Saturday, October 22, 2016

Week 3 of the Pronokial diet, Oli in a hot air balloon, Pakistani blue eyed tea seller turns model, remembering Aberfan, off to Montrondo for another family wedding,

Sunday 23rd October 2016
With Pippa on our walk on Friday afternoon
Good morning all from Montrondo.

It is Saturday morning and we are here for the weekend or rather we have come to celebrate my niece Laura’s wedding to her fiancé Dani.  Actually they got married in a registry office in the middle of the week with just their parents and god parents. There will be a family lunch in León today to celebrate.  It’s our 4th wedding this year, after Lucia’s, Miguel’s and Paula’s.  More about it later.

The week was quiet but intensive, work wise, especially to do with the merge after MásMóvil bought Yoigo in which I am involved and affected as are all the employees, 420 from our new owner and 100 from Yoigo.  Imagine the challenges but there are also lots of synergies.

Let me start from where I left off last Sunday.  It was a quiet day at home and it was nice to be joined by Oli.  The two of us went shopping to El Corté Inglés where we went to pick up a watch of mine which had been repaired.  Of course once there we did some shopping.  It’s such an amazing store; as soon as you go in you are tempted by so much.  Later we had dinner together and we all watched Jordi Evole’s Salvados documentary on the plight of migrants at sea in the Mediterranean.  I had expected so much more from this singular and popular journalist but I was disappointed.  I really should have watched a rival channel’s first episode of a documentary on the reunion of the participants 15 years on of Operación Triunfo (successful reality singing talent show). 
Just loved the Operación Triunfo reunion
Thanks to the internet I was able to watch it the next day and loved every minute of it.  You can see it here. I can imagine my Finnish friend Anne adoring every moment of it as it was aired when she lived here when she worked for Nokia Spain and she watched it every week. The whole of Spain fell in love with the participants; especially the finalists, the winner Rosa and runners up, David Bustamante, David Bisbal, Chenoa and Manu Tenorio.  I look forward to episode two on Sunday which again I shall probably watch online later.

On Monday, the end of week 2 of my Pronokal diet, I got on the scales.  The week before I had lost 2 kilos and was hoping for another 2 to be shed. I was disappointed when I had only gone down 900 grammes.  Luckily I weighed myself on Friday morning too and had gone down a further 400 making the total weight loss so far 3.8 kilos.  I am certainly noticing it in my clothes. I can even notice it in my hands as my wedding ring is looser.  I am feeling great although I have to admit the diet is probably the most difficult I have ever done but I shall stick to it, come what may. Soon you will see the slimmer Masha. Then we will see how long it lasts hahaha.

One of the things I did on Monday was go to the appointment with the social security office to get the 2 years I had been on the dole in 1999 and 2005 incorporated into my “vida laboral” (work life register) which are important for my future pension.  Oh the bureaucracy!  I had to fight at the office in Alcorcón where I was told I should have gone to the one in Majadahonda.  On the automated phone call to book the appointment because of my post code I was sent to Alcorcón. So we protested and thankfully got this office to do the paperwork.  At least we found out that those 2 years are on their system but now we have to wait probably more than a month for them to appear on the register.  And I will get no notification and will have to find out myself when that happens. What a stupid system!!!  We came home feeling cross.  I can’t stand bureaucracy and old fashioned systems and wish the Spanish administration would keep up with the times. One phone call or an app on mobile phones should do the job as happens in other more modern countries.

Tuesday was a historic one for Yoigo.  The Swedes were coming to say goodbye and I had arranged the employee event where we all get together and which I call Yoigo Mornings. I invented them at Nokia and they are a great success. It was a historic day as it would be the last one we would celebrate as a Yoigo team of employees as we have been bought by a small Spanish operator. 
Our last Yoigo Morning was on Tuesday
When the final negotiations took place a few weeks ago, I wrote here that I had missed a goodbye from our previous owners, TeliaSonera (now called The Telia Company). Well we got it on Tuesday but were all a little bit disappointed as we had hoped for some token of recognition for our efforts over the last 10 years to build Yoigo to what it is today; a company that has nearly 4 million customers with just 100 employees.  But Swedes are Swedes and all we got was a cup of coffee and some snacks, none of which I could partake in because of my Pronokal diet.

Work went on and that morning there was a press release issued by the BNB branch Cetelem to announce financing of our terminals to customers.

I also had a tense time that morning over, who in the future would be in charge of events; my domain and something I have been doing for 10 years with great success. On Wednesday, a wet and nasty day,  I would be notified in very unusual terms that this area would be removed to a new super department.  The whole episode left me feeling rather orphaned.

If it wasn’t a good day for me, it was an interesting one for Oli.  This week she has been shooting stories for the next programme she is preparing for Mi Cámara y Yo which will be about tourism in Madrid.  Wednesday saw her with a group of retired British tourists visiting Chinchón, a pretty village outside Madrid.  She sent a selfie with them  to greet me. It made me laugh.
Oli with the British tourists in Chinchón
I’m sure Oli would have been interested in my favourite news item of the day; the blue eyed tea seller from Islamabad who turned model after his photo was instagrammed.  He is just so good looking.  18 year old Arshad Khan, a tea seller (chai wala) at a bazar in Islamabad was photographed by Javeria Ali, a young photographer who loves to capture human life. When she saw Arshad pouring the tea she was struck by how good looking he was and posted her picture on Instagram.
The blue eyed Pakistani tea seller
It immediately became an internet sensation and now she has become a famous photographer with the photo she took being compared to the famous one of the Afghan girl. Arshad’s fate was immediately affected by the internet fame and soon he was snapped up by a modelling agency and now has a contract with them. 
The tea seller (chai wala) turned model
He looks a lot more attractive in his work shirt than he does as a model, don’t you think? The Chai Wala who previously earned 60 euros a month for selling tea will now see his earnings rise astronomically and he and his big family saved from poverty and all because of his blue eyes and this wonderful picture.  The power of internet is amazing.

