Sunday, October 27, 2013

A meeting with colleagues, “The time in between”, photos that make Royal history, member of a jury, cooking and more cooking and other stories.

At the colleague reunion - here with my counterparts from Telefónica (Juan Carlos on the left) and Vodafone (Pepe on the right).
Hello everyone,

This week, the last week in October, has been quiet and extremely wet but has had its highlights as most weeks do.  So let me tell you about it.

On Monday of course I fasted, never easy but great for your body after a weekend of excess.  That morning I attended a conference call – that is news as I try to get out of them and hate them because communication is so difficult.   I attended what the communication people in Stockholm call “speakers’ corner” which is a once a month event for all communications people in the company.  It’s not really what it says as no one gets to talk apart from the official speakers.  My conclusion is that is was mildly interesting and I may well join the next one. 

Midday was much more exciting as I had a live meeting – i.e. face to face which I far prefer to any virtual encounter.  I had been invited to a meeting with colleagues at the prestigious Club Financiero de Génova in the centre of Madrid.  It was a sort of debriefing event organized by Ametic, the people who run the telecoms conference in Santander.  The staff at Ametic is new and all of us who attended, journalists and communications managers from all the telecoms companies that sponsor the event, commented that they did a much better job than their predecessors. The Club is on the top floor of a high rise building next to the Colón square and the views that morning of Madrid were great. 

The photo illustrating this week’s post is of me flanked by my counterparts from Vodafone and Telefónica, Pepe and Juan Carlos.  We are supposed to be competition but we get along famously.  

Later a group photo was taken with the communications managers and journalists from the sector who I know so well.  We are a great bunch of people and I always love it when we are gathered together, something that doesn’t happen too often.
With many of my colleagues on Monday
But I was in for a surprise during the meeting when suddenly my closest friend and ex colleague at both Motorola and Nokia walked in unannounced.  I had no idea Fátima would be coming and it was a pleasure to be together at an industry event, a bit like old times.  My dear Fátima drove me back to pick up my car and we both commented it that it felt like old times.  This is the photo of us together at the event.
With Fátima at the meeting on Monday
Meanwhile in London, Suzy was having a goodbye lunch with her friend and flat mate Chati’s Mother and sister, Elena who had come to visit.  She sent me this photo later, saying it was for my blog post. So here it is.  For the record they went to The Phoenix (pub) in Victoria where Keith and his family took us this summer and where the fish and chips are amazing.  I aim to take my sister-in-law Adela there when we go to London at the beginning of December.
Suzy on Monday (right with red hair!) next to Chati her flat mate and friend.  Behind them Chati's Mother and sister Elena
On Tuesday there is nothing of great interest to report, unless of course I tell you about an amazing book, “The time in between”, which has been made into a television series and which we tried to watch that night on internet, here on Antena 3 TV.  The book is very famous in Spain and is called “El tiempo entre costuras”.  My friend Mari Carmen, who happens to be the cousin of the author, María Dueñas, had bought me the book for my birthday a few years ago.  It seemed interesting, the story of a young woman, Sira, who is a seamstress and goes to live in Morocco just before the Spanish Civil War with a promise of intrigue, love and mystery, but I never got round to reading it.
The Time in between - what a story

The reason I have never read it is that I never really read in Spanish, preferring to read in English; the objective being to keep up my English.  After all I have lived in Spain now for more than thirty years and sometimes my English gets rusty.  The miniseries had actually started on Monday night but it coincided with the one on TVE1 about Isabel and Fernando, the Spanish Catholic Kings. Thus I suggested to Eladio that we watch The Time in between on internet on Tuesday night.  It was starring an actress we adore, Adriana Ugarte and there was much publicity around its premiere. 
Beautiful Adriana Ugarte who stars as Sira in the miniseries The Time in between
So far so good, I registered on the site and paid 0.72 euros to “buy” the first episode.  We loved the beginning but the screen kept freezing so we gave up on our attempt to watch it.  However I persisted the next day when it froze less and managed to watch the wonderful first episode.  Now I am hooked.  I fell in love too with a new actor, Ruben Cortado, who I think is the best looking actor I have ever seen on screen.  Of Cuban origin he is new to Spanish TV but I am sure that won’t be for long.  He is so good looking that no doubt he will be discovered soon in Hollywood as a sort of new Antonio Banderas.
The very handsome Ruben Cortado who stars as Ramiro in the new miniseries The Time in between
I was so hooked that I finally picked up the book to read.  It was funny to read in Spanish but I am loving it.  Meanwhile I am looking forward to the next episode, when Ruben Cortado, “Ramiro, abandons Adriana Ugarte, “Sira” in Tangiers.  If you haven’t read the book, just go for it and let me know what you think.

