Saturday, February 27, 2016

TV series “The Heavy Water War”, Daddy fell, to Barcelona for this year’s Mobile World Congress (encounters with an EU member of Parliament, a Romanian beggar and women of ill repute), Roman Polanski’s film “Doubt”, the Yoigo party, Spain’s the place to live, Oli and Miguel in Paris, home again, my book of the week, off to the snow in Montrondo and other stories.

Sunday 28th February 2016

With my ex Nokia colleagues, Marc and Julio at the Yoigo party at the MWC in Barcelona this week
Hi again everyone,

I am now writing from Montrondo where it’s snowing. We have come to relax and recharge batteries, enjoy the snow and for me to wind down after an exhausting week which included this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

I left off last week on Saturday.  It was a quiet day and very sunny.  I just had to capture our lovely dogs enjoying sitting in the sun at the back of the house.
The dogs in the sun last Sunday at home
The sun always makes our walks more pleasurable, for the dogs as well of course.  Lunch was my home made lamb casserole; a bit like an Irish hot pot I think. Here is the dish:
My lamb casserole
It was on Saturday after lunch that Eladio and I started watching a new series on Netflilx.  We are suckers for 2nd World War films and started on The Heavy Water War, a six part TV series; a Norwegian/Danish/British co-production.  I mentioned it to my Father who immediately told me the Production plant called Hydro was near the village of Rjukan in rural Telemark.  He would know of course as he was in the Royal Navy in the war and took part in the liberation of Norway. The series is based on the real story in the war when Norwegian saboteurs in coordination with the British war secret services in Scotland, try to prevent the Nazis from acquiring the heavy water to develop their atom bomb.  If you like war films or series, this is one for you. I especially like the ones based on fact and not fiction.

The Heavy Water War TV series we have been watching this week
Similarly to the breaking of the Enigma Code which I mentioned in last week’s post, these actions also helped to make the war shorter and saved many people’s lives. If Hitler had made the atom bomb on time, the end of the war would have been a very different story.

On Sunday morning I was off to Barcelona for this year’s Mobile World Congress.  Oli and Miguel were coming with me but for a different reason; to see Oli’s Scout friend Laura and her new baby, 6 month old Maya.  Just as I was getting into the taxi, Eladio called to say my Father had fallen.  I was alarmed of course but as he has fallen so often and nothing much has ever happened, I wasn’t very worried until I saw the damage done.  The poor man who is 97 had fallen off the bed whilst trying to put his shirt on and hit his arm and hand badly on the bedside table.  There was a pool of blood on the floor and his arm was badly damaged with a lot of the skin destroyed.  I told Oli and Miguel to go and catch their train and that I would go later but first had to go with my Father and Eladio to the hospital. I rang the national emergency number: 112 which functioned perfectly.  Within 15 minutes the ambulance was there and my father’s huge wound bandaged for the journey.  Once at the brand new and very efficient public hospital, Juan Carlos 1 in Mósteles, my Father was seen to immediately.  It was a team from the plastic surgery unit that sewed him up.  The part without skin of course wasn’t and we shall have to wait for the skin to grow there again.  Thankfully nothing worse had happened.  Recovery will be slow with lots of visits to the hospital which will require a lot of patience.  We shall also have to be much more attentive to my Father and avoid future falls. Below is a picture of him with the nurse.  He is beaming and took the whole episode as an adventure.  He really is a wonderful old soldier, or should I say sailor as he was in the Navy hahaha.
My father being treated in hospital last Sunday
We were home by 10.30.  I immediately left for the train station and caught the 11.30 to Barcelona which would have me there by 14.40, just over 3 hours.  The truth is I caught it by the skin of my teeth and was a bundle of nerves after my Father’s fall, but thankfully I caught it. This train was stopping at 4 stations but the trains that go direct are shorter.
On the Ave high speed train to Barcelona last Sunday morning
In my carriage I spotted the Spanish ex Minister for Education with the Popular Party, Pilar del Castillo who is now a European Member of Parliament.  I looked her up on internet and was amazed to see she is 63, just 4 years older than me. I imagined she was off to the MWC too as she heads up one of the technology commissions in the EU
Pilar del Castillo, the European Member of Parliament I had the pleasure to meet on the train on Sunday
She looks a lot younger than 63.  I also thought she looked a bit like me.  I didn’t think I’d get the chance to talk to her but I did, thanks to a fellow passenger, my ex-boss at Nokia, Félix. We bumped into each other on the train and went to talk in the corridor.  I mentioned Pilar del Castillo was on the train and then suddenly she was coming towards us.  He said hello to her; although he doesn’t know her! His excuse was he had seen her at the Spanish telecoms annual event in Santander - he would later confess they had never been introduced -   So we got talking and she confessed to me that she was going into the loo to put her make-up on in time for her first meeting in Barcelona.  It was very much a woman to woman comment which I liked. Later as I was waiting by the door with my luggage for the train to pull into Barcelona, she was there too and we got talking about Brussels and the terrorist attacks. I just had time to ask her a burning question; her thoughts or rather the Spanish government’s position on Brexit.  She said it was firmly for the UK to stay in the EU.  Then off she went to find the car that had come to pick her up.  My ex-boss also had a car coming for him.  There were plenty of private black Mercedes hired cars in Barcelona at the MWC. Being pretty low down in the congress pecking order, I, of course, had to take a taxi.  Taxi drivers are great sources of information and this one told me two interesting facts; 1) the date of the MWC is fixed according to the date of the Chinese New Year and 2) the drivers of the hired cars are nearly all Spanish English speaking University students who are paid 3.000 euros for one week’s work!

