Sunday, January 29, 2012

Flat hunting with Suzy, to Barcelona and back, feeling the crisis in Spain and other things.

In Barcelona this week with Bea and Miguel at Cal Pinxo in the Port Vell

Hello again, this sunny Sunday in January.

The week has been busy and rather tiring because of the trip to Barcelona but there is lots to tell.

On Monday, after a flying visit to the office, I rushed back home to join Eladio and Suzy flat hunting, just before lunch in Brunete.  Brunete is a small town not so far from where we live and just 15km from the centre of Madrid. My Father always remembers it for its role and fame in the Spanish civil war.  Today it is a peaceful, sleepy, pretty little place but you if you look on the road from Boadilla you can still see the original gun turrets used in the Battle of Brunete in 1937 when it was anything but peaceful.

The map of the Battle of Brunete in 1937.  Today it is a sleepy pretty little village

The first flat we saw was right by the Plaza Mayor and was a gem with three bedrooms and three bathrooms, all small but new, fully equipped and in an impeccable state.  Other flats were not as attractive.  However Gaby was not as happy with it as Susana, who, very reluctantly, had to give it up.  They continued flat hunting yesterday, Saturday, and found a place both of them liked enough, a two bedroom two bathroom flat with a terrace and in a complex with a garden and swimming pool just outside the village.  If things go as planned, they will be moving in at the beginning of March and not after the summer as they had initially planned.  That leaves very little time left for us to enjoy Susana living at home. As she will be going to Tanzania with Oli, Rocío and Elena from 7th to 21st Feb, her time left at home will be reduced to less than two weeks.  If you subtract the number of nights she spends at Gaby’s house and her long working hours at the Zarzuela private hospital where she also has her lunch, you can probably count the days she will coincide with us on the fingers of one hand.  Oh my God, Suzy is going.  I know she has to spread her wings, after all she will be 28 this year, but we will miss her so much. Life will never be the same again as it is the turning of a new page in all our lives.  I just wish her lots of happiness and luck and hope she and Gaby will be happy in their new flat in Brunete.  Thankfully they will be just a few miles away which means we will still see her quite often, I hope.

The main square or Plaza Mayor in Brunete

On Tuesday I went into the office again.  I also had a lunch appointment at the nearby Aspen restaurant, my favourite in the posh Moraleja area.  It was with an English colleague, Corinne who used to work for Vodafone.  We had a lot to catch up on.  Since I last saw her, Corinne had since got married and had two children. She had also returned to the UK to live but came back to Spain as she and her English husband missed their home here and the Spanish climate.  

On Wednesday I was off to Barcelona on an important site inspection trip for the up and coming Mobile World Congress which takes place this year at the end of February.  I had to look for venues for our press conference and blogger party.  I was up at the crack of dawn to catch the 8.30 high-speed train.  Once I had eaten the rather unappetizing stodgy breakfast and dealt with all my emails, I turned on Spotify to listen to my collection of wonderful classical music.  I can’t begin to describe the uplifting experience of listening to Oh for the wings of a dove by Bach or Charlotte Church singing Fauré’s Pie Jesu and Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus on my old iPhone whilst travelling at more than 200km an hour across Spain.  It was so amazing that I repeated the experience on my journey back the next day.

Charlotte Church, the Welsh singer, has the voice of an angel

As soon as I had checked into my hotel, my all time favourite in Barcelona, the 1898 on the Ramblas, I was met by Bea and Miguel from my events agency.  We had a very productive morning walking the streets of sunny and busy Barcelona.  In fact they had done some better ground work than usual, showing me only the places they thought were really suitable.  So after just visiting  4 locations, our work was done in the choice El Mordisco and El Cachito which were just the sort of places I had in mind.  Pleased with our morning’s work, we went to have lunch in the old port (Port Vell) at Cal Pinxo which serves the most mouthwatering cod fried delicacies called “buñuelos” you can possibly imagine.  The weather was good enough to eat outside which is precisely what we did, right by the waterside, an area I return to time and time again when in Barcelona.  I remember taking Eladio there in 2010 and when I clicked on google images for a photo of the restaurant to accompany this text, believe it or not, there was mine of Eladio tucking into black rice at Cal Pinxo.

