Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring is here, more success for Spanish sport, people in our lives, my regional tour continues, preparations for New York and a dreadful mistake.

The first spring flowers in our garden this year, just this small bunch of daffodils, one of my favourite flowers.
Hi again,

The week has been hectic and full and I concentrated most of my energy on trips to Palma de Mallorca and Seville as part of the regional tour started last week in Valencia. The objective was to show a face at the Yoigo shop training courses and to meet the local press and tell them the Yoigo story with a local slant. But more about that later.

The good thing about this weekend is that spring is finally with us. Temperatures are going up and there is blossom and just a few spring flowers in our garden such as the lovely daffodils illustrating this week’s missal. Hopefully the cold will go away soon but I’m not sure about the rain as it is still with us even as I write now.

I left off in my last blog post when the girls arrived from Lisbon. From what little I have heard they had a whale of a time. I mean what 7 close friends of their age wouldn’t? There have been outrageous comments and photographs in Facebook on some of the activities and I prefer not to ask what went on. Here though is one of the more serious ones of my two girls together.
Oli and Suzy in Lisbon recently.
The day they arrived home, last Sunday, was another good day in the history of Spanish sport. Spain is becoming an important sporting power with wins in many disciplines. Fernando Alonso, the two times world champion of Formula 1, won the first race of the season in Bahrein, driving for Ferrari and thus set hopes high for winning this season’s championship after a three year dry run.
Fernado Alonso who won the first Formula 1 race of the season in Bahrein last week for his new team Ferrari.
The other Spaniard to bring success to sport on Sunday was the cyclist and two times winner of the Tour de France, Alberto Contador, who won the prestigious Paris Nice race in an all Spanish podium. It was his second win there, the last time being in 2007. I wonder if that is a prelude to him winning his third Tour de France this summer. Cross your fingers. I will.
A happy Alex Contador, the rider from Pinto in Madrid who won this year's Paris Nice cycling race.
There have been plenty of people in our lives this week. A neighbour, a young girl called Sandra, has been coming round to have chats in English with Suzy in preparation for an oral exam which I hope went well. It was good to meet a new neighbour as we hardly know anyone in our neighbourhood (urbanización in Spanish which has no proper translation).

Gloria, Fátima’s beloved niece, reappeared, in my life at least, after many years. I haven’t seen her since she was a child and then Fátima sent me a video of her in a TV programme about foreigners in Warsaw of all places and she has turned into a beautiful young woman. She is on an Erasmus scholarship there. I immediately added her as my friend on Facebook of course and it seems she is having a wild time in Poland. The next stage of her Erasmus is in Seattle. Aren’t University students lucky these days?

I also spent time with Elena, my out of work neighbour, with whom I enjoyed a coffee with “churros” (very fattening, sort of fritters which are delicious) over a nice long chat yesterday at a cafe down the road.

Tony Llompart also reappeared in my life after many years in Palma this week. He was a successful distributor in my years in Motorola and I saw him last at a cycling race there called The Challenge of Mallorca in the late 90’s. I will never forget how one whole Spanish cycling team bought phones with a discount from his company including the likes of Alex Zulle thanks to me. Amazingly today Tony has 8 Yoigo shops in the Balearic Islands and apparently many other businesses both there and abroad, including hotels in Latin America. He has done very well for himself.
Alex Zulle the Swiss rider who was in the ONCE cycling team.
This now brings me to my trip on Tuesday to Palma, the capital of Mallorca which is the biggest island in the archipelago called the Balearic Islands. I got up at 06.30 (heavens!) to catch the 09.45 hour long flight with my boss. We were to have a press meeting by the port, on the Paseo Marítimo at a great café called Cappuccino (not very original right?). The day was sunny and being by the sea just didn’t seem the right combination for work. Only 2 journalists turned up which rather surprised me. But then it transpired there had been some political financial scandal regarding the embezzlement of public funding by the local government which was obviously of much more interest to the local press than anything we could tell them.

