Saturday, October 25, 2014

Olivia off to Valencia, summer is back, Gone Girl, ex Nokia girl lunch, Spanish nurse Teresa Romero declared free of Ebola, Suzy working as a dietitian in London, a kitchen for our house in Montrondo, the clocks go back this weekend and other stories.

Saturday 25th October 2014

The ex Nokia girl lunch was the highlight of my week
Good morning my friends

It is Saturday today and I’m writing this post ahead of time as we will be having visitors tomorrow.  As I sit down to write I have come back from my morning walk and just missed Olivia and Miguel leaving for Valencia.  He will be returning to work on Monday after a two week break.  He has the cushiest job in the world as he works 7 days as a cameraman and rests 7 days.  This time he added a week’s holiday and he has been with Olivia here at home with us for the past fortnight. No doubt they will be enjoying the beach today and tomorrow morning until Olivia returns on Sunday evening by the AVE  - superb Spanish high speed train.

They will not be the only ones sunning themselves.  Really we have had a wonderful fortnight of warm weather and it feels as though summer is back with temperatures in the mid and high 20cs. Not so long ago I told you we had covered the pool for the winter.  Now when I sit in the evening by the pool reading it is so warm I wear a t-shirt and shorts and just long for a dip.

But let me regress to last Sunday where I left off. That afternoon I read in the sun by the pool as I have done most evenings this week.  What was I reading?  “Gone Girl”.  I found it a bit hard going but when I got to about half way I was absolutely hooked.  I finished it yesterday by the way. The American author Gillian Flynn plays with the reader in such a way that when the amazing twist comes a little late in my opinion, she has you caught in her web just as the protagonist Amazing Amy has her husband Nick caught in hers.  If you haven’t read it or seen the film my only spoiler for you is that, as in everything, there are two sides to every story. Tonight we are going to see the film and I am just wondering what sort of script Flynn will have written to maintain the same suspense and twist.  I will tell you next week.
I finished Gone Girl on my kindle this week

Monday was a good day in many ways, a sort of Red Letter day. I fasted of course but hardly felt the hunger pangs I was so busy. That day I continued to receive congratulations from many people and on all the media we have today, about my award as the Best Communications Director 2014 by ADSL Zone.  I was very chuffed, to use that lovely Yorkshire expression, when my Finnish boss Tatu announced it at the Monday morning communications team conference call attended by all communications people who work for TeliaSonera.  Later I even got an email from the group head of communications who tweeted this photo collage I had sent him. You see last week when I wrote about the prize I didn’t really have any photos to show but now I do. 
A collage of photos of the  prize for best Communications Director I got last week
That day I also got a phone call from my very nice and kind urologist, Dr. Litton.  He had been discussing what he called my “very interesting case” with other renowned specialists at a symposium in Barcelona that weekend and promised to call me.  I told him I was happy he found the case interesting but really hoped he would come up with a cure. He has referred me to the top specialist in the country who will be seeing me in the middle of November at a hospital in Toledo.  So keep your fingers crossed and watch this space.

Tuesday was another good day and possibly the highlight of the week.  That was the day of our ex Nokia and non ex Nokia girl lunch.  Periodically Juana, Jill, Susana, Fátima, Ana, Zenaida and I meet up for lunch.  The only person missing this time was Zenaida.  It was such a fun, relaxed lunch it almost felt like a scene out of Sex in the City without the sex if you know what I mean hahahaha.  We are all professional women working for blue chip companies, we all look good (I can only add for our age about me as I am the only one in my 50s, the rest being younger hahaha), drive lovely cars and seem to have blessed lives.  Nokia is not what it was, in fact I read later this week that Microsoft are phasing out the Nokia name (ouch!), but it continues to connect people as it always did and always will.  Thanks girls, I loved our lunch at La Vaca Argentina and look forward to our next appointment already scheduled, thanks to organized Juana, for January 2015.

It was on Tuesday we heard that the Spanish nurse, Teresa Romera, was free of Ebola after two negative blood test results.  She continues in hospital but her life is no longer in danger.  Ebola continues to dominate the news as also this week it hit New York when a doctor returning from Guinea Conakry was diagnosed with the virus.  Meanwhile people continue to die in awful conditions in Africa.  The WHO just announced the number of cases has crossed the 10.000 figure!  But the western world still hasn’t taken the right steps to deal with the virus at its source although there is news a vaccine may soon be available. I think if there had been no cases in the western world the vaccine would be much less of a priority than it is now. 
Great news ,the Spanish nurse, Teresa Romero, recovered from Ebola
Tuesday was full of interesting news.  It was the day Oscar Pistorious was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for killing his girlfriend.  But it was also the day we heard a paralyzed Polish man, Darek Fidyka, had walked again after breakthrough treatment  (British by the way!) where cells from his nose were transplanted into the damaged part of his spine.  Darek Fidyka, a fireman who lost all movement from the waist down after being stabbed 4 years, said that the he felt as if he had been reborn.  I can only imagine that this news gives lots of hope to paralyzed people all around the world. 
A miracle in medicine: a paralyzed man walks again.
It was on Tuesday the interview with my boss at Yoigo with Kelisto was published.  It was mainly about 4G but also about our current situation and the good results we released last week.  So Yoigo also had some news that dayJ

Tuesday ended nicely with dinner outside on the kitchen terrace with Olivia and Miguel.  I made Chinese rice the way my Mother used to make it and which Olivia loves.  It was a dish my Mother would make at home for lots of my friends after the parties I used to organize.
 