Eladio at the Cal Pinxo restaurant with me in October 2010.

The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me with Bea and Miguel enjoying lunch at Cal Pinxo.  

In the afternoon I was free to work from my hotel room and there was even time for a visit to the sauna and spa and for some evening shopping.  I visited Cortefiel where I splashed out on a cream lace Pedro del Hierro dress and matching scarf which is actually longer on me than the one in the picture below.  I also got a shiny sequin blue dress at H+M which I am now wondering when I am ever going to wear. 

The cream crochet dress I bought by Pedro del Hierro in Cortefiel in Barcelona this week.

In the evening whilst Barcelona was playing Madrid in the Camp Nou football ground, Bea and I went out to dinner to Neichel, another favourite restaurant of mine in Barcelona.  We weren’t particularly hungry and enjoyed mostly the small delicacies they put on the table that came with the meal.  Later as I returned to my hotel I saw football fans following the match from TVs in shop windows and bars and it was quite obvious Barcelona was beating Madrid to the ground in this return match of the Copa del Rey; another “clásico”.  The week before, Barcelona had beaten Madrid in the Bernabeu stadium.  Madrid battled gallantly and at the last minute drew by 2-2.  However they didn’t make it through to the next round.  The following day, a friend on Facebook remarked that Madrid’s coach, the famous José Mourinho, may well be out of a job by the summer.  Meanwhile in the more coveted “Liga”, Madrid is at the top and leading Barcelona by 7 points.  If Madrid wins the “Liga”, maybe Mourinho’s skin will be saved but having been whistled at by the fans recently, something that infuriated him, there is rumour he may leave at his own decision.  Whatever happens remains to be seen.

The next day I was up at 6 in the morning again this time to catch the 8 o’clock high speed train back to Madrid.  I arrived just after 11 and had to rush to the office for a meeting starting at 11.30.  I got there by the skin of my teeth.  Two hours later I was finally on my way home and in time for lunch with the family.  I was very tired and as usual had a headache after two stressful days.  

Thankfully the next day was Friday and I was able to wind down and get a bit more much needed sleep.  There is nothing more restful than sleeping in your own bed I always say.  Friday was quiet, spent working at home and then doing the weekly shopping with Eladio.  In the evening Eladio and I went to the cinema to see The Descendants with George Clooney.  It was a little disappointing as Eladio had expected, very superficial but easy to watch and for me, at least, entertaining and relaxing.  Afterwards we went to dinner to Ginos as of course La Alpargatería has shut down.  That’s difficult to get used to.  We had a surprise as we left the restaurant.  We bumped into Susana who was walking into the Vips restaurant right next door.  She was to join Olivia and their friends, Pulgui, Dave and dear Rocío.  It was a joy to see them.
The Descendants is very superficial but George Clooney is gorgeous in it.

On Saturday I woke up to the news of the closing down of the Catalan owned Spainairairline.  It has losses of up to 350 million euros and was to lay off over 2.000 employees as well as leave thousands of passengers stranded.  The news was brought closer to me as Suzy’s friend Erica’s Swedish Mother, Gunila, a Spanair hostess was affected.  In fact I read of the news from her Facebook post.

We all know there is a huge financial crisis in Spain but if you have a job and own a house without a mortgage you get on with life and the crisis doesn’t really affect you.  However it seems now to be getting closer and closer.  First our favourite restaurant closes down, then a hostess friend loses her job because of the Spanair closure and suddenly it begins to affect you too.  Around the same time the Spanish government announced that the unemployment figure in Spain has reached the all high of 5.400.000 people, the highest in Europe and even more than bankrupt Greece.  The numbers for young people are even higher.  I read today that 40.000 young people from Madrid have left the country to find their luck in other countries.  At the same time, over 80.000 immigrants have returned to their home countries.  It’s very depressing.  It’s difficult sometimes to understand what the crisis is all about.  So when I saw this viral picture on internet I thought it explained it better than any normal news article.  It’s all about spending more than you earn.  It is one way of looking at it.

