Sunday, November 24, 2013

The end of Suzy’s surprise visit in London, Oli in the Gili Islands, more Homeland, Downton Abbey Series 4 arrived, an illustrious visitor to Yoigo, 50th anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and other stories.

The Yoigo family with our illustrious visitor on Friday.
Hi everyone

It’s Sunday again, cold and sunny and the last week in November.  Oli will be back from her trip to Indonesia next Wednesday and soon it will be Christmas.

Last Sunday Suzy was enjoying the surprise visit of Rocío and Pulgui (Elena) who had arrived on Saturday and would be staying until Tuesday.  Judging by the photos they posted I can see they had a great time, going out to pubs, having meals, visiting Camden Town and also doing clothes shopping.  Suzy would have been feeling flush after receiving her first pay check.  Suzy can’t complain about visitors as since she went to live in London last May, Oli, Elena and her family, have visited her twice, we have been once and I will be going again at the beginning of December.
The 4 girls in Camden town at the beginning of this week.
Suzy and her friend Chati are still living in their crowded run down flat in Whitechapel (locally called Little Bangladesh) with 10 other Spaniards who have also fled the crisis here.  They are hoping to move out to somewhere nicer but haven’t found anything yet. 
Chati, Rocío and Suzy (right) outside Chati and Suzy's flat in Whitechapel.
Meanwhile Olivia and her boyfriend Miguel continued their holiday in Indonesia.  Last Sunday they left Bali for the more remote Gili Islands 
The Gili Islands
I read that the only transport allowed on these islands is bicycles or horse drawn carriages.  Olivia was ecstatic in her reports of their stay here, saying Gili was the real paradise, not Bali. 
Oli riding a bike in the Gili Islands
The beaches look amazing. 
A photo of one of the beaches in the Gili Meno islands
Her favourite island was Meno which she says is the most authentic with just 300 inhabitants.  Again here Olivia engaged with the local children who she said were very polite and also well educated.
Oli surrounded by kids in Meno Gili Islands.  She is as brown as they are!
The big attraction here for tourists is go to deep sea diving and Olivia loved it. First she went down 12 metres and then 20 metres.  She happily sent us the certificate she got which accredits her as an official “open water diver”.
Olivia enjoyed learning how to do deep water diving in the Gili Islands.

 Whilst Oli was diving, I was enjoying the end of series 2 of Homeland.  I had started series 1 the Thursday before and finished series 2 last Sunday.  The series which I told you about last week, has you on tenterhooks from beginning to the end of each episode and leaves you wanting more. So I felt very frustrated when I had no more episodes to watch.  Luckily my nephew Juan came to the rescue.  He sent me episode 1 of series 3 later during the week and on Thursday evening we met in Madrid when he handed me a pen drive with episodes 2 to 6.  The rest are not available as they have not been broadcast yet.  I only started watching series 3 this last Friday and so far am a bit disappointed.  The pace is a lot slower and the plot is rather confusing.  

On Monday, my fasting day, whilst Oli was in the Gili Islands and Suzy was enjoying her visitors in London, the bell rang and Amazon delivered Series 4 of Downton Abbey which has just finished broadcasting in the U.K.  I started watching some of it during the week and of course enjoyed it but after the tension of Homeland, it felt even more genteel than usual.
On Tuesday I went into the office to get my repaired new pc which thanks to Esther from IT was now free of the deadly “dosearches” malware.  That day I had lunch with two of my favourite colleagues, Dragutin and Javier, where apart from talking shop, we exchanged opinions about Homeland and other US and UK series.   

Wednesday saw me in the office again, this time for a management team meeting. One of the main topics on the agenda was Friday’s visit of our mother company, TeliaSonera’s new CEO, Johan Dennelind, which I was preparing together with Anna, my communications colleague/friend/boss from the head office in Stockholm. 

After the team meeting, I took my boss and his assistant to see the location I had chosen for the Yoigo employee Christmas party.  I needed his approval and was happy that they both loved Macadamia as soon as we walked in.  That day I was supposed to be fasting but had to make an exception that day as everyone decided we should have lunch at Macadamia.  The food was great I must say, as well as the place.

