Sunday, February 28, 2010

Home again, more technology in my life, waiting for Pedro J Ramírez, capricious Mother Nature and more.

Some of the devastation caused by the earthquake in Chile this weekend.
Hi again

It’s a quiet Sunday after the storms (but more on that later) and my trips to Barcelona and Brussels. Oli is at work on some voluntary project and Suzy is in Cádiz down south with Gaby for the weekend. It’s been a tiring week as I think I hadn’t really recovered from my travels and it felt a bit uphill at times. Intermittent headaches didn’t help either. However this weekend I have slept like a baby and feel ready to face whatever next week beholds.

So what did I do this week? Well Monday was for myself and organising work. On Tuesday I went into the office for the weekly development meeting but at midday managed a quick foray to El Corte Inglés to buy a music deck for my Iphone as well as a webcam for my pc to use Skype, both influenced by Sandie during our weekend in Brussels. No sooner had I installed Skype later that afternoon then my cousin Sasha called me and there we were the two of us chatting thanks to this technology. My Father who is nearly 91 joined in and I was very “chuffed” to see him using Skype. I don’t think he could quite believe what was happening. Sandra and I later chatted too and here is a picture to capture that moment. Up till now I thought I didn’t need Skype as all my phone calls are paid for but the added attraction is of course seeing the other person.
Here's a snapshot of Sandie on skype, such a great discovery and all thanks to her.
And now as I write this post there is wonderful music playing from Spotify on my iPhone in the new JBL music deck. So yes, some more technology has come into my life and brought with it another way of talking and of listening to music. I’m not a techie but if technology enhances my life then I will always embrace it.
My JBL music deck for the iPhone, a great idea. The sound is very good.
On Tuesday I was invited by the Association of Communications Directors (Dircom) to the launch of a new publication called Orbyt by El Mundo (Spain’s number 2 newspaper – its website is the leading news website in Spanish in the world). It was a lunchtime event and was to be presented by Spain’s Rupert Murdoch, Pedro J. Ramírez, who was really the big attraction of the event.
Mr. Pedro J. Ramírez who made us wait so long last week.
Lunch started at 14.30 and it was one of those typical events I hate. You go on your own and know about 5 or 6 people but nobody really well and feel like a flower on the wall. I did know some people like Manuel Saucedo, ex Director of Marca and now the Group Communications Director. But luckily Teresa, the GM of Ketchum rescued me from my threatening solitude whilst we were all waiting for Pedro J to make his appearance. Tuesday was 23rd February and the anniversary of Spain’s famous coup d’etat in 1981 and it turned out that he was attending an event at the Spanish Parliament. Someone told me he was actually having lunch with a prominent Spanish politician, José Bono.

He didn’t turn up till nearly 16.30 and some people had left. However the wait turned out to be well worth it as the publication Orbyt (can’t find any decent reference on internet) is just superb. It is the digital version of the newspaper but with much more to offer. It is a premium subscription for 14 or 15 euros a month that I for one would certainly pay. If you have a subscription for the paper edition, the digital one is free. When asked if Orbyt would one day replace the paper version, Pedro J replied they could live together and that he for one would want to die surrounded by books and papers (me too by the way). He also said that if paper were to become extinguished, Orbyt would be the perfect replacement. I think he is a very clever man.

On Wednesday I woke up to the news that my boss’ boss had left the company. That left me a bit shell shocked as the Spanish financial newspaper, Expansión had only published an interview with him 2 days earlier, the one I organised at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona recently. I then had to ring the journalist and try to explain what had happened which was quite an awkward situation for me. He had been with the company all his working life and given his all. However he did not see eye to eye on certain matters with the company CEO which seems to be the reason for his leaving. I wish Kenneth a very happy early retirement.

Thursday was the fullest day of the week. It began with the first Yoigo Morning of the year. Yoigo Mornings are staff meetings where we exchange information, the newcomers present themselves (the best part) and there is always nice food and a gift. I did these in Nokia and called them Nokia Mornings. So I’m just copying myself. There was a full turnout and we no longer fit in the cafeteria. Next time I’m going to have use a sound system as some of the shy newcomers could not be heard at the back. It was to be Robert Coffey’s last Yoigo Morning. Now there will be only 2 Brits left, Tony Watts and myself. As it’s a bit of a joke that Robert hasn’t learned much Spanish in his 3 years with Yoigo, we gave him a big grammar book and also got him to present the newcomers in Spanish, of course.

So what was the present this time I bet you’re asking? It was a bunch of candy and you can see it in the picture. The candy was different shaped marshmallow and in Spanish is called clouds or “nubes” so the label said “not all clouds cause storms”. Mine is joining all my other promotional sweet stuff which I just cannot eat, not because it’s fattening but because I don’t want to spoil it.
The "bunches" of candy we gave out at the Yoigo Morning this week. Everyone loves something sweet.
After the Yoigo Morning I had an interview with a publication from Seville, El Diario de Sevilla which came out today and which you can read here. It was all about portability in mobile phones (leaving one mobile phone operator to join another) and in 2009 Yoigo was the absolute leader. Sometimes I can’t quite believe how well we are doing.

The clouds in the sky in Madrid that day did announce rain though and it rained all the way to my lunch appointment with the girls. It’s always nice to have lunch together and we try to every now and again. Oli had been running in the rain and came into the restaurant in great need of a comb and a towel. She told me us she was smitten with someone. Now isn’t that nice? Would be great if I got to meet the “chap” but for that I may have to wait.

