Saturday, June 26, 2010

A bad start to the week, shopping, a visit from Finland, Suzy’s good news, apartheid and more on the World Cup.

My eldest daughter Suzy at the Mercado San Miguel with me this week.  On Thursday we had the good news she had passed the last exam of her degree.  Olé Susana!!
Hi again,

Another week has gone passed in my life and here I am by the pool on a very hot Saturday afternoon writing a recap of what the week has been like for me, or should I say us. Eladio, my husband, always says this isn’t my blog but our blog and of course he’s right as it’s all about us.

The week did not get off to a good start. Monday, which was the first day of the summer (my favourite season, by the way), brought with it a bad beginning. I was on my way to the office for a meeting with my events agency, QuintaEsencia , to discuss hundreds of arrangements for the Yoigo Mid Summer Party when I realised I was running out of petrol. I was going passed the super duper Sánchez Romero super market and thought I would stop off there, after filling my tank, to buy some of the big black cherries which are now in season. I filled the tank and made my way to Sánchez Romero and when I left the car started making funny noises and was losing power so I decided to stop at the Galp petrol station in Majadahonda again. That’s when the car decided to halt and there I was stuck in the lane where the cars leave after buying petrol. I rang the office, the towing company and then Eladio. He suggested maybe I had put the wrong petrol in my tank: petrol instead of diesel oil and boy was he right! How stupid can you get I thought but then realising I had a good story for my blog, got out my camera and took a picture of the car being towed away. No way was I going to let this spoil the first day of the summer. I then promptly rang Cristina from QuintaEsencia and we finally met in a cafe by the petrol station.

My car being towed away on Monday after having filled the tank with petrol instead of diesel oil!
I was then left without a car. However as I was going to have lunch with my dear friends Fátima and Julio, I asked them to pick me up. We had a great belated birthday lunch in Julio’s honour at one of our favourite restaurants, El Buey in Boadilla after which Fátima drove me home.

Monday got better as the day went on and ended with Spain beating Honduras in the qualifying round of this year’s World Cup which is taking place in South Africa.

Tuesday certainly made up for Monday’s bad beginning. Suzy and I went shopping to Madrid in the afternoon, something we rarely do. My main objective was to buy more espadrilles, as if I hadn’t bought enough pairs in Barcelona recently you are probably thinking! We parked in the centre and made our way up or down the most commercial street in Spain, Calle Preciados which is also the most famous street for pick pockets. We were extremely careful, hugging our bags to our bodies and I had also left at home all unnecessary credit cards as I’m now extremely wary of thieves after having had my purse stolen in Santa Pola a while ago. The shop we were heading to is called La Alpargatería Casa Hernanz and is quite famous in Spain. It has been in business for over 150 years and it looks like it hasn’t been renovated since it opened. There are queues to go in and it is apparently where the Queen of Spain buys her espadrilles or rope soled shoes as I think they are called these days. Here I bought 4 pairs in pink, green, red and black.

The amazing espadrille shop in Madrid called La Alpargatería Casa Hernanz where the Queen shops too.

The shop is just off the Plaza Mayor which we walked through to get to the Mercado San Miguel, that lovely new food and drinks venue which is becoming increasingly popular. Here we bought more of the big juicy black cherries as well as other favourite fruit: strawberries, raspberries and billberries.  As you can imagine we have been eating cherries all week!

After a coffee in the Plaza Mayor we stopped at a small Le Pain Quotidien and got all sorts of lovely bakery food for the next morning's breakfast. We were served by an exceedingly good looking Argentinian from Patagonia! The last stop was Zara for something Suzy wanted before we headed home happy and loaded with shopping bags. You can see the full set of photos of our shopping escapade to Madrid here.

Suzy in Le Pain Quotidien, how I love that place and she does too.
Wednesday was my busiest day of the week. I was attending my second management team meeting and I was a bit unlucky as I thought it was starting at 11 instead of 10 and ended up being 15 minutes late. That was a bad show for something which is so important and so unlike me as I am a stickler for punctuality. I had lunch that day with the only other Brit in the office, my friend Tony, and we had a great meal at the local Fast Good restaurant. Fast Good is owned by the top Spanish chef Ferrán Adriá and offers good or healthy fast food. I had a meeting after that in the office and when it finished I picked up my restored car and drove home to get ready to welcome my dearest Finnish friend Anne who was coming to visit us for the week. Anne and I worked together at Nokia Spain when she was the Marketing Manager from 2002 to 2004. I was then the Communications Manager. Like many of my ex colleagues she no longer works for Nokia. Today she is the Marketing Manager for her home town, Salo and works at the Town Hall. Anne fell in love with Spain and comes at least once a year to get an annual dose of all the things she loves: the climate, the food, the people and the culture in general and we love to welcome her.  You can sell all the photos of her visit here.