We were soon able to make our way three or four buildings down the road to the Hotel Bellver on the sea front where the Yoigo shop keeper training course was going on. The shops on the way looked very enticing, great colourful beach wraps and other local handicraft but I didn’t get a look in unfortunately. It was at the course where I met Tony Llompart and most of his staff. After our chat to the group and a question and answer session we had lunch with all the people and afterwards had a group photo taken. At lunch Tony and I spent the time reminiscing about the past in the telecoms sector in Spain and remembering some of the key people and events. It was great to see him again. He had remarried (he is my age approx) and his newly-wed, an extremely young and beautiful ballet dancer Cuban wife was at the course too. You did choose well Tony.
The group photo of the Palma de Mallorca Yoigo point of sale course last week. Tony Llompart is the guy in black on the far left. I think you can pick me out wearing pink I'm sure. Tony's new wife, the young Cuban girl, is on my right.
On our way home at the airport I of course bought what most travellers buy there, the famous “ensaimada”, a sweet pastry delicacy which is a must when visiting Mallorca. I bought 2 small boxes and we have been enjoying it at home for breakfast until today.
Ensaimadas from Mallorca, delicious local sweet pastry.
No sooner was I home in the late evening, than I was off again the next morning and this time up even earlier at 05.30 and on my way to the airport to catch the 08.45 to Seville for the last of my regional visits. Seville is one of my favourite cities in Spain. It embodies the quintessence of Spain and being Spanish, at least in the eyes of people from abroad and has a certain magic about it. Above all it is beautiful, the streets are lined with orange trees, it is usually sunny and warm and many of the buildings are works of historical art like the Giralda (the cathedral bell tower) La Maestranza (the oldest bull ring in Spain) or the famous Hotel Alfonso XIII where one day I would like to stay. The people have impossible accents where they eat half of every word. They are, however, extremely hospitable. So, yes, it was nice to go to Seville.

As I am very outgoing, when I am in the mood I chat to taxi drivers and try to talk about things relevant to the area I am in and in Seville there were 2 topics to mention. The first was the loss the night before of the Seville Football Club to the Moscow CSK team in the Champion League quarter final. So I gave my commiserations and was later astonished to bump into the actual Moscow coach, Leonid Slutsky at the EME Catedral Hotel where our media meeting was to take place. When I was told who he was I plucked up courage and said in haltering Russian; “well done” (ochen xorocho). I think he was most surprised.

The second topic was bull fighting. There is a move in Spain to possibly abolish it which, of course, in the south in Andalucía and specially Seville, is unthinkable as it is a way of life. So I tried out the thought on my Sevillian taxi driver. He snorted that it was impossible and there were more important things for the authorities to think about than abolishing this historical Spanish tradition. I, of course, said no more.

It took more than 40 minutes to reach our destination in the heart of the old town, driving through many narrow streets but we were well on time and so I took the opportunity to stretch my legs and enjoy the sunshine and take a few snaps of my surroundings before the media arrived. As we were right by the Giralda I was in a lucky place for photography. Here is the result which you can see in this photo album on Facebook.
Me by the Giralda (the famous Cathedral bell tower) in Seville this week.
Only two journalists came, once again, but we got quality with Clara from El Correo de Andalucia and Eli from El Diario de Sevilla. The interviews took place on the terrace of the EME hotel (great place by the way) which has superb views of the Giralda and the Seville skyline. It was a moment which made me realise how lucky I am to have the job I have.
Clara and Eli, the journalists who interviewed my boss this week in Seville.
From the EME hotel we made our way to the Yoigo shop training course at the NH Viapol hotel. There were 2 groups of 20 people from shops in the area including Extremadura. There were many young people and there was great enthusiasm within the groups. They were happy to meet us from the HQ and we were equally happy to meet the people who sell our products on the high street and to answer their questions, queries and doubts.
The group photo of the Yoigo point of sale course attendants this week in Seville.
When I eventually got home on Thursday night after 2 days of intensive travelling and meeting people and sticking to strict time schedules I flopped to bed with a pretty bad headache which remained with me throughout the next day. Before that though I went to see my Father who was already in his room to say goodnight and ask how his day had been and also tell him about mine. I was very sad to hear that that morning he had fallen in his room and was unable to let Eladio know. When he didn’t go down to breakfast Eladio went to see him and found him lying on the floor where he had been for at least an hour. It was nothing serious and he hadn’t hurt himself. The problem is he is not so steady on his feet anymore. We are investigating into an alarm product for him to be able to press and alert us as well as possibly getting someone to live in permanently. This May he will be 91. On the bright side he is very alert, enjoys his reading and listening to music and of course his food and specially Spanish wine.

Thursday was spent organising my work. But I also got time to go the gym for my second swim and spa session of the week (how I love that) as well as our walk. I came home to a package I had ordered from which contained the Shoah 9 hour documentary film about the holocaust made by the French director Claude Lanzmann in 1985. It had been recommended to us by Adele and Sandie and also I had listened to an interview with Claude Lanzmann recently on the radio. We have yet to sit down and watch and digest even more information about the Nazi horrors to the Jewish race, a subject that will forever fascinate me.
Shoah the famous 9 hour documentary on the horrors of the holocaust with interviews with both survivors and torturers by Claude Lanzmann which I have yet to see.
On Thursday I also tried out my new mobile phone, this time a Samsung Galaxy GT-1750 which is an Android (Google) phone and has to replace my old and faltering Nokia N95. It is taking me some time getting used to like all new phones. What I have noticed that is great is that the battery has lasted 3 days so far without recharging, something unthinkable with Nokia phones. I have it in white which I prefer to black (why do they make so many black phones? For men I imagine!) and it is extremely light. Of course I still have my iPhone for my private line and would advocate iPhones for all mobile phone users. It is simply the best period.