That same day in the evening was the goodbye dinner for Robert at Naia, the restaurant that belongs to Pedro, yes the Pedro who will be replacing him. I didn’t feel much like going as I am no fan of big dinners that start late, are noisy and you usually end up sitting next to someone who doesn’t interest you much. With luck I sat next to the party boy and my other English friend Tony and the dinner turned out to be great fun. We will miss you Robert. Good luck back in wonderful Copenhagen.

Friday was a great day. In the afternoon I had a date with Elena but went to her house this time as the poor girl sprained her ankle badly on Monday. From there I picked up Suzy and we drove to Villaviciosa to the dentist and finally I had a new crown put in where the old one had fallen out in January. It has taken some time but now my mouth feels normal. Whilst in the area we went to a shop to get some clothes taken in. How good that feels.

As Friday was a down day, we could not go out to dinner. Instead we lit the new fire and watched the film The Changeling with Angelina Jolie. It is an excellent film or maybe I should say the story is. It’s a true story about a little boy disappearing. The police say they have found him and return a boy that is not her son. The story is her subsequent fight with the corrupt LA police to find out the truth of what has happened which turns out to be a nightmare. Well worth watching if you haven’t seen it.
The Changeling with Angelina Jolie, a shocking story
Finally the weekend came and we were mostly on our own. As there was no hurry to make lunch, Eladio and I went to Las Rozas Village (an artificial village which sells luxury brands at lower prices) to get our Textura towels we had collected vouchers for from El Mundo newspaper.
Me at Las Rozas Village - we went there to get the El Mundo Textura towels; nice but a bit small.
From there and in the pouring rain we made our way to the Zielo shopping centre in Pozuelo with the sole purpose of visiting Le Pain Quotidien bakery there for a coffee and a cake. If you have read my post on our trip to Brussels you will have read how we discovered this lovely communal Belgian bakery there. It’s a bit like a Belgian Starbucks but much better and with great home made baked products. They are all over the world so if you haven’t come across one yet, see if there is one near you.
Eladio at the Belgian bakery, Le Pain Quotidien in Pozuelo this weekend. Love that place.
Of course once at Zielo we made a little foray into the luxurious Sánchez Romero supermarket for some exotic or hard to find fruit such as raspberries, blackberries, billberries, etc – all for our down days you see.

Saturday being an up day, we went out for dinner and this time tried somewhere new. We went to La Española, supposed to be the best place in Pozuelo. I had been before but many years ago. We were very pleasantly surprised and I know we’ll be going back.

In the meantime Mother Nature was playing havoc around the world as she has been doing since the Haiti earthquake. Not so long ago there were dreadful storms in the Portuguese island of Madeira which caused floods and much distruction.
Floods in Madeira
Last week there were huge floods too in Spain and this weekend we have been awaiting the much announced explosive cyclogenesis warning. It was termed as the “perfect storm” in Spanish but I don’t know why. It came yesterday but was a dry storm, at least in Madrid, with very strong winds.

Much worse was happening in Chile. Yesterday morning an 8.8 earthquake hit the central part of the country. Apparently it was 50 times stronger than the one in Haiti but luckily the epicentre was in the sea. That is not much comfort though as there are now tsunami warnings all along the Pacific. The death toll is creeping up and is now over 400 people. The world’s thoughts will now turn there as always happens when there is a natural disaster.

Mother Nature is certainly very capricious. Yesterday was dark and windy and stormy yet today we woke up to a glorious sunny day. Eladio and I went for our walk this morning but without Norah and I must explain why. Whilst we were in Barcelona she fell ill and Eladio took her to the vet. It seems she has a malformation in her cervical cords (they come out like a zig-zag on the x-ray) and she is now on heavy medication and must rest. She is no longer in pain but walks are not allowed. I must say too that walks without her are just not the same. Get better soon Norah.

My final note is about my Danish princess Pernille and Finnish daughter Anne. Dearest Pernille rang to organise the girls’ weekend with them in June (great!!!) and Anne rang to say she’s coming to visit with Timo in June. Nice things to look forward to aren’t they?

And on that note I leave you and hope you all have a great week.

Cheers till the next time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A very special reunion weekend in Brussels

The 3 of us together last weekend in Brussels, reunited 30 years after we left University. From left to right, me, Sandie and Adele
This is how we looked in 1978 or 1979 when we were at Nottingham University together. I don't think we've changed that much. Thank God we didn't leave it another 30 years.

Hi again midweek, here I am multi-tasking and at my desk at home with a bit of a headache but I just have to write this post as otherwise it will soon be the end of the week and time to write the next.