Thursday was a long and tiring day for me.  I had an intense day which started before sunrise and ended long after sunset.  It was spent mostly in a hotel room in the centre of Madrid and was focused on the integration of the two, or rather three companies, as the small operator Pepephone had also been acquired.  As usual the majority of the attendants were men.  There was a lot of energy at the beginning of the day but as the time passed it waned.  You can only take in so much information in a few hours, when they drag on your attention span drops but the organisers were a consultancy and I think they have never learned the basics of how to capture an audience’s attention when a meeting goes on for so long.  The best thing about the day was getting to know so many new colleagues.
The work day in a hotel on Thursday which lasted from sunrise to after sunset
Oli’s day was much more exciting. On Thursday she went up in a hot air balloon with a group of Japanese tourists near Segovia. 
Oli in the hot air balloon this week
It was to be her first ever experience.  I warned her that hot air balloons are very sensitive to wind.  I remember bringing one over from the UK to Málaga many years ago for a Motorola event.  Due to wind, wind which as person standing outside you would probably not even notice, it never took off and had to be tethered. I have never used one ever again in an event. Luckily Ol’s did take off although they had to wait from 7 to 11 in the morning for the balloon to fly. Here she is with the Japs:-)
Oli with the group of Japanese tourists by the hot air balloon this week
I didn’t get home that day until past 8 in the evening and had to continue work when I got home.  The next day we were sending out a press release on Yoigo’s earnings for the third quarter of the year.  These earnings were still under the ownership of the Swedes and would be our last results with the company.  The press release needed lots of fine tuning until it was ready to be released on Friday morning at 7.15 am.  Yes, the Swedes do things early hahaha.  Thankfully I was up early as usual and the release went like clockwork. The best thing is that the results were good and earnings had risen.  We got lots of articles like this one from El Economista.

Friday was the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan tragedy when a coal tip collaped over the village of Aberfan in South Wales, mostly hitting the Pantglas Junior school.  It happened at about 9 in the morning on 21st October 1966 just after assembly and on the last day of school before half term.  It killed 116 children and 28 adults.  Those who died, had no chance and those who survived have lived with the memory for ever afterwards as has the whole village. 
A picture of the aftermath of the Aberfan coal tip disaster 50 years ago
When it happened I was aged 9, like many of the children who died in their class rooms suffocating from the terrible onrush of the slurry which came down the hill and swamped the school and nearby houses.  I remember the story on the news.  It was a national disaster and one that has gone in history and will never be forgotten.  I had been reading all about the disaster in the last few weeks as the anniversary was coming up.  My memory was sketchy and I wanted to find out what happened.  I came across a book by survivor Gaynor Madgwick who lost her brother and sister in the tragedy.  Her account is harrowing but well written if you really want to know what happened which was my case.  
The book I have been reading this week.
The tragedy doesn't bear believing.  How awful to be starting your day at school, having said goodbye to your parents in the morning and then never to return or to have to survive that terrible accident.  RIP Aberfan victims. May nothing similar ever happen again. 

With thoughts of the anniversary on my mind, we left for Montrondo on Friday morning just after 10 am.  There was to be no stop at Rueda for the usual glass of wine and ham thanks to the Pronokal diet.  It took just 3.5 hours to arrive, most of which I spent working thanks to my mobile phone.

We arrived to brilliant sunshine and a welcome from José Antonio, Dolores, their daughter and her baby Lucas.  After settling in and having lunch, Dolores and I went for a long walk to Murias and back via our new walk, a real discovery. 
A selfie with Dolores on our walk on Friday afternoon
 t's a good 1.5h with beautiful scenery.  Montrondo was looking lovely with the beginning of autumn colours to be seen everywhere.
Autumn colours in the sunshine on Friday in Montrondo.
Oli had requested a photo of me with Pippa and Dolores obliged. And that's the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. 
It was wonderful to be back in Montrondo where I could get away from "it all" and relax and wind down.  I couldn't believe the sunshine and on the way back took off my cardigan and walked in my short sleeves. Imagine!  It had been raining and cold when we left Madrid in the morning.

Once home I offered  tea and biscuits to everyone and we all enjoyed time in our kitchen catching up on our news. Sara's baby is now 8 months old and is such fun to watch.

As the evening progressed it got colder.  We had the central heating on but feeling a little chilly I decided to use our claw foot bath tub.  It would be only the second time I was to use it.  But wow did I enjoy the hot bath. The shape of the tub is very ergonomic and is very comfortable to lie in. Pippa wondered why I wanted to be inside as she shuns water hahaha.

When I was dry and dressed in my pyjamas, I came upstairs to find Eladio had lit the fire.  It looked so warm and welcoming.
Eladio lit the fire on Firday night, the day of our arrival
After a very frugal dinner, we sat down to watch the news followed by the last two episodes of the American TV series we have been watching recently; American Odyssey. 
The TV series we have been watching this week on Netflix
It's an intriguing thriller about the American military forces against Al Qaeda and the corporate power and money that funds terrorists to force war and increase the business of the sale of arms. It's not as good as Homeland, the script is sometimes silly, but the story is riveting. We finished the series last now and are now feeling a little orphaned and missing the main characters. Let's see what our next Netflix TV series is to be. 

