Sunday, February 27, 2011

A stressful week, a special video or rather a film, a press release, 23rd February 30 years ago, time to rest, 60.000 readers and other things.

Outside Bea's house where our press conference took place.  

Hello my friends

This week has been the culmination of two months of hard work and the week couldn’t have been more stressful. Now it’s time to relax, something I am not good at, as you can probably guess from reading about my hyperactive life in this blog. In fact today, Sunday, I should have been relaxing but I took the opportunity to do a huge clean out of my walk in closet. I finally decided to say goodbye to the past and chuck out my “fat” clothes as well as others I had been hoarding for donkey’s years. The result is fantastic. And now, of course, there is loads of room for all the new clothes I keep buying, hahaha.

So why has it been stressful you may want to know? Let me start from the beginning as usual as I am a stickler for chronological order in this blog and in my life as you may be aware.

The week started with something very mundane but awfully important. I had an appointment at my dentist for a hygiene session, something I had not done for years and was in dire need of. As I put lipstick on afterwards  for my next appointment that day, the contrast between the red and the white of my teeth was much improved. You might not know but teeth have colours ranging from A1 (the whitest) to D something, probably dark grey. Well my teeth used to be A1 but certainly didn’t look like that before the hygiene session. They may not be A1 anymore but they do  look a whole lot better now.

My next appointment was with QuintaEsencia, our events agency in the centre of Madrid and it was to film me, once again, for the film about the story of Yoigo we were finalising. And here  is another little secret about me. I am a PR professional, but, like most people, do not really like speaking in public or being on camera. Once I’m into the throes of it I think I do it quite well and can even be photogenic but when I am stressed or pushed for time, I generally perform badly. And that is what happened in the first filming. Worried I would express myself badly, I decided to read the text for the two appearances in the video and the result was awful. I knew it but never really had the time or the energy to repeat it but certainly wish I had before showing it to our Swedish colleagues in a mini premiere at the MWC in Barcelona ten days before. But repeat it I had to this Monday as the video was being shown to the employees this Thursday for the first time. Eladio who is my harshest judge was happy with the result this time, as was I and I know now that the video is fine, if not fantastic. It is 30 minutes of the story of Yoigo and is called “The story of the no tricks operator, the story of Yoigo” and is dedicated to all those who believed that a no tricks mobile phone operator was possible. It is full of emotion and passion, is fast paced and I think it is as engaging as it can be, for  a corporate video. The film is a story, where a book opens and out of the book come the people who talk and the images. The content is the chronological sequence of events that have brought Yoigo from being just a promise in the market in 2006 to having over 2 million customers and becoming profitable in 2010, with all the ups and downs that meant. One day I will post it on You Tube but only when we have a version with library music as we don’t have the rights for the music we have used.

The film about Yoigo that we have made and which I worked so hard on.
We finally showed the video to some 120 employees and consultants at the Yoigo Morning (an information sharing and mingling session) on Thursday and people’s reactions were just what we were looking for when we set the objectives of this short film. The emotion on their faces was tangible and some confessed to me they felt goose pimples on many occasions. They also laughed on others and many told me they just loved it. I must say that it has been one of the most challenging projects I have ever worked on but also one of the most satisfying. It was a pleasure to work with Bea, Angel, Ramón and Mariana. Thank you guys, I have learned so much from you.

Monday though seemed never ending. Not only did I have the dentist and the filming to do, I was also responsible that day for a press release on the extension of an agreement with Telefónica on using their networks where we still don’t have our own (don’t worry, we soon will. Now we have 67% of the territory in Spain and at the end of the year we will reach 74%). A press release is always stressful, because it’s not only about writing and approving the text internally (lawyers, product people, technical people, etc) and externally (Telefónica’s people: their lawyers, etc), or even sending it to the press. It’s the ringing or emailing the key journalists in the hope that they will publish it the next day; something you can never rely on for many reasons. Also these days there is far less coverage of corporate information in the written media as this is fast being taken over by internet. Even so, the perception is that if you haven’t achieved any written clippings you haven’t done a good job. I even think this myself, so still strive for the latter which is proving more and more difficult in this digital age. The work on a press release doesn’t stop there either. You also have to inform the employees with an internal news release but first you must get it published on the press section of your website to provide them with the link because you mustn’t flood their email with files! Finally you must publish it on the company FB and Twitter pages as well as the employee FB page. Even then the job is not over as you have to start collecting the clippings on internet and wait until the next day for the written clippings if any and then make a report on all the coverage. Luckily the next day we had 4 written clippings in El País, Expansión, Negocio and El Economista with which I was quite pleased. So now you know all there is behind a simple press release. A lot of people don’t understand what or how a press release works and mix it up with advertising, even thinking you have to pay for what gets published when actually what does get published is far more valuable. That’s why I laughed on Friday when one of our partners sent me an email saying they would like to publish the new agreement with them in the media. Only journalists can publish, not people who work in companies. But how can I explain that to him I wonder? Or should I even bother? Maybe I should just direct him to my blog? Don’t think, by the way, that I do this all alone. I outsource a lot of the job to both my PR agency, Ketchum and my events agency QuintaEsencia without whom I would find it impossible to work as I am a one woman show at Yoigo. Here, if you are interested and can read Spanish, is the press release we issued on Monday.

If Monday was never ending, Tuesday was busy too as I was working on preparations for two big events on Thursday. It was spent on both these as well as last minute changes to the video. That night though I was able to relax at home with the family and all four of us watched Real Madrid only draw with Olympique de Lyons in the last eight of the Champions League. Coincidentally Benzama, the new striker for the Spanish team, and who is actually from Lyons in France, scored their only goal. I must confess I wasn’t that interested in the match and just wanted to relax on the sofa in the lounge with my family who, owing to the stress of my job in the last two months, have been rather abandoned by me I’m afraid.

Wednesday came and it was the middle of the week. It brought also a burst pipe under the floor of our study on the ground floor and we had to call the insurance company. We had noticed damp for a while and this is what the floor looked like when the plumber came that day!  Thank goodness Eladio is always at home to take care of these sort of things.  Thank you Eladio.

The burst pipe in our study, very inconvenient I must say

But Wednesday was not just a normal day in the middle of the week in February. It was the 23rd February and the 30th anniversary of the Spanish coup d’etat or “golpe de estado” which happened in 1981 and which I mentioned last week. It is now known as “23F”. It happened during the transition from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy and was a very critical moment in the history of recent Spain. A group of military men got together and planned a coup to form a military junta government similar to that of Franco’s times, hoping or thinking they had the support of the young King of Spain, Juan Carlos I which it turned out they didn’t. The now very famous and extremely right wing military activist, the Lt. Col. Tejero, together with a group of civil guards, assaulted the Spanish parliament just after 18h that day, armed with guns. Amazingly the assault, or at least the beginning of it, was seen on television as the Spanish TV cameras were there filming the parliamentary investiture of Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo after Adolfo Suarez resigned as Prime Minister. You can see the video here if you have not seen it before. So on Wednesday this week, the event was commemorated and radios and TV stations throughout the nation debated on the events of 30 years ago which could well have lead Spain to another dictatorship. If you lived through that event, especially in Spain, you will always remember what you were doing when it happened. As I told you last week I first heard about the coup whilst watching the 9 o’clock BBC news in England and couldn’t believe my eyes. I rushed to the phone to ring Eladio who was a young priest at the time in a seminary in Leon in Spain and of course I couldn’t get through as the telephone lines were either down or constantly engaged. But that of course is history now, although I, like many people, will never forget it.