Wednesday saw me in Madrid with Gloria and Miguel from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, looking for locations to hold our annual staff Christmas party.  Later we had lunch at one of Madrid’s coolest places, or so I was told, called Marieta.  It was good food but a bit too loud and crowded for me. 

It was on Wednesday that Canada got its first taste of terrorism when a gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian citizen of Muslim origin who turned radical and possibly embraced Isis, shot a soldier at the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa at its war memorial.  Shortly afterwards he was shot dead near the Parliament building before he could create more carnage.  Isis continues its crusade not just in Syria or Iraq but by radicalizing Muslims in the western world and encouraging them to carry out terrorist attacks like this one. 

Meanwhile in London Suzy has been busy all week working as a freelance dietitian.  I think I told you last week that she would be working at Apple in London assessing and advising employees on nutrition. There she was accompanied by dietitians like herself but from countries such as South Africa, Bulgaria or India.  That afternoon we had a long chat on the phone and I told her I knew a person who worked at Apple in London called Angel.  He had once been my friend Fátima’s trainee at Motorola. He used to translate the mobile phone manuals from English into Spanish but has gone a long way since hahaha.  Suzy said she had assessed someone called Angel. So I wrote to him and copied Suzy and it was amazing as he wrote back to say that indeed it had been him and what a small world we live in. Indeed we do.  Suzy will be going back to Apple next week and I think they will meet up to have a coffee in my honour.  That is one lovely story.  The funny thing was that when I wrote to Angel he was on his way to Yoigo to meet a colleague of mine.  Unfortunately I wouldn’t be there to greet him as I work from home and was not going to the office that day. Next time he comes I will certainly go and greet him and have a coffee too in Suzy’s honour this time!

On Thursday we had a visit from a girl called Raquel who is an interior decorator.  She has a company called Adoblealtura but also works for Ikea as their one and only exclusive interior decorator. She had been recommended to me by Beatriz from QuintaEsencia.  And it is Raquel who will be designing our kitchen for Montrondo.  We had visited Ikea recently and saw the model we wanted and this is it.
The kitchen we want from Ikea for our house in Montrondo.
For quite a small sum Raquel will design our kitchen come lounge which will be a 25m2 room and the most important room in the house.  She will not only do the design but will take us on a personal shopping tour of Ikea to see all the elements we need and then she will manage the purchase, the transport, the fitting and everything else needed to set up the kitchen lounge we want in our new house in Montrondo.  Doing this ourselves would be a nightmare as Montrondo is 400km from Madrid.  We could do the operation via Oviedo in the north of Spain but that would entail many trips there.  Also Raquel will make our life easier coming up with the whole list of everything we need including the utensils and interiors of all the cupboards, etc.  This will be the first time in many years we shall be embarking on a new kitchen as in our last two houses we have always inherited what was there. 

Friday was a quiet day.  I cooked again as I did most of the week. On Friday I made a chickpea stew (caldo Gallego). When I tried to tell my Father what we were having for lunch, he remarked that in Russian chickpeas were called “Turkish peas”.  He never ceases to surprise me.  On Friday when I went shopping with Fátima we coincided at the supermarket (Mercadona) with our new Russian neighbor Ekaterina.  I told her about some of the Russian food I made and she promised to invite us to borsch one day (lovely).  She also told me her parents from Moscow were coming that night so I invited all of them to drinks on Sunday at midday, to meet my Father and to see our house and of course get to know our new neighbours better.  Ekaterina is Russian, her husband, Julio, is Spanish and they have two little boys who must be bilingual. It will be  a great chance for my Father to speak Russian.  Meanwhile he is nearly always reading the Russian classics, mostly novels by Chekov.

Recently I haven’t told you much about Olivia’s reporting on TV.  That’s because I am ashamed to say I hardly ever watch her.  I would love to but she never warns us on time and also the programme is on from 7 – 8.30pm which is more or less our reading and walk time.  However I was interested to hear that yesterday she reported on a new treatment called “cryotherapy”, apparently made fashionable here by the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo.  According to Olivia it’s how he keeps his stomach flat.  It consists of spending 2 to 3 minutes completely undressed in a chamber at temperatures below -200c.  You can lose up to 800 calories in that short space of time.  The Real Madrid Portuguese striker has just bought his own chamber which costs apparently 36.000 euros.  The Daily Mail wrote an article where they referred to the footballer as “ice cool”.  Well they would wouldn’t they?
"Ice cool" Cristiano Ronaldo, an advocate for "cryotherapy"
That night Eladio and I went out to dinner as we always do on Friday evenings.  This time we returned to an old favourite we hadn’t been to for a very long time.  De Brasa y Puchero in Boadilla disappointed us though last night as it no longer serves “patatas revolconas” (a peppery potato dish) which was the main reason we chose to go there last night.  When we came home the kitchen in our house was full of people; Olivia and her friends from the “manada”.  Miguel was cooking a Mexican dish and they were all going to eat outside at past 10pm!  Imagine that at the end of October. 

