Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My year in Facebook status updates 2009


In my last post I published my year in photos thanks to a Facebook application. Now I have just done my year in Facebook status updates and I think it's so great I want to post it here on my blog.

Hope you like it.

Cheers midweek / Masha

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas comes but once a year, Spanish and English traditions, 2009 in pictures and Happy New Year to you all.

Some of my photos of 2009 in a picture collage. I hope 2010 is just as good.
Hello again

Today is Sunday 27th December and the most important days of Christmas are now over. Christmas comes but once a year as the title of this week’s blog says and for me it is always magical and much awaited. And every year I write about it in my blog as you can see here. As ever they were great as a lot of thought and preparations were put in to make them so. But let me tell you first about the run up to Christmas and then how we spent it here at home with the family, somewhat extended this year with the visit of Eladio’s Mother.

Last week on Monday we woke up to quite a big snowfall. It was actually big enough to make us snowbound until mid afternoon, mostly because our drive is so steep. Our plans therefore for Christmas shopping with the “abuelos” (grandparents in Spanish) had to be put off until Wednesday. Being snowbound has its advantages so I spent the morning cooking perushki which are Russian meat pies. Norah of course thoroughly enjoyed the snow which she had never experienced before. You can see a full set of pictures here.
The snow that had us housebound on Monday.

On Tuesday, with the snow mostly gone, I went into work for a meeting and also to receive a friend, Marta Acebo, from our Nokia days who wanted to pick my brains about PR. It was lovely to see her and I hope my input was useful.

Tuesday was also the Spanish Christmas lottery draw known as “El Gordo”. It is one of the biggest Christmas traditions here in Spain and unites people across the country. When I first came to live in Spain I couldn’t understand why people spent money on it and I was cross with Eladio for buying tickets when we earned so little. Now I couldn’t perceive Christmas without buying a ticket or two. However once again we didn’t win a cent.
The El Gordo Christmas lottery, a truly Spanish tradition.
I didn’t win the lottery but I did contribute to my boss winning a poll for the telecoms executive of the year in a publication called El Economista. I spent at least 10 days canvassing for votes and had people working specially on it, including Juan my nephew. We won hands down with more than 11.000 votes. It was an interesting exercise for me which I actually thoroughly enjoyed. You can see the full results of the poll here.

Not only was I canvassing last week, I was also putting the final touches to the last of the many Yoigo Christmas activities, the last being the making and sending of a Christmas gift to our external contacts and partners. This year we made chocolate in the shape of “muñecos” which are a sort of cartoon dolls that we use in advertising. To judge by the comments in emails I got, people loved them. I have one but want to keep it as a sample and just cannot bear the idea of digging my teeth into the lovely chocolate creation. And this is what it looks like:
The Yoigo gift of chocolate we made in the shape of the "muñecos" (cartoon dolls)
On Wednesday I did a good Christmas deed, together with my friend Fatima, when we visited our friend Julio who is convalescing at his parents’ house after having been in hospital because of a duodenal ulcer. I mentioned in my blog last week that today, 27th December, we would be having our annual Christmas dinner at his house. Due to his illness, that has now been postponed until January. We took him some chocolate and a poinsettia plant, so typical in Spain at Christmas. I think we must have cheered him up and hopefully he is now well on the road to recovery.

Wednesday was also the day we took the “abuelos” out for a family lunch (yes all 6 of us). We meant to go to my Father’s favourite, Vips, but it was full and instead we went to Ginos. My Father later told me that Christmas started for him on that day. I’m glad. In the afternoon we all went to El Corte Inglés (Spain’s top department store) to do more Christmas shopping and as an excursion for the abuelos. I think though in the end we tired them out but I know for one my Father enjoyed it immensely. Most of my own Christmas shopping was done with Suzy on odd afternoons in the last 2 weeks and finally our Christmas tree looked like this.
The Christmas tree with all the presents ready for Christmas Day, another truly British tradition.
And on 24th December, Christmas arrived in what is known here as “Nochebuena” (Christmas Eve)here in Spain. Everything was ready including the fillers for the girls’ stockings my Mother had knitted for them when they were children. It is a tradition from my own childhood. The girls put out the stockings and I fill them with all sorts of little wrapped up enticing objects and put them back outside their rooms. Even though they are now in their 20’s the girls insist I carry on the tradition every Christmas. Here you can see the empty stockings hanging on the tall boy outside their rooms waiting to be filled on Christmas Eve.
The girls' stockings, a truly British Christmas tradition and one we love.
Nochebuena is as important in Spain (and many other countries in Europe) as Christmas Day in England and is celebrated with a special dinner with tables groaning with the finest delicacies. In our house we have the best of both worlds and celebrate Christmas with both Spanish and English traditions. Here you can see our Christmas Eve or Nochebuena table for which I had been cooking for 2 whole days.
The family dinner on Christmas Eve, a truly Spanish tradition called Nochebuena.
The next day, Christmas day, evolved as it always has for me and the children and had as much magic as it always has. The highlights are of course the present opening ceremony after breakfast and the midday traditional English Christmas lunch with all the trimmings including crackers. I, at least, was delighted with my presents: charms for my Pandora bracelet, black leather long gloves, pretty ear warmers and wonderful perfumes. Even Norah got a present this year as you can see in this picture.
Norah opening her present - bone and dog biscuits which were very much appreciated, hahaha.
Eladio and I just before we opened the presents on Christmas Day. Eladio is wearing a bow tie which accidentally matched my blouse. He looks great with it on.
The other Christmas photos can be viewed here.

