Sunday, February 23, 2014

Off to Barcelona, Blue shoes, Goodbye Javier, The 16 billion dollar question, 12 years a slave, an engagement ring, I’m a Ukranian, and other stories.

Sunday 23rd February 2014
Goodbye Javier, we will miss you.
Hi everyone

Here I am this sunny Sunday morning writing from the high speed train on my way to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, like every year.  I had hoped to write the whole of this post during the journey but have bumped into so many people on the train that may not happen now.  It was great to have coffee with Jesús S and Renata, to greet Miguel Angel, Pilar or even my ex-boss FGQ.  It seems half the telecoms sector of the Spanish market is on this train.  It’s going to be a busy week, as it always is at the largest mobile fair in the world.  I have my part in it with organizing a trip of bloggers, a big party on Monday night and then our press conference on Wednesday morning. 

But meanwhile, let me tell you about this week.  It has been quiet with lots of preparations on my part for our activities at the congress, but there has been time for other things too.  On Tuesday I had lunch with Mari Carmen at Ginos in Majadahonda.  Funnily enough Eladio had lunch with her ex-husband Roberto the next day.  We very much miss socializing with them as a couple since their amicable divorce a few years ago.

It was on Tuesday that I got an email reply from Brandon J, the vicar who married us over 30 years ago.  It was great to get his news and I must reply soon.  The contents of his mail had me remembering my teenage years on the double walks I did every day of last week whilst listening to music thanks to Spotify.  I felt quite nostalgic at times. I must write back soon.

Our wedding in 1983 - Brandon J married us - in the pic
That night whilst Eladio watched Barcelona beat Manchester City in the Champions League match, I cooked Chinese rice, my Mother’s way, for Oli’s dinner.  Later I joined her in her room and we had a long chat about work and work colleagues and bosses.  She is learning the lessons I have already learned so I hope some of my comments were useful.  In any case it was lovely having a tete a tete with her.

On Wednesday of note I bought some new shoes online. They are beautiful high heeled electric blue suede shoes made by Clarks, the company which used to be known for fuddy duddy footwear.  That’s not true today.  Their shoes are perhaps some of the most comfortable in the world. 
My new shoes from Clarks soon to arrive
I would have liked to wear them on Wednesday night for Javier’s goodbye party but they won’t arrive until this Monday. Javier is a colleague from Yoigo who is leaving the company and joining our previous management who now head up an operator in Switzerland.  There is so much I could say about Javier; one of my favourite colleagues who will be sorely missed.  I just wish him lots of luck and please keep in touch.  Goodbye Javier, farewell, hasta la vista.  It was a pleasure.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is with him at his goodbye part at Silk in Alcobendas.

On Thursday, my second fasting day of the week, we woke up to the news that the social media giant Facebook had bought the biggest instant messaging service or app  Whatsapp for a cool 16 billion dollars.  It is a staggering figure, more than for example Google paid for Motorola or Microsoft paid for Nokia!  And there goes the “sixteen billion dollar question”.  The maths don’t add up as whatsapp, which has no advertising and the maximum it could generate if each and every user paid for the subscription would be 450 million dollars.  The strategy here I think is more about taking over a competitor who could one day be a threat.  I’m not sure I want to be in the hands of the same company for so many things (FB, Instagram and now whatsapp) and so, like other people, am exploring the alternatives.  The newest alternative seems to be a rival company called Telegram which is Russian owned!  I have been in contact with them all week as we had a technical glitch at Yoigo and our users were having problems accessing Telegram.  Finally we solved it.  Funnily enough whatsapp had a huge outage yesterday, Saturday, which provoked enormous migration to Telegram which in turn collapsed their servers.  Thankfully they are both up and working again. It is amazing how much we depend on them.

But back to Thursday.  That morning I had my annual medical check-up. I was so happy to pass once again with flying colours.  I think a lot has to do with my weekly “fasting” and of course my daily walks.