And today is Saturday and it is another warm and sunny day.  Oli, as I told you, has gone off to Valencia.  Suzy meanwhile is working at her home in London doing an online course which would give her options to become an assistant teacher in nutrition.  She is trying out all her options whilst waiting for the registration number from the health and care professions council (HCPC).
Suzy doing an online course at home in London today
And tonight my friends, very sadly, the clocks go back.  We go from Daylight saving time to winter time which I hate because it means there will be less light in the evening for our walks.  I prefer it to be dark in the morning and light in the evenings but the farmers don’t so they always get their say.  I read somewhere this morning that most of us never know if the clocks go back or forward the two times it happens a year and that this is the mantra to remember: “spring forward, fall back”.  So, yeah it’s “fall” (hate that word as in English it is Autumn) and the clocks go back tonight and tomorrow we will have a 25 hour day.

So that’s it for this week my friends, one day early I wish you all the best until next time,


Cheers Masha

Sunday, October 19, 2014

US nurses contract Ebola, in love with Joe Malone, reunion with my Finnish friend Anne, my Father’s 9th anniversary in Spain, voted best Communications Director in the Spanish telecoms sector, Olivia disconnecting with Miguel at the Hoces del Rio Duratón Natural Park in Segovia, Suzy busy in London and other stories.

Sunday 19th October 2014
At the prize giving award with some of my fellow comms directors and journalists
Hi everyone this sunny Sunday in October.  

The rain has gone and it seems we are in the midst of another Indian summer.  Yesterday the temperature in Madrid rose to 27ºc and today it will be even warmer. 

The news this week continued to be dominated by Ebola.  In Spain the other top two stories were about the mess the head of the Catalán Government, Artur Mas, is in after having to suspend his promised referendum for independence on 9th November after it was declared illegal by the Spanish legal authorities.  Despite this he wants to go ahead with some sort of consultation which seems to be leading him nowhere as it too will be illegal.  Remember I told you that in the Spanish Constitution referendums can only be held on a national and not regional basis. The other story is yet another story of corruption.  The board of administration of my bank, Bankia (Caja Madrid), have been caught out using “opaque” credit cards where they all spent hundreds of thousands of euros on hotels, trips, luxury restaurants and even on call girls, not to mention they took out money from cash points whenever they wanted.  These directors come from all sectors and political leanings and they are all household names. They now have to return the money which they argue was just part of their salary, although it was never declared.  The public cannot take much more of this sort of pilfering when many of us mortals live on modest salaries and more than 25% of the population is unemployed. 

Ebola, as I say, continues to dominate the news.  Whilst more than 4000 people have died of the virus in West Africa and more than 9000 people have the virus which kills 70% of those infected, the Western World is only reacting now with initial aid efforts once the deadly virus has reached its shores with a handful of cases.  The only way to stop the virus spreading is killing it at its source and until that happens, Ebola will spread in any direction.  I mean imagine if it spreads to countries like India or China with weaker health systems than in Europe or the US.  In the latter the health systems and governments can contain it as we are seeing but that would not be the case in the undeveloped world. Spain was the first country to be affected when the nurse, Teresa Romero, who had treated the repatriated Spanish missionaries, was diagnosed with Ebola two weeks ago.  It became a huge crisis in this country and people criticized the health system here and even the nurse herself.  Thankfully she is on the mend and all the people she has been in contact with have all proved negative so far. It was only when last Sunday when the American nurse, Nina Pham, was also diagnosed with Ebola after having treated the Liberian man Thomas Duncan who later died,  that we all began to realize that maybe the fault lay with the WHO protocol itself and not with our excellent health systems.   It was said that the Spanish nurse may have touched her face with a glove but that is not clear.  In the US it is still not known how Nina Pham got infected.  But it tells us that the virus is very dangerous to treat. Later in the week another nurse, Amber Vinson, who had also treated Thomas Duncan, came down with symptoms of Ebola and proved positive. The dreadful thing is that in between time she had travelled on a plane with 130 people who will now all be in quarantine.  The WHO protocols will now surely ban health staff who have cared for Ebola patients from travelling, amongst other things such as visiting the hairdresser which was the case of Teresa Romero.   One big difference between the Spanish and American case is about the nurses’ dogs. Whilst Teresa Romero’s dog Excalibur was put down without her permission (she doesn’t even know yet), Nina Pham’s dog is being taken care of.  That tells you the difference in the countries’ attitudes to pets. 

Sorry if I have written so much about this case but I feel very strongly about it. So back to my week now.  Monday was quiet.  I fasted of course.  That day I went to Yoigo for a meeting and as usual went on my two hour long walks.

My week was very busy in general and Tuesday morning saw me in Madrid attending an event put on by the telecoms sector association, Ametic.  It was a post Santander telecoms congress event for journalists and representatives from the sector.  It was held at the Club Financiero de Genóva, on the top floor and bang in the centre of Madrid.  The rain had stopped and the sun had come out and the views of the city were spectacular.
In Colón at the Ametic event on Tuesday morning - spectacular views of Madrid
On my way back I stopped off at the Corte Inglés department store.  My objective was to buy paper for our printers.  However once there I wanted to visit the new Joe Malone corner.  Joe Malone is the English perfume and beauty product brand recently introduced to me by my friend Juana.  She had bought me the Joe Malone cucumber and earl grey scent which I adore but I was eager to get to know the brand better.  Apparently it was a favourite with Lady Diana!  They have so many fragrances with some very alluring names that it was difficult to choose one.  I was about to buy the roses one when I asked which was the most popular.  It seems it is lime basil and mandarin and when I smelled it I just had to get it.  I was told you can mix and match the fragrances but I don’t think I will.  But I did buy the matching soaps which I love.  I must tell you that I am now in love with Joe Malone and from now on it is my favourite brand of perfume.  Have you ever tried it?  If you haven’t you must.
In love with Joe Malone
On Wednesday I was busy preparing for our results day on Friday. But I had an engagement that evening I was much looking forward to.  My dearest Finnish friend, Anne, was visiting Madrid with a friend and her 4 daughters and we had organized an ex Nokia dinner at Casa Paco downtown in “La Latina”.  In the end we were only three: Anne, myself and my darling Carmen (or Carmencita) who had been my trainee and who had also worked in Anne’s marketing and communications team.
With Anne and Carmen at Casa Paco on Wednesday night

