Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lunch with the Nokia girls, to Barcelona for my first press conference as a freelance communications consultant, Oh my God I turned 60, I’m getting a Mini One Clubman, birthday celebrations with the family and other stories

Sunday 12th February 2017
Me on my birthday on Wednesday at the Genaker Press Conference, ready to go.
Hi everyone. 

Well there is lots to tell this week.  It was a milestone as on Wednesday, believe it or  not, I turned 60! It was also a milestone in my  professional life as a fledgling communications consultant when I organized a press conference in Barcelona on the same day for my new customer, Genaker.

But let me start from where I left off on Sunday 5th February. It was a nasty rainy day and I worked most of it.  I can tell you that as a freelance communications consultant I am working much much harder than I ever did in my previous job. But I'm loving it and feeling motivated.  In fact I feel on top of the world.  That day, apart from drafting the Genaker press release in English for the upcoming press conference, I also worked on my website (yes WIP work in progress).  This is what it's looking like now. I am amazed that it already has some 700 page visits! Later in the week, my dear friend Jacky proof read it for me. Thanks my dear that is much appreciated. I also updated my LinkedIn profile and was delighted to get more recommendations.  My next job is to make visiting cards that match the website and my CV!  I have so much to do setting myself up as self employed you can't imagine. 

Monday was the first day for Suzy working for the NHS as a locum dietitian.  We were to hear nothing but good things about her new job.  She is enjoying it tremendously.  It is varied with lots of different tasks and a very nice welcoming team of dietitians.  I am so happy for her.
That morning I had a daunting task and it was to locate European and global telecoms media contacts to send the Genaker press release in English on Wednesday.  I knew about some publications like Euro Comms and Telecom Europe, Crunch and Wireless magazine but that was about it.  I got them mostly from internet but then I was helped by Beth S an ex colleague from Motorola who is now coincidentally working as chief of press for the association Genaker has just become a member of, TCCA - association for "critical communications" for professional users -  who gave me more names of journalists and their emails.  I was very grateful.  So what is critical communications you may ask if you are not a telecoms engineer like me?Well I've been finding out this week.  I thought Genaker was a professional mobile radio company (traditional walkie talkies) but no they are dedicated to "critical communications".  This is mobile communications for emergency and high security type teams where the communication in groups using avant guard solutions for walkie talkie type devices is critical. The strategy in this field is for the devices to be similar to smartphones but with a button for groups to talk to at the same time (push to talk, "PTT") and even using 4G networks. So what happens when there is little coverage I wondered.? Well, their traffic or use of voice is prioritised above all other users and the operators running the networks have to include something called "quality of service" whereby communication is guaranteed for emergency like teams. Have I explained myself?  I hope so.  So now I am hearing terms like "Mission critical communication solutions" and "Business critical communiation solutions".  No it's nothing like the walkie talkies that the police force, etc. traditionally use.   Not easy to communicate right? Well, here I am trying hahaha. I was to find there was even a magazine called Radio Resource Mission Critical Communications and I was delighted to see they ran our news on Wednesday in this article!!
I had a break from work, although my time was limited and I was on the run all day. On Monday I had a lunch appointment with my group of Nokia girls; a pre birthday celebration really.  Not everyone could come but that day I was joined by Juana, Fátima, Jill, Zenaida and Ana.  Lunch was at El Jardin de la Máquina in Pozuelo.  It used to be La Leyenda but has since been taken over by a new group and they have redone the whole place and it is looking lovely.
And here we are, the "Nokia Girls" having lunch around the table overlooking a beautiful garden.
With the "Nokia girls" at a pre birthday celebration lunch on Monday
The food was good under the new owners. I think we had artichokes and then I had a lovely piece of steak.  None of us was to order a dessert hahaha, until, suddenly a slice of chocolate cake with an M in chocolate drawn on the plate and a candle, appeared on the table. Wow it was for my birthday.
The slice of birthday cake in my honour at teh Nokia girls lunch on Monday
There wasn't just the cake, the girls gave me a present too and I was bowled over to open the box and find a beautiful Michael Kors watch. Isn't it just lovely? It was to be the best present I received for my 60th birthday. Thanks girls, I love it!
The beautiful Michael Kors watch my dear Nokia girlfriends gave to me at our lunch on Monday
I stayed on at the restaurant after lunch with Juana who was to help me install outlook or rather create a new account for me.  She is my own private IT assistant these days hahaha. Well, you see, she is a telcoms engineer and it all comes a lot easier to her. But I am extremely grateful for her help. It wasn't easy as the Yoigo one I had was still on my pc and would need removing.  In fact, I needed to get rid of all the Yoigo stuff from it without losing any content or programmes; something I would do on Thursday.
I rushed home after that, with a quick stop at the Corte Ingles, to make the watch strap smaller, and worked until 9pm when Eladio came back from his afternoon classes. I seemed to have so much to do and can hardly keep up with my lists.
Tuesday came and I was off to Barcelona for my first press conference after Yoigo.  I was joined by darling Gloria from QuintaEsencia my events agency who would set up the event itself. My job was all the press part. No way could I have done both on my own with only 3 weeks to prepare. I was to use "cabify" for the first time that day when I booked one of their taxis to the Atocha train station to catch the "Ave" (high speed train).  It's similar to Uber but with the advantage, at least here in Madrid, that you can book a cab in advance and there are plenty of them.
Both Gloria and I worked on the train throughout the 2.5h journey.  We arrived to 17ºc and sunshine in beautiful Barcelona.  We took a taxi to my hotel, the Catalonia Diagonal Centre which I loved. Thanks Miquel for booking me a room there.  The room was big with a very comfortable bed and had a terrace looking out onto the street, Balmes.  It was around lunch time and before our meeting at my new customer's offices at 4pm, we went to have a meal where we always go when in Barcelona; to "Cal Pinxo" by the Port Vell or next to the Palau de Mar right by the sea and port. Being much more weight conscious these days, I didn't order what I would have loved to eat; "fideua" (like paella but made of thin pasta) but had a sort of gazpacho followed by a salad.  And here we are, Gloria and I in the sun enjoying being in Barcelona.