These figures are a good way of explaining today's crisis.

Spain is not the only country in a crisis.  Companies, such as Nokia, the mobile phone giant I used to work for, are living the crisis too, but a different sort of crisis in this case. Nokia in the last quarter hashung on to its leadership in the sale of mobile phones but only just. There is always turbulence in the mobile phone market but today more than ever.  RIM or Blackberry’s newly announced German CEO admitted this week that  Apple and Google are winning but that change is coming, whilst Apple reclaimed the number onesmartphone spot in the same quarter.  But not all things are good for Apple who reported the best growth in sales ever.  It’s in the spotlight for bad conditions for workers in the Chinese factories that make it’s ever popular iPad.  I read last week that Nokia was no longer the number one mobile phone brand in its home country, Finland.  Its place had been taken by Samsung.  I myself am now using a Samsung, the Galaxy S2, its flagship product, since last week and it’s a wonderful piece of engineering. For me it’s the best mobile phone I have ever used.  But when I worked for Nokia we looked down on Samsung.  But then again when I worked for Motorola in the early 90’s we also looked down on Nokia.  Funny how the tables turn, yet companies never learn that lesson. Keeping the top spot is the most difficult spot to keep. 

With these thoughts in my mind, I spent Saturday morning cooking, a most relaxing exercise.  I created quite a few dishes to keep us going through the weekend, such as a winter chick pea stew, chicken legs cooked in honey and coconut and asparagus risotto.  Only Olivia was here to join us yesterday as Suzy was in Brunete with Gaby flat hunting.  However they joined us for lunch today, whilst Oli went off to spend time with her University friend Giovanna.  Suzy had brought some Russian food which a Russian friend from work had acquired for her.  I was delighted to see he had given her a packet of authentic pelmeni (sort of ravioli filled with meat) and real smetana (sour cream).

The Russian pelmeni and smetana Suzy's Russian colleague gave her and which we had for lunch today.

My Mother used to make pelmeni and my Father and I love them. I cooked them in vegetable water with butter and dill and between us we polished off half the packet for lunch today.  Suzy’s friend must have bought them at a Russian shop in Madrid and I will be asking her to pay him to bring us some more.  They were even better than home cooked pelmeni.  The waft coming from the saucepan brought memories back of my Mother making this very favourite Russian dish of ours when I lived at home with my parents. It’s funny how smells conjure up memories from the past so well.

Whilst I was preparing the pelmeni, Rafa Nadal was playing Novak Djokovic in one of the most disputed finals of the Australian tennis open.  There had to be one winner and after nearly 6 hours and 5 sets, I was upset to see the ever popular Spaniard lose this most important grand slam.  You can’t win them all, but here in Spain, at least, we are or were more used to Nadal winning than losing.  He will be much more upset I am sure.

And so another week has ended, as well as another Sunday and I am at the end of this week’s blogpost which I hope you have enjoyed.  I never fail to marvel at the number of people who read this blog and the many countries you all come from and often wonder why or how you came upon my diary.  In any case thank you for following my life.

Next week will be as interesting or more as this week as I will be off to Stockholm again.  This time I will be attending the annual meeting of the management teams from the countries where TeliaSonera is present in the Nordics, Baltics and Spain.  I do hope there will be some snow this time.  But you will hear all about that next time.  Meantime I wish you all a great week.

Cheers Masha

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blue Monday, the sinking of the Costa Concordia, double mashed potatoes, Norah’s adventure and other things.