You might be interested to know what was on show this year.  Well I can tell you it was mostly about 5G, virtual reality and self-driving cars. I was much more interested in the figures for this year’s event.  For the first time in its 29 year history, the 100.000 visitor mark was reached.  They came from 204 countries; 5.000 of them were CEOs and only 21% were women. Not for nothing do I call the fair “men in black”.  2.200 companies showed their wares in 1.100 square metres.  It is held at a huge venue on the outskirts of the city and is just so big you walk miles and miles.  My fitbit nearly burst after the first morning! The congress, the biggest of its type in the world, generated 460 million euros to the local economy and created some 13.000 part time jobs, like the student drivers I mentioned.  Yeah it was huge as always and rather chaotic.  Part of the chaos was due to the public transport strikes as well as local demonstrations.

I made my way to Agua, a restaurant by the Barceloneta where Oli and Miguel were waiting for me for lunch.  Afterwards we took a taxi to my hotel, The Gallery just off the Paseo de Gracia, for me to check in.  Whilst Oli and Miguel went for a walk, I settled in, making sure my internet connection was up and working before I unpacked.  At about 6 I walked to Plaza Cataluña to meet up with them and on my way was happy and surprised to see a registration booth where I could pick up my MWC badge which I did there and then, so as to avoid the long queue the next day at the congress venue.
The MWC badge collection point on Paseo de Gracia last Sunday
The whole city seemed to revolve around the MWC delegates.  There was signage and publicity about it everywhere and hoards of Chinese.  Everywhere we went was full of MWC delegates but fortunately we found a quiet place for dinner called Gaig. 
It was great to coincide with Oli in Barcelona this week
Once back at my hotel my idea was to go straight to sleep but I got caught up watching a film called Doubt.  It’s directed by Roman Polanski and based on the Pulitzer prize winning play of the same name by John Patrick Shanley.  It stars Meryl Streep as the forbidding Sister Aloysius head of a catholic school in the Bronx (NY) in 1964. The head, a formidable and rather frightening figure, has doubts about the kind actions of the Irish school and parish priest, the jolly Father Flynn, who she suspects of child abuse.  You want to think he is innocent and he most probably is but the audience is left forever with the doubt, a subject Father Flynn talks about in his Sunday sermon in the school church in the opening scenes of the film. I whatsapped Eladio to tell him it was on, knowing that he would like it too.  It was just our sort of film.
Doubt, my film of the week
Monday was my big day, the day of the Yoigo party but I also had work to do; mostly preparing the press release we would be sending on Wednesday. I was up quite early even though I had gone to sleep at 2 in the morning watching the film.  I ordered breakfast in bed which I nearly always do when staying at hotels.
When I am staying at a hotel there is nothing I like better than breakfast in bed
As soon as I was ready, off I went to the Congress.  I was to meet my friend and ex colleague Julio and as usual we would visit the fair together.  As I queued up to go in, I bumped into my colleagues from Yoigo, Maryvonne, Manolo and María.  I thought it was the perfect time for a selfie.
A selfie with colleagues in the queue to enter the MWC
When I finally found Julio – no easy task at this enormous venue – we visited the Nokia stand. It’s always my first stop at the MWC.  Here we met old colleagues that brought to mind the old Nokia adage: “Connecting People and Reuniting Colleagues”.  Here we are with Paloma on the stand.
With Julio and Paloma my ex colleagues from my Nokia days.  Always a delight to meet up at the Nokia stand at the MWC
It was on the Nokia stand that I had a bit of a shock. Whilst I was talking to colleagues someone suddenly pushed me physically to one side.  I wasn’t quite sure what was happening until I looked up only to see the new Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Calao, smiling.  I was pushed aside by her bodyguard so that she and a Minister and the whole entourage could pass.  I just could not believe what was happening.  I mean Ada Calao, the hailer of a new age of politics, where we are all supposedly equal, just showed me that she is no different to the politicians she herself despises.  I am sure she didn’t see what happened and would have been appalled.  Even so, she should be careful about the bubble she is now living in.  I tweeted her to tell her about the episode and I have yet to receive an answer. 