No sooner had I come back from Barcelona than I was leaving again for Brussels as you may well have read in the post I published on Monday. So what was the reunion all about you may ask? It was something really special. We were going to Brussels to stay with Sandra who lives just outside the city in Fort Jaco in a lovely block of flats called Villa Hermes (very fitting for my elegant and jet setting friend). We were to be joined by Adele who lives in France near Orleans and her lovely psychiatrist husband Bernard who is also quite an artist as we were to find out later.
The designer block of friends Sandie lives in. Very impressive.
I went to Nottingham University with them both more years ago than I would like to admit. They studied French and I studied Spanish but they did Spanish subsid so we got to meet.
The Trent Building at the University of Nottingham where our friendship was forged over 30 years ago.
Adele lived in the same hall as I in the first year, Nightingale Hall. In the second year I lived with Sandra (also known as Sandie) in Church Avenue and in my final year I lived with Adele at Cromwell Road. I have kept in touch with both of them over the years and had seen Sandie twice and quite recently too but with Adele it had been over 25 years since we last met. That was at her home town in Boroughbridge near York when both of us had just been Mothers. Now our children are grown up and we are middle aged. However our friendship was very strong and this weekend we took off just where we had left off and it was as if we were young girls again, except that we weren’t quite so short of cash nor were we desperately looking for boyfriends, hahaha.
Nightingale Hall, the all women's hall of residence Adele and I lived at in our first year at Nottingham University.
A word about these wonderful women before I start recounting the weekend. Adele is a fun loving delightful person to have around. She has not changed one iota. She loves food like I do and has the most amazing hair I have ever seen. When we were at University Adele’s main ambition in life was to get married and be a Mother. She used to prepare superb dinners which always included home-made pizzas and cheese cake. Today Adele is the perfect Mother and wife and also an excellent professional and now a teacher of English at a French University. She comes from a family of 5 brothers and sisters and has 4 boys herself; Johnathan, Benjamin, Nicholas and Tom whom I would love to meet one day. Bernard is her second husband. He was her therapist when she split up with her first husband. There’s a big story there.

Sandra is not easy to describe. She is a bundle of fun to be with and has the most outgoing character I know. She speaks to anyone and everyone in any language you want. Her background could not be more exotic: born in India from an Italian Father and a Jewish Hungarian Mother, Magda who had to be hidden from the Nazis during the Second World War. There is a very big story there and I hope one day Sandie writes it. When we were at University, Sandie was a cut above the rest. She had her own car which was unthinkable in those days and used Christian Dior perfume years before we ever did. Today she lives in Brussels and works for Price Waterhouse. Her partner is Jeffer London, a lovely American from Connecticut who specialises in corporate training or I think that is what he does. Amazingly they met at the Toastmasters Association, one Sandra has recommended me to join and which intrigues me. I will be going along to my first meeting with the Madrid branch next week.

Our three men, a French psychiatrist, a Spanish philosopher and ex priest and the American were to have a great weekend too as their cultural level and general interests were on an absolute par. But of course if they were our partners how wouldn’t they get on?

And now on to the weekend and everything we did.

We were up early last Thursday and Suzy drove us to the airport for our midday flight. I took advantage of the lovely shops at the enormous Terminal 4 to buy my friends some Spanish Loewe perfume as well as Spanish delicacies such as ham and good Rioja wine to contribute to the meals.

Sandie met us off the plane and of course the hugs were huge. She drove us in her nice convertible Saab (would Sandra choose any other type of car?) to her lovely home in Fort Jaco outside Brussels. Her flat is perfect and homely and tidy and beautifully decorated with a mixture of modern and oriental and full of books and wonderful objets d’art But I didn’t expect less. We all felt completely at home there and frankly I could have moved in.
Sandra's lovely flat, lots of space and lots of light with great simple decor. Above all it's a comfortable home.
We left Eladio with the plumber whilst the 2 of us went to get bread and other provisions from a superb supermarket, the likes of which I have never seen in my life – wow was it luxurious. Very soon Adele and Bernard arrived off the tram and were waiting for us near Sandie’s house. That meeting was emotional and beautiful. I think we both had tears in our eyes. My eyes are smarting as I write that. It was lovely Adele darling to see you again after so long. You are just the same.

Very soon we were joined by Jeffer and preparations began for the lovely dinner Sandie had ready planned for us which included an Indian chicken dish. We drank champagne to celebrate and took endless photos. Here is one of the 3 men who look just as happy as we were.
Our 3 men, from left to right: Bernard (Adele's husband), Jeffer (Sandie's partner) and Eladio.
On Thursday we were up nice and early as we didn’t want to waste a precious moment of our long weekend. Jeffer had to work so the rest of us made our way to Brussels to see some of the sights and we did so by tram.
On the tram going into Brussels from Fort Jaco on Friday morning.
We got off at the lovely square called Le Petit Sablon and walked to Le Grand Sablon nearby and the first thing we did was stop at the world famous Wittamer pâtisserie for a coffee and one of their very tantalising cakes. They brought us a tray of them and the choice was hard. Both Adele and I have a sweet tooth and enjoyed many cakes during our reunion. It was like being back at Nightingale when we used to have chocolate Easter egg eating competitions (I was a bit bulimic, I must admit).
Adele faced with a difficult decision: which cake to choose at the world famous Wittamer Pâtesserie in the Grand Sablon square.
We were all eager to go the Royal Museum of Fine Arts to see the Flemish masters such as Breugel and also the Magritte Museum and here we spent a happy few hours enjoying the wonderful art. My love of René Magritte, the famous surreal Belgian artist comes from our University days and the wonderful lectures we had from the lecherous Doctor Cardwell whom both Adele and Sandie well remembered.
Admiring the Flemish Masters in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels.
The Rape, in this painting a woman’s face is made up of the essential features of her body as René Magritte described it himself. I find it fascinating as I do most of his art.
From the Museum we made our way to a great bakery cum restaurant called Le Pain Quotidien where everybody eats round a big wooden table. Here we ate lovely food including rhubarb crumble, uummmm. I was delighted to find out that there is an establishment in Madrid which I know I will visit soon.
A shot of the inside of Le Pain Quotidien bakery, great place, an establishment which was a recurring theme in our reunion weekend.
Later we went into the china shop called Gien (from the name of the town in France) and bought some lovely plates with an Indian motif. I have found them on internet and know I will soon be ordering some more.
The beautiful plates we bought with Indian motifs from the Gien china shop in Le Gran Sablon.
From the Gran Sablon square we walked to La Grand-Place which some King once said was “le plus belle lieu du monde” which I hope is spelt write as my French is a bit rusty. We spoke a mixture of French, Spanish and English all weekend which was great fun. I agree with the King but think it is not the most beautiful place in the world but one of them. All Belgian towns have a Grand-Place like most Spanish towns have a Plaza Mayor.
In the Grand-Place in Brussels. You cannot visit Brussels without going there. It is really magnificent.
Then Sandie took us to the Galeries St. Hubert which houses the Galerie de la Reine and Galerie du Prince and is a glazed shopping arcade supposed to be one of the first shopping malls in Belgium or maybe even Europe. Here we visited the chocolate shop Neuhaus and bought some superb chocolate. Well, of course, Belgium is famous for its chocolate and deservedly so too.
The Neuhaus chocolate shop in les Galeries St. Hubert.
Later we walked round other monuments such as the Royal Palace and the Cathedral which is magnificent, very Gothic and similar to ones I have seen in France.