My dear Finnish friend Anne enjoying the weather at our place with Norah by her side.
Meanwhile England was playing Slovenia for a place in the last 16 and won. England will now meet Germany tomorrow, a big match for both countries. There is always an historical innuendo in any competition between these two countries and this is when the memory of the second-world war rears its ugly head. Unfortunately we won’t be able to see it because it will be on Canal+ which is pay TV and I feel most sorry for my Father who is enjoying the World Cup so much. It’s quite ironic as it was on this day, Wednesday, that they brought and installed the new gigantic screen TV for our bedroom, the 47” LG. The difference in quality is enormous and I can now watch it without my glasses. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that we now have 7 TVs in our house. You probably think we spend the whole time watching the TV which is actually not the case. For me it’s a method to get me to fall asleep whilst watching mostly rubbish or repeated news programmes. Eladio’s favourite as you probably know are those ghastly political debates where everyone interrupts and which I hate.

On Thursday morning Suzy woke us up early to announce the good result (“notable”) of the last exam of her degree in Food Science and Technology. So now she is more or less officially a graduate (just needs 2 credits which she will get by attending a training course in El Escorial in July). That was the best news of the week and great relief for Eladio and I who have been nagging her about her studies for years now. It’s good that we won’t have to nag her on that subject ever again. Now she will have an exam free summer to enjoy, something quite new to her. Great Suzy, great, I just wish you had worked harder and finished earlier; but there you go you did it in the end.

Friday was an activity packed day. I tend to wake up earlier and earlier which I imagine is due to my age and there I was at 07.30 having breakfast. It being an up day I wanted to make salmorejo for my friend Anne to try and of course it has to be cold so there I was making it before everyone had had breakfast. I spent most of the morning working on last minute details of what promises to be a great Yoigo Mid Summer party in Valencia next week. My biggest task now is to make up 22 teams of 7, 9 and 11 people for the “water activities” we will be doing on Tuesday. Cristina and Gloria came in the afternoon to compare notes and make final decisions and in the middle of our meeting by the swimming pool we had what must now be the 3rd or 4th sudden summer shower of the week.

Friday was important for Spain as it was playing Chile, the leader in their group, for a place in the Last 16 of the World Cup and this was one match I watched from beginning to end. It was to have an impact also on my summer party. If it went through as the leader of the group it would play the Last 16 round on the night of our summer party dinner and of course we would have to include football and also buy everyone t-shirts and all the football paraphernalia for the occasion. Anne and I decided to make a party of the match and brought in a tray with wine, ham, crisps etc. Maybe it was the wine, but suddenly Spain began to win and the match ended with a 2-1 score in favour of Spain. Spain will now meet Portugal which is probably an easier rival than Brazil which it could well have played had it gone through as 2nd in the group.

Football has dominated most of the week and touched us all, apart from Suzy who is not interested. Oli had a special interest from a work point of view and on Friday went to cover the Brazil Portugal match at the Casa do Brasil in Madrid a place for Brazilians in Spain to meet which is actually a student residence. There she found a great atmosphere with everyone dressed in the green and yellow colours including the Ambassador himself. There were no goals but still everyone celebrated with caipirinha to quote the headline of her article which you can read here.

Oli went to the Casa do Brasil in Madrid to cover the match against Portugal.
She did more pieces related to the world cup and South Africa and of course the big question was to do with apartheid. One of the articles was on why the South African team, known of course as Bafana, has only one white player and if you read the article you will learn that this is because football has been the traditional sport for blacks  whilst rugby, the national sport,  was reserved for whites. This spurred her interest on and she asked me if I knew anyone from South Africa to interview.  It turned out that I did and I contacted my ex Nokia colleague there, Tania, who was a great help to Olivia. She herself answered Oli’s questionnaire but pointed out that the opinions expressed there were from a white South African point of view and very kindly offered to get a black colleague to give her opinion too. Linidine’s answers were different to Tania’s as you can read here and I suppose that shows that in South Africa not everything is “black and white” and to quote Tania, “not all South Africa’s problems can be blamed on the whites”. It is a fascinating article. Thanks Tania for your help.

Tania a white South African and her Black South African friend and colleague, Linidine who Oli interviewed.
When I told my friend Fátima that Olivia was interviewing South Africans for an article, she told me that her daughter’s English teacher, Cheryl, was also from there originally and asked her if she would mind being interviewed by You can read Cheryl’s story here, which again is different from Tania’s. Tania is of Afrikaans origin whilst Cheryl is of English origin and suffered at school from bullying and was often called “red neck” referring to the English whose necks go red in the sun!