The patatas revolconas we ate at De Brasa y Puchero restaurant this week

Hello again,

Well this week has been full of events, both at home and abroad.  On the international scene, the newspapers have been full of news of the terrible sinking of the Italian cruise liner, the Costa Concordia by the shores of the Island of Giglio.    Some 10 people have died and another 20 or more are missing in an accident, similar to the legendary Titanic.  We have all become familiar with the name of the captain, Francesco Schettino and his extraordinary behaviour.  He has been accused by the media of endangering the lives of 4.200 people by coming too near to the island to salute a former colleague and by apparently abandoning the ship before helping to evacuate the passengers. Just how can a captain abandon his ship?  I always remember the image of the captain of the Titanic, who did just the opposite, staying at the helm until it sank, not even trying to save his life.  Cruise holidays are very popular.  I have never been on one and am not very attracted but even if I ever wanted to go on one I couldn’t as Eladio is a very bad sea traveller, feeling sick just at the sniff of a ship’s engine. 

This week will be remembered for the aftermath of the sinking of the Costa Concordia

Monday started off as being pretty bleak with ghastly weather.  Snow was forecast for that day, which I would have loved for our walk but all we got were  fog and rain here in Madrid which impeded us from going on our daily walk.  That night we watched a programme on the TV about Spaniards living in Terranova, Newfoundland in Canada and learned that in this isolated part of the world, its population has to endure nearly 300 days a year of fog.  So I can hardly complain as the rest of the week was sunny and dry.  As I observed people having lunch outside one day this week, I remembered my Father saying that his favourite month in Spain is January, it being sunny but not hot. Funnily enough I later read that Monday 16th January is known as Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year.  It also reminded me of the famous Carpenters' song: "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down"

So it was fitting perhaps that it was on Blue Monday that the founder of Spain’s conservative PP party, died.  The news of the passing away of Manuel Fraga, a larger than life political leader from Galicia, described in the international press, as the last of the Spanish dictator Franco’s ministers, took over as the top news in Spain after the sinking of the Costa Concordia.

Manuel Fraga died this week

On Tuesday I went into the office for a meeting and then had a lunch appointment with a friend, Ramón who had been, until recently,  a well known TV news presenter.  He is now out of a job and my mission during our lunch was to pass him on my experience of picking up your life after losing a job, something that I am very familiar with.  My main advice was to think positive and for him to believe in himself and never give in and that his main job right now was his own marketing plan to find that job which I know he will if he doesn’t give up.  I wish him a lot of luck because it won’t be easy in these times of high unemployment in Spain, not to mention that jobs as TV news presenters do not precisely grow on trees!

If Monday was blue Monday, Tuesday was a red letter day for us because it was the day my Father walked again with his stick.  If you will remember, until recently he couldn’t walk because of the bedsore on his heel and latterly he had been able to do so with a zimmer frame.  So walking with a stick and practically unaided was huge progress.  Soon he will be joining us on our weekly shopping expedition, where I know that what he most looks forward to is a glass of Rueda white wine with a nice Spanish tapa at the Rio Café in El Bosque.

Just for the heck of it I invited Eladio later that night to dinner at the nearby De Brasa y Puchero restaurant where we are very fond of a dish called “patatas revolconas”, This is a Spanish country dish made of potatoes and a sprinkling of paprika and cooked with pork crackling that end up as a sort of mashed potato.  The verb “revolcón” can translate as “a roll in the hay” which of course has a sexual connotation meaning quick and dirty.  However there is nothing quick and dirty about this dish which is absolutely mouth watering.  I looked up the translation on google and came up with “double mashed potatoes”, not quite what it really is but in this link here you have the recipe.  The photo illustrating this week’s blogpost is of the potato dish we had at De Brasa y Puchero on Tuesday night.

The days went past pretty normally, with no trips this week.  On Thursday I was delighted to see Olivia on the television.  She was reporting on the 75th anniversary of Spain’s national radio station, RNE and on the visit of the Crown Prince of Spain, Don Felipe and his wife, the ex TVE presenter.  Olivia tried to ask her a question but just as the Princess was about to reply, a body guard lifted Olivia literally into the air and out of her sight.  That must have been an unusual experience for Olivia.  I managed to take a photo of Olivia on the TV and in the same screen shot you can see the Prince and Princess.  Funny to think that if she hadn’t married the Prince they may have ended up as colleagues working for the same TV station.  You can see Oli’s live report here at minute 13.50h.