Saturday came and brought mist and rain. I was up at 7.15 and Pippa and I had breakfast together after which she sat on the couch whilst I started writing this week's post.

Meanwhile Oli and Miguel were on the high speed train to León from Madrid and would be arriving at 11.45. 
Oli and Miguel on the high speed train to León from Madrid on Saturday morning
Back in Montrondo we got ready to go to the wedding. We had been told the dress code was free and informal but we were in for a surprise as when we got there nearly everyone was dressed up to the nines.  It was apparently a last minute decision we were not told about. 

The sky was grey and it was raining and would be doing so all day.  We arrived in León at the Hotel Las Infantas where the wedding lunch would take place, just after 1.15.  Shortly we were joined by Oli and Miguel who were also informally dressed. Then all the very dressed up guests trickled in.  The bride in the end had decided to wear a proper wedding dress which was short and made of a beige lacy fabric.  She looked radiant with her handsome husband.  That was the moment we chose to give them our present.  Remember the one I told you about last weekend.  The present was a basket full of household goods from Zara Home which I hope they like.  Here they are happy to receive it.
The bride and groom receiving our present
The dining room was set out beautifully and the food I was told was fantastic.  It certainly looked like it. But I wasn't to taste it.  My will power prevailed and I had ordered a plate of asparagus followed by another one of grilled mushrooms and courgette.  It was rather frustrating not to be able to enjoy the food at the wedding but you see I didn't want to break my diet, especially as my next doctor's appointment is on Monday. 

I couldn't indulge in the lovely array of sweets on display either.  Those who enjoyed it most were my great nieces, Diana and little Lidia who were impatient for the moment to come when they could they could eat them haha.
The sweet display at the wedding reception on Saturday
The music was provided by Eladio's brother, Alejandro, who plays the accordion and Miguel, Oli's cameraman boyfriend, was in charge of the photos. I haven't seen them yet so unfortunately cannot include any of them here today.

Dancing started soon after the lunch.  Eladio and I are terrible dancers whereas all the rest of his family are born dancers.  Even so, we got up and did our best.  It was the snake dance I liked best of course as there are no steps to follow hahaha.  The bride was the main protagonist yesterday but it was our youngest great niece, Lidia, who stole the show.  She has so much personality and is a little devil but such fun.  Olivia, who adores kids, enjoyed her company immensely.  Here they are together in the foyer of the hotel.
Oli with little Lidia
They would dance together too as you can see in the photo below.
Oli dancing with little Lidia
The group photo was a bit of a disaster. Not everyone was there and I had to go and find Eladio to get him to join.  However when I found him the shoot was over. I only got a shot of when the group started getting together hahaha. Note my mother-in-law aged 94 who is at the front.  She had a grand time. She always loves family gatherings.
Trying to get the wedding guests together for a group photo. 
We didn't leave until nearly 7pm.  I guess the drinking and dancing would go on much later but we had to go as we had left Pippa stuck in the house since 12 that morning.  She was delighted to see us and I felt guilty for having left her behind. If Spain was a more dog friendly country she could have come with us.  

We were all tired and were soon in our pyjamas; well, Oli, MIguel and I were, and it was time for dinner.  No one was very hungry so I just made a simple meal of salad and scrambled eggs. Needless to say my dinner was more bl**** vegetables. This diet is so so hard.  

Netflix was the evening entertainment. We watched a rather violent film called Olympus has Fallen about an attack on the White House until it was time to go to bed.

And today is Sunday and it is still dark outside.  It will be even darker next Sunday when the clocks go back. It is raining again and I can only imagine we shall go for a long and wet walk. Yesterday, unfortunately, there was no time for one.

We shall be leaving Montrondo after lunch and tomorrow will be back to routine and work.  

So, my friends, I have come to the end of this week's tales and it only remains to wish you all a great week ahead and sign off until next time.

Cheers all

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Summer officially over at our house, week 2 of the Pronokal diet, Samsung hit hard, National Day of Spain, singer Bob Dylan wins Nobel prize for literature, Michelle Obama hits out at Donald Trump for sexual assault bragging and other stories.

Sunday 16th October 2016
Me the corporate woman, ready for battle this week
Hi again everyone,

It's been a pretty uneventful week.  My main priority now is my diet and it is sort of ruling my life.  I'm half way through the first strict phase and sticking it out.  I cannot say it is easy but I know it will produce the desired results.

Sunday was spent dieting of course and at home.  It was on Sunday that I found out about a famous French singer called Marina Kaye.  
Marina Kaye, the French singer and daughter of my friend Pasquale.
An Italian friend from long ago, Pasquale, who used to attend the Norwich Russian courses where my parents taught, found me on internet and wrote me an email. In that email he told me had a daughter called Marina Kaye who sang well.  Sang well?  She won the French equivalent of Britain's Got Talent aged just 13!  Today she is 18 and is most famous for her song Homeless.  He must be so proud.

The main news at the weekend was about Hurricane Matthew.  It left over a 1000 dead in Haiti, that already ravished and poor country.  It did damage elsewhere but Haiti was worst hit.  

Of note on Sunday we started watching a new TV series on Netflix, after having finished Season 4 of House of Cards.  It's Marcella, a UK detective series and pretty good but nowhere near as so as The Fall. I was jealous to hear that season 3 is being shown on TV back home.  Can't wait to see it.  

Monday was not the best day of the week.  It started with a complicated conference call come interview with a journalist about 5G technology.  The interview coincided with the news that our new mother company, Másmóvil, had reached an agreement with Orange for national roaming, to include fibre too.  But just a note was sent to the MAB (sub market of the Madrid stock exchange).  I wondered whether gone were the days when, with Yoigo, we would have organised a big event for the occasion. 