The Coup d'Etat in the Spanish Parliament on 23rd Feb 1981, this week was the 30th anniversary

The next day was my big day and I had to be at work early for the Yoigo morning I mentioned earlier. That would have been enough on my plate for one day but on Thursday we had another and even bigger event. We were to launch a great new smartphone tariff for heavy users called “La del cuatro” at a press conference just afterwards.

If a press release is complicated, a press conference is a lot more complicated but I won’t go into the details here. Suffice it to say the reason for holding one is if you have big news to communicate. Of course you just never know what the outcome in media coverage is going to be. That’s the big difference between PR and marketing and my speciality is the former. You don’t pay for media coverage so you can’t guarantee what will get published whereas you pay for advertising and you decide what gets published. I far prefer the former which is much more exciting, risky, satisfying and at the same time more credible for the reader.

Well Yoigo is not a conventional operator or company and neither am I a conventional person.  Thus my PR events are not conventional either. The press conference on Thursday, took place at someone’s house believe it or not and in our invitation we described the venue as “a friend’s house”. It happened to be Bea’s from QuintaEsencia. She showed me her home recently and I loved it and she offered it to me for whenever I wanted to do an event there, so when we had to think of place for last week, I jumped at the offer. It’s a big spacious and light flat in the Madrid architectural style of the beginning of the last century which I love and of course it’s in the centre of town.

The invitation to our press conference this week. 

Coincidentally it is where parts of the very popular Spanish TV series about a family during the transition from dictatorship to democracy, called Cuentame, are filmed. As this is a series I love and watch and Suzy too, we had our photo taken at the entrance after the press conference was over which is the one illsutrating this blog.  By the way you can see the rest of the photos of the event here.

The press conference went well with quite a good turn out and my stress should have ended there but it didn’t. Afterwards I had to go and pick up my new car and Suzy was coming too as I hate driving a new car and need some time to adapt, unlike her who is afraid of nothing. The afternoon turned out to be a bit of a nightmare because of time and traffic. We were supposed to pick up the car at 16.30. Suzy had a lesson to give far away at 17.30 and I had an appointment at 19.30 or so I thought and equally far away with a colleague, Juan Manuel, to go over a presentation we had to give the next day. It turned out he had understood 18.30. Picking up of the car should have been a pleasure. I mean we were going to get a wonderful new BMW but you know what? I didn’t enjoy it at all because I was forever looking at my watch and was not able to concentrate on what the lovely sales lady was explaining about the car which looked more to me like a very complicated tank with endless buttons and controls I was not familiar with. The whole process took over two hours which meant that Susana missed her lesson. I thought I would be on time to meet Juan Manuel but ended up arriving an hour late because we took the wrong motorway and were stuck in traffic most of the way. Thus I got home very late, stressed, frustrated, tired and hungry and a bit worried about not having practised my presentation enough for the next day. In fact I wasn’t going to enjoy the new car at all until the weekend when I had the time and patience to master how everything works. Now I love it.

The new car on the left, the old car on the right. 

My busy and stressful week didn’t come to an end until Friday lunch time. But first I had to go through the final event of the week, the presentation of Yoigo 2015 to our strategic partners. Thus I got up at 6 o’clock to leave the house and get to work early and be able to practise with Juan Manuel on our joint presentation which we did in the form of a dynamic interview. Amazingly I was there earlier than I thought, at 8.15 and was able to check the media coverage from the press conference the day before: not bad, 3 written clippings and loads on internet of course. At the event tt was good to see many familiar faces amongst our suppliers, not least Ilkka, a Finn who reads my blog. Poor Ilkka had to listen to everything in Spanish. But I hope the rest enjoyed our presentations.

The presentation of Yoigo 2015 to our suppliers on Friday, the last event of this stressful week

The event finished at midday and I was able to go home and enjoy lunch with my family. I was looking forward to a well deserved rest and time to unwind after the hectic last two months. I found myself still working in the afternoon until I said stop. I then decided to go offline, go for a walk with Eladio and Norah, start reading a new book and then in the evening to go to the cinema. We went to see the new film, 23F which we were very interested to see of course. We went to the big cinema complex we usually go to in Majadahonda called Quinoccio and I am telling you this because we just couldn’t believe that when we got there we were alone in the cinema watching the film. That has never ever happened to us. Did I like it? I did, although it seemed to me to be more like a documentary and I am afraid to admit I fell asleep at the end. To give credit to the film I think this was more because of my acute tiredness. Afterwards we had acute hunger too as it was after ten o’clock, so we went to fill our stomachs to La Alpargateria, one of our favourites as you know and, to note, the only meal out this week.

The film 23F which we saw alone at the cinema on Friday!

The weekend came and I was able to continue resting and actually we didn’t do that much. Eladio’s brother, Isidro and his wife, Yoli were coming to Madrid to bring their daughter and my god daughter, Alicia to take her flight to London where she will be working as an au pair for the coming six months. They were going to stay at another brother’s house, Jose Antonio’s, but because of lack of communication or organisation or whatever, very annoyingly we weren’t going to see them which rather bothered me. Fortunately when I was doing the big spring cleaning in my walk in closet this morning, Yoli called to say they were on their way back to Leon but would call in to see us as they had brought us some air dried beef, called “cecina”. Thus they paid us a nice but very brief and surprise visit this morning where all we could offer them was a cup of coffee which is a bit sad actually as they are family and we hardly ever see them.

A very flying and surprise visit from Isidro and Yoli this morning

So yes today I did some spring cleaning which is very appropriate as spring is definitely in the air and the weather is getting better these days. You can see the buds on the trees and even some of our wild plum trees are blossoming as you can see in this picture I took this afternoon.

There is blossom in our garden which means that spring is on its way

We didn’t do much else today. Of note we took the old Volvo XC90 back to the office and sadly said goodbye to it. But we weren’t upset really as we are going to enjoy the new BMW much more. Of that I am sure. What did upset us, though, was a call from Susana on our way back. She rang to tell us that “Abu” had died. Abu, short for “abuelo” which means “grandpa” in Spanish, was the girls’ childhood friend, Carmen’s grandfather with whom she has always lived. He used to be our neighbour when we lived in the previous house and I will always remember him because he was a real character. He used to wear a cowboy hat and drive a green open estate car and would spend most mornings and afternoons at the nearby club. Goodbye Abu, rest in peace. I am very sorry for your family, especially Carmen or “Curry” as we always call her.

