Saturday, December 27, 2014

“El Gordo” the biggest lottery in the world, a tragedy in Glasgow, Olivia interviews the family, our Christmas, Gael is born and other stories.

Saturday 27th December 2014
The four of us on Christmas Day
Hi everyone,

Here I am writing this week’s post on Saturday instead of Sunday.  That’s because tomorrow is Suzy’s last day with us and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.  Both girls will be out for lunch today with the “manada” with whom they will be spending the day. Thus now is the perfect time to write.

I left off last Sunday.  The sports news that day was that Real Madrid was the club world champion for those of you interested in football.  The girls had a long lunch with the manada and the kitchen was invaded from about midday to midnight.  Here is a photo of the whole group of them around our dining room table.
The "manada" at our house last Sunday
Sunday of course was the start of the winter and it was the longest night of the year, the winter solstice.  Thankfully now the days will start to get longer.  In any case we have been blessed with sunshine since Suzy came and I’m sure she appreciates it, as she surely has enjoyed the extra two hours of sun each evening.  Dusk in London is just before 4 in the afternoon whereas the sun sets here at about 6pm.

On Monday I fasted and went for my two walks as usual.  Suzy has been joining me on many of them.  I was also busy with the issue of a joint press release with Ericsson to announce our renewed contract for managed services of our network.  I spent some of my time making food for Christmas Eve and would continue doing so the next day too.  Oli was ill with a nasty cold which she still has.  However she was well enough to give me a helping hand with the croquettes and perushki (little Russian meat pies). 

Monday 22nd December is a very important date in Spain. It’s when the Christmas lottery “el gordo” is drawn.  It is the biggest lottery in the world and it is typical to buy tickets for your friends and family.  Unlike other lotteries there is not just one jack pot but several prizes and the winnings are distributed amongst thousands of people.  A “décimo” (a tenth of a ticket) which is what most people buy costs 20 euros and if your number coincides with the first prize you win 400.000 euros. For the first time ever I know someone who won this year.  Well done Javi, I’m very pleased for you. Eladio won a modest 180 euros which he immediately went to spend on the next biggest lottery in Spain, “El niño” (the child) which is drawn on 5th January.  Many people in all parts of Spain were celebrating winning El Gordo on Monday.  We have never won a significant amount but as I heard one winner say on the television; “if you don’t buy a ticket you don’t win”.  So we shall try our luck again next year as we do every year.
People queuing up to buy a lottery ticket for El Gordo
In Scotland on Monday no one was celebrating; instead they were mourning their dead after a dustbin lorry lost control and crashed into pedestrians in George Square killing 6 people.  3 of them came from the same family.  From what I have read it seems the lorry driver had a heart attack.
The Glasgow bin lorry crash
On Tuesday I spent some quality time with Suzy.  We went to do the Christmas food shopping and Tuesday was the first time the five of us had lunch alone together for a very long time.  It was lovely to see all of my immediate family around the table.

