Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas came, good news for Oli, Christmas parties, Christmas shopping and welcome Charlie.

Christmas came to our house last Sunday when we put up all the decorations.  

Hi everyone,

Well this week went past very quickly and was packed with activity and some very good news.  Last Sunday, Christmas finally came to our house with all its magic and which we all so love in this house.   Eladio and I got out all the decorations we have collected over the years, whilst the girls and their friend Juli were still asleep after a late night out.  By the time they were up, we had put up all the decorations and there was only the tree left to do.  That’s the bit Suzy likes best, so to the sound of King’s College Christmas carols, Juli, Suzy and I dressed our little tree. Oli never helps, although she says she loves to hear and see us bringing Christmas into the house.  

Juli and Susana putting the finishing touches on the tree
The photo illustrating this week’s blog post is of me by the tree with Norah looking on.  You can see the rest of the photos here on Facebook.

Monday came and brought with it so much to do, which turned out to be the tonic of the week. I have spent most of the week on Yoigo Christmas activities and in between time I have rushed to prepare our own family Christmas.  

I went into the office early on Monday to meet with the sales and marketing team.  Later I went to Madrid to our PR agency Ketchum and together with the team we posted information on the Yoigo Christmas campaign offer on our social networks.  I stayed in the Ketchum office for their annual seasonal lunch. This time it was to be served by the Peruvian restaurant Astrid and Gastón.  The lunch was sponsored by an NGO that builds schools and helps find jobs for its students in a poor area outside Lima.  The food, lots of “ceviche” type cuisine, was outstanding.

Before going home, I made a dash to an English shop in a nearby street called Príncipe de Vergara, I had been wanting to go to for a long time.  It’s called Living in London and is actually not English owned.  It’s also a tea room but of course there was no time for the luxury of an English afternoon tea.  The shop was full of English memorabilia that Spaniards so love but that I had not much need of with lots of expensive Crabtree cosmetics and delicate china.

The English shop in Madrid called Living in London

I did however find a superb box of crackers which I bought in case my own didn’t arrive on time from the Cracker Shop Online.  I could also have got Christmas pudding and cranberry sauce but they are also on their way to our house from The British Corner Shop.  So what else did I get you might want to know?  A delicious chocolate selection box, Thornton’s chocolates and a small Christmas cake from the edible section.  I also spotted an old fashioned rain scarf, just like my Mother used to have and women wore in the 60’s.  Maybe they still wear them today but it seemed very practical and reminded me of my childhood. My best find was a wonderful singing and dancing hat.  It had us all in stitches when I got home and we immediately put it on Grandpa’s head.  I’m not sure Grandpa realised why we were laughing so much but I know you will laugh when you see the video which I later posted here on You Tube.

Coincidentally when I got home, my huge parcel of crackers, party poppers and sparklers had arrived.  They all look magnificent with more interesting gifts inside than usual, especially this box of 6 giant luxury crackers.  They will be for our Christmas Eve Dinner next week.

The crackers I ordered online came on time and look fantastic.

The highlight of the week and maybe of this year for us, is the good news Olivia gave us on Wednesday.  Her short term contract as a reporter for the TVE morning programme, La Mañana de la 1, was to terminate at the beginning of January and she didn’t have much hope of staying on, mainly because TVE, the state television broadcaster is over staffed.  So she was very surprised and pleased when they rang her to ask her to sign what is known as a “contrato de obra”, which means she has a job with the programme as long as the programme lasts, or for three years after which it can be renewed again.  The programme is bound to last as it has been on the television for years and is the most viewed TV morning programme in Spain.  It was a huge relief for her and for us.  I sincerely think she deserved to stay on as she has proved to be a very good budding TV journalist and has worked very hard to get where she is now.   In my opinion she excels when she reports live partly because of her “gift of the gab” which I suspect she inherited from her very talented and outgoing Grandmother.

That same day, I had an evening do to go to.  It was the Telefónica annual Christmas party and it was the first time I had been invited.  So off I went dressed in an elegant new black dress but on my own.  The party was at a discotheque in town called Gabana 1800.  You probably know I hate discotheques so I didn’t stay very long.  I can’t stand the dark with too many people and music so loud you can’t talk.  I hate them even more when I don’t know many people.  Luckily I quickly found sector friends such as Víctor, Emiliano, Fernando and others but even so, home lured with Eladio on his own waiting for me.  Thus I was back, with an empty stomach, at about 11. In any case I had to be fresh for the next day as Thursday night was the big Yoigo staff Christmas party and I was the facilitator as always.