And Thursday came and there I was working hard from home, as I had been for the last few weeks, on last minute preparations of the big boss’ visit.  Eladio took this photo of me at my desk at home which is a bit blurry but captures the spirit I was in at the time.
At my desk at home this week

In the evening I had a dinner engagement with Anna who had come from Stockholm for the visit of Johan D, the new TeliaSonera CEO, the next day to Yoigo.  I took her to Ten con Ten, a lovely fashionable restaurant in Madrid round the corner from where she was staying.  We both enjoyed my favourite dish there; the oxtail hamburger.  We started dinner at 8 rather than 9, the normal Spanish dinner time, which meant we had finished by 10 and I would be home not too late for my early start the next morning (06.15).  As we walked out of the restaurant I tripped over on the pavement and fell flat on my face.  Thankfully I didn’t break anything but I could feel the pain in my ankle and knee most of the night.  

Friday finally came and I was in the office early to start executing the tight agenda we had set for the visit of our illustrious guest.  First we had a management team meeting where we made a presentation of the company.  Afterwards Anna and I took Johan to another floor for his pre-arranged roundtable discussion with 6 non director employees.  I think they were much in awe at having been chosen and I warned Johan to speak to them slowly in English as I knew their main worry would be speaking English. All Spaniards try to learn English, some manage but most don’t and their biggest obstacle in advancing in the language of Shakespeare is embarrassment.  If they could only overcome it they would have far fewer problems learning the language.

The next item on the busy agenda was an all employee meeting, what we call “Yoigo Mornings” at the office.  Here Johan D. told us just how amazing it was for him to meet the whole company in one room – only 109 people, who had made Yoigo what it is today, an operator with nearly 4 million customers.  I think we must be the smallest operator in the world with so many customers.

After a long question and answer session which I hosted, there was food and drink and time to mingle.  But not for long as we all had to go outside for a group photo.  Group photos of a lot of people take some organizing and I was uncomfortable, hoping it would finish shortly so as to keep to the timing of my own strict agenda.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of the Yoigo family together with Johan (he is the tall guy in the middle - I am dressed in stripes on his left).  Thankfully it took no longer than 15 minutes and we were able to start on the office tour where Johan would get to meet and greet and talk to the people heading up the departments closest to the business: customer care, product management, network rollout, IT, sales, marketing and terminal procurement.  We finished on time and all that was left was to say goodbye and thank our illustrious visitor for taking the time in his busy agenda to come and meet the Yoigo family.  I stayed in the office until Anna left at around 15h when we took the time for her to copy series 2 and 3 of Homeland from my external disc for her to watch at home with her husband.

I didn’t get home on Friday till after 16h and my wonderful husband was still waiting for me at the dining room table with a dish of Fátima’s Moroccan chicken and potatoes. Wow was I hungry.  That whole afternoon I felt exhausted.  As I commented to Anna when we parted, this always happens after a big event with lots of preparation.  It goes fine, comes to an end and the only thing you feel is a mixture of contentment together with exhaustion.  I was so tired on Friday that I didn’t even want to go out to dinner with Eladio as we usually do on Friday nights.  I went to bed with my irritating cough which I have now had for over 10 days.  It comes at night only and I try to combat it with codeine, cough mixture and spoonfulls of honey.

I only realized whilst watching the 9 0’clock news in bed that night with Eladio, that Friday 22nd November was the 50th anniversary of the assassinationof John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th and most popular US president ever. He was killed in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, in a motorcade where he was riding with his equally famous wife, Jacqueline Kennedy and the Governor of Texas and his wife, before huge crowds in the capital of Texas.  It took very little time to find his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, who later was killed himself by Jack Ruby before he could stand trial.
Friday was the 50th anniversary of the assasination of JFK.

I remember vividly watching the news on television at home in Ruskington, the small town in Lincolnshire, where we lived when I was a child.  I was only 6 at the time but will never forget my Mother crying whilst we watched the news on our very newly installed first tv (black and white of course) which must have installed just a few days before.  The death of Kennedy is probably my first memory of any political or international sort of news as a child. So yeah, on Friday, the news of the 50th anniversary of his assassination took me right back to the sitting room of our bungalow in Ruskington 50 years ago. 

On Saturday, duly rested, I resumed my domestic duties and did the weekly shopping.  I went on my own leaving Fátima at home to prepare lunch as we were having guests.  José Antonio and Dolores were returning from their spa holiday in Murcia and would be coming to pick up Nuba, their mongrel dog which had been staying with us whilst they were away.  Our guests arrived carrying heavy bags of local oranges, mandarins, tomatoes and artichokes Dolores had bought for us at a local market in Fortuna, Murcia, that morning.  They never come empty handed and are very generous people.