Wednesday was Christmas Eve which in Spain is as important as Christmas day or more.  Their main Christmas meal is on the evening of the 24th.  In our house we respect both the Spanish and English traditions.  Olivia was back to work that day, although she was still suffering from a bad cold.  She was doing a report on the use of credit cards at a shopping centre not far from where we live, Gran Plaza 2 in Las Rozas.  We decided to go and see her there which we did only to find out that she wanted to use all three of us for her report. We were not to be interviewed by her as  her family but as "spontaneous shoppers". In a way we would be helping her as it is always difficult to persuade passersby to volunteer and talk to a TV camera.  I was very eager to be interviewed by my daughter and was the perfect candidate as my purse is bursting to the seams with credit cards and shop receipts.  Suzy and Eladio were more reluctant but enjoyed the experience in the end. In these three photos you can see Olivia interviewing us.  The report came out yesterday and you can see it on this link at the beginning if you go to where it says 19.33h on the screen.
Olivia interviewing Suzy
Olivia interviewing her father
Olivia interviewing me
On the topic of interviews, there is a huge issue in the news around a film made by Sony Pictures called “The Interview” which is a parody of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.  About 10 days ago Sony’s computers were hacked which led to the Hollywood studio cancelling the release of the film.  The US blamed North Korea for the cyberattack.  Then the latter suffered an internet outage (although that wouldn’t have affected much of the population as internet is the privilege of very few in that cruel country) for which North Korea blamed the US.  Perhaps the original cyberattack was not a good idea as it gave the film much more publicity than it would ever have and now the whole world can see it for free as Sony has decided to release it on internet in a stand to defend freedom of speech.  I am certainly going to watch it to see what all the fuss is about.  You can too if you go to this link.
The film by Sony which was cyberattacked
I spent most of the afternoon finishing preparations for our Christmas Eve meal which was to consist of what we call in our family “a bits and bobs meal”: potato salad, lobster salad, bacon rolls, “perushki” (little Russian meat pies), croquettes and foie.  There was to be no proper dessert as we would be eating “turrón” (Spanish nougat eaten only at Christmas) and chocolates.  Suzy made her own vegan variety of food and this is what the table looked like.
Our table on Christmas Eve
The best moment was the cracker moment and here is a fun selfie we took of the five of us.  It was difficult to take it as we were laughing so much and had glasses of champagne in our hands, including Olivia’s who was the photographer of the moment.
The cracker moment selfie
We all read out the jokes which were better than the presents inside the crackers.  Here is Grandpa reading out his with his magnifying glass which we thought was hilarious.
My 95 year old Father reading his cracker joke with a magnifying glass on Christmas Eve
One of the best was: “why did the doughnut worker leave his job?  Because he was fed up with the “hole” business.

Later we played trivial, the girls against the parents.  When Miguel joined us they were leading but it was late so we decided to go to bed.  The next item on the Christmas agenda was to fill the girls’ stockings and put them outside their bedrooms. This has been a tradition for me since I was a child and I always threaten to put an end to it but the girls always insist.  So once again there were stockings for the girls.

On Christmas day I was woken up by Olivia at 7 in the morning.  She had gone into Suzy’s room to open the presents in the stockings and I joined them.  I think it is the first time I have ever seen them opening them.  I was not allowed to take a photo though as the girls were in their pyjamas.

Next came breakfast which I prepared with loving care in the dining room with our best china.  I had bought some croissants the day before and this is what the table looked like. 
Breakfast on Christmas morning
After breakfast it was time to open our presents. There seemed to be so many this year and it is always the moment we all look forward to most at Christmas.  As Miguel was with us I asked him to take the traditional photo of Eladio and I just before starting.  This is the result:
Eladio and I on Christmas Day just before opening the presents
Later he took one of me with my girls to remember the occasion. I love it.
With my girls on Christmas Day whilst opening our presents
I think we were all very pleased with our presents.  Amongst many other things I got a lovely white handbag by Michael Kors.  One of my presents to Eladio was a traditional duffel coat which looks great on him.
My lovely new handbag from my Father and Eladio

Both Suzy and I coincided by giving selfie sticks which we had both bought on Amazon.  It turned out mine worked better on our phones and I felt sorry for Suzy.  I think the selfie stick has probably been one of the most popular Christmas gifts this year.  However I am not very impressed with mine. It’s a bit heavy so the phone moves and you end up with slightly blurred photos. 

I spent the rest of the morning making the Christmas lunch which would be a traditional English Christmas day meal, except that I substitute turkey for a special chicken which I think is called “pullet” in English.  The trimmings were: cranberry sauce, sage and onion stuffing, sprouts, peas and carrots, roast potatoes and gravy. The girls’ friend Juli joined us as he does most years and the photo illustrating this week’s blog is of the four of us around the table at lunch on Christmas Day.

Of course we went for a walk in the afternoon to work off some of the excess.  Later we watched a film with the girls in the lounge with the fire on.  Unfortunately the film was not very good but it was nice to be together.

And yesterday was Boxing Day which is not celebrated here. However Olivia had the day off for once.  We decided to go to the shops to return or exchange some of the gifts the girls got and were joined by Miguel.  It was a lovely morning together.  Once again in the evening Eladio and I enjoyed the fire in the lounge together with the dogs and watched a film, another disappointing one.

For the records yesterday was also the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Tsunami which hit 13 countries and killed 280.000 people.  Who does not remember seeing the news on Boxing Day in 2004 of this terrible natural disaster?