The rest of the time, including Boxing Day was spent lazing around, eating too much plus an enormous amount of chocolate and also watching films we had hired. As I had chosen them I ended up watching them more or less on my own. So what did I hire? Well, Good, Amazing Grace and Miss Austen Regrets, all rather historical and academic but just up my street. Last night though we changed the genre and decided to watch one of the Indian “Elements Trilogy” by the Indian director Deepa Metah called Earth which is about the religious strife associated with the formation of Pakistan when the English finally granted India their home rule and independence. We had previously watched Water, an amazing story of the mistreatment of widows in rural India and may well watch Fire tonight, the last of the trilogy, all very recommendable, especially if you are fascinated by India like we are.

Christmas comes but once a year as I wrote above, but it hasn’t gone yet. For me it doesn’t go until 6th January, Epiphany and also the very much celebrated “Reyes” or Kings’ day when most Spaniards give their presents. My nephew Mario, the son of Pili and Andrés who were with us last weekend, got his Kings’ present early this year, in the shape of a wonderful little Dalmation puppy called Trebol. It’s absolutely adorable as I’m sure you agree when you see this photo.
Trebol, the dalmation puppy Mario got for Christmas.
And it is with Pili and Andrés and the rest of Eladio’s family with whom we will be celebrating New Year’s Eve next week in León. We will in fact be staying at Pili’s (Eladio’s sister) and will be meeting Trebol of course.

And talking about next year, I did 2 great collages of my year in photos thanks to an application in Facebook as you can see here and in the photo illustrating this post.
Another collage of my photos in 2009. Great little application from Facebook.
And on that note I leave you and hope you will all enjoy the rest of Christmas and of course New Year’s Eve. I also wish you all a great 2010. 2009 has been fantastic for us and so I hope 2010 will be another good year. We already have nice trips to look forward to: Brussels for a reunion with Adele and Sandie in February and a week in New York in March. Isn’t life great?

Happy New Year to you all


Sunday, December 20, 2009

So cold, more parties, a real reindeer, back to El-Aaiún, Pili, Andrés and the “abuela came” sad news and a Happy Christmas from Yoigo and from me.

Suzy and I posing with the real reindeer at the Yoigo children's Christmas party last week.
Hi again,

Here I am at my desk again writing this week’s blog entry and it’s Sunday 20th December, just 4 days to Christmas. If you are English you would say there were 5 days, but the Spaniards (and most of Europe) celebrate Christmas Eve, the 24th, so there are only 4 days to go. You can tell too that Christmas is on its merry way (to quote Becky Leonard) by all the snow that has fallen recently (well just a sprinkling in Madrid) and by the extreme cold. I do not remember it being so cold in a long time. Believe it or not we saw -8ºc on our way home last night. And there is talk of temperatures below 20ºc in some parts of Spain. Today in fact it is colder in Madrid than in Helsinki (-5ºc). It makes you wonder what the world is coming to; quite bizarre. Funnily this coincides with the celebration this week of the world climate summit in Copenhagen. I have only read the headlines but it seems it has been a disappointment in many ways.

This week has been another week of parties and pre Christmas celebrations. Right now as I write, thankfully, all my professional Christmas commitments are over and I can finally concentrate on our own. But let me tell you about them first.

On Wednesday I went to the Ketchum (my PR Agency) 20th anniversary cum Christmas party held at Moma (a well known discotheque in Madrid where I for one have organised quite a few events). There were many people there and the night seemed promising. However the 2 most common blunders took place, rather strange coming from a PR agency, which were a severe lack of food and far too long speeches from people I at least did not know very well. Also, nothing else of any great interest happened except for an eternal video of people known to the agency (including me) sending their congratulations. So when it was a decent time to leave I made my exit and rushed home in time to be with Eladio before going to bed.