We had good news that day from Suzy.  She and Gabor have been flat searching in the East End of London for a while now.  Finally they found a suitable studio flat for rent in Aldgate and after lots of hiccups and worries, it is all settled and they hope to move in in about a month’s time.  It must be so exciting for them.  They cannot stand living in the crowded accommodation they have been living in in Whitechapel now for a year; for me substandard.  But the experience will surely make them stronger people.  We look forward to staying with them at their new flat next time we go.  I hope that will be soon.  I can relate to their excitement and it must be pretty similar to our experience in the early 80’s in Spain when Eladio and I lived in a modest little rented flat in Saconia on the outskirts of Madrid.  We still refer to those days as the some of the happiest in our lives even though we were as poor as church mice.
Suzy and Gabor in London this week - so happy to be moving into a new flat
Friday was a crazy day work wise with so many last minute corrections to all my press materials for Barcelona but we got there. On Friday evening Oli was off to Valencia to spend the weekend with Miguel her TVE cameraman boyfriend.  This morning they were going on a 5 kilometre running race.  I was hoping for news and pics to post here but nothing so far.

 On Friday evening I was finally able to relax and Eladio and I went to the cinema to see “12 years a slave”.  It won best film award at the Bafta awardsthis week.  Also Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays the main character, Solomon Northup, was voted best actor.  It is a harrowing and strong film, slightly long but as it was based on a true story, I found it extremely moving.  My criticism is the same as most critics of this film; too much gory violence which probably did happen in real life but I found very disturbing.  If you haven’t seen it yet, do go.
12 Years a slave is a harrowing film
Later we had dinner at La Terraza La Escondida where we exchanged opinions on the film over a dish of their spectacular salad and steak.  We were surprised when Suzy’s great friend, Elena, appeared at our table to greet us. She and Antonio were having dinner there, recommended by Olivia.  The place is getting more and more popular.  I hope to take Kathy and Phil there when they come next week.  I can’t wait for our visitors from Yorkshire.

Yesterday, Saturday, was a quiet day without Olivia.  I had to work writing a final press release for the Congress but after that Eladio and I went to Centro Oeste – the shopping centre nearest our home.  I was going to pick up the ring I had taken to be mended.  It is not just any ring, it was my Mother’s engagement ring which my parents bought second hand.  It is a very unusual but at the same time quite classical, made of turquoises which are now decaying. I can still see it on her hand today in my mind.  Before she died she thought she had lost it or it had been stolen but when I went through her things I was delighted to find it.  I wear it with love and it reminds me of her.
My Mother's engagement ring which I had mended this week
And today is Sunday and I have reached the end of my tales for this week.  I don’t want to end without making reference to the most important news of the week or of the last few months.  I refer to the disturbances in the Ukraine where the opposition has rallied people to protest against the corrupt government since early January.  This week, tens of people have been killed from both sides in this street revolution.  I was moved when I saw a viral video made by a young Ukranian girl who tries to explain the reason for their protests and asks for support.  It has been seen by millions and is called I am a Ukranian, so for some days I felt a Ukranian too.  Thankfully yesterday the head of the Government has fled and Yulia Timoshenko, the former head of state, has been released from prison. The world looks on and I for one am happy to see how ordinary people are able to make a difference and have stood their ground in this bloody battle for human rights. This week will see the outcome; hopefully a positive one.
The girl who did the I am a Ukranian viral video - she is also called Yulia.
Just before I sign off, birthday greetings to Paula, my niece who is 26 today.  Happy birthday Paula. Love you.

On that happy note, I leave you until next week wishing you all the best. 

Till next time my friends,



Sunday, February 16, 2014

A bread and butter letter, birthdays and deaths in February, snow in Montrondo, Oli reporting from Zaragoza and Toro, life is full of wonderful surprises, St. Valentine’s weekend in Soria, home again and other stories.

Sunday 16th Feb 2014

Eladio and I at the Natural Park Cañón del Río Lobos this Saturday in Soria
Hello again my friends

It’s strange to think that it was only a week ago that Suzy left after coming with Gabor for my birthday and Copi’s. The house felt flat and empty without her.  It rained and we were robbed of our walk.  Of note last Sunday the Spanish Goya filma wards took place.  Best film was Living is Easy with Eyes closed which I don’t think I will be watching – some story about a teacher who was mad about the Beatles.  No, not my thing.