On Wednesday I fasted too instead of Thursday, my usual day, as I had a lunch I couldn’t skip.  That morning the English media and media all over the world, were covering the story of the private christening of Prince George, the son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and future King of England.  As a mild sort of royalist I followed the news and was interested to read that the christening had broken with tradition in many ways.  The religious service was held in strict privacy with only the senior royals and just 22 guests present.  It took place at St. James’ Palace Chapel and the seven god parents (yes seven!) included only one from the Royal family, Prince William’s cousin, Lady Zara Phillips. A lot was written about the christening robe which was a hand-made replica of the 1841 robe made for Queen Victoria’s first child and subsequently worn for all Royal christenings, the original being too frail for use these days.
The christening of Prince George was big news this week
Much more interesting for me, were the official photographs taken that day of the four living sovereign and future sovereigns, published the next day, Thursday.  The photo of Queen Elizabeth, her son Prince Charles, her grandson Prince William and her great grandson Prince George, all in line to the British throne, was history in the making.  The last time a British monarch had been pictured with three heirs was in 1894 when Queen Victoria holds the future King Edward VIII  - (who abdicated to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson) next to George V (right), the current Queen's grandfather and Edward VII (left) at White Lodge in Richmond Park.  I have juxtaposed the two pictures side by side and marvel at the Royal history in the making.
The photos that make Royal history
Thursday was my busiest day.  I was up early and went off with Olivia on a couple of private errands to Madrid.  The rain did not help, although thankfully we were on time for our engagements.  We said goodbye in the centre of Madrid at just before 13h when she left for work and I headed to Club 567 in Velázquez.  My friend and professional colleague from my times at both Motorola and Nokia, Víctor, today heads up his own company called “Elocuent”, the main purpose of which is to strengthen personal branding and urge people to speak up.  That day he had gathered together some 13 experts on the subject from all walks of life where our mission was to be on the jury of a prize giving project on personal branding in Spain.  I am honoured to be considered an expert in anything, but I do suppose I know something about the subject, having been in PR and communications for many years and being an addict of social media.  It was great to sit around that table, discussing the candidates for the prizes and to have a stand up lunch, meeting people similar in many ways to myself but from different sectors; not just telecommunications.  I already knew three of the other jurors, Margarita, Carlos and Paz.  It was a grand opportunity for networking and I look forward to making new friends and colleagues as the project develops. 

It is the first time I will be a member of a jury, since I was called up in England at the tender age of 18 to form part of a court jury that was judging illegal Pakistani immigrants (bus drivers, some of whom I recognised) at Bradford City Courts in the 70’s.  I well remember the occasion; being paid for jury service and swearing the jury oath "I swear by almighty God that I will faithfully try the defendant and give a true verdict according to the evidence."  I was very much aware when I read out those words with my hand on the bible, of my non Yorkshire accent, what is today called “received pronunciation” and which we used to call “BBC, standard of Queen’s English”.  It was unusual in Bradford at the time, and I knew that the judge and legal personnel were staring at me because of it.

I always felt on the side of the accused; probably because I was so young. I also remember going off for lunch on my own one day during my jury service to Bradford’s cheapest and most famous curry house at the time, The Kashmir (where you had to eat with your hands) and finding the Pakistani lawyer of the immigrants, eating at the next table.  We just grinned at each other I remember. So yes, this will be my second experience as a juror but in a very different category of course.

Eladio and I talked about this and other things – mainly how the girls are doing – the next night over dinner.  Our choice this Friday evening was La Vaca Argentina, one of our favourites and where we are always welcomed as valued diners.