Olivia reporting on the 75th anniversary of RNE and the visit of Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia

It was on Thursday when I finally got on the dreaded scales, weeks after Christmas had begun.  I was a little worried they would tell me a sorry story but got away with murder actually, only having put on just under one kilo over the whole Christmas period.  To get rid of the extra weight I immediately did two days of the strict pure protein intake, from the Dukan diet but actually they didn’t budge. 

Friday was the highlight of the week.  Eladio’s brother, José Antonio and his wife Dolores came to see us in the afternoon, bringing Nuba their sweet mongrel dog with them.  I suspect they come more often these days so that Nuba can enjoy the outdoors.  Whatever the reason, it makes us happy to see them now more often than before.  So off we went for the walk with the three dogs.  Norah is always on a lead as we suspect she would run off after rabbits or motorbikes and never come back.  However, it was such a lovely sunny afternoon and at José Antonio’s suggestion of letting her loose, we did so. We were surprised at how well she behaved, coming back each time we called her, and were delighted that she could go free.

I had booked tickets later for the new Millennium film by David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at the Equinoccio leisure centre in Majadahonda.  I am a great fan of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy and had my doubts that the American version of the film would be as good or better than the Swedish version.  So what did I think?  Actually, that it was just as good; equally entertaining. 

We went to see the new version of The Girl with the dragon tatoo

Afterwards I had planned for us to have dinner at our all time favourite restaurant at Equinoccio, La Alpargatería, so was very upset to hear earlier that it had shut down.  How could they shut down the restaurant we go to most? The last time we went was in December and here for the records is the photo of us there. Little did we know it would be the last time.  Goodbye La Alpargatería we shall dearly miss going there and eating at table number 7.

We were upset to hear that the restaurant we go to most, La Alpargatería has shut down.  This photo was taken on our last visit there in December.

As La Alpargatería had closed down, we opted to take José Antonio and Dolores to De Brasa y Puchero, mostly for them to try the “patatas revolconas”. However I think having that dish twice in a week, is more than enough for a while now.  

Yesterday, Saturday, was a nice quiet sunny day and the girls had guests for lunch.  Juli and Rocío, in fact, spent most of the weekend here.  Olga had made a delicious lasaña and whilst it was cooking the girls and their friends were actually sunbathing outside by the pool.  See what I mean by good weather?

The girls and their friends with Norah enjoying the sun on Saturday. 

Later that day was to be Norah’s biggest adventure ever and a huge scare for us as we nearly lost her.  As she had behaved so well loose on the walk with José Antonio and Dolores the day before, we decided to let her loose again.  Everything was going fine until a cyclist crept up behind us, too late to put the dogs back on their leads.  They immediately ran after the cyclist who I tried to warn in advance.  The dogs disappeared into the distance, only Elsa returning.  We carried on down the path which leads on to a road right by a motorway and Norah was nowhere in sight.  Eladio stayed on the road to look for her and I went back the way we had come taking Elsa with me.  I rang the girls for them to pick us and help us look for Norah.  Both of them were busy either dyeing their hair or showering so dear Juli and Rocío came to our rescue.  To add to the adventure Juli’s car was not fit for off road driving, he was running out of petrol and Rocío didn’t have time to change out of her pyjamas!  Just as they picked me and Elsa up I had a phone call.  Thanks to the tag on Norah's collar, an honest man called me to say he had found her on the M50 motorway at the Boadilla exit and that she had got into the car with him and that he had driven her to his home in Leganés, miles away. She had nearly been run over by the car in front of him!! We went to fetch her in Juli's car and the family, who had already fallen in love with her, gave her back. You can't begin to believe just how happy and relieved we are.  Needless to say Norah will never be let off her lead again when she leaves the house. As my friend Adele said on my Facebook wall: “all’s well that ends well”.  Indeed that is true.

Today has been a quiet family day with both girls at home.  The week coming up will be busy for me and them of course.  That’s it then my friends for this week.  I hope you all have a good one.

Cheers till next time.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

A bombshell, off to Stockholm and home again

Me in Stockholm this week.  The photo is taken from the top of the TeliaSonera's offices in Stureplan
Hello everyone, this cold and quiet Sunday in the middle of January.  