Thursday was the busiest day of the week.  I was up really early after the Telefónica party and was at the hairdresser by 8.30. By 9 I was on my way to the office for a meeting and a thousand little things to attend to before the evening party.  One of them was the sending of the Yoigo seasonal gift and I was very pleased to see the final product after working so hard on it with the agency and the cake maker, Elena. 

The Yoigo Christmas cup cakes are unique

But before the party I was meeting the balloon artist I had hired for our event, Michal Kahn.  She makes the most amazing balloons, like you’ve never seen before.  Olivia discovered Michal when she was an MC at the Brussels event and came back telling me that I just had to hire her for a Yoigo event.  Well I’m not really into balloons and imagined something similar to the poodle shaped balloon makers you see at parties and in the street.  However Michal is nothing like that.  She is so special you have to see her to believe what I am saying.  In this website they refer to her and to her ex group as “undisputedly the UK's most extravagant balloon artists”.  I decided I wanted to meet her before the party to explain her role and get to know her a little.  We had lunch together in town at Julián de Tolosa.  Later I took her to the nearby Plaza Mayor and Puerta de Sol, the main sites in Madrid, as she had never been before and would have no time to see the city.  Michal is a young Oxford graduate from London who out of fate got into the balloon modeling world where she has made an amazing career for herself.  But of course I wasn’t to see any of this until the evening.

Michal Kahn and Olivia at the Yoigo Christmas party
The Yoigo party was to take place later in the evening at the Hotel Puerta de América on the top floor terrace which is a spectacular location.  Here we showed the premiere of the Yoigo TV campaign, the night before it was going live.  We posted it on our social media pages and if you are interested, you can see it here too. The party was as great as always but different from other years as I decided it was time to make some changes.  

The pretty Mother Christmases at the Yoigo party
The number of people didn’t change though, with some 200 guests, made up of the staff and their partners.  Here Michal came into her own making the amazing balloons.  She even made my caricature, believe it or not.

This balloon was made by Michal Kahn. Spectacular eh?

The balloon caricature Michal Kahn made of me!
The highlight of the night though was The Alphabet Game (Pasapalabra) competition between our 5 departments with tough questions about Yoigo.  The department that won would get to go to out to dinner all together to celebrate.  Silvia Jato, the presenter who is most associated with this TV programme was our surprise guest and presenter. She did a great job.  I, in fact, had never seen or even heard of her but was very impressed with her charisma, her comic side, her beauty and professionalism and found her charming.  

Wtih Silvia Jato at the Yoigo Christmas party
You can see more photos of the party here.
Finally Friday came and I could concentrate on family affairs and on our own Christmas.  In the morning I went with Eladio to Carrefour for the weekly shopping which is an enormous job.  Afterwards we always reward ourselves with a cup of  coffee before taking everything home for unloading and putting away with Olga's help.

Eladio having a well deserved cup of coffee after the food shopping on Friday
Later we went Christmas shopping to El Corte Inglés, after our walk of course (haven’t missed one this week).  Here we got presents for me, I shall have to try and forget about until Christmas day, hahaha.  I was very much looking forward to Friday evening as I had booked a table at La Pérfida Albión , the English restaurant I mentioned last week.  So what did I think? I loved it but Eladio says that’s because I am biased.  Maybe I am.  The décor is simple and semi pub like.  Their website refers to the restaurant as a “gastro pub” and I suppose it is in a way.  The food is good with some very English items on the menu but I was disappointed to see they offer “Eton Mess” with bananas!!  What would Etonians say I wonder?  The fish and chips were not the Harry Ramsden’s type but more “gourmet”.  That doesn’t mean to say they weren’t delicious because they were.  We also tried the apple crumble. It was lovely but covered in nuts rather than crumble made the traditional way.  All in all I loved it and I think it will now be my most popular local restaurant, beating La Alpargatería.  I must remember to book for next Friday when I hope my brother and sister-in-law, José Antonio and Dolores will join us.

Gourmet fish and chips at La Pérfida Albión in Pozuelo
On Saturday they were coming for lunch and to spend the day with us, along with Nuba, their mongrel dog, of course. So whilst Olga was preparing fish and chips for lunch, Eladio and I went off to the Centro Oeste shopping Centre in Majadahonda for what will probably not be my last Christmas shopping session.  Here, apart from buying presents, I bought myself a lovely dress from Trucco.  That was not on the agenda but there you are, I couldn’t resist it.  After our copious lunch and short siesta, we took the dogs out for a long walk, longer than usual.  It was cold but crispy and the sun was shining when we set off, but it was dusk when we returned as the days are so short.  I much prefer walks when it is light until late.  José Antonio and Dolores were persuaded to stay for dinner as we were enjoying each other’s company so much and a good day was had by all, the dogs included.