Yesterday Saturday it rained nonstop as it did most of the week – minus today when the sun is shining,  and as I didn’t have much to do, I decided to indulge in a bit of cooking.  Well actually it turned out to be a lot of cooking, or as I say in the title; “cooking and more cooking”.  I’m sure you are interested to know what I made.  I started off preparing the stuffing for what would be a batch of nearly 50 “perushkis” – little Russian meat pies stuffed with minced meat, onion and rice.  It took me most of the morning to make them as it did a huge batch of spinach and onion and mushroom croquettes.  I made the croquettes with these ingredients so that Fátima, our Moroccan home help, could eat them.  As you can imagine she only eats “halal” meat, so of course ham or chicken were out of the question. Then I made a mixed vegetable dish of runner beans, leaks and broccoli to accompany the delicious perushki and croquettes for lunch.  The family – yes Oli was with us – enjoyed my cooking yesterday; part of which was made for a very special visit we are expecting next week.  My Aunt Valya who lives in France (married to my Mother’s younger brother Niki (Nicholas) and who is now a widow) and Zuka (Sophie) her daughter who lives in England (widow to wonderful Bruce) will be visiting us, so I thought they might appreciate the Russian and Spanish home cooking.  I haven’t seen Aunty Valya since my Mother’s funeral in 1999 and my Father hasn’t seen her since then either, or Zuka who he last saw just before he left England some 8 years ago.  It will be a very special visit for us both. Also this week I made some “bitki” (Russian meat patties – a sort of hamburger) which I plan to serve them too.  My cooking didn’t stop there as today, Sunday, I have just made a Spanish lentil stew (using yesterday’s vegetable water) and plan to serve wiener schnitzel and homemade apple crumble for the second course and pudding.  

My Spanish lentil stew
Whilst I was cooking yesterday, some brave Saudi Arabian women took to the streets to drive in protest to the ban on women driving in that very repressive kingdom.  I feel for them very much as I cannot stand the subjugation of women anywhere, especially in these times.  I read that clerics there warned that breaking the ban would promote “licentiousness” and that one claimed driving could damage a woman’s ovaries!  Come on, that is crazy.  I can only hope that one day they will be allowed to drive and do many other things that right now they can’t either.
A brave Saudi woman protesting agains the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia
Yesterday football fans all around the world watched the “clásico” – if you don’t know what that means, you don’t know much about football.  The clásico is a derby match played between Real Madrid and Barcelona.  Yesterday it was played in Barcelona.  These days you can only watch these sort of matches on pay per view TV, so to find out the result (2-1 to Barcelona) I had to resort to twitter.  I was not surprised at the outcome; although I did hear that the referee missed the odd penalty in Real Madrid’s favour.  I do think it is unfair if a referee doesn’t see something and doesn’t blow his whistle, it’s like it hasn’t happened, although the action is in full view on TV for everyone to see.  

Whilst the two giant and rival football teams were playing their “clásico” match, Eladio and I took the dogs for their daily walk.  We were relieved the sun came out and that we didn’t have to face the rain.  Thankfully it seems to have gone away for a while.

And yesterday, after dinner with Olivia, it was time to turn the clocks back.  The next day in the early morning would be the end of summer time and the beginning of daylight saving time.  We like to be prepared the night before so that when we wake up all the clocks are on the right time.  It’s great that you don’t have to bother with your mobile phone which does it automatically.  However that doesn’t happen on my pc or in my car which I really think it should.  So this morning we all got an extra hour of sleep.  On the plus side it will be lighter in the morning but will get dark at around 18.15h rather than 19.15 which means we will have to go on our walk earlier.  It’s always funny getting used to the change in the hour but convenient that it happens on a Sunday.

The clocks went back an hour early this morning
 Today Sunday is quiet and sunny.  My lentils are cooking and Fátima’s just gone for her two days off and will be back tomorrow evening.  Meanwhile I persuaded Eladio to wash the dogs in their bath and right now they are drying off in clean beds with clean blankets.  That is how I love them most.  Here is the photo of Norah being washed by Eladio.  They don’t protest and I suspect they rather like the rubbing and the lathering although they are always reluctant to get in the bath.
Norah being bathed today by Eladio
And that my friends, is the end of the tale of this week.  Next week we are very much looking forward to Aunty Valy and Zuka’s visit which you will hear about in my next blog post.  

Meanwhile I wish you all a great week ahead,

Cheers till next time,


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Olivia in Santiago reporting for TVE, English visitors, my Father’s 8th anniversary with us, a telecoms dinner at the Palace, Suzy working on a Saturday, dinner with friends and other stories.

At the sector dinner at the Hotel Palace on Thursday

Hello again,

It is Sunday again and the Indian summer continued until yesterday.  Believe it or not I swam again this week, on Wednesday, but now it is cool and rain is threatening.  The week has been quiet but has had its highlights as you will read below.