I spent the afternoon in my room working. I had set up a veritable office there.  But it was time to stop in the late afternoon and also time, believe it or not, for a sauna.  Not many hotels have them in Spain but the Gallery does. My love of the sauna comes from my many trips to Finland when I worked for Nokia and also latterly to Sweden in my current job for meetings with Yoigo's mother company, the Nordic and Baltic Operator, TeliaSonera.
There is nothing more relaxing and healing than a sauna
Soon it was time to get all dolled up for the Yoigo party. It was starting at 9 and was to be held at a very fashionable bar called Chez Coco.  When I had visited it in November I fell in love with the place.  I was told the Barça football club had staged an event there and I thought well if they could so could Yoigo.  The theme for the night was magic and the party was absolute magic too.  We had a fantastic turnout, including quite a few of the 5000 CEOs at the congress. Even the TeliaSonera CEO, JD came too.  There were many things to do apart from drink mojitos and eat. We had a palm reader, Francisco Rodriguez who is apparently an eminence in his field.  He read mine and nailed me.  Oli later said it was because I lead him on but I was very interested to hear from him that I still had to develop the creative side he read on my palm.  Could that possibly refer to the book I want to write when I retire? 

There were many magicians performing their tricks and they were marvelous.  God knows how they were able to pull a card out of my phone! We even had a tarot card reader and she had some interesting things to tell me too; such as that I would have a very long life and that when I retired I would have many projects to work on and would remain close to the sector I work in.

But best of all was seeing so many people I know.  There must have been over 250 and the place was packed.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time.  You can see some of the photos here.

The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me with 2 ex Nokia colleagues I am very fond of; Marc and Julio.

Normally I do a disappearing trick at around midnight, a bit like Cinderella as I don’t usually enjoy my own parties but the party at Chez Coco was so magical, I enjoyed every minute. So when it finished at 2 in the morning I joined the revelers who were off to a place called Opium by the beach they told me.  I was to regret the decision as soon as I got there as it turned out to be a huge discotheque which was very noisy and packed. I felt as if half the MWC delegates were there too.  As soon as I stepped in, I went straight to the loo and couldn’t believe it when I saw 3 scantily dressed girls.  They were talking in English and so I realized immediately from their conversation that they were “women of ill repute”, a phrase I have chosen to use instead of the word beginning with “p”.  I was a bit shocked really and it was there and then I felt as if I had been brought to hell and just had to make my escape.  A Moroccan taxi driver took me home and told me terrible stories about the place; mostly that foreigners often left it crying their eyes out after having been robbed.  I checked my bag immediately and was happy to find my wallet was still there.  No, discotheques like Opium are not for me.  I later heard my entourage had stayed up till 8 in the morning in that infernal place!
The Opium discotheque in Barcelona. It felt like being in hell!
Thanks to the mojitos I went to bed with a headache. It must have been 3 in the morning and I was dead.  On Tuesday morning I awoke at 8 and tried to get back to sleep but I couldn’t.  I realized then, whilst ordering breakfast in bed again, that I had lost my voice. That was thanks to all the talking against loud music; something which always happens to me.

As usual I read the news whilst having breakfast.  My attention was caught by a headline in one of the online newspapers saying that “Spain’s the place to live”.  Well I already know that.  The story was that Spanish is the happiest language in the world and that Spaniards are the people who are most in love.  It seems Spanish people sent more love related messages on internet than any other region, ahead of France, Italy and Japan.  As to the language it was found that it is the happiest and most positive from a study of the words used on internet.  Portuguese came second and English came third. Now wasn’t that a positive story to read?

It was to be a positive day too but not completely as you will read shortly.  Again the sun was shining and as soon as I was ready I made my way down Paseo de Gracia to Plaza Cataluña where I was to meet up with Oli, Miguel, Laura and little Maya.  When I got to the square and was going past the impressive Apple store I saw a wizened old lady bent nearly double begging for money.  My heart went out to her and I gave her a 10 euro note.  I tried to talk to her and she told me she was very poor.  I hated the contrast of the luxury of the Apple store and the congress and this poor old lady who should not be on the street but be cared for and not begging in the centre of the city.  There and then I rang the emergency services 112.  As I rang, she began to disappear.  112 told me to ring social services which I did but then I saw three policemen so hung up and decided to talk to them.  Meanwhile the old lady, no longer bent over, had disappeared down the metro steps.  The police told me there was nothing they could do; that this lady was probably controlled by the Rumanian mafia; possibly by her own family.  They said there were places to go where she could find shelter and food but it was voluntary so they can’t make people go there.  I was very shocked and actually cried a few tears.  If she had been a minor, she would have been taken away and looked after by social services.  I sincerely think this should be applied to old people too.  So all I could do was walk away and continue life in beautiful Barcelona which I am afraid, like all big cities, has unfortunate destitute people like the wizened old lady I found that morning in the heart of the city. 