That night after the awards I got a phone call out of the blue from our neighbour at Heaton Grove in Bradford where we used to live.  Susan called to tell me she had been to a funeral and that the vicar turned out to be Brandon J., the man who married Eladio and I thirty years ago and who had been important to me when I went through my religious phase as a teenager in Yorkshire.  He was keen to get in touch and gave her his contact details to give to me.  I have written him a long email summarizing the last 30 years in about 25 lines but have not had a reply yet.  I wonder if he uses his email. It will be very interesting to see his reply.

On Monday of course I fasted.  I should mention too that on Monday  I got a bread and butter letter from Suzy’s boyfriend, not the old fashioned letter kind but a private message on Facebook. Well that was good enough for me. I was surprised that a friend from Yorkshire didn’t know what a “bread and butter letter” was; so I had to explain.  I was brought up by my parents to write thank you letters to relatives when they sent me gifts on my birthday or at Christmas.  My parents referred to them as just this “bread and butter letters”.  Really they are letters sent to thank people for hospitality; bread and butter being the food or hospitality.  Thanks Gabor, much appreciated.  It shows you have been brought up wellJ

On Monday I heard the sad news that my dear Finnish friend Anne’s Mother had died suddenly and unexpectedly that day.  We had a long chat on the phone and Anne explained that at only 73 her mother had died of aneurysm.  All I could do was to express my sympathy; not much more.  But I know very well what she will be going through as I also lost my Mother in 1999 and know what it means to lose a Mother.  You are never prepared in life for your parents’ death as parents are never prepared for the death of their children.  Anne my heart goes out to you.  Love you, you know that.

I had to take my car into work for it to be serviced and whilst I was there I did a few errands.  Snow was forecast that day as it was the next but it never came.  Where it did snow heavily was in Montrondo.
The huge snowfall in Montrondo this week.  It looks magical.
On Tuesday, Toribio died. He was one of the few elderly people left  in Montrondo. As always happens when someone from this group passes away, as many people as possible go to the funeral.  In Spain the funeral is nearly always the day after the person dies; unlike England or Finland when it can be up to 2 weeks or more. The snow was to be an enormous problem as the funeral procession would not be able to reach the church.  Eladio’s sister Pili and her husband Andrés attended as did his brother Isidro and Adela’s husband Primo. The attendants and villagers (only 10 people live in Montrondo) all made a human chain to clear the path of snow which must be at least 1km long. 
Clearing the snow in Montrondo to clear the path to the church for Toribio's funeral
Meanwhile back home I had a lunch in town that day.  My PR Agency, or rather the team that heads up our account there, Ludi, Carlos and Isabel, invited me to lunch.  We went to El Cocinillas in the heart of Madrid where we spent all lunch talking shop. Well that’s natural I suppose.

That evening I caught Fátima, our home help making some delicious biscuits for my Father.  This is what they looked like.
Fátima's home made biscuits
Entering into the spirit she had created I decided to make Russian food for dinner, for Olivia and Eladio, both of whom were out; Oli still at work and Eladio at his UNED University tutorials.  As Olivia comes back too late to join us for dinner, I left her a tray in the kitchen.  She later posted a photo of it on Facebook.  This is what it looked like.
The dinner tray of Russian food for Olivia
For the record I made or rather baked already made frozen “perushki” (meat pies) and “pelmeni! (Russian ravioli) with “smetana” (sour cream).

Wednesday 12th February would have been my brother, George’s 59th birthday.  I always remember as a child celebrating both birthdays which were so close in time.  Now it is only I who has a birthday. I thought about my brother that day as I’m sure my Father did too.  I quietly had breakfast with Olivia but kept my thoughts to myself; not wanting to dampen the atmosphere.  You see Anne, my Mother and my brother live on in our hearts as I know your Mother will live on in your heart.  But you will always miss her; as I always miss them, but especially on their birthdays like this last Tuesday.