And today is Saturday, Suzy’s last day with us.  As I said the girls have gone off to have lunch with the “manada”.  The news of the day though is that Gael was born early this morning.  Gale is the first son of Juan, Eladio’s godson and son of José Antonio and Dolores. His wife Cristina gave birth to their first grandchild early this morning after being admitted to hospital yesterday.  So we have a new Christmas baby in the family.  If Cristina is recovered by tomorrow we plan to go and see the new baby on our way to taking Suzy to the airport.  I do hope Suzy gets to see her cousin’s baby before she returns to London.  Welcome Gael to the Freijo family and to the world. No pictures I’m afraid as I have seen one but wouldn’t dare to publish it here without permission.

It has been a lovely family Christmas which is not over yet of course. There is still New Year’s Eve to come.  We shall be going to Montrondo on Monday to join José Antonio and, hopefully Dolores too.  Eladio is keen to see the progress on the new house.  On Wednesday we shall travel by car to León to have dinner with the family at Amancio a restaurant in the city which is where we usually celebrate the New Year.  But of course I shall be telling you all about that next week.

Meanwhile my friends I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season and I wish you all a great new year.

Cheers till next week


Sunday, December 21, 2014

A surprise from Suzy, show cooking with a Master Chef judge, massacre at a school in Peshawar, the US to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, Dinner at Dstage, the Yoigo children’s Christmas party, Christmas dinner at home with Julio and Fátima, time with the girls in downtown Madrid, a lamb was born and other stories.

Sunday 21st December 2014
Happy with my two girlies in Madrid on Saturday
Hi everyone

Here I am on the last Sunday before Christmas writing my blog. The family is complete and nearly everything is ready for the festivities.  Eladio just commented to me from his desk next to mine that today is the first day of winter but you wouldn’t think so if you looked outside as the sun is shining and there are many leaves still on the trees in the garden.

Monday was a happy day for us.  That day Eladio took my Father to the hospital for a scan after his operation a few months ago.  The good news is that he is completely clear of the small tumour he had on his bladder.  We are so happy for him and I think he was very pleased too.

At lunchtime that day I went to have my nails done at a beauty salon nearby.  I had heard about “permanent” nail varnish treatment and wanted to try it out.  I was very impressed with the results but not sure how permanent they would be.  However, so far so good; today is Sunday and they still look perfect.  The 15 euro investment was therefore worth the effort and if they last longer than 2 weeks I shall certainly be repeating the experience.

I was on edge all morning on Monday because I knew that Suzy was coming for Christmas five days earlier than planned but I had been sworn to secrecy.  I later admitted to Suzy that I had told Olivia.  However Eladio and my Father had no idea so when I had to go and meet her off the plane arriving at 16h I had to invent an excuse for leaving the house.  Off I went on my own with butterflies in my stomach to meet my beautiful daughter Suzy who I miss so much because she lives in London. 

Her plane was early and very soon we were home.  We hadn’t planned the entrance, so in we walked and the first person Suzy greeted was my amazed Father who was sitting in our study watching the BBC News.  Next we went upstairs.  Suzy hid in her room and I called Eladio and asked him to come into it to “look at some curtains”.  He had the fright of his life as he walked in and saw her.  This is a photo of that wonderful moment of pure love.
Pure love, Suzy gave her Father quite a shock with her surprise early arrival
We spent the next hour or so having a cup of tea in the lounge to enjoy the Christmas decorations and it felt like having a visitor except that Suzy is no visitor, she is our daughter.  The dogs joined us and here is a lovely photo of the occasion. 
With Suzy and the dogs the afternoon she arrived

I was to miss Suzy and Oli’s moment of reuniting as that night I had to leave for a very special Christmas event.  Had it been any normal event I would have stayed behind to be with the family but it wasn’t.  I had been invited together with my friend Fátima to a show cooking party at the Kitchen Club in Madrid where the chef would be Samantha de España a famous caterer but also one of the members of the jury of the popular TV programme Master Chef. It was a great evening and here you can see me supposedly cooking side by side with Samantha.  Actually I was only peeling an apple!
My Master Chef experience
I was able to get away early and spend some time with Suzy and Oli before we all went to bed.

