know a word nor do either of them speak English. So both Oli and I had to bring our rusty French out of the closet. They had booked the new "green" room but when I offered them Suzy's large "pink" room they chose the latter.  

Being Friday night it was time to break my maintenance diet and go out for a well deserved meal.  Oli and Miguel would join us and we chose to go to a restaurant advertised on "The Fork" (El Tenedor here) called La Sarten por el Mango. It had good reviews and we were keen to try somewhere new. 
Dessert at La Sarten por el Mango on Friday night
The food was really good but I ate too much. I felt so damned full afterwards I regretted having gorged myself too much on the food and wine and slept badly on Friday night. Of course I woke up with a headache.

After the big meal the night before I didn't have much of an appetite for breakfast on Saturday morning. I worked off some of the calories I had consumed on my first walk that day.  It was yet another wonderful walk in the sun. I came home to make the family lunch; "bitki" (Russian hamburgers) with potato and carrot puré.  It was 11th March and I had nearly forgotten it was the anniversary of Europe's worst terrorist attack ever, the train bombings at 4 stations in Madrid. It happened in 2004 killing 193 people and injuring more than 1.900. How could I forget that?  Certainly the families of the victims didn't and memorial events were held around the capital yesterday. 
The 11th March  train bombings in 2004 never to be forgotten. 
After lunch and the shortest of siestas, Eladio went off to his private lessons.  Oli left too. She had to work yesterday.  The subject of her TV shooting was the Spanish rock group called La Voz del Desierto (The Voice of the Dessert) made up by 3 Catholic priests and 4 laymen.  Their songs are about love but love for Jesus! This is one of the stories she will be telling in a programme about the Church or rather stories of modern day nuns, monks and priests.  This last week she has spent most of her time researching for the programme and finding people and stories to film.  I was very amused when she showed me an email from a cloistered nun which at the end of it had the words "sent from my iPhone".  Wow they are modern today. She also told me how the nuns greeted her when she rang them with the Latin words "Ave María Purísima" hahahah. It sounds like an interesting topic and I look forward to seeing the programme when it is aired. Let's hope it beats audience records too. 
The Spanish priest rock group, La Voz del Desierto, who Oli filmed yesterday
My afternoon was very boring compared.  Well, actually it wasn't. I spent a lot of it sitting on the sofa in the freshly spring cleaned swimming pool terrace.  My latest book is called "Freedom at Midnight, Viceroy's House" and was recommended to me by my great friend Sandra who was born in Bombay. It is the story behind the independence and partition of India.  Apparently the Director of "Gandhi", one of my all time favourites, was inspired by it when making the film.  It was written in 1975 and has been updated and now a new film has been made called The Viceroy's House where of course the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, lived.  Well, I am loving the book as Gandhi is my hero and the story is so compelling. Written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, neither of them British, they taped Lord Mountbatten for more than 30 hours as the main ingredients of their book. It's a pity they couldn't have taped Gandhi too who of course was dead by then. 
My latest book, the story behind the independence and partition of India. 
Today is Sunday, the last day of the week and the day to publish this blog post which I hope you will enjoy.

We shall be having guests for lunch, Toño and Dolores, and I have already begun making it; "cocido madrileño" (Madrid meat, chickpea and vegetable stew).  

I shall tell you all about the rest of the day in next week''s post. Meanwhile, I wish you all a happy Sunday and a great week ahead.

Cheers till next time,

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Fiasco at the Oscars, a different experience at this year’s MWC, networking in Barcelona, Nokia stole the show, home again, "Husum", an emotional farewell Yoigo dinner and other stories.

Sunday 5th March, 2016
At this year's Mobile World Congress
Hi again,

What a week it's been and I am shattered but happy.

Last Sunday I set off for Barcelona, destination the 10th edition there of the Mobile World Congress to which 100.000 delegates were also heading.  It was to be crowded as always and very exciting.  I have been going for the last 9 years with Yoigo and this year I was to be going alone.  It would be a different experience as a freelance communications consultant. Instead of staying at a luxury hotel in the city, my accommodation would be at my dear friend Grainne's flat in Badalona, a dormitory town by the sea on the outskirts.  Instead of taking taxis everywhere I would be using the free public transport voucher that came with the MWC pass; which I had never bothered to use before.  I would also be paying for my own food rather than wining and dining at Barcelona's finest restaurants, although, luckily I did get to go to one where I was invited. This year's pass came from friends at Nokia, my old company, not from Yoigo.  This year I would not be representing Yoigo nor organising their traditional MWC party which I inaugurated years ago and nor would I be hosting a press conference for them.  Instead I would be networking, meeting with one of my customers and scouting for others.  Most people at the MWC show off and sell their latest technological "wares". I would be selling myself which for me would be new, challenging and at times difficult and even a little humiliating.  It was a funny feeling, going to the MWC and not representing a company, just myself.  