Monday was my fasting day which always makes me feel good.  I worked from home and my Father, Eladio and I enjoyed watching Olivia on the TV from Santiago reporting on the case of the murdered 12 year old adopted Chinese girl, Asunta.  She was to report all week on the case but was so busy she hardly had time to warn us.  You can see her here on Monday via this link if you go to 10.19h. She was joined in Galicia on Monday by Miguel her boyfriend who actually travelled there on the train famous now for the accident this summer.

Oli reporting on Monday

I was busy on Monday as that was the day we finally sent our press release to announce our new convergent (fixed and mobile) tariff which would be commercially available from 16th October.  There has been much expectation around them and now that they are live, it is an exciting time for Yoigo.

Tuesday saw me in the office for various errands and home again for lunch with Eladio and my Father.  Of note that day Spain dealt swiftly with Georgia in its last qualifying match for the World Cup in Brazil next year and goes through comfortably as one of the 8 top seeds.  England also got through but not as a top seeder I’m afraid.

On Wednesday I fasted again instead of on Thursday as the next day I had a dinner to attend (more about that further on). Meanwhile Olivia was on TV again but never told us.  However I was able to see her later via streaming and was proud to see her interviewing Rosario Porto’s lawyer.  Rosario Porto is the Mother of Asunta and is accused of having killed her.  Olivia was very professional in her questioning of the lawyer and cornered him on occasion. Well done Oli.  You can see it here if you go to 11.55 (ends around 12.31).

Oli interviewing the lawyer in Santiago on Wednesday

That day we received the visit of English visitors.  John (husband of my great friend Jacky – we go back to our childhood days in Bradford) and his son Rafi who were down from Murcia to collect Rafi’s visa for Israel, came to stay the night.  They arrived in the early afternoon and slept a very long siesta after having got up that morning at around 3 to drive to Madrid.  As they slept their siesta I took the plunge again in our pool – soon to be covered – as the temperature rose to about 26ºc that afternoon. It was a pleasure to host John and Rafi later that evening, whilst Eladio was away at his UNED (sort of Open University) tutorials.  We sat by the pool with the dogs, enjoying an English cup of tea – then coke, then wine and whatever was available and enjoyed marvelous conversation in English. Later Eladio joined us for a meal made by Fátima (tortilla, runner beans with garlic, ham and Eton Mess) which unfortunately I could not partake of due to my fasting; but judging by how the men tucked in it must have been great.

It was not until breakfast the next day with John and Rafi, that my Father, animatedly telling us about his trip to Bergen in Norway in 1939 when the war broke out, reminded us that the day before, Wednesday 16th October, was his 8th anniversary with us. It’s amazing to think he has now been with us for 8 years.  He came in 2005 the year I left Nokia when he was 86 and enjoyed many a holiday with us in Spain and in England and on his own too, to his favourite destinations: Copenhagen, Berlin and Helsinki.  He was still travelling abroad on his own until he was nearly 90!  So now you see where my travelling bug comes from.

My Father in a great photo taken by Olivia of him a few years ago

Soon our English visitors had to go.  But just before they left I took this delightful photo of them with a partial view of our house in the background.  I do hope one day that John will come back but with Jacky this time, who told me she has never yet visited Madrid.  We look forward to that Jacky; please don’t take too long.  Ah and all our best wishes to Rafi in his exciting year ahead working for the Anglican Church, Christchurch in Jerusalem where he was born.

John and Rafi, our English visitors

Thursday was very busy for me.  It was results day. TeliaSonera, our mother company was publishing their third quarter results and of course I had to do the same locally for Yoigo.  I was up at 7 for an early conference call with my communications colleagues.  Then I had to listen to the webcast of the press conference and at 11 I had another conference call with the new head of Mobility Services.  Yoigo’s results were good, despite the fierce competition in Spain.  You can read about them here in our media alert which we sent out that morning.

That evening I had a professional appointment at a prize giving dinner for the telecoms sector in Spain organized by one of the sector’s news portals.  The prizes usually depend on the amount of advertising the portal gets so, as my company hasn’t advertised on it, I was not surprised to see we didn’t get a prize.  The other toll you have to pay for not advertising is the odd negative article about your company.  But I refuse to give in. That sort of practice goes against my grain, however the good thing about the event on Thursday is that anyone who is anyone from the sector usually goes and the dinner held this year at the magnificent Hotel Palace, was no exception.  It was great to see my colleagues from Motorola and Nokia now spread all over the sector, as well as the telecom journalists and my counterparts from the telco companies.  It was a good night; one to remember.  The food was delicious, although funnily enough what we were served was different to what was written on the printed menu. The photo illustrating this week’s post is of me with some of the journalists and communications directors that night.