We enjoyed Fátima’s home made pizza after which the men had a siesta whilst Dolores and I surfed internet on our iPads in the lounge.  I actually fell asleep then on the sofa, something I don’t normally do.  I think I was still recovering from the important visit on Friday.  Afterwards, at about 17h, before the sun went down, we all went out for our walk with the dogs which was wonderfully refreshing.  The obvious thing to do when we came home was to have English tea and biscuits – the latter were from Marks and Spencers, brought to us by Zuka and her Mother in their recent visit.  

Last night after they left we had a very frugal dinner and once again went to bed early.  I am happy to say that last night was a coughless event, the first in 10 days.  Oh I do hope my cough has finally gone.

And today is Sunday, again it is sunny yet cold.  Our day is unfolding as most Sundays do.  I have just taken Fátima to the bus stop with another suitcase full of food for her family.  We will be having Moroccan food for lunch again which she has lovingly prepared for us.  Then in the afternoon we shall go on our walk, after which I shall watch the last two episodes of Homeland.  

Next week promises to be less stressful than this week.  The highlight will be the return of Olivia on Wednesday.  I can’t wait to see her.

And so my friends, this is the end of the tale of this week.  I wish you all the best, as usual.  Cheers till next time,


Sunday, November 17, 2013

In Flanders fields, typhoon Haiyan devastates the Philippines, Oli and Miguel continue in paradise (Indonesia), clothes shopping again, the first dog to climb Everest, a trip to Barcelona and back, addicted to Homeland, Suzy receives a surprise visit in London.

Sunday 17th November 2013
Suzy and Chati (right) delighted with the surprise visit of Rocío and Pulgui (left) this weekend
Good morning everyone,

It’s Sunday again and the Indian Summer is over.  It is cold and raining and believe it or not the first snow has appeared in Spain.  Whilst England braces itself for the coldest winter in years, yesterday Montrondo, our beloved village, received the first snow fall.  It was a bit unfortunate for my sisters-in-law Pili and Adela who are both building houses and are at the moment just finishing the roofs but the snow beat them to it. In any case the village looks picturesque as you can see in this photo.
Snow in Montrondo, the first this year
But let me start from last Sunday when I forgot to record that it was Remembrance Sunday, more commonly known as Poppy Day in England.  Remembrance Sunday is held on the second Sunday in November, which is the Sunday nearest to 11th November, Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of the First World War.  It was originally celebrated to honour the dead soldiers in that war but today it honours all the military who have died in conflict for their country.  I miss wearing a poppy here in Spain and was interested in its origin – I did know it’s because of the poppies that grow on the battle fields in France and Belgium but not much else.
Poppies to commemorate the First World War
Well, the use of the poppy was inspired by World War 1 poem “In Flanders Fields” which all English school children read at school.  Written by the Canadian doctor, Lt. Colonel John McCrae in 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier, its opening lines refer to the poppies.  I always loved the poem and share it with you here: 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