And here I am now at the end of this week’s blog. I cannot end before I tell you that I now have 60.000 readers which I think is an awful lot of people to read an anonymous person’s blog. I have access to see which countries my readers come from, but of course do not know who you are. The top four countries where my readers come from are always the same; the USA, Spain, India and the UK. Thank you all for reading it  and I hope you enjoy this week’s post as much as the others.

Until next week, your friend,


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Birthdays in February, a burning platform, Egypt is free, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, home again and a family trip to La Granja de San Ildefonso.

Me happy with my family on my 54th birthday on 8th February at home.
Hi again,

I am back after a 2 week absence. I didn’t write my blog last week as I was just too busy and tired. So ahead you have the promised bumper edition packed with news.

Let me start where I left off last, on Monday 7th February. That day I went to my dentist, Dr. Garralda, for an x-ray after the recent implant. It came out ok and I will now have to wait until May for the crown to be put in. I’m rather fed up of the hole in the back of my mouth and cannot wait for it to be filled again. I remember it fell on 11th January 2010, the day of the incredible snow fall, which is now over a year ago.

The rest of Monday was spent working on the video story of Yoigo which has proved to be a much bigger project than I thought when we started. In reality we have made a short 30 minute film. One day soon you will see it when I upload it to You Tube. But not yet as our staff haven’t seen it yet. I hope they like it.

Tuesday was my 54th birthday. Yes 54. It seems a lot but I actually feel much younger, especially after losing so much weight. When I was a girl, women of that age seemed old to me. But things have changed and women look younger than my mother’s or grandmother’s generations. One of the reasons, maybe, is that today women dye their hair to cover the grey. Also I think we dress more in fashion and of course live longer. I certainly intend to keep on looking good as long as I can. The scales that day said 63 kilos so I had no problem eating my birthday cake. I went on my birthday for a meeting  and lo and behold a wonderful bunch of roses was awaiting me. Guess who they were from? No not one of my agencies, but my dear husband Eladio. Here is a picture of a delighted me holding them in the reception of Yoigo.

Happy with Eladio's red roses which were waiting for me at the office on my birthday
We had a family lunch together as is tradition at home and of course a present, a card and a birthday cake were an essential part of it. And here I am with my wonderful husband just before blowing the candles. My big present was to come later and it was a family trip from Eladio and my Father for the five of us to La Granja de San Ildefonso for a night in the Parador from where we have just come back, but more about that later my friends.

With Eladio just before blowing the candles on my birthday cake
In the evening the 4 of us went out to dinner to Tony Romas, a delicious American joint in nearby Majadahonda where we enjoyed the ribs and of course a brownie for dessert.

That day was not only my birthday. It was also Juan my nephew’s with whom we had had lunch the Sunday before at José Antonio and Dolores’ house. I recently found a job for Juan as an account executive at Lewis PR where he seems to be very happy. I couldn’t believe my eyes when he gave me a great Desigual dress and expensive earrings as a present and was very touched indeed for his gratitude and the gesture. He has no need to be grateful as I know from inside knowledge that he is doing a great job at this PR agency.

It was also Copi’s, Susy and Oli’s exotic friend from school who is living in The Hague now. For a silly reason they are not on good terms and I think we are all missing Copi in our lives. In my birthday message to her, I asked her to return to our lives. I sincerely hope she does soon.

My birthday is on the 8th February and my brother, George’s birthday was on the 12th, just 4 days later. But he is no longer here to celebrate it and that always makes me sad. When we were children, our grandmother would send a cake every year which would always arrive in time for his birthday and not mine which used to bother me a lot. Today I would do anything for him to be here to celebrate his birthday with me. I mentioned it was his birthday on FB that day and dear Andy, a friend from our Callosa days, wrote back: “Remembering George. Remember him arriving in Callosa out of the blue from Morocco unannounced, with many tales to tell and a ticket to Caracas in his pocket” which of course brought a smile to my face. Dear George, my beautiful tall, blonde and blue eyed talented and globetrotter brother, I am forever sorry that life did not treat you well and that you are no longer here and remember the good times with much nostalgia. God bless you.

With my brother George in the 70's.  His birthday would have been on 12th February, something I can never forget
It was also Javier’s birthday on the very same day as George’s and I happened to be in the office the day before when he was handing out slices of a carrot flavoured birthday cake made by his American wife. I, of course, captured the moment on my camera and here is one of the pictures below. 

Javier's birthday celebration at work.  His birthday is on the same day as George's, 12th Feb
And lastly it was Roberto’s on Sunday 13th, Eladio’s friend but also mine as we are travelling companions of Roberto and his wife Maricarmen who is my own personal pharmacist. So happy birthday too Roberto and I hope we see you soon. It has been too long.

The day after my birthday I had a celebration lunch with my good friends Julio and Fátima. We were also supposed to be celebrating Fátima’s 50th birthday for which she did not organise anything at the time, to my chagrain. But then Fátima is too busy to ever think about herself and there is nothing I can do to change that. We had lunch near work at a great Argentinian place called La Lumbre del Cacique. We obviously have like minds as we both had bought Pandora bracelet charms. Actually my bracelet is now completely full, so please no more charms anyone. Fátima and I had worked at Motorola together. Then when I moved to Nokia, where I met Julio, I brought her along with me and Julio was her boss for a time. So, Nokia, very much connected us.

On Friday ironically, Nokia was to announce some ground breaking news which the market wasn’t going to take too well. Previously the new Canadian and first non Finn to head the company, Stephen Elop, had sent an email to the staff which was leaked to the press, probably intentionally. He spoke about Nokia being on a burning platform with nowhere to turn. These words meant a lot to me as I had worked there for 6 years when Nokia was the king of the mobile phone market. 5 years later Nokia has lost market share and is being squeezed at the high end by the Apples and Blackberries and Samsungs of this world and at the low end by the increasingly dominating Chinese manufacturers. There are probably many reasons why this has happened but one is certainly an outdated operating system called Symbian which we all used to love but not anymore. Today we prefer Android by Google or the iPhone system. The news Stephen Elop announced in London at the annual market analyst conference on Friday 13th February was a partnership with Microsoft, their ex arch enemy but also the company from which the new CEO comes from, and the adoption of the Windows operating system. This was not really what the market expected precisely because Windows has never really taken off and is not very popular with the mass market. So Nokia is very much in the news these days but very negatively. I, for one, would not be happy doing my old job today as just no one seems to be happy with what was once one of the most admired companies in the world. Later at the Mobile World Congress I was devastated to see that they had no stand and just occupied a couple of closed rooms for interviews with the press as if they were hiding from the world. This was in sharp contrast to the huge Samsung and Android stands, the makes which have taken Nokia’s space in the market. I am also watching with astonishment on Facebook how so many of my ex colleagues are leaving, one by one. I suppose they do not want to burn on what has now become a phrase that coins Nokia. If you don’t believe me, just try googling: “burning platform” to see how many results you get.