That day, Oli went off to work as normal but a few hours later rang to say she was coming home to pack as she was being sent to Zaragoza.  Her TVE programme wanted her to cover the story the next day in the small village of Alagón, about a married couple in their 80s who had been made homeless. A car came to pick her up in the afternoon to take her to the station where she was to catch the high speed train to Zaragoza.  There were no hotel rooms to be had there so she was sent to nearby Tudela which I think is in Navarra.

That night Suzy was excited to be out in town with her new English girlfriends who she works with at the Oxo building.  One of them had secured invitations to a new fashionable spot in London called The Fable.  All I got from her though were pictures of the drinks when I wanted a photo of her for this week’s blog post.

Thursday of course was my second and last fasting day of the week.  It saw me again at Yoigo most of the morning which coincided with Olivia reporting from Alagón on the old couple’s plight.  However I was able to watch nearly all of her appearances on my mobile phone.  Did I ever tell you I love technology?
Olivia reporting from Alagón on Thursday
The story was complicated but from what I understood, the patriarch, Paco, signed a contract in 1960 whereby he “bought” the house but also continued to pay rent (very strange).  His mistake was not only agreeing to pay rent but for buying the house not from the owner but from the beneficiary.  And now the original owners have proved their ownership and Paco and his family have been made homeless. You can see Olivia’s reports on this link if you go to 10.16 and 11.21 and again here if you go to 11.52.

Whilst at Yoigo a stone fell from my Mother’s engagement ring which I often wear.  Thus instead of coming straight home I went to Centro Oeste (shopping centre) to have it mended. Whilst there I couldn’t resist a very quick little entry into Zara where in under 10 minutes I had happily bought a light blue dress, a pair of blue trousers and a black and white dress.  I am particularly happy with the blue dress which will match my birthday coat, the blue one I got for myself from my Father. This is the dress.  Lovely isn’t it?
My new blue dress from Zara
Oli was back in the afternoon and had good news.  She had received an email from the organizers of an EU educational unit called Etwinning who had asked her to be the MC again this year at their prize giving ceremony.  It will be in April in Brussels where my great friend Sandra lives.  I immediately contacted Sandra who said she would be delighted to put us up.  You see I want to go with Olivia as does her boyfriend Miguel.  That day I posted on FB that life was full of wonderful surprises; that was the wonderful surprise I was referring to.

And Friday came and it was St. Valentines.  Early that morning Olivia had been sent off to the north of Spain.  They wanted her to cover the story of snow in villages there.  So on Thursday night Eladio and I were in touch with our family in León but wherever we thought of it was logistically impossible for Olivia to get there on time to be live on TV by 10 in the morning.  In the end they asked her to cover the story of flooded rivers and sent her to Toro in Zamora. Talking about the weather,  England these past few weeks, has had the worst floods in many many years.  

By then Eladio and I were on the road on our way to our romantic St. Valentine’s weekend in Soria.  However, again I was able to watch Olivia on my mobile and you can too if you go to this link and fast forward to 11.30.  
Olivia reporting from Toro on Friday on the nearly flooded river there

Eladio and I were heading to a small village called Almarza in the north of Soria where we had booked a room at a small hotel and spa called El Morendal
Almarza is in the north of Soria some 22km north of the capital on the road to Logroño.
We loved the place as soon as we got there.
Just in front of the spa hotel El Morendal in Almarza
As soon as we had settled into our room called “Fanega” (a measure used for flour – apparently the hotel used to be a flour factory!) we went for a walk to explore the village.
Our room "Fanega" at the hotel
Almarza is quite big as far as villages go in Soria and has some 100 inhabitants, more than some of the emptier villages we saw in the area. 

In Almarza upon our arrival
Then it was lunch time where we were alone in the dining room and sat at a beautiful table by the window (we managed to sit at the same table for every meal we had at El Morendal).  We were very impressed with the small rural hotel and got lots of ideas for decorating the house in Montrondo we will be reforming soon.