Today Saturday, most of Spain will have woken up happy with the result of the national team. Anne and I decided to have a girly shopping morning and went off to the great little market in Majadahonda nearby which is by far the best market anywhere in the Madrid area. I hadn’t been for years but I know people come from afar to shop here. We had a grand time buying shoes, tops, scarves, costume jewellery and bags. We stopped, tired from shopping and the heat, to have a coffee and a bite to eat (at least Anne did) in the main street of the town. And here is a picture of Anne enjoying lovely Spanish fare: patatas bravas.

Anne enjoying patatas bravas in Majadhonda this morning in between shopping.
And here is a photo of me with all our shopping.

Me with my shopping from the market in Majadahonda with Anne this morning.  What fun!
After the coffee and potatoes we returned to the market to buy some delicious fruit and veg. And here is a photo of the stall we went to. Later for lunch we made a salad from the ingredients we got there and we were well praised at home and forgiven for being away so long on another shopping escapade and spending too much.

The fruit and veg stall we shopped at this morning at the Majadahonda market, top quality.
And now my friends I have reached the end of this week’s blog post but before leaving you I must share with you this unique picture of Norah our dog and Joe one of our cats, lying together in peace by the swimming pool this week. After over a year and a half living in this house, this is the first time I have seen them quietly lying together. Let’s hope the relationship continues in that way and maybe one day, Phoebe, our other cat, will join them.

Joe, our black cat, and Norah finally lying in peace together.  A happy sight indeed.
Meanwhile I wish you a great week ahead. Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well at my Yoigo Mid Summer party for 200 people in Valencia and cheers till next time.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Barcelona again, a Hawaiian Barbecue, a Swedish royal wedding, the girls in Copenhagen and more

The "girls" in Hawaiian dress at yesterday's Barbecue. 
 Good morning my friends,

Another week has passed and here I am writing this sunny Sunday morning when thankfully the brightest star in our lives has returned. It wasn’t like this all week but gradually it made its appearance again.

Let me start from last Sunday if I am to be faithful to the chronological spirit of this blog which is actually my diary. We were joined by our friends Roberto and Mari Carmen on our walk in the late evening. Afterwards we went to dinner to a place we all like but don’t go to that often, La Txitxarrería, somewhere we often take our visitors from abroad. It has such great Basque food I don’t know why we don’t go more often. Mari Carmen, who is a pharmacist, brought me the pills I had ordered from her for my headaches and which you can only get under prescription unless you have a pharmacist friend like me. Thanks my dear. Let’s see if the new stuff works!

I haven’t tried them yet but hardly needed them this week as I only had a few light headaches. Luckily I didn’t have one on Tuesday which was my debut in the Management Team at work. I am the only woman in the team which I suppose has its added difficulties. I was a bit daunted but in the end all my fears went away as everyone was so welcoming. Eladio says I belong to the G8 now which is sort of fitting as the team now has 8 members with me.

The meeting went on for hours and I had a train to catch to Barcelona which I was afraid of missing but didn’t want to leave the meeting early on my first occasion. Luckily I caught it by the skin of my teeth. So why was I going to Barcelona mid week? It was to attend what I thought was an international PR conference but turned out to be the annual meeting of the PR measurement industry. Luckily there were other people like me; customers of that industry and I was really interested to see how social media and digital news was impacting all our work. The best thing about the three days was the networking and being at an international conference with people from all over the world. I made great friends with Audrey and Susanne from Germany and Tim from the UK.
With Susanne and Audrey at the Amec summit dinner at the restaurant Miranda del Museu overlooking the yachting club in Pau de la Villa.  Amazing place but the food nothing special.
The conference had its interesting parts but some of it was a somewhat technical and you heard people talking about automated measurement of sentiment, human analysis and machine analysis. I was interested to listen and see a guru of the industry called Katie Paine who everyone was telling me not to miss. She is an American lady, larger than life and extremely full of herself and someone you cannot miss in a crowd. You only have to go to her Twitter page to find out why. Here she says: “I've been called The Queen of measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess”. She was certainly no goddess to me, more of a pain to excuse the pun. I actually interrupted her presentation to ask her what she meant by “kick butt indicators”, such an Americanism I was sure more than half the audience didn’t understand. I think I might have floored her but maybe she has such an ego that that is impossible.
Katie Paine at the conference, the so called "queen" of PR coverage measurement.
We stayed at the Meliá, a supposed 5 star hotel just off the Diagonal and round the corner from a great shopping centre, La Isla (L’Illa in Catalán). It was fine but nothing special and I am no fan of modern sky scraper hotels with very masculine décor and furniture. The best thing was the bar and the big screen TV which was transmitted all the World Cup matches. Here they made the best mojitos I have ever come across, but then I haven’t been to Brazil.
The great  mojito I had at the Melia Hotel bar after the Amec summit dinner.  Tim called it the alternative to mint tea! 
In Barcelona I also had time to see my great friend Grainne and her son Marcel. One night I was invited to dinner at their place in Badalona and the evening was like something out of a comedy. We were joined by Grainne’s “boyfriend” Dan, a gorgeous looking Rumanian and Pepe a lovely man in his 60’s who has been Grainne’s friend for years. He had been married to a Scottish woman but his English was limited. I asked him what he did in life and when he said he was a “cobbler” I thought I didn’t understand. But yes, he is a traditional shoe maker and what a lovely guy he is. Dear Grainne made us all some very hot goulash at which even Dan complained. However we filled our plates with potato and salad to counteract the paprika and the lovely homemade Florentine tart did the trick in the end. In essence we spent the whole night laughing and I was made to feel part of Grainne’s group of friends even though I was meeting them for the first time. I think it all has to do with our going back so long ago to our school days but then again without the marvelous chemistry between us, the feeling wouldn’t be the same.