The Nokia burning platform, now a coined phrase.  The story reminds me of what happened to Motorola

Friday 13th February, an unfortunate day for Nokia, was also a day with ground breaking news from the Middle East. As I left the Iralta Film studio after last minute changes to our video, I read on my phone that Mubarak, the octogenarian Egyptian dictator who had been in power for some 30 years, had finally resigned after intense pressure from the riots in the now famous Tahrir (liberty) Square. The news in Egypt was greeted with great enthusiasm all over the world. I quote Barack Obama here who said: “The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard. Egypt will never be the same again”. What happened in Egypt I think in part was a consequence of similar events in Tunisia which forced the Tunisian leader to resign too. We are seeing a domino effect all over the Middle East with other countries now holding riots and demonstrations like Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Jordan and even Morocco. I am sure too we will see more dictators resign over the following weeks but we will also read of more deaths of innocent people while this happens. Freedom comes at the price of bloodshed usually.

On Saturday, George’s birthday, I had to go into Madrid again for some finishing touches of the video and so the girls came with me for some shopping and lunch together before I went off to Iralta Films to meet Bea and Angel. We had lunch at Naia in the centre, in Plaza de la Paja. We later discovered some charming gardens where of course I captured the moment on my camera.

A morning and lunch with the girls in Madrid, such fun.

From here we walked towards the Plaza de Oriente Square which is dominated by the Royal Palace. However that day people were more interested in preparations for the Spanish “Goya” film awards than the palace and so were we. The Spanish TVE set was there too and funnily enough the presenter of the news from there was Olivia’s TV journalist master teacher. So she stayed to watch him present live whilst I joined Bea and Gloria for a coffee at the Café de Oriente.

Preparations in the Plaza de Oriente square for the Spanish film awards, the Goyas

The awards were to take place the next day, on Sunday evening. The overall winner of this year’s awards was a Catalán film called “Pa Negre” (Black Bread), a post Spanish civil war family drama which I know I will adore as I love historical or period films of events close to my heart.

Pa Negre (Black Bread) won 9 tropies at the Spanish Film Awards, the Goyas

And soon the week was over and it was Sunday and time for me to go to Barcelona to put into action all the activities I had been preparing for Yoigo’s participation in this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Whilst I was packing, Eladio decided to pack a suitcase too and join his brother José Antonio and his nephew Miguel, in Montrondo whilst I was away. His trip was to be quite memorable as whilst he was in his native village there was a huge snowfall. Also whilst he was there, our neighbour in Montrondo, Antonio, passed away after a long illness and his remains were brought there to be buried. Eladio of course went to the funeral where he was joined by his Mother and sister Pili and her husband Andrés. Rest in peace Antonio, in the niche next to my Father-in-law, in the peaceful cemetery by the village church in Montrondo. We will miss you. Despite this sad episode, Eladio had a grand time and enjoyed the snow with his brother and nephew. Here he is clad in his new red anorak with Nuba, José Antonio’s mongrel dog.

Eladio in Montrondo with Nuba in the snow whilst I was in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress

Miguel actually sent this lovely photo of snow in Montrondo to the Spanish TVE weather section and they showed it on the news last week. The picture is great and looks like a post card from a village Christmas scene. It was funny to see it live on the television as Montrondo is such a remote village more or less unheard of unless you are a member of our family or one of the very few inhabitants and their families.

Montrondo in the snow, the picture Miguel sent to Spanish TV and which appeared in the weather news last week

Whilst Eladio was driving northwest to Montrondo, I was on the high speed AVE train to Barcelona which takes just over 2.5 hours. I had checked in on Foursquare so all my social network friends would know where I was and settled down to work and have lunch on the train. Suddenly I received an sms from a friend and colleague whom I hadn’t seen for quite a few years, Jesús, an ex colleague of Motorola who now lives in Miami.  The sms told me he was also on the train. I was both surprised and happy and rushed to his carriage to greet him and I hugged him with great enthusiasm. He was travelling with his new wife from Puerto Rico, Renata, whom I had never met. It was a joy to be with them both and Jesús and I had much news and information to exchange as we had to catch up on 4 years in just under an hour. Unfortunately we were not to meet again during the congress which is not surprising when you think that some 60.000 people visited it this year, ten percent more than last year.

At the station I took a taxi to my hotel, the AC Diplomatic, where my colleagues from TeliaSonera were staying (thanks Ana and Birgitta for the room by the way) and as soon as I had checked in and unpacked my enormous suitcase, I took another taxi, this time to Badalona. I was off to see my old school friend Grainne and her son Marcel. The only time I had free was Sunday afternoon so we made the most of it over a cup of tea and two glasses of wine. Grainne is an out of work translator and private teacher of English, her handicap being not knowing enough Catalán to find a job, plus her age of course. I just wish I could help her more. I was glad to know that my visit had been a tonic for her. Actually for me, being with Grainne is always a tonic too. I love her personality and we share the same childhood background. Grainne, it’s time to move on, maybe to Alicante, maybe to Madrid or back to England. Whatever, I wish you loads of luck and moral support. That you will always have from me.

With my dear friend Grainne in Badalona last week.  We went to school together.

After visiting Grainne I had two more engagements. First I went back to my hotel for the TeliaSonera get together. Here I greeted many familiar faces over another glass of wine before leaving for the Cal Pinxo restaurant where I had a late date for dinner with Fátima. On the table next to us was my successor at Nokia Spain, Solange but also too my ex colleague from Hungary, Anna. Anna it was wonderful to see you. Of course we spoke about Nokia and I was not surprised to hear Solange support Stephen Elop’s announcement of the alliance with Microsoft. I suppose she does not have any other choice. All this was over a plate of wonderful cod “buñuelos” and salad and more wine which of course gave me a headache the next morning.

Monday was my least busy day, so after replying to my emails I made my way to the fair to registration to get  my pass where security is similar to that at airports which is most frustrating. My first stop was NSN (Nokia Siemens Networks) where I had many friends to greet; Julio, Cristina, Kaisa, Pentti, Paco, Emilio, .....and there was even time for a coffee with Julio.

With Julio at the NSN hospitality suite at the Mobile World Congress

From here I went to see another old colleague, Dee Gibbs whose PR company heads up the GSMA Media Centre. I hadn’t seen Dee since our Motorola days and that was probably 15 years ago. She told me her story since she left Motorola as I did mine and I am very proud of her success. She is now the owner of a big London PR agency with offices in Chelsea and many clients, including the GSMA association. Well done Dee, it was great seeing you again. After seeing Dee I went to see Ilkka, another ex Motorola colleague, the ex GM for Switzerland who now lives in the US. Thanks to him I am now in touch with Irene (of Chilean origin) my marketing counterpart in Switzerland at the time. I had forgotten her surname but now I know it we are in touch on Facebook. I remember many a meeting in Basingstoke outside London when we used to chat until the small hours over a drink in the bar of the wonderful hotel Audley’s Wood. Great to see you again Ilkka and great to have found you Irene too. What I like most about the Mobile World Congress is meeting old colleagues. Of course the technology is interesting but to me it comes second to people.