I spent the day with Oli, Miguel, Laura and little Maya.  In the afternoon we took the latter shopping.  She is only 6 months old and this would be one of her first girly visits to Zara. Oli and I wanted to buy some clothes for her as a present.  I just loved the range of kids’ clothing at Zara.  Here we are outside with little Maya, who by the way, behaved perfectly the whole day.
Maya's first girly shopping expedition

That night was our annual team dinner at the MWC.  It’s the night my PR team from Ketchum and events team from QuintaEsencia get together in Barcelona for dinner together.  This year we went to a lovely place called Chapeau.
Team dinner at the MWC
We ended our evening in heaven as opposed to hell at Opium. This time the choice was mine and we went to the Hotel Casa Fuster, a favourite with Woody Allen.  He has played jazz in the lounge we drank our cocktails and one of the scenes from his film about Barcelona with Penelope Cruz was filmed in that very lounge.  It’s a lovely place.
Hotel Casa Fuster - paradise vs hell at the Opium discotheque
On Wednesday morning I was leaving to go home.  My train was at midday.  Oli and Miguel were continuing their holiday and were off to Paris probably to celebrate their romance.  Oli has been a few times before but Miguel had never been. I was half hoping he would come out with an engagement ring on the Eiffel Tower but so far I have heard nothing.  I sigh as I write that young people today are just not into weddings.
Miguel and Oli on their way to Paris on Wednesday
I was home in the afternoon and actually felt whacked.  We had sent out a press release that morning about the expansion of our 4G network in Catalonia and it was getting quite a lot of press. 

It was on Wednesday evening that I downloaded a new book on my kindle, “Behind closed doors”, a debut novel by B.A. Paris.  It’s a gripping thriller about a perfect or maybe not so perfect marriage. I couldn’t put it down but had to unwillingly for dinner with Eladio.  Dinner was a very frugal affair after all the meals in Barcelona.  
My book of the week was this gripping thriller
That night I wasn’t watching Netflix as Iker Casillas, the Spanish football legend of the Spanish team and Real Madrid fame – now the goalkeeper for Oporto -  was being interviewed in a popular programme by Bertin Osborne.  He had been unfairly dismissed from Real Madrid, probably after falling out with “the special one”, the dear or not so dear Mourinho and I and all the other spectators were interested to hear his version. I was equally interested to hear about his beginnings and how at the age of 16 he was suddenly summoned from school to join the main team and travel to Norway for a match.  His story is quite amazing as he comes from a very humble background in the working class area of Móstoles on the outskirts of Madrid.

Thursday finally came, the day Eladio and I were going to Montrondo.  I was dying to go and see the snow and wind down and relax after two months away and the busy week I had had what with the trip to Barcelona etc. 

As usual we stopped at Rueda on the way and had our traditional glass of local wine and a plate of ham.
Pit stop at Rueda
The ham was so good we decided to buy one.  The staff at the Palacio de Bornos are very hospitable and even offered to remove the main bone, which makes it much easier to slice afterwards.
The bone being removed from the ham we bought at Palacio de Bornos in Rueda on our way to Montrondo
Later we stopped at the pretty little village of Pandorado for lunch at Casa Yordas; although we weren’t very hungry.  We arrived in Montrondo at around 4 to find there was not much snow left after the big snow fall some 10 days ago. But we knew there would be more snow as it was forecast for many parts of Spain including León. After putting everything away and settling in, I sat down to finish reading “Behind closed doors” and there and then on the sofa with Pippa by the fire, I fell asleep from 5 till 7.30. I must have been exhausted.  It was already getting dark but we needed a walk so off we went to Murias and back.

Meanwhile Oli and Miguel were exploring Paris.  They were staying near Pigalle, the old red light district and posted this lovely photo by the Moulin Rouge, a must if you are visiting Paris as a tourist.
Miguel and Oli by the Moulin Rouge on Thursday night in Paris
On Friday Pippa and I were up at 06.50.  It was snowing at last and I was delighted.  In fact it snowed for most of the day and quickly settled.
Snow on Friday morning was very welcome
I made cocido for lunch that day and whilst it boiled I went to pay a visit and have a coffee with my neighbour Salo.

