Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu, Spanish cuisine, a state visit from France, the Queen emails bloggers, visitors from abroad, a very big party and less social networking

No more kissing due to the swine flu outbreak this week in Mexico.
Hello again,

Today is Tuesday. I normally write on a Sunday but last week and especially the weekend, have been hectic as you will find out if you read on.

My headline starts off with swine flu which is the world hot topic of the moment. It seems it broke out in Mexico this weekend and panic waves have gone round the world as already 80 have died. The first case in Europe was here in Spain and that was big news yesterday. I’m not sure whether it’s a case of panic mongering as with bird flu. Only time will tell. Flu epidemics of different varieties seem to come to a peak every 20 odd years and I heard today on the radio that the famous “Spanish flu” which actually wasn’t Spanish at all, had killed 40 million people in 1918 and 1919.

Who probably won’t be cooking too much pork right now are the 4 Spanish chefs who have been included in the top 10 of the prestigious San Pellegrino 50 world’s best restaurants ranking for this year which was announced last week. Top spot went to Ferran Adriá for the third year running and his El Bulli restaurant. I just checked their website to include their link here and saw what I expected. It is fully booked for quite some time now, plus it only opens from June to December. I wonder if I will ever get to go? So well done for Spanish cuisine, in my view, the best in the world.
The amazing Ferran Adriá, the world's top chef.
Who will be enjoying Spanish cuisine this week will be the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy and his glamorous ex model and singer wife; a sort of modern day JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy who are here on a state visit. The French and Spanish, like the English and French or any neighbour countries have a love hate relationship and one of the countries always considers themselves superior and in this case it is France.

The glamorous French (or French and Italian as Carla Bruni is actually Italian) were received by the King and Queen of Spain.
France though has had to put up with Spain winning the Tour of France or the Roland Garros tennis championships for some time now and I imagine that beating them at cuisine with 4 Spaniards in the top ten versus only two of their countrymen must hurt somewhat.

Any way they are here and causing a lot of media impact. The emphasis so far has been on rather unimportant issues if you consider the crisis we are in. There was comment that Carla Bruni did not curtsy correctly to the Queen of Spain. However what really filled up the newspapers were images of Carla Bruni and Princess Letizia (the wife of the crown prince Felipe and ex TV news commentator) together. The Daily Telegraph coined the encounter as Carla Bruni meeting her fashion match in Spain’s Princess Letizia. They are nearly equally tall, equally thin and wore very similar outfits.
Carla Bruni and Letizia Ortiz, the fashion match!
And in England this week, the Queen, softening in her old age or keeping up with the times, bless her, has sent her first official email to young bloggers to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth. When I read things like this, I wonder if it’s because she’s got a great new PR officer or maybe is influenced by her young and technology savvy grandsons. I suspect it’s the latter as it has been said that she shares video clips with them on You Tube and actually texts them. I’m not sure whether I believe she does this unaided. But, however, she does it, she is definitely keeping up with the times.
The lovely Queen of England. I can hardly imagine her texting or writing e-mails but she does (although it will be done for her:-))
Workwise life was quite hectic last week, mostly because I had two very early mornings. One when I got up at 7 am to get to a 10 o’clock meeting but had to turn back home at around 9 as the traffic was horrendous. The other was for an 8 o’clock conference call with Stockholm. How I hate early mornings, unless they are getting back from a dinner party at the weekend – but more on that later.

I got a feather in my cap or rather good work mileage as I managed an interview with Yoigo on the national TV news of La Cuatro last week. It came out 3 times and the media value is astronomical, plus the fact that you could never buy that time. That actually made my week as it is not often a company, name and logo, are included in the news here. In fact most programmes avoid the mentioning as they consider it advertising. It was all about the price war and Yoigo’s mission since it arrived is to start off that war and continue fuelling it.

This week we launched a great new product, mobile data for pc useage with prepaid cards at a great price and capacity. The news here is that we also used Facebook for the first time as one of our media tools to communicate the new product.

Work this week was made even fun or eventful with a visit of a Finnish delegation who were interested in the Yoigo story. I always love meeting Finns and am very fond of the country as you know from my times with Nokia.