Pepe, Grainne and Dan the Rumanian.  We had a great evening at Grainne and Marcel's
Barcelona was as at its best and despite the Catalanism I love the place. I made sure I had time to walk down the Diagonal and got as far as La Rambla de Cataluña where I bought some great espadrilles at a shop called Mar Bessas (apparently a classic shoe shop in Barcelona) and S’carpa (sorry no websites) which I am delighted with. My suitcase was  of course bulging to the limit when I tried to close it on the last day. But my good old green Samsonite always closes in the end, especially if you sit on it. You can see the whole set of my photos from this trip here:

And now I have reached Friday of this week but I have totally forgotten to tell you what happened on Monday and it was important. So here I go. Monday was an historic day for Suzy and for us as she took her very last exam which if she passes will give her a degree from the Madrid Complutense University in Food Science and Technology. She was nervous but the exam went really well. We won’t get the result until the middle of July but we are very confident. She has been working hard for the last month or so, locked up in her room and only coming out for meals. Now she can look forward to a worry free Summer for the first time in many years. Have a great time darling. Soon you will be flying the nest and I will miss our moments together.

Also on Monday Oli returned from her fascinating trip to Brazil. We hardly had time to hear from her but at least managed a family lunch on Monday after which I wasn’t going to see her again till today. She brought us a beautiful Brazilian hammock which is proudly hanging between two trees in the garden by the swimming pool. Thanks darling!

Eladio having a siesta right now in the hammock Oli brought back from Brazil.
Oli had to go to work the same day she arrived which must have been challenging. She will have found her colleagues immersed in news about the World Cup and I was happy to read this piece she did on the atmosphere in Brazil related to the event.

Oli on a boat in Brazil recently.
But back to chronological order. I was home on Friday afternoon and as soon as I had unpacked Eladio dragged me off to Media Markt to buy a big flat screen TV for our room. Why would we want another television you may ask and be right of course? We have many TVs in this house but mainly watch it from our bed at night and the one in our room is probably 20 years old and failing. It is a typical 26” Sony TV from the late 80's but my eyesight is just not good enough to see it from the bed. So of course the alternative is a big flat screen. We didn’t want to spend much money and in the end chose an LCD 47” LG set which hopefully they will be installing next Wednesday. Eladio is very excited but I am less so. When I buy something I like very much  I need to use it straightaway to feel excited and this wasn’t the case on Friday. Yeah we paid for it but won’t see it till Wednesday. For you to understand: when I was a kid and my Mother bought me new shoes, I would put them on in the shop and when I went to bed I would put them on a chair at eye view in order to see them as soon as I woke up.

From Media Markt we went food shopping for the barbecue we were having on Saturday. Part of the stuff was bought at Sánchez Romero and part of it at Supercor. Sánchez Romero is Spain’s best supermarket and I just wish I could do all my shopping there but it is prohibitively expensive. Then we went out to dinner, to celebrate the TV Eladio said. Actually we don’t need an excuse to go out to dinner so off we went to De Brasa y Puchero in Boadilla and savoured a superb Salmorejo (thick gazpacho from the Córdoba region) amongst other things.