Oli and Miguel meanwhile were further exploring Paris.  I suppose their first destination was the Eiffel Tower.  I heard no news of an engagement ring but got this jumping photo of the two of them by the most famous monument in the world.
Miguel and Oli in a jumping picture by the Eiffel Tower on Friday
Apart from visiting Salo, I worked most of the morning.  There was yet another rumour in the press about Yoigo being sold by its mother company.  There have been rumours ever since I started working with the company back in 2006.  I usually don’t take much notice of them but you never know.

I also took the time on Thursday morning to buy a ticket to go and see Suzy in London in March to spend a few days with her whilst she is in between jobs.  I can’t wait to have some quality time with her there in her new house, especially as she will be free when I go and see her.  I shall be working on a detailed programme soon.  Watch this space!

Lunch was delicious.  Cocido is the perfect winter dish.
The cocido I made for lunch on Friday
Just an hour or so after lunch we went for a walk to Senra and back with Salo, Manolita, Josefa and Marisa.  Pippa explored the snow for the first time, even trying to eat it hahaha
Pippa getting acquainted with the snow in Montrondo on Friday
For the walk, she needed her coat which is a little too big for her but hopefully keeps her warm. The village looked beautiful covered in snow.
The view of the snow covered village on our walk to Murias yesterday
Later the women all joined for coffee at Salo’s house.  I was home to make dinner quite early and Eladio fancied a Spanish tortilla (eggs, potatoes and onion).  It was delicious or is it perhaps that food tastes better in the mountain air. 

Just as we were starting on our dinner, we had great family news.  My sister-in-law Dolores sent a message to say little Lucas had been born to her daughter Sara.  I still haven’t seen a photo and only know that Lucas weighed just over 3 kilos and that Mother and baby are fine; well as fine as you can be straight after giving birth.  Hearty congratulations to Sara and her family.

It was Oli and Miguel’s last night in Paris and they went to the Pont Neuf where lovers and people who have just married hang a padlock on the bridge in sign of locking their love.  Like others before them, my daughter and her boyfriend, followed suit and hung theirs up; which you can see in the photo below.
Oli and Miguel's padlock on Pont Neuf
After dinner we finished watching The Heavy Water War and then I fell asleep so we went to bed early.

And today is Saturday and I was awake again at 06.50.  It had snowed all night and the snow was very deep. I was delighted. 

The thick snow this morning after it had snowed all night.
However it was rather windy and the “torba” (a Montrondo word for blustery wind) appeared, making it rather difficult to venture outside.  But then the sun came out and the flurries were lighter so I went out with Pippa.  I had a grand time taking photos like the ones below.

Some photos I took this morning of the snow. 
And now I think I will publish this week's post and get on with enjoying the snow  rather than writing about it haha.  

With a heavy heart we shall be leaving tomorrow, unless of course my dream comes true and we get stuck here because of the snow.  

So I will leave you now to go and make our lunch (good old fish and chips) and you will hear from me again next week.

Cheers to you all meantime and I hope you have enjoyed this week's tales.

All the best/Masha

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Valentine’s Day, our last day in Brussels, my film, series and books of the week, major repairs looming at home, snow in Montrondo, Norah is in trouble, retail therapy, Suzy moves to Camden, a birthday lunch, a crazy hairdo and other stories.

Saturday 20th February, 2016
Back from the hairdresser on Friday and trying out the cardigan and scarf Fátima bought me for my birthday. Oli said my hair looked crazy!
Hi again,

I left off last Sunday morning in Brussels.  I must say we had a great time there and I sorely miss Adele and Sandra who I consider among my closest friends.

Sunday was Valentine’s Day but no, once again, like King John who was not a good man in the poem by AA Milne, I didn’t get anything, unlike Sandra and her Mother who were surprised with lovely flowers from Jeffer.  Neither Eladio nor I really celebrate it but he did make me laugh when on the plane to Brussels on Thursday 11th he suddenly said: “Happy Valentine’s Day”.  He must be one of the few people on this planet who doesn’t know it’s on 14th February.  I hope that made you laugh.

