Saturday, January 27, 2007

PR lunches, the company of the leader of the opposition, getting interviewed by Metro, it snowed, went to see Babel, lunch at Benito and Loli's

Susi rushing out into the garden for a photo when it was snowing

Me posing on the sofa with the new cushions and lamp
Hi again.

Well another week went past and it’s now the end of January. It has been a busy week work wise again but I managed to squeeze in quite a bit of socialising, specially at lunchtimes.

On Monday I had lunch with Ketty Rico, the chief editor of Mia which is Spain’s equivalent to Woman’s Own. We met at Bice, which is the where we met for the first time a few years ago. We had illustrious company at the table next to us, in the leader of the opposition, Mariano Rajoy and one of his right hand men, Angel Acebes. They were both a lot thinner than you see them on the television and their conversation was very mundane and quite domestic – they spent most of the time talking about their kids!

Tuesday I was invited to lunch by the chief editor of a telecoms magazine and I was most surprised to be taken to the restaurant where Eladio and I celebrated our registrary wedding over 20 years ago and which I hadn’t visited since then – Chiquito Riz. It’s a classic Madrid restaurant which specialises in fish.

One of the week’s highlights was when I was interviewed by a newspaper called Metro –one of the free newspapers. The agreement was that as it was for a page on professional people they would interview me about my career but then it turned out all the questions were about work!! They took ages getting the right photo and I think I know why as I just wasn’t feeling like I looked particularly good.

It has been getting colder and colder this week and finally yesterday, Friday, it snowed. In some parts of Spain it has been really heavy snow and temperatures in the mountains as low as –15ºC (what a difference to the +20ºC in Barcelona last week!) but here we just got snowflakes which didn’t settle.

And last night Eladio and I went on our weekly visit to the cinema, this time to see Babel, one of the films nominated for the best foreign film. And it was one of the best I have seen for a long time and I actually came out crying. The film is set in 4 locations which could not be more different, rural Morocco, San Diego in the US, Tijuana in Mexico and finally in Tokyo. The contrasts are very acute but the story in each location is interrelated. I won’t say any more for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, except that I highly recommend it. Then we had dinner at Gino’s and a bit too much lambrusco which gave me a headache last night. I never learn ……

This morning we went to Ikea to get some more bits and bobs for the house, including some cushions for a lovely wicker sofa we have bought for the girls’ landing, plus a lamp to go with them. Of course, the first “person” to sit on them was our dear cat Henry.

For lunch today we were all separate as Eladio and I were invited to our friends, Loli and Benito’s. Loli put on a splendid table, full of delicacies such as octopus, prawns and Spanish cured ham amongst other things.

And that just but about sums up this last week’s activities worth mentioning as everything else was routine or too domestic to tell.

Cheers until next time

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A change is as good as a rest – visit to Barcelona and other things

The flower arrangement in the lobby of the Arts Hotel

Birgitta and I at Neichel
Hi again

This week was full of activity – the worst thing being that my new Toshiba laptop crashed and died on Monday night – that made work rather difficult but in one day I was connected to internet again, thank God. I do realise what an addict I am or rather how work dependent we are on email. I also made time for my social life, of course. I had lunch with Jill on Tuesday – she was looking great. I celebrated Fati’s birthday with Julio and Fátima at Tony Romas on Friday where I gave her a present she already had – that shows we really are Pin and Pon as we have the same taste. On Saturday I went with Eladio to the “flicks” as we used to call the cinema when I was a teenager, to see Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. It was very beautiful, all the décor, Versailles and the amazing costumes and hair dos but I was disappointed that the whole of the film was set only at the palace so we got to see nothing about the French revolution and not even their decapitation. And of course we went for dinner to La Alpargatería afterwards and sat at out usual table. It’s a bit dangerous how set in our ways we are, really. Oli always tells me that and I suppose she is right.

But midweek I went to Barcelona with Andrea from our agency to meet up with Birgitta from head office to suss out places for an event in February. I hadn’t travelled for quite a time, so really needed to get away from my desk (or rather desks as I also work at home). So as I hardly travel any more, I was determined to get the most out of this trip and get a real mental break. The weather helped of course, so even if it was January, the temperature at midday was near 20ºC and frankly my coat remained on my arm throughout. We saw many places, old and new, ones I knew and ones I didn’t and finally we made our choice, the Hotel Arts Veranda Café Every time I go to Barcelona to look for a place, I end up choosing it as it is such an amazing place. Dinner was at the Neichel restaurant, a recommendation from my dear friend Julio who has the best taste of all the people I know. And it is actually a Barcelona must, as is the restaurant Gavina at the Barceloneta. And, yes, I now am as I said to a friend who asked me how my trip to Barcelona was, “a kilo or two heavier” but mentally somewhat refreshed.