After lunch we had a siesta which turned out to be longer than we wanted.  However it was still light outside for a nice long walk in the cold evening before returning to the hotel.  We had booked the spa at 19h and had the place to ourselves for an hour before dinner – again alone. The spa was small but fabulous for two people. We mainly enjoyed the Jacuzzi but also the sauna and Turkish bath.
The spa at our hotel in Almarza
Before I continue I should tell you a little about Soria – in Castilla León and some 250km from Madrid.  It is here that part of Dr. Zhivago was filmed and when I saw the beautiful forests and hills and snow, I understood why.  When on Saturday morning after a sumptuous breakfast we made our way to the Mountain Pass called Piqueras (Puerto de Piqueras), I could just imagine the scene on the train when Dr. Zhivago was taken to Strenilkov in the middle of the white forest, been filmed in this part of Spain. Yes in some areas Soria resembles Siberia.  It is of course one of the coldest parts of Spain.
Me ecstatic to be at the snow - Puerto de Piqueras
After visiting the mountain pass, our next destination was the Laguna Negra – the Black Lagoon, the coldest spot in Soria.  Here we came across so much snow our car could no longer make it up the path.
We got stuck in the snow trying to reach the Black Lagoon (Laguna Negra)
We had a moment of crisis when I thought we would get stuck in the snow but after lots of short manoeuvres and with the help of some passersby we managed to turn the car round and go back down.  We were not to see the Laguna Negra which we will have to see if we go to Soria again. 

From here we made our way to the small ski resort called “Punto de Nieve” at the Santa Inés Mountain Pass.  Here finally I was able to enjoy abundant snow and we went for a long walk, albeit on the road where the snow had been shifted as we were not wearing the right boots.
At Punto de Nieve (skiing resort) by the Santa Inés Mountain Pass.  Wonderful very Dr. Zhivago country
We decided to have lunch in the nearest town called Vinuesa, a sleepy village with the same sort of architecture we were to see everywhere – houses made of a reddish brown stone, very pretty really – Here we came across a little place called Asador Eguren where we enjoyed bean soup followed by a huge rump steak grilled in front of our eyes on the fire place which was also a barbecue.  Eladio was delighted that the bill came to just over 20 euros!

Our next destination was the Cañón de Río Lobos (River Wolves Canyon) natural park which everyone told us was magical.  We knew what they meant when we stopped at the Mirador or viewing place high above it.
High above the Cañón de Río Lobos
It was a very steep drive down but thankfully there was no snow here.  We drove our car to the edge of the river where we spied a sign to what looked like an interesting footpath by the river and under the canyon. We just loved this walk, past caves, green fields and bridges.  It was to be our second walk of the day but we had to curtail it as I had booked a massage at the spa at 19h.  The photo illustrating this post is of the two of us at the Cañón de Río Lobos
On our walk in the River Wolves Canyon, a magical place.
Thankfully we were back on time; although I know Eladio would have preferred to carry on walking.  Natalia did some good work on the knots in the muscles of my back for 60 heavenly minutes.  Dinner that night was a small affair.  This time the dining room was full – well the 7 tables were full. The hotel has just 9 rooms.

And all too soon it was Sunday, the end of our romantic St. Valentine’s weekend away and the end of the week.  We had breakfast early and as soon as I had packed we were ready to check out and leave.  We were on the road just after 10.  On our way home we decided to stop at Medinaceli, a medieval town in Soria on the border of the province of Madrid and famous for being one of the prettiest small towns in Spain.  But my was it cold.  We walked the stony streets and the town seemed empty.  We spied just one shop and bought some bread and honey and locally made butter – Soria is famous for its butter.
In the main square (Plaza Mayor) of Medinaceli this morning on our way home.
We were home just after 1 o’clock and delighted to find Fátima in the kitchen making a fresh pizza for our family lunch.  There was time to say hello to everyone, my Father, Oli, Miguel and of course the dogs.  There was even time to unpack before we all sat down to lunch. 

And here I am now writing my blog, just before we go for our walk with the dogs.  Of note today is my friend’s birthday, Jacky from Yorkshire who is the same age as me today. Hope you are having a great day.