I didn't take a company paid taxi to the train station on Sunday morning.  Instead, my dear husband took me.  I caught the 10.30 a.m. "Ave" (high speed train") which with just one stop in Zaragoza, saw me at the Barcelona station "Sants" at 13.15.  I was in what's called the "silent coach"; not of my choice but the only place I could get a seat.  You cannot talk loud here, nor talk on your mobile, etc.  There is still no wifi on the train although I heard it was soon coming. During the journey I worked on my MWC schedule for Monday and Tuesday, finalising meeting and lunch/dinner appointments.  As soon as I arrived I went straight to the MWC badge collection kiosk outside to get my physical pass.  And here I am, all set up for the Congress.
I collected my MWC badge at the Sants train station in Barcelona
Instead of taking a taxi to Barcelona, I took the train using a free ticket that comes with having a high speed train ticket.  The MWC free public transport would only start on the Monday. 20 minutes later I was at Badalona station and walked the 20 minutes it takes to get to Grainne and Marcel's flat at the end of the "Rambla" (sea front). It was a glorious sunny day.

I was on time for lunch with them and it was to be a delicious dish of roast chicken with chips.  I promise I only had one or two of latter.  It was so great to see them again. Grainne and I go back a long way, having attended St. Joseph's College school together in Bradford too many years ago to calculate now.  Grainne is the sister of Brenda who was my class mate and is now a nurse living in Manchester.  Of course we would talk to her that afternoon, using Face Time on her older sister's iPad. 
With Grainne on Sunday
Dear Grainne had given me her own big double bedroom with its en suite bathroom which was really kind but not necessary.  After lunch I spent time settling in.  Later we would go for a walk with her miniature dog Tommy and spend a relaxing evening together.  She got me to watch a DVD of "Mrs. Brown's Boys" a funny Irish series I had never seen but had me in stitches.  You see Grannie and her sisters (the Maher sisters) are of Irish origin. 

Meanwhile, Suzy who lives in London, was using the car she rents for her community dietitian visits with the NHS,  to go on a road trip to Canterbury with her flat mates, Chati and Anita and another friend I can't identify.  They later told me they loved it and I wasn't surprised as it's one of the most beautiful towns in England.  Here they are together enjoying visiting Canterbury, the seat of the Church of England.
Suzy and her friends in Canterbury last Sunday
Grainne and I carried on watching TV. I was a bit aghast when I saw she has a taste for Big Brother VIP but we talked through it thankfully.  I went to bed early and slept very well in her big comfortable bed. 

On Monday, I was up early and over a lovely nespresso coffee I read the news about the Oscars which had taken place the night before.  The biggest news was the fiasco in the Best picture prize.  There was a mix up with the envelopes when it was announced that La La Land had won.  Only when the Director of the latter was giving his acceptance speech was he interrupted to hear that the real winner was Moonlight.  So, you see, the main news of the Oscars was this big unpardonable mistake.  Well I don't think I will be seeing La La Land nor Moonlight.  I am far more interested in the Indian film, Lion, which although it didn't win best foreign picture, caused a big impact with the 8 year old Indian actor, Sunny Pawar who was there to represent the film, coming from a very humble background in Bombay. Everyone wanted to be seen with him, all the famous stars. He was happy to receive them but admitted that he had no idea who they were.  With his lovely smile and background he stole the show.  
Sunny Pawar, the 8 year old Indian boy from the film Lion who stole the show at this year's Oscars.
I left Grainne's flat at around 9 and walked the 20 minutes to the train station where I would use my free MWC public transport ticket to travel to Hospitalet, the huge dormitory town outside Barcelona where the congress is held. I hate the new venue which is just so ginormous. I had to take a taxi from the station to the "Fira".  My first stop at the congress was to take a photo outside the South Entrance where the words Fira Barcelona are built in stone.  Everyone takes photos there. This was mine on Monday morning.
Outside the "Fira" on Monday morning.
I don't know how big the venue is but to me it is just too big, teeming with the 100.000 delegates and stands of all sorts. I later read that probably the most expensive was the one belonging to Huawei.  The floor space alone cost the Chinese company 6 million euros and another 6 million to build!