On Remembrance Day people far away in the Philippines were mourning their own dead, over 2.000 who were killed by the vicious Typhoon Hiyan, locally known as Yolanda.  Up to two million people were affected in the worst natural disaster of its type in many years. 
Disaster in the Philippines
Our Sunday continued normally as you will have read in my blog last week.  I forgot to tell you that that afternoon our walks were increased with one member – Nubah, Dolores and José Antonio’s mongrel terrier who is staying with us whilst they are at a spa in Murcia with friends and family.  It’s not easy taking three dogs on a walk as you can imagine. I recorded the event here in this great photo of Eladio with all three dogs.
Eladio on our walk with the three dogs. 
Meanwhile, Olivia and Miguel continued their stay in Indonesia, a sort of paradise on earth from the photos I have seen.  However on Monday Olivia complained of the heat which seems to have produced flakey palms from Ubud a town located in the rice paddies. Here they were staying at a hotel with a very funny name: Frangipani Bungalows! It was 37ºc but Oli said because of the humidity it felt like 46ºc.  Suzy said not to complain and how she could not afford such a trip now.  You will be happy to hear Suzy was finally paid her first salary in her new job! Oli and Miguel would be staying later in the south of Bali at a place called Balangan at a wonderful bungalow hotel called La Cabane.  To me it looked like heaven. I have been enjoying their trip vicariously and loving their wonderful photos.  It is hard to choose which ones to post here as they are all so good.  But here is one of Olivia relaxing in the water with views of the Indian Ocean which I think was taken in Balangan.
Olivia in paradise
As I told you last week they have gone quite native buying local clothes.  The picture below was taken in Java I think where they will have been staying until yesterday.
Miguel and Olivia wearing local clothes in Java at a budist temple
What they seem to like best is meeting the delightful Indonesian children who are eager to have their photos taken. Here is just one of them. Today they are off to the remote Gili Islands for the last leg of their three weeks in Paradise.
Olivia with local children at the budist temple in Java.  She loves photos with kids.
Tuesday was a busy day for me.  I went into Madrid to meet Gloria and Julia from my events agency.  Madrid was a huge dustbin ground owing to the street cleaners’ strike which may be coming to an end now. We were to scout possible locations for the Yoigo Christmas activities. Naughtily on my way back at lunchtime I made a dash for Zara and HM and Cortefiel in search of a blue coat.  Well I got the dark blue coat at Zara for just 29 euros (amazing eh?).  This is it.  I wear a lot of blue so the coat will come in handy.
My new navy blue coat from Zara
Whilst at Zara I also found a great little black dress with transparent lacy sleeves.  I didn’t find anything at H+M but in Cortefiel I bought this beautiful dress which looks like a blouse and skirt.  Isn’t it original?
The skirt dress I bought at Cortefiel
I had also tried on a red tartan dress at Zara but they didn’t have my size.  Later I bought it online via my mobile and amazingly it arrived the very next morning.  Oh Zara you are a very efficient company. 
The red tartan dress I bought on my phone from Zara and which arrived in less than 24 hours.
So yes I bought a dress on my phone and later we watched a TV series using my hdmi cable attached to the TV and my PC.  Isn’t technology wonderful?  It was Isabel the series on RTVE about the Catholic King and Queen Isabel and Fernando.  I say technology is wonderful but it can be very frustrating too.  That day, the third using my new PC, a so-called browser “kidnapper” invaded my PC.  It was the horrible dosearches one which I just could not get rid of and my PC started behaving strangely so I took it into the office on Wednesday for the IT department to take care of.  It took the very efficient Esther the best part of the morning to finally erase it forever.  Thankfully it has now gone and I shall never ever again click on a box letting a navigator use my home page.  Since then I have found the box to click on not letting that every happen again as the experience was a technological nightmare.

On Wednesday I read a delightful piece of news.  If you know I love dogs you will understand why.  The story was about, Ruppee, a puppy which was rescued starving in a dump in India by Joanne Lefson.  She helped nurse him back to health until he was strong, healthy and capable of climbing mountains.  He has become the first canine on record to climb Mount Everest.  And this is him at the top.  Wonderful story eh?
Meet Ruppee, the first dog to climb to the top of Everest.
On Thursday I was up early to catch the 10.30 high speed train to Barcelona where I was to meet Gloria and Miguel to search for more locations; this time for our events at the Mobile World Congress in February.  I enjoyed the trip and was entertained part of the way, thanks again to technology, watching Jobs, the story of Apple’s Steve Jobs, a film my nephew Juan had downloaded for me.  I still had time after that to begin on Homeland and by the time we chugged into Barcelona Sants railway station I was hooked.  The series is marvelous and is about the CIA working on catching Al Qaeda terrorists.  The heroine, Carrie Mathieson, a bipolar Intelligence officer is convinced returning prisoner of war Nicholas Brody is a soldier turned terrorist by Al Qaeda whilst the whole of the US receive him home as a national hero.  If you haven’t watched it, just go for it, it’s one of the best TV series I’ve ever seen and will have you on tenterhooks throughout.
I am obsessed with Homeland
Our time in Barcelona was very productive as we found the perfect locations that very afternoon.  Thus we wouldn’t have to see any more venues the next day and would be able to come home earlier than planned.  Barcelona was at its best and the sun shined as it nearly always does in the Catalonian capital.  I stayed near the Paseo de Gracia, one of my favourite streets.  This was the view from my hotel room.
The Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona this week, so sunny and beautiful.
I was free in the evening to visit Grainne and Marcel, something I do every time I go to Barcelona.  You probably know I went to school with Grainne (an Irish name pronounced Graniya) and she is the closest I have to a sister and we are sort of kindred spirits.  I love being at their cozy home in Badalona and we spent a great evening together.  I had brought some food but Grainne had already made a marvelous minestrone soup and steak with béarnaise potatoes followed by strawberries.  I also got to meet Tommy, her puppy birthday present and the house was full of its toys, food and mats, as well as newspaper as it still is not properly house trained.