We had a great meal and a great evening remembering old times but also catching up on our lives.  I was most impressed to hear from Carmen that she and her partner have a foster child, a 15 year old girl from a broken family who has lived with them since she was 7.  That is something. I was also happy to hear how well Carmen’s music and dance academy is doing.  Dearest Anne had brought me some dark Finnish bread she knows we love, as well as some super Finish chocolates – the Fazer brand which I also love.  We said our goodbyes but not for long as I was meeting Anne again the next day.  As to Carmen we also agreed to meet soon as her parents are now living in our neighbourhood.  Thanks girls for a lovely evening.

On Thursday I had a doctor’s appointment in Madrid in the morning – my urologist. From there I went to join Anne and her friend and daughters at the Plaza Norte shopping centre where I was to have lunch with Anne.  
A selfie with Anne at Plaza Norte 2 on Thursday
She would be leaving on Friday and that was our last opportunity to be together.  I had no intention of buy anything but I ended up purchasing two lovely dresses from Mango; a shop I don’t often frequent.  I spied a tartan pinafore dress which I knew I had to have and was delighted it fitted as Mango sizes are rather small.
With my new Mango tartan pinafore dress
Thursday was my Father’s 9th anniversary with us.  He has an amazing memory and already on Monday he was telling me that Thursday 16th October was his anniversary.  He even showed Eladio the welcome card we had given him when he first came and that he has kept.  I do hope it has been a happy 9 years with us. It is certainly a pleasure to have him and he is never any trouble whatsoever.  I look forward to celebrating more anniversaries in the coming years. I very well remember the day we left his home in Heaton Grove in Bradford 9 years ago, stepping out of the door, taking a taxi to Manchester airport and the three of us flying to Madrid.  I seem to remember the girls had made a special welcoming dinner which must have been when we gave him the card and possibly a present but I don’t know because I do not have my Father’s memory.

On Thursday evening I went back into the centre of Madrid.  I was attending the annual telecoms awards dinner hosted by ADSL Zone at the 5 star Hesperia Hotel.   There are no other awards in the sector and everyone who is anyone is always there. It’s a very popular event too as it is the only one of its kind which gets us all together, the competition, ex colleagues, colleagues, journalists, etc.  Even the Spanish national police were there to receive a prize for the best twitter page in the world apparently.  There are prizes for the best mobile operator, the best fixed operator, the best smartphone and many others. The special prizes are for the best CEO, best journalist (Rebeca Arroyo from Europa Press well done!) and best communications director.  The communications award is voted by the journalists in the sector.  I was sitting quietly at my dinner table with my fellow communications directors from Telefonica, Orange, Vodafone, Microsoft, LG, etc and couldn’t believe what I was hearing when my name was called out to go up to receive the award of best communications director for 2014. 
My award  - best communications director 2014
The journalists had voted for little me!  I was bowled over and quickly had to improvise a speech in front of 150 people from the sector. I think I said something along the lines of: “Well I must have done something good” if I have been awarded this prize when I am not even a journalist.  I never set out to be one but if I knew then what I know now I would have wanted to be a journalist but not a communications director, rather a war correspondent.  Instead of that I waged a few wars in various telecoms companies. I never chose what I wanted to do.  Life always led me.  In the early 80’s life led me to Spain because of love.  In the early 90’s life led me to Motorola when mobile phones were just beginning; I didn’t even know what they were.  It was at Motorola where I first got an opportunity to start my career in communications and events and it was thanks to my boss, Luis.  Without his help perhaps I wouldn’t be standing here with this prize.  In 2000 life led me to Nokia in the years when it was like Google or Apple today although I wasn’t really aware of how important it was.  At Nokia I grew professionally and also flew all over the world.  Another person there, Félix, gave me the opportunity to grow and to learn even more about my profession.  Thanks Félix. And then 8 years ago life led me to Yoigo, a small mobile phone operator which was just beginning. No one thought it would be successful but how wrong you all were. And here once again a person gave me a great opportunity to start up the press department and to contribute to building a completely new brand and compete with the likes of Telefonica, etc.  That person was Johan and we had such fun on our journey.  He has gone now and I miss him still, but another person at Yoigo gave me an opportunity too, my current boss, the CEO Eduardo. Thanks Eduardo first for for keeping me on and secondly for believing in me.   And life led me to this sector and to this room tonight full of colleagues, the competition and telecoms journalists.  You all gave me an opportunity too and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this award which tells me I must have done something good”.

On Friday I felt as if I was walking on a cloud all day; having received so many messages of congratulations on twitter, linked, facebook, whatsapp and in person.  That morning though I was extremely busy as it was results day.  TeliaSonera announced the 3rd quarter results including Yoigo’s.  The great thing was that our results were perhaps the best ever.  We doubled in profitability although sales were down, but they were down as we no longer “sell” so many terminals, they are nearly all financed now.  The important figures were the ebitda, ebit and service revenues (from the calls and data usage).  It was good to hear the CEO of TeliaSonera saying to Bloomberg “we have a beautiful asset in Spain”.  After attending two conference calls and sending out the media alert, I was off to the office for what we all Yoigo Mornings (something I invented in Nokia Spain and imported to Yoigo); i.e. a staff meeting to explain the results, introduce the new employees and have a stand up lunch all together.  Yoigo mornings are extremely popular, not to mention a great vehicle for internal communication.