I made a beeline for the Nokia (Networks) stand, the one I always visit first as Nokia was a company I worked for from 2000 to 2006 and I still carry the brand in my heart although it is very different today.  The people I wanted to see most were Paloma and Cristina, 2 lovely assistants who have survived all the joint ventures and take overs and who for me embody the spirit of the company. I just love the 2 girls.  Here they are manning the stand.
Cristina and Paloma manning the Nokia stand at the MWC

There I was to see other familiar faces such as Nestor or Javi Sauras.  I was to miss my dear ex colleague Emilio B but would see more ex colleagues there the next day.  Soon we were joined by Julio, another ex Nokia colleague, and the person I call my best male friend in Spain. 

The main themes of this year's MWC seemed to be 5G, IOT (the internet of things), artificial intelligence, virtual reality and lots of new smartphones which for me all look alike.  The one that didn't look alike and stole the show though was the retro iconic Nokia 3310 which was launched at this year's MWC. Its popularity and fame soon stole the limelight of the likes of Huawei and Samsung and many others  but more about that later. Julio and I left the Nokia stand to take a short tour of some of the stands that most interested us.  It was on the Telefónica stand that I bumped into one of my bosses of the first company I ever worked for; Defex the arms exporter!!!  It was dear Paco Bergia and so nice to see him and talk about some of the amazing things we did at Defex. Here we are together.
With Paco Bergia on the Telefónica stand.
We then visited Qvantel, the Finnish company that provides Yoigo's IT system.  It was great to greet Diego there. Nearby was the Spanish government telecoms agency, where the Spanish Minister was about to give a speech.  Here I greeted some of the telecoms journalists as well as the head of Ametic (private telecoms association) Benigno. It was nearly 2pm by then and Julio and I were hungry.  He took me to the old Bull Ring in the Plaza España which has now been turned into a shopping centre.  Here we had lunch on the top floor at a lovely place called Mussel.  Unfortunately Julio had a back problem and was in pain and would be returning to Madrid that night. So my "comrade in arms" would not be accompanying me that night to the Yoigo party , or should I now say MásMóvil party, a tradition I created for the company at the MWC many years ago.  I had decided to gate crash it thinking I didn't really need an invitation but I would be nervous walking in without Julio  not knowing what sort of reception I would receive.

I had agreed to meet my ex colleague, Jesús, from our Motorola days, afterwards, with whom I will shortly be collaborating on an exciting communications project.  It was great to see him as he has always been one of my favourite colleagues ever.  Such a nice guy with such a great reputation. He's like a brother to me really. Here we are together at the top of the Bull Ring overlooking the old venue of the MWC which we all far preferred.
With dear Jesús on Monday afternoon
From Plaza de España I had to navigate my way back to Badalona. Thanks to the google maps app I saw I had to take a bus, yes a bus, the H12 which would take me to Plaza Cataluña where I could catch a train to Badalona. With some time on my hands upon arrival I decided to window shop on the Carrer de Mar where I remembered there were some nice low-cost boutiques. They seem to have gone now but I did wander in to H+M and Mango where I didn't find anything.  I then went into Stradivarius which belongs to Zara (Inditex) which I think aims more at teenagers. I didn't expect to buy anything until I fell in love with an emroidered, imitation black leather mini skirt which I decided to wear that night to the MásMóvil party together with a black shirt I found; all size S!!! This is the lovely skirt.
The mini skirt I got from Stradivarius on Monday afternoon.

Then it was back to Grainne's. She was in the throes of giving an English lesson to a shy and giggling group of 12  and 13 year old's who wouldn't open their mouths to me in English, except to say yes or no.  Spaniard's greatest obstacle when learning a language is embarrassment. Soon it was time to leave again.