I have come to the end of this week’s tale but I do not want to sign off before making a reference to the announcement this week of this year’s World Press Photo.  It is a dramatic image taken by the National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer which shows African migrants holding their phones high hoping to catch the inexpensive Somalian phone signal at midnight on the shores of Djibouti.  Mobile phones are an intrinsic part of my job and the plight of immigrants always worries me, so this photo for me at least, tells a very big story which does not need any explaining in this day and age.  Amazing photo eh?
The winner of this year's World Press Photo
And that my friends, is the end of the tale of this week.

I wish you all the best until next time,


PS You can see more photos of our weekend in Soria here.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Pedro J’s last day, storms in Spain and snow in Madrid, Facebook’s look back video, my early birthday present, a trip to El Escorial with the girls, my birthday weekend, the Winter Games take off, a Spanish princess in the dock, thank you Google and other stories.

With my beautiful girls (Oli left with  the grey scarf and Suzy right with sun glasses) at El Escorial on Friday
Hi everyone

What a great week it has been in very many ways.  It has been full of news and surprises and the best birthday ever!  I left off last Sunday.  That day was my god daughter Alicia’s birthday.  She is the youngest of the 13 cousins and the ones who live in Madrid prepared a surprise lunch for her.  Here is the photo to document the event.  Love you Ali, you know that.
The surprise birthday lunch for Alicia
Last Sunday was also the last day for Pedro J Ramírez, as editor of the right wing Spanish paper El Mundo. He is one of Spain’s most high profile journalists and the news was echoed by media as prestigious as The New York Times which wrote that his dismissal was mainly caused by his criticism of Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s right wing premiere.  Be that as it may, Pedro J is now asking the American newspaper to correct its piece which I doubt it will.

Sunday also saw the beautiful north eastern town of San Sebastian suffer a mini tsunami.  The pictures of the waves penetrating into the city centre are incredible.  There have been vicious storms in the north of Spain as there have been in England, France and Portugal.  The main news of the week here has been mostly about the devastation they caused. 
A mini tsunami in San Sebastian
The weather forecasts also predicted snow in many parts of Spain.  Here in Madrid we were eager to see its arrival and were delighted when it began to snow heavily in the middle of the morning on Monday.
It snowed on Monday
But it didn’t last or settle and all I could do was envy my colleagues and friends in other parts of Europe who have lots of snow.

Tuesday was a busy day.  The mother company of Yoigo, TeliaSonera, announced reorganization changes that day in the communications team.  I was very sad to hear that the head of my communications team will be taking another role.  I have worked with Anna for years and will sorely miss her.  Her role will be resumed by a Finn called Tatu who I don’t know.  However I have good experiences with working with Finns, so the change might not be too drastic.

Tuesday 4th February was Facebook’s 10th anniversary.  Curious to see when I had actually joined, I found out it had been in August 2007 and that my first friend had been Anne (Finnish).  My second friend was Juana and my third Maija.  Anne and Maija have both been my bosses at Nokia and all three “girls” are ex Nokia.  It was funny to see the Nokia Connecting people slogan ringing true here once again. That day Facebook launched an individual look back video for all its users and it went completely viral with everyone posting their video.  I am not very keen on Facebook as a company (bit too dominant) but was impressed with the idea.  This is my video if you are interested which I wouldn’t be surprised if you weren’t. 

On Wednesday, as on Monday, I fasted.  I was up early for a conference call and then off to Yoigo for a meeting with my external PR team. Wednesday was a day we had all been looking forward to.  Let me explain; on Wednesday night Suzy was coming from London especially for my birthday.  She was also coming for her friend Copi’s 30th birthday but wanted it to be a surprise for Copi, so none of us were allowed to post anything on Facebook or anywhere else.  Now I can finally talk about her visit in the open. She brought her boyfriend Gabor with her who was met by his mother at the airport too.  He hadn’t seen her for a year and a half and I witnessed the reunion which was very emotional.  Seeing Suzy again was emotional for us too and a very happy moment.