It was our last day in Brussels and our last breakfast together. I must say breakfast at Sandra’s is a splendid affair to quote Eladio. There was everything you could wish for at ; toast, croissants, crumpets, honey, jam, orange juice, fruit, cheese, tea, coffee, etc and we often had so much we didn’t really need much lunch later.  I loved the meals with my friends, especially breakfast.
Breakfast on our last day in Brussels
When we were finished the men went off to Marolles, that trendy multicultural area of Brussels which used to be the poor area and is full of antique shops.  I knew Eladio wouldn’t be buying anything there but that Bernard would as he adores second hand shops.  He came back with a leather jacket and cap, happy with his purchases. Meanwhile we girls had some time to ourselves but we had to take Barney to the vet as he was ill; he hadn’t eaten the day before and had the “runs”. We suspected it was because he licked the plates in the dishwasher after our Indian meal on Friday night.
Sandra and Adele at the vet with Barney last Sunday in Brussels
Duly medicated and feeling better, we left him at Magda’s flat and made our way to the Sablon, a chic area of Brussels with lots of chocolate shops which is popular with locals and tourists.  Here we did some window shopping and some purchases as well.  I found the tea and cake shop, Ladurée so beautiful I could have moved in.
Sandie in Ladurée in Le Sablon in Brussels last Sunday
Whilst the girls were exploring an expensive homeware store, I went directly to the French bone china shop, Gien, the only one outside France I think. I have been collecting their “route des indes” bone china, since I spied the shop on our first visit to Sandra in Brussels some years ago.  Once home I added it to the collection in our dining room and this is what it looks like.
My "Route des Indes" Gien bone china collection
I also have a collection of Le Pain Quotidien bowls (the Belgian bakery chain) and took the opportunity to add to it too at the branch in Fort Jaco where Sandra lives.  This is my collection as seen in our kitchen once home.
My Le Pain Quotidien collection of bowls and jugs
Soon we were joined by the men and went in search of a place for lunch, no easy task.  We finally went to L’Atelier in Rue Haute in the Marolles area. Whilst the men queued, Sandra took Adele and I upstairs to a boutique called Fille (but spelled Fijle) owned by a Spanish girl from Salamanca and which promotes French and Spanish designers.  Sandra told me she had given up her job with the European Parliament to pursue this dream.  We loved the shop and I loved talking to Cristina.  I promised to mention her shops in this blog so here you have the website.  Below is a photo of Sandra, Adela and Cristina at Fille.
At the Spanish owned boutique Fille in Brussels last Sunday
We all bought cotton tops there.  I got a white one for Olivia which she loved as soon as she saw it.
Oli's present from Fille
Soon we had to go back to Fort Jaco as Eladio and I had to leave at 16.45. There was just time to finish packing, say goodbye and thank you to Magda and have a quick cup of tea with our friends before Sandra drove us to the airport.  Adele came along for the ride and we all discussed when we could possibly meet next.  It seems New Year’s Eve in Montrondo is a possibility. I do hope so. 

The airport was quiet; unusually quiet I thought with a very small queue and not many people on our plane.  I wondered if this was because of the terror threats in Belgium. Throughout our stay I was aware of them, when I saw the army on the streets or when we went passed the notorious Molenbeek area when we drove to Bruges.  There were tourists in Brussels and in Bruges but I suspect fewer than usual. 

We got home after 10 pm to be greeted by Oli.  I have to admit Oli and I had a bit of a chocolate feast whilst opening our suitcases.  I had brought home M+S extremely chocolatey biscuits, soft nougat, Belgian biscuits and chocolates in quite big amounts, for Oli, my Father, Salud and of course the house.    It turned out we wouldn’t be the only ones to eat them.

Monday came and it was back to my 2 walks a day and fasting.  Whilst I was away my new relaxed skinny jeans from M+S had arrived and they are great; so comfy and a good fit I highly recommend them.  Apart from being quite flattering what I like most about them is that they are not too tight on the ankle.  Sometimes with skinny jeans you feel like a bullfighter getting in or out of his tight trousers (“traje de luces”).
Love my new M+S relaxed skinny jeans
The new BBC TV series, War and Peace, had also arrived which I can’t wait to watch.  I’m sure it will soon be amongst my favourite TV series.  
The new BBC TV series War and Peace arrived whilst we were away
Meanwhile Eladio and I finished watching The Honourable Woman.  It was my second viewing and is well worth watching, if a little complicated with all the spying from the CIA, M15, Mossad and Palestinian terrorist groups.  Whilst in Brussels, Sandra, Adele and I shared the names of the latest films and TV series we liked and I was recommended The Imitation Game.  As soon as I got home I ordered it on Amazon and it arrived on Tuesday.
My film of the week
It’s the story of the brilliant English mathematician Alan Turing who broke the Nazi communications Enigma code, helped with a team at Bletchley.  It has transpired recently that Poland was equally instrumental in this breakthrough.  I was since recommended the biography of Alan Turing, who, it turns out was not a prophet in his land and was never rewarded the recognition he deserved, being up there with great minds such as Newton, Edison and Darwin as Barack Obama said recently in Manchester. Called “Alan Turing,the Enigma” it is by Andrew Hodges and I have just downloaded it.  The enigma refers to the cracking of the code possibly as much as the man himself who was something of an enigma too.  I was sorry to find out that the British scientist who was the mastermind behind computing today, took his own life, possibly because he was a homosexual and subjected to cruel therapy.  I shall find out more when I start on Hodge’s biography.

This book is among my books of the week.  It goes side by side with Whiteout by Ken Follet which I am reading now and is about a deadly virus stolen from a laboratory at Christmas in Scotland.  You see my literary interests are very diverse, hahaha.