After a day full of sight-seeing and culture we headed home by tram again for a rest and to recharge our batteries before going out to dinner at Sandie and Jeffer’s favourite restaurant nearby. As you can see we enjoyed it immensely but mostly our own company.
A fun dinner on Friday night at a cozy little place round the corner from Sandie's flat in Fort Jaco.
The next day, Saturday, the men went off on a cultural expedition to visit Leuven the home to one of the world’s oldest Universities. We girls had our own programme. The first thing we did was call Sandie’s Mother Magda who lives in London on Skype. Neither Adele nor I had seen her since University and were very impressed to see how well she is doing and how innovative she is at 84, using skype and Facebook for example. She still drives and has a very active social life. Well done Magda. Right now I am waiting for you to accept me as your friend on Facebook.

Sandie then drove us to Waterloo outside Brussels – yes the place where the battle took place. We didn’t go to see Wellington’s monument I’m afraid but to shop at the British store there called Stonemanor. Brussels is full of Eurocrats and people from all over the world and is a real melting pot so it was no surprise to find an English supermarket. I stocked up on all sorts of chocolate, bacon, sausage rolls, pork pies and kippers, very English produce which I knew would be much appreciated at home especially by my Father. And I was not wrong. The pork pie was his lunch the day after we came home.

From there we made our way to another Le Pain Quotidian near Sandie’s house for yet another coffee and mouth watering cake. As we were having a girly morning, the obvious thing was to continue shopping so we had a good look into the shops in Fort Jaco. I bought some lovely heart shaped coloured bowls I had seen at Sandie’s flat and they are now gracing my kitchen and will forever be called “the Brussels bowls”. There was a stop at Pierre Marcolini which Sandie called “the Armani of chocolate” and where I bought some lovely coloured macaroons and pure white chocolate (all for the up days of course!).

We had a picnic lunch at home with the boys and in the afternoon everyone did their own thing. Jeffer and Eladio stayed to have a siesta, Adele and Bernard went shopping and I went with Sandie to enjoy the spa at the David Lloyd Leisure centre nearby and of which she is a member. The place is superb and housed in a chateau type building.
Sandra outside the luxurious David Lloyd leisure centre in Fort Jaco where we enjoyed the spa on Saturday afternoon.
Here we swam outside in the warm pool and then did a few lengths inside before going for the treat: the enormous jacuzzi, the sauna and the Turkish bath. We chatted throughout, catching up on so many years and I told her about how my brother died and she sympathised with me as only a very close friend can. Darling Sandie I am so glad to have you back in my life.

Our last dinner together was in town and we headed there in 2 cars past the Avenue St. Louis and streets with names like Franklin Roosevelt and Montgomery. Sandra reminded me that the Allies had liberated Belgium in the war and there are memories of that throughout the city and I imagine the whole country. Today Brussels is a thriving city and considers itself the capital of Europe. Without the European Union it would not be so. The city itself has good parts and bad and the beautiful old buildings are often overshadowed by ugly looking modern ones and the contrast is strange. Apparently there was not much town planning in the past.

Dinner had to be in the centre so we made our way to La Grand-Place making a small detour to touch the Everard’t Serclaes statue and of course see the Manneken Pis. The story goes that a King (don’t know which one again) lost his little boy and promised to build a statue where he was found if he was ever found. He was found and at the time was doing a “pee” so a statue of him doing that was built and has now become the symbol of Brussels.
Eladio and I by the Manneken Pis, an obligatory photo to take in Brussels.
On our way to meet the others in a bar in Le Grand-Place fittingly called “Le Roi d’Espagne” Sandra, Eladio and I bumped into a group of very lost looking Spanish tuna singers. We immediately asked them to sing which they did as you can see in the video I have uploaded to my You Tube videos. They were too embarrassed to walk into a bar and sing for money as they would in Spain so of course Sandie and I lent a motherly hand and in they walked and sang to the delight of everyone inside, including a very loud group of students from the Lebanon.
Sandie and I with the Spanish Tuna singers from Seville whom we encountered by the Manneken Pis. What fun!
We had dinner at Scheltema, a nice traditional place just off La Grand-Place and once again we had the time of lives laughing and eating as you can in this picture.
The 6 of us at the Scheltema restaurant on the last night. More fun again.
And suddenly it was Sunday and our last morning together. Our flight and Adele and Bernard’s train was at about 3 pm so there was still time for some more fun together. Jeffer and Sandie took us to the Marolles area which houses the antique market on a Sunday. Here we visited yet another café, L’eau chaude, a delightful little place. In the same street we came upon a small jewelry shop where I bought some great necklaces for the girls and I and which have proved to be successful.