Leaving the office I hit the Friday afternoon traffic and it took me two hours to get home.  Most of the way I kept thinking how blessed I am for being able to work from home and not to have to face the traffic every day as most people do.

On Friday Olivia finally got a day off work to be able to go away for a long weekend and disconnect from all the stress and tiredness her job provokes.  She and Miguel had decided to go to Sepúlveda in Segovia to visit the Hoces del Rio Duratón Natural Park.  They packed their bicycles as it was their intention to cycle in the park.  
Oli and Miguel cycling in the Hoces del Río Duratón Natural Park on Friday

They certainly got the good weather so the views of the famous 100m high gorges must have been spectacular.

Meanwhile in London Suzy has been very busy this week. She is still waiting for her registration number on the HCP (health and care professions council) as a dietitian. Once she has that and hopefully it will come through shortly, she will more or less immediately find a higher band job in the health sector.  Meanwhile she is being busy doing interim jobs. This week saw her working for a new home delivery service called Hello Fresh. Here is a photo of her dressed and ready to go!!
Suzy on an interim job with Hello Fresh this week!
Next week she will be working as a dietitian for a special programme for Apple employees where she will be assessing the employees one by one on their cholesterol, blood sugar level, blood pressure etc.  It’s very well paid and I’m sure she’s going to have a great time.  Good luck Suzy.

On Friday night Eladio and I went out to dinner as we always do and again chose Ginos where I gorged on a very big pizza; something I am sure Suzy will not be recommending to her patients next week haha.  We celebrated my award with a glass or two of Lambrusco.

And yesterday was Saturday. The weather was great and José Antonio and Dolores were coming for lunch.  Finally Fátima, our home help, was back from her 2 week holiday; although she went off again this morning for the weekend.  But that meant I would have help clearing the lunch.  I cooked though, as I love too when I am relaxed, and made cream of carrot and potato soup followed by lamb casserole.  For dinner I made potato salad from my grandfather’s recipe, handed down to me by my Mother. We had a grand day together, sitting by the covered pool after lunch, having afternoon tea and then going on our new walk with the dogs. 
On our walk with José Antonio and Dolores yesterday and the dogs too
And today is Sunday and, as I said at the beginning, the weather is wonderful. We shall be having lunch outside, but just the three of us, my Father, Eladio and myself.  I have made Asturian bean soup (fabada) which I hope they will enjoy.

And that is it my friends for this week, wishing you all the best till next Sunday,

Cheers Masha.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The National Day of Spain, one Ebola case in Spain but thousands in West Africa. A birthday in London, this year’s Nobel Peace prize and other stories.

Sunday 12th October 2014

Woman in red  aka me ready to go to the office this week 
Hi everyone this wet Sunday in October.

Today is 12th October and in Spain is celebrated as the National Day of Spain, “la hispanidad” and the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America on 12th October 1492.  It is also the day of the Spanish Armed Forces and Eladio is avidly watching live on the TV the Military Parade in Madrid presided over by the new King and Queen.  It is one of his quirk likes which I cannot understand but of course respect.  He also likes boxing!!! This day is also known as “El Pilar” after the  lady patron saint. One of my sisters-in-law is called Pili (short for Pilar) so today is also her day. “Felicidades Pili”
Eladio watching the Military Parade today presided over by the King of Spain
But let me start from the beginning of the week.  On Monday there was bombshell news in Spain which fast went around the world.  A Spanish auxiliary nurse, Teresa Romero aged 44, who had attended the two Spanish priests who died of Ebola and who were repatriated from Africa, caught the deadly virus.  How can that be possible we all asked?  Well yes it can, even if the nurse and medical staff strictly followed the WHO protocol for treatment of the virus.  We are still not sure what happened but she may have accidently touched her face when removing a glove.  There has been nothing else on the news, it has turned political and there has been much criticism of the government’s role in the crisis with reason I think.  Spain like many other countries is just not prepared for Ebola.  Teresa’s symptoms did not seem like Ebola and her temperature was not the 38.6 degrees it should have been for the protocol to be activated.  Be that as it may there were many mistakes in the chain of detecting her case and transferring her to the Carlos III hospital where she is now fighting for her life.  We are making a huge fuss about the one case in Spain when there are thousands dying in West Africa.  If the rest of the world had paid more attention and given help when Ebola broke out, maybe Teresa would not be fighting the virus today.  It’s amazing to think there is a team of 13 people looking after just one patient in Spain when there is a huge lack of medical staff in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.  It is not going to spread in Europe but it is spreading like wild fire in Africa and only now are governments reacting and sending out resources.  It is useless to take people’s temperatures at airports in Europe or the US, if the disease continues to spread in Africa.  That is where all efforts are needed and I hope the world reacts on time.  Meanwhile my prayers go out to Teresa and all the people she was in contact with and who I hope go free of the disease.  Today her state is very critical but shows signs of improvement.  I really hope that when I write my blog next week I can tell you that she survived.
Teresa Romero with her dog Excalibur
Olivia on her TV programme commented on the case all through the week.  Media came from as far away as Russia or the US and caused a circus outside the hospital where the virus was detected, at the group of flats where Teresa lives and at the Carlos III hospital too.  Her flat and surroundings were to be disinfected and then came the problem of what to do with her dog Excalilbur.  Her husband is in isolation in the hospital in case he has the virus too but so far has no symptoms.  Meanwhile the dog was alone in their flat and the authorities decided to put it down as it could spread the virus.  This caused an uproar in society and social media around the world. But poor Exacalibur was not saved in the end and was put down in the couple’s flat, another victim of the crisis.
Olivia with her team who spent most of the week reporting on the Ebola case in Spain
Meanwhile our life continued as usual although I must admit we watch every news programme we can and follow developments closely.  On Tuesday I went into the office for a meeting with my boss.  I also had a few practical issues, such as a problem with my pc, to sort out.  It was a lovely day and I wore an outfit for which I got many compliments.  I combined red and white and I must have got it right.  The photo illustrating this post is of me in the outfit – a combination of Zara, Marks and Spencers and Lindex by the way. When people complimented me I explained that as I work at home and mostly wear t-shirts and jeans I like to make an effort when I go out to the office or to meetings in town. 