Once again I walked to the station and took the train to Plaza Cataluña from where I would take a taxi to the MásMóvil party venue. I can't remember what it was called, only that it's near Calle Tuset.  I didn't like the venue, it was too dark and loud; not a place I would have chosen. It was full of the new company's yellow branding and there were no more than 3 or 4 Yoigo people.  In fact there were more people I didn't know than I did and I felt funny. However I got a very nice reception from my ex boss Fernando and the head of HR, Roberto; the guy who made me redundant. Yep the guy who fired me is actually a very nice guy and I know he didn't want to fire me. It was orders from above.   They made me feel welcome. It was also nice to see "my girls", or rather my events agency, QuintaEsencia, team, as well as Isabel from Ketchum my PR agency. There were some familiar faces though and I got a huge welcome from the CEO of Ericsson Spain, Jose Antonio who I have known since my Motorola days when he was a distributor.  Here we are together at the party.
With José Antonio the CEO of Ericsson Spain at the "Yoigo" party
There were more former colleagues too, such as Gonzalo, Juan Luis and Luis from our Motorola days and we just had to have a photo together. You see we go back now some 27 years when mobile phones first took off in the world.
With my ex Motorola colleagues at the MásMóvil party

Meeting them was the highlight of the night.  With new decor and new company atmosphere, I didn't feel comfortable. I only really went to see people I know and love but this year's party was just not the same. It certainly didn't have my stamp.  So when the CEO made his speech I went to the lady's room.  No I wasn't sick but I felt it. It was late and I hardly ate anything. I didn't see many cocktail trays and was very hungry.  So I decided to leave. I had had enough. Just as I was leaving my ex CEO, Johan, and founder of Yoigo came but I only saw him fleetingly unfortunately. If truth is to tell he was really the only person I wanted to see that night. You see we were both the heart and soul of Yoigo and we have left a big void.

Being late, this time I took a taxi back to Badalona and was there by just after 12.  I felt like Cinderalla and awfully hungry so grabbed a banana from Grainne's kitchen. That night at the party I had had just one glass of red wine. But it was enough for me to wake up the next morning with an undeserved blinding headache.  Oh how I hate my headaches. I promised I wouldn't drink another glass the following night but I did.  However the quality of the wine was much much better and I didn't get the dreaded headache. 

On Tuesday once again I was up early.  I had to leave at 9 a.m. and just as I leftm Oli sent a photo of her and Pippa from our kitchen.  Since I had left for Barcelona I had had little contact with my family, except for whatsapp updates, as I was so busy. Her message made me feel a little guilty.
Oli and Pippa sent me greetings on Tuesday morning
This time Grainne joined me on my walk down the Rambla to the train station as she was off to a meeting. Here we are the two of us, such friends, a bit like sisters really. Love you darling.
With Grainne on the Rambla at Badalona on Tuesday morning.
It was to be another morning at the Fira, my second and I had two appointments and a few more objectives to achieve. Trying to see people is a difficult task as it is so crowded and the venue is so damned large.  100.000 people crushed into the MWC is so crazy but I must say it's great for exercise and for bumping, unexpectedly, into people even if often you can only briefly say hello as everyone is so busy.
MWC17 so crowded with delegates and brands. It's crazy
Once again my first stop was at the Nokia stand. It's always my home at the Mobile World Congress. Here I was to meet up with a former colleague, P. Comas, who now works for Ericsson.  He is one of those colleagues you never forget and are always happy to see. He was happy to see Paloma too and here we are together.

I couldn't stay long as I had an appointment immediately.  Just as I was leaving Nokia, it was delayed which gave me time to take a quick sneak of the iconic 3310 which was the congress mascot.  As I went up to take a closer look, one of the  HMD Global (name of the company behind the comeback) stand employees came up to show me their new range of smartphones which they had also announced at the beginning of the congress.  But I was not interested as I imagine many other people weren't.  We all wanted a trip down the mobile phone memory lane of the past.  I joined Nokia in 2000 and I think the 3310 was launched in 2001.  And here I am with it. It's been refreshed in looks, with different colours but is only 2G,  makes calls and sends sms and has a very basic camera.  So no it doesn't have whatsapp. But at 49 euros and a battery life of up to a month it will have its public I hope.
Me holding the come back Nokia 3310 phone at the MWC.
It felt good. It was a good fit. I admired HMD for having stolen the limelight of the congress with this great PR stunt and one of the smallest floor spaces at the congress. They had just a small display outside the huge real Nokia stand.  But cleverly they had a Nordic design wooden cafeteria just outside which I found more attractive than the inside stands. It was here that I asked to talk to the head of communications globally, Kerry P, from the UK by the way and who had studied at Nottingham University like me.  Of course I found that out on LinkedIn. We met!  She was lovely but there are no communications jobs at the moment. I hope there will be soon as I would not mind returning to  Nokia, the company of my dreams. 

