Sunday, January 31, 2010

Finally an iPhone, the holocaust remembered, Olivia in Israel, a bit about religion, retirement at 67 and more.

Memorial ceremony last week at Auschwitz to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the most famous and terrible of all Nazi death camps. A replica Arbeit Mach Frei sign was put up to replace the original which was stolen recently. We all know what those sad and ironic German words mean: Work makes you free. Well it didn't make the poor Jewish and other prisoners free ever.
Hi again

Well here I am on yet another Sunday writing my blog. Sometimes it’s not easy to be consistent and I often have to force myself to sit down and write. Today is one of those days, plus I’ve got a headache which never helps. Two things keep me motivated to write; one, no way can I give up now if I have been writing for over 4 years weekly and, two, I sort of hope that one day my grandchildren, if I have them and I trust I will, may want to read it, to find out about their family and past and also to read about these times. Who knows?

And on that pensive thought, I begin this week’s post. As I write, my Father is upstairs enjoying a cup of tea in the kitchen and reading the second of the Millennium books, “the girl who played with fire” (Eladio is now beginning the last of the trio). Eladio is checking our two fire places to see how well the smoke goes up the chimney which I have been nagging him to do since we saw one at our friends’ house last night. We have lived her now since 2006 and have never used them, mostly because Eladio is worried about sullying the walls with the smoke. His verdict as I write is that the smoke goes up beautifully. So I am now looking forward to sitting and reading by the fire one day. Suzy is studying hard for a big exam tomorrow on Food Technology. I wish her a lot of luck. She only has 2 subjects to pass to finish her very complicated degree so tomorrow is important.

The week has not been anything special, quite normal I would say for us at least. So what have I been up to that is worth recording?

The week started well with a meeting on Monday to present my PR report for 2009. I think we did an awful lot of good things that helped the Yoigo brand. That was one of the only two days I went into the office physically. Yeah, I know, I’m so lucky to be able to work from home but also much more productive. My work life balance is perfect of course but don’t get me wrong, my superiors get their pound of flesh from the work I do for the job. Another plus for them is that I never switch off, practically never.

On Monday I got some good news from my nephew Juan who has landed a trainee job with Burson Marsteller, the number one PR agency in the world. I worked closely with BR for many years whilst at Motorola and know that it is the best school for learning the skill and climbing up the PR ladder. Good luck Juan, you deserve it.

Tuesday was the second day I went into the office, this time for the weekly development meeting; not that interesting for me, but nice to see colleagues I don’t often see. Tuesday was also the day I invited my team from our PR Agency Ketchum to our annual beginning of the year lunch. It’s mostly to thank them for the good work done the year before and to start the new year with a bit of a bang to get us motivated. Thanks Blanca, Ludi, Gustavo, Carlos and Isabel, you are a good team and I couldn’t my job in the same way without you. We had lunch by the way at La Máquina in La Moraleja, great place with excellent food.

Wednesday 27th January was a normal day for me but not for Apple. It was the day they chose to unveil the iPad, what Steve Jobs, their CEO, described as their most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device. They didn’t need to do an advertising campaign as they are masters at PR and had all the newspapers in the world writing about it for free. So what is the iPad? Difficult to describe but it’s a bit like a big iPhone without the phone and wonderful for surfing the web, listening to music, reading books or watching films. It measures nearly 10 inches and the starting price is 499 US$. I want one, of course.
Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, who proudly unveiled their latest "toy" the iPad last week.
On Wednesday 27th January I also decided that whilst the world was gushing about the iPad, it was about time I had an iPhone which has actually been in the market for 2 years but is still the most desirable phone around. Most people know me as the “cell phone queen” (not really true) but of course if I worked for Nokia I couldn’t use one. The added difficulty is that the device is linked, at least in Spain, to a line with the incumbent operator Movistar. Non sim locked versions exist but are very expensive. So how did I get one? Easy actually and I should have thought of it before. I ordered one with Movistar which is the operator I have for my private number. I just had to sign up for 18 months permanence and a minimum consumption of 25 euros per month and voilá the price was only 124 euros. I picked it up at the Spanish department store, El Corté Inglés on Thursday. A girl in the queue looked a bit surprised and warned me that I might have difficulties setting it up (because of my age presumably!). Little did she know who she was talking to? I found the episode slightly amusing but also annoying to think she thought I was too old for an iPhone.
An iPhone, still the most desirable mobile phone in the market.
So do I like it? You bet. The surfing experience is fabulous. It has some downs but the ups are so good that they compensate. The downs are the Bluetooth which only works in cars I think, the camera is only 3 mega pixels and some things you simply can’t do. On the up side the applications are fast and the surfing experience especially with social networks has no precedent with any other mobile phone I have ever used. I think everyone should have one it’s so good. Plus the look and feel is plain lovely.
The first photo taken with my iPhone. The quality is nothing special as the camera only has 3 mega pixels. I thought you might be interested to see it though as it's my desk at home where I spend so much time at my pc.
Wednesday was the day Apple chose to launch their new product. They probably didn’t realise it was also the Holocaust Memorial Day. I didn’t either and there I was on the very same day beginning to read the book called The last seven months of Anna Frank, the symbol for me and for most people of the suffering of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis. Spurred on by the death of Miep Gies who died recently I had ordered this book, her own memoirs as well as the BBC TV series about Anna Frank and my Amazon package arrived that day which was quite a coincidence I thought.

