Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spain won its first ever World Cup, the psychic octopus Paul, a visit to Montrondo, a TV appearance, legal again and a trip to Santa Pola

Oli holding the World Cup the Spanish team won.  It's for real.  It was at TVE for the news programme.  Lucky Oli.
Hi again,
Sorry for the 2 week silence, owed to being away last weekend and being too busy during the week to catch up with my blog.  But here is a bumper edition and very important too as it includes Spain’s first ever win of the World Cup where they joined the elite winners’ club which now has 8 members and includes: Brazil (five times), Italy (four titles), Germany (three), Argentina (two), Uruguay  (two, including the inaugural tournament), France,  England and now Spain.  That’s not many countries is it so to be one of them is really something.
But let me start at the beginning from where I left off when I last wrote on Saturday 3rd July.  That weekend Spain beat Paraguay in the Quarter Final which absolutely made our weekend.  The truth is Spain has never got past a Quarter Final in the World Cup so this was history in the making.  At home, Spain’s success offset England’s poor result, at least, for my Father and I but neither of us believed it could win.  Spain’s next rival was Germany, a hard team to beat who had sent England home with a 4-0 score.  However Spain proved to be the better team and got through to the Final where they were to play Holland, another tough team and one who has played the final 3 times but never won so would be incredibly hungry for victory.  When Spain started out in the tournament it was one of the favourites, having been unbeaten in all the qualifying matches and also the reigning European champion.  However, given its past performance in the World Cup, no one in Spain believed in their chances.  The great Maradona said that the favourites never win and I, at least, thought he was right.
Meanwhile, a “psychic” octopus called Paul from an aquarium in Germany was becoming famous in its correct predictions for the winners in the all the matches of this World Cup, held in South Africa.   It was a bit of a joke but when the aquarium staff placed the Dutch and Spanish flags in boxes each with a mussel in it the day before the final the worlds’ cameras were there to see which box it would choose.  Believe it or not it chose the box with the Spanish flag as you can see here.
Octopus Paul predicted Spain would win the final and it was right.
I watched the match in Montrondo last Sunday night with Eladio, Sara and José Antonio.  Dolores, my sister-in-law, only came in at the end and must have been one of the very few people in Spain not to watch the historic match.   I had brought a Spanish flag to show our patriotism, something you would consider a normal thing to do.  However the Spanish flag in Spain is a controversial issue.  For historic reasons it has always been associated with the old Franco regime and if you use it privately there is political connotation attached, denoting you as a right winger.  Hopefully now and thanks to football that might change and the use of the flag may become a normal patriotic act as it is in the rest of the word.
The Spanish flag used to support the football but a bit controversial in Spain because of its right wing political connotation.
The final against Holland was Spain’s toughest match of course but it was also rather brutal as the Dutch played for their lives and used the roughest of tactics to outwit Spain’s creative play.  A total of 14 cards were handed out by the controversial English referee, Howard Webb, a South Yorkshire police sergeant, who later described the match as the worst 2 hours of his life. 
The heroic midfielder, Andrés Iniesta, who is from Albacete, La Mancha (Quixote land), but plays for Barcelona, as do the majority of the Spanish team, scored the winning goal at the end of extra time, four minutes before what would have been a terrifying penalty shoot out. 
Andrés Iniesta, the Spanish midfielder who scored Spain's golden goal.
But that wasn’t to be and Spain beat Holland 1-0 and won the Cup deservedly, making its countrymen delirious at such a feat for Spain.  
The Champions - The Spanish national football team.
The victory put Spain at the top of the world’s league in brand image and awareness, something I think it desperately needs.  The Empire State Building, for example, perhaps the most famous building in the world, lit the top in Spain’s national colours of yellow and red for 2 nights in honour of the win. As I keep saying, Spain is a top sport’s country and this year is the winner that takes it nearly all.  I mean they, or should I say we, are winners or are in the top league of tennis, (Rolland Garros, and Wimbledon), Motor cycle racing, golf, Formula 1, cycling (watch out for Contador at Le Tour de France) and of course football.
Spain's glory reached all the corners of the world and even the Empire State Building was lit up with its national colours.
Meanwhile the whole country partied.  The team returned as heroes and went through the main streets of Madrid on an open topped bus displaying the cup as well as meeting and showing it to  the Prime Minister and Royal Family.  Later on there was a huge party for thousands of fans. Amazingly one day last week when Olivia was at work, the World Cup was at the TVE where she works as it had been used for the news programme.  I couldn’t believe it when I received a multimedia message from her with the picture illustrating this blog.  She actually got to hold the cup which is probably the dream of many Spaniards. 