Much more fun was the Yoigo children’s party on Thursday which was a blast. There were 90 children plus their parents and they all had to fit in the office reception area and cafeteria. The star of the show was a real reindeer with a false Father Christmas in a false sleigh where the kids and their parents could have their photo taken. It caused an absolute sensation. Everyone asked me where we had found it. The answer is quite simple, from a company that has animals for adverts and television. All sorts of other activities and games took place such as pass the parcel, t-shirt and biscuit workshops, a soap bubble show etc and all the kids got given a passport with the activities to be stamped. Suzy was with me helping as was her friend Copi who we hired to paint the kids faces. They had a great time and of course when they left there were presents and a bag of sweets to take home too. You can see more photos here.
Suzy helping at the Yoigo Children's Christmas party. Great picture.
No sooner had the Yoigo children’s party finished I was off to yet another party, this time to the ex Motorola Christmas dinner at Clérico (an Argentinian joint) in Las Rozas. If you are not familiar with my time with Motorola (the company I worked for from 1990 to 1999) you can read about it here. Suffice it to say my time there forged great friendships with a unique set of people who get together every now and again to catch up on our news but mainly to reminisce about the good old Motorola days and Thursday evening was no exception. Thanks Vicky and Nuria for organising it.
Me at the Motorola dinner flanked on my left by Nuria Caballero and Carlos Grima and by Ruben Tabarnero on my right.
The same night of the Motorola party, the Saharawi activist, Aminatou Haidar, was flying back to her home town, El-Aaiún, a city in the western Sahara, founded by the Spanish in 1928 but managed by Morocco since 1976. The Polisario group seek the independence of the area which the Moroccan government simply consider another province. Aminatou Haidar, as I wrote last week had caused a huge political problem to the Spanish government. She was entering Morocco from Spain 2 or 3 weeks ago and apparently changed her nationality from Moroccan to Saharawi in her passport. Thus she was not allowed entry and was returned to Spain. Since then she set up siege and went on a hunger strike in the airport of Lanzerote in the Canary Islands. She was offered Spanish nationality but refused and the situation fast became stale mate. And very suddenly last week, after intervention from the European Union, she was finally allowed by the Moroccan government to return to El-Aaiún.
Aminatou returned home last week and I'm sure the Spanish government is very happy it's all over. I am too.
And soon the weekend was here and brought with it the visit of Eladio’s mother who has come to stay for Christmas. Pili (Eladio’s sister) and her husband Andrés (a great fan of this blog, thank you Andrew) brought her which made for a great weekend all together.
Pili and Andrés at breakfast this morning.
The highlight was a visit to Madrid on Saturday night to the Plaza Mayor, via a very busy Puerta del Sol, and the Mercado San Miguel. Eladio and I got some more tree lights at the former and some much needed and hard to find cranberry sauce from the market. It was cold but we enjoyed walking the very populated streets. Of course there was time for some tapas in the old town, as you can see in this photo of the four of us in “el Mesón del Boquerón” which unfortunately does not have a website.

From there we dared to walk all the way to Génova, to the Bice restaurant, right next door to the Partido Popular’s headquarters (Spain’s right wing party) and one of my favourites in Madrid.
The entrance to the very stylish Bice restaurant (Italian) in Madrid.
There we were to be joined for dinner by José Antonio and Dolores who unfortunately couldn’t make as they were meeting Miguel at the airport and his plane was late. You can see all the photos of the weekend here on Facebook.

And this brings me to the sad part of this week’s entry. This blog is usually full of positive content but of course life has its ups and downs and sometimes, whether I like it or not, I have to record them too.

On Monday I heard that my dearest friend Julio had been taken into hospital with a duodenal hemorrhage. He was, of course, later diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer which may well have been caused by stress. Thankfully he is now out of hospital and on the 27th December we will be going to what is now a traditional Christmas dinner at his house and one of the highlights of the season.

The next negative piece of news is that Dolores will be operated on tomorrow. She has some cysts which are not dangerous but growing. Hopefully she will be out the next day and ok in time for Christmas with her family. I wish her the very best from these pages.

The sad news, though, refers to our friends Roberto and MariCarmen. Last night we got a message to say that Roberto’s nephew, the only son of his sister had died suddenly playing basket ball in Vitoria where they live in the north of Spain. He was only 27 and the other went to the doctor to complain about a pain in this chest. It was dismissed as a muscular pain and he was told to continue life as normal which he did. Then the other day at the end of a basket ball match he began to feel faint, collapsed and died just as the ambulance arrived. My heart goes out to his family but especially to his Mother and Father. This is a terrible story which we cannot imagine every happening to us.

As I don’t want to end on a sad note, I thought you might like to see and do the Happy Christmas quiz from Yoigo, the company I work for, which I have worked on with my events agency. It is also, of course an e-card to wish our customers and friends a very Happy Christmas. You can enjoy it and try it out here.

I also wish you all a great Christmas. We are nearly all ready here at home, as you can see from the photo of this year’s tree (look out for dear Phoebe too in the photo, hahaha).

And that’s it for this week. When I write next week Christmas day will already be over, but this time next week will also be Sunday 27th which is the date for the much awaited dinner at Julio’s, something to look forward to. Until then,


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Well into December, happy with myself, Aminatou Haidar, a political problem, a good deed, new toys before Christmas and more.

Aminatou haidar, the human rights defender and political activist on a hunger strike in a Spanish airport in the Canary Islands, a big headache for Spanish international politics and the main news in Spain these days.
Hi again

Today is Sunday again and we are now well into December. While I’m writing Eladio and my Father are practising that wonderful Spanish sport, the siesta and the girls are away in Navacerrada, a small town in the mountains outside Madrid, for a girly weekend.
Navacerrada in the mountains outside Madrid.
It’s cold outside but sunny and soon we will be going on our walk and then our friends, Roberto and Mari Carmen will be coming for a cup of tea. The lounge is nearly ready for Christmas but I am leaving the lights and decorations for when the girls come back to do it together and maintain the tradition. Of course when we do we will have the King’s College Choir singing carols in the background. I mean, what is Christmas without carols?

Today is my down day. If you read my blog last week you will know I am doing the Up and Down diet where you fast one day on 500 calories and eat up to 2.500 the next day. It may seem like the latest fad diet but for me, for the moment, it is working and I have now done it for nearly 2 weeks. All in all I have now lost 10 kilos since I started in September. I feel so much happier with myself and this time I am very motivated.