The next day we caught the 11 am AVE train where I spent the whole journey watching Homeland.  I was home by 14.30, on time for lunch with Eladio and my Father.  Fátima had made a delicious homemade pizza for my homecoming.  It tasted as good as it looks here.
Fátima's homemade pizza which we had on Friday for lunch, uuummmm.
In the afternoon whilst I watched more of Homeland, it rained and robbed us of our walk.  I did the weekly food shopping with Fátima and when we got home at about 6 it was already dark.  The days are getting shorter and shorter as we approach the winter solstice on 21st December.  Later Eladio and I went out to dinner, this time to De Brasa y el puchero where we enjoyed our favourite dish there: “patatas revolconas”.  That is impossible to translate, so here is a photo for you to see what the dish looks like:
Patatas revolconas at De Brasa y Puchero on Friday night
And Yesterday was Saturday.  It was cold and rainy and I am embarrassed to tell you I spent most of the day hooked on Homeland.  I began to feel like bipolar Carrie, the intelligence officer convinced Brody is a terrorist.  I am too.  But I had to get up from the armchair to get ready to go out to dinner with Eladio.  We had a date with Roberto and Marícarmen, amicably divorced, and Juanjo and Justi at Zanadu a gigantic, overwhelming and noisy leisure and shopping centre on the road to Badajoz.  I wore my new skirt dress but don’t think anyone saw it as it was so cold I wore my coat most of the night.

We were home late and got up “late” for me, at least, at about 08.30 this morning.  I was determined not to watch any more of Homeland until I had written today’s blog post which I am doing now.  Hopefully we will get a walk in between the rain this afternoon and I will be able to watch it after that.

The news yesterday for us at least was that Rocío and Pulgui (Elena) had paid a surprise visit to Suzy and Chati in London.  I didn’t know anything about it until they posted photos.  I heard later that Olivia did.  Suzy was over the moon to see her “manada” (the name of the group of friends of the girls) friends and they will have been partying all weekend. The photo illustrating ths week's blogpost is of the four girls reunited in Whitechapel.

Rocio and Pulgui, lovely girls, are pictured here enjoying a British pint at The George, an old English pub opposite the Courts of Justice in Temple and where one of Suzy’s numerous flat mates, Mónica, works. They will be staying until Tuesday and I hope Suzy isn’t too busy with her events to host them until then.  
Pulgui (left with red lips) and Rocío (right) with a pint of beer at The George Pub in London
And that my friends, is all the news for this week.  I will sign off now, upload this and then go upstairs to make “pelmeni” (Russian ravioli) for lunch which my Father and I adore.

Next week will be hectic as I am responsible for the programme of the visit of the TeliaSonera new CEO to Yoigo.  For me the programme is final but you never know what last minute changes there may be.  But more about that next week.

Cheers till then,


Sunday, November 10, 2013

The heating and hot water are back, Olivia and Miguel in Indonesia, a photo shoot, a communications team meeting in Madrid, "If" by Rudyard Kipling, more tales of Suzy in London and other things.

One of the photos of me taken at the photo shoot this week
Hi everyone,

This week has been extremely busy for me, but now and then I was able to travel in my mind to Indonesia and vicariously enjoy Olivia and Miguel’s trip to that exotic part of the world which you will hear about later.

But first let me tell you that on Monday the plumber came and restored the central heating.  He had been a month before to set it up for the winter and had charged us some 300 euros for his efforts.  So little did we expect it to break down during the visit of Ziuka and Aunty Valya and on the eve of the All Saints’ bank holiday.  It’s great that we got the heating back on Monday but not so great that we had to fork out another 300 euros for his visit.  However I am now enjoying wonderful daily hot showers and I no longer have to wear thick winter pyjamas at night.  I should also mention that thankfully the heating and hot water broke down during quite mild weather.  Would you believe that this week we had temperatures of up to 22ºc on several occasions?  This week coming we are expecting yet another “indian summer”. Even so last week Eladio, with the help of Miguel, covered the pool for the winter.  It is now covered in Autumn leaves and looking a little sad.

This happened whilst Olivia and Miguel were leisurely finalizing their packing for their three week trip to Indonesia, to Bali, Java and the Gili Islands.  They were to take a Qatar Airways flight via Doha and would not be arriving in Bali until the next day; some 24 hours.  

Oli boarding on Monday at Madrid airport
Their first destination was Seminyak, probably the most well-known tourist area in Bali, where they would be staying at the Hotel Sarinande which looks lovely, to judge by the website. Poor Olivia experienced the worst symptoms of jet lag.  I told her that in my experience it is not so bad on the return journey.  Now I know she is over it and thoroughly enjoying the holiday. Since their arrival Olivia has sent us lots of photos. She has gone native, buying local clothes as you can see in this photo here.
Oli who has gone native in Indonesia, savouring the local environment
What Olivia loves best when travelling is meeting people, especially kids and some of her best photos are with children.  I specially love this photo of her greeting these people and touching a little girl’s hand, whilst they pray next to Goa Lawah in Padangbai.
Olivia loves taking photos of children on her travels
Miguel has followed suit and in this charming photo he is showing his camera to the kids he just taken photos of with Olivia.
Miguel with children in Bali
 They have stayed two nights in Seminayak from where they have moved to Ubud which is where they are now.  Ubud is located amongst rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency.  One of Bali’s major arts and culture centres, it has developed a large tourism industry.  Their next destination is Java where after a night in Kuta their final destination will be the Gili Islands, but more about that next week.