Friday was a holiday in Spain to celebrate Father’s day and of course all people with names related to Joseph. So all Josés and Josefas and Pepes and Pepas were probably celebrating their birthdays yesterday. Certainly Eladio’s brother, José Antonio, was with his family in Montrondo. Felicidades José Antonio. At home there is no tradition for Father’s or Mother’s day, possibly because I was not brought up to celebrate them in England by my unusual and academic parents. All my other friends did of course. We went out to dinner not to celebrate St. Joseph's day but to enjoy a meal out with our friends Roberto and Mari Carmen. On a mission to go to different places, this week I booked a table at a Portuguese restaurant called Lisboa Antiga in Majadahonda, possibly influenced by the girls’ trip to Lisbon last week and my love of Portugal from my student days there. We had been before but not for a long time and were very happy with the choice. One Portuguese dish I love is called Bacalhau à braz and they do it perfectly there. Boy will we be going back. It’s highly recommendable with its discreet Portuguese decor, quiet atmosphere and background nostalgic Fado music.

Yesterday, Saturday, was a down day (yes I am still on the up and down diet and losing weight very slowly but still losing it) and I spent part of the morning making my family tree on Genes Reunited which I got on to via Friends Reunited. I got most of the information from my Father whose memory on dates and places of birth and marriage and death of his family members is amazing. It’s a pity you can’t see it as information can only be accessed via messages to other tree owners. It was a very interesting exercise.

Also interesting was the film we watched last night, The secret of their eyes (El secreto de sus ojos), the Argentinian film by Juan José Campanella starring Ricardo Darín and Soledad Villamil that was awarded the Oscar for the best foreign film recently. It’s highly recommendable and has an extremely surprising end.
The film, The secret of their eyes which won this year's best foreign film at the Oscars recently.
Next week Eladio and I will be going to New York for a short holiday as I am sure I have mentioned in my blog before. It is a first for both us and of course New York is a must on anyone’s desired holiday destination list. I have had very little time to plan anything but have invested in the Lonely Planet Guide and got some recommendations from friends. I have been printing our electronic tickets and hotel reservation as well as applying for a travel authorisation from the US Department of Homeland Security as advised to me by my ticket provider, Expedia in an email recently. I imagine this is just the start of the security procedures to enter the US which have always been strict and imposing. I can understand the rules but what I don’t like is how they are applied and the attitude of the immigration staff that have the right to refuse you entry if they don’t like the colour of your shirt or the colour of your eyes. I am certainly looking forward to our trip but not to going through immigration especially at JFK airport.

Amongst the recommendations my friend Juana sent me was the purchase online of the New York pass. I had a quick look at the web site and very soon was convinced it was worth buying. With the pass you avoid the queues (lines in American English:-)) and it includes access to about 55 of the main attractions in the city including the Statue of Liberty, the MOMA museum and many other well known places which I will be seeing for the first time. But more about that of course in my next blog posts which I will probably write from the Big Apple itself.

Now I come to the end of this week’s entry and to the last item in my headline, “a dreadful mistake” which you are probably wondering what it means. On Tuesday last when I was returning from Palma, in a town near Paris a group of Spanish Basque ETA terrorists were attempting to steal cars from a garage. They were interrupted by French policemen (gendarmes) who tried to stop them. In the exchange of fire started by the terrorists, the Gendarme Jean Serge Nerin, aged 52 and father of four children was fatally wounded. He is the first French policeman to die at the hands of ETA. One terrorist was caught and the others got away.

The terrible mistake occurred when the French authorities released a video of the supposed terrorists shopping at a supermarket near where the attack happened. The photo and video was on the front pages of newspapers all over the world.
The supposed ETA terrorists who turned out to be Catalan firemen in France this week.
However, the men in the photo were not the terrorists but Spanish firemen doing innocent shopping for a leisure trip they were planning. They went through 5 hours of interrogation by the French police and were only released yesterday. I read today that a retired French policeman had reported them because of their age and group number and because they spoke Spanish. That was a dreadful mistake and my heart goes out to those innocent men who must have gone through hell. The search continues for the terrorists who escaped.

The only good thing to come out of the event is the increased collaboration between the French and Spanish authorities to eliminate ETA. I look forward to that day.

Meanwhile I have to get on with mundane things this Sunday, the first day of spring. Thankfully it is an up day and lunch will be more exciting than yesterday's plate of vegetables. What am I preparing then you may want to know? Today I will be making roast chicken legs with a honey sauce, umm delicious.

Hope you all have a great day today and week ahead of you.


1 comment:

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