On Saturday we were up early to prepare for the first barbecue of the season. Our friends, the González-Gálvez family, were coming and we were to be 16, 6 children and 10 adults. So a lot of organisation and preparation were in order. Tables had to be laid, fresh flowers had to be arranged in vases, the barbecue fire had to be ready to light and of course food had to be made. So what did we offer our guests? You could probably guess I made salmorejo for the first course. Then of course we had a variety of sausages and meat served with jacket potatoes and salad. The dessert I was especially happy with as it was new creation and is actually very easy to make. I served mixed fresh berries and stoned black cherries in small glasses and covered the fruit with whipped double cream which I then topped with either meringue or biscuit. and another cherry. Here you can see what it looks like.
The new Summer dessert I made for yesterday's barbecue.  Nice eh?
At 2h our dear friends arrived and we greeted them with Hawaiian party fare. We all dressed up, even my Father and Gerardo managed to take a self timer photo of all us which was no mean feat as it was difficult to place the camera. I also did a video at the beginning of the party which you can watch here on You Tube.

Group photo at yesterday's barbecue.
We all had a grand time, the kids with Norah and Norah with the kids (she must have stuffed so much that she hasn’t wanted to eat since). I feel so at home with this family, the family I lived with in Madrid when I was a student and love them all dearly. I love their kids too who all have the same bubbly personalities as their parents Gerardo and Irene and Viky and Tomas. It was great to have you guys. We will do this again next year. You can see the full set of photos here on Facebook.

The very much needed siesta yesterday at the barbecue: Norah with little Irene.
As I am writing we are waiting for a call from the girls from the airport. I haven’t seen them all week as I went to Barcelona and on Friday when I returned they had already gone to Copenhagen for the weekend to stay with Pernille and Thomas and their daughters Julia and Alberte. I will have told you many times before who they are. To recap Pernille was our Danish Princess au pair when the girls were small whom we all fell in love with and have kept up with ever since. They will be back later this morning and I am dying to hear all about their weekend.  By the way here are some of the photos from their visit.

Suzy and Oli at Pernille and Thomas' house.  In the photo with Pernille, her Mother and the 2 little girls: Julia and Alberte
Meanwhile a real Princess got married yesterday in Stockholm. Crown Princess Viktoria aged 32 was to marry her commoner fitness trainer boyfriend Daniel Westling agedc 36. All of Sweden and Scandinavia were immersed in the wedding which of course was transmitted live. Here you can watch the most romantic speech ever from Prince Daniel who is now called HRH Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland. He called Viktoria “Princess of Sweden, the Princess of my heart” and told how he was not a frog like in the fairy tales but that the first kiss did not transform him into a prince. He also told the story of how Princess Viktoria wrote him 30 letters in one night, one for each of the days she was going to be away in China and separate from him. He said that said a lot about her. The speech and video transmitted pure love and I just hope that this Royal Marriage is lasting and that Viktoria and Daniel are happy for ever after as in all fairy tales.

The Crown Princess Viktoria  and commoner Daniel Westling yesterday at their fairy tale wedding in Stockholm
Who is definitely living a fairy tale is a young man called Pau Gasol. He went down in the history of Spanish sport as being the first Spaniard to win the American Basket Ball championship commonly called The NBA. Well this last week he did it again, this time with the Los Angeles Lakers team. Well done Pau, another first for Spanish sport.

The Spaniard Pau Gasol winning his 2nd NBA, this time with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Who are not living a fairy tale, but rather a nightmare are the English and Spanish teams at the Football World Cup in South Africa. England has not been able to score and on Friday drew with Algeria. Imagine! Even worse was Spain’s fate against Switzerland in their opening match on Wednesday. Switzerland is supposedly the weakest in the G Group (Spain, Chile, Honduras and Switzerland) but beat Spain on Wednesday. The next match is on Monday against Honduras but the Spanish team, as usual, will probably not make it through to the quarter finals. There were high hopes as always in this competitions which are now somewhat dashed, disappointing a nation who needed a respite from the current depression, something success at the World Cup would have given them.  I hope these are my famous last words and that Spain does indeed actually get through.

And on that note, I leave you hoping you will all have a great week. Me too I hope.

Cheers till then


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Remembering my Mother on her birthday, Oli continues in Brazil, launch of the iPhone4, Suzy’s last week of studying, the World Cup kicked off in South Africa and other things.

Zakumi, the mascot for the World Cup 2010 hosted by South Africa
  Hi again

Last time I wrote we were in the middle of a heat wave and then suddenly the weather took a turn for the worse and we have gone back to rain and cool temperatures again. It doesn’t look good either for the week coming up as you can see in this shot from Juli’s iPhone. We had just got used to extreme heat, bathing in our pool, late night walks and air conditioning on at night and now we are back to central heating and winter pyjamas! The forecast is for rain until Thursday next week. I hope the good weather will be back by Saturday for the barbecue we have planned for Gerardo and family.
The depressing weather forecast for this week.
The weather affected an event I organised this week. We were to celebrate our Blogger summer party (those young online techies who write about Yoigo and mobile phones) outside on the lawn in the car park but had to go inside and make do with our wonderful new cafeteria. To get people into the spirit of summer, even though it was cold and wet outside, we kitted them all out with Hawaiian party gear. You can see me all dressed up for the occasion here. It certainly broke the ice and the party was a great success.