Of note on Monday I made an order of some 60 crackers on a site called Uniquely Crackers Online.  I had scoured the web for good online cracker sites that deliver to Spain; always looking for new and creative crackers with good gifts inside.  That is the most difficult part as they all seem to have similar rubbish inside.  In any case I now think we will have enough for all the Christmas and New Year festivities.  Christmas for me would just not be the same without crackers.  I’m sure, if you are English, you would agree.  

On an empty stomach due to my fasting day on Monday, I went into the office in the afternoon to meet with the photographer who would be coming into the office on Tuesday morning to do a photo shoot of my boss. We wanted to explore the possible locations for the photos, one of them being the rooftop at Yoigo.  Here we tried a photo of me next to the gigantic logo of the company and as it was very windy, this was the result.
Me on the rooftop at Yoigo
The next morning, whilst Eladio took Fátima to the doctor for a blood test to check her iron level – remember last week we discovered her hemoglobin was dangerously low – I left the house very early to be at Yoigo by 9.30 for the photo shoot. The photographer, his assistant and makeup artist were already there.  They seemed very professional.  Once we had finished taking the photos of my boss and another colleague, they did some of me too.  I needed new “official” photos as I had been using the same ones for ages.  I chose a lovely corner of the cafeteria with a colourful background for mine.  Above, illustrating this blog is the one I like best.  It yet has to be photo shopped and I am interested to see how that will turn out. The one below is of me standing up. I wanted my legs (from the knee down you understand) in the photo as recently I have come to believe they are one of my best features.  It’s funny when you get to my age (yes I’m 56!) how you become less self-conscious of yourself and begin to appreciate your best features.  When I was 18 I would never have thought my legs were good. Well they are.  However in this photo you can hardly see them unfortunately.
One of the photos taken at the photo shoot
After the photo shoot which took quite a few hours, I went into Madrid for a lunch appointment with Carlos and Isabel from my PR agency.  We were hosting a lunch for the new telecoms journalist, Emilia and her editor, Adrian, from the Spanish news agency Agencia Efe.  I had chosen a place I like a lot, Ten con Ten, but where it is difficult to get a table.  Most of our conversation, over a wonderful dish of pure oxtail hamburger, was about Yoigo and our agreement with Telefónica to offer fixed telephony.  Emilia is new to the telecoms journalist arena and is getting to know everyone.  

The middle of the week came, Wednesday, and with it came the beginning of the visit of my communications colleagues from the Mobility Services division of TeliaSonera, the mother company of Yoigo.  My colleagues, Kaja from Estonia, Daiva from Lithuania, Elina from Latvia, Charlotte from Norway and Nina, Karin, Linda and Anna from Sweden, all arrived that afternoon in Madrid and checked into the Hotel de las Letras on the famous Gran Via.  I was to host the all women team dinner later that night at Casa Lucio in the old part of Madrid and within walking distance of their hotel. Casa Lucio is a very special old restaurant in Madrid where you can meet kings and prime ministers (I once sat at a table and the ex-President Aznar was on a table nearby) and famous people from all over the world.  It is not haute cuisine and is nothing like El Bulli or other top Michelin star places now in Madrid. But Lucio is equally famous as the man, now in his 80’s, explained to us how he rose from being the errand boy over 68 years ago.  Today you can still sample the same recipes, the most famous being his broken eggs and chips.  Other traditional dishes are roast suckling lamb and pig.  We took many photos of the night, but the best one is of us together with the famous restaurant owner who told us that his restaurant was the most famous Spanish restaurant in the world!
With my communications colleagues from TeliaSonera at Casa Lucio with Lucio (in the middle at the back)
Afterwards I walked my colleagues back through the old streets of Madrid.  I was ashamed that they were to see the consequences of the street cleaners’ strike as we passed the usually beautiful Plaza Mayor which was full of papers and empty cans.  I showed them the kilometer 0 in the Puerta del Sol where all roads are measured from in Spain.  We went up the Alcalá street where I showed them the entrance to the old casino with its wonderful stair case, hoping that they would not notice the rubbish too much.  I then left them to drive back home and arrived at nearly one in the morning. The next day I would be up at 06.30 in order to be on time at the office on Thursday morning for our 09.30 start.