Events took place, as they do every year, at Auschwitz and elsewhere to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp. Every year fewer and fewer survivors attend as they got older and die. Soon there will be none left which is why it is so important that we never forget what happened. Photos like this are a testimony to that. I find it difficult to understand people who negate the fact. It was truly horrible but it happened and that should never be denied.
More than a million people died at Auschwitz
Wednesday was also memorable for us at least because of the showing on TV of the first of a two part series on Adolfo Suárez, the first democratically elected president in Spain after the death of Franco and who will go down in history for his remarkable role in the transition period from dictatorship to democracy in the late 70’s.
Adolfo Suárez, Spain's first democratically elected President after decades of dictatorship under Franco. Suárez will go down in history for the major role he played in the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Sadly today he doesn't remember the part he played as he suffers from alzheimer.
Thursday was perhaps my busiest day and most interesting day of the week. It started with a meeting in town with a gentleman called Ronnie who actually heads up Inq Mobile for Europe from his London base. It was great to talk to a Brit who’s been in the sector for about the same amount of time as me. Ronnie, it was a pleasure.

After that I had a meeting with our advertising agency, El Laboratorio, one of the most creative I have ever known. The idea was to get as much information from them as possible on the creation and development of the Yoigo cartoon dolls they use in our advertising to do a PR pitch on the story. The dolls are actually hand-made out of paper to start off with a bit like Wallace and Gromit are made first with plasticine and they are an intrinsic part of our brand.
Some of the Yoigo cartoon dolls we use in advertising, they are an intrinsic part of the brand.
As I was in town I took the opportunity to have lunch with Oli and it was nice to have some quality time together. We talked about all sorts of things, including my own Mother, her Grandmother and after we parted I received a lovely message telling me she thought she had reached the stage of her youth when she began to love her parents again!!!!! Halleluya is all I can say.

On Friday Eladio took Oli to the airport as she was flying to Israel for 10 days with her school friend Begoña to see another school friend, Miad, of Iranian origin, who is working for the Bahai World Centre in Haifa. The messages we have received so far transmit a very happy Oli. Like me, like her Grandfather, travelling is obviously in her blood. I am dying to see some photographs.

Eladio and I are now definitely on for a trip to Israel and Jordan in September and we have been looking at maps to understand the local geography as well as local travel agents’ websites to see what’s on offer and what to visit. The more we think about it the more we want to go.

Our motive is purely cultural, not at all religious although we both have, of course Eladio much more than me, a very strong background in religion. Both my grandfathers were priests (one Anglican and the other Russian Orthodox), two of my mother’s sisters were Russian Orthodox nuns (Olga in Sophia Bulgaria and Dara in New York), I was baptised in the Russian Orthodox church, I went to a Catholic school, I went to an Anglican church during some of my teenage years and it is in this religion that I was confirmed. Religion was actually one of the A’ levels I studied and then I went and married a Catholic priest. I mean that is one hell of a religious background right? We, however, are not religious at all. So do I believe in God? That’s a big question and I don’t even know the answer myself.

The weekend has been quiet too, I have been reading my new books, doing domestic chores (not the ironing or the cleaning thank goodness as dear Zena, our Ukranian home help does that), such as cooking and going for walks with Norah.

The highlight of the weekend was dinner at Juana and Oscar’s yesterday. They were colleagues at Nokia and while I was there, went to live in Mexico where their two children, Santi and Patricia were born. They came back to Spain in the summer. Fátima and Julio were also invited and as it was a sort of housewarming dinner party, I bought them a kitchen gadget I have always found very useful, an electric knife. Their new flat is a true home that Juana has worked at with great love but also a lot of dexterity since they moved in. It’s lovely, one of the nicest things being the fire place, hence my nagging at Eladio to light fires in our home.
Juana and Julio at the dinner at Juana and Oscar's place last night.
On the international news front, stories from Haiti still hit the newspapers but this topic is no longer front page news. A few more people have been rescued which seems impossible after such a long time. The earth there still trembles and I read that there have been more than 50 quakes since the first one, although of a lesser scale. I have also read that 75% of the capital, Port au Prince needs to be rebuilt and awful stories of prisoners and mentally handicapped people wandering around the rubble. Imagine.

One piece of local news was not good for me this week; the proposal by the Spanish socialist government to prolong retirement to the age of 67. That would hit me badly. I worked it out today that I would have worked 42 years by then as I started work in 1982 aged 25. That’s a lot of years worked. I will be 53 next month, on the 8th of February and I cannot imagine myself going on for another 14 years. I hope the measure does not prosper but it might. Right now there are 4 million people unemployed in Spain which is nearly 20% of the population, one of the highest rates in Europe. It seems to me if older people go on working so long young people will have less of an opportunity of finding a job. It’s a sort of catch 22 situation. On the other hand retirement at 65 came into effect some 100 years ago when the life span was shorter and pensions were needed for fewer years than they are now. Maybe that has to be addressed so that there is enough money for us all when we retire.

And on that dismal note, I finish this week’s blog post. I hope you all have a great week.

Cheers till next week

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