What struck me most about the fair this year was the change in the players. Nokia occupied hidden little rooms in a small hall and there was Android (Google’s mobile phone operating system), the star of the show.

The Android stand at the Mobile World Congress this year, the star of the show

Certainly this year was the year of the tablets and as some journalists are writing, they are now destined for the masses, not just the chosen few. I totally agree. The phone I most desire, of those announced this year, is the Samsung Galaxy II, the upgrade of the one I am using now, with Android of course. Not so long ago I only wanted a Nokia phone but not any more I’m afraid and I think I speak for many people, not just me.

The Mobile World Congress this year, with dark cloudy skies.

On the way back to the hotel I must admit I stopped off for a bit of shopping on the Paseo de Gracia Street near the AC Diplomatic. I only went into Zara.  I think it’s my favourite shop since I’ve lost weight and now I love it and seem to want everything I see and like. So in less than 30 minutes I tried on and bought a pair of tight white trousers, a leopard patterned silky short dress and an emerald green v-necked jumper plus a blue and white striped long sleeved t-shirt.

In the evening I had two appointments. The first was to the Nokia Siemens event organised by my friend Fátima for Telefónica at the most exclusive club in town, “El Círculo Ecuestre”. To hire the place or visit it you must do so through one of the members and it was through Fátima’s fellow student friend Oscar (now an illustrious notary in Barcelona) and his wife Margarita that NSN was able to use the club for this event. I went along to have a drink and meet them and they are a delightful couple. They showed us all the wonderful rooms and the place reminds you of a London top club. Not that I have ever been to one, but I have seen them on the screen of course.

With Fátima at the Círculo Ecuestre in Barcelona last week

My next stop was my own party, a St. Valentine’s party at Leounge owned by Julia, the girls’ Austrian friend they met at the N-Gage team building event in Finland some years ago. Here we had invited the bloggers from our blogger trip to the MWC, as well as some Facebook fans and of course the Yoigo shopkeepers who had won tickets to the congress. All in all some 50 people mingling and enjoying food and drink amid giant red hearts and a wonderful magician who had us all in awe but also in stitches. It was a great party for which I got another well deserved headache.

Tuesday was a busy day which started with the TeliaSonera press conference. Afterwards we worked on the final touches to our own press releases and presentation for the Yoigo press conference the next day. The day was busy but there was time for play too. So at midday I took Anna and Birgitta for lunch off site. We went to El Merendero de la Mari where I introduced them to the wonderful dish of rice with lobster. After lunch Anna and I walked to the old town our destination being one hour in the shops. On the spur of the moment, though we entered the old Gothic cathedral for a bit of culture in sharp contrast to the high tech congress we were here for. We were back on time for our next event, the premiere showing of the Yoigo video to the Nordic press. Things went wrong from the start. Don’t ask me why but there was trouble getting it started and then the journalists were not interested as I had actually predicted. The only people watching were internal and frankly for me this was a huge disappointment for the premiere showing after so much hard work.

From here we went to the Ericsson party at their enormous pavilion. The party started at 6pm which is far too early for anyone living in Spain! The next day we were to announce a contract for the extension of our network with them, so of course we were very welcome. We took along our bloggers who you can see in the picture below.

With the bloggers at the Ericsson party at the Congress last week

I had a dinner date but skipped it after a not so happy day and decided to go back to my hotel room and order room service with the company of the BBC World News. The next morning I did not have a headache.

Wednesday, the last day of the congress for me, was the day of our press conference which was to be a breakfast at 10 am at Brown 33 on Paseo de Gracia just across the road from our hotel. I was not expecting many journalists as most of them are heading back that day so I was in for a surprise. We had a full house with some 15 journalists and 20 bloggers plus some gate crashers! We had lots of news that day, the objectives for the year, the contract with Ericsson, a new mobile data tariff for heavy users plus a novel service, cheap international calls using IP. Needless to say we got loads of coverage, mostly online of course, as is the rule of the day. What made me most happy was that we were the Twitter trending topic of the day in Madrid and Barcelona thanks to our press conference. By the way, try googling “Yoigo MWC” to see how many results you get. At the end of Wednesday there were some 11.000. Right now there are 52.300!! Online rules my friends doesn’t it?

The Yoigo press conference was packed this year at the congress

So rather happier, I went back to my hotel to pick up my suitcase, check out and get a taxi to the station to catch the 13h AVE high speed train to Madrid. I enjoyed club class which included a superb lunch and more importantly a switch to plug my computer in. Once again I checked in on Foursquare only to find that a Facebook friend, Virginia, was also on the train and was going to Boadilla afterwards. So we took a taxi together. It was great to be home again and to sleep in my own bed, the most comfortable one for me in the world.

You can see the full set of photos of my time in Barcelona here on my Facebook page.

The AVE high speed train that brought me home from Barcelona

The next day, Thursday 17th February was a busy day for me. I had to go into the office for 3 meetings and I can tell you I’m not a meeting person. I prefer to agree things by email or over the phone but this time there was no choice. I had lunch with Marta, another ex Nokia colleague, who needed some professional coaching from me. I was happy to help her over lunch at Imanol (my PP day after so much gluttony in Barcelona) but knew my case was difficult. Marta has to set her priorities and learn to say no to an overload of work and insist on getting some extra resources and help. But can she do that? Only she knows.

On Friday at last I was able to have a quiet day of work at home, this time preparations for 3 events next week. I was worried that not having followed the Dukan recommendation for the consolidation phase I am supposed to be on in Barcelona, that I would have put on weight. But no I hadn’t. In face I had even lost a bit and now weigh just over 62 kilos. Whoopee. Therefore I took Eladio out for dinner that night for a mini celebration and we went to La Vaca Argentina. There I had chips for the first time in many months and boy were they good.

Yesterday, Saturday, was a big day for the family. We were going on my birthday trip to the Parador (state run hotels in monumental buildings) in the historical town of La Granja de San Ildefonso in the province of Segovia and an hour’s drive from home. The five of us were going, Eladio, the girls, my Father and I, something which was very important for me. I love it when we are all together and usually we are all so busy that we don’t do many things together. We checked into the Parador at around 13h and had lovely spacious rooms next to each other on the first floor.

My Father, Suzy, Eladio and Oli yesterday at the Parador de la Granja
We had booked a table for lunch at 14.15 and were given a nice round table overlooking the garden. Of course we all ate so much we needed a siesta afterwards.

The dining room at the Parador de la Granja

In fact we didn’t wake up until 6 which was a little late for our walk. The Palace and Palace gardens were closed so we decided to visit them the next day and contented ourselves walking around the village 4 times to get a minimum of an hour and a half’s walk. At eight o’clock we had an appointment at the spa and this we thoroughly enjoyed. Below you can see us clad in thick white bathing robes with big smiles on our faces. We enjoyed the Jacuzzi with seven different power jets for different parts of the body, as well as the sauna (90ºc!) and the swimming pool where you swam one length with the current and then a length against the current. Thankfully after so much exercise we had built up a moderate appetite although I only had vegetables for dinner.  My Father just had a cup of tea and biscuits in his room as he couldn’t face another copious meal.