The worst news of the week came on Monday, my best friend F. had been "impacted" by the labour force adjustment plan after the purchase of Alcatel Lucent by Nokia.  It seems so unfair that they are firing more employees from Alcatel than from Nokia.  She is a single mother in her  mid 50's with a teenage daughter and a dependent mother living with her and has worked there for 16 years.  You would think they would choose more carefully who is to be "impacted" - that by the way was the word they used when the rang her to give her the bad news! Julio and I had lunch with her to talk over the situation.  F. is a trained lawyer and I know she will fight this battle and hopefully be readmitted. Meanwhile we are both there for her for morale support and advice.  Life is so unfair

It was lovely weather on Monday and on Tuesday but rain was forecast for Wednesday.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Eladio, helped by Salud, making preparations to close down the swimming pool for the season. That for me marked the end of the summer at our house at least. 
Eladio about to cover the pool for the winter
I always hate the moment the pool gets covered for the winter.  

It was certainly not summer in Zurich where Suzy had been for a 5 day visit to see a friend the girls had made in their recent trip to Nicaragua.  You can tell it was cold from the clothes the girls are wearing in the picture below.
The girls well wrapped up in Zurich
They returned on Tuesday. I haven't spoken to Suzy for a while so look forward to hearing her impressions of her short trip but expensive trip to Switzerland. It must have been even more expensive for her than I had forecast with the drop in the pound.  Since I wrote about the plummeting of the sterling currency, it has only got worse.  In some places it has a lower value than the euro and looks to be set on course to be on par with the currency the country never wanted to join. Maybe that was their downfall.
The pound is in deep "sh**".
That night was the premiere of Olivia's colleague Amaya Rey's first programme for Mi Cámara y Yo.  You see they do alternate weeks and on Monday it was her turn.  
Oli's colleague, co- reporter for Mi Cámara y Yo, Amaya R.
The stories in the programme were about lingering but successful corner shops in Madrid which you can see here. Next Monday will be Oli's turn and the stories will be about Madrid rooftops which I think I mentioned last week. 
A still from the programme Oli was preparing this week about Madrid rooftops
You can see the video clip promoting it here too.  Maybe you get sick of me promoting Oli and her TV programmes, but you see she is my daughter and I'm proud of her and she is part of this blog hahaha.   But most of all I'm happy that she is happy in her new job and gets on so well with many of her colleagues. She seems to be having fun which is great.  So pleased for you sweetie.

Tuesday brought good news.  It was the day of reckoning in my diet.  I had started the Tuesday before and it was time to weigh myself. I was delighted I had shed 2 whole kilos.  I had also lost 5cm around my waist.  I was as pleased as punch and the numbers on the scales were to spur me on for week 2.  It was good to see the diet was working.  I was making extra sure it would too by doing 2 walks a day instead of 1.  I hope and pray that on next Tuesday I have lost another 2 kilos but I won't know until then. Little did I know it but that would be the last day I did my walks in my shorts in the sun and the last day I read outside by the swimming pool in the early evening.  Yeah summer was about to be over. 

You might be interested to know what I eat for the diet. Well here is a photo of my dinner last Tuesday which is pretty much the same every night.  It's very green isn't it hahaha?
My Pronokial diet dinner on Tuesday night
If Tuesday brought good news for me it brought terrible news for the Korean electronics giant and mobile phone main player, Samsung. Their recently launched Galaxy Note 7 had to be recalled due to exploding batteries.  On Tuesday after reports of more exploding phones from the replacement ones, the company decided to permanently scrap producing the flagship phone.  Ouch! 
The flagship Samsung Galaxy S7 gone up in flames. Terrible PR for the company and brand
That's pretty much a first in mobile phone history I can tell you and I know.  They have made huge losses financially but it's the long term that counts.  They issued the shortest press release I have ever seen which said: “For the benefit of consumers’ safety, we have stopped sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note 7 and have consequently decided to permanently stop production.”

 Their PR was very bad with a total lack of transparency and it will not only have damaged the company's pocket but it image.  I can only imagine Apple laughing in the sidelines.  Their pocket, by the way, or rather their market value was decreased in one go by 18 billion dollars!!!!! 

Wednesday was a "fiesta" or a "bank holiday" and a day off for Oli for once in her working life.  It was so nice to have her at home.  12th October is Spain's national day but it is not celebrated here like it is in France or the US and I have never understood why.  Spaniards are not proud of being Spanish. Well I think they should be. There is so much going for this country but Spaniards tend to criticise themselves and their country far too much. They are great grumblers yet lovely people.  
The Spanish flag people here are not proud of

It doesn't help that their flag is a symbol of fascism.  So there weren't many flags out on Wednesday except at the military parade for Armed Forces Day which is also held on this day and is presided over by the King of Spain. In fact the National Day of Spain is also Columbus Day, celebrating the anniversary of Columbus' landing in the New World on October 12th 1492.  Who didn't learn this phrase in history at school to remember the date? "1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue". It was also "El Día del Pilar" and Hispanic Day.  So lots to celebrate on Wednesday. Except that it rained.

The rain came finally and the summer was truly over.  I went from walking in shorts to covering up and wearing my sou'wester.  The temperatures plummeted too from 25c to 13c overnight. It was a bit of a shock.

Thursday was back to work. I had a big communications meeting at our new mother company's offices in supposedly nearby Pozuelo. However the traffic was so bad it took me an hour to get there.  The photo illustrating this week's post is of me ready and dressed to go; the corporate woman as if to battle. That is how I felt. There are not many top positions for women in the new organisation and one has to look good I'm afraid. 