On Friday I was up early as I am every day.  I love to get up early and get the most out of the day.  I had to go into the office again, this time for an interview with my boss by a journalist to be published in the prestigious Catalan newspaper, La Vanguardia.  I think it went well but won’t know the outcome, of course, until it is published.

That morning whilst I was at work, Olivia was on the television most of the morning.  However I was only able to watch her later.  You can too if you click here and go to 11.40 (ends 12.19) and 13.49 (ends 13.58).  That morning she got a scoop in an exclusive interview with the same lawyer as before; an interview that was broadcast not only on her own programme, La Mañana de la 1, but on others too.  She came back very happy that night from Galicia having even been congratulated at work for her efforts. 

That night at dinner with Eladio at Ginos, again we talked about our lovely girls and how well they are doing professionally. Earlier that afternoon I had a long conversation with Susana who was very tired after lots of events this week.  She keeps sending me photos of the food that they serve at the events, when I would far prefer to see photos of her. She did send me this photo which she said was taken at some fantastic building, but I can’t remember which.

Beautiful Suzy in London this week

She was a little disgruntled on the phone telling me she had to work the next day Saturday and would miss precious time to be with Chati and her Mother and sister Elena who went to London at the end of this week to see them.  I reminded her that not so long ago she was disgruntled about not having a job and that she should “thank her lucky stars”.  Yesterday Saturday, was her first day working on a weekend; something that doesn’t happen often but may well become the norm as Christmas approaches and the events intensify.  She is, however, thoroughly enjoying the job but of course still learning the ropes. 

Saturday was once again the highlight of the week.  Again it started early and saw me making our lunch straight after breakfast and Eladio and I going food shopping at about 10.  Normally I do the food shopping with Fátima but she took Thursday and Friday off this week to finish off her paper work which will give her legal status in Spain and for which she is so grateful.  After our most efficient shopping (I do this in record time!), off we went again, this time to Gran Plaza 1 (shopping mall) to pick up some trousers for Eladio at Massimo Dutti (Zara’s up market brand).  Here I insisted on buying him some elegant green suede brogue shoes.  He never wants to buy anything new and I always have to insist.  However, later that night when he wore them to dinner, he admitted he loved them.

Eladio's new footwear from Massimo Dutti

When you are shopping you can get peckish so off we went for a cup of coffee to Vait.  Here I tried my first ever “cronut” (of New York origin it is half donut half croissant) and I must say it was delicious.  Thus I was not very hungry at lunch.  Miguel and Olivia joined us and we had a feast, as you can see from the photo of my plate of “cocido madrlieño” a staple winter dish I make occasionally and which we all love.

My cocido madrileño

Unfortunately it rained yesterday afternoon and we had to sacrifice our walk.  That evening we had another dinner date.  It was late, at 10.30 pm, in Madrid with our friends Juana and Oscar, Julio and Fátima.  It was to celebrate Juana’s promotion at Microsoft.  She is now head of Enterprise sales in Western Europe and some of the companies she is responsible for are very close to us all: Nokia, TeliaSonera and Ericsson.  We all originally met at Nokia, so last night of course, we commented a lot on the recent purchase of Nokia Mobile Phones by Microsoft.  I also said that so much had happened in the sector since we first met in 2000 and wondered what our conversation would be like if we were to have dinner together in 10 years time.  Here is a photo of all of us around the table at Conlaya, a restaurant which specializes in food from Cantabria and which we all enjoyed.

Dinner with our friends last night.

And today is Sunday.  I am writing my blog in the morning, so as to feel free after lunch and to be able to finish the DVD of The Cazalets, based on the 4 books I read recently by Elizabeth Jane Howard.  In a way it reminds me of Downton Abbey and is highly recommendable.

I have just made apple crumble for lunch – or rather it is now in the oven.  Again we will have the pleasure of Olivia and Miguel and look forward to tasting Fátima’s stuffed cabbage leaves.

Hopefully this afternoon we shall not be cheated of our walk. The rest of Sunday will be like nearly every Sunday at home; relaxed and being with the family.

So I shall stop here; wishing you all the best for next week.