Whilst we were either eating or out walking, Charlie was born.  Charlie has made my school friend Kathryn, who lives in Keighley in Yorkshire, a grandmother for the first time and she must be so happy.  More than happy, in Facebook she posted “ today I fell in love”. Kathy is my second friend to become a grandmother, after Adele.  So hearty congratulations Kathy and Phil and dying to meet Charlie.  And, welcome Charlie to this world.

Congratulations Kathy on the birth of your first grandson Charlie

Now it’s Sunday and I’ve come to the end of this week’s blog.  Today has been quiet and I spent the whole morning cooking.  I made Fabada for lunch, an Asturian thick bean soup which is ideal for cold winter days.

Fabada in the cooking today

I was feeling very productive, as I often do on Sunday mornings. So whilst the men were reading the papers and the girls had gone to the cinema and then out to lunch with their friends, I started making batches of perushki, little Russian meat pies, which we always eat in this house on Christmas Eve, to the music, once again of Kings College Cambridge and courtesy of Spotify on my computer. However I  couldn’t resist putting some in the oven for lunch today to have with the Fabada.  You can see them being made here; quite a sophisticated process which I learned from my Mother who used to make them for us at Christmas with the girls when they were little.  I can be congratulated as I made 60 which are now in the deep freeze, none to be taken out till Christmas Eve. 

Making perushki for Christmas
I am now nearly all prepared for our own Christmas after all the shopping and cooking this weekend.  However I am not going to have much of a respite this week either, as on Wednesday I am the facilitator of the Yoigo children’s party.  That is the most important item in my diary next week but I can assure you it is as full of activities and meetings, probably just as many as this week’s.  

When I write next it will be Christmas.  However if the 25th is Christmas day, I may take a day off and write my next blog post on Boxing day or later.  So let me wish you all a great Christmas, happiness and fun and thank you all for following me on my blog.  I have now been writing it for over 6 years and have received over 70.000 visits since I started counting just 2 or 3 years ago.   My visitors are from all over the world and it astonishes me to see the lists of countries my readers are from even though I don’t know them.  So thank you again and I wish you all a Happy Christmas.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friends for tea, a family visit, Oli on the TV again, a long bank holiday, Suzy in Santa Pola and the Perfidious Albion

We had a wonderful time with Pili and Andrés last week.  Here we are resting from shopping in La Vaguada

Hello again

I’m sorry for not writing last Sunday but I think you will excuse me when you see just how busy I have been since I last wrote.  

Let me start from where I left off.  It was Sunday 27th November and a special day at home as we were expecting visitors.  Rocío, the girls’ best friend, came to afternoon tea with her parents Esmeralda and Juan Ignacio.  Juan is the doctor at my Father’s hospital who has been looking after his every need since he first fell ill.  To show our gratitude, we invited them to our home and I went all out in making a splendid English cum Spanish platter of food, including Rioja and Port wine and of course the proverbial pot of English Typhoo tea.  The photo below is of us all enjoying the occasion.  Oli is not in the photo as she joined us later. We have so much in common with Rocío’s parents that I trust one day we will be become proper friends.  As you know, most of our “couple” friends live abroad or outside Madrid and the only ones who live near us have just divorced, so we are well in need of a local replacement.  The same goes for my girlfriends; they all live abroad or far away.  That is a bit of a sad reflection actually.

Rocío and her parents came to tea
I mentioned my Father’s health and you may want to know how he is these days.  In reality his life hasn’t changed very much, habit wise, in that he still enjoys his English newspapers, his books and the BBC news as well as his food and chocolates (oh yes he is a chocolate freak!) but of course he is now bound to a wheel chair.  He was making progress with walking again using a zimmer but unfortunately he developed a bed sore on his heel which is now heavily bandaged and on the mend but it means he cannot even try to walk until it gets better and that could take months.  On the bright side, he is recovering the movement in his right hand which had suffered from a small stroke.  He goes to physiotherapy three or four times a week in the afternoons to Juan’s hospital and they are doing a grand job with him.  Olga tells us he is very popular in the hospital because he is such an “English gentleman” and everyone calls him “Charlés” with the accent on the “es”.  His real name is Charles Courtenay Lloyd and he is known as Courtenay but I have given up trying to explain that to anyone in Spain for obvious pronunciation reasons. So I was very happy the other day when he asked me for a pen to do the Daily Telegraph crossword.  He can now write again, hip hip hurray.

The week commencing the 28th November was full of action for me on the work front, the most important day being Thursday 1st, Yoigo’s fifth anniversary.  We celebrated it with the staff and here is a great picture of us all with our hands in the air symbolizing Yoigo’s five incredible years making a bigger and bigger niche for itself in the Spanish market as a low cost mobile operator.  I really hope the next 5 years are just as successful and as much fun as the last.