After lunch was my first face to face meeting with Genaker with the CEO and founders, Miquel, Jordi and David all ex Nokia employees.  Gloria joined us and we went over the final materials for the press conference the next day as well as other projects I will be working on for them.  It was so nice to see my ex colleague Miquel who I consider much more a friend than a colleague and I am openly grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to work with him.  He and my second customer gave me the idea of becoming self employed as a freelance communications consultant. But Nokia is in both our hearts and when I spotted a Nokia flag in the meeting room, I had to have a photo with dear Miquel.  And here we are together.
With Miquel my first customer in his offices in Barcelona on Tuesday
Our meeting ended at about 5.30 and I had to rush off to the other end of town where I was meeting Toñi, a freelance journalist friend and her delightful 3 year old toddler.  Toñi has been a faithful friend always coming to my press conferences and events in Barcelona and the next day she would be there too.  Unexpectedly for me, we were joined by another close journalist friend, Carmen who works for a big Catalan newspaper, El Periodico de Cataluña.  I have known them both since my days in Motorola.  Toñi and Carmen have their own media portal called "Gadwoman" (a technological site for women) which I love and I think and hope is doing very well.  It's very fitting that they set it up, as they are both very techy women journalists hahaha. And here is a photo to remember that moment, the 3 of us together in Barcelona last Tuesday.
With Carmen (in the middle) and Toñi (right). Lovely to see them in Barcelona last Tuesday
Before winding down that day or night, I had to work hard contacting journalists to confirm their attendance the next day.  Gloria, helped by Julia from QuintaEsencia who was in town for another customer, did most of the hard work and it wasn't easy.  There are not as many journalists from the technological or economic sectors plus there are many other stories for them to cover. Whey would they find the story of Genaker interesting and come to the press conference if, for example, "Gas Natural" (the big gas company with its HQ in Barcelona) were holding a press conference at the same time the next day. Thankfully though by the end of the day we had a list of 9 journalists, most of them heavyweights. 

Thus I was able to wind down properly at dinner that night.  We chose to go to Acontraluz, a beautiful little place with a super terrace and garden where we had hosted the Yoigo party at the Mobile World Congress in 2015.  We had a lovely dinner reminiscing and telling Julia about all the years we had worked together with Gloria and her sisters Bea and Cristina since the 90's, from Motorola, to Nokia, then to Yoigo and now to Genaker and whoever comes next hahaha. It was lovely to be back at AContraluz and the owner remembered us.  Both Gloria and Julia insisted I have a glass of wine and that we should wait up till midnight for them to be the first to wish me a happy birthday. Their wish was granted and here we are in the taxi going back to my hotel at exactly midnight, when I turned 60.
Midnight on 7th Feb with Gloria and Julia just as the clock struck 12 and I was suddenly aged 60!
The girls hugged and kissed me and then the messages started.  I would not be able to keep up with them until a few days later. 

So suddenly I was 60. Well, I didn't feel any different. In fact I don't think I look 60. Women today at 60 look a lot younger than our mothers or grandmothers did at 60. So I'm just one of the new generation of 60 year old baby boombers and feeling and looking good. I feel more like 40 with boundless energy and so much will power and motivation and I suppose "joie de vivre".  So yes I am 60 and accept it with grace but wonder how it happened and where the years have alk gone. 