Me in the Hawaiian gear we kitted everyone out in at the blogger party this week.
The week though began with sun and Monday 7th June would have been my dear Mother’s 90th birthday as my Father reminded me. Of course she is often in my mind but there are two dates when I remember her specially: the day she died on 1st October and her birthday. She was not a great one for organising birthdays but loved to receive a card and chocolates and blow the candles on her cake. She once told me the story of her birthday in the early 50’s in England when she was a refugee and earning a pittance. I think it may well have been the year her beloved Father, Andrei Lieven, died. She had last seen him in the early 40’s when she left Bulgaria for Germany during the war, to escape the Russians, of course. She never saw him again and was alone in London when he died which saddened her enormously. It was her birthday but she was so upset and so alone that she only remembered it in the evening and promptly decided to buy presents for herself to cheer up as there was no one in London who would be giving her any. Luckily she went on to have a happy life with my Father and her children in a country which she admired and loved and which eventually became her own.
My Mother with my Father on New Year's day in 1974.  My Mother is still sadly missed.
Mummy won’t know but on Monday 7th June Apple launched its new iPhone4, with great razmataz at an event for developers in Los Angeles. Steve Jobbs took the stage and the world watched as he unveiled Apple’s latest gadget. From what I can see it’s an improved version of the current iPhone3GS with an amazing display, the ability to multitask which you can’t do now, a better camera and also an inbuilt camera for video calling which actually has never taken off. It’s also much thinner. It will be out in July and there will be huge demand as there is for any product made by this company which I think makes the best mobile phones in the world. At the blogger Party I was able to try out the iPad, the amazing internet tablet Apple launched recently. I would love to have both the iPad and the new iPhone4 but will have to wait.

The new iPhone4, unveiled on 7th June in Los Angeles.  Of course I want one!
Neither Suzy nor Oli will have been much aware about the iPhone launch. Oli is still in Brazil and we are looking forward to seeing her again tomorrow. We haven’t had as much contact as I would have liked but thanks to photos posted by her friend Laura I have been able to follow her adventures. We spoke briefly at the beginning of the week and it was a sorry Oli I spoke to as she had a bad cold and had been bitten alive by nasty mosquitoes in some remote seaside village 2 hours north of Salvador. She had been bitten everywhere but the nastiest bite was on her eye and one morning she woke up to find it all swollen and was hardly able to see out of it. I urged her to go to a doctor but don’t know whether she did. A few days later Suzy heard that she was better and she certainly looks ok in this photo of her with Laura and Cristina.

Oli far right next to Cristina in the middle and Laura on the left in Brazil this week.
Suzy meanwhile has spent literally the whole week studying for the last exam of her degree which is in Food Technology tomorrow morning. If only she had studied as hard during the years instead of always leaving the revising until the very end. It’s like betting; you may win, you may not and often she has not which is why it has taken her so long to finish her degree. Anyway I wish her loads of luck because if she doesn’t pass tomorrow she will have to re-sit in September which means studying all through August once again. So, keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow my friends.

Eladio, meanwhile, was actually invigilating University (UNED) exams all week. On Friday he told me he had caught one of his pupils cheating but decided to look the other way to avoid the huge fuss it would cause. He told me that one young woman had been caught cheating (she was in her final year of law) and the penalty was to repeat a whole year. The poor woman fainted and had to be carried out by two of the invigilators. You may remember last week I said we went out to buy him lots of new clothes. Well here he is one morning in some of the new stuff looking great and ready to leave for his invigilating. It was a tough week for him as the hours were long, from 8.30 am to 8.30 pm.

Eladio in his new clothes, ready to go and invigilate UNED University exams this week.
On Friday we went out to dinner with my celebrity and charismatic cycling friend, Pedro Delgado, and his lovely wife Ludi who reminds me more and more of Sarah Jessica Parker. Ludi loves Sex in the City so I hope she found this a compliment. Pedro Delgado who was 50 this year and won the Tour of France in 1988 and two Tours of Spain is still a legend in Spain and when the waiter and chef came to ask him for an autograph I felt proud to be his friend. We went to Filo where I had hoped we could have dinner on the terrace outside but the bad weather forced me inside again for the second time this week. Filo turned out to be a bad choice as it was so noisy I could hardly hear what my friends were saying.
My dear friend, the charismatic celebrity cyclist, Pedro Delgado who is a legend in Spain.
And this was the week the 2010 Football World Cup kicked off in South Africa. The World Cup is a breath of fresh air for people who are fed up with the crisis and it’s a time to fly the colours of your country as I did here with a fun application on Facebook.