It was on Thursday that the world was stunned to hear that the most revered prize in literature, the Nobel Prize, had been awarded to a singer and not a writer. It went to Bob Dylan. Most people equate him to songs for peace and more than one TV reporter made a lapse when announcing the news.  He is a huge figure in American music and maybe his lyrics are poetry, I don't know, but he is not a writer and in my mind the prize goes to the wrong person. The New York Times said "he's great but he's not a writer" and I totally agree with their article. Funnily enough he himself has not uttered a word of reaction yet.  I wonder if he will reject it? Who knows because he is quite a complicated character. I read that when he met Barack Obama he refused to have a photograph taken of the two together disappointing the President. 
Bob Dylan the song writer not the book writer.
I remember his songs when I was young, especially "Blowing in the Wind". I also lovd his folk songs but when I saw him in concert once in Lisbon I hated everything he sang -. it was all rock.  Let's wait and see what his reaction is. 

l don't know what the US First Lady, Michelle Obama, thinks about Bob Dylan but I do know what she thinks about Donald Trump and she has said so in an historic speech this week denouncing his sexual assaults without even mentioning his name. If you haven't watched it, then do, it's an amazing lesson. This is the link of her 9 minute attack on his shocking behaviour.  It comes in response to a video The Washington Post unearthed of his lewd comments about women in a 2005 TV show which you can also watch here if you haven't already seen it. Perhaps his most memorable and revolting comment in it is this: I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. Whatever you want. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything". 
A still from the video where Donald Trump made these lewd remarks
In Michele Obama's speech she said: "I can't believe I'm saying that, a candidate for president of the United States bragged about sexually assaulting women." and I can't believe it either.  As I listened to her during my first walk on Friday morning, I remembered with shame and disgust the times I was assaulted sexually when I was a child, by our postman, Mr. Fox, and as a young teenager by our vicar, pillars of society you would have thought.  Luckily I was able to get out of their clutches before anything worse happened but I will never forget those moments.  I wonder how many women reading this will have suffered similar experiences. At work too I was groped at on various occasions in my first years in the corporate world and I can tell you it was not nice. Wow, right now I feel as though I have come out of the closet and told you my innermost secrets.  You see I have never spoken about this before but when I heard Michelle Obama's speech I thought it was time I did.  I really hope that this sexual predator will receive punishment for his behaviour as more and more women who were attacked and groped by him are coming out and exposing him and hopefully taking him to court. He would never get my vote and I guess that after this scandal many women Republican voters will have second thoughts.  If this was a world which was more fair to women I would like to see Michelle Obama as President of the United States.  Maybe one day she will be and women around the world will be glad.  

Onto a totally different subject, Spanish bureaucracy. This week I found out that the two times I had been unemployed did not figure on my employment register (vida laboral), wiping out 2 years from my retirement pension  - yeah already thinking about retirement; well I will be 60 in February and that's no secret unfortunately. 
The important "vida laboral" or life work record needed in Spain for retirement purposes.
So I had to start a battle with Spanish bureaucracy; no mean task as the years in question are 1999 and 2005.  On the telephone I was told to go to the "Tesorería" (Treasury) of the Social Security organisation and file a complaint. But first we went to the Unemployment Agency (Inem) where I used to get my "dole" in Majadahonda to get a certificate to confirm the years I was unemployed and receiving money from the state. There no one was able to inform me of anything as there was no reception desk.  Also there were huge queues so off we went to the Tesoreria in Pozuelo. Here we didn't wait  long but the visit was a waste of time as here we were told to go to the Unemployment Agency, where we had just been. What we did find out that was we had to get an appointment on the phone via a bot (machine) talking.  The machine informed me the agency that corresponded to our address was in Alcorcón and finally I got an appointment for next Monday. Couldn't all this have been done in the first phone call? Spanish bureaucracy is very kafkian. I remember my first years here trying to get a work permit and residency and things don't seem to have changed much since then. Cross your fingers for Monday.  I also found out this week that to get a full pension you have to have worked for 37.5 years.  If you count the 2 years I am fighting for I have already totted up 34 years so just 3.5 to go. But actually it's not only the amount of years but the age you are that counts. The law has just changed from 65 to 67 but thankfully we are in the transition period and I will be allowed to retire at 65.  So all thoughts of early retirement due to having worked more than the years needed blew right out of the window this week.  Unfair!!!!!

Being on a diet, we didn't go out to dinner on Friday night and won't be for quite a while in the future. Instead we watched a film on Netflix which I found thrilling.  It was called "The Body" and is a Spanish film starring Antonio Resines and Belén Rueda. 

Finally the sun came out yesterday, Saturday.  After my 2 walks on the trot, I went out to buy wrapping paper and ribbon for Laura my niece's wedding present. Yes, we have yet another wedding to go to and it's for another niece. Laura and Dani will be married next week quietly in a registry office but there will be a nice informal family lunch to celebrate their nuptial tie next Saturday in León. We look forward to that. Oli and Miguel will be going too and we shall be able to spend some time together in Montrondo enjoying beautiful autumn walks. Eladio and I are no expert present wrappers. We did the best we could and this is what it looks like. 
The result of our present wrapping efforts for Laura's wedding present
I can't say what's inside until the bride and groom open it next week.

Saturday was spent very quietly.  Oli had a busy social life this weekend and only came home yesterday for a short while before going out again. 
Oli with Pippa when she came to see us shortly on Saturday afternoon
Pippa, as you can see in the photo, was happy to see her, just as I was. 

And today is Sunday and I have come to the end of the tales of my week. I shall now be going on my two walks and look forward to reading quietly in the lounge with Pippa at my side this afternoon.