The Yoigo employees celebrating our 5th anniversary on 1st December.  Can you spot me?
The same day as the anniversary I had an appointment with the urologist for a diagnosis after all the ghastly tests I have had to go through in the last few weeks.  The doctor was young and unsympathetic.  He prescribed me a new medicine called Toviaz 8mg and said it had an  80% success rate but I wouldn’t notice any improvement until after 6 weeks of taking the very expensive tablet (76 euros a box!).  I was very disappointed there was no better cure and had absolutely no faith whatsoever in the new medication which I started on 2nd December.  That was 8 days ago and actually I am already beginning to notice a minor improvement.  I am determined to try it for at least 3 months and then decide whether it really works.  Meanwhile the nights are getting better, you will be glad to read.

The 1st of December was good and bad, like the curate’s egg.  Most important for me that day though was Olivia on the television, which of course I missed.  Thankfully I can see her live reports later on the programme website, La Mañana de la 1.  This time she was reporting on an initiative by a washing machine manufacturer called Beko who had the great idea of building a fake gigantic washing machine in the centre of Madrid for people to donate clothes for Africa. You can see her report here at minute 12.20.  

A picture of Oli and her TV crew when she reported on the giant washing machine for donating clothes.
I missed her again on Monday last (5th December) when she reported on a gruesome homicide case when a schizophrenic son killed his elderly mother who had terminal cancer.  You can see that report on this link at minute 13.40.  Maybe I am glad I missed it. 

Friday, 2nd December was much better and a good end to the week.  I went shopping with Eladio to Carrefour in Centro Oeste and we tried the “scan and go” technique for the first time.  I was curious to see that the devices are made by Motorola, the first telecommunications company I worked for.  It worked ok until we got to the till and here it turned out that our heaving trolley had to be inspected before we could pay and go.  We tried again this week and this time the whole trolley had to be inspected just because one item had not been scanned properly.  Frankly we will not be bothering again until the system works better.  

On Friday too we went to the cinema and out to dinner, as our weekly Friday treat.  Saturdays and Sundays are more difficult as Olga is away and we cannot leave my Father alone at home.  We went to see the new Jane Eyre film by Cary Fukunaga who I had never heard of.   Of course you know I am a great Brontë fan, having lived near Haworth and visited it so often, so I was not going to be critical.  I have seen many versions of this wonderful classic by the only Brontë sister, Charlotte, to reach the age of 40.  But wow, what an imagination these girls had and how I would have loved to know them.  I loved the film from beginning to end.  It enthralled me and brought me right back to the Brontë world of gloom, rain, the Yorkshire moors, the strict, cruel and rigid society, the formal language, large, imposing and dark houses and vintage costumes, all woven into an amazing story, one that remains a classic and has fascinated me always. If you are a Brontë fan, go and see it, you won’t be disappointed.  Here, by the way, is the trailer to whet your appetite.

I loved the new Jane Eyre film

Dinner afterwards was at La Alpargatería as usual and here we enjoyed a meal at our table but annoyingly not at table 7, as we hadn't booked in advance.  Afterwards I made the difficult decision of not going to Hagen Dazs for one of their delicious ice creams.

Saturday was spent at home and was very quiet.  Of note that day Mario, my nephew and Eladio’s sister, Pili’s son,  turned 21.  Imagine!  When he was a little boy he was known as “the little terrorist”.  Today he is a groomed, quiet and charming young man.  Gone are the days when he would wreck my parents-in-law’s curtains or groan to his Mother constantly.

Last Sunday was a highlight in the recounting of this week’s blog post.  First we had a bit of an emergency with my Father’s bed sore which had taken a turn for the worse.  Luckily the Samur (Madrid emergency medical service) came to take care of it but we did have a bit of a scare. Up till then we were changing the bandage ourselves every two days but after last Sunday, the local nurse now comes and it has got much better ever since.  Carmen the nurse also calls my Father “Charlés” but is very efficient.

That day we were having visitors for lunch and we were to be 12 around the table.  Pili and Andrés had come to stay with Paula their daughter who now lives and studies in Madrid with her cousin and our god daughter, Alicia.  They were all coming for lunch and we would be joined by Toño and Dolores and little Nuba; a nice canine visitor for Elsa and Norah.   

Elsa and Norah were delighted to see Nuba again.  This is a photo of the three of them exhausted after our walk

I made a huge English roast beef lunch with all the trimmings and spent most of the morning peeling Montrondo potatoes and the sprouts as well as making a wonderful Yorkshire pudding and gravy.I love Eladios’ family coming to visit.  I have practically no immediate family of my own except for my Father, so they are my substitute family and I love them.  This is a picture of us around the table.

