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,


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