Cheers till then,


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Our Indian summer, this year’s Nobel prize winners, a great laugh from Tommy Cooper, a 50’s themed birthday party, a family dinner in Madrid and other stories.

My October swim
Hi everyone,

How’s your week been?  Mine has been quiet but pleasant, thanks to the wonderful Indian summer we are having at the moment.  I can’t believe the temperatures which reached 26ºc this week, but more about that later.

Monday started as usual with my semi fasting which always feels great after a weekend of excess and meals out.  Eladio hates my fasting days (Mondays and Thursdays) as it means I don’t have lunch with him and my Father.  But my waistline is very grateful for the sacrifice.
Tuesday saw me in the office for various errands and mini meetings.  I had lunch that day with Javier and Dragutin who took me to a great place called La Bandeja.  I wish I had taken a photo but we were far too engrossed in conversation to remember.

I later heard on the news that this year’s Nobel Physics prize went unsurprisingly to Peter Higgs (and François Englert) for the now famous Higgs Boson.  I can’t begin to explain what it is but what I found more interesting was the fact that the Swedish Academy of Sciences had been unable to locate the Scottish Professor and went ahead with the announcement.  Later the Professor revealed that he had heard he had won the prize when a woman stopped him in the street to congratulate him.  I think he must be one of the few scientists in the world who does not use a mobile phone.
Peter Higgs

On Thursday, my second fasting day of the week, the illiterate world, amongst which I include myself, learned who Alice Munro is when the Nobel Committee announced her as this year’s Laureate in Literature.  I was happy to hear a woman had won, only the 13th and interested to find out that she is the master of short stories and often likened to Chekhov, who I’m afraid I haven’t read either (my Father has of course).  She is the second Canadian ever to win the prize and at 83 confessed that she was really surprised. 
Alice Munro, this year's Nobel Literature prize winner

It was on Thursday that the temperature soared to 26c and I suddenly realised we were in the middle of an Indian summer.  It was so hot I actually took the plunge and went in the pool.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of that moment.  I think I have never swum in our pool in October.  Funnily enough the water was freezing but when I got out I didn’t feel at all cold.  It was a great experience.  Hopefully the current weather will carry on next week too and Eladio will postpone covering the pool for the winter. I went on to swim again on Friday whilst sunbathing and reading, no not Alice Munro, but the fourth book in the Cazalet Chronicles I am thoroughly enjoying about a quaint rich English family’s life during the second world war in England.  Remember I was prompted by the Duchess of Cornwall who was caught reading the saga.

On Friday the motor car world was devastated to hear that the 33 year old Spaniard María de Villota, a Formula 1 test driver, had been found dead in her bed in a hotel in Seville.  María, a vivacious and beautiful girl lost her right eye in a crash while testing for the Marussia team last year in England.  However she survived and went on to get married this summer and was to present her autobiography: “Life is a gift” this Monday.  It is ironic that she died just a few days before.  The family later informed her death was related to the accident when she lost her eye.  Spain and the motor car world mourn her death.
María de Villota will be sadly missed

It was on Friday too that the Nobel Peace prize 2013 was to be announced.  A favourite contender was Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for advocating education for girls.  She survived the attack and now lives in Birmingham and has become an icon for peace through education and admired the world over.  Inspired by the news she may become the Peace prize winner, I read more about her and learned she had written (or co written) a biography “I am Malala” which I immediately bought on Amazon.  I look forward to reading it after the Cazalet Chronicles – different sort of read right?
The book I ordered from Amazon this week

In the end she didn’t win the Nobel Prize but this week was awarded the European Union Sakharov Prize and she even met President Obama.  It’s incredible to think how her life has changed since living in the remote Swat area of Pakistan.  I was disappointed she didn’t, but thought it was very fair that the prize finally went to the Organizationfor the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who right now is the organization monitoring Syria.  Most countries in the world, except those you probably expect don’t, belong to the organization.  However two countries that don’t really should.  Shame on Russia and the United States.  I mean, how can President Obama criticize Syria in its use of chemical warfare if the US is one of the major manufacturers of the ammunition!? It doesn’t make sense to me. 