On the big day, my 60th and the day of my first press conference as a communications consultant, I woke up at 5 in the morning with a big headache thanks to the wine the night before. I had plenty of time to have breakfast and get ready for my big day.  I was wondering how it would pan out. It was so wierd being in Barcelona on my birthday and I was missing my family with whom I would normally have been enjoying a celebratory breakfast. It was by the way also Jordi's birthday and David's daughter's.  Of course it was also Copi and Juan's birthday too.  I hope they all had great days like me. That morning, alone in my hotel bedroom, I had a present to open.  A little parcel had arrived for me at home a few days earlier with strict instructions not to open until 8th February. So I took it to Barcelona to open that day. My dear friend Jackie had sent me a book "Now we are 60" hahah and a lovely birthday card, both of which you can see in the photo below.

Jacky's original birthday card and book

Yes it was my birthday but my mind was only concentrated on the press conference.  I was worried, yes very worried, the journalists wouldn't turn up and that all our impeccable work organising the press materials and event itself would be for nothing.  It was touch and go mostly because the company Genaker is so little known outside its sector. That would make an awful impression on my new customer and would put any future work with them in jeopardy.
I arrived early at the location, the Restaurante Tuset near my hotel. It was the same place I had organised the Yoigo press conference at the Mobile World Congress in 2015 to launch the "Sinfin" tariff and which had brought me so much luck.

When I got there Gloria and Julia had already set everything up and it was looking beautiful.  All the press kits were arranged on tables for breakfast with "bunches" of tempting looking sweets". It was, by the way, Genaker's first set of merchandising I think.
The press kit for Genaker's first press conference
Miquel, Jordi and David soon arrived and we started a photo shoot using the special photo call we had made for the occasion.  But before we did it, Miquel who had brought his daughters, Laura and Nora along, presented me with a lovely birthday present, a bottle of pink Moet Chandon and a box of Belgian chocolates.  I was very touched. Then the shoot began with me clutching the presents. The photo illustrating this week's post is of me standing by the photo call.  
With my customers, holding the lovely birthday present from Miquel
Miquel, my friend, my ex Nokia colleague and now my customer
So everything was set up and we were ready but not one journalist had made an appearance. At 10.25 I was outside on the street with Gloria praying to the heavens they would turn up.  And they did, late of course, as is typical of journalists. One by one they came from El Mundo, Expansión, El Periódico de Cataluña, Netmedia, Gadwoman, La Vanguardia and most important of all; Agencia Efe, the main Spanish news agency.  A newswire from the latter would guarantee coverage in most of Spain's media and it did thank goodness.  Yep we only had 7 but as I said before, they were heavyweights.
The journalists at our press conference
And so it started.  First I welcomed everyone and then introduced the founders of Genaker and the story of the day, then I handed over the microphone to Miquel who did the presentation we had so lovingly made for them.
The press conference begins.
It went well and the news that Genaker , the Spanish mobile communications company, had been awarded an EU 1.3m euro grant for innovation went down well.  The company scored the highest marks out of 2000 competing from all over Europe.  There were plenty of questions and meanwhile I sent out the press release in English to the European media and the Spanish version to my data base.  In parallel we tweeted the news too.
When it was over and the journalists had left, all apart from Elena from the Spanish news agency who was writing her newswire, it was time to leave ourselves.  I was happy with how everything had gone as were my customers which for me, was the main objective.  Miquel invited Julia, Gloria and I for a celebration and birthday lunch. He couldn't have taken us to a better place than One Ocean Club in the Port Vell and literally on top of the sea. It is apparently the most fashionable place to be seen in Barcelona these days and it was new to me.  The sun was shining and lunch was to be wonderful.  Thanks Miquel for taking us there.
At One Ocean club in Barcelona where we had lunch on my birthday
Through the delicious food (I had a thai beef salad followed by scallops and coconut ice cream for dessert!) we talked non stop. I told the story of how I came to live in Spain and met my husband Eladio and Miquel told us his story of how he went to live in Finland, married a Finn and worked for Nokia and his return to Spain.  We talked so much, it was suddenly 4.15 and our train was at 4.30 so we had to rush but thankfully caught it by the skin of our teeth.
Once on board, I started seeing all the online press coverage from the event. Wow that was a thrill.  I spent most of the 2.5h non stop journey trying to send photos from the photo shoot to newspapers.  It was very frustrating as the mobile phone coverage on the train is extremely poor. I would have loved to read and answer all the birthday messages, more than 190 on Facebook and nearly 70 whatsapps but that would have to wait.
We arrived at the Atocha train station at around 7pm and I ordered another efficient Cabify taxi and was home just before 8pm. That day I was wearing the lovely Custo designer dress I had bought after copying Olivia.  Well, guess what?  When I got home I found her wearing hers. It was such a funny moment.  Here we are mother and daughter wearing the same dress on the same day. What a laugh.
Oli and I wearing the same dress on my birthday hahaha
I couldn't believe the amount of presents waiting for me on the sofa in our study/office.  Then Eladio arrived and it was time to open them.  In the middle, my darling Danish princess, Pernille, once our au pair, called me to wish me a happy birthday.  That was the most important call of the day. Thank you my darling. I love you and hope you and Thomas will come to my official 60th birthday party at home in June.
Normally we open our birthday presents at a breakfast birthday together but that was not to be.  There was a very big one I was told came from my events agency QuintaEsencia and oh how lovely it was; a box with the number 60 on it and all the kit they thought a communications consultant would need including a personalised note book and visiting cards, along with a photo of us together, a mug, a big smile sign, an apron and last but not least, an invitation to have lunch on Monday at De María in Majadahonda. I was literally bowled over.  This is what it looked like. They are so creative.  Thank you girls so so so much. I loved the box and all the content.
The beautiful 60th birthday kit from QuintaEsencia
Then I opened Oli's presents, a lovely dress, a belt and a dressing gown.  Of course I knew what Eladio's presents would be as I had bought them myself haha; two mini skirts, a very British red soldier like jacket and 2 jumpers from Zara. I immediately put on the black mini skirt and black jumper with pearls on it for dinner. We would be going to El Buey in Boadilla to celebrate.
Meanwhile however, our very first Airbnb guests arrived, Camilla and Julia from Italy.  This is my Airbnb advert by the way. They were here to do a course on sports physiotherapy as part of their degree at the nearby UEM University where Olivia studied. They were lost, as is not surprising in this maze like neighbourhood, so I grabbed the Yoigo mini and went to find them.
Dinner was good and quiet and it was nice to be alone with Eladio and Oli finally on my 60th birthday. Just Suzy and my Father were missing. That night I was literally exhausted and fell asleep soon although, as usual, the next day, Thursday, I was awake at 6 a.m.