Eladio that day returned to his UNED (Spanish equivalent to the “Open University”) lectures.  He has two a week on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and gets back very late.  However it keeps him active and alert to his profession. 

On Wednesday in London it was Gabor’s 22nd birthday.  Gabor is Suzy’s boyfriend and she went all out to make it very special for him. She keeps the same traditions she learned at home from me: birthday breakfast, presents, card and a lunch or dinner with a cake.  Here they are the two love birds on his birthday. I’m sure he had a great day.
Suzy and Gabor on his birthday this week in London
That evening at home in Madrid whilst Eladio was giving his second lecture of the week,  I made a lovely dinner for him and also for Olivia and Miguel.  This is what I made: “chicken mango salad” of my own recipe (roast chicken, mango, avocado, lettuce, sultanas, walnuts and mayonnaise). It’s my variation of the typical waldorf salad.
My chicken mango salad
Unfortunately no one came. Oli and Miguel had gone out for dinner and Eladio arrived really late, so all my efforts went to waste.  The salad got eaten though, don’t you worry!

On Thursday Eladio and I went to look at cars. You are probably wondering why. Well I am a very lucky person and have a company car and soon the renting period will be over and I need to order a new one.  We tried out a Range Rover and looked at a BMW similar to the one I have now and haven’t yet decided although I think it will be another BMW. Here I am at the wheel of the Range Rover which used to be Land Rover (or still is) but is now owned by the Indian Tata company.  I was “reassured” in the showroom that the cars are still made in the UK and that the Indians only put up the money. 
Me trying out a range rover this week
It was on Thursday that the Nobel Prize for literature was announced. Once again it went to a man and once again it went to a French person.  I remember doing some research on this prize for Olivia a few years ago and learned that France is the nation with most literature prizes.  The prize went to an author unknown to me; Patrick Modiano.

That day I was fasting as I always do on Mondays and Thursdays but when midday came I had a big headache and decided to break the fast.  I nearly always get a headache on a fasting day so there and then I have decided just to fast on Mondays.  Let’s see how that goes and whether I return to 5:2 or continue with 6:1.  In any case, that together with my two hour long walks a day, are part of my life now and what help to keep my weight down and feel fit.

On Friday Eladio and I got lost going to the BMW show room on the other side of Madrid.  We didn’t get home on time to make lunch so committed a terrible sin and bought a burger king lunch for the three of us.  Now that is not healthy.  However it is nice to indulge in this sort of fast food two or three times a year which is our case.

Friday was a busy day but I had time for a long chat with Suzy on the phone who, believe it or not is thinking of going into teaching.  Actually I think that is not a bad idea.  She has had experience with her private lessons over the years and seems to have the right qualities.  The plus side is the holidays and as I pointed out to her if she went into teaching now she would coincide most of the time with Gabor’s University holidays.

Eladio and I did the food shopping in the afternoon.  Usually I do it with Fátima, our home help but she is on holiday for the moment, only coming on Tuesday and Saturday mornings to shower my Father bless her.  After our second walk, Eladio and I went out to dinner as we nearly always do on Fridays.  This time we went to De María a “posh” Argentinian place in Majadahonda next to the Atlético de Madrid practice playing grounds.  The meal was delicious but we were only able to eat one course and we couldn’t even finish that.  The dogs were very happy with the “doggy bag” we brought home.
Eladio at dinner on Friday night
It was on Friday that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was announced.  I think for the first time it was given jointly.  It went to the Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian child rights campaigner. Everyone knows who Malala is but I don’t think the same could be said of the latter.  If you read the articles in the press about the peace prize Malala gets the lion’s share of the copy.  She is only 17 and the first person from Pakistan ever to win the prize.  I’m sure the Taliban who tried to kill her were not happy to hear the news on Friday.  It’s sort of ironic that the peace prize has gone to two people from nations which are not at peace, Pakistan and India.  Maybe this joint prize and their efforts could help affairs in this sense.   I certainly hope so.