On Friday I am sure none of these issues were important to my daughter Susana who lives in London.  It was on Friday that she was to supervise an event at Oxo on her own for the first time.  I later spoke to her on the phone and she is enjoying her job more and more every day.  It’s funny to think that both my daughters have, in their own way, followed in my footsteps.  I do PR and events as a Communications Manager and Olivia is a journalist and now Suzy works in events.  She posted a photo of a wonderful bottle of wine she was given at a Spanish wine tasting event in the presence of the Spanish Ambassador in London.  Olivia remarked; “just like Mummy”, in that if you work in events, you always end up getting given the odd “give away” or promotional gift. I asked for a photo but Suzy was too busy to send me one.

Eladio and I talked about this at dinner on Friday night.  Well I mean, we always talk about our daughters at our Friday evening dinners out.  This week, for the record, we tried somewhere new and very nearby: La Tagliatella, a great Italian place where we found out that the portions are gigantic.

Saturday was this week’s highlight and it started off well.  I always read The Times and The Telegraph online in the mornings over breakfast in the kitchen with Olivia.  So when I started reading this article, I just burst out laughing which had Olivia and then Eladio most surprised.  You see I was reading about Tommy Cooper, the English comedian I never really liked but whose jokes I found hilarious on Saturday.  I particularly found funny that he was also a joker off stage and used to give taxi drivers an envelope after paying, saying “have a drink on me”.  They would then open the envelope to find a tea bag!  If you find that funny you will find some of his best one or two liners even more so.  I particularly liked: “I was on a whisky diet last week.  I lost three days” and “two cannibals were eating a clown and one said to the other, “does he taste funny?”. Eladio’s favourite was: “I told the waiter, bring me a chicken. So he brought me a chicken. 'Just a minute,' I said, 'It's only got one leg. 'It's been in a fight.' I said, 'Well, bring me the winner.”
Tommy Cooper - some of whose jokes I found so funny on Saturday morning
Thus my mood was at an all high when Olivia and I set off for a shopping expedition. She wanted to buy presents for a 50s themed birthday party she was going to at lunch time.  Dave turned 29 on Friday, Ana turned 30 this week and it was also to celebrate Pulgi’s 27th birthday; all members of their group which they call “la manada” (the herd!).  We went to Gran Plaza 2.  Funnily enough I didn’t buy any clothes that morning but indulged in 5 books in English from Fnac.

Olivia went off beautifully dressed in a supposed 50s style red and white dress with a bow we bought from a cheapo Chinese shop in Boadilla.  This is what she looked like at the party with the rest of her friends.
Oli (in red) with her friends at the 50s themed birthday party yesterday

Ana, or Anita, is a prize cake maker and had mustered this amazing hamburger shaped and decorated cake as the birthday boy and girls are great hamburger fans – in fact lunch that day was from McDonalds!
Anita's amazing hamburger shaped birthday cake

I am sure the “manada” sorely missed Suzy and Chati who now live in London. They would have loved to be there too. But that day they visited a farm, the Stepney City Farm, as I found out from photos posted on Facebook by Chati.  Here is a great photo of the two girls together stroking a donkey.
Suzy and Chati at Stepney City Farm on Saturday

Meanwhile at home we had my home made lasagne and then had the usual siesta after which I read from the swimming pool terrace.  I didn’t sunbathe or swim though as the temperature didn’t rise above 20c.  Later we went for our daily power walk with the dogs after which we came home to get ready to go to Madrid for a family dinner.

We had originally planned to go out to dinner to La Vaca Argentina near Plaza Castilla with José Antonio and Dolores.  So I was very pleasantly surprised in the morning whilst shopping with Olivia to receive a call from Pili, my sister in law.  She was in town with her husband Andrés to visit their daughter Paula and her boyfriend Pedro.  It was a reunion weekend with Pedro’s parents from Málaga, Isa and Esteban and their other son also called Esteban and Pili suggested they all join us for dinner.  Thus we had a true big family dinner last night where there were 11 of us around the table.  This is the best photo I could get of the occasion. Pili and Andrés very generously invited us all to dinner and it was a superb evening; one to remember.
The family dinner last night

So today, Sunday, is a bit flat after yesterday.  On the bright side Oli will be joining us for our lunch of leftover lasagna.  Later today she will be travelling to Santiago where all of next week she will be covering the mysterious case of the 12 year old adopted Chinese girl Ausunta who was found dead 3 weeks ago and whose parents are suspected of her murder. We look forward to watching her on TV as we always do, however the house will be much emptier without her.

And that my friends, is the end of this week’s tale.  I hope the Indian summer continues next week so that I can bathe again.  I wish you all the best too; so till next Sunday, cheers all.