I woke up to more press coverage including the international press which made me so happy.  I couldn't believe just how much there was for such a small company.  Yes, I had achieved my objective of beginning to build their public image. And I hope I can do even more for them.
Just some of the media coverage garnered for Genaker from the press conference
I had loads to do that day, including going to Yoigo for the first time since before I was fired. I had to take in my pc which they had let me keep and it needed being cleared of the Yoigo profile but keeping all the other content which I had. Dear Marius from the IT department did it for me.  It was strange going there again.  A few weeks ago I didn't want to go as I felt so down after being axed but Thursday was different.  I was a new woman with my life on a new path and things looking good. It was just so wonderful to see and greet my favourite colleagues, Dragutin, Antonio, Belén, Tony, Pedro, María, María Luisa, Gonzalo, Ana Isabel, Juan and many more.  In fact I stayed there most of the morning and agreed with many of them that in a couple of weeks time I shall host a goodbye dinner with all of them.  You see Yoigo is still in my heart, the good parts that is, after 10 exciting years.  The first 6 while my ex CEO Johan was there were the very best and I shall always remember them.
I came to have a quick lunch then had to spend time restoring a lot of things on my pc, the centre of my work of course.  I had to install an antivirus and many other things. Thankfully Juana was there on the other end of the phone to help with a problem with opening some of my files.  I also talked to my fiscal advisor and was horrified to hear that as a freelance I would be having to pay 1000 euros per month for social security.  To become one I would have to capitlise the dole but would be a lot worse off for doing so. Being an "autónomo" - self employed - here has few advantages.  So my future is not looking so rosy after all.
On Friday morning it snowed. Amazing right? It was so cold and wet but the snow didn't settle as it never really does in Madrid. At 10 a.m. I had a meeting with Robert, the policeman from Gibraltar.  He had seen me on TV and wanted to sound me out on an idea he has to relocate British companies to Spain after Brexit.  I'm not sure how I can help him apart from offering my communications services which I told him about.  When he left I stayed behind at the lovely Alverán cake shop and ordered my birthday cake for the family celebrations on Saturday. I also bought a tray full of croissants, etc for breakfast the next day.
Then we did something exciting.  Eladio and I went to the BMW showroom in Madrid, the biggest in Spain, to see Luis Felipe, the guy who sells all the cars to Yoigo and from whom we got my now ex BMWX6.  He was so welcoming. I wanted a mini but was also interested in seeing what other cars were on offer; the kilometre 0 types or even second hand ones. He wanted me to buy a BMW Series 1 but I wasn't for it. We went for a basic Mini One but with all the extras; automatic drive, sat nav, rear parking camera, etc.  There were various models and it was Eladio who insisted I get a superior one with all my extras, the Mini One Clubman. It was more expensive than what we had budgeted for but Eladio said I deserved it hahaha. How sweet of him. There and then I gave him a huge hug in the show room in front of all the sales guys. I saw it there in pepper white (sort of ivory) and fell for it. And there and then we ordered it.  It will take 2 months to be delivered. I was delighted. Later I realised that this car would be the first brand new car I had ever bought for myself, as all the others have either been second hand or company cars.  The Mini, still made in Oxford, although by BMW, is such a British car and I think suits me to the tee.  Don't you. This is what it looks like.