From Nokia I made my way to Huawei to meet someone called Daniel González who wanted to meet me. He had found me on the marvelous MWC app but I had no idea who he was.  I was amazed to find out that he was only 15 and the youngest blogger at the congress. He is a You Tuber obsessed with technology and the founder of a blog/PR portal called Appleros. His father was accompanying him as his cameraman! Seeing him in action I could imagine him one day as the future Spanish version of Bill Gates. He was busy doing a review of the latest Huawei phone and their PR representative was treating him as if he were the most seasoned journalist which made me very pleased. This boy, who I told should finish school first, will definitely go far.
Daniel González, the youngest blogger at the congress
At the Huawei stand whilst talking to Daniel, I came across two more ex Nokia colleagues, now with Sony Mobile, Isidro who is the CEO and Ignacio who is the head of sales.  I immediately introduced Daniel to them. It was great to see my old colleagues if only fleetingly.

From there I went to visit a Finnish IT systems company who I know are in need of help in projecting an image and building their brand.  So I made my sales pitch to 3 Finns, one Indian and a Swede, the CEO.  I'm not sure what they thought of me but introducing my services to them was one of my objectives at the fair this year.  

On my way out I bumped into journalists and the CEO of the company that bought us. It felt funny being with the journalists yet outside the company.  Anyway, it was now nearly 3pm and I was starving thus I walked in search of food. There were huge queues everywhere so, my objectives of the day fulfilled, I decided to leave and go back to Badalona for a bit of a rest until the evening.  In the end I had a measly menu of the day at the Hospitalet train station which actually was quite tasty and very cheap hahaha. 

Once back in Badalona, I went in search of flowers to give to Grainne but couldn't find a flower shop that was open. Instead I went into a nice looking home and kitchen type store and bought her 2 cushions and candle lantern for her new flat.  She was home when I got in and we had some fruit and a cup of tea together.  Then a neighbour of hers, Rosa, came and I found myself telling her the story of how I met Eladio.  Suddenly it was late and I had to get ready to go out again. 

At 7.30pm I met Marc, another ex Nokia colleague, at the Zurich cafeteria in Plaza Cataluña where we chatted and caught up on each other's lives over a glass of beer and tonic water (me).  We had so much to say and time flew past and very soon it was time for my next appointment, dinner with my former boss from Nokia, Félix, who today is the Country Manager of Qualcomm Spain. Dear Marc who lives in Barcelona, drove me there. Félix or rather his secretary, had booked a table at a new restaurant called A Tempo housed in a very modern hotel called Mirror. The restaurant chef is Jordi Cruz of Spanish Masterchef fame.  And wow was it good.

As usual Félix was late. He always is but it was great to see him.  It was to be a lovely relaxing dinner where he ordered far too much food.  It was a gangster 20's themed restaurant which I found delightful. This time I had a wonderful glass of wine which did not give me a headache.
Slow cooked egg dish at A Tempo on Tuesday night in Barcelona
We ate and talked until quite late and it was great to catch up. As usual he acted as my coach and when I told him I had felt a little humiliated selling my services at the congress he told me off.  He even said I was an "icon" of the sector and should be proud of myself.  He made me feel good.  Very kindly too, he drove me all the way back to Badalona to Grainne's house. Thanks Félix it was a great dinner. 

The next morning, I was up at 6.30 after just a bit more than 5 hours sleep.  I had breakfast with Grainne then had to pack, leave and say goodbye to her and to Barcelona and this year's Mobile World Congress. 

I caught the 10 am Ave train which was a bit slower going back as it stopped at Tarragona, Zaragoza and also Guadalajara. En route, despite the limited mobile signal, I did another job application via LinkedIn which seems to be the main place these days to find a job.  At 13.10 we arrived in Madrid to lovely sunshine. My taxi driver (Eladio) was faithfully waiting for me outside the Atocha train station and soon I was home for lunch with my Father and him. 