My colleagues arrived a bit late because of the traffic but were eager to have their photo taken at the entrance before going up to the board room to begin our meeting.  Juan, kindly, took this photo of us.
With my communications colleagues from TeliaSonera at the entrance to Yoigo
We spent most of the day in the board room talking and debating on various communications topics.  I had decorated the table with two splendid bunches of sweets which looked like flowers which proved very popular.  Angeles and Carmen took care of our catering needs and our meetings went well.  We finished just before 5 and my colleagues then went by mini bus into Madrid whilst I drove there by car.
Our meeting room - notice the bunches of sweets, a lovely touch my colleagues thought.
The next item on our agenda was cultural and team building.  We went on a walking tour of Madrid  - despite the noise and the rubbish – and our delightful guides who were historians showed us the main streets starting with the Gran Via.  I was delighted to see the tour was organized by an old colleague, Diego A who now heads up a VIP tour company in Madrid called “Madrid and You". I hadn’t seen him since my Motorola days! His wonderful guides had with them an iPad and could show us the pictures from the past of the buildings and monuments we were to see on our tour.  I learned quite a lot that evening about places I had passed many times without paying much attention.

Our tour ended at the Anciano Rey de los Vinos, an amazing old bar which actually has a tunnel that joins it to the Royal Palace.  Legend has it that King Alfonso XIII (who abdicated in 1931 when a Republic was formed, just a few years before the Spanish Civil War) used to walk through the tunnel to drink at the bar which I think won’t have changed much since those times. Here my colleagues and I tasted wines and tapas and were then blindfolded in a competition to see whether we could tell the difference between somontano, rioja or ribera wines.  Elina from Latvia won. 
The blind wine tasting competition at El Anciano Rey de los Vinos with Diego
After the competition and lesson in Spanish wine, we walked to where we would be having dinner.  It would be dinner with a difference at Fuentes y Bonetillo which specializes in “show cooking”.  Here we learned how to make Spanish ham croquettes and gazpacho, a banda rice (sort of paella without bits), ali oli mayonnaise followed by a wonderful biscuit dessert made with Spanish “turrón”. 
Kaja and Elina making Spanish ham croquettes at our show cooking evening
I think we all learned a lot as well as ate delicious food.  I left my colleagues drinking coffee, in order to get home not too late.  Even so I was home again after midnight and had to be up on Friday morning, once again at the crack of the dawn!

Our agenda on Friday was great.  We were to have an external speaker talk about excellence in communication.  For this, I had asked a professional colleague and friend, Víctor to do the honours.  I have known Víctor since my Motorola days as at both this company and Nokia he headed up the team from my PR agency.  Since then he has set up his own company called Elocuent (remember I told you last week about being on the jury for prized in personal communication he has set up in Spain?) and is on a mission to improve personal branding and communication in Spain.  

I was at the office early to receive Víctor but before he arrived another old mutual colleague and friend arrived. I was delighted to see Isidro M enter the cafeteria.  We used to work together at Nokia but today Isidro is the Country Manager for Sony Mobile.  When Víctor arrived I told him there was someone he would be delighted to see in the cafeteria. Thus, Isidro, Víctor and I had a wonderful few minutes catching up on our professional lives and remembering our time together when we worked at Nokia.

Víctor’s presentation was very moving and went down well with us all.  He centred his ideas round the Zara case and finished with the Communications Manuel in one page: “If”, the fantastic poem by Rudyard Kipling which if you know it or read it you will totally agree. He moved us so much in fact that there were a lot of red eyes around the room afterwards. Thanks Víctor, you were great! If has always been one of my favourite poems.  The Nobel Laureate wrote it in 1895 in tribute to the British imperialist politician Leander Starr Jameson and also as paternal advice to his son John who was later killed in the Battle of Loos in the First World War aged only 18.

And here is the full poem for you to enjoy:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Our meeting ended early at 11.30 as some of my colleagues had a long haul back to their respective countries.  Others like Karin and Elina were staying in Madrid for the weekend. You can see the rest of the photos of their visit here.

Before I left the office I picked up my new pc – the one I am writing with now.  The other one was over 3 years old and beginning to crash a little too often.  I hate the pain of changing pc’s, but this time the experience has been nearly painless, thanks to the great IT guys at Yoigo: Manuel, Marius and Esther who did everything for me.  I felt and feel privileged.