Another book on my to-read list or book of the week list is called “A detail of history” and is by Alex Hersh, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps.  I was inspired to read it when a school friend, Maureen, posted that Alex Hersh was visiting Bingley Grammar School.  No doubt my Father will be interested too.  I shall have to get him a paper copy for his birthday.  He may be interested in Andrew Hodges’ book about Alan Turing too.
Next on my to-read list
On Monday the insurance people came and lifted more of the floor boards on the ground floor trying to find the source of the damp that has crept into the floor boards and skirting boards too.  This is what the ground floor looked like on Monday morning.
What our ground floor looks like at the moment. 
It was a sorry sight to come back to from Brussels.  It seems major house repairs are looming.  The insurance people told us the whole floor will have to be removed and replaced and I am dreading it.  We also have a problem with the swimming pool which still hasn’t been repaired and later in the week the central heating was giving us problems.  The plumber came and had to replace something called an “expansion pump”.  Thankfully he repaired it, albeit, for a hefty fee.

On Monday it snowed in Montrondo and I longed to be there.  Manolita, one of the villagers, posted lots of photos of the village after the heavy snowfall.  This is just one. You can see how the village pond is completely covered in snow.  When the Local Spain asked for pictures of snow, I sent them this one and they chose it as their picture of the day. I was very proud of Montrondo.  You can see the link here.
There was lots of snow in Montrondo this week
We couldn’t go this weekend as on Friday I had a meeting at work and on Sunday I am going to Barcelona.  We shall be going after my return next week and I just hope the snow doesn’t melt before we get there.

Meanwhile in Madrid it has been sunny but cold.  There is no snow here and beserkley roses are blooming in our garden. That doesn’t make much seasonal sense. As I always say here; “what has happened to the weather?”
Roses blooming in our garden in February is very odd indeed
On Tuesday I had a meeting in the office. It was to discuss the content for our press conference in Barcelona next week for the annual Mobile World Congress, the biggest telecoms event in the world.  We had booked the venue and sent out the invitation but decided on Tuesday to cancel it as we really have no news to announce since we did a press conference just a few weeks ago.  Instead we shall concentrate on interviews with the local press on our business in the area. That is what I have been working on for most of the week.

It was just after the meeting that Salo, my neighbour in Montrondo, sent me this lovely picture postcard photo of our house in the snow.  It made me want to go even more and I felt frustrated we just couldn’t set off that day.  But we couldn’t unfortunately.
Our house in Montrondo this week with all the snow (it's the stone one in the middle with the wooden shutters).  
I was so busy on Tuesday there was no time for my two walks which was a bit frustrating also.  There was however, time for a quick nap whilst semi watching the lunchtime news. We are always joined by spoiled Pippa who just has to be wherever we are.  I caught her on camera unawares and got these great pictures of her to show you.
Darling Pippa, what more can I say?
At 6.30 I went to Boadilla to have my nails done. María Jose, my beautician, did a lovely job as usual and this is what they looked like when she finished.  My red nails and red lips are my trademark!!!
Red nails are my trademark
But I was in for a surprise when I came home and went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Someone had left the food cupboard slightly open and Norah had done serious damage.  I was furious to see she had gobbled up most of the M+S biscuits, Belgian soft nougat, chocolates and biscuits I had bought in Brussels.  She must have had a huge feast.  Neither Pippa nor Elsa got a look in.
Norah was in trouble this week for raiding  the biscuit cupboard and eating the plumber's sandwich!
As if that wasn’t enough, on Wednesday morning, she did it again.  The plumber came to mend the “expansion pump” and left his car door open.  When Eladio was seeing him off the wrappings of his mid-morning sandwich were all over the floor and Norah had obviously gobbled that up too.  Beagles are notorious for gluttony and it seems they have no gene that tells them when to stop eating.  Oh naughty Norah, she is in serious trouble.  Eladio told me not to feed her on Wednesday morning but I relented and gave her a smaller bowl of dog food.  The biscuits and chocolates will now be on a higher shelf and out of her way in the future. We have learned our lesson.  No doubt she enjoyed her feasts enormously hahaha.

Wednesday was a quiet day working at home.  Eladio was attending to all the various house and pool repairs; poor him, whilst I worked at my desk with Pippa on the sofa and in full sight of all the uplifted floor boards.  I am wondering if we shall have to move our office to the glassed room off our bedroom when it is being repaired. But we shall cross that bridge when we come to it.

