Saturday, February 17, 2018

George’s birthday, St Valentines dinner, Airbnb guests from South Africa and Taiwan and other stories.

Sunday 18th February, 2018
With my dear brother George in the late 70's in Guadalest (Alicante) 
Good morning everyone,

I hope you are enjoying your Sunday, that is if you are already up. I would love to be still in bed but my body clock awakens me very early in the morning these days unfortunately.

Last Sunday was a quiet morning. It was sunny outside and the temperature reached 15ºc that day. Eladio was up at his usual time, 8.30 am and had breakfast in the kitchen with our South African guest, Marc. It was nice to hear them try to chat. I'm not sure how much Eladio understands but I have to admit I find his accent a little challenging and have to get him to repeat much of what he says. Partly that's because he mumbles a bit. He came here to work and to have a meeting with the Santander Bank about some new digital currency or way of instantly transferring money and I wonder how much the Spaniards in the meeting will have understood him too. 

I was a little upset that morning to find the pearl had come off my thin gold ring, my birthday present. It did look a little flimsy and on Monday I went to change it and got something different. I didn't dare buy another ring with a pearl on it as most probably it would fall off too. 

I made my coq au vin for lunch which was much appreciated by Eladio and Oli, not so my Father who is not a great meat eater. While cooking that and my chicken noodle soup for too, I had a long video call with Suzy in London. I can't wait to see her again and miss her so much. 

After our afternoon walk Oli and I started making bread using her home made sourdough. As we weren't sure how it would turn out, we made half with packet yeast and half with her sourdough. Well, the latter didn't work out and I'm not sure we'll be trying it again. The bread with the packet yeast, using my now trusted recipe, turned out a treat as you can see in the photo below. 
The bread we made on Sunday
Before going upstairs to our bedroom, we put the dogs to bed as we do every night. And I couldn't resist this photo of little Pippa lying with or rather on top of her surrogate mother, our Lab Elsa. It's cute isn't it?
Pippa and Elsa sleeping together
After watching the Jordi Evole programme we saw another episode of the BBC's McMafia series on Amazon Prime Video I should add thanks to the new TV box I bought recently. It's violent to say the least but apparently very realistic. I do like James Norton as the trying to be good, London born Russian son, Alex Goodman. He was the vicar in Grantchester, awfully good looking by the way, and it's funny to see him playing such a different role. I do like him though. He's not such a good person in McMafia, although he tries as you will know if you have seen it. He says at the beginning "I'm a banker not a gangster" and he tries but it just doesn't work. No worries, no spoilers here.  But, if you are interested, here is the trailer.

Our series of the week
Monday was the 12th February and would have been my dear brother George's birthday. But he died so young, aged just 46 on 15th May 2001 only to be followed by his sweet and troubled Serbian wife, Sanya on 17th October 2008 also aged just 46. They are buried together at the St. Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley in London, two lost souls who had little luck in life but who found love together only to lose each other to death so early. 
Two lost souls, George and Sanya buried together.
What can I say about my brother George, my only brother, that I haven't said before? He was 6 foot tall, blonde, blue eyed and very talented. He picked up languages so easily and played musical instruments without the need of lessons. Yet he was not a happy boy, although he was sometimes and those are the times I want to remember. I don't have many photos with him but the other day came across the one I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. In the photo which must have been taken in the late 70's I was probably 19 and he would have been 21. I think the photo was taken at Guadalest, that pretty mountain village near Callosa where my parents bought a house in the early 70's. We both learned Spanish and fell in love with the language and culture. George went on to take a degree in Latin American studies and traveled all over central and South America. He also inherited the family travel bug from my Father and Mother. I do so miss him, especially on his birthday like this Monday. He would have enjoyed it, I know, as we both loved our birthdays. RIP my dear brother, you will never be forgotten. 

With George on my mind, I think Monday was the only day I didn't do any work for Adamo. I had just completed the Navarra project and thought I was free for a while. Later I would be proved otherwise. Being free, or so I thought, we would have gone to Montrondo. We haven't been back since the beginning of December and I am dying to go there. However we can't go until the plumbers install the new boiler. They were supposed to do that on Monday but it wasn't until Wednesday that they brought it here and they won't be installing it until tomorrow, or at least I hope they will. What a long story. The worst part is not having hot water on all the time. It has to be switched on upon demand which is very inconvenient if you have Airbnb guests like I do. I think this week I was more worried about Marc's shower than he was. 

So I got on with life and on Monday I did what I love to do, lots of cooking to freeze food for "rainy days" which I find very relaxing and satisfying too. But first I had to do a bit of food shopping. I took Marc with me as he doesn't have a car and I knew he was running out of food. He ate the same food every day; eggs for breakfast and gnocci with tuna fish for either lunch or dinner. For the rest of the day he lived on my complimentary coffee and milk. We didn't see much of him as he stayed in his room working all day. But in the afternoon, while cooking, I needed his help. Eladio was out and my Father fell from his bed, thankfully not hurting himself. Lucy and I together were unable to lift him up and so my South African Airbnb guest came to the rescue. Thanks Marc!