I came home on time for lunch with Eladio and my Father.  In the afternoon I went shopping with Fátima to buy the weekly food.  Of course I bought more stuff than usual, food for her to take back home to her children this weekend who from what I hear do not eat well enough.  Thanks to me and the local private doctor I am taking her to, Fátima is now learning that eating is not just about satisfying your hunger but about eating the correct food: protein, fruit and vegetables, as well as cereals and food with a high content of iron and vitamins something she had no idea about. I was appalled to hear her children do not drink milk and live off a diet of pasta and tomato sauce!  No wonder she has anemia and no doubt they do too. 
That evening, Friday evening, Eladio and I went out to dinner.  Eladio was amazed I was in the mood to after such an exhausting week, but I was.  I must be eating the right things too as I seem to have boundless energy!  Well I got even more energy at Gino’s that night thanks to the wonderful plate of “paglia y fieno”.  

On Saturday morning I accompanied Fátima to the doctor to get more blood test results.  This time they had checked on her iron which unfortunately they had forgotten to do before.  The good news was that her very low hemoglobin had gone up from 7 to 8 in just a week.  However she has a long way to go until she reaches the normal range for a woman of her age which is between 12 and 16.  Her iron was very low as we suspected, just 19 when the normal range is 50 or over.  The doctor said she has to continue to eat well and take the iron and vitamin supplements and in three months both values should increase.  There is a tiny spot of pink in her normally yellow cheeks since she has started the strict protein and iron diet and I now think she is on the mend.  But, she did give us a shock I must tell you.

It being Saturday I had decided to make “cocido”, that typical Spanish winter stew like dish made with chick peas, all sorts of meat and bones and vegetables.  Cocido is the sort of meal to have with lots of people so we invited José Antonio (Eladio’s brother who lives in Madrid) and his wife Dolores to lunch.  They came and brought Nuba who will be staying with us for three weeks while they are away having a great time at a spa hotel in Murcia with some of their friends and Dolores' family.

We spent a great day together. Whenever they come, they join us on our walk.  Afterwards we had a light dinner together in our dining room made of fresh green beans and artichokes – some of which Fátima ate too of course.

And today is Sunday and it has been very quiet.  As it was Fátima’s day off, I cooked again – I have to admit I find it very relaxing especially when there is no pressure of tight meal times.  Today I made roast lamb the English style with all the trimmings.  Dessert was the usual: Eton Mess.  Afterwards I was rewarded with my Father’s compliment when he said it had been the perfect lunch.  Thanks Daddy, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Sunday roast lamb today
Olivia continued to send us great pictures from Ubud of her in a rice field, of Miguel carving wood, of her grinding coffee the old fashioned Indonesian way and of the two of them off on a bicycle excursion.  It seems they are having a grand time and I’m happy for them.

Meanwhile Suzy sent us a photo from London we were really pleased to see.  She had met up with Patrick, a boy who she and Olivia had met when they went to England to stay with my friend Amanda in Wells nearly 15 years ago.  They hadn’t seen him since but thanks to the power of Facebook had kept in touch.  Patrick who is now living in Bombay was back in London to renew his visa in India and last night they met, together with 7 of his English friends, according to Suzy.  Oli and I immediately told Suzy to put Patrick in touch with Sumit, our Indian friend who lives in Bombay too and works for Bollywood.  Here is the photo of Suzy with Patrick and two of her Spanish girlfriends.
Suzy's reunion with Patrick in London this week
I spoke once to Suzy this week – I have to admit I am not very good on the phone, but of course we are in touch every day via whatsapp and Facebook. She had sent us a photo of herself last weekend together with a colleague when they were working at a wedding organized by her events agency.  She is very happy with her new job, especially when she is at the Oxo building where she is the head supervisor of events.  We were not so pleased to hear from her that her new employer had forgotten to pay her first salary this week which I can only imagine she was much looking forward to.  They will do so next week of course, but it must not have been a nice feeling for poor Suzy after a month of intensive work at her new job. 
Suzy at work last week supervising a wedding at the Oxo building in London
I can’t wait for my visit to see her in London at the beginning of December with Adela, my sister-in-law, for whom it will be two firsts; a first flight and a first time in England.  It’s great to have a trip to London to look forward to and Suzy has many plans for us.  

And so my friends, I have now come to the end of the week.  It’s time to say thanks for reading my blog and to wish you all a great week ahead.  Mine will be busy and I have a trip to Barcelona to look forward to on Thursday and Friday.

So cheers until my next post,

All the best, Masha