The week has been eventful.  On Monday evening at dinner with the family, Suzy threw a bombshell, when she told us she would be leaving home after the summer to live with Gaby, her boyfriend of now more than 7 years.  Did I expect it?  Well she is certainly at the age or past the age, coming up to 28 next April.  I think I did, as I myself had suggested the idea not so long ago.  It came to me from Bernard, Adele’s French psychiatrist husband who visited us last October.  When he saw that Suzy and Gaby alternated the nights at each other’s home, he observed it must be a dichotomy for them both to have to change houses each night in order to be together.  He was right of course.  What has prevented them so far is the lack of money as neither of them earns very much but my advice to them is that their independence is worth much more than the money they lack.  That was based on my own experience when Eladio and I lived in what was called “sin” in the early 80’s in a flat in Saconia outside Madrid. So am I upset?  In a way of course but my head rules my heart and I think it is time for her to experience independence.  No doubt we will miss her but there is one rule she will have to stick to and that is coming home for lunch every Saturday or Sunday.  Olivia I think will miss her most.  But then it is only a question of time too before Olivia leaves too.  However I hope that bombshell takes a while to come, as losing them both at the same time would certainly bring a lot of emptiness to this enormous house and life would never be the same.

The next day I didn’t have much time to think about it as I was going off into my own little world and travelling to Stockholm for a meeting with the communications team I belong to in TeliaSonera, the main shareholder of my company Yoigo.  I was up at the crack of dawn as I had to catch a plane at just past 10. Unfortunately the direct flight was full so I had to change planes at Geneva airport.  I was to use my new Samsonite luggage, a cabin sized suitcase and pc case which fits snugly at the top and was happy to avoid the bag drop queue as well as waiting for my luggage in Stockholm.  This was not only a time issue but also a means to avoid having the luggage left in Geneva. In my experience if you check in your luggage for a flight with a transfer, it usually ends up getting stuck at the transfer airport.  Being a seasoned traveler, or so I thought, I waited until the queue to get on the plane was down to just a few people and there I learned a new travel trick.  The plane had filled up with too much cabin luggage and I was told the plane was full and that I would have to give in my lovely new Samsonite luggage to be stowed away with the rest of the checked in luggage.  I protested that it would be left in Geneva as I had an ongoing flight and was allowed to board with it only to be given the same instructions by the hostess at the entrance of the plane.  My determination won the day but from now on when I travel with the new luggage, I shall go the front of the queue when boarding a plane before it gets full.

Changing planes at Geneva airport was a doddle, as I got off one and basically got on to the other in a nearby slot without having to change terminals to catch the next SAS flight to Stockholm.  Another travelling tip here is to avoid Frankfurt and Paris CDG airports if you ever have to change planes as they are a nightmare.  Geneva airport is full of chocolates which I didn’t buy although I was tempted.  I had asked for an aisle seat on the flight to Stockholm but unfortunately I was given a window seat.  This ended up being an advantage as I was mesmerized by the views of the Alps and Lake Geneva when we flew out of this very chic Swiss airport.

I got a bird's eye view of the snow capped Alps as I flew out of Geneva towards Stockholm

I arrived in Stockholm after 3 in the afternoon and it was already dark.  It wasn’t particularly cold for this time of year at about -3ºc.  I had hoped for snow on the ground but all I got was a thin coat that later disappeared and turned into rain.  In contrast to Spain where it gets light at 8 in the morning and dusk comes after 18h, in Sweden at this time of year, there is not light until 9 and dusk comes at about 3.  The Swedes need the snow to give them so light.  But so far, they are out of luck and so was I.  

The taxi took me to my hotel, the Skeppsholmen, on the island of the same name just a ten minute walk from the old centre of Stockholm.  It is a hotel I have now stayed at three times and if I could choose, I would stay there every time I go.  I love the place, an old army barracks turned into a very stylish and cosy Scandinavian design hotel with a soul.  It’s like a home away from home.  The rooms, and if you go, make sure you get a sea view, have wooden floors, great lighting, thick white bed linen and have a warm Ikea feel about them. 