The diet doesn’t stop me going out for meals, but only on the “up days”. So last Sunday we went out with Roberto and Mari Carmen to Las tres nueces in Boadilla and yesterday Eladio and I enjoyed dinner out at La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas, one of our favourites. We hadn’t been for a while and it was nice to see the staff recognise us and welcome us back.

Who certainly won’t be going out for meals is a lady, who, at least in Spain and in Morocco, is now even more famous than she was before. I refer to Aminatou Haidar, human rights defender and political activitist also known as the “Sahrawi Gandhi”. She is on a hunger strike at a Spanish airport in the Canary Islands after being expelled over her refusal to accept Moroccan nationality. Right now she is one of the Spanish Foreign Ministry’s main problems and the hottest topic in Spanish and, of course, Moroccan politics. She is now into the 26th day of her hunger strike.

If I am reporting on the week, I should really start from where I left off, last Sunday. Last week was a bank holiday and we were together quite a lot as a family with a nice family lunch on Tuesday. That day too I did a good deed and accepted being interviewed by two unknown students studying journalism who contacted me via Facebook. They were doing a project on communication in Yoigo so were very eager to contact me. As they didn’t have much time, I agreed to meet them on Tuesday which was a holiday. Eva and Alvaro, very sweet kids, were obviously very nervous but asked all the right questions. Later I sent them more information and am now looking forward to seeing their finished work for which they will hopefully get a good mark.

The week went pretty fast after the bank holiday. Of note this week I went to the hairdresser and accentuated the new cut (short at the back and longer at the front) a bit more. On Thursday I attended the second round of a pretty mundane and very uninspiring coaching course for too many people. We are about 23 people and get shut in a room without windows for 5 hours which for me is impossible. The course leaders, nice people but lacking in charisma want to make a team out of us but the group is too big and the idea doesn’t seem to grab any of us, especially because we do not work together on a regular basis. I am not looking forward to the next sessions. Thankfully they are on a monthly basis.

This week was also the week we held our employee Christmas party organised by “the one and only” of course. Thankfully everything went well, no hitches, no complaints and a lot of fun. Big thanks go to my friend Pedro Delgado, the famous Spanish sportsman and ex cyclist, who was my MC and did a brilliant job. He is so special and I love him dearly as do most people in Spain.
Pedro Delgado when he won the Tour of France in 1988. He is a legend in Spain and a much loved personality even today.
Friday was difficult as the office party left me with a small migraine. I hardly drank but being up late was enough to start it off. I had a date with Juana, a friend, for a coffee and some advice on marketing communications as she has an interview tomorrow. Hope she gets the job. She certainly deserves it.

And although it is not Christmas yet I have already received some gifts including some lovely new toys. Yoigo gave all the employees a fantastic ham but also an LG notebook pc which is such fun. It’s white, extremely light and comes fully equipped. I also got a new Nokia phone, the N97 as mine was on its last legs. So this weekend I have been busy playing with both devices, synchronising contacts, installing programmes such as Spotify (how I love that) and generally getting them ready for use. I am not techy but do love new IT equipment.
My lovely new notebook PC which will be great for travelling
And now my husband has woken up from his siesta and it’s time for our walk. So on that note I will leave you until next week.

Goodbye till then

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Parties, getting into the Christmas spirit, the up and down diet, and Spain won the Davis Cup.

The 5 of us, Grandpa, Suzy, Oli, Eladio and I wish you a Happy Christmas.
Hi again

This time last week we were in La Rioja for the family weekend which was great. We are now, of course, drinking lots of the Márques de Riscal wine we brought back. It was a nice family trip and we even had snow on the way back as you can see in this picture Suzy took from the car somewhere between Logroño and Burgos.
We hit serious snow on our way back from La Rioja last week.
And now it’s the Constitution and Immaculate Conception bank holiday but this weekend we will not be going away. Before I continue, just a few words of congratulations to my Finnish friends as today is their Independence Day.

The week was short as we came back on Monday but as busy as most of December is always for me with all the Christmas events I have to organise for work and of course for home. On 1st December we also celebrated Yoigo’s 3rd anniversary with a staff party with cake and champagne to boost people’s morale and get them into the party mood. You can see some of the photos here.
The cake we had for Yoigo's 3rd birthday, it was wonderful.
This week too I went to a party not actually organised by me (!!!!!!!). Huawei (the very much up and coming Chinese telecommunications company and not “hu aa thei?” as someone from Nokia commented on my Facebook the other day) invited all of Yoigo to an evening out on Thursday at Lolita’s Lounge in Madrid. More and more I am realising that I prefer to stay at home in the evenings and don’t really enjoy places with lots of people. I far prefer small dinner parties with people I care about.