At lunch my Father thanked me for the poem in German by Theodor Storm that my ex Nokia colleague, Veronica,  had sent to me for him on Facebook after reading that the was a fan of the German author. I asked my Father what the poem was called and he said "The grey town by the sea". He told me it was in reference to Storm's home town "Husum". 
Husum in Germany today. It doesn't look very grey to me. 
He then went on to reveal he had been stationed in Husum in 1946 after the war, with the Control Commission in Germany run by the British Armed Forces. I knew he had worked for the CCG  that  was responsible for rebuilding Germany (well the British occupied part; the rest was divided between France, the US and Russia as we well know and that was how the Berlin wall came about) and hunting down escaped Nazis. That's about as much as I knew. But thanks to Veronica's poem I found out my My Father was head of Intelligence in Husum where he was  more involved in the rebuilding of the country.  He said many of his co-workers were ex German Jews who had fled to England during the war and had taken on English surnames.  I also know that it was in Germany at that time that my Father learned to drive a Beetle Volkswagen although he never drove again.  Interested to know more I scoured the net and there wasn't much about the CCG. However I did find a blog written by a British historian called Christopher Knowles whose speciality is Anglo German relations during that period.  He has even written a book called "Winning the Peace" which I would have bought there and then if it hadn't cost 80 pounds. But I wrote to Mr. Knowles telling him about my Father and the next day he wrote back. He was very interested to know more about my Father's co-workers and wants to speak to him. After all there can't be many of the CCG members like my Father who are still alive.  I wrote back to say we lived in Madrid so maybe we are a bit too far for him to come but who knows.  

My Father knew very well that Husum was Theodor Storm's home town and told me that in 1946 it was derelict but that on a trip to Hamburg in the 50's with my Mother they visited Husum and the house had been restored. Isn't that an interesting story if there ever was one?
Theodor Storm's house in Husum in Germany where my Father was stationed after WW2

The rest of the day was to be pretty rushed too as at 5pm I had my weekly English conversation class with Carmen.  Then I had to get ready to go out again, this time to the centre of Madrid. I was meeting a dear ex colleague from Motorola, Didier from Brussels who was in Madrid for business. He used to be the Country Manager for Belgium. He is a highly intelligent and entertaining man with a great sense of humour. Since Motorola he worked for Orange for a few years then set up a chain of mobile phone shops. He now runs repair centres too and is working on more projects.  I left the Yoigo mini car at the car park at Colonia Jardin and took the metro to Alonso Martín where I was picking him up. We took a taxi to El Paraguas restaurant where I had booked a table at 8pm, European time. In Spain most people eat from 9pm onwards.  El Paraguas is an Asturian restaurant and the food is of superb quality.  

With Didier on Wednesday night in Madrid
We had so much to talk about, so much to catch up on and conversation flowed easily as we had been such good colleagues.  At 10.30 we left the restaurant and took a taxi back to Alonso Martínez where we said goodbye. From some of our conversation I have a feeling we will see each other sometime soon as we may well be collaborating work wise. Well wouldn't that be nice?

Oli had waited up for me at home. I hadn't seen her since the Saturday before I left for Barcelona. She again accused me of abandoning her and Eladio this week and she is right. But I was so busy as you have gathered by now.  In compensation I showed her my Stradivarius leather and embroidered skirt which she loved and offered to let her wear it the next day to work. It's so nice being able to wear each other's clothes.

It was great to see Pippa too who got very excited when she saw me but once in bed she soon settled down as you can see in the picture I took. She looks so sweet in between the bed sheets doesn't she?
Pippa in our bed on Wednesday night
For once I slept very well and I needed to after so many busy days and little sleep. 

On Thursday I was awake at 6.10. I felt bushed after such a hectic week.  That day I managed to get 2 walks in and  organise my work and personal agenda after the MWC. That afternoon I had an important speech to write for the goodbye Yoigo dinner I had organised for some of my closest colleagues at Bistro Naia in Plaza de la Paja which is partly owned by one of my colleagues, Pedro. 