Thursday was my fasting day. It was also the day of the week we did our weekly shopping. Actually it will be for 2 weeks or so I hope.  There are 2 full trolleys with enough food for 6 people, 3 dogs and 1 cat to last the household for quite a while I suspect.  Here is Eladio just before he loaded the shopping into the car
Eladio and this week's shopping - enough to feed an army!
As if I hadn't done enough shopping that day, I had to go out again to buy a present for my friend Fátima.  The obvious choice was clothes.  In the end I bought more for me than for her as I got very inspired at Zara, H+M, Sfera and "Algo Bonito".  I bought all these lovely items and thoroughly enjoyed my shopping spree which turned out to be very good retail therapy.  I look forward to wearing some of the new clothes in Barcelona next week at the Mobile World Congress.
A shopping spree on Friday

Working at home on Friday and wearing the new blue top from H+M and a scarf I bought in Brussels
Friday didn't start off well.  I missed a meeting at the office  because my car broke down on the way.  I thought it was a punctured tire but it turned out to be a lack of pressure. No, I hadn't taken any notice of the warning light on the dashboard.  I will next time.

It didn't start off well for me but it was to be a memorable day for Suzy. It was the day she was moving into her new house in Camden in North London.  She has come a long way from when she first went to London nearly 3 years ago now and lived in ghastly crowded accommodation in Whitechapel.   Moving from South Bermondsey to Camden is quite a step up in her life.  In Madrid it would be like moving from Parla to Pozuelo!  It took her all day and we weren't to get a photo until late on Friday night.  Here she is in a taxi with all her stuff including her bike! I can't wait to go and see her. 

Suzy on removal day on Friday, from South Bermondsey to Camden
It was on Friday that I had a birthday lunch with my greatest friend Fátima to celebrate both her birthday in January and mine this month.  Even though we are neighbours we hadn't seen each other since Christmas.  It was a great girly lunch and we talked shop, i.e. about her firm Nokia where I used to work and even Motorola where we first met.  I gave her a blue jumper like the one I am wearing above, with a matching scarf and a striped jumper too.  She gave me the lovely coral coloured cardigan and scarf I am wearing in the photo that illustrates this week's blog post.

She had to leave soon for one of her eternal conference calls.  Nokia has just bought Alcatel Lucent and her new boss is a woman in Ottawa!!!  I can imagine conference calls at all hours.  I was lucky, my work for the week was out of the way and I went to the hairdresser. I have been going to Marco Aldany in Boadilla (Sector B) or many years. This is a chain of hairdressers owned by the family of two ex school friends of Suzy and Oli at St. Michael's School, Zoa and Zeus.  I have found my dream hairdresser there, Merche.  She did my hair on Wednesday 10th Feb, the day before we went to Brussels and it stood the test for 9 days, although I was terribly relieved to wash it after such a long time yesterday.  She did a good job and this time it has to last my stay at the Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona.  I was very pleased with the result although Oli said it looked a little crazy. Well, maybe it is although her friend Copi said I looked like a "pin up".  That was a lovely compliment.  Here is my selfie at Marco Aldany yesterday when Merche finished doing my hair for under 15 euros by the way my dear British friends!
A selfie at Marco Aldany yesterday.  The result is a little eccentric but I like it and it will last more than a week.
It was on Friday afternoon that I finished watching Season 4 of Call the Midwife.  The last episode had me in tears, what with Trixie owing up to being an alcoholic and the beginning of prescribing thalidomide to pregnant mothers with morning sickness.  I shall now have to wait until March until Season 5 is released.  

Being Friday night, Eladio and I went out to dinner. We chose nearby Ginos in Boadilla where we enjoyed a quiet meal together.  Our topic of conversation, as nearly always, was our family.  However we also spoke about the big issue in Europe today, the possibility of "Brexit", the exit of the UK from the EU. It hardly bears thinking about.  Last night an agreement was reached in Brussels where many of the UK concessions were agreed upon. This means that now David Cameron will be able to call a referendum in the summer.    One of the main problems for the UK is the amount of EU immigrants going to live in the UK and receiving benefits.  I commented to Eladio that in Spain no immigrants from any country coming here receive anything and that unemployment benefit is only given for 2 years maximum after having worked for a minimum amount of time.  The benefits the UK has to fork out for British born people is already much higher than most countries of the world and I don't see why they should be offered to non British born citizens who have never even worked there.  Of course they flock there if they are going to get free housing and unemployment benefit from day one.  I don't even understand why Brussels has a problem with this if other countries in the EU do not hand out money left right and centre to anyone arriving in their country from one of the 28 member states.  Really I don't.   All I can say is that I really hope my country stays in the EU.

And today is Saturday.  It's sunny again but bitterly cold.  I shall be doing my two walks, then making lunch for the family.  Tomorrow I am off to Barcelona for this year's Mobile World Congress which is why I am publishing my blog today.

You will be hearing all about my time in the Catalan capital (they have their own Brexit - exit from Spain - issue which I can't understand either).  Meanwhile I hope you have a great weekend.  

Cheers till next time