Oli had taken off Thursday and Friday to be with Suzy and I had done as much work as possible beforehand so as to spend nearly all my time with her too.

After a wonderful breakfast together on Thursday morning in the dining room with my Father – a table loaded with churros, chocolate, coffee, croissants and orange juice – the three of us got ready to go out. I went shopping with my beautiful daughters and we had a field day at Zara together.  There I got my Father’s present for me, a lovely pastel blue wool coat.

My lovely pastel blue woolen Zara coat

We had a family lunch together – Eladio was back from invigilating the UNED University exams. I had made “cocido madrileño” for Suzy – which, being the productive sort of person I am, was cooked and ready by the time the girls were up at 9 O’clock!

Suzy joined Eladio and I and the dogs for a walk that afternoon.  It was the perfect day.  Later they met up with the “manada” – their group of friends, minus Copi of course and this time they were joined by Gabor.

If Thursday was perfect Friday only got better. It started off with another nice breakfast (minus the churros, croissants, etc) in the kitchen with the girls and both their boyfriends, Gabor and Miguel.  They had decided to spend the morning in El Escorial – that beautiful little town near the mountains outside Madrid where Philip II built the famous monastery come Palace.  I decided to join them and thus the five of us found ourselves in that very austere but pretty town walking the streets in the sun.  Miguel took some great photos of us all with Olivia’s semi-professional camera I wish she would use more.  The one I like best is the one illustrating this week’s post, of the girls and I.  I also love this one of all of us, minus Miguel the photographer of course.  You can see the rest of Miguel’s great photos of us in El Escorial here.
In El Escorial with Suzy (sun glasses), Gabor and Olivia (right)
We decided to have lunch nearer Madrid so that Eladio could join us.  Thus we went to La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas, the scene of many family celebrations.  Thank you Olivia and Miguel for treating us all to a wonderful lunch there.

That night the girls were off to the surprise party they had planned with their friends for Copi’s 30th birthday which in fact was to be the next day like mine.  The girls have been friends with Copi since they were 3 and 4 and she is very much part of our family and life.  Suzy's attending was supposed to be a surprise for Copi, except that by mistake Oli posted photos of our day trip to El Escorial on the group whatsapp.  It was my job, as usual, then, to keep the peace after the unfortunate incident.  Even so Copi was delighted to see Suzy.  Here is a photo of the girls, their boyfriends and Copi that night.
Celebrating Copito's 30th birthday on Friday night
That evening the Sotchi Winter Games were inaugurated.  I only watched a bit, but of course much has been reported on the news. The main stories running up to Friday were about hotels not being finished, the gay rights controversies and huge security worries.  Sotchi, Russia’s answer to Benidorm or Blackpool but on the Black Sea and apparently Joseph Stalin’s favourite resort, was for a few hours on Friday the centre of attention around the world.  You can watch the amazing ceremony here.  I only saw a part of it but read later that it was supposed to be a view of Russia, connected by its majestic past to an exciting future through the dreams of a young girl called “Lubvov” – love in Russian.  There was nothing missing; all the Russian stereotypes such as War and Peace, Swan Lake, the Revolution, all had a part in the fantastic ceremony.  While it happened, some madman in Istanbul tried to highjack a plane to take him to Sotchi but thankfully the attempt was aborted.  I hope nothing awful happens and wish that the young Spanish ice skater, Javier Fernández, who just won the European  Championship brings home a gold medal from Sotchi. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
The Sotchi Winter Games inauguration
Saturday of course was my birthday.  I was 57 yesterday and surrounded by my family.  I think yesterday was one of my best birthdays ever.  It started off with a special breakfast – yes more churros and croissants.
My birthday breakfast with all the family and the boyfriends
This year we were joined by both boyfriends and both of them signed my birthday card.  I loved all the words from them and my family which you can read here.  I was happy with my presents too, a watch and jumper from the girls, the coat from my father, a white cold winter anorak from Eladio and a lovely scarf from Fatima our home help.
Lovely words on my birthday card
However we were alone as a family at lunch for which Fátima made one of our favourite meals – fish and chips. I did the beer batter though and Oli helped me deep fry the fish.  The piece de resistance was the cake. I loved the fruit and chocolate creation Eladio got from one of our favourite bakery shops nearby.
No birthday would be the same without a cake