And that was my week my friends. How was yours? I must have quick peep at my friends’ blogs so I hope they have updated them too.

Cheers till next week/Masha
Pictures (when blogger lets me upload them) are of the flower arrangement in the lobby of the Hotel Arts and of Birgitta and me at the Neichel restaurant in Barcelona.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Back to full speed

Hi again

Monday was back to serious work; although I hadn’t taken any time off at Christmas, I must admit the cruising speed was slower. So it was back with a bang and with lots of activity, as well as planning.

On Tuesday I was invited to the Nokia press party which was one of the highlights of the week. Needless to say I knew everyone there and saw quite a few faces I hadn’t seen for a while. It was held at Arola Madrid belonging to the “famous” Spanish chef, Sergi Arola and which is adjacent to the Reina Sofia Museum.

Wednesday was lunch with Mamen who I hadn’t seen for more than a year. I consider Mamen my “coach” of a kind. She is always so positive to me and after a session with her, my self esteem gets a real boosting. Thanks Mamen for loving me so much.

Thursday was the experience of the year probably as my boss was invited to run a local newspaper for one day. I went along as his “chief editor”. This has only ever happened in the UK (typical stunt for the UK) where Giorgio Armani ran the Independent for one day. It was a whole lot of fun but incredibly stressful as time is forever against you. We started at 14.30 and the newspaper had to be ready for printing by 21.30h. I was amazed to find out how at home I felt in that atmosphere. We also went along to the printing house to see how it was printed and take the first copy of the newspaper as it came off the press.

Not much more to report. Oh, yes, Beckham will be leaving Real Madrid for LA and the huge demonstrations for peace which took place yesterday in Madrid and in Bilbao after the ETA bomb at the car park in Barajas on 30th December. Football and bombs, that’s what Spanish news is nearly always about!

Just got a text message from my “supposed” friend Anne sunning herself in Bali at some 5 star resort, saying it’s just the sort of place I would love. Well, of course, it is, except that I’m not there but here at home, just out of pyjamas on a Sunday morning and with the organisation of the family lunch in my head as I update my blog. Thanks darling Anne , you are so diplomatic!!

Anne’s message has made me remember I haven’t travelled for one hell of a long time, the last place being Stockholm at the beginning of October and meanwhile she will have travelled the globe twice over. My only compensation will be Barcelona next week; off to suss out good locations for an event in February.

Ah, yes and the other thing I have had on my mind this week is the organisation of my next month’s 50th birthday party. Yes my friends, me, Masha, your Mother, your friend, will be turning 50 in February. That is half a century and as someone said to me the other day, that’s when you suddenly realise you are nearer to 70 than to 30. Ouch!!!!

Till next week, have a good week

PS no photos to illustrate the post this week, so Olivia told me to take one of me writing my blog. And here it is, above. I look very Sunday morningish, no make-up; i.e. the real nearly 50 year old me!!!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Oli - Leaving on a jet plane

Sweet Olivia ready to go
Hi again

Here I am catching up with my blog again midweek.

Dinner at Julio`s on Sunday was Olivia’s last night in Spain before going back to England to continue her Erasmus University Exchange Programme in Cornwall.

She had been with us for a month but time has flown past and on Monday it was time for her to go back. We shall miss her, of course, but she will be back again for Easter in the middle of March which is not so far away really.

This is a picture of her ready for her trip which turned out to be full of incidents. She nearly missed the plane leaving Barajas which was, in any case, delayed. Thus she missed her train from Gatwick and had to catch a later one which left her at a station too far away to get to Falmouth. Luckily 2 of her flatmates were able to pick her up in their car. Falmouth is a 7 or 8 hour train journey from London with 2 or 3 stops and is out in the sticks, literally.

Susi will be going to see her in February and we, hopefully, will too in May. I have never visited Cornwall which is one of the most beautiful parts of England and I am looking forward to it a lot. It is very much Daphne du Maurier land, the author of Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, both set in Cornwall of course.

Bye for now

Dinner at Julio’s, something of a tradition

Round the table at Julio's house

Fátima and I
Hi again midweek

The last Christmas celebration this year was Julio’s dinner where my whole family, plus Fátima, descended on his bachelor flat for a great evening on Sunday 7th January.

This year was no change. The food was great as usual – all typical Spanish tapas easily obtainable from the Mallorca delicatessen, plus his Mother’s home made chorizo and stuffed peppers. This was washed down by a magnum bottle of Muga. Then we pulled the crackers which were my contribution and tried to translate the silly English jokes inside. Then after a good drinking game it was time for exchanging presents. There were not many surprises as we always tell each other what we want! In fact Fátima bought her present and Julio his and they did a swap at the beginning of the evening.

The highlight of the evening was when Fátima arrived wearing exactly the same jacket as me – a pink velvet one. And above you have a picture of us both dressed the same. Oh, well, no wonder we are called Pin y Pon by our friends here!!