And next week will be the Yoigo employee party which I am, of course organising. It’ll take place at Ouimad and will be for about 180 people as it’s with partners. So on Friday I went with the girls from my events agency down to Madrid to the Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor to scout for fun stuff for the party. We also visited the newly restored Mercado de San Miguel which is the latest and most in place in Madrid to buy gourmet food and have tapas. It lives up to its reputation certainly and is a very recommendable place to visit. There I actually found an English Christmas pudding and of course bought one as well as some lovely goodies for my Father such as “rolos” (chocolates).
The Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.
At the Plaza Mayor I began to get into the spirit of Christmas and decided to buy a new crib (called “belén or nacimiento in Spain) as ours is years old and falling apart. When I brought it home we immediately put it in the lounge which is very early for us. Usually we don’t put up the tree and decorations until the middle of December. However the Christmas spirit was already in me and yesterday I got permission from the rest of the family to put up some of the decorations. I was not allowed, though, to put up the tree or the lights until later.
The small crib or "misterio" as it is known here which I bought on Friday at the Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor, now gracing our lounge.
Then yesterday Suzy and I went shopping and I ended up doing some of my own Christmas shopping (and paying for some of theirs, hahaha) and in the afternoon Eladio and I wrapped them up. After lunch Suzy, Oli and Juli sent me a Christmas e-card with elves which was just so much fun I immediately started playing with the tool. You can see the 5 of us here, including Grandpa, all dressed as elves and dancing our hearts out. This elf tool is so good. Try it out yourself here if you want. I also did a Christmas photo which is the one illustrating this post.
Happy that I have done some Christmas shopping. Here you can see the parcels all wrapped up in the lounge.
Most important of all, this week Suzy and I began a variation to our diet. I read about the up and down diet in the Daily Mail recently. Basically you eat well on one day and semi-starve on the other. The days you eat well are called the “up days” and the fasting days are called the “down days”. We started after La Rioja last Tuesday and it seems to work. But oh, how I love the up days. Today is an up day and we will be going out to dinner with Roberto and Mari Carmen. Whoopeee!!!

And an up day must have been had by the Spanish national tennis team when they beat the Czech Republic yesterday and went on to win their 4th Davis Cup. Congratulations Rafa Nadal, David Ferrer, Verdasco and Feliciano López. This has been a great year for sport for Spain. Hopefully Spain will perform as well in next year's World Cup in South Africa. We will see.
The Spanish Davis Cup team celebrating their 4th win yesterday.
And on that note this blog post ends.

Cheers to you all till next week.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Barcelona again, a 3rd anniversary, dinner at Irene’s, a family trip to La Rioja and remembering Aunty Masha

The 5 of us together at the Márques de Riscal winery in Elciego.
Hi again

Well here I am this Sunday afternoon writing from our room in the Parador in Calahorra in La Rioja region of Spain. The girls are in their room resting as is my Father in his. We are on the awaited family trip to La Rioja. Soon though we may get together to watch the “clasiquísimo” derby as Barcelona will be playing Real Madrid later on this evening. I will probably just about tolerate the match and continue writing my blog as there is a lot to tell this week.

This time last week, Suzy and I were on our way to Barcelona on the AVE as the high speed train is known here. It takes just over 2 hours and since it came into operation many people stopped taking the plane, one of them being me. It was Suzy’s first trip and here is a photo of her with the free sun glasses that came with the Cosmopolitan magazine.

My mission in Barcelona was to attend the CMT international conference and also to site inspect possible locations for a press conference in February. Suzy joined me and we stayed at one of my favourite hotels, 1898 right on the Ramblas and very near the Mercado de la Boquería which we visited twice to buy fruit for ourselves and some amazing chocolates for my Father.
Suzy by one of the fruit stalls at the famous Mercado de la Boquería on Las Ramblas.
There was plenty of time for pleasure so on Sunday night we had dinner, as I do every time I come to Barcelona, with Grainne and with Marcel her son. It was a great evening catching up on the past (well we did go to school together) and on the present.
Suzy and Grainne
There was also time for walking and Suzy and I made our way, of course, to the beach, to the Barceloneta area and along to the Hotel Arts. The temperature was most agreeable with the thermometer reaching the early 20ºs at midday. We went again when we visited Bestial, a great restaurant, which is practically on the beach and which was the location we finally chose for our event in February. Great place!
Suzy and I on the beach in Barcelona.
Barcelona was great, as always. The trip was just slightly dampened by the theft of Julia’s iPhone when we went for dinner on the second night. Julia is an Austrian friend of Susana’s from when they both worked on the Nokia N-Gage tour some years ago. We hardly noticed when a man came up to our table and placed a piece of paper on it. He was asked to leave but later we realised he had stolen Julia’s phone right under our noses and we hadn’t seen him do it. Hopefully the restaurant will be able to claim insurance.

You can see the full set of photos of our trip to Barcelona here on Facebook.

Soon we were home again. On the Thursday I had the Yoigo 3rd anniversary press conference with things to announce so Wednesday was spent working non-stop on last minute details. The conference went really well. We held it at Eco Bar Spa in Paseo Rosales in Madrid. As we were announcing a new tariff of 6 cents per minute, we had built a giant 6 with over 15,000 lego pieces which took 3 days to build. You can see me posing by it with my new red glasses (classy eh? Or not? – not sure yet really) and the rest of the photos here.
Me and the giant lego 6 at the Yoigo press conference on its 3rd anniversary this week.
And this week was also the week we had dinner at Irene’s. Irene is Irene González from the González-Gálvez family, the family I lived with as a student in Spain in the late 70’s and whom I have written about many times recently as we have re-established contact and now see each other for dinner quite often.
Dinner at Irene's, from left to right: me, Gerardo, Vicky, Irene, Tomás
We hadn’t been to Irene’s house before and it’s lovely and cosy and beautifully decorated. Thomas, her husband, did the cooking and got full marks for a great vichyssoise and cod with peppers. We also got to meet their older kids, Paula and Tomás. The small ones, beautiful Celia and Nacho were there too to greet us before going to bed. We were joined, of course, by Irene’s brother, Gerardo and his lovely wife Vicky. Here are some more photos of that great evening. Our next meeting will in February and we look forward to that.