Me flying the colours of England who actually got off to a bad start at the World Cup.
I learned two lovely new words at the start of this year’s edition. One is the word Bafana which is a term of endearment in Afrikaans and means “the boys” but actually refers to the South Africa national football team often called Bafana Bafana. The other word is ‘Zakumi', the Fifa World Cup 2010 mascot. I read it is a composition of ‘ZA' standing for South Africa and ‘kumi', which translates into ‘10' in various languages across Africa. Of course it includes the colours of the country’s flag. I thought if fit for Zakumi to be the photo to illustrate this week’s blog post, the week the World Cup started in South Africa and the first time the event has been hosted on the African continent.

The whole world has been enjoying the start of the World Cup but it has brought only bad news for two men. Nelson Mandela, the former first black president, Nobel peace prize winner and prisoner for his fight against apartheid, is the symbol of the new South Africa. Very sadly for him and his family, his 13 year old great-granddaughter, Zenani, was killed in a car accident while returning from the World Cup kick-off concert. The much beloved frail 91 year old Nelson Mandela has not been seen since at the event and is probably mourning this terrible loss in the privacy of his home. He will be much missed.

Nelson Mandela and his 13 year old great granddaughter Zenani who was sadly killed in a drink and drive accident when returning from the World Cup kick-off concert.
The other sad man is Robert Green, England’s goalkeeper who made a terrible mistake in yesterday’s opening match against the USA which should have been an easy win for England. England was winning 1-0 when just before the end Green fumbled with the ball which entered the goal area and instead of easily stopping it he let it bobble out of his grasp. The missed ball cost his country a winning World Cup start. The poor chap (actually the goalkeeper for Westham) is now being called “Calamity Green” and reminds me of Beckham being given a red card in the famous match against Argentina in a previous world cup; something it took him years to live down. Let’s just hope England does better against the other rivals of its group (Slovenia and Algeria). Meanwhile Spain has yet to play its opening match which will be against Switzerland on June 16th. That should be a write-off for Spain but in the World Cup anything can happen.
Robert Green, England's goalkeeper who couldn't stop the ball entering the goal area in the opening match vs USA
And that brings me to the end of this week’s blog. The week ahead looks interesting. I will be going to Barcelona on Tuesday until Friday to attend a conference called “News in a Digital World – the impact on corporate communications and media evaluation”. I signed up for it months ago and now do not feel as enthusiastic. Well, you’ll know how it went when I write next week. Hope it’s inspiring and interesting.

Till then my friends, goodbye.


Sunday, June 06, 2010

News from Brazil, Corpus Christi, goodbye Nesca, sewing, a snake on our walk and other things.

The snake we encountered on our walk this week.
Hi again this very hot Sunday in June. I am writing once again by the pool which we have now put to use for the first time this year. Eladio is having a siesta on a deck chair in the shade and I suspect both my Father and Suzy are doing the same.  Oli is in Brazil and we have just had an aborted phone call because of the dreadful line. She left on Monday and is loving it, apart from the experience on her first day at Copacabana beach when they were engulfed by a wave after only putting their toes in the water. The wave engulfed her handbag too which was carrying one of her new cameras, thankfully the cheaper compact one. Now they are in Salvador Bahía which is 1.600km from Río and took them a 24h bus ride to get to.  Thankfully they are returning by plane.

As I am writing, Rafa Nadal and Robin Soderling of Sweden are competing for this year’s Roland Garros championship in Paris. They are not the best of friends, apparently, and Soderling was the player who ousted Rafa Nadal of the championship last year well before the finals. Rafa who has won this grand slam 4 times in a row is also playing to regain the number one title which he lost last year. I have just checked the score and am happy to see Rafa has the first set under his belt.

Rafa Nadal and Robin Soderling competing for this year's title at Roland Garros.
Last Sunday when I wrote we went out to dinner with our friends Roberto and Mari Carmen who also joined us on our walk. The choice this time was Las Tres Nueces in Boadilla nearby, a cheap and nice little place offering typical Spanish dishes, including one of our favourites, salmorejo, except that they had run out of it. We made do, instead, with gazpacho.

On Monday I discovered a new talent. I had to update our corporate video and as Oli who had done it last year was away, I decided to do the voice-over in English my-self. That was possibly a bit daring as I have never done a voice over before and don’t particularly like my own voice. I have to admit however that it is very clear and my pronunciation is what my Father used to call “BBC English”. Also I am passionate about the subject so knew I would put some life into the text. And lo and behold I read the whole text through without a mistake and only repeated a few paragraphs to perfect the diction. The studio people were amazed and I laughingly offered my services to do any voice-overs they may need in English in the future. I was rather pleased with myself as I had no idea I could be good at it and happy to have discovered a new talent.