Next week will be very busy, so it will be good to charge batteries before it starts.

Let me then wish you all a great Sunday and good week ahead,

Cheers till next time/Masha

Sunday, October 09, 2016

A visitor for Suzy in London, lunch with my Spanish family, turmoil in Spanish politics, “a bitter future for Britain”, the premiere of Olivia’s new TV programme, an historic day for Yoigo, Suzy in Zurich and other stories.

Sunday 9th October 2016
Lunch with "my Spanish family" last Saturday 1st October
Hi again

Another week, but what a week it’s been in many ways. 

Saturday was good.  It started off with breakfast with Eladio and Oli; a luxury. As always, we all read the news.  In London, meanwhile, Suzy and the girls, Chati and Ana, her flat mates, would be having breakfast with J, another member of their group of friends they call “la manada” (the herd).  He was to be their visitor for a few days during which I heard they had a blast. 
The girls in London last weekend with their visitor.
Indeed they would have a grand time, biking all around the capital together.  Here they are near Tower Bridge with more of Suzy’s friends.
The Manada having fun in London and biking everywhere
That morning I went with Oli to get a birthday present for her Father. The poor girl has been so busy since she started as a reporter for the TV programme (Mi Cámara y yo), she hasn’t had a moment to do so.  She chose a lovely pair of blue Armani sunglasses.  Oli  gave them to him later when we met in Mirasierra where we would be going to have lunch with “my Spanish family”.
Oli bought new sun glasses for Eladio for his birthday
We were invited that day by Gerardo and his wife Vicky and their large group of children.  His sister Irene and her husband Tomas came too with 3 of their brood of 5.  Also there was Lucía, the youngest sister and her newly wedded husband “Juancar” (Juan Carlos). The photo illustrating this week’s post is of all of us around the table.  What fun we had.

About a year ago Gerardo and his family moved into a big new house and we were to see it for the first time.
Gerardo and Vicky's cool new house and terrace where we had lunch last Saturday
We felt completely at home as of course for me they are my Spanish family and I know the feeling is mutual.  It’s great that after all these years we are now in closer contact than ever before.  Eladio enjoys their company too and there are lots of philosophical and religious conversations which have everyone questioning facts and beliefs.  Gerardo was the chef that day and made a super barbecue for us all which we ate around 2 big tables on their elegant porch.
The chef Gerardo and Eladio. Juancar and Marga in the background.
I just love their kids and I was a popular guest as I had brought with me 2 huge bags of sweets.  Lunch dragged on, or rather the conversation was so stimulating, we didn’t make a move until about 8 in the evening. 

Whilst I was there I was alerted to the fact that the programme I had starred in a year ago, “Undercover Boss, was on yet again. Thus my phone was buzzing with lots of messages from spectators, most of them hoping I could offer them a job. I wish I could.  But I do faithfully answer them all. 

We came home to the news that Spanish politics was in turmoil.  Pedro Sánchez, leader of the PSOE socialist party had resigned. 
Goodbye Pedro Sánchez, leader of the Spanish socialist party
You probably know that there has been nearly a year’s deadlock to form a government after two hung parliaments in succession. The acting PP (right wing) party led by Mariano Rajoy won the second round of elections with 137 seats but they need 176 votes to form a government. They have come to an agreement with the new moderate party, Ciudadanos who have 32, so not enough. The PSOE (socialist party) won far fewer, just 85, but led by Pedro Sánchez have refused to abstain and let Mariano Rajoy get on with the job.  It’s no joke having an acting government; things just slow down.  Many members of the PSOE, in disagreement with Pedro Sánchez who kept repeating “no is no”, forced him to resign in a party conference on Saturday.  It is not clear who will be his successor. Hopefully his resignation will now end the deadlock. We have yet to see whether the PSOE will just abstain or whether the two parties will form a coalition.  Thankfully the news on Saturday has put an end to the calling of a third general election scheduled for Christmas Day this year.  So, yes, Spanish politics was in complete turmoil but hopefully will soon be back on course.  I’m no great fan of either of the leaders but am fed up of the political stalemate.

Sunday was another beautiful sunny day.  The sun doesn’t seem to want to go and I’m not complaining.   I even swam in the pool after our morning walk again.  Meanwhile Suzy and the girls were enjoying the company of J in London.  Here they are below having a picnic in a park there where it seems the sun was shining too.
Suzy and Anita having a picnic in a park in London with their visitor J.
We didn’t have a picnic but I made roast chicken for lunch.  I was fully conscious it would be the last family meal together where I would be able to enjoy any food I wanted  for a long time as on Tuesday I would be starting the Pronokal diet, the one that Suzy prescribes at the clinic she works at in Harley Street. 
The roast chicken I made last Sunday for lunch
We spent  the afternoon reading by the pool. My choice was a book called The Marrying of Chani Kaufmann by Eve Harris.
One of my latest books  - a inside view of the life of Hasidic Jewish women
I seem to be very attracted to the genre of books about Hasidic Jewish women, or rather the incredibly strict lives they lead.  This extreme Ultra-Orthodox sect seems to me to be one of the most restrictive for women in the world and I mean that. I am so glad that I was born into a liberal society and way of life where women, if not completely equal to men, are free enough to live how they like. 

If there was turmoil in Spanish politics, there was turmoil too in British politics last weekend.   Dear Theresa May, who is reminding me more and more of an extreme version of Margaret Thatcher, said at the Tory Conference on Sunday that “Brexit is Brexit”. She has threatened to invoke article 50 in spring 2017 which means we could be out completely by 2019. You know, I never thought it would come to that. Hopefully she would eat her words when later in the week the pound plummeted to an all-time low level against the dollar (she didn't of course). But I’ll come to that later.