On Monday the big news was the siege in Sydney where an Islamic gunman entered a Lindt Chocolate café in the city centre and took some 20 to 30 people hostage.  Being so busy that day I only learned the details later.  Thankfully the siege was over the next day when commandos stormed the café to free the hostages.  In the shootout 2 people were killed as well as the gunman, Man Haron Monis.  The story made me think just how vulnerable we all are to these fanatical Islamists and that there seems to be no way of stopping them.  This is the new type of war.
The Lindt cafe in Sydney. 
On Tuesday we were all up early and had breakfast with our girlies.  Both girls joined me on my walk which was great.  Olivia had to work of course which was rather sad so we opted to drive her into Madrid where she works in the centre.  On our way home we stopped at La Vaguada to have a coffee.  It had to be there as, unlike most cafes in Spain, it serves soya milk.  Suzy being a vegan cannot drink cow’s milk.  Whilst at the shopping centre we had a little look in Zara.  I was on the lookout for an elegant black coat.  There were quite a few but both Suzy and I agreed that I looked best in the one I finally bought.  This is it:

My new black coat from Zara
We were home for lunch with the men, a short siesta for some (I had to work) and then out for a second walk.  It was on Tuesday that we heard about the terrible massacre at a school in Peshawar in Pakistan.  Taliban gunmen stormed a school there killing 148 children and leaving many more injured.  The attack was apparently in retaliation for the continuing military intervention against a group in the North Waziristan tribal region. This was certainly Pakistan’s 9/11 and the world is still revealing from the horrors of this ghastly group of terrorists.  They are the same group who targeted Malala and are against educating girls.  I was not surprised to hear that even ISIS condemned the massacre.
Pakistan is in mourning after the Peshawar school massacre
Wednesday was a quiet day. I had lots of work to do, some of it related to the Yoigo employees’ children’s party the next day.  On Wednesday a news bombshell was released when the world heard that the United States and Cuba were to restore diplomatic relations.  I’m not sure whether that means the blockade will be over but it does mean the USA will open an Embassy in Havana after more than half a century.  Both countries which are so near to each other yet with regimes so far apart began secret talks some 18 months ago, some of them in Canada.  They were encouraged by Pope Francis who hosted the final meeting in the Vatican.  In a telephone call between Raul Castro and Barack Obama the two countries agreed to put an end to 5 decades of hostility and to build a new relationship between the two countries.  The news came after the release of an American prisoner and the release of the last three of the so-called “Cuban Five” from a jail in the US who are considered national heroes.   My nephew Miguel is living in Havana and witnessed live this historical moment.  He was interviewed on a Spanish radio and also met with one of the previously released prisoners who had spent time in jail in the US, "Rene"; one of the "Cuban Five".   He told the journalist he found out about the news when a woman neighbor started shouting out of the window.  He then explained that as there is very limited access to internet shouting out of the window is a typical communications tool in Cuba.  Hopefully when and if the blockade ends Cuba can catch up with the rest of the world and enjoy internet, a better form of finding out the news than shouting outside the window!
My nephew Miguel in Cuba with one of the previously released prisoners from a US jail; Rene one of the "Cuban Five".
That evening I had another Christmas event. This time I was invited to Madrid’s number one culinary spot, a new restaurant called Dstage. The owner and chef Diego Guerrero is more than a rising star.  He was the chef at the 2 michelin star Club Allard where I once tried out his culinary creations.  Dstage, opened in July and where there is a three month waiting list to reserve one of the 8 tables, it is a different concept to Club Allard. It has the same high standard of gastronomic creativity but in a more relaxed atmosphere. I can’t begin to describe the 14 miniature courses we had which were beautifully served on the most creative and attractive plates, so here is a collage of just some of the dishes.  If you haven’t been yet, you really must go.  I think Dstage comes into my top 3 meals ever.  One was in Shanghai some years ago with Nokia when the best Chinese chef and top French chef created a meal especially for us.  The second was at the famous Arzak restaurant in San Sebastian and my third is now Dstage. However I cannot put the three in order of preference as they were all just as good.
Just some of the dishes we had at Dstage on Wednesday night
Thursday was the Yoigo children’s Christmas party.  We have only 100 employees but over 180 children attended which proves that the Christmas parties we organize are hugely popular.  This year we set up everything on the outside car park. There were inflatable castles, a stand for painting the kids’ faces, a magician show and many other attractions, not least the Father Christmas set.  Father Christmas was very authentic, in his 60’s at least, quite paunch and with his own real long white beard and moustache.  When I told him he was the best Father Christmas I had ever seen he replied “that’s because I really am Father Christmas”  He was so good the children did not feel duped.
With Father Christmas at the Yoigo Children's party on Thursday