So what did I cook? Well stuff I make a lot and which is very popular in this house;  chicken noodle soup, pirushki (Russian meat pies), bitki (Russian hamburgers) and giant prawns to have as prawn cocktail for dinner. I also made my cream of vegetable soup which I offered to Marc while he was making yet another meal of gnocci and tuna fish as I felt so sorry for him eating the same food every single day. I interrupted the pie making to go on our walk and came home to find that Lucy had made the rest in my absence. She is such a treasure at times.  I also made more bread believe it or not and we had it with our delicious dinner of soup and prawn cocktail. Eladio said he prefers my dinners to going out. Well I like both I must say. The day finished with more McMafia; such a violent and tense series which had us hooked. 

The next day was Tuesday and the 13th February. If Friday 13th is an unlucky day for people in Britain, it is Tuesday 13th that is unlucky in Spain. Maybe I was unlucky that day as my respite from work with Adamo was over when I was suddenly asked to organise yet another press conference for next Wednesday. I couldn't believe it, 3 press conferences in 1 month in 3 different provinces. This time the press conference would be held with the local government of an area about 1.5h from Madrid which would mean lots of protocol to follow. OMG I had to run, just as I had slowed down. But I had to do it and run I did, for the rest of the week actually.

That day we heard from Olivia that she was not going to Monterrey in Mexico for her next programme and I was very relieved as Mexico is just so dangerous. I googled safety in Monterrey and was appalled to read the Spanish Consulate's guidance with instructions on what to do for example if you are caught up in a shoot out. Oli, however, was very excited and not put off by the problems of safety telling me that the Spaniards living there  had told her it was not as dangerous as it was made out to be. That may be so but I was much relieved to hear that she will finally be going instead to safe and quiet Latvia. My Father was thrilled and remarked that she would hear a lot of Russian spoken. Well of course she will. It will be her first time in the Baltics. I have been to Estonia and to Lithuania but never to Latvia. In Spanish Latvia is called "Letonia" and Lithuania "Lituania" and many times these countries are mixed up in Spanish. I find it rather confusing too. In any case it will be another adventure for my lucky TV travel journalist daughter. 

My afternoon on Tuesday was brightened up by the arrival of a parcel from M+S. It didn't contain anything exciting, just winter vests and black leggings. I have or had a lot of the latter both from M+S and from Primark but they always seem to disappear. Eladio says that's the problem when you are the same size as your daughters and he is right hahaha. 

I worked hard all day on next week's rush press event, only stopping for lunch - my delicious "pirushki" with soup which my nearly 99 year old Father wolfed down like I did as we both have very similar tastes in food. After our siesta came our walk with the dogs and more work. Oli pleasantly surprised us by coming home for dinner that night which she doesn't often do during the week. She brought with her some amazing "ibérico ham" she had bought at a good market in Madrid. Both the ham and having her for dinner were a treat I have to say. 

Wednesday came and I nearly forgot it was St. Valentine's Day. My husband remembered though and even invited me out to dinner and made the booking. That was a first, bless him, in all our 38 years together but no flowers. However, there was nearly a card which he nearly bought in England but then didn't. I was brought up to believe it's the thought that counts, so I should appreciate his thought about buying me a card hahahaha. Well actually I didn't really deserve anything as I didn't buy anything for him either, so there ...

In any case I didn't have much time for love on Wednesday morning as I had to leave the house early for a meeting with a prospective customer in Madrid. It was quite strange for me going to see the general manager of a big, or the biggest PR agency world wide, the agency which I had worked with when I was at Motorola.  The last time I had been to their offices was about 25 years ago! The general manager at the time was a young girl like me and today is head of the whole agency. Good for her. We were both looking for a win win situation for them and for me. Judging by a phone call and an email from them during the week, it's looking good. I can't believe sometimes that I am still in the market so to say. And long may it last by the way hahahaha. That keeps me young to quote Suzy this week. 

Another Airbnb guest from South Africa came on Wednesday. Jason is Marc's  friend and colleague so now Marc had some company. It was interesting talking to them as Eladio and I both visited Cape Town, where they are from, some years ago when I was still working for Nokia. Funnily enough, during their visit, news of Cape Town was on the front pages of the newspapers here because of the incredible drought the population is suffering. Apparently taps will be turned off in May. I can hardly imagine that. No wonder, neither Marc no Jason were nonplussed about our hot water situation. The other big news about South Africa that hit the headlines this week was the resignation of the ANC supposedly corrupt Prime Minister, Zuma. My Airbnb South African guests were happy about that. Neither of them had ever visited Spain and I think Marc must have thought it's hot here all year round as he didn't bring a coat, or maybe because it's summer now where he lives, he didn't think to pack one. I ended up lending him my electric blue "puffer" jacket. The sleeves were too short for him hahaha. If he'd had time and the right clothing, I'm sure he would have liked to visit the snow clad mountains outside Madrid. Of course he has the lovely Table Mountain in Cape Town but the mountains here are much higher at over 2000 metres.  I told him Madrid was the highest capital of the world. However, he was here to work so of course he wouldn't be going up the mountains. 