The 4 of us in our bath robes ready to hit the spa at the Parador.  We had great fun.

We slept really well, with total silence coming from outside and I actually woke up at eight o’clock in the morning which is late for me. We all had breakfast at around nine and it was scrumptious with everything and anything you could imagine. I had to contain myself and pass on all the enticing bakery produce, not to mention the savoury food on offer, such as friend eggs. Breakfast was long and included a second cup of coffee and of course El País and El Mundo where the main news was the up and coming anniversary of the Spanish coup d’etat (golpe de estado) on 23rd February 1981, many new details of which were reported on in today’s papers. I always remember being in England when that happened and seeing it on the 9 o’clock news. I will never forget the image of the Spanish colonel, Tejero going into the Spanish Parliament, shooting a gun into the air  and saying “Quieto Todo el Mundo! (be quiet everyone) and “que se sienten coño” (for ***** sake sit down). I also remember ringing Eladio straight afterwards and not being able to get through as the lines were down and being very worried.

Breakfast this morning at the Parador was out of this world

After checking out, we left my Father with some magazines in the Parador library and went off to explore the Palace gardens which are spectacular and well worth the visit. The gardens are famous for their fountains. Unfortunately today they were not in operation. We walked for another hour and a half and the sun made its entrance and brightened up the day at least for me.

The 4 of us today at the gardens of the Palace in La Granja

In fact we ventured quite far and saw wonderful statues and reservoirs, like the one in the picture below which I particularly liked because of the mirror effect of the trees around it. In sum the gardens are heavenly.

One of the beautiful reservoirs at the palace gardens in La Granja today.  Notice the mirror effect of the trees!

We had a table booked afterwards at the famous restaurant called Mesón Cándido in Segovia and in fact my friend and famous ex cyclist, Pedro Delgado, who is from Segovia, had made the reservation for me. However we were all so full and just couldn’t face another heavy meal that we decided to ring the restaurant and cancel and come home for something lighter. Thankfully Olga had left us a Spanish tortilla so all we had to do was make a salad to go with it.

So here we are back from a lovely family trip. You can see all the photos here. I am now writing my blog, Eladio is struggling with the printer next to me. Suzy is upstairs in her room, Oli is with her beau somewhere and my Father is reading in the lounge. So together but not together but under the same roof.

And that my friends, is the story of my last two weeks, with all my ups and downs and adventures and trips. Now I will leave you to publish it and then relax with a new book yet to be chosen from my last order.

I hope you all have a great week. Mine is going to be busy and I hope that after next week I may have a quieter paced life. That remains to be seen.

Cheers till next week


Sunday, February 06, 2011

An implant, VID of the week, on the road again: to Barcelona and Stockholm, good news for Yoigo, CV plagiarism and the revolution continues in the Middle East.

Me in my new black and white striped dress which I bought at Zara in Barcelona this week.  Love it!
Hi again everyone, this lovely sunny morning in Madrid. The cold seems to have retreated and we can expect temperatures of 18ºc at midday. That’s in sharp contrast to the cold in Stockholm this week, but more about that later.

I hope you have had a good week. Mine has been exciting although the start was not the best. On Monday I had an implant put in my mouth. As I lay on the dentist’s chair, I almost asked Dr. Garralda (the best dentist in the world by the way) to take a picture of the scene but it would have been ugly of course.

What made the session more palatable was having received an email from the Dukan diet team just before to inform me I was their VID (very important Dukanian) of the week. I had sent in my story but did not expect to get it published. After all millions, yes, literally millions of people are on this diet and my story is just a drop in the ocean. So imagine my surprise and pleasure when I saw my story featured on their front page. In the email the content team told me my story was a pleasure to edit as it contained lots of information and great pictures. I hope you think so too. This week I broke my diet completely because of my travels (you will understand why when you read about the meals!) and this morning my scales were not happy with me. I had put on 700 grammes. I’m not very pleased with myself but no worries I will lose that very soon I can assure you.

Me on the front page of the Dukan diet page, imagine!
The same day of the implant I had to go to Barcelona in the afternoon so I was not in a great state. I took the AVE (High speed train) with Bea from my events agency QuintaEsencia at 16h which arrived at the Sants train station in Barcelona at 18.45. From there we took a taxi to our hotel, one of my favourites in this city, called the 1898. It is the old Philippines tobacco company building in the colonial style which I love and is located on the Rambla, the most famous street in the city. The rooms are all decorated with black and white or green and white or red and white stripes; mine being the latter. You can see the view from my room of the Rambla here.

The view from my room at the 1898 hotel of La Rambla
The purpose of our visit was to visit many locations to choose them for events for our participation in the up and coming Mobile World Congress starting on 14th February. We had to find a place for lunch for our bloggers, a place for a private party and more importantly a place, near the fair, for our press conference, as the press always complain our locations are too far out. That evening we went to many, the first being a place called Tickets, patronised by the world’s most famed Chef and restaurant owner, Ferran Adriá. Unfortunately Tickets is not yet ready for opening. Even so we knocked on the door and it was opened and we got talking to the owner, a major restaurant owner in Barcelona and business partner of Ferran Adriá. He was rather taken with Bea and told her she looked like Julian Moore. We walked absolutely everywhere and in the end I was quite exhausted. Bea wanted to take me somewhere ultra modern for dinner but in the end I took her to one of my favourites in Barcelona, El Merendero de la Mari where we enjoyed a marvellous plate of rice. As you can understand I had to eat something soft because of the implant. You can see the amazing dish we shared here.

The wonderful rice dish Bea and I enjoyed at El Merendero de la Mari in Barcelona this week.
The whole of Tuesday was spent searching for more locations. In the end we picked X’Op de Dor for the blogger lunch and Brown 33, for the press conference, an amazing café on Paseo de Gracia. For the private party I remembered the girls’ Austrian friend they met on the Nokia NGage Team building event in Finland some years ago, who lives in Barcelona and owns a small bar called Leounge. So we decided to call Julia and go and see it. You know what? It was just perfect for our event so we decided there and then to hire it. Julia will be hosting us that night which will be great. It’s such a pity the girls won’t be coming with me this year, as they have done in the past.

We had actually finished by lunchtime so, on our way out of one of the last locations we visited, we happened by Zara in Puerta de Angel, Barcelona’s most commercial street. Remember I had been to Zara last week in Madrid with the family but hadn’t been able to try anything on? Well this was my chance for shopping this week. I had seen 2 lovely dresses, both black and white but one with horizontal stripes and the other with spots. I tried them on and they were both great on me. I didn’t only buy the dressesI,  also invested in a pair of probably the most beautiful red shoes I have ever seen. They have kitten heels which are apparently now in fashion and are the only kind of heels I can bear to wear. So I walked out of Zara with a great bag of new clothes, once again.