Suzy came along to help and had to dress as an elf.  Here is a great photo of her and me together.
With Suzy at the children's Xmas party

I invited our ex home help Fátima (not to be confused with my best friend Fátima) to come and bring her children who are 6 and 10 years old. They are really poor children who do not get proper nourishment and live in a flat without heating.  I think the party was more special for them than for any of the “richer” children present.  The food was not halal but for once Fátima gave in and her children enjoyed hamburgers and sausage dogs for the first time ever.  Even she did!
Fatima with her children at the Yoigo children's Christmas party

I felt very privileged coming home with the company Christmas hamper in my car which I took up to our room to open on our bed with Eladio as the girls had slightly invaded the kitchen. 

On Friday, with the last of my big events under my belt, it was time for some more Christmas shopping and off I went with Suzy and Eladio.  Eladio came to buy my Christmas present which I had reserved for me at El Corte Inglés.  I thought that at least he ought to pay for it.  As we were running late we decided to have lunch out. It was such a pity Olivia wasn’t there to join us. 

Once home, Suzy joined me on my weekly food shopping outing to Mercadona and our local little supermarket at El Bosque.  We were home by 6.30pm. After putting everything away I had to concentrate on making dinner for Julio and Fátima who were coming that night.  Thankfully I had Gema to help as the kitchen skivvy (what a luxury).  For the record I made spinach salad with mushrooms, pine nuts and fried bacon for starters.  The main course was baked salmon with asparagus and dessert was meringue with red fruit berries and whipped cream.  Everything was quite simple but delicious.  Once the table was laid and the food organized I had to get ready myself and then put on all the lights and candles in the lounges.

It was lovely to host my best friends for the annual Christmas dinner at home.  They were impressed with the table and decorations and Julio kept saying that everything, including our champagne glasses, was very “Downton Abbey”.  I must admit he is right about the glasses as they belonged to my grandmother.
with Julio and Fatíma on Friday at home
We were joined by the dogs in the lounge afterwards.  Elsa behaved perfectly and I think Julio is very taken with her.
With Julio and Elsa after dinner on Friday night at home
Norah, meanwhile, totally misbehaved and I caught her jumping up onto the dining room table.  Thankfully there was no food left on it and the champagne glasses were safe in the kitchen.

It was after dinner that Fátima, Eladio and I discovered or used Shazam, the mobile app that tells you what music you are listening to, for the first time.  A Christmas record was playing and Julio wanted to know who was singing.  He simply clicked on his phone and Shazam told him the record was Celtic Woman singing “A white Christmas”.  We were all impressed.  I had heard of Shazam before but hadn’t used it but will be doing from now on.

And yesterday was Saturday and I wanted to make it really special for my girls, so arranged to go to a spa in Madrid and then have lunch together.  Miguel was coming with us so I wanted Eladio to come too but he preferred to stay at home and have lunch quietly with my Father.  First the girls went to the hairdressers.  At 12.30 Miguel and I picked them up and we rushed to Madrid for our 1 o’clock appointment at Orfila Center.  There we were greeted by the owner Esperanza, a friend of Gloria’s, and she recommended different treatments for us to choose.  My first and only choice was a massage which turned out to be fantastic, one of the reasons being that the bed was warmed.  Oli, Miguel and Suzy all had different facial treatments.  I decided against the latter as once I had one many years ago and my face went all red and bloated so I have never had one again.  Funnily enough this morning Miguel’s face is also red and a bit burned.

After our session at Orfila Center we walked to the restaurant which was to be none other than Casa Carolo where Bea from my events’ agency QuintaEsencia has a stake.  On our way we walked past the PP (Partido Popular Spain’s governing party) headquarters which was surrounded by TV press.  The day before a man had driven right into the main doors with his car on purpose. The owner, a ruined business man, blamed Mariano Rajoy Spain’s President for his problems.