What a wonderful emotional night it turned out to be.  So many colleagues came and we literally took over the restaurant. Nearly all of us had been part of the founding team and the people who came that night really mattered to me.  We were one big team. But they were all in for a surprise when our ex Swedish CEO, Johan, walked in together with Peter, another Swede who was very much part of Yoigo. They were the surprise I had prepared and they made the difference that night. People couldn't believe it and we were all hugging and laughing.  When it was time to make my speech Johan introduced me.  You see I used to write his speeches and introduce him. So this time the tables were turned.  
Making my emotional speech at the Yoigo goodbye dinner
This, by the was, my speech (in Spanish) which I called "Goodbye Yoigo, I will never forget".
My goodbye Yoigo speech
Someone taped me giving part of the speech and which you can watch here in the video that was taken.

The next day I wrote on Facebook; "what an amazing and emotional night it was, my Yoigo goodbye dinner with the people who really mattered: you have been my fellow travellers on our greatest professional journey and project. We made Yoigo together and I will never forget you or what we did. We are the #Yoigo family. Thanks for the trip my friends and thanks for coming last night. It meant so much to me. My last words: it's the people that count, not the companies and I will carry you in my heart always". 

Of course we had to take photos of the group to immortalise the moment and here we are, all together as if it were another Yoigo party, this time my goodbye party.
The goodbye Yoigo dinner party was a blast.  Just so emotional
A group selfie at the farewell dinner
My dear colleagues had a surprise in store for me too when they handed me a Michael Kors bag. Inside was this beautiful bracelet which I put on there and then and love. 
The beautiful bracelet my colleagues bought me
I will not take it off ever, even in the shower.
At the Yoigo farewell dinner receiving the beautiful bracelet.
As Belen, who bought it said, "elegant and simple like you".  I was very very touched.

All good things come to an end and the dinner party had to end too.  We said our goodbyes and vowed to have more dinners together and to create a group and add more members who weren't able to come that night.  As Marta said, "Masha will create "Yoigo Nights" hahaha, in reference to the "Yoigo Mornings" I used to organise for staff meetings. You bet I will.  

I was home really late and didn't fall asleep until nearly 2 am but even so woke up on Friday morning at 6.30 am. I was still feeling emotional the next day after the lovely goodbye dinner but in a way it was good. It was closure after leaving the company; like the wound healing. 

Finally I had a quiet day. It was awful weather and I spent most of the morning at the dentist and having x-rays done because of an abscess on my gums next to a very old bridge. Thankfully it had burst and I was prescribed antibiotics. That day I didn't get to go on either of my 2 walks because of the visit to the dentist but also because of the foul weather. It was so cold and wet on Friday and I was so tired, I skipped the walks. I couldn't skip the food shopping though and was lucky that I had Oli to help me. It's such a big chore although I've got it down to a fine art and do it in under 45 minutes hahaha.  

We came home to unpack the food helped by Salu and made dinner. Normally we go out to dinner on Friday nights but this week all I wanted was to have dinner at home after so many engagements and nights out. We were to have fresh artichokes, a plate of fine ham, a plate of superb smoked salmon and a prawn salad.  Eladio was delighted to see the kitchen table with so much lovely, healthy and delicious food when he came back from his private lessons. 
Our lovely diner on Friday night
Yesterday I was up early again and enjoyed a quiet breakfast. On Satruday I did get in my 2 walks. It was cold but thankfully very sunny. I came home to find Oli in the kitchen with the dogs. Believe it or not, Pippa was lying on top of Elsa our Lab as if she were a bed or a pillow hahaha.  She does it quite often but it is always difficult to capture it on camera. 
Pippa on top of Elsa 
Pippa and Elsa were very frisky that morning and I also caught them on camera playing whilst Norah looked on from her bed rather disdainfully hahaha.
The dogs in the kitchen yesterday morning
That morning I cooked and I made a dish I haven't made for ages, to the delight of my family. I decided to make lasagna and to skip my diet as it was the weekend. And here I am pouring on the home made bechamel sauce which I should add was made with skimmed milk. I made the lowest calorie lasagna I could hahaha. By the way I am wearing the lovely apron QuintaEsencia gave me in my birthday present box last month.
Happily making lasagna on Saturday morning
After lunch and a short siesta, I was left alone.  Eladio went off to his private lessons and Oli to Madrid to meet colleagues from her previous TV programme "Aqui en Madrid". I spent the time writing this week's post until Eladio returned for dinner.

And today is Sunday and promises to be a quiet day with the family which is just what I need after such a hectic week.  

Therefore, my friends, I shall leave you now to publish this for my Father and the wider world on internet.  I hope you have enjoyed the tales of this week.

All the best until next Sunday,