Tuesday brought with it lunch with my ex Nokia women colleagues, Ana, Zenaida and Jill. We met at Heron City near HP where Ana is a legal counsel and had lunch at a Basque place called Imanol. Everyone was looking good and once we had caught up on each others’ lives, our conversation turned naturally to our other ex Nokia colleagues and what they were up to. I was later to be reminded by Juana that we should have invited her too which made me feel dreadful. Of course she will be joining us next time.  Sorry Juana.

This week was a shorter working week as Thursday was a bank holiday in many parts of Spain to celebrate Corpus Christi. We didn’t actually celebrate it; the honouring of the Eucharist, but certainly partook of a lovely family lunch together. In the evening, Eladio and I had dinner at La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas and enjoyed what we consider to be the best beef in town.

During the week we had some bad news I’m afraid. Eladio got a call from his sister Pili to tell us that Miguel’s vivacious, enthusiastic and adorable little puppy, Nesca, had died on the mountains in Montrondo whilst out walking with Miguel. She became very ill suddenly with foam frothing from her mouth and died half an hour later. The only conclusion is that she must have eaten poison in the traps for foxes and moles placed by some of the villagers. It is certainly a lesson to learn that if we ever take Norah with us she will have to go on a lead. All I can say is goodbye little Nesca. You will be missed but mostly by your companion puppy Nuba who will not know why you are no longer there. R.I.P.

Dear little Nesca who lost her life this week in Montrondo after eating fox and mole poison.  R.I.P.
Of note this week, I was proud to take a load of summer clothes to be taken in, yes, made smaller, to a seamstress in Villaviciosa. On the other hand, yesterday Eladio and I went clothes shopping for him; something highly unusual. This week coming up he will be invigilating University exams again and I was looking at the content of his wardrobe to dig out some decent summer trousers. Most of them turned out to have stains caused by bleach, something that happens far too often. So off we went yesterday to our local shopping centre, Centro Oeste in Majadahonda. We were going to go to various places but ended up buying everything at Massimo Dutti which is actually Zara’s upmarket brand. They had some lovely stuff and we came home with 4 pairs of trousers, various linen shirts as well as a pair of fashionable blue shoes and a new belt. And this morning Eladio turned his hand to sewing as he took up all the hems. As I watched him I wondered just what he cannot turn his hand to; this man of many wonders who never ceases to amaze me after all these years together.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that happened this week was our encounter with a snake on our walk yesterday. Norah was very cautious as she went near enough just to smell it. Every now and again, always in the summer, we come across them. Eladio, who knows, of course, being a “village boy”, assured me it was not poisonous and that it was just a grass snake. In our ensuing conversation about snakes on our walk, I once again pointed out that in Spanish there are two words for snakes (culebra meaning a non poisonous snake and serpiente meaning a poisonous one) whereas in English they are all called snakes. Be that as it may, I was very glad to have someone with me who knew the difference when looking at either.

On the news front lots of things have happened. This was the week an English taxi driver from Cumbria called Derrick Bird went berserk and killed 12 people, including his own twin brother.

This was the week a Free Gaza flotilla was attacked by Israeli forces in international waters. The flotilla was coming from Turkey to bring aid to attempt to break the blockade on the Hamas-controlled enclave, the Gaza Strip as it is called. 19 people were killed in the attack. This caused outrage from around the world.

The Free Gaza Flotilla
This was also the week Hungary's government warned that its economy is in crisis and that its debts, higher than had been thought, are spiraling out of control. Hungary is not one of the euro countries but belongs to the EU and so will undoubtedly have an effect on its fellow members, specially the so called PIGS (Portugal, Ireland (or Italy), Greece and Spain. Meanwhile Spain’s Premiere Zapatero hastened to tell the members of the semi secret organization, Club Bilderberg, who met in Sitges in Spain this week that Spain was on the road to financial recovery thanks to recent and programmed cuts. There were rumours that the Club was advocating for the PIGS to leave the European Union until their economies were in a better shape so I hope Zapatero’s words have not fallen on deaf ears.

And that, my friends, is the end of this week’s blog post. Next week will be a bit lonely for me as Eladio will be invigilating all week. Suzy will be studying for her last ever exam on 14th June and Oli will still be in Brazil. Daddy, my Father, or Grandpa as he is known at home, will have a respite from the extreme heat which has reached over 30ºc or 90ºF this week as the forecast for next week predicts much lower temperatures.

Until next week, cheers to you all

PS.  Just after publishing this post, Rafa Nadal won the Roland Garros Tournament, his 5th win here, beating Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-2,6-4 and has now regained the number position in the world ranking.  Well done Rafa!