Once at Casa Carolo I realized I hadn’t booked a table so we had to wait but it didn’t matter as we were not in a hurry. Thus we didn’t start our lunch till past 3.30.  Here is a selfie of Suzy and I at Casa Carolo.  On our way back to the car after lunch we ambled into several boutiques.  In one of them called “Nice things” Olivia found a coat she liked and which Miguel bought for her for Christmas.
A selfie with Suzy at Casa Carolo

As we got to Miguel’s car we realized we hadn’t taken any photos of the three of us so there and then Miguel took one. It is the photo illustrating this week’s post.  Just as we had taken the photo a car drove up and the woman inside said “hello, is it really you?”.  For a moment we didn’t recognize Carolina, our neighbor for 18 years when we lived at our previous house.  There she was with her three little girls and her sister Alma’s two toddlers.  Here is a photo of this “super mama” as she really had a handful when we bumped into her.  Her life must be very busy what with working for International Cooperation and bringing up three little girls singlehandedly. 
Carolina with her brood
On our way home, just as we were entering the area where we live, there was a huge traffic jam which is not normal because we live in the country.  We soon realized a herd of sheep was ahead of the traffic and out of control.  As we waited and looked we suddenly realized a baby lamb had been born at the roundabout ahead of us in midst of the chaos and that the mother had left it there and followed the herd.  Olivia and I rushed out of the car just to see a man pick the lamb up by its feet and put in his car.  We can only hope he was going to take it to the shepherd and not eat it for Christmas.  Suzy’s friend Elena and who by coincidence was at the front of the cars just where the lamb was born (she was on her way to our house) had the presence of mind to take a photo.  It is blurred but it is a souvenir of yesterday’s miracle of a lamb being born on the country lane to our house.  In any case it’s a very Christmassy sign.
A lamb was born
After a quiet dinner with Eladio whilst the girls entertained their friends in the lounge, we went to bed early.  I was very tired and must have slept from 10pm until I woke up at 8.30 this morning.  As usual I went for my walk and it was very frosty though sunny. Today the girls will be entertaining their friends for lunch and we shall be having a quiet day.  Gema has just left for her “weekend” and it will be up to me to make lunch for my Father and Eladio after posting this week’s tales.

Next week will be Christmas and I am much looking forward to it. 

I hope you have a great Christmas everyone, cheers till next week,


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Goodbye Fátima, hello Gema. Little “Yoigo” part of the team, the longest train in the world arrives in Madrid full of Christmas presents, personal shopping at Ikea and a break in in my car, parties in Madrid, Queen Fabiola of Belgium’s funeral, Christmas came to our house and other things.

Sunday 14th December 2014

Christmas came to our house on Saturday
Hi everyone, we are well into December now and the weather has been awful.  It’s raining hard right now so I have put off my walk until later.  So here I am writing this week’s post.

Last Monday was a national holiday in Spain and even Oli had a holiday. Even though it was a holiday I woke up early.  My body clock is programmed for me to wake up between 7 and 7.30.  It was a cold and frosty morning but at least the sun was shining on my walk.
It was a cold frosty but sunny walk on Monday morning
That day I took some time to do some Christmas shopping online as well as make and order a family desk top calendar which I make every year.  Monday felt very much the aftermath of the two big events I had the week before, the press conference and the big Christmas party to launch our new image.  You can see the photos of the former here and the photos of the latter here too.

On Monday Fátima came with her two children, Sara aged 10 and Omar aged 6.  She brought with her our new home help Gema and the idea was for her to show Gema the ropes.
Fátima our home help with her children.  It was sad to say goodbye to her on Monday
In the end Fátima has sorted out her problem of working with us and leaving the children at home alone by deciding to go and live in France with her sister Oufa, our previous home help.  They will be going at the end of this month.  We will sincerely miss dear sweet and troubled Fátima who has looked after my Father so lovingly.  I wish her lots of luck in her new life.  Hopefully we shall see her before she goes.