And very soon it was time to go and say goodbye with promises of seeing each other again soon. Adele and Bernard will be coming in April to visit Madrid. I am so happy that these lovely friends have reentered my life and have brought their partners with them. The plan is to have a similar meeting every year. I will keep to that promise as I know they will too.

Thanks girls and boys for the amazing and emotionally pleasing weekend. See you again soon. Love

PS you can see the full selection of photos of the reunion weekende in Brussels here on Facebook.

Monday, February 22, 2010

To Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress 2010 and a warm welcome back

Me working from my hotel room in Barcelona on last minute press documents of course. However much planning and preparing you do there are always last minute changes.
Hi again

I’m a bit late with my blog this week because I have been on the go since last Sunday and only got back last night. I’ve got lots to tell you all.

Last Sunday morning Suzy and I went by the high speed train to Barcelona and were joined by Oli in the evening as she had to work. We nearly missed the train as we left the house too late so my travels started with a bit of an adventure.

The high speed train (Ave) is extremely fast and takes under 3 hours so we were soon in Barcelona and checking into our hotel which was great but turned out to be a complete organisational disaster. We had a triple room which they hadn’t prepared. They then lost my hotel voucher and subsequently the lovely red roses Eladio had ordered for my arrival as last Sunday was St. Valentines. I certainly wasn’t expecting any and they were very welcome. As I write to you, I have one of them saved and being pressed under a heavy book on my desk. I will treasure it in years to come.
My St. Valentine's red roses which Eladio had sent to the hotel and which they lost and finally found again. The thought certainly counted here.
After a quick down day salad we set off for a long walk around the town which also included a quick trip into the Maremagnum shopping centre which proved to be full of foreigners all there for the same reason as me, the Mobile World Congress which is the world’s biggest telecoms fair. But more about that later.

After our cold and energetic walk it was time to relax in the spa and have some Mother and daughter time together. If I can I always choose a hotel with a spa. I love the sauna most and I got that habit from my times with Nokia when I used to go so often to my beloved Helsinki.

In the evening I joined my TeliaSonera colleagues for the traditional get-together the night before the congress. This time it was at Bilbao Berria next to the Cathedral. It was great to see the likes of Birgitta, Anna, Kaisa and Cecilia. However I soon rushed off for dinner with Fátima at Cal Pinxo next to the Palau del Mar in Port Vell, one of my favourite areas in Barcelona. Fátima is my best friend and long standing colleague from Motorola and Nokia and it’s not often we have quality time together so dinner with her was one of the major moments of my time in Barcelona.

Oli and Suzy meanwhile were tasting the delights of Sushi with their Austrian friend Julia from the N-Gage tour days a few years back.

Monday was my lightest day work wise so I was able to have a fabulous breakfast with my girls (up day you see) and spend the morning working from my hotel room.

The weather though was pretty bad, cold and windy and threatening rain which turned out to be the tonic of this year’s congress, very different to the 20ºc of other years and so much for having chosen a hotel by the Barceloneta beach area!

My first professional engagement was meeting the bloggers we were hosting and who were being accompanied by the team from my PR Agency Ketchum. I duly met and greeted them at the very stylish Hotel Diagonal Zero where we had a quick stand up lunch together before going off to register for the congress. In the lobby of the hotel I bumped into an old colleague from my Nokia days, Eva Heller and it was great to catch up. We arranged to meet later but it didn’t work out. Everybody who is anybody is at the MWC but it’s so big it’s always difficult to find or meet people properly.

Once back at the hotel, I set aside some more time this time with both girls to enjoy the spa. Unfortunately when we returned to the hotel the key was no longer active. Thus I had to go down to reception in my bath robe and queue up at reception for another key to my utmost embarrassment. I later made a formal complaint to the hotel and am still wondering whether it reached the manager as their organisation has enormous room for improvement as I pointed out in my complaint.
My darling girls, Olivia and Susana, in the room with me. Going to the MWC in Barcelona just wouldn't be the same without them.
Monday ended with a lovely dinner with Grainne, my friend from school, at el Merendero de la Mari, next to Cal Pinxo in Port Vell again. Every time I go to Barcelona I make a point of meeting her. We go back a long way and then of course there is the chemistry, that vital characteristic of friendship. It was great

On Tuesday work began in earnest with the TeliaSonera press conference. Afterwards I walked a little round the fair to see what was cooking and my first port of call was Nokia Siemens Networks to see my old colleagues such as Julio, Emilio, Cristina or Oscar. Great to see you all as usual and thanks Julio for the Finnish Fazer chocolates for my Father which are always a favourite with us.