That was on Friday and the next day, yesterday, we were to leave for Calahorra in La Rioja. The most difficult part was getting all of us in the car on time (09.30h) with the luggage. It was mission impossible and it was only achieved at 10.15 with very grumpy girls. Our first stop was just outside Burgos at the famous Hotel Landa Palace. It was too early for lunch so we made do with refreshments. We always stop there on our way to the north and back and love the place for the atmosphere and food.
Oli, Suzy and me at the Landa Palace near Burgos on our way to La Rioja.
A couple of hours later we finally arrived at Calahorra (the vegetable capital of Spain by the way) which is nearly 500km from Madrid. Yesterday’s programme was lunch at the Parador, exploring the town, a walk, a lovely long rest in our rooms and then dinner at La Rana del Moral, recommended to me by a friend at work, Pilar. It was a great recommendation.
The girls and I in Calahorra yesterday.
And today was dedicated to the Márques de Riscal winery in Elciego. I have been there many times but it was new for my Father and Olivia and, in fact, neither the girls nor my Father had ever visited a winery or bodega as they are known here.

The Márqués de Riscal winery is apparently the oldest in La Rioja but it is also famous for its hotel which was built by the Canadian architect, Frank O’Gehry. It is spectacular and very modern, in sharp contrast to its surroundings, which have probably not changed much since the last century.
Frank O'Gehry's Márques de Riscal hotel in Elciego
Elciego, the village where the City of Wine is located, is very pretty and typical of the area with its church and spire and cobbled streets.
The four of us in Elciego
After the visit to the winery and the village, we made our way to the hotel to the table we had reserved at the magnificent 1860 restaurant (1860 was the year the bodega was established). This was perhaps the most significant moment of the weekend’s programme.

You can see the full set of photos of our trip to La Rioja here.

Tomorrow we will be going back to Madrid and both Eladio and Oli will be in a bit of a rush as they have to work in the afternoon. I have a busy week ahead of me but not quite as stressful as last week, thank goodness.

I cannot finish this post without referring to my dear Aunty Masha. Last year today she passed away. She always seemed so eternal to me and was an important reference point in my life, as my Mother’s youngest sister and the maternal family member who was closest to me. She really was a character as you can read about her in my post from last year.

And on that note, I will end this week’s blog post.
Until next time, Masha.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spring in November, a very busy week, new internet applications, luxury food shopping, getting ready for Christmas and the spice of life

Tweetdeck, a great tool to manage your social network accounts.
Hi this sunny November morning.

Today is 21st November and the sun is still shining. It seems more like spring than nearly winter, as a taxi driver commented to me the other day. We have had constant good weather for months and months now and in fact this summer was the 3rd hottest recorded ever. I am off to Barcelona today and I know it will probably be even warmer there. Would you believe I have hardly worn a coat yet this Autumn.

I will be going to attend an international seminar organised by the CMT (government body that regulates the telecoms market in Spain, where everybody who is anybody in the sector will be invited.
It will take place at the Gran Teatre Liceu on the Rambla, a beautiful building in a great location.
The Gran Teatre del Liceu in La Rambla in Barcelona where the CMT conference will take place this week, an ideal place.
Whilst I’m in Barcelona I will take the opportunity to site inspect possible locations for a press conference I will be organising during the Mobile World Congress in February. I’ll be killing two birds with one stone so to speak.

I hardly every travel for my job with Yoigo, whereas I was forever on the road with Motorola and Nokia. So going to Barcelona today seems quite exciting. Suzy will be coming with me so I’m guaranteed to have a good time when I’m not busy. Tonight for example we will be meeting Grainne and Marcel, a must every time I go to Barcelona and on Monday night we’ll be going out with Julia, Suzy’s Austrian friend from the N-Gage Tour some years ago.

This week has been extremely busy. On Monday we had an interview with a financial rag called Nuevo Lunes. Thursday was the busiest. It started with a visit to El Economista which was both a breakfast meeting with the editors in chief and then a live online interview where my boss and I had to answer readers’ questions which were sometimes very candid. Our answers were transparent, direct and fun as you can read here in Spanish.

Then we had to rush back to the office as our blogger event was starting. At Yoigo we have a very frank relationship with this new kind of media; the ones who write about technology and our company. They are experts in their fields and more demanding than journalists. Some would call them freakies but I don’t. They were coming to a Yoigo at home event and it was the first time they were visiting the offices. Of course I had gone all out to put on a great event. The theme was “home” so the waiters were dressed in dressing gowns, the tables in the cafeteria had bunches of coloured sweets, there was a table football and darts and as a final touch we gave them a pair of microwaveble slippers as the goodbye gift. Here you can read just one of their impressions. That was one stressful day but thankfully everything went fine.

And Friday brought with it a pleasurable lunch (interview) with ABC with one of my oldest media acquaintances, Fernando who is now the Financial Editor in Chief and the new reporter on telecoms, María Cuesta. It was a good end to a busy week.