On Tuesday I fasted and went into a meeting at Yoigo.  Meanwhile Olivia went into work and took with her one of the “bunches” of sweets we had made for the events.  Her colleagues were delighted that I had “sweetened” their morning.
The Yoigo bunch of sweets Olivia took to work on Tuesday morning
Tuesday of course was Gema’s first day on her own.  She is 52 and has 6 children, all grown up, three live in Morocco and three live in Spain.  She wears a headscarf and on Monday was wearing red leggings and looked very strange.  It must be difficult for her to get to know our huge house.  She made quite a few mistakes the first day, such as misplacing the Emma Bridgewater sugar bowl which finally turned up with the olive oil.  I had asked her to make a salad and a fruit salad and was aghast when I saw she had put the avocado in the latter rather than the former.  Then I found the ice cream we had had for lunch in the fridge rather than the deepfreeze.  However her attitude is great and she seems to clean quite quickly.  I think she needs time to settle in.  Let’s see how she gets on this week.

On Wednesday the longest train in the world arrived in Madrid from China. The “Yixinou” express left the city of Yiwu in Eastern China on November 18th, passing through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany and France.  The journey was 13.000km long and five times as long as the Orient Express.  It came piled high with Christmas presents and arrived yesterday 21 days after it departed China.  It will return to China filled with Spanish produce such as cured ham, olive oil and wine.  It made quite a sensation in the media.  The Times wrote that the train took 10 days less than a ship would have done which I found a bit funny as Madrid is nowhere near the sea.

The longest train in the world which arrived in Madrid on Wednesday
Meanwhile I went off to a meeting in Madrid with members of my team from the events agency QuintaEsencia and PR agency Ketchum.  I took the time before the meeting to go to an English shop in Madrid called “Living in London” to buy Christmas fare such as crackers, cranberry sauce, sage and onion stuffing as well as two boxes of Thornton’s milk chocolates.

At our meeting we were joined by “little Yoigo”, the new company mascot whose carer is Gloria who is one of the owners of QuintaEsencia.  Here she is at the meeting with her sister Bea with the puppy in her arms.

Gloria (left) and Bea at our meeting in Madrid on Wednesday with "Little Yoigo" who is another member of our team
 Little Yoigo is like another member of our team. Wherever Gloria goes, the puppy goes too.  I can’t wait until we find one for us.

After our meeting we went off to have lunch at El Almirante de Bogavante to celebrate the success of the events the week before.  Here is a photo of all of us around the table.

Lunch with my two teams on Wednesday in Madrid
 On Thursday Eladio and I had an appointment at Ikea to go on a personal shopping expedition for all the items in the kitchen come dining room and lounge for our house in Montrondo that Raquel and her team from A Doble Altura had designed for us.  Raquel’s company offers personalized interior decoration services to Ikea customers at Ikea in San Sebastián de los Reyes, the only service of this kind in the whole of Spain.  We had a great time going around with Paula choosing all the elements of the room they had designed.

When we came out and opened our car we saw that someone had broken the smaller triangular back window and broken into the car.  The back seats were full of broken glass and Eladio’s burberry coat had been stolen.  It was not a nice sight.

We had to make a police report because hopefully the insurance will cover the loss of the coat which cost us over 1000 euros a couple of years ago.  That took up most of the afternoon. Thankfully, as the car is a company car, the window will be replaced and I won’t have to worry.  But that day we learned a lesson; that is never to leave anything visible in the car when you park it.

On Wednesday evening I was going to the annual TecNavidad Christmas party organized by the telecoms press and which is sponsored by all the companies in the sector including Yoigo.  Its main purpose is to raise funds for charity but it is also a great occasion for people from the sector to get together. It was starting at 9.30 pm so I had plenty of time to get ready.  Then suddenly on Facebook I saw an open invitation to an after work drinks event at Casa Carolo where we did our press conference and which is partly owned by Bea, one of the three sisters who own our events agency, QuintaEsencia.  There and then I decided to go and join them before going to “TecNavidad”.

I couldn't resist this invitation on Thursday evening
 As I never usually go out in the evening Bea and her sisters were amazed and I think pleased that I turned up.  Little Yoigo was there too and I spent most of my time there with him in my arms. 

Soon it was time to go to the other event where I would be joined by my colleague Belén who is a lawyer at Yoigo but also the head of Corporate Social Responsibility.  It was nice to see familiar faces and greet them in an informal atmosphere.  We didn’t stay long as we were very hungry and in the end decided to go back to Casa Carolo and have some dinner.  Here is a girly photo taken there.  It was a really nice evening.