 The slogan for the conference was “A better future for Britain” but when the new Iron Lady put her hand up against the words a very awkward photo appeared as she turned the "e" into an "i".  You see she was now promising “A bitter future for Britain”.  Indeed it seems bitter.  I am bitter and angry about Brexit.
An awkward photo for Theresa May that came out of the Tory party conference last weekend
Many people are angry with her, but no one can beat 5 year old Brooke whose surname is Blaire by the way. This determined little girl is worried about the homeless and so her Mother posted a video of her giving Theresa May a real telling off about it, telling her she should be out giving them biscuits and hot chocolate.   
Brook Blair, the angry 5 year old who told Theresa May to help the homeless
The video became an immediate sensation on social media and television.  I would love to know what the Prime Minister thought when she saw it. 

Monday came.  I read the US beat Europe in the Ryder Cup. More interestingly and more surprisingly in a referendum on Sunday Colombians rejected the peace treaty President Juan Manuel Santos had forged and signed with the FARC guerrillas.  In a way I understand them because with the peace treaty there would be no recriminations or punishment for their crimes - more than 250.000 deaths in some 50 years.  They would just slink back into society with all their sins forgiven. I'm not sure what the referendum result means now for the treaty. Hopefully the guerrilla warfare is over despite the vote on Sunday. 

Monday was an important day for me.  I had an appointment with the doctor I had seen to go on the Pronokal diet but I could only start after he had seen the results of my blood test. Well they were good (sigh of relief) and he prescribed the diet.  Basically in the first phase you only eat vegetables (and only some) at lunch and dinner and substitute food presented in many forms which you must have 5 units of each day.  There are also lots of supplements and vitamins to take.  Once I had his prescription, off I went to the clinic in Madrid where I was attended to by a far too slim dietitian.  I was very impressed with the sleek premises. She seemed much stricter than Suzy  - no sugar free chewing gum (Suzy says I can have up to 3 a day and I am) and no milk in my coffee (Suzy says I can have up to 300ml of soy milk a day and I am). 
Pronokal products at their gleaming clinic in the centre of Madrid.
I paid a packet for all the stuff - enough to last me the three weeks of the strict phase 1. Thankfully the later phases introduce real food gradually after that. 

Monday night would be my "last supper" of real food and I enjoyed it with Eladio and Oli who came home to watch the debut of her new TV programme together with us.

I loved every minute of the report called "raro raro" about unique and special things in Madrid but then I am her Mother.  If you haven't already see it you can judge for yourselves by watching it on this link here.  Later in the week they released a great video clip with her and her colleague Amaya R to promote the programme which you can see here too

On Tuesday I started the diet.  It's tough but doable.  The best thing is it sheds weight fast or is supposed to and you are not hungry. As I ate the dry rusks with watery coffee for breakfast  I wondered to myself just how many diets I have been on in my life and whether this would be my last.  I would like to think it will and that I will be able to maintain the weight loss but I doubt it will happen.  At least it will give me a few years of looking slimmer hahaha.  It's great to know though that I have Suzy at a distance taking care of me and advising me. She went on it herself to find out what it's like for her patients and lost 6 kilos in 3 weeks!  I'm older so I don't expect it to be quite as fast for me.  But I promise you I shall stick it out and do all the phases.  When I have a goal I have endless will power I can tell you.  But when I don't I go the opposite way.  That's how I am, no two halves about me. 

Some of that weight was probably lost due to her cycling in London. That morning she sent me this photo of her with her new bike on Tower Bridge.  I do admire her and must say she knows her way around London like a black cab driver; well not quite but nearly.  Good for her.
Suzy on her bike in London this week
I didn't have much time to think about food that day as I was busy working. I had a meeting with my new boss and had lots of communications materials to prepare and get ready for sending regarding the acquisition of our company (Yoigo) by the smaller Spanish operator MásMóvil.  However I did feel thirsty all day and had a bit of a headache - side effects of the diet of course.

Wednesday, Day 2 of my diet brought another headache and more thirst but I stuck at it.  I had another meeting, this time at the offices of MásMóvil in Pozuelo with the head of HR, my new boss and my PR agency.  It was a strange sensation to enter their offices. That very day payment was being made to the previous owners, the Swedish Finnish operator TeliaSonera to finalise the deal.  It was an historic day for Yoigo and I had funny bitter sweet feelings all day.  It felt like being orphaned and not knowing what the future would be bring. At Yoigo we are just 100 people and have 3.6 million customers. The company that has bought us has over 400 employees and far fewer customers. Right now we are undergoing the integration process and it feels so strange. 

Oli was having problems at work.  She was preparing her next programme about roof tops in Madrid - the kind with spectacular views and something special to offer and the locations were either not easy to find or people just didn't want to be on TV.  She would have problems all week and would be working at the weekend. She was very stressed but I knew that all would be right on the day.
Oli on a rooftop in Madrid this week with her cameraman preparing her next programme
Work continued for me on Thursday when finally the press release went out to announce the termination of the acquisition of Yoigo. I was involved in informing the employees and of course posting it on our social media pages. Again it felt funny.  I had expected some sort of formal goodbye from our previous owners, TeliaSonera.  After all I had worked for them for 10 years but all I got was a laconic email and a short note from another colleague. I would have loved to attend the recently celebrated global comms day to be able to say goodbye to all my colleagues.