It seemed like his work was over by Wednesday night and the two of them went out to dinner with a "local". They did not celebrate St. Valentine's obviously but rather went  to sample Spanish food. They also watched the 16th round of the Champions' League match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain. It would be a high tension match but also a big challenge for the top Spanish team as they have been performing very badly in La Liga this season. Thankfully they won 3-1 in this first leg at the Bernabeu stadium. Hopefully they will win the second leg too and go through to the next round. 

We, meanwhile, left the house early for our 8.30 pm table booking at La Txitxarreria in Pozuelo. We do love the food there. So over a bottle of Asturian cider, we enjoyed our St. Valentine's dinner together and look forward to many more in the years to come. That love is still in the air after 38 years together is quite an achievement. I often ask myself what the secret is and I suppose it has to do with respect and admiration as well as the fact that we enjoy doing lots of things together but at the same time give each other space. I certainly could not imagine life without my dearest Eladio. I feel very blessed actually. 
This year's St. Valentine's Dinner. A nice treat during the week. 
We came home to watch the end of McMafia. Roll on Season 2 is all I can say. It's a great series. 

Our Valentine's dinner was lovely. Generally St. Valentine's Day is pretty quiet and peaceful but on Thursday I read about the mass school shooting that had happened that day in Florida. Imagine.  A lone wolf, a disgruntled and disturbed ex pupil, Nikolas Cruz, shot and killed 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. I do not understand how any civilian is allowed to buy or use military weapons. But that's the way of life in the US unfortunately and Donald Trump is not going to change that. Instead he asked for prayers and focused on the issue of mental health. Nikolas Cruz may have been mentally unstable but he should not have been able to buy weapons. Hilary Clinton would surely have done something to stop the sale of arms and weapons in the US, to judge by her tweet the next day: "this week we lost 17 Americans in Parkland - the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012. Since then, 438 people have been shot and 138 killed in over 230 school shootings. That's 5 school shootings every month, 16 of which classify as "mas shooting".  It's funny but one man placed a shoe bomb on a plane a few years ago and since then we have all had to take off our shoes going through airport security. Aren't these mass shooting figures enough to stop the sale of guns? That's the question the Government in the US should be asking itself instead of asking for prayers. I'm not a praying person but if you are, please pray for this madness to stop. Thankfully, the perpetrator, 19 year old Cruz, was caught and will stand trial. In a way I'm sorry for him as he is a victim of a broken home and lack of family values. 
Nikolas Cruz the moment he was caught by the police after the mass shooting on St. Valentine's Day
It was a dark and gloomy day here on Thursday but amazingly the sun came out in the afternoon and has stayed with us since then. I could do with some good weather. 

That morning my two South African Airbnb guests left, but not before taking a selfie with us. I drove them to the metro station and off they went. We would have the house to ourselves until Saturday when we were expecting new Airbnb guests, a family from Taiwan!
With our Airbnb guests from South Africa when they said goodbye on Thursday
On Friday it was the 61st birthday of my dear friend Jacky from Bradford who is just 8 days younger than me hahaha. Like me, Jacky  also lives in Spain but far from here unfortunately. We have so much in common I wish she lived nearer. I hope she had a great birthday. 

I had to work on Friday morning too with lots of liaising with the press people from the local government of the city where I am organising the press conference next Wednesday. It feels like they have an army of press people while there is only me for Adamo. I always was a one woman show in PR hahaha. That morning Eladio and I did the food shopping. We had good news from Suzy who confirmed she will be here for her birthday at the end of April. We had been thinking of going out to London and surprising her. However, it's a lot easier and cheaper if she comes so this is really good news. I have already blocked the Airbnb calendar for when she comes so that she gets to sleep in her room and we all get our privacy.

We got another sunny afternoon walk on Friday and were later joined by Oli for dinner. It was the perfect end to a quiet working week at home. 

Saturday was the much commented on beginning of the Chinese New Year of the Dog which is one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. 

Knowing nothing about the Chinese zodiac I read that  "the Year Of The Dog signals a fortunate 12 months ahead for most of those born in the 'dog' years of 1935, 1947, 1959, Jan 1971, 1982, 1994 and 2006. It also influences the fortunes of the other 11 animal signs, depending on their relationship with the dog". Interested to know what my Chinese zodiac sign was I looked that up too and it is The Rooster. Apparently in the Year of the Dog, for Roosters this means the focus will be related to relations with others. Thus it will in be Roosters' best interests to think of others more. I already do that don't I, or so I thought? How complicated.