On my way out past Golla (another Finnish company and one which makes fantastic design bags for pcs and phone cases) I experienced the highlight of this year’s MWC. I came across my ex Motorola “buddies”, Jesus, Oscar and Nacho. I had not seen Jesus for nearly 4 years and being reunited again, if only for a very short while, was a very happy experience. We all started in the telecoms sector together and as Oscar commented on the photo I uploaded on Facebook, there was some 50 odd years of experience and happy moments in that picture.
The best moment of the MWC, bumping into Jesús, Oscar and Nacho, "my Motorola boys".
Tuesday afternoon was taken up with my bloggers with whom I had lunch before they went off on their guided tour of ZTE, Huawei and Samsung. In between meeting them again I got 10 minutes with another ex Nokia colleague, Claire Backhurst now working for Navteq. We packed into that 10 minutes one hell of a lot of great memories such as press trips to Marrakech where the famous chef, Heston Blumenthal, cooked for us or our countless trips to Helsinki for meetings with our colleagues. Great to see you Claire.

I was able to return to the hotel for a very quick freshen up before I joined my bloggers and some other people too to visit the Ericsson hall and go on a guided tour followed by their so called “social event” which in plain man’s language is a party. And what a party it was too. There I saw many familiar faces including Ana Manjón and my dear ex Nokia Networks colleague Pepe Comas. Our bloggers had a good time as you can see in this picture. We are by a car which has future technology which via mobile telephony will be able to avoid crashes. Imagine!!
Our bloggers at the Ericsson hall next to the car demo.
I went home really early, well actually the party started too soon. The Swedes live on a different timetable to southern Europeans and food was being served at 6 pm which is far too early for me. That suited me fine though as I had to be up really early the next morning for an interview with Expansion (Spain’s FT) and my boss’ boss who is number 2 at TeliaSonera. I hate early morning anything and this was an important activity. I not only facilitated the interview, I also did the translating which got quite technical sometimes, as well as the photography!! Here is the result as the article was published today, very long and juicy and quite favourable to Yoigo.

From there my boss and I and Birgitta from TeliaSonera rushed to our press conference which was being held at the other end of town at Bestial on the beach near the Hotel Arts. I was not there but everything was under control thanks to my PR agency Ketchum and events agency Quinta Esencia. The conference was well attended and afterwards we did more interviews, including Reuters, all of which garnered us quite a lot of coverage.
My press conferences are always very relaxed as you can see from this picture.
Once it was over I could escape and rush back to the hotel to finish my packing and check out before 13h. Oli had had to leave earlier so Suzy and I went for a walk and for lunch as our train was not until 16.30. I repeated Cal Pinxo and this time the sun was shining and we were able to eat outside. I was also able to make my one and only purchase in Barcelona and bought a lovely false Prada bag from the Nigerian street sellers in Port Vell.
Suzy with me having lunch on the last day at Cal Pinxo. Catalan food is generally superb.
From there we walked back to the hotel, picked up our bags (7 pieces of luggage with all the stuff the girls had purchased including a coat from Desigual), hailed a taxi and made our way to the Estación de Sants to catch our train. I read a light novel by Mary Higgins Clark and Susana slept. Soon we were home and my dear Eladio had lit the fire for us to welcome us home and inaugurate the fire insert the chimney company had put in that very day. That was indeed a lovely welcome back.
The new fire insert which Eladio lit for our arrival back from Barcelona. A very warm welcome back indeed.
The next day Eladio and I were off to Brussels for my University reunion so there was not much time for unpacking and packing again or getting enough rest to charge my batteries for the next 4 days which I knew were going to be jam packed with fun activities.

My next post will be on that trip which deserves a single entry as it was so unique.

Barcelona was great as usual, except for the weather. It was lovely to have my girls with me and the satisfaction of a professional job well done. I have been going now for 4 years running with Yoigo. I always ask myself if I will be going next year too. I certainly hope so.

Cheers for the moment

PS Here is the complete selection of photos which I posted on Facebook.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Birthdays, Oli’s tales from afar, remembering George, a visit to the Red Cross, a new look, off to Barcelona and more.

Oli dressed up in the RTVE correspondent gear in Israel. I think that job would be her dream and it would certainly make mine come true. Spectacular eh?
Hi again and here I am writing on Saturday afternoon with a bit of a headache I’m afraid. The week has been good and started with a bang as Monday was my birthday. As a family, though we actually celebrated it on Sunday as I told you in my post last week. You can see here the photos of lunch at José Antonio and Dolores’ house and below is a photo of my nephew Juan and I making a toast as both our birthdays are on the same day.
Me with Juan my nephew celebrating our birthday which falls on the same day.
Oli arrived back from her trip to the Holy Land late on Sunday evening and poor Eladio had to wait for her for ages at the airport. Eventually the 4 of us started our birthday dinner at Mood (place we often go to) at nearly 11 o’clock at night which is even late for Spain. Oli had loads to tell about her trip, the highlight being Petra in Jordan, her swim in the Dead Sea and also the visit to the RTVE foreign correspondent office in Jerusalem. Below are just some of the wonderful photos she has of this memorable visit. Notice how happy she looks in all of them.
Oli in Israel with her friend Ana's camera.
Happy Oli in the Holy Land.
Oli with a Jordanian guard. I wonder who was more impressed.
Oli has very obviously inherited a love of travelling and meeting people from abroad from my side of the family. We all have or had itchy feet, my brother George being the prime example. I mean once he left home and said he was going to Paris. He ended up in Afghanistan and most of the trip was done by hitch hiking!

Dear George is no longer with us and it would have been his birthday too this week on February 12th. How can one ever forget one’s only brother, the golden talented boy that life was never kind to? George would indeed have loved to hear Oli’s tales from Israel as he too had once bathed in the Dead Sea with his beloved Sanya. As I write there is a lump in my throat. Remember darling George our birthdays when we were children?