The Skeppsholmen is my favourite hotel in Stockholm

The basins in the bathroom have a design I have never seen before and perhaps are a bit over the top.  In any case they are something special.  Judge for yourselves by this photo I took on one of my other trips

The basins in the bathrooms of the Hotel Skeppsholmen are ultra modern

I didn’t have much time to check in as I had to be at the TeliaSonera HQ office in Stureplan by 5.30.  I would have loved to walk but was in a rush so took a taxi, one of the thousands driven by immigrants from all the countries you can imagine in the world: such as Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, Iraq or in this case from Kosovo.  We had a good chat and I told him that Kosovo was really only known for its war and he agreed.  Sweden is home traditionally to immigrants who have suffered wars or political ostracism from all over the world.  But like in most countries, the immigrants live a semi ghetto existence.  It is a story that always fascinates me.

I arrived just on time but funnily enough two of the Swedes, better known for their punctuality, were actually late.  We had been invited along to do a team building exercise.  An agency called the Green Hat Games was to be our host.  We were divided into two teams and with the use of a Samsung Galaxy Tab we took the challenge and competed against each other via a variety of trivial type questions.  The other team won by a close victory but we all enjoyed the exercise.

Afterwards we walked to the nearby Story restaurant where we feasted on delicious fish and wine, as well as some interesting salted peas in a pod.  Our team is made up of members who do my same job in the Nordic and Baltic countries, so it was great to meet up with Indra, Kaja, Mette, Timo, Karen, Anna, Birgitta and the others.  I had missed the last meeting in Vilnius which was when my Father was operated on his hip.  I also missed last year’s meeting in Oslo which coincided with a Yoigo event but I am determined not to miss our next meeting which is scheduled for June in Wonderful Copenhagen.

The Story hotel restaurant in Stockholm where we had our team dinner

I walked back to my hotel afterwards to work off the dinner and enjoy the cool Stockholm air.  The next morning I got up early again in order to go for a short walk before our meeting started at 08.30h.  I would have walked to TS if I hadn’t had my heavy pc to carry with me.

I arrived in the dark and when I left the building at 17h it was dark again, so spent the whole day inside.  Luckily our meeting took place on the top floor which has a terrace so I was able to get some fresh air during the day and enjoy the lovely view of Stockholm from the top of Stureplan 1.  Mette, my Danish colleague took the photo of me on that terrace, the one illustrating this week’s blog.

Our intense and interesting meeting ended too late for me to catch a plane back to Madrid that evening, so I had decided to stay on another night.  My plane back the next day wasn’t until two so I had plenty of time for working quietly on my pc in my hotel room as well doing some shopping.

I left my pc at TS and went for a walk along the streets for a look in the shops.  I love shopping in Stockholm for clothes as you can find Swedish fashion that I love and which is different from anything you can find in Spain.  That afternoon I got as far as the Gallerian shopping centre and my first find was a blue and white tight fitting striped dress in Vero Moda which when I saw it I knew it was for me.  I love stripes, as those of you who know me better, already know.

The blue and white striped dress I bought at Vero Moda in Gallerian

I had been up really early for the last two days and felt very tired, so I took a taxi back to my hotel to relax.  After I had caught up on my emails I was suddenly very hungry but realised why.  We had had lunch at the unearthly Swedish time of 11.45 so no wonder I was hungry at 19.30.  I made my way down to the cozy dining room to sit on my own at a small table by the window, the one I always sit at if it’s free.  And I ordered what I always order at the Skeppsholmen hotel, their wonderful prawn open sandwich with two glasses of sauvignon white wine.  In order not to feel too alone, I whatsapped with Suzy and surfed the news on my phone.  The photo below which I took on my last trip here, shows you just how wonderful this very Swedish platter is and why I order it every time I come.

The Skeppsholmen Hotel serves as great prawn open sandwich

On Thursday morning, the world was mine and after working for an hour or so and packing and leaving my luggage in reception, I walked to the town centre, determined to buy some more new Swedish clothes to add to my wardrobe.