Thanks Julito for a great evening.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Three Kings, our three “roscones” and the last but one day of Christmas

The dining room table laid for the Three Kings' lunch

Olivia smiling at her Mother after lunch

Sarita guapa looking realy guapa with the paper hat from her cracker. She will be going back to China on 15th January.


Well today is the last official day of Christmas and it is the Three Kings’ Day which is much celebrated in Spain and is the day when most Spaniards exchange gifts. However Father Christmas has become more and more important in the last 10 or 15 years and so some people exchange gifts now on the 24th but the for the most traditional Spaniards, today, the 6th of January is as important as ever.

In this household we celebrate everything there is to celebrate, so today we had the traditional “Roscón de Reyes” for breakfast. The roscón is a sweet brioche like cake shaped in a circle and decorated with crystallised fruit. It always hides a surprise which is usually the figure of a King. Tradition has it that whoever finds it pays for the roscón - well Olivia found 2, so ... Actually this year we have ended up with 3 roscones; one Eladio and my Father bought with chocolate in the middle, one I bought yesterday at a favourite pastry shop and on top of that we got given one by José Antonio and Sara who came for lunch today. It’s quite obvious we are going to get sick and tired of it very soon.

Most of our presents come on the 25th, but some always find their way under our tree on the 6th in the morning , so the girls and Eladio had a little something to open this morning. My little something came yesterday from Eladio when we went to exchange the camera he had bought me for Christmas for a higher end version – you will notice the difference in the quality of the pics in this Blog from now on, I hope. Thanks darling for your generosity.

Lunch, was the last festive lunch of the Christmas Season and Susi and I went all out to lay a beautiful table with lovely food. Being very unoriginal, I prepared a typical English Christmas lunch, roast turkey with all the trimmings. Just look how beautiful the dining room table looked. We used my great-grandmother’s blue china dinner service which we realised later could not go in the dishwasher!!

Well I say today is the last official day of Christmas but actually this year there will be one more Christmas celebration and that will be the annual dinner tomorrow night at Julio’s house when this whole family – and we are 6 including Oli’s boyfriend, José Luis – and Fátima descend on his bachelor flat in downtown Madrid for the best party of the season. There we will pull the last crackers and exchange the last of this year’s presents.

And that then really will be the end of Christmas.

Greetings to you all my friends and, once again, here’s to a superb new year for us all.


Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Eve in León - the 12 grapes and 60 kisses!

Miguel and I

Alicia (my goddaughter), Susi and Sara (Salita Guapa)

Eladio and our beautiful daughter Olivia

Pili and Andrés in the Chinese hat

Eladio and his Mother at the Palacio de Bornos
Hello again

On Saturday we left in 2 cars to go to León for New Year’s Eve. On the way, Eladio, his Mother, my Father, Susi and I stopped off for a light lunch at our favourite place on the way to León called Palacio de Bornos where they produce the best white wine in Spain.
Lunch was jamón, chorizo, lomo + queso washed down by that superb white wine we specially love called Colagón. Then after a coffee, we drove on to León to meet up with the rest of the family.

This year Eladio, my Father and I stayed at Alejandro’s new house. Susi stayed with her cousin Laura and Oli and José Luis stayed at Marisa’s house.

The dinner was held at a different restaurant from previous years. We had been going to Amancio’s for at least the last 5 or 6 years and it was time for a change. The place was called Zuloaga and was in the heart of the historical centre of León, near the Cathedral. We had a private dining room which, as we were 30 people, was very much appreciated. As usual the 2 generations sat on separate ends of the table but I ended up sitting in between both of them, next to my beloved nephew Miguel and in front of Oli, José Luis and my husband Eladio.

The evening was raucous as usual because we are so loud and just love family reunions. The menu was the same as ever – it never changes in León and consists basically of cold cuts (entremeses) and roast lamb. And, of course, the highlight of New Years Eve parties in Spain is the eating of grapes on each of the 12 chimes at midnight. Then people drink champagne (Cava, of course, here) and kiss each other on both cheeks. When you are 30 people, that means each person gets kissed 60 times and you kiss everyone 60 times, so quite a lot of kissing went on at our dinner.

We went to bed way past 3 o’clock and slept more or less straight through to midday. Alejandro was a superb host and we shall definitely be staying at his house again.

We all left León after lunch as tomorrow is a working day. So here I am at my computer just before midnight keeping my blog up to date – mostly for my dear brother-in-law, Andrés, who will probably be the first person to read it tomorrow morning as he will be avid to see the photos. One of the best ones is of him with his wife and Eladio’s sister, Pili. He is wearing the mandarin hat and it wasn’t even at the party, it was the afternoon before. Andrés is such a great party animal and none of our family parties would be the same without him.

Well, cheers everyone and a very Happy New Year to you all.