My birthday was very quiet on Monday and spent quietly at home. In the afternoon I got a lovely surprise present from my the girls from my events agency in the form of a bunch not of flowers but of candy. It's so beautiful we won't dare eat it.
A spectacular bunch of candy arrived on my birthday from the girls at my events agency. Thanks Cris, it is beautiful but we will never eat it. How could we spoil it?
The day was filled with lovely messages from friends and acquaintances mostly on Facebook, the easiest way to greet people these days but still nice. I did get some text messages from very few calls. People ring less and less these days.

That however is not completely so for Yoigo customers otherwise the company wouldn’t grow and I am proud to recount here that this week our majority shareholder, TeliaSonera, announced during the publication of the Q409 results that we had reached 1.506.000 customers at the end of 2009. That is a lot of customers gained in just 3 years.

The week was busy work wise as I was working nonstop to finalise all the preparations for our activities in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress this week; a press conference, a trip of bloggers, interviews, etc. I will be going tomorrow with Suzy and Oli will join us in the evening. Monday night, my only free night, is engaged for dinner with my dear friend Grainne. We will be going to a great place called El Merendero de la Mari. But more about our trip to Barcelona in my next post.

The professional highlight of the week was definitely my visit to the Spanish Red Cross on Friday. We went there to give a donation for the Haiti tragedy. They are a great organisation and emanate reliability and credibility. We have agreed to sign an agreement to collaborate in future emergencies like Haiti. I admire organisations that make the world a better place and as I was sitting listening to them I realised how much I would love to work for them. But that will have to be in another life maybe.
Photo with the Red Cross on Friday. I'm happy we did our bit at Yoigo for Haiti, although I still want to do more.
And that brings me to the reference of a new look in the headline of this post. Well it refers to me actually. As I am losing weight, very gradually, I am also beginning to buy clothes again to renew my wardrobe. And on Friday, after our visit to the Red Cross, near the area of Cuatro Caminos in Madrid I walked past a boutique I used to frequent and on the off chance decided to go in. I bought some very fashionable leopard skin pattern trousers and the shop assistant suggested an even more fashionable smock and voila you have me in my new clothes smiling outside our house, funnily enough on my way to the dentist on Friday afternoon.
My new look, leopard skin trousers and a long brown smock. Fashionable I guess or so Suzy tells me.
And on that note I come to the end of this post. I must mention before I stop that today is our friend Robertos birthday too and that we will be going out for dinner to celebrate. It will also be our St. Valentine's dinner which is actually tomorrow. We are not great St. Valentine celebrators but a small part of me still hopes secretly that Eladio will give me a bunch of red roses tomorrow morning. Will he I wonder. Find out next week.

Cheers and have a great week. I certainly intend to as apart from Barcelona there is Brussels to look forward to on Thursday and a lovely reunion with my dear University friends Adele and Sandra over a long weekend with our respective partners; a Frenchman, an American and a Spaniard, hahaha.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

TVs and fires, interviews, social engagements, recipes, birthday celebrations and Oli back from Israel.

The finished birthday cake with far too much cherry jam and whipped cream in the middle.

Hi again

Here I am on the first Sunday in February and tomorrow is my birthday. The celebrations will be mostly today as Monday is a not a very suitable day for birthdays and also tomorrow is one of our down days. But more about the preparations and celebrations later on.

This week has been all about getting our TV signal to work better at home, as well as the fireplaces and there are lots of social engagements to mention as well as other things, but let me start at the beginning.

I actually went into the office 4 times this week which is quite a record for me and that even included Friday, something I never do. I am getting busier as the Mobile World Congress approaches in Barcelona and I will in fact be travelling there this time next week with my daughters Suzy and Oli. On Monday I went in for a meeting with my PR agency to prepare our PR plan for this year (a bit late I know, but better late than never). On Tuesday I went in for a weekly general meeting which took me 1.5h to get to and then lasted 5 minutes. To say that was a waste of time is an understatement. On Wednesday I think I also wasted my time going in. You would think not if you hear that it was for an interview with Time magazine. However I get the feeling that when we said no to the advertising the interview may well not get published. I have seen this happen before with other big international publications such as Der Spiegel, The Economist or Fortune 500. Very unprofessional and a bit sad for the trade is how I see it. I refuse, however to resort to advertising to get editorial published. Maybe I am old fashioned but I don’t think so.

On Thursday I had an interview myself which sort of tickled me pink. I mean you are supposed to be out of the job market when you are past 35 or 40 in Spain and we are in a recession with few jobs about, yet the headhunters continue to call me occasionally. That’s probably a good sign for my profession. It was for a global PR position with a top Nordic renewable energy company based in Madrid and sounded quite challenging. I turned it down though of course as right now I have it as good it gets and the headhunter actually agreed with me. I did however pass on the contact to my friend Elena the one I have coffee with once a month and whom I am trying to help find a job. I hope they give it to her.

On the home front the TV and fireplaces have been this week’s issues. We have 6 televisions in this house (far too many I know) but the signal is pretty bad and always has been despite all the aerial technicians who have been coming and going since we moved in, in 2006 and of course charging us a fortune. The bottom line is we can’t see some of the national channels and we have to do something about it before the end of analogue TV which is set for 1st March this year or so they say.

We have had an aerial man (David) in and out of the house all week trying to improve the signal. He has been up and down the roof, changed the aerial and made other technical adjustments but it seems we are back at square one. It’s very frustrating and I don’t know if there will be a solution. We are also putting in (when David gets round to it) a satellite dish for my Father to be able to enjoy British news programmes.