Saturday wasn’t only Copi’s birthday or mine. It was also my nephew and Eladio’s godson, Juan’s.  Below is a photo of Juan and his family, our family, celebrating his birthday too.  Happy birthday dear Juan too.
Our nephew Juan celebrating his birthday too on Saturday with his family
In the afternoon on went on a second walk, to work off all the churros and cake and to work up an appetite for dinner.  Dinner was a family affair again and we were joined by the “boyfriends”.  We went to “Terraza La Escondida” in Pozuelo where our invitees agreed the place is great and the food superb and all at a very good price.  We took more photos over dinner of course and below is the one of us all around the table at dinner.
Last night's birthday dinner.
You can see the rest of the photos of my action packed or should I say food packed birthday here.  I should also make a mention here to thank all my friends and family for their phone calls, emails, videos, whatsapps and posts on Facebook to wish me a happy birthday. Thank you, all your wishes came true, I had a great day.
Who didn’t have a great day yesterday was the Spanish Princess the Infanta Cristina, King Juan Carlos’ youngest daughte,r who was in the dock of the courts of Palma in Mallorca.  It was the first time in history a member of the Spanish royal family was to appear in court as the subject of a criminal investigation. She was to be questioned in connection with the corruption scandal involving her husband’s questionable business affairs; allegedly defrauding regional governments of millions of euros of public money.  The whole affair has caused the royal family a huge headache and has damaged its reputation enormously.  Who knows what the outcome will be but it is a triumph of justice just to see the king’s daughter in the dock. I’m sure she had a dreadful time whilst pleading innocent of her husband’s crooked dealings, saying she knew nothing about them.  I wonder!
The Spanish princess arriving at the courts in Palma yesterday
And today is Sunday.  As I was checking my gmail at breakfast I suddenly realized that thousands of my missing emails had suddenly appeared in my “bin” folder.  In fact some 5.500 emails dated from 2005 to 2010 which had been purged by the hackers of my gmail account were suddenly there.  You will know that when my gmail account was hacked on 20th January in Stockholm, they deleted all the emails.  I tried reaching google unsuccessfully and then decided to ask for help from the communications manager of their offices here in Spain.  Marisa immediately went to work getting the help of a group of engineers in California.  They sent me an automated message during the week acknowledging the problem and saying that if my messages didn’t reappear they could not be recovered.  What I didn’t know though was that my case had been taken on as a special project. So I was delighted to see  some of the messages reappear today. I now have hope the messages between 2010 and 19th January this year will also be recovered.  My faith in Google has been restored.  To boot, to quote my friend Jacky, yesterday on my birthday there was a google doodle birthday greeting for me; wow an individual doodle.  I was impressed. This was it.
My Google birthday doodle which pleasantly surprised me yesterday
I started writing this post this morning when the girls were asleep and have resumed after taking Suzy to the airport.  It’s amazing how soon her visit and my birthday have come to an end.  However we enjoyed her company to the last moment.  I joined the girls for a late breakfast (my own was at about 8.30) and spent time with Suzy before we had lunch.  Lunch was the last family gathering before we all took Suzy to the airport.  There we met with Gabor whose Mother was seeing him off too.  Our goodbyes were sweet but nostalgic with the odd tear shed – mostly by my lovely emotional daughter Suzy.  I do hope it won’t be long before we see her again.  We have to make plans to see each other for her birthday in April and or Olivia’s birthday in May.

The house feels flat now, it’s raining cats and dogs outside so there will be no walk this afternoon.  Next week will be quiet but we have St. Valentine’s to look forward to.  Eladio and I will be going away on Friday for a romantic getaway to a spa hotel in a small village near Soria. 

Meanwhile my friends, I wish you all a great week ahead,

Cheers Masha