On the subject of the year of the dog, Facebook reminded me that it was 3 years ago yesterday, 17th February, that little Pippa arrived aged just 3 months. She was tiny then, possibly weighing 2 or kilos and is still tiny today, at about 5. She is, of course, a miniature chocolate dachshund. And what joy she has brought to this family, joy, love and fun I should add. Oli and I remarked today that we can't possibly imagine life without her. So dearest sweetest sometimes barking Pippa, Happy New Year of the Dog to you too hahahaha. To quote Suzy again, "love you to the moon and back". And I do as you all well know if you know me or read my blog on a regular basis. She features heavily, oh yes she does hahaha.
Pippa 3 years ago, the day she arrived on 17th February 2015. We can't imagine life without her. In the photo Oli had just met her for the first time!
Our Airbnb guests from Taiwan, a family of 5 with 3 children were arriving on Saturday but hadn't given me an arrival time. I was dreading them a bit, mostly because as children were coming I would have to make Pippa disappear, i.e. hide her hahaha as she does not like kids and barks a lot. We would be waiting for them all day. Not knowing when they would come, I got on with the day. We bathed the dogs in anticipation as I didn't want my new guests to find smelly dogs, something I hate and which is why we bathe them so often. Here is Elsa having her bath in our jacuzzi in lovely warm water. However, she doesn't look convinced hahahaa. Eladio does a very thorough job I must say. 
It was dog bath time yesterday
We had a quiet morning and I made a firm decision not to do any work this weekend. I really needed a break. I made lunch of course, something I nearly always do while Lucy cleans the house and looks after my Father so well. I baked a home made pizza including the dough and I think it's probably the best one I have ever made. Eladio certainly thought so as did Oli who tried it reheated for dinner as she didn't join us for lunch yesterday.
Yesterday's homemade pizza
After such a heavy lunch I slept quite a long siesta, from 3.30 to 4.30. Eladio slept until 5.30 when it was really time for our walk before it got dark. These days it gets dark later, at nearly 7 pm. Finally as I got home I got  a sign from my Taiwanese family; they were in Toledo and would be arriving between 9 and 10 pm. I had begun to believe they were not coming.

Once home and on the spur of the moment, I decided to drive to Carrefour, the great big one in Majadahonda, to get ingredients to make chicken curry today and also to buy their delicious smoked salmon we would have for dinner. I was worried the guests would arrive as we were having dinner, but no they didn't. In fact they did not arrive until nearly 10.30 pm. They probably got lost. This time Eladio came out with me to greet them, a task I usually do on my own, while I hid Pippa in our bedroom hahaha. They seem to be a lovely united family,  Daniel and his wife and their children, 2 girls aged 14 and 11 and a young boy aged 9. 
The family from Taiwan who are staying with us until Tuesday
They are touring Spain on holiday. I wonder why they chose February, not the best month for weather in this country. We were amazed to see that Daniel, the father, speaks perfect Spanish. That is probably unusual for anyone from Taiwan but he explained he had lived for 10 years in Buenos Aires. We settled them in and left them to cook their dinner in the kitchen, only hoping Norah and Elsa would not get in their way and went back to bed. I soon fell asleep as it was nearly midnight by then

And today is Sunday and I am at the end of my tales of this week. It has been a quiet week with no travelling and not much to report really. Next week will be busier, what with the press conference and hopefully if all goes well with the installation of the new boiler, on Thursday we should be able to go to Montrondo, weather permitting of course.

Wishing you all a great Sunday, cheers for now,

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Snow in Madrid! To Pamplona for a press conference, my birthday and other stories.

Sunday 11th February 2018
Me on my birthday in Pamplona by all the Adamo kit on Thursday
Good morning again everyone.

Well what a busy week it has been. 

Last Sunday was wet and cold and we had snow and sleet intermittently although the real snow didn't come until the next day. 

I was up early and as soon as I had published my blog, made our lunch, a lovely winter dish from Madrid called "cocido madrileño", the main ingredients of which are chickpeas, meats and bones of various types and vegetables. I was keen to get it ready early so that I could be free the rest of the morning to go out shopping with Eladio and Olivia. They wanted to buy my birthday presents at the Corté Inglés (main Spanish department store) and I was happy to go along and feel pampered and loved. They preferred me to choose my presents as they had no idea what to get me. I suppose it can't be easy to buy me a present but I would have thought that by now both of them would know that I have a fettish about luxury soap, bathroom towels and that I love jewelry, as well as perfume. But I got what I wanted from Eladio and my Father, a lovely little gold ring with a cultured pearl and a set of soaps and creams by Roger Gallet from Olivia.   From the Corté Inglés, with plenty of time to spare, we went to Ikea. This time it was Eladio who wanted to buy something - very unusual for him. He had got it into his head that plastic tupperwares were not good for storing food and that we should buy glass containers instead. So, he filled up our trolley with about 30 of them in all different sizes hahaha. I wasn't too interested in the glass containers and was much happier buying stuff at the Swedish food store. Ah but I did get something I have wanted to buy for a long time: two wall hangers for all my handbags which took up so much room in my walk in wardrobe.  I have the same problem with shoes and boots. I am no Imelda Marcos though as mine are mostly flat and wide and practical rather than luxurious or glamorous. It's not that I don't like beautiful shoes it's just that my awful bunions don't let me wear them hahaha. Now that's another of my secrets for you.