The black and white spotted dress I bought at Zara in Barcelona this week.
The beautiful red shoes I bought at Zara this week in Barcelona.
For lunch we went to another of my favourite places in Barcelona, Neichel near the Barcelona Football Stadium. I love this place and have got to know the owners over the years; a lady from León, like my husband, who married a French chef, Mr. Neichel. The place is really cosy with a terrace and swimming pool outside and the food is divine. They give you lots of little delicious starters and with your coffee they give you a plate of sweet delicacies. For me they were forbidden fruit but no way was I going to leave them behind so I brought them back for my Father who has a very sweet tooth and no problems with his weight. I have only inherited his sweet tooth I’m afraid. My weight problems I inherited from my Mother.  That's called "murphey's law".

Me outside the Niechel restaurant in Barcelona.  Notice the lovely lemon tree behind me.
We took the 16.30 AVE home and arrived at Atocha train station just after19h. Soon I was home and in time for the only family dinner of the week. My darling girls had realised that and made sure we ate together that night.

No sooner had I come back from Barcelona than I was off again the next day, to Stockholm again. The management team from Yoigo was invited to the TeliaSonera Mobility team management meeting on Thursday and Friday where the management teams from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were also attending. We took the only direct flight that Iberia and Finnair operate which leaves at 10 in the morning and gets you to Stockholm Arlanda airport at around 14h. For me it meant getting up at 06.15 in the morning so my day was going to be very long and tiring. It is cramped in tourist class and the flight is long and boring. I spent most of it reading Sarah’s Key which is riveting and helped fight the boredom, something I cannot stand.

Once in Stockholm, where the weather was cold but tolerable with a temperature of around 0ºc Degrees, warmer than on my last trip, we took a taxi to the hotel where the Kick Off meeting was taking place. I would have preferred to be in the city centre, but the Marriott Courtyard hotel, a brand new modern hotel nicely designed but with no character whatsoever, was located on the outskirts. The view from my room was disappointing and in sharp contrast to Barcelona. I think they were either building a new office block or flats. Either way the view was very uninspiring. The architecture of the hotel was uninspiring too as you can see in the photo below.

The Marriott Courtyard hotel where we stayed in Stockholm this week.
The rooms were big and very much in the Swedish modern style, lots of wood and glass and tiled bathrooms, and of course very warm. This is a picture I got from the hotel website but actually my room was identical to it. Now you can see where I spent 2 nights this week, not bad at all. But if I could choose I would stay with the more romantic and stylish 1898. Wouldn’t you?

One of the rooms at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Stockholm.  Mine was identical.
The plan though for the afternoon and evening was very exciting, at least parts of it. We took a taxi to the TeliaSonera offices for the Spanish management team to see; some of whom had never been there. I, of course, have been quite a few times and know lots of familiar faces. It was good to see my ex Nokia boss, Thomas, who is now head of External Relations, as well as Bengt, Cecilia, Eva, Lars Ake and Andreas and of course Ove.

From here we walked towards our next destination and stopped in some Telia mobile phone shops. To tell you the truth I would have far preferred to take a look at women’s clothes at Lindex but there was no chance, specially travelling with so many men. The only other woman in our group, Cristina, felt likewise. Our next destination was a Stockholm tourist hit, the Ice Bar I had actually visited on my last trip here. However I was game to go again as I think the place is fantastic. Here is a picture of the 9 of us in our thermal ponchos (designed to keep us warm and not to let off body heat that may melt the ice either) ready to go in.

The group photo at the Ice Bar in Stockholm, such a fun place to go to.
You can only have vodka as the place is owned by the Swedish vodka company, Absolut. I didn’t mind as I actually like vodka (remember my Russian blood?) but there was no vodka and orange to be had. Instead I had it with mango which was delicious. You cannot spend more than 15 minutes in the ice bar because of the cold, so soon we were outside again and off to our next destination, the Stockholm City Hall.

Stockholm City Hall
Here we had a table reserved at the marvellous restaurant inside called Stadshus Kallaren. It is at the Stockholm City Hall that the Nobel Banquet takes place every year and here we were served the Nobel menu for 2010 using the same cutlery, gold rimmed glasses and white and gold china as at the banquet.

My dinner place at the Nobel meal at the City Hall, identical to the Nobel banquets.
It was amazing to think that I was going to eat the same menu as the Nobel Literature Laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa this year. I had imagined a copious dinner of many courses, but luckily it was just 3 and they were delicious, especially the dessert and wines. You can see what the menu consisted of in the picture below.

The dinner we had at the City Hall, the very same menu as at the 2010 Nobel Banquet.
The evening didn’t end there as we had one last date that night. We were to meet the expats who had worked at Yoigo and had now returned to TeliaSonera. So we took a taxi back to the Marriott Courtyard hotel where we were to meet up at the bar with Ake, Robert, Cecilia, Karin, Anna, Arne and Viktoria. You can see the group photo here. It was great to meet them all again, although some were missing, like Mika, unfortunately.

We had drinks with the Ex Yoigo expats at the bar of the hotel. It was great to see them again.
I was exhausted after a very long day so went back to my room, hopefully unnoticed. I was to be up again the next morning early again too, at around 6.30 because Thursday 4th February was a big day for the company. The management team unfortunately was to coincide with the group’s results for Q4 and the full year 2010. So why was this important you may ask? Well, we had known for a while, but it was only on 4th February that TeliaSonera was going to announce publically that Yoigo had reached breakeven. This is what I posted at around 07.30 that morning on Facebook: “Today is a historic day for Yoigo. In TeliaSonera's year end results they have announced that Yoigo reached Ebitda breakeven, in just under 4 years, the fastest operator to do so with the lowest funding ever. Congratulations Yoigo!!!!!”. The day was going to be busy for me too. I had a conference call at 8am with the TeliaSonera HQ and then had to coordinate with my PR Agency back home, Ketchum, the communication on this in Spain. We had to issue a Spanish press release to the media and also send an internal release to the staff. On top of that I had to find out what the Group CEO was going to add to the news at the 09.30 press conference. He had only words of praise for Yoigo and it was our day I can tell you. We had reached breakeven and well over 2 million customers. He said that we had done a fantastic job and that had deserved the right to play the second half of the game, i.e. to continue to grow. And grow we will, I have no doubt at all. We are going to build on our success, not just rest on our laurels. Many people doubted that Yoigo would ever be successful and there was much criticism both in Sweden and in Spain. But you know what? We always knew we would deliver what we set out to do. Was it easy? It may look easy but it was damned difficult and it’s true we have done an amazing job. It was also said at the press conference that Yoigo was no longer on the TeliaSonera selling list, which was music to my ears and also for the Spanish market. Well wasn’t that good news? It was published in all the media in Spain and I followed the news on my mobile phone throughout the kick-off. However my job didn’t end in the morning. I was on the alert all day, adding to my tiredness, as we had 4 interviews scheduled with Spanish media later in the day and you always have to be on your toes when dealing with journalists.