The joint winners of this years Nobel Peace Prize, Kailaish from India and Malala from Pakistan
And Saturday came and thankfully was quieter.  Eladio prepared the pool for the winter and with the help of Miguel and Olivia he covered it with the blue tarpaulin. Later it rained and I took this picture and it is quite a depressing scene.  Long gone now are the sunny days reading by our pool.  We shall have to wait until the spring now.
The pool was sadly covered yesterday for the winter
Eladio was very busy yesterday morning as his next task was washing the dogs with my help.  My help is getting him to do it, plus washing their bedding, giving him the shampoo and towels and semi dragging Norah and Elsa  down although these days they seem to come quite willingly. Here is Norah in the middle of her bath.  Later I love hugging and kissing them as they are so clean and smell so nice.
Norah having a bath yesterday
For lunch yesterday we were all together and I made fish and chips with mushy peas, English style.  Everyone was happy, myself included although it’s a lot of effort. Later we went for our walk and came home just as it began to bucket it down.  The rain continued along with thunder and lightning.  In fact when we went to bed the storm continued and was so strong the TV went off.  Thus we both resorted to our kindles before we fell asleep.  I have just downloaded “Gone Girl”, the so called “thriller of the year” which is being recommended all over the place and I am much looking forward to reading it. Eladio, meanwhile, continues to read Bertrand Russell.

And today as I told you at the beginning is the National Day of Spain.  If it had fallen during the week it would have been a holiday but being on a Sunday doesn’t make the day feel special.  For lunch there will be just the three of us as Oli and Miguel have gone out with his family.  Later today hopefully I will be able to start on “Gone Girl” and then go on my second walk. 

Next week promises to be very busy.  I shall be attending a cocktail press event on Tuesday and have an ex Nokia colleague dinner on Wednesday when my dear friend Anne will be coming from Finland. On Thursday evening I will be going to a sector prize giving dinner and on Friday have an internal Yoigo event.  In between, there will be a couple of conference calls and also a visit to my urologist.  You will hear how I got on when I write again next Sunday.

Meanwhile I wish you all a great week ahead,

Cheers till next time,

Masha

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Our Indian summer, "North Korea Undercover", cooking, 1st October anniversaries, lunch with Javier, Víctor and Vicente, Islamic State did it again, a family dinner and other stories.

Sunday 5th October 2014

Ready to go out for lunch on Friday
Hello again this sunny Sunday morning.  It is now October and amazingly it is still short sleeves and shorts weather. We are having a delightful Indian summer (in Spanish the little summer of St. Michael! – “veranillo de san miguel”).  Most days are sunny with maximum temperatures in the mid 20’s.  Thus Eladio and I enjoy reading our books (in his case Bertrand Russel on his new kindle) by the pool most evenings.
Still walking in shorts and short sleeves thanks to our Indian summer

The most interesting book I read this week – for the record I read 3! – was certainly John Sweeney’s “North Korea Undercover”.  This BBC journalist visited Korea undercover as a “teacher” from The London School of Economics to make a secret documentary for Panorama.  He subsequently wrote this book.  Not only did he give us an eye witness account of everything he saw and it was dismal, but he also interviewed countless defectors who can tell the real story of the world’s worst country which is probably best described as worse than the Big Brother world George Orwell created in “1984”.  And there is not a thing the western world can do about it as its people continue to be brainwashed, starved or shipped off in their hundreds of thousands to frightening gulags where most of them perish. On the other hand the western world probably doesn’t bother as North Korea has no natural resources they may find attractive.  I bought the book at Frankfurt airport last week rather than the ebook as I had run out of battery at the time.  My Father is now enjoying it too.
My book of the week

Monday was a quiet day spent fasting, walking, working and reading.  The highlight of the day was dinner with Olivia.

Tuesday was busy.  I spent the morning listening to TeliaSonera’s webcast covering their capital market’s day on the lookout for what they might say about Yoigo.  Tuesday was also a heavy cooking day.  I made Spanish lentil soup, potato salad (my Mother’s and my grandfather’s recipe handed to me) as well as broccoli soup and ham croquettes.  This was all because Fátima, our home help, would be taking a two week holiday starting the next day and there had to be food to feed everyone.  Olivia was particularly pleased with the croquettes which we had with her that night for dinner.
Some of my ham croquettes frying for Oli and Eladio's dinner
Wednesday was of course 1st October, the beginning of a new month but for me a date ingrained in my memory because it was the day my beloved Mother died.  This year was the 15th anniversary of her passing away as I remarked to my Father.  It seems so long ago that she left us, but our memory of her never fades.  She was such a colourful, bohemian, lively and amusing person that would be impossible.  I am sorry she is not here to be with my Father in his old age or to see the girls have grown into two wonderful young women and to see how happy we all are in our now not so new home which I know she would have loved. She lives on in my heart and I don’t think a day goes past without my thinking about her.  God bless you Mummy.  You were so special. We shall always miss you.
My very special Mother in a photo I love of her watering the plants in the porch at 6 Heaton Grove 
1st October is also the day I started work at Yoigo and on Wednesday it was my 8th anniversary.  How time flies. 