We came home to a ready made lunch, after which we had our usual siesta. The weather was awful and thus we had to stay indoors and skip on our walk that afternoon. Instead, Oli and I made bread together. Yes, more bread. Oh how we love making it. This was the end result. 
The bread Oli and I made on Sunday afternoon last
While the dough was proving, Oli and I played ludo and I won yet again hahahah. Dinner was delicious. I don't remember what we had but I do remember the bread  we had just after it came out of the oven. I had mine with butter from the giant tub of low fat Danish Lurpak I had bought in Sainsbury's in Keighley and which you can't buy here. Oh how I love Lurpak butter. 

We didn't watch the TV that afternoon or evening but if we had we would have been able to see me on the "box". Believe it or not, the TV programme, the Spanish edition of Undercover Boss which I starred in for Yoigo in September 2015,  was being broadcast yet again. It has been repeated between 10 and 15 times and I always know when it's been on because I suddenly get lots of Twitter and Messenger messages, mostly from people asking for a job, as if I could give them one!  I'm not sure I like it being shown now that I have left the company. I bet Yoigo doesn't like it either hahaha. 

Monday came and it was a busy morning for me. I would be busy all week working on the organisation of the press conference for Adamo in Pamplona on Thursday. I hardly noticed it was snowing until Lucy called me to ask me to take a photo of her in the snow.  Lucy, being from Paraguay, had never ever seen snow and she was very excited. I was excited too as snow is so rare in Madrid. I think the last time we had a proper snowfall here was some 10 years ago. As the snow fell I didn't think it would settle but it did. Feeling as happy as a child I started snapping photos to remember it, like this one.
Snow in our garden on Monday
I even took a video where you can see just how intensely the snow was falling and settling. This is it. Lucy went outside with her coat and boots on and I took photos of her which she wanted to send to her family in Paraguay. And here she is, like a child too, over the moon enjoying the experience.
Lucy outside in the snow on Monday
Eladio, meanwhile, was fixing the handbag hangers on a wall in the covered gallery of our bedroom, the only place to put them. He was far less interested in the snow. I suppose that's because he's from Montrondo where there is lots of the "white stuff". My handbags overloaded the hangers completely so maybe I shall have to go back for more. Here is the photo where you can see just how many bags I have - far too many. The truth is I only ever really use about 4 of them regularly.
All my handbags on the new wall hangers from Ikea 
It carried on snowing and I carried on working, now oblivious to it but when it came to lunchtime, we realised it would be impossible to push my Father in his wheel chair up the steep path to the kitchen door. Eladio tried but immediately began to slip and it was far too dangerous to carry on so my poor Father had to have lunch on his own on a tray in his room that day. 

Lunch was leftovers as I was far too busy working on the press conference to make anything new. We couldn't go on a walk either because of the snow and also because our snow boots are in Montrondo. I never thought I would need them here until Monday. 

The highlight of the day was watching Homeland Season 6 with Eladio on Netflix that night. We binge watched 3 whole episodes and didn't fall alseep until nearly 1 in the morning. I think I told you it was slow starting but from about episode 3 onwards it gets riveting. We were completely hooked.  

Tuesday was a very tense day working. I realised that we had hardly any confirmations from guests for the Adamo press conference which was to take place in Pamplona. I spent the whole day rallying around the parties involved to make sure they followed up on the invitations. I was not responsible for the guests but for the media but even so I was dreading an empty press conference room. I had to ring the media and it felt like cold calling as I don't know journalists in Pamplona. 

In fact I was so busy on Tuesday I hardly noticed the news of the biggest rocket ever launched into space that day. Everyone else was very excited but I just had no time . I spent most of the day on the phone and whatsapping until really late. At about 10 pm though, there was not much else I could do so I called it a day and joined Eladio to binge watch the last 3 episodes of Homeland Season 6. It's a bit unfair but on Netflix we get to see the seasons a year later than they have been aired on TV in the US. Apparently Season 7 is about to start there in a few days time but there is no way we can see it from here.  I knew I would be feeling bereft when the last episode finished. It's always that way and this time the ending is totally unsatisfactory. There was no real closure and so Season 7 will be a continuation of the same theme. Role on Season 7 please. 

Wednesday dawned and I had plenty of time to pack and prepare for my journey to Pamplona. I left for the Atocha train station at around 10.30 and met up there with Cristina and Julia from my events agency, QuintaEsencia. They were totally loaded down with all the stuff we had to take to set up the event in Pamplona. Normally they would have sent it there but as we only had a mere week to prepare everything there was no time. And here they are with all the gear at the station.

Cristina and Julia with all the stuff for our event, at Atocha train station
The journey on the Alvia (part high speed) train to Pamplona would take 3 hours. It was difficult to work on the way as there is no wifi on the train and no plugs to charge your phone or PC. My phone battery would not last the journey. I was amazed to see so much snow on the way as the train rushed past snow clad villages and fields. It was a sight for sore eyes and it felt like we were in Siberia and not in Spain hahaha.
Snow on the journey to Pamplona by train from Madrid. 
We got to the capital of Navarra, part of the Basque Country, by 14.45. The girls had to rush off to the conference centre, Baluarte, to set up the room where our event would take place the next day. I took a taxi to our hotel as I had to work, mostly on cold calling local journalists and on fine tuning our press release. 