It was cold, rainy and windy and funnily enough my first stop was H+M which we have in Spain of course.  However I was tempted by a beautiful flowery green silk dress I saw in the window.  I tried it on and size M was perfect, so I promptly bought some matching green tights, a cardigan and scarf to go with it.  Here you can see which dress I mean.  

The green flowery dress I bought at H+M in Stockholm this week

Later I walked into Kappahl where I always find something.  Here I bought a striped jumper and matching scarf and this lovely striped cardigan with bright colours.  I must have made the right choice as when I showed all my new clothes to Olivia, she chose this cardigan to wear the next day to work.
The colourful striped cardigan I bought at Kappahl

I also went into Lindex, my all time favourite of Swedish clothes’ shops, but didn’t really find anything that took my fancy except for a pink t-shirt.

I didn’t have much time left or room in my suitcase, so, loaded with my new purchases, I weathered the rain and wind to walk back to the hotel.  Here I managed to get them all into my Samsonite case, said my goodbyes and left in yet another taxi driven by an immigrant for Terminal 5 of Arlanda airport.

Here I had just under an hour and a half to get through customs and security, do some duty free shopping and have a bite to eat.  I also had to make a few phone calls related to work and in the end wished I had left the hotel earlier, as it was all a bit of a rush.  I had promised the family a Swedish dinner that night with food bought at the airport with prawn open sandwich being the main dish.  I got this at one of the lovely bars and the rest at a Swedish delicatessen run by a delightful Iranian immigrant.  He sold me more than I needed and gave me the recipe and ingredients to make a wonderful sauce to accompany the smoked salmon I purchased there. 

I couldn’t face another prawn sandwich so opted for Swedish tapas which turned out to be even more delicious.  I also need to buy a book to read on the plane as I had 4 hours to play with.  I got the English novelist Joanne Troloppe’s two latest books, The Other Family and Daughters in Law which should keep me going for a while.  Sleep overtook me for half of the flight, but for the other half I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of The Other Family.

I was home by just after eight, in time to greet my Father and give him the Swedish newspaper of that day: Svenska Dagbladet and some chocolates.  I had also bought him his favourite cloudberry jam. 

We had a superb family dinner with the Swedish food I had bought and everyone agreed the Iranian man’s recipe for the salmon sauce was out of this world.  For the record it was made of sour cream, horseradish sauce and cloudberry jam. 

The next day was back to normal and it was Friday.  Eladio and I had a dinner date with Eduardo and Graciela who are our neighbours as well as my ex Nokia colleagues.  Eduardo is now the general manager of Blackberry Spain.  It is perhaps fitting that many of my ex Motorola and ex Nokia colleagues are no longer with Motorola or Nokia and now head up or have high positions in companies in the same sector.  Eduardo commented that Blackberry had the best team in Spain and I pointed out that most of its members either came from Motorola or Nokia who in their heydays had the best teams in the sector.  

I had reserved a table at the English restaurant in Pozuelo, La Pérfida Albión which as you know is my current favourite because of the fish and chips on its menu.  We had a great meal together and as we headed home and said our goodbyes, I remarked that we should not let another two years pass by before we repeat the experience.  I hope my words come true.
The weekend has been quiet with very little to report.  We have done the usual things, make nice meals, sleep siestas, go for our walks and watch the news in the evening.  

The dogs missed me while I was in Stockholm as they didn’t get their daily walk.  When I got back, the new giant sized bed I had ordered for Elsa from, finally arrived.  It was meant to be for Elsa as Norah had made it clear that the other new bed I bought recently was to be for her only.  Norah, however, has bagged the new bed too even though it’s far too big for her.. This goes to show that animals, the same as humans, always prefer something new.  In the picture you can also appreciate just how big Elsa has got with Norah fitting neatly in between her legs. 

Both dogs prefer the new giant bed to the old one and they both fit in it snugly.

Next week promises to be quiet too with no trips and hopefully no bombshells either.

Hope yours is a good one. All the best until next week