On Wednesday life continued of course.  That morning I had an appointment with the dermatologist to remove an unsightly mark on my right eyelid which had grown and changed colour recently.  I was worried it might be malignant, always remembering that my dear brother George died of melanoma, that deadly skin cancer.  Thankfully the doctor told me when I first went to see her that she was convinced it was benign and I heaved a sigh of relief.  When I came home, after the small surgery, my dear husband Eladio was waiting for me in the street with a red rose from our garden in his hands.  That was certainly a sight for sore eyes.  Here he is waiting for me.  I love him so.
Elado waiting for me with a red rose from the garden on Wednesday
Thursday was another quiet warm day.  It was my fasting day so I couldn’t indulge in any of the food I had cooked.  That’s why I love Fridays as I can eat more or less what I want until Monday my next fasting day. On Friday I had a lunch appointment with my friends and ex colleagues, Víctor who heads up a personal branding consultancy, amongst a hundred other things, Vicente who is a journalist and book writer and Javier an ex communications manager with a big mobile phone operator who is looking to explore new territory.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of me all ready to go to the lunch at Herón City in Las Rozas.  We chose Clérico for the occasion.
Lunch on Friday with my friends and ex colleagues, from left to right: Vicente, Javier and Víctor
Our lunch, in true Spanish fashion, started at about 2 and went on until nearly 5pm.  We have so much in common, having worked together in many different categories over the years in the telecoms sector and having travelled sometimes on press trips, that I think most of the lunch was spent remembering some of the funnier anecdotes, the bad times and the good.  It was great to get together and I think we shall be repeating the experience on a regular basis, or at least that is our intention.

I had to rush back home as time was against me as usual.  I am such a busy person I have to measure my activities to fit them all in.  This time I was rushing back to do the food shopping with Eladio, Fátima being on holiday, then rushing home to put it all away, go for our walk, come back, shower, make my Father’s frugal dinner and then guess what?  Yeah, we went out to dinner, my second meal out of the day.  We chose Ginos, a quasi Italian restaurant we often go to. 

Just before we left for dinner, Oli was home and we talked for a few brief minutes.  She had come back from perhaps her most harrowing journalistic experience.  Just recently the Spanish police finally caught up with a serial child sex offender in Madrid.  In the wake of the news her programme, like many others, explored the issue and on Friday Olivia found herself interviewing 6 Mothers whose husbands had all sexually abused their own daughters, some of them as young as 3, without the mother knowing.  One of the girls who was abused when she was 6 (she is now 12) was present and told Olivia she wanted to commit suicide.  Olivia came home shocked and disturbed. I too was stunned.  I mean how could those Mothers and their children ever get over something like that?  These predators continue to exist.  According to the psychologist Olivia also interviewed who is treating these Mothers and their children and who herself was abused as a child; 1 in 5 of every child in the world at some time will be sexually abused.  That is disgusting.  But why I ask myself? Is it a common thing for adults to crave for sex with children?  How can that be?  The psychologist told Olivia that is an abnormality inherent only to men. 

Coming home from Ginos, I looked at a news alert on my phone and was upset to read a 4th western hostage had been beheaded by the Islamic State.  It was Alan Henning, the 47 year old father of two and taxi driver from Salford in Lancashire (UK) who was helping deliver aid to Syria when he was kidnapped in December. I was also astounded to read today in The Times online that only yesterday David Cameron had ordered the British secret services to find the jihadist, aka Jihadi John, who had beheaded him before sending out the SAS to capture or kill him.  I mean aren’t they already looking for him? What are they waiting for I wonder?
Alan Henning the 4th western hostage to be beheaded by the Islamic State 
And Saturday came and it was a wonderful day.  I did more cooking, making chicken tikka masala and our Russian “perushki” (meat pies).  For the latter I had help from Olivia who had learned to make them with Susana, taught by my Mother when they were very small.  Once the cooking was done, I accompanied Olivia to the Centro Oeste shopping centre as she wanted to buy a present for her ex colleague Natalia from TVE and her 2 month old baby boy, “Henry” who she was going to see in the afternoon. For once in my life I didn’t buy any clothes, although Olivia did buy one blouse.  We then enjoyed a nice cup of coffee together. What my Mother would have called “moments with Mama”.

Later Olivia posted a photo with Natalia’s lovely baby.  Oli adores babies and was in her element holding little “Henry” here.  Even I must admit he is very sweet as, unlike my daughter, babies just do not attract me. Those of you who know me, know that I far prefer puppies.  Is that some sort of aberration I wonder?
Olivia with baby "Henry" yesterday
It turned out that we went out to dinner again on Saturday.  Eladio’s youngest brother Isidro and his wife Yoli and their older daughter Laura had come to Madrid to visit their youngest daughter Alicia (my god daughter by the way) who is studying nursing in the capital.  So an impromptu dinner was arranged to take place at Eladio’s second brother, José Antonio and his wife Dolores’ house in Madrid.  We all chipped in taking food as we would be 10 round the table.  Unfortunately Olivia couldn’t join the family as it was too late to change her plans.  In any case it was great to get together. Here is a photo of all of us, except Eladio who was the man behind the making of the picture.
The impromptu family dinner on Saturday night in Madrid
It was a late night out and we weren’t in bed till past 1 in the morning – frightfully late for me who usually turns the sheets down at about 9.30pm hahaha.  Even so I was up at my usual hour at 7.30 this morning and was first in the kitchen to feed the dogs and cat and to prepare everyone’s breakfasts.  I had time to load the washing machine, make the lunch (Spanish fabada), start on my blog before going on my walk which was later than usual as Olivia was joining me this morning.  For my second walk this evening I will have the pleasure of the company of Eladio and the dogs of course. It was beautifully warm and the photo of me in my pink shorts above was taken by Olivia as I needed a photo for this post to illustrate the lovely Indian summer we are still having.

Next week promises another week of the same weather.  It also promises to be another quiet week at home, working and reading and walking with no important events on the horizon to look forward to.  Well we’ll see how it pans out and you will read about it in next week’s post.  Meanwhile I wish you all the very best,

Till next Sunday

Cheers Masha.