I don't know Pamplona at all. Of course it is famous for the bull run during the San Fermín fiestas in July but that does not attract me at all. I had been there twice before when I worked for Motorola and we sponsored a cycling team. In fact the last time I had been there was during the Tour de France in 1996, Miguel Indurain's last TDF. He is from Navarra and I well remember that scorching day with thousands of his fans lining the road waiting for him to arrive at the finish line after a mountain stage. Everyone was used to him winning and arriving among the first but that day he lagged behind and came in at the back of the peloton which was very sad for the cycling champion who had won 5 Tours on the trot. Even so, his countrymen clapped hard as he did arrive and the atmosphere they created was just amazing.  I'll never forget it

Pamplona in the winter is a different story. It's quite a cold area up in the north east of Spain and snow was forecast. In fact it was freezing. I took a taxi to our hotel, the surprisingly nice Hotel Pamplona Catedral just off the road where the bulls run, Calle Santo Domingo. 

My hotel in Pamplona
Interested in its history I found out that it had been built in the early 19th century as a reformatory for women (awful) but later had been used as a convent. It even had its own chapel which today is the hotel restaurant. It's quite a cool restaurant, all painted in white. I especially loved the stained glass windows.
The amazing dining room at the hotel, previously a chapel
I had lunch there on my own and thoroughly enjoyed a dish of fresh and local vegetables including the famous Navarra artichokes. I didn't want to eat too much and preferred to save my appetite for dinner that night, eating "pinxos" which Pamplona is famous for. 

Delicious vegetables for lunch in Pamplona at my hotel
Later I went up to my comfortable room where I had plenty of time to settle in and get mentally prepared for the event the next day. I was busy though, ringing the journalists and working on the press release. I wouldn't finish making changes to it until about 10 minutes before the press conference the next day. It's always like that with press releases.

When I had finished I had an hour before it was dark and I decided to explore the old part of the city as I had never really seen it and if I had I didn't remember it.  So I ventured out, well wrapped up, as it was freezing outside. I walked to the Plaza Consistorial from where the San Fermin fiesta is inaugurated each year in an act called "el chupinazo" from the "Casa Consistorial".
The Plaza Consistorial in Pamplona
It was freezing cold and snowing lightly as I walked down the old streets to see the cathedral. Being on my own, I didn't really feel like going in. I continued my walk and came upon another famous square, the Plaza del Castillo which is just enormous. Here I took a selfie and you can see the snow flakes on my fur hat. 
Freezing in the Plaza Castillo in Pamplona on Wednesday afternoon
It began to snow harder and all I wanted then was the warmth of my room in the hotel so I walked back. Once in my room, I made more tweaks to the press release and then sent the girls, Julia and Cristina, all the final press materials to print and load into the usb's to give to the journalists the next day. They were now back in the hotel after setting up the room for our event. It was poor Julia who had to do the latter and I caught her on camera as I went to see the girls whose room was a couple of doors down the corridor.  That was very much a behind the scenes of an event moment hahaha. 

Behind the scenes of a press conference, Julia loading the usbs with the press materials in the girls' bedroom at our hotel
While in town Cristina and Julia had bought me a birthday present which they gave to me in their room. It was a beautiful basket of luxury soap, just what I love as I told you earlier. It was to be my first present and one I love. 

We went out to dinner and for the girls to see the centre of the town. We were going to a bar called Gauxo which came highly recommended but it was closed. So we looked up another popular one on Trip Advisor and headed for a place called Iruñazarra. It was obviously very popular and the food was superb. In fact we ate too much as we couldn't get enough of the delicious pinxos, many of them award winning tapas in local competitions. 

Snow was forecast for Thursday, my birthday, but there was only a thin coat of snow on the roofs when I woke up in my hotel bed that morning. It was a strange feeling being in Pamplona on my birthday. All celebrations would be put on hold. However, soon after I started drinking the luke warm coffee I had bought in the bar the night before and put on the radiator to drink as soon as I got up, the birthday greetings started. Lots of friends and colleagues posted their messages on Facebook but there would be many too on whatsapp, messenger, email and LinkedIn, not to mention the phone calls I received. How I love Facebook on my birthday.  Later I would get many more and would enjoy reading them on the train returning to Madrid. I had breakfast in the "chapel" with my colleague Jaume and until checking out I didn't have much to do as all my work was done. That's actually not quite true as I spent some of the time practicing the welcome speech I had written in front of the mirror. I had problems pronouncing the surname of our local partner, "Sescuan" and that of the  lady from the Government organisation, "Irigoien", a very Basque surname I still can't pronounce it. I was saying IRI GO E EN when it should have been IR GOY EN. If only I had known before!