Sunday lunch at home when Pili and her family came, joined by Toño and Dolores
Whilst we were having a siesta and going for a walk with the dogs, Spain was playing Argentina in the Davis Cup final.  We were able to watch the exciting end of the match between Spain’s beloved Rafa Nadal and Argentina’s tough opponent Del Potro.  To our joy and relief Nadal won not just the match but the whole championship.  Thus Spain has now garnered 5 Davis Cups, four of them in the last five years.  Well done Spain and what a great sporting country it has turned into.  That was not the case when I first started living in Spain when it was hardly on the sports’ map.  Today Spain excels in cycling, Formula 1, motor cycling, tennis, football, basketball and brings a lot of joy to a country whose sporting victories are often seen as an antidote to its deep financial crisis. 

The Spanish Davis Cup team who last week garnered Spain's fifth victory in this championship
The next day was Monday 5th and the beginning of a semi holiday week. In Spain the 6th December is a national holiday to celebrate the Spanish constitution and the 8th is also a holiday to commemorate the Immaculate Conception.  Thus Tuesday and Thursday were “days off” and many people will have chosen to take the whole week off, adding three days of their official holiday days, or maybe just the Monday or the Friday, thus enjoying what people call here a “Puente” or bridge.  I chose to work most of the week taking time off now and then.  Suzy chose to take the whole week off as Gaby her boyfriend was obliged to take two weeks of his annual holiday in November.  They went off on Monday to our apartment in Santa Pola near Alicante and we have not heard much from them since they left.  As I write, today Saturday 10th, they are on their way home and we are expecting them any minute.  I know they had good weather as there seemed to be sun and temperatures of up to 21ºc every day.  I have also seen some pictures of the food Gaby cooked for them.  He is rather a good cook which is very fortunate for Suzy.  In this photo, Suzy is enjoying a dish he made called “fabes con almejas” (big white beans with clams).

Suzy in Santa Pola this week enjoying Gaby's cooking.
On Monday while Susana was on her way to Santa Pola, I went to the chiropodist and then to the hairdresser for a haircut and my Father went to the hospital for a check-up with Olga who is his constant companion.  In the afternoon we met up with Pili, Andrés and Paula and Oli joined us as did Pedro, Paula’s boyfriend.  We met in Callao, the centre of Madrid which was a bit of a mistake as it was far too crowded.  The women wanted to shop for clothes in Zara and HM and we bored the men stiff of course, so we had to abandon our retail therapy until the next day when we would meet again at La Vaguada shopping centre.  Eladio took the opportunity to buy some more Christmas lottery tickets for what is called “El Gordo” in Spain and which is probably gives the biggest lottery prize money in the world. He did so in one of Madrid’s most famous streets, Alcalá and I caught the moment on my camera.

Eladio buying Christmas lottery tickets in Madrid this week
Later we were joined by José Antonio and Dolores and we had a great meal together in the centre of town.
Tuesday was the first of the two holidays in the week and we had agreed to meet up with Pili, Andrés, Paula and Alicia at La Vaguada, where this time we were able to enjoy our retail therapy whilst the men had a glass of beer and a cup of coffee in one of the numerous bars in this gigantic shopping centre.  Shopping is fun but can be tiring as you can see in the  photo illustrating this week’s blog.

In the picture I am holding a wonderful dress I bought in Zara.  It is a size M tight figure hugging black sequined evening dress with a low back and elbow length sleeves which is very slightly too tight for me.  Yet I adore it and Pili, Paula and Oli urged me to buy it when they saw it on me.  I will be wearing it on New Year's Eve, that is if I don't put on too much weight around Christmas.

Later we all had lunch together.  Guess where?  La Alpargatería of course.  We were joined again by Paula’s beau, Pedro.  They make such a lovely couple and radiate love just by looking at them.  I should mention here, that Andrés treated us, and not only because he is a great fan of this blog but because it’s worth a mention.  !Gracias Andrés!

Lunch in La Alpargatería in La Vaguada on Monday with Pili, Andrés, Paula, Pedro, Alicia, Oli and Eladio

Pili and Andrés were returning to León later that afternoon, so soon we were to part.  It was great spending so much time with them.  After their visit, life was pretty quiet and there is not much to report about the rest of this week really.  We went on our walks, my Father went to his physiotherapy sessions, Oli went to her TV programme and I worked on and off most of the week.  And suddenly the week came to an end and it was Friday again and Eladio and I did the enormous weekly shopping at Carrefour where we had the bad experience I mentioned earlier with the “scan and go” system.  In the evening, for our weekly Friday treat, we skipped on the cinema as there was no new film that caught our fancy.  We did however go out to dinner, but not, I am sure you are happy to read, to La Alpargatería.  No, we went to De Brasa y Puchero in nearby Boadilla where we had the most scrumptious meal in a long time.  Want to know what we had? Feeling hungry?  Well we had “patatas revolconas” (sort of potato bubble and squeak but with paprika) and fried artichokes for starters.  My second course was a sort of bomb as I chose to eat Fabada (Asturian bean dish) as I am a sucker for Spanish pulses.  Eladio, being the moderate guy he is, chose fish.  