Yoigo made history this week by reaching break even in just under 4 years!
Finally I was able to go back to my room and change for the evening’s dinner at around 18h, some 12 hours after I had got up. And wow was I tired. However I had the kick off dinner ahead of me and had to be ready for mingling at 18.30 and dinner at 19.30, in the same room I should add as the day’s conference. By the way I wore my new black and white spotted dress for the first time that evening and felt a thousand dollars. I felt a little cooped up though as I hadn’t left the hotel premises since the night before and wasn’t going to do so until the next day at noon. So no walks for me during this stay I’m afraid.

The conference facilitators were very organised and communicated with us via sms internet links; very technological I must say. I got a message to tell me which my table for was for that night and also a picture of who my partner would be, a Finn with an unpronounceable name and who liked skiing and fishing, the 2 activities I’m not particularly interested in. However when I got to Table One, I was met by Rolf, a very likeable Norwegian who had me for a partner in his sms message. To his left was Soren from Denmark who spoke perfect English as he was brought up in England. Also on the table were Ingrid, Carl, Tiit, Indre and my partner Juha. I must say we had a whale of a time; so many nationalities and some great personalities too. The entertainment was good also. A Swedish woman singer accompanied by a woman pianist sang with a superb voice but she also imitated famous singers. So there she was suddenly singing like Barbara Streisand and in the next breath like Montserrat Caballé! The highlight of the evening came from the Swedish business unit though. A semi professional team of the most diverse members sang and danced on stage about their business unit in Swedish. I didn’t understand any of it but thoroughly enjoyed their show. I think we will be following suit sometime in Yoigo as the performance was hilarious and made a huge impact. I’m not sure I want to be in the group though as I have absolutely no rhythm.

Members of the Swedish business unit performing at the Kick Off dinner this week.
There were drinks after dinner, but again I crept away as I needed to sleep after such a long and stressful day. On Friday I was up early, as always, because I just can’t sleep past a certain time, so went to have breakfast early too. I was joined by Anna, the communications head, someone I get on with very well and we tried to make a shopping date for Barcelona. I doubt she will make though or will she? Will you Anna???

The conference was to continue until midday but I was more interested in reading the headlines of the coverage on Yoigo’s results than listening to the speakers. That was probably very rude of me but then again the content of the second day didn’t have much in it for me and the coverage was much more important for me. Believe it or not, lunch was at 11.45, in sharp contrast to lunch time in Spain which generally starts from 14h. And then in the blink of an eye the whole conference was over, at least for us from Spain and we had to take a taxi to the airport at 12.30 to catch the only direct flight to Madrid which leaves just before 15.

As we were leaving it was snowing and I couldn't resist taking this snapshot to remember it.

It was snowing in Stockholm when we left.

Everything went smoothly at Arlanda airport as it usually does and there was plenty of time for shopping. Here I had a bit of a field day. So what did I get? Well, the usual plus some more. I bought lots of Swedish and Finnish chocolate for my Father, a prawn salad for dinner at home (just love the Swedish prawn sandwiches and salads), smoked salmon and more cloudberry and lingonberry jam for my Father. The “plus some more” refers to a unique handbag I bought and which I had seen on my last trip. I saw someone at the conference with it and that was probably what spurred me on to buy it. The bag is from the “Spring Deer Collection” by the Swedish brand Ceannis and is made of fake fur and I love it. It’s just unique. You can see a photo of it I got from their website. I wonder whether you like it?
The wonderful fake fur Ceannis bag I bought on Friday at Stockholm's Arlanda airport.
Again the flight was boring and cramped but relieved somewhat by my book. I also slept on and off and played patience on my Samsung Galaxy Tab, anything to while away the time of this long flight. We arrived at around 7pm and I was home by about 8pm. The girls were out beginning their weekend social life so I was just greeted by my Father, Eladio and of course Norah. The prawn salad for dinner was as good as expected.

And so the next day, Saturday, I finally woke up in my own bed, the best in the world with its 1.80cm memory foam mattress. I actually spent Saturday morning working to catch up on any lost work in the week. In one of the mails in my inbox there was a CV from someone called Nuria who wanted to work in communications in Yoigo. I knew I couldn’t take anyone on as I am a one woman show and don’t need any assistance which I outsource from my PR and events agency. In any case I took a look at the CV out of curiosity. When I started to read and saw the format I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was nearly identical in form and a lot of the text to my very own CV. This girl had obviously copied mine, nearly literally. I just cannot get over the fact that she had the audacity to send it to me and to ask me for a job. It was sheer plagiarism and I still don’t know where she got it from as my CV is certainly not available on the web as it is in my word document. Needless to say I wrote to her, caustically commenting the similarity and telling her that the communications function was a one woman show and that I was never going to hire anyone.  I wonder what she will answer. Bit of a cheek don’t you think?

But I also had time to relax and finally go on our blessed walk, so good for my body and soul. In the evening Eladio and I went to the cinema to see The King’s Speech which is nominated for an Oscar, the story of which is right up my street. The mistake was seeing it in Spanish – no good – but I won’t be able to see it in English until the video comes out. I liked it but found the role of George VI, the current Queen’s Father, just a little too negative, cross and tense. You wished he would relax sometimes but then again his problem, the stuttering, hampered his whole life. I can’t wait to see the film again in English.

The King's Speech, a great film but not to watched in any other language than English.

And today is Sunday, another quiet day to relax after my hectic week of travels. Today we are going, all the family, yes, My Father, the girls, Eladio and I, to lunch at José Antonio and Dolores’ house to celebrate Juan’s and my birthday which is actually next Tuesday. I’m really looking forward to it as I love our family get-togethers which are far and few between these days unfortunately.

As I come to the end of this week’s blog, I must once again mention that the unrest in the Middle East continues. The Egyptians have taken to the streets demonstrating for democracy and calling for the 80 odd year old Mubarak who has been in power for decades to resign. They have taken a hold of the main square and the unrest has been much similar to that of Tunisia just before. The whole world is watching to see if Mubarak will finally leave now, as other Arab countries begin similar protests. There is a real revolution happening in the Middle East and I am watching it with delight but at the same time with a worry that in some places the Islamist fundamentalists may take over the current dictatorships. Both are bad but the former is more frightening. Will we ever see democracy in the Middle East? The protesters want it and so do I.

There is a real revolution going on in Egypt and the whole world is watching to see whether Mubarak will resign.
And on that note, I leave you for this week. The week coming up for me will be hectic with lots and lots of work but then again work has never frightened me. I will not be travelling until the following week and look forward to celebrating my 54th birthday on Tuesday 8th February with my lovely family. I already know what my present is; a night for the whole family at a Parador at the end of February. Aren’t I lucky?

Hope you have a great week,

Cheers my friends/Masha
PS here is the full collection of my photos of Barcelona and Stockholm.