On the social front, on Tuesday I had lunch with María and Pilar from Yoigo. It’s good to make friends in the company and I don’t have that many as I work mostly from home. On Thursday, yeah the very busy Thursday, we went out with José Antonio and Dolores to Eco Bar and Spa Madrid which is where I am organising a press conference this Thursday. We went to check out the food which is absolutely superb. It was great seeing them. Somehow we are losing contact with them. José Antonio is Eladio’s next brother down and possibly his closest. When the children were younger we saw a lot of them but sadly that is not so any more. In fact we see them more in Léon than we do in Madrid. I wish they were more in our lives really.

Then the weekend came and Juli, the girls’ lovely Colombian friend came to stay. He was up early yesterday morning and as he is an internet freakie, I got to get 2 new internet applications. One is called Tweet Deck and is a great tool for managing your Twitter and other social network accounts in one. Thus I can control here both my accounts and Yoigo’s. It’s great.

The second application is Google Wave, the next thing in email (and more) that was apparently developed by Google engineers who had to spend one year on a beach in Australia developing it, or so the story goes. Right now it’s only in beta and only works with invitations. Juli, of course, managed to get one for me. Now I have to think what to do with Google Wave.
Google Wave. I still have to figure out how it works.
It’s funny how I love new internet applications. Not many women of my age are interested but I am. I wonder if it has anything to do with wanting to be always one step ahead in everything. That’s me, always up to date. On the other hand applications like these help you organise your life in more ways than you can imagine. I laugh when people ask me: “but how do you have the time?”. Of course I have the time, posting stuff on social networks takes seconds and can be done in between many other tasks of the day.

And that brings me to the next topic in my headline, luxury food shopping. Yesterday Eladio and I went to visit a new shopping centre in Pozuelo called Zielo (pronounced the same way as heaven in Spanish). The place is amazing but not enough to impress me who has seen one too many shopping centres in the world and come to believe they are pretty much all the same. What most attracted us was the supermarket, Sánchez Romero. It is Spain’s most up market chain of supermarkets and is where I hear Real Madrid players do their shopping. There were Christmas hampers on sale for 3000 euros. It’s not quite Fortnum and Mason but Spain’s equivalent; spotlessly clean with the most enticing produce on its shelves. I bought some peeled garlic in a jar plus raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and billberries - the ingredients of the afternoon snacks of my diet. And, by the way, I have now lost 8 kilos. I’m so relieved you can’t imagine.

Being the end of November I am of course gearing up to Christmas. Thanks to dear Amazon. Com the girls now have some lovely low fat (i.e. without chocolate) advent calendars. And thanks to Emma Bridgewater we now have a stock of lovely crackers which are nearly impossible to find in Spain. And some not so low fat Roses chocolates are also on their way. We won’t, however, decorate the house till mid December.
One of the boxes of Crackers from Emma Bridgewater
And the box I like best with the festive Union Jack.
That is all the news for this week. Life however, at least for me, would not be as exciting if there wasn’t something to look forward to and I always need something to look forward to in my life. So what are we looking forward to you will ask? Of course, travelling, as that is the spice of our life. To start with the whole family will be going to stay at the Parador in Calahorra in La Rioja next week (all on points by the way!).
The Parador in Calahorra where we will be going next week.
Then in February we will be going to stay with Sandra in Brussels who I went to University with. Adele, another friend from University will be coming too. Our husbands will have their own programme which already sounds like a sort of joke as one is American, one is French and mine of course, is Spanish. Eladio is a little reluctant but I know we will have a great time.
La Grande Place in Brussels.
The other trip we are looking forward to is to the capital of the world, the big apple, otherwise known as New York City. That will be at the end of March for 8 nights with Eladio. I have travelled all over the world but would you believe I have never been to New York. I can’t wait, it’s going to be good. It’s great to have something to look forward to.

And on that note, I’ll sign off. Hope you have a good week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A visit from China, a new look, new wine for my collection, Goodbye Miss Fair, and more

Miss Fair at the Centenary gala dinner in May 2008. You made a lasting impression on all of us, may you rest in peace.
Hi again

This time last week we were enjoying Pernille and Thomas’ visit and suddenly it’s Sunday again. The week has been busy but for me marked, sadly and nostalgically, by the unexpected news of the death of Miss Fair from my school, St. Joseph’s College, which I will come to later.

The week was busy indeed. It included all sorts of things. On the home front, the terrace furniture we ordered on internet from a small company in Salamanca, finally arrived. It’s lovely; wicker and white cushions but we won’t be enjoying it till next Summer.
The new terrace furniture which arrived this week.
On the same day the people from the firm we had ordered a swimming pool cover, came to install it. It’s well worth the money as Eladio will no longer have to fish out all the leaves and will keep the water underneath reasonably clean. They told him that it was strong enough to walk on. However I have not yet seen either Norah or the cats daring to do so.
The new swimming pool cover.
You can see the full collection of photos of both the new furniture and the swimming pool cover here.

This week at work I spent a whole morning trapped in a windowless room doing attending the first of a series of what seems to me to be a very mediocre coaching course on the rather old hat concepts of observing and listening. Thankfully Julio and Fátima came to rescue me at lunchtime and we had a great meal together.