On Friday we ordered a brand new Mini One Clubman for me with all the accessories

We were home really late for lunch but happy with our morning.  In the afternoon Eladio went off to his classes and I went on my walk with Pippa.  At about 7.30pm just as I was getting into my pyjamas, Oli rang to ask if I would accompany her to the Centro Oeste shopping centre where she had to buy a black handbag for Copi's birthday from her and Elena and Elena's boyfriend Antuan.  Centro Oeste is a dangerous place to be as there are so many temptations.  We looked for bags but before Oli bought one, we bought clothes at a lovely little boutique called La Provenza. There I fell in love with a pair of skinny jeans covered in pearls. I couldn't believe I could get into them. Oli would be wearing them for Copi's birthday, along with my new watch and several other things of mine too hahaha.  We also got some food for dinner and for my birthday lunch at Carrefour and came home to have a great meal with Eladio. Before we watched Netflix we had a long chat with Suzy thanks to whatsapp and we were so pleased to hear how happy she is with her new job. You deserve it darling. She told me that her new boss called "Pavita" (little turkey in Spanish hahahha) who may be Indian, is very happy with her having said she, Suzy, is very enthusiastic and that they need enthusiastic people in her team of dietitians. She even got her NHS email. Well done my sweetie.
The family birthday breakfast on Saturday morning was as good as it gets. I stuffed my face on croissants, donut, toast with butter and "napolitanas" (a chocolate pastry).  And here I am doing so hahaha.
Saturday morning birthday breakfast
The day was busy. I had to do the food shopping in the morning, pick up my cake and make the lunch.  Lunch was Oli's choice as I just couldn't think what I wanted. It's funny after so much dieting I should have cravings but I don't. In the end we had home made mini hamburgers with chips. Very naughty but very nice. It was accompanied by a vintage bottle of Rioja Ramón Bilbao 2011, all very wow and fitting for the occasion.
Birthday lunch on Saturday
The pièce de résistance was not the wonderful fresh fruit, fresh cream and white chocolate birthday cake from Arvelán but the candles Oli got for it.  Oh my they were fun. Oli took a video of me lighting them which you can see here. It really was a hilarious moment and I love her video of me getting as excited as a child. You see I've always loved fireworks.
The hilarious birthday cake moment yesterday
I hadn't eaten so much in ages and all I wanted afterwards was a long siesta which I got.  I didn't wake up until 5.30.  I worked for while until Oli came back from the hairdresser when we went on a much needed walk together with Pippa.
Last night we started watching Season 2 of Happy Valley on Netflix, the detective series set in my beloved Yorkshire and starring Sarah Lancashire. I think we watched 2 episodes and then fell asleep.
I was up early again this morning, although slightly later than usual, at 6.25.  The Italian girls were leaving and I offered to drive them to the University as it was raining and they needed to be on time for an exam that morning.  By car it's a 5 to 10 minute drive but by bus it is a lot longer. They told me they would be back as they loved the room, our house, the dogs and said I was very kind. Well that was nice and it's good to know I shall have them again as guests. They were my first airbnb guests and just the sort I would like to host.
And today is 12th February, a significant date in my mind. It was my brother George's birthday or would have been as he sadly passed away of melanoma in 2001.  Poor George, I just wish he had been as lucky as me but he wasn't. He lives on in my heart as he does in my Father's. I will be remembering him all day.
I don't want to leave on a sad note, so let me tell you that today we shall be having lunch with Benito and Loli, our friends from the days we first came to live in Madrid.  We look forward to it.
And I am looking forward to another busy week which will start with a lunch with QuintaEsencia on Monday. Of course you will hear all about it in next week's post.
So, cheers till next Sunday everyone,
All the best/Masha

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