As I am on the topic of restaurants, very soon we will be trying an English one in nearby Pozuelo, recommended to us by Rocío and her parents.  For an English restaurant it is very fittingly called La Pérfida Albión (in English: the Perfidious Albion), a term which took me right back to my history books during the period of the Napoleonic Wars but apparently its origin is far older if you read the entry here in Wikipedia.  In Wikipedia it says Albión comes from the Greek for England.  When I told my philosopher husband, he corrected Wikipedia and told me Albion was Latin for white and referred probably to the white cliffs of Dover and thus England.  My Father tended to agree.  Perfidious, of course, means a lack of faith and I am not getting into a discussion here about England having faith or not having faith.  The name reminded me too of my history lessons with my favourite teacher Miss. Scorer at St. Joseph’s College from whom I learned and will never forget that Napoleon called England a “nation of shopkeepers”.  Be that as it may, I look forward to tasting the restaurant’s fish and chips and I am tied between the Eton Mess and Autumn crumble on their dessert menu.  

As I am writing this, it is half past eight and time for our dinner and I’m hungry again.  But no worries, as I have a wonderful broth (sopa de cocido) waiting for me to have with some of my home made ham croquettes with Eladio and my Father.  So, on that gastronomic note I will leave you until next week.  Ah but before I go I must mention that tonight is the “clásico” or derby between Real Madrid and Barcelona which my Father and Eladio will be watching with great interest.  I am less interested in the play and more interested in the result, so will probably be uploading this blog whilst they are enjoying the two teams playing in the Bernabeu stadium this foggy rainy night in November.  
Tomorrow Christmas will be coming to this house as it’s time to put up our tree and all the Christmassy things I have collected over the years to decorate the house and bring in some of the season’s magic.  I have only begun to prepare for Christmas but the main ingredients are on their way with crackers from The Christmas Cracker shop and Christmas pudding, cranberry sauce and chocolates  from The British Corner Shop.  I could get neither from Marks and Spencers online or because neither will send crackers abroad as they are now considered fireworks!  M+S won't send food abroad and it was very difficult to chocolates from Amazon too.  So let's hope my orders from the two newly discovered online sources will arrive ok.

And that is it my friends for this edition.  I wish you all a great week.  I will have a busy one, I’m sure. 
Until next week, take care.

PS You can see more photos of my recent activities here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Suzy in Barcelona, Oli in Brussels and I in Madrid and a lot to tell you this week.

Oli, in a beautiful Desigual dress, as MC at the awards in Brussels last week for U4Energy

Hello again,

Wow this week has rushed past and been packed with activity.  I have hardly had a moment to catch my breath as I was so busy with my own work projects.  Neither did I have a free moment for myself nor did I have much time for Eladio or my Father plus I  hardly saw my girls who, as you will see, were both in similar situations to me, working hard and immersed in their own projects but in Brussels and Barcelona.  All I can say is thank God for Olga who looked after my Father and the house meanwhile and for Eladio for keeping the boat afloat. 

When I left you last week the girls were still in Barcelona together.  They enjoyed a long weekend staying with Laura and were joined by Rocío and Elena, who, for some reason they call “Pulgui”.  Laura lives a bohemian style life in an old flat near the Mercat de la Boquería, Barcelona’s famous food market.  In some of the photos Suzy posted in FB you can see them doing their breakfast shopping at this enticing market.  I remember seeing it the first time I visited Barcelona when I was in my early 20’s and being stunned by the colour and variety and produce on offer.  I’m not sure whether it’s true or not but I always hear the story that the chefs from the best restaurants in Barcelona come and personally select food here for their menus.  Here is a lovely photo of Suzy mesmerized as I was so many years ago, just gazing at the sight of one of the stalls in the market. 

Beautiful Suzy mesmerized by the Boquería Market in Barcelona

They had a great time, judging by these photos posted by Suzy on her Facebook, visiting the Parque Güell and riding bikes in the old part of Barcelona. Oli had to skip the park visit as she was working on her script for the Brussels event, but did manage the cycling excursion I think.