Talking about TV, I discovered I can watch it on my iPhone (which I am extremely happy with by the way) and was absolutely bowled over. Who then doesn’t want TV on their mobile phone? I think I might. In the car the other day whilst Eladio was filling the tank I downloaded the RTVE application and low and behold I could watch their 24 hour news programme TV 24 horas. It cannot, however, replace home TV for obvious reasons so we shall continue to battle at home until the signal works on time for 1st March.
Mobile TV (streaming) in my iPhone, very impressive.
The other headache has been our fireplace. In my blog post last week I said that Eladio had confirmed both fireplaces worked ok because the smoke went up the chimneys correctly. So on Monday he bought a range of new fireplace accessories and this week he lit one of the fires. So there we were, my Father, Eladio and I enjoying our books by the fire in the lounge and very happy with ourselves. Suddenly though there was an explosion in the chimney and very soon the whole house was filled with smoke. The house still permeates with the smell and we are now considering installing a fireplace insert. We would love to have the simulated gas fires you get in England (so cheap and so clean) and in fact brought one over only to find they are impossible to install in Spain because of the stringent gas laws here.
The lounge fireplace which we lit for the first time this week. Unfortunately it produces too much smoke in the house.
That brings me to the social engagements of the week and there have been many. On Friday I had lunch with my Nokia girlfriends, Jill, Zenaida, Susana and Ana at Clericó, an Argentinian place in Herón City. As usual I got lost going there. Unfortunately Fátima couldn’t join us (as usual should I say?). It was a great girly get together and nice prelude to the weekend. They are all doing fine. Ana is immersed in being a Mother and juggling her life work balance which is pretty difficult when you are a legal counsel for a big company like HP and have 2 small children. We all vowed to see each other more often. I hope we do. Girlfriends are important in my life as they are most of us.

On Friday I had 2 social engagements as in the evening Eladio and I also had a date with Gerardo and Irene and their spouses. They were the kids I lived with and taught English to back in 1979, imagine. It’s lovely to have reconnected again after so many years. We went to a great Portuguese restaurant called Transmontano where the speciality is “bacalhau” (cod) in all its different varieties. The next date will be at our house in April. I look forward to that.
The Portuguese restaurant Transmontano has the best bacalhau (cod) in town.
The weekend has been great so far. Yesterday we woke up to a hot air balloon going past our house. It was a lovely sunny day and I got some great pictures.
The hot air balloon that flew past our house on Saturday morning, a sight for sore eyes.
Afterwards Eladio took me out shopping for my birthday. He’s a great husband but no specialist in presents so we went to choose together. We started in Cortefiel where I bought some clothes in the sales and then went to Spain’s top and only department store, El Corte Inglés. Here we or he bought me charms for my Monet and Pandora (now complete) bracelets as well as a lovely lumberjack type shirt by Lloyd’s (ha ha ha that’s my surname).
But we also got the ingredients for my cake. Or rather mine and Juan’s as tomorrow is also our nephew and Eladio’s god son, Juan’s birthday and today we are going to have lunch at their house for the first time in years I would say. It’s going to be lovely because all of them will be there, Miguel, Sara and Juan and of course the parents, Dolores and Eladio’s brother José Antonio. Unfortunately Oli will be missing as she only gets back tonight from Israel. We will however be going out with her tonight for dinner at Mood to celebrate my birthday too.
The birthday cake ingredients.
And that brings me on the making of the cake, hence the reference to recipes in my headline. The birthday cake I made yesterday is our speciality and one both Suzy and I often make for birthdays. It’s very simple. You make or buy the sponge. The cake has 2 layers and in the middle you put jam (I like cherry but you can put what you want) and thick whipped cream (the more the merrier for my Father). The top layer gets covered with thick white icing (tate and lyle of course) and then decorated with M+Ms).

Whilst the sponge was baking I made the weekly soup. I thought I ought to record this, one because it’s delicious but two because it’s become an intrinsic part of our diet and is what my Father has for dinner every night. It’s very simple. You cook the vegetables (in this case, pumpkin, carrot, potato, leek and onion). Then you liquidise them with a splash of milk, olive oil, pepper, salt and parsley. And here is the result.
My pumpkin and vegetable soup, delicious, even if I say so myself.
That brings me to this morning when we had a lovely birthday breakfast as you can see in the picture of Gaby and Suzy. You might also notice the Emma Bridgewater pottery we ate off, lovely stuff. Our birthday breakfasts always consist of using the best tablecloth and serving hot croissants, Danish pastrys, fresh orange juice and cappuccino coffee.
Gaby and Suzy at the birthday breakfast this morning.
You can see the rest of the photos of the making of the cake and this morning’s breakfast here.

And that brings me to the end of this week’s blog post. I should also mention that Suzy’s exam went fine on Monday, so keep your fingers crossed for the next one which is on 11th February. Also Diana continues to grow and delight her parents and on 4th February she was one month old. Isn’t she lovely?
Our grand niece Diana was 1 month old on 4th February.
Oli will be back tonight from her 10 day trip to the Holy Land which has been a great experience for her. I asked her what made most impact and she said definitely Petra in Jordan as well as swimming in the Dead Sea and also visiting the RTVE correspondent’s office in Jerusalem. I’m sure they would be my highlights too. We are dying to see her and specially see her photos taken with reflex digital camera her friend Ana lent her for the trip.

And so my friends I leave you till next week and hope you all have a great one.