I left the hotel at around 10.45 while the girls went off to print all the materials for the press kits and arrived shortly afterwards at the Baluarte Conference centre. It wasn't my choice and I found it rather large and unwelcoming but apparently it's quite a modern symbol of the city. 

The room we had hired, the "sala de prensa" (press room) was all set up and many of my colleagues were already there. As usual I had to make some minor changes to the press release which is always rather nerve racking. Then it all started. Thankfully the room was nearly full. The press had turned up, not a lot of them as there probably aren't many in Pamplona and there was some Government press event going on at the same time, but enough to pass muster. But of course I would get more press coverage from the nationwide press release I sent out. You are probably wondering what we were announcing. Well it was the start and power up of our network in the region, in villages were no other operator has a network. It wasn't major news, we were only starting up in a handful of villages but more were to come within the project. It was definitely local news though. So I was lucky later to get articles from outside Navarra. I think the main news about Adamo is that it focuses on villages and areas where no other operator would go and which up till now have been bereft of fast internet. So in our own small way we are helping to close the gap of the digital divide in some areas of Spain. 
The press conference in full swing
I welcomed everyone and introduced the 4 speakers. As was to be expected I stumbled over the Basque surnames and had to apologise. Later those affected just laughed thank goodness. They are probably used to it I hope. 

After the presentations I moderated the Q+A session and within 45 minutes or so the press conference was over. I was happy to see some  headlines already published on internet including a photo of the event which I got the photographer we had hired to take and give to Julia to include in the email which I had prepared and which I know caused them some trouble. 
The speakers at the press conference. On the left the man and lady with the difficult Basque surnames. 
Afterwards we could all relax while a cocktail was served. As it was about 1 pm I took advantage and ate some of the delicious Basque food including the "chistorra" (thin fried chorizo) which I thought would serve as my lunch. 
Very soon it was all over and time to pack up and leave Baluarte. We left very laden down with the bulky and heavy rolled up photo calls, etc. We got to the station at least an hour and half before our train was to leave at 15.35. There we found our Barcelona bound colleagues whose train was leaving at 15h but had been delayed until 16h. For us it would be a 3 hour journey to Madrid and for them 4 hours.

We all waited chatting and drinking and feeling hungry, despite the "chistorra", I couldn't resist the amazing "bocadillos" (baguette type sandwiches) with ham and tomato and their amazing Spanish omelet. I would not be hungry that night when I got home. In fact we chatted so much we nearly missed our train which had been standing on the platform for some time. Then it was panic stations, especially getting all our gear on the train. But we managed it and what a relief. 

It was  a long and boring journey back, especially as I was running out of battery on my phone. I was home by 7.30 or so to be greeted by my wonderful husband, Father and by Lucy all wishing me a happy birthday. Eladio suggested we went out to dinner but I was too tired and not hungry and besides we had a planned family birthday dinner for the next night. Lucy had bought me a lovely present. She said it was very humble but it wasn't. I love the red Zara cardigan with pearls for buttons she had bought me and I would wear it the next day. But waiting for me was something  very special, a birthday card had arrived for me and I wasn't going to get many as they are not a tradition in Spain. It was from my darling daughter Suzy from London who I miss so much and it was beautiful. What was even more beautiful was what she had written inside. Let me show you. If you read it you will see she writes: "to the best mother in the world". I don't think I am but it's lovely that she thinks so. Thank you darling. 

Suzy's surprise birthday card which was waiting for me at home when I got back from Pamplona
Beautiful words inside. 

Suzy had rung me in the morning, my first phone call of the day. It was on my birthday that she told me she had bought her ticket to go and live in Bali  and would be leaving on 7th June. That was the date of my  Mother's birthday. I hope it brings her luck. The good news is that she is going in June instead of April and that she will be flying via Madrid and coming here 2 weeks before. 

So on my birthday we didn't go out to dinner  but we did watch a film. We chose one with Angelina Jolie set in Ethiopia called Beyond Borders. It was entertaining but slightly exaggerated but a nice relaxing end to the day which had been tiring and hectic. 

Friday came and I could relax work wise that is. I had breakfast reading the Adamo headlines which always gives me a kick. There were around 20 articles both local and national so not bad at all. I wasn't busy working but I was busy getting ready for a sudden Airbnb reservation which I got at around 11 am. A young South African man was checking in at lunchtime and staying for a week. He wanted somewhere he could work quietly. I had to do the shopping too and Eladio came with me. Life at home resumed and that meant going on our daily walks, in the afternoons at this time of year. It was bitterly cold that day so I put Pippa's red jumper on her. Then I added the harness and that is when she stood still not wanting to move unless I picked up the lead. Thus it was the perfect moment to capture her on camera. Here she is, a little unsure of the jumper too.
Pippa ready for her walk on Friday
I came back to slowly get ready to go out for my birthday dinner to Filandón, one of my favourite places. I had booked a table 2 weeks ago as it is always difficult to get a table. My South African had written to say he wasn't coming until the next day which gave me a bit of a break. 