Suzy, Pulgui and Rocío in the Parque Güell in Barcelona

On Monday, the girls parted their different ways.  Suzy was to stay in Barcelona to attend the bi annual convention organized by the food services company she works for; Aramark.  So she made her way to the hotel where the event was taking place and where the participants were staying.  It was at the big Hotel Fira Palace. The dinner party, later that night was at the Palau San Jordi where, I think she danced the night away with her colleagues and bosses.  

Suzy's first corporate function with Aramark was at the Fira Palace in Barcelona last week

She was back on Tuesday evening delighted with the experience but with a huge backlog of work to face which she is still ploughing through now.  Suzy is now in charge of the diets and food supplies at various residences and hospitals, including the Zarzuela hospital nearby in Aravaca.  She visits the hospital every morning for a couple of hours and the rest of the time she mostly works from home.  On Saturday she had a huge clean out and rearrangement of the furniture in her room, and this is how her “winter office”, a term coined by her in FB, now looks.

The desk where Suzy works from home.  She rearranged her room on Saturday and this is what her "winter study" looks like

Meanwhile Olivia caught a mid morning flight to Brussels from where she went straight to the rehearsal of the U4Energy Final award ceremony for the winners of the entries into a school competition across Europe focused on energy education.   It was taking place the next day at the Museum of Musical Instruments where she was to play a big role as the MC, sharing the stage no less than with the European Commissioner for Energy, a Mr. GüntherOettinger.  Olivia worked for weeks preparing her participation, nothing could be read, it all had to be learned and there were many names and institutions to introduce and explain, in a world very unfamiliar to her.  All this was done under the very demanding direction of Caroline, who had picked her for the job after her success in the awards in Madrid a month or so ago.  I was not surprised later to hear from her, just after the event, how well it had gone and how she had been congratulated by many people.  She was also told she had “won her ticket for next year”.  For the occasion she wore a Spanish designer dress, from Desigual.  There is a story behind this as when she had packed and her suitcase was lying open on her bedroom floor, I asked her what she had planned to wear for the ceremony.  Dear Olivia pulled out an everyday red woolen dress by Zara and some very ordinary shoes.  Suzy and I made her put it back and between the two of us, picked, from her multiple wardrobes, the spectacular dress she was to wear on the night of the prizes.  You can see it close up in the photo of her that illustrates this blog entry. It was much more suitable than the simple woolen dress she had chosen and I think Olivia was very grateful for the advice.  I thought it rather fitting that my English-Spanish daughter should wear a Spanish designer dress at an event in Brussels, like flying the flag in a way.

Oli on stage with the European Commissioner for Energy at the event last week in Brussels.  Love her Desigual dress.

The day after the awards Oli was able to relax.  Her first stop was coffee with my dearest friend Sandra.  It was thanks to Sandie that Oli got the freelance MC job with the European Union.  It was also the first time my youngest daughter was meeting one of my dearest friends, as they had last met when Olivia was about 7.  So I was delighted to get a message from Sandie just after they met saying: “Wonderful beautiful fabulous daughter.  She is you in duplicate xxxx”.  Thanks Sand for those lovely words.  I’m not sure she is my duplicate but she is all the rest. 

Oli with my dearest friend Sandie in Brussels last week.  Oh how I would have loved to have been with them.

Oli spent the rest of her stay visiting the sights of Brussels and here is one photo I adore.  I suspect it was taken by Nico, who paid a surprise visit the night of the awards and stayed with her for the rest of her trip.

A wonderful photo of Olivia in Brussels.  Notice her name in autumn leaves!

Oli also got the chance to visit the European Commission, I think through an invitation from the Commissioner.  Once there she actually saw the President of the Commission, the famous and rather ugly Portuguese José Manuel Durâo Barroso or shouldn’t it be Joâo, as he is Portuguese and not Spanish.

Olivia visited the European Commission whilst in Brussels.

Whilst in Brussels Olivia tried and enjoyed the chocolate and waffles, pommes frites and beer, visited the European Commission and Parliament, walked around the beautiful Grand Platz, saw the Manneken-Pis and his lesser known sister, Jeanneke- Pis. However, she was at her happiest when she visited the Spanish TVE correspondent’s office, that of Alvaro López de Goikoetxea, a familiar face on the Spanish news.   She came back delighted with the experience which included sitting with him at the window of his office, overlooking the European Parliament, and from where he stands when he reports for the news.

Olivia with the Spanish TVE correspondent Alvaro López de Goikoetxea in Brussels.

Here are morephotos of Olivia’s stay in Brussels which I have rescued from her Facebook and the U4Energy website.