This week too we had a visit of a delegation of people from China Mobile. They were here to learn how we do CSR in Yoigo. They are the biggest mobile operator in the world with 500.000 employees and we are obviously one of the smallest with just 84, so it was quite an honour to receive them. Of course they were very Chinese throughout the whole visit except for the end when one of them actually hugged me. I think they liked the way I hosted them. Well I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. Here is the souvenir photo for the records:
The delegation from China Mobile who visited us this week.
The rest of the week was taken up with interviews and more preparations for events I am organising this month and next. I’m quite busy but that’s how I like to be. On Friday afternoon there was time, however, for my girls or rather they had time for me when they came with me to choose a new pair of glasses after last week’s accident. They chose some green and red ones. They should be ready by next weekend when a photo will of course be published on this blog.

The new glasses, together with my recent new hairstyle, should help accentuate the new look, very unusual in me. Perhaps it has something to do with my diet. Yes, it’s slow but working. I have now lost 7.5 kgs. The hairstyle is news as I haven’t changed it for years, just like Nancy Reagan, to quote my “friend” Julio Navío. It’s not a revolution but a small change. The difference is that it is now shorter at the back than at the front which seems to be the latest fashion. Take a look here:
My new hairsytle, short at the back and longer at the front.
The new wine for my collection refers to an order I made for 2 boxes of Real Provisión. It comes from the Ribera del Guadiana in Extremadura from the Dolores Morenas bodega near Badajoz. So why on earth would I want to buy wine from there if the best wine in Spain comes from La Rioja and La Ribera del Duero you might say? We tasted this lovely wine at the Hotel we stayed at in La Parra and loved it. I couldn’t find it in the shops so surfed the web until I finally found the bodega it came from. I now have 22 bottles that have joined my collection which mostly comes from my membership with Vinoselección as well as some purchasing I did whilst in La Rioja in the summer. And by the way, nearly all the wine regions in Spain produce great wine these days, not only the famous ones, like La Rioja.
Real Provisión wine from Ribera del Guadiana, try it, it's superb.
And now I have written about the wine, the moment has come to write goodbye to Miss Fair. It’s terrible, I have googled her and absolutely nothing has come up. So I will have to rely here on my rather shaky memory as I first came into contact with her when I was a young girl at St. Josephs College and only saw her once since I left school which was more than 30 years ago. That was at last year’s centenary anniversary and I’m very glad I had the opportunity to see her there. So who is or was Miss Fair you may ask? I got to hear about her death through an email last week from the school inviting me to a Past Pupils and Staff day and it was in this email I learned that she had passed away. This is what it said:

We will particularly thank God for the life of Miss Marie C Fair who died on October 28th this year. We pray in thanksgiving for her life of dedication to the College and Catholic Education in Bradford and the Diocese of Leeds. Miss Fair was a pupil, member of staff and Headteacher from 1981 to 1992 and was known, loved and revered by countless numbers of pupils and staff whom she served.

Miss Fair was my geography teacher and the teacher that stands out most in my mind in all my memories at St. Joseph’s college Bradford which I attended from 1969 to 1975, my formative years. Indeed I think I am right in saying that this was so for all the girls who were taught by her in all her time at the school. I was not a good pupil I must admit but have gone on to be a supposed “pillar of society” to quote my best friend Amanda who went to school with me and maybe Miss Fair had something to do with this, who knows.

Miss Marie C (wonder what that stands for) Fair, a spinster, academic and blue stocking was unknown to us really. Somehow though she made a great impression on us all and was impossible to forget. I can only guess what was underneath that strict and serious veneer. She had a winey sort of voice and was an excellent teacher, although I do remember her making a terrible mistake with our Geography O’level in that she taught us the wrong syllabus and we nearly all failed. She was not particularly friendly but had a lot of character and we enjoyed sniggering at some of her remarks such as her description of the M62 being a “marvelous feat of engineering”. Andrea Longstaff remembers her for the line: “and remember girls ….. don’t think Bournville is just a bar of chocolate”.
A photo of Miss Fair probably in 1975 at school. She is the dark haired lady who is smoking (oh yes, she smoked, I'd forgotten that!)
Deep down I would have wanted her to like or admire me more but that was not to be. She only had eyes for those of us who went to Oxford or Cambridge, like my friend Amanda and I’m afraid that wasn’t me. I went to Nottingham University, did Spanish and got a 2.1 but that was not enough. And then when she didn’t remember me at first at last year’s centenary, I felt devastated. She did later but didn’t show much interest, when in fact, I had come all the way from Spain for the occasion and the person I most wanted to see was her.
A photo of us with Miss Fair (with the white jacket) at the centenary reunion last year.
The news has left me feeling nostalgic. I heard from “girls” I am in touch with who still live in the Bradford area that she died of bone cancer. I never knew her age, she seemed immortal and was always very fit, but if she retired in 1992 she must have been in her early 80’s.

Miss Fair, may you rest in peace. I wish I had known you better because for some reason I don’t really understand, you were an important part of my formative life. I wish I could have been at your funeral which Catherine Breen thinks you would have approved of as it was a really fitting tribute to you. You will not be forgotten and you will have a place in my memory forever.

And on that sad and nostalgic note, I have come to the end of this week’s post. The weekend has been quiet but today was lovely as both girls were here for lunch. Later on, we will be going for our walk with Roberto and MariCarmen. I will enjoy it as always but Norah will too of course, even more.

Cheers till next week