At Casa Carolo on Thursday evening - I am holding "little Yoigo" in my arms
 On Friday I took my car into the office to be serviced and for the back window to be mended.  I was lent a lovely Range Rover to use until I get my own car back.  It was going to be our toy this weekend although we haven’t used it much.

That night we decided on La Txitxarrerría for our Friday evening dinner out.  They have a great menu but I always choose the meat which I think is superb.  Here I am with a nice glass of cider about to attack my meal.

Dinner at La Txitxarrería on Friday evening
On Friday in Brussels the state funeral for Queen Consort Fabiola took place. The popular Spanish Queen of Belgium who died aged 86 on 5th December reigned for 33 years and was born in Madrid in 1928.  Her full name was Fabiola Fernanda María de las Victorias Antonia Adelaida but everyone called her plain Fabiola.  She was the wife of Baudouin, the King of the Belgians who died in 1993.  The couple did not have children so the crown passed to her husband’s younger brother King Albert II.  I was happy to hear there was a Spanish flavor at her funeral in the Belgian capital at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.  Her cousin Blanca Ahumanda played the castanets while the choir sang the “Salve Rociera” a hymn of praise to the Virgin of the Dew (Virgen del Rocío), the most popular virgin in Andalucia. I later read that this had been at the request of the Dowager Queen before she died.  I didn’t know much about this Spanish Belgian Queen but was interested to read about her linguistic skills.  Apparently she was fluent in French, Dutch, English, German and Italian as well as her native Spanish; something quite unusual for a Spaniard as the people in this country are not renowned for their skills in learning languages. Fabiola was obviously the exception.

Queen Fabiola in her hay day
 On Saturday I was finally able to dedicate some time to our own Christmas. I was up early as always and went for my early morning walk before the rain came.  Saturday was an important day too for Gema who was to shower my Father for the first time. It was to be her baptism of fire.  I came home to find she had taken him upstairs and given him breakfast but for some reason hadn’t showered him. Thus she had to take him up again and Eladio and I waited outside with baited breath just in case he fell.  Thankfully all went well and we were so relieved.

Olivia and I later went Christmas shopping.  This was my first physical Christmas shopping expedition as I have done a lot of it online already.  We went to Decathlon and then to El Corte Inglés.  In a single morning I got everything I needed to get for Eladio and my Father.  We came home to have the chicken curry I had prepared earlier.  Meanwhile Eladio had brought up all the Christmas decorations and had put up the tree and the lights.  It would be up to me to do the rest.  I started on the rest on my  own whilst everyone else was having a siesta and then suddenly decided to stop as it was very sad to do it on my own.  Also I have a nasty cold at the moment so decided to have a siesta too and then get Eladio and Olivia to help me with the rest of the decorating later.

When we got up I put on some Christmas carols, Olivia decorated the tree, I put up other decorations and put candles in their place whilst Eladio stuck the lovely Swedish paper cutouts on some of the windows.  The lounge looked lovely afterwards and the photo illustrating this week’s blog is of a panoramic view of the lounge.  Here are some more photos of how Christmas came to our house this year.

Some of our Christmas decorations
After our efforts we would have gone for a walk but it was raining heavily.  Thus we decided to watch a film and Olivia and I chose one of several TV dramas I had ordered from Amazon this year.  We chose The Fall and we binge watched nearly all of it until midnight, only stopping to have dinner.  It’s a superb thriller about the hunt for a serial killer in Belfast.  Dinner was a treat as I made pancakes at Olivia’s request.  Here is a photo of Eladio and I tucking in.

Tucking into pancakes last night
 And today is Sunday and the rain continues as I told you at the start of this post.  Thus we prolonged our breakfast in the kitchen together.  I was writing my blog and Eladio and Olivia were reading the news.  Then Olivia rang Suzy and it nearly felt as though she was with us.

Eladio and I at breakfast this morning
 She will be next Sunday and we can’t wait.  But before she comes I have so many things to do workwise, mostly involving the Yoigo children’s party which takes place on Thursday.

Now I have told you all about our week, it is time to publish this post and start thinking about preparing lunch and hope that the rain will remit and we can get some exercise today.  So cheers my friends until next week,