Olivia did not come back until Thursday night late.  The next morning she was up early for work and I actually didn’t see her until Friday afternoon.  We were going on our walk with the dogs and she was driving home but not for long as she announced that she would be on her way to Valladolid for the weekend to stay with her TV master friends Paula and Giovanna.  And she is still there.  Hopefully we will have the pleasure of her company for lunch today.

Olivia with her friend Giovanna this weekend in Valladolid

Whilst the girls were doing their thing in Barcelona and Brussels, I was busy in Madrid preparing with my colleagues for a big press event last Thursday.  We had invited a select group of journalists to our 5th anniversary lunch where we were also to launch a whole new generation of flat fee tariffs, “las planas de Yoigo”.  Each tariff is at least 20% better than our competitors, be that in the amount of minutes you get, the price of texting or the cost per minute once you have consumed the so-called “bucket of minutes”.  We were also announcing new data tariffs and a revolutionary product called MultiLínea where a customer can share the amount of data he has between various subscriptions for just 3 euros a month.  And of course we had to go over the 5 years of Yoigo in the Spanish market and talk about the trends for the next five years.  There was a hell of a lot preparation to do and it was very intense, especially on Wednesday, the day before the event.  We also wanted to avoid any leaks so decided only to invite a few journalists and it worked, for once! If you are interested you can see the presentation we made here on our press page (in Spanish of course)

The event which took place at a lovely little restaurant in Madrid called Castellana DF, was a complete success with 100% turnout and loads of coverage, although this time we did not manage to be a trending topic on Twitter with our #5añosYoigo.  But we did get coverage in most of the big written papers as well as online, including the front page of, the widest read news portal in Spanish in the world with over 30 million readers.  So I was particularly pleased when I saw that our news was the third most read article that day.  We placed some great bait with the press using the headline in our release that through the presentation of these new flat fee tariffs,  Yoigo was starting the second phase of the price war in Spain.  The bait was in the wording “price war”, a term Spanish journalists associate with Yoigo and never fail to reproduce in their articles. 

At the Yoigo press conference last week, celebrating our 5 years in the market

The event left me completely exhausted and with a headache for three days, but at least on Friday I was relatively free to do the shopping with Eladio at Carrefour, go on our walk in the afternoon and go out to the cinema in the evening.  We went to see “A dangerous method” about the psychologists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud and the former’s stormy relationship with a young Russian woman patient.  Later we had a light dinner on table number 7 at La Alpargatería.

The film we went to see on Friday

On Saturday I was too exhausted go to The Phone House annual convention and had no particular plans for the day except to be at home for my Father with Eladio.  However when Eladio’s brother, José Antonio rang mid morning, we invited them to lunch.  I prepared a dish from Galicia which is where Dolores is from.  I made “Caldo Gallego” and then “lacón con grelos”, very suitable for winter meals.  Caldo Gallego is a soup made with stock, white broad beans, potatoes, “grelos” (a vegetable that is similar to the green shoots you get from a cauliflower) and various types of meat.  “Lacón con grelos” is a cooked ham with whole potatoes, chorizo and “grelos”, to which I also added cabbage and carrots.  I got great compliments for the food.

After a little siesta, the four of us ventured out for a longer walk than usual. We were accompanied not only by Elsa and Norah but also by dear little Nuba, José Antonio and Dolores’ delightful mongrel dog, who was probably the creature who most enjoyed the day with us yesterday as she was dying to get out of the flat in town and run in the countryside.

The walk yesterday with José Antonio and Dolores and the dogs was glorious

A good day was had by all and I do hope they come and see us again soon, as they are such close family and we hardly ever see each other, even though they live in Madrid.

Today we are expecting more visitors.  Rocío’s parents, Esmeralda and Juan Ignacio, are coming for afternoon tea and that will be a big relaxed affair from 6.30pm this afternoon in one of our lounges, together with the girls.  I have yet to organize it but as there is so much food in the fridge I do not feel stressed.  We are very grateful to Juan Ignacio, the head anesthetist at the hospital in Alcorcón where my Father was operated, for all his help with my Father which is never ending.  He has been amazing.  Recently my Father has been going to physiotherapy to recover the movement in his right hand and just after two or three sessions, he is actually beginning to use it again.  Olga, who accompanies my Father, the three afternoons a week he goes to physiotherapy, tells us just how much everyone seems to like my Father for his gentlemanly behavior.  He is very popular with the nurses, physiotherapists and ambulance personnel but that of course, does not surprise me, as I know that my Father is the nicest and most gentle person you could ever meet.  

And on this note, I leave you, as I have lots to do and am in a hurry. First I must publish this entry, including the photos and links, then go for a walk with Eladio and the dogs and then make a small lunch before preparing for our visitors this afternoon.  You will hear all about that in next week’s post.

Meanwhile have a great week,

All the best/Masha