And very unusually we got a visit from some “Brits” from the UK, from Manchester, a place or area close to my heart because of my Yorkshire roots. They were here to do a piece for a corporate film and I thoroughly enjoyed their very British banter and wonderful sense of humour.

The visitors from abroad don’t only refer to the Finns and the Brits at work but also to my best friend Amanda and her husband Andy who came to stay on Wednesday. We all go back a long way, to my St. Joseph’s College school days in Bradford. Andy was my Father’s pupil at Bradford Grammar school. I think I have told their story on my blog before but in summary they were young lovers at sweet 16 who split up at University. They married other people and then only a few years ago found each other and now live happily ever after. That is the short version. The longer one is much more romantic.
Andy and Amanda, my dear English friends.
They were here on a mission, to find accommodation and sign up for a Spanish language course in August in the lovely University town of Salamanca. So we housed them for the beginning and end of their trip, the end coinciding with this weekend and Suzy’s 25th birthday party.

We had more visitors too last week who also stayed on for Suzy’s bash. The girls’ cousins, Marta, Laura and Paula and Verónica, Paula’s friend stopped off at our house on their way to and back from Liverpool. My English friends and me too, were quite astonished in the interest in Liverpool. For me it’s a rather depressing industrial town in the north of England. For them, however, it is the fascinating birth town of the Beatles and home to that Football Club, Liverpool United, which has become important to the Spaniards because of Rafa Benitez, the coach and players like Torres (or El niño as he is called).

So on Wednesday night we had an Anglo Spanish dinner for 10 which was great fun.
Dinner for 10 on Wednesday night.
Finally the weekend came and Suzy’s part surprise 25th birthday bash too. Here we were a team of Ana, Juli, Oli and I and we created a whole lot of surprises for Suzy’s Saturday birthday lunch barbecue to which about 50 of her friends came! She was just told to make sure people came and to make the cakes as she’s the specialist in that field. She was also told to keep out of the garage where all the surprises were kept.
Suzy, Oli,Eladio and the cousins during the party.
We surprised her with badges for everyone with their names, helium gas filled balloons, a specially designed t-shirt and even a candy floss machine.
People's badges made for the party.
Frankly a good time was had by all as you can see in these videos. The first one is of the helium gas filled balloon effect (when you take in the air and then talk your voice changes) and the second one is of the birthday cake moment.
A view of the birthday party
The party went on very late, but we adults, getting tired of people half our age, made our way to Madrid to meet Andy’s friend Alexander for dinner at Casa Paco in La Latina. It took us half an hour to drive there and then an hour to find somewhere to park. I won’t go into detail of the forbidden u-turns we had to do to park but suffice it to say, if we hadn’t we might well have started dinner at 11 at night.

Dinner there was great as usual, specially the beef which Alexander boasts is the best in Spain. I would say it’s one of the best. Afterwards he took us to a Flamenco bar on the Cava Baja street as Andy is a lover of Spanish guitar playing. We went into a den of smoke and listened to Flamenco from authentic gypsy men for what turned out to be at least 3 hours. Thus we didn’t get home until 4 in the morning, quite a record for us. I’m afraid I paid for the sin with a heavy headache the next morning.
The flamenco guitar player
Sunday was quiet and filled with lunch making for 9, as the cousins were still here too, as well as a walk with Norah. It was also the day I spent most time talking to my lovely English friends. Their visits are rare but very cherished.

The final note for this blog is about me rationing my social networking. I must admit I was getting heavily addicted to Facebook and Twitter. Sandra commented on Facebook last week “How does Masha find so much time to be on FB and Twitter? There has to be more to life than this!” which of course got me thinking. Then talking to Andy about it he was making fun of Twitter and the banal comments like “I’ve just sneezed” which also got me thinking. I actually posted this comment the day after: “wonders whether people would be interested to know that she has just sneezed. Is this what Twitter and FB are all about, just banal stuff? Since then I have decided to ration myself to one comment a day. So far, I’ve kept my own promise.

And that my friends, is it for this week, except to say, happy 25th birthday darling Suzy as it is actually today. Here is a picture of Suzy and her cake during the family lunch today.

Till next week
Cheers to you all.

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