In the evening I was at the hospital in Pozuelo for yearly gynaecological tests. This year they included a bone densitometry scan which I have never done. I suppose that's because of my age. Its objective is to measure the density of bone mineral.  I do hope I don't have the dreaded osteoporosis. I will get the results later this month and will see the gynaecologist at the end of November.  As I was leaving, it must have been nearly 8 pm and just then I received an email  inviting the management teams of both companies to a meeting at our offices the next morning and to a lunch where we would be informed of the new organisation chart.  I looked at the list and saw that there were only 2 women on it, 2 of us from Yoigo. It was to start at 11 am. I had a conference call with a journalist and our technology director at 10, so decided to wake up at 6 the next morning to avoid the traffic and get to the offices well on time on Friday morning. 

Friday 7th October was Happy World Smile Day. But there was no smile on my face when I looked at my phone whilst drinking my coffee at 6.15.  There was a message to cancel the conference call which meant I needn't have got up so early.
Friday was Happy World Smile Day.
There were no smiles in the financial markets that morning either.  It was black Friday for the pound sterling which dropped or rather plummeted 10% to 1.15 USD. It happened overnight and blame has been put on a "fat finger" in the stock market and trading in Asia.  It is much more likely due to Brexit.  I wonder what Theresa May thought about that after she had promised a "better" or was it "bitter" future for Britain.  I was sorry for the Brits who were cheated at airports being given less than a euro for their pound, I was sorry for my Father's pension but sorry for what will become of the UK without Europe.  Ok I was born a UK citizen but when the UK entered the EU I also became an EU citizen and now because of Brexit I have been stripped of that citizenship. To top it all I didn't even have a say as there is a law that you cannot vote if you have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years.  

It was pretty ironic that that very day the UK Government made a proposal for Brits who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years to be able to vote. 
This proposal from the Government for people living abroad to be able to vote has come too late to save Brexit
It was bitter sweet news as the proposal has come too late.  Between 1 and 2 million British people live outside the UK in other countries in Europe and I guess that if those of us who have been away for more than 15 years had voted in the Referendum the result would have been  In and not Out.  It's ironic isn't it?  

This was on my mind as I drove to the office for the meeting. But also during the day I would be thinking of my brother-in-law who was being operated on in León.  It would be a very long day for him and his family. I wished I could have been there with them but I had to be at the office.

I joined the meeting room full of men.  I'm used to there being more men than women around in my sector but on Friday I was 1 of 2 women only and some 20 odd men. It was daunting. I wonder how each one of them would have felt if it had been the opposite way round.  Just before it started,the meeting was cancelled so I was stuck at the office until the lunch at 2.30. I stayed around working on my laptop and catching up with colleagues and wondering very much what the changes would be. 

The last thing I wanted after having started my diet was to go to a corporate lunch but I had no choice.  It was a rice place and I knew there would be paella on the menu so before entering I asked the staff to quietly prepare and serve me a plate of grilled vegetables without oil and without any fuss.  If I was 1 of 2 women earlier on, at the lunch I was the only woman and I didn't like it I can tell you and the last thing I wanted was for them to comment on what I was eating. Aaagghh. 

Finally we were informed of the changes and the new owners have been respectful and kept us all on, although we are now, all but one, in number 2 positions and not the top spots.  It was a bit like reckoning day but I drove home very relieved if not exhausted.  

My dear darling husband was at home waiting for me.  It was Friday night and the night we usually go out to dinner together. Thanks to my diet, however, there will be no more dinners out for quite a while. Watch this space hahaha.  

The main news of the day by the way on Friday, apart from the drop in the pound, was the announcement of the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.  It went to President Juan Manuel Santos because of the peace treaty with the FARC guerrillas; the one the country voted against. 
Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia - this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner
Well good for him. He strove for peace in very difficult circumstances.  I don't know who the other candidates were but I did hear that the buffoon Donald Trump had been nominated. I can only think that it was a joke. 

Who was smiling that day was Suzy, my daughter who lives in London. She was off to visit Zurich for 5 days with Chati and Anita to stay with a friend they had met in their recent trip to Nicaragua.  She had never been to Switzerland and I warned her that it was expensive.  I can imagine it is even more so after the pound dropped. Poor Suzy. I haven't heard much, just seen photos of nice looking buildings with grey weather in the background. But there is one photo of Suzy enjoying an enormous glass of beer on Friday night. 
Suzy in Zurich enjoying a huge glass of beer
I hope to hear more about the trip; not just the beer drinking hahaha.

On Saturday I woke up with a bit of a cold.  I was happy to see I had lost 3 cm around my waist and another 3 around my hips. I'm dying for the kilos to shed and to get into clothes that no longer fit.  We went for our walk and I had my diet lunch with my Father and Eladio. I ate cooked cauliflower and broccoli and a ghastly coconut flavoured packet dessert by Pronokal whilst they enjoyed Salud's spaghetti bolognese.  

Meanwhile Oli was working - yes on a Saturday. Not fair, not it's not but she has negotiated that if she works on a Saturday she will get 1 day off and if she works on a Sunday she will get 2 working days off. Now that was clever of her.  She went with her team to film a wedding on a luxury hotel rooftop. I sort of wondered how the bride and groom would accept their wedding being on TV but they appear to be happy about it as you can judge in the photo below.
Oli with the bride and groom - filming a wedding on a hotel rooftop in Madrid for her next programme.
All in all Saturday was a quiet day with not much to report which was quite welcome after such a busy week with all its ups and downs.

And today is Sunday and it promises to be another quiet day.  I shall be going for our walk now with the dogs and later make lunch for the men. They will get fabada. I will get more vegetables hahahaha.

And next week will be another story which I shall telling you all about in my following post.

Meanwhile I wish you all a happy Sunday and a great week ahead,