Our table was booked for 8.30 as we like to dine early. 9 pm is usually the earliest starting time for dinner at restaurants in Spain but Filandón is open all day. We were there on time and while Eladio parked I waited at the impressive entrance with 2 open fires outside. Soon Oli and Miguel joined us and we were led to our table past the equally impressive kitchen which is visible to the public. It was not a busy time but when it is there are so many chefs you cannot count them. 
The kitchen at Filandon.
It was great to see Oli and Miguel again. Oli had another surprise for me, a funny birthday card she had found in Manchester with a sausage dog on the front. I loved it as well as her words inside but neither of us really understood the sentence on the front. 
Oli's lovely birthday card
We shared croquettes and octopus for starters and Oli and I shared a half bottle of Arzuaga (Ribera del Duero) red wine which had me remembering a Nokia team building exercise I once did there. We were lucky to have Miguel with us, our resident photographer, although the poor chap had a bad cold or flu like most of Spain it seems. So I got him to take a photo of the 3 of us at my birthday dinner. I don't know why but I always seem to close my eyes but it's the best he could do and it's not bad.
My birthday dinner at Filandón with Oli and Eladio. 
All in all it was a lovely dinner. It would have been perfect if Suzy had been with us. Oh how I miss her, especially on occasions like this. 

The next day was Saturday when we would celebrate my birthday with my Father too. I told you birthdays in this house are like Indian weddings as they go on for days hahaha. The day started with a family breakfast which would include croissants and donuts, pain au chocolat, all the naughty things I love first thing in the morning but only allow myself on special occasions. And here we are just about to start to devour the things on the table which was laid with all my finery. 
Birthday breakfast on Saturday morning
On birthdays I was brought up as a child to open the cards before the presents which was always frustrating hahaha. However I don't get  many, so I love them just as much these days. Apart from Suzy's and Oli's I got a lovely one from Eladio and my Father which my husband had bought in Manchester too at M+S (of course). It was the words from my nearly 99 year old Father that made a big impact yesterday. You see, my Father doesn't go in for sentimentalism nor for expressing his feelings or emotions. So yesterday was an exception. His handwriting is faint but amazing for someone his age. These are his words:
The words from my Father on my birthday card
This is what he wrote: "A very happy birthday Masha darling. What an inspiration you have been to me all my life, much love from Daddy 8th February 2018" Short but profound don't you think? I don't really know what inspires him about me. When I thanked him, he said "I really meant it". How lovely. Well he has inspired me all his life too in many many ways and I admire him profoundly. Thank you Daddy. I love you.

After the card came the presents. They were no surprise but they were much appreciated, the ring from Eladio and my Father and the Roger Gallet, soap, perfume and body lotion set from Oli and Miguel. I consider myself very very fortunate. 

My beautiful presents
We were very full of croissants after that hahha and I couldn't think about making lunch until much nearer the time. I was pleased to have Miguel with us as he would install the new TV box I had bought on Amazon after his recommendation. It had arrived 2 weeks ago but I needed him to install it. With this tiny little box which works like an Android phone where you download apps from Play Store, we can now watch Amazon Prime, Atresmedia TV, RTVE a la carta and Movistar Plus as well as Netflix. However of all these, only Amazon Prime has subtitles and lets you change the language. 

Just as he had finished, my South African wrote to say he was on his way by metro. Kindly, I suppose, as I have no obligation as an Airbnb host to pick up my guests, I went to get him at the nearest station. I don't usually do that but I am conscious of the fact that our house is not in the best location for using public transport. Also I knew he would be tired after travelling all the way by train from Faro to Lisbon then Lisbon to Madrid. He soon settled in and told me he loved the house. Pippa surprised me by not barking at him, for once. In fact she took to him immediately which is very unusual. 

Lucy was laying the table and making the chips and I would make the fish. Fish and chips is our usual favourite for birthdays and the quickest and easiest to make. It would be followed by my favourite bought cake from a bakery we love near here called "Alverán". It's a light sponge cake with fruit (raspberries) and lots of whipped cream encased in a a white chocolate basket and I adore it. So does my Father. And here I am about to blow out the candles. 61 wow. With yesterday's candles I could easily have changed the numbers to 16 or 19 or even 91 haha.
The birthday cake moment the highlight of any birthday in my mind. 
We were all so full later that we slept, in my case until 4.30. I had to drag Eladio out of bed to go for our walk with the dogs, a much needed walk after all the eating. I bet you think all we ever do is eat hahahah. 

Neither Eladio nor I were hungry at dinner and I made a very light meal. Last night our TV choice was much bigger. We started with the highly acclaimed BBC series called McMafia about the Russian mafia in London. We binge watched that too, seeing the first 3 episodes all in one go and went to sleep really late. We are going to enjoy McMafia immensely. 

 And today is Sunday, time to publish this blog post and enjoy the rest of the day. Of course you will hear all about it next week. It will be quiet though, that's for sure and will definitely include our walk.

So my friends, that's it for this week. Wishing you all the very best, cheers for now,