Their win has certainly been a great antidote for the recession the country is in and has injected a wave of enthusiasm and morale, so necessary in these times.
Spain partied all night and all day after the team won the World Cup.  For a time people forgot the recession.
We were in Montrondo for the event but had actually just gone for the weekend to stay with José Antonio, Dolores, Sara and Miguel who had my mother-in-law staying with them.  Montrondo was at its best as it always is in June and July.  The view from our room never tires me.  When we arrived there were cows grazing outside and the next day some of Guzman’s horses.  Montrondo is a great place to get away from it all. 
The wonderful view from our room in Montrondo.
On Saturday we were joined by Pili, Andrés and their delightful Dalmatian dog, Trébol and by Isidro and Yoli and we had a great day together.  Eladio and the other men spent most of it mending a burst pipe in the orchard and got extremely muddy but I suppose that’s part of the fun. 

Pili, my sister-in-law, with Trébol last weekend in Montrondo.
You can see more of the photos here and a video I took to capture the spirit of the weekend which was heavenly.  We actually stayed till after lunch on Monday.  I had some urgent work to do and now that there is internet (thanks to Miguel who is installed there semi permanently) I was able to stay and do it there.  It was lovely working from Miguel’s office with the view of the mountains and village and the thought crossed my mind that maybe we could go more often now that I can take my work there. 
Once more we came back home to another burst pipe, this time in our garden.  It seems to happen every time we go away.  On Tuesday I went into the office for an interview with Spanish TV (TVE1).  They were doing a piece for the lunchtime and evening news about consumption during and after the world cup final and luckily we had done our PR homework and prepared a press release on the increase in voice and sms traffic.  Actually from Iniesta’s goal onwards sms traffic for Yoigo increased by 600% compared to the same time the week before.  Traffic always increases with big events and usually we are prepared with our figures. 
The graph that showed the increase of Yoigo sms traffic during and after the match, the one I explained on TV
They came and went within less than 20 minutes.  I must admit the TVE camera makes you nervous so there were about 3 tries until both sides were happy.  Big TV stations often try to ignore brand names but this time that was impossible.  Often too they film something and it doesn’t get broadcast because there is other bigger news and not enough space or time.  But that was not the case last Tuesday.  It was my day and believe it or not I came out on both news programmes explaining the chart, short and brief but there I was, with the company logo and my name and job title  on the screen.  Yoigo was the only company interviewed, which is a bit of a feather in our cap as we are the smallest operator in the Spanish market. Later I got the clippings and the evaluation and I was amazed to see out that between 4 and 5 million people will have seen that piece on Yoigo represented by me.  It’s certainly a big thing in PR to come out on the national news.  Often media coverage is measured in terms of equivalent advertising spend but you cannot buy advertising space on a news programme which in a way makes its value priceless.  So, yeah, Yoigo and I got our bit of glory too out of the World Cup win.  You can see the clipping here
The shot of me on the TV.  Fame at last, hahaha.
On Wednesday I was working from home when I suddenly realised at 11.30 that I should be in Madrid at 12.00 for my appointment with the Immigration Police for my new European Residency Certificate which replaces the old Residency Card which had actually been stolen from me when my purse was robbed in Santa Pola in May.   For some reason I was convinced the appointment was for the next day but I was wrong.  So I grabbed the forms and photocopies I had prepared and rushed by car to Madrid.  In the end I was only 5 minutes late.  I was given a number (95) and was told there 23 people ahead of me which gave me a bit of a breather.  I have been renewing my residency and work permit papers every 5 years since I came to Spain in 1982 and each time I do it the system has changed but each time I feel equally nervous.  If I am married to a Spaniard and have lived and worked here for nearly 30 years, it seems a bit silly to me to keep having to renew my papers.  The alternative would be to adopt Spanish nationality but to do that I would have to give up my British citizenship and that is something I don’t want to do.  This time the system worked fine (excluding the appointment which is given to you 3 or 4 months in advance!) and I walked out of the Immigration office once again a legal resident.  I did not get a Spanish residency card but this time a certificate of registration in the European Union which is actually a green piece of normal paper which is supposed to last you 10 years.  It seems a silly piece of paper to have if you already have a EU passport.
The Immigration office I went to last week to get my new Certificate of Regiestration.  Legal again!
And yesterday we came here to Santa Pola which is where I am writing from.  Eladio and I have wanted to change the curtains and bed linen for ages at our apartment here and on Thursday afternoon we made a special journey to Ikea to buy everything we needed.   Everything we needed turned out to be a lot and it completely filled our car.  So there was a need to come immediately to bring and install it all here, in time for the family holiday after Montrondo in August.   Immediately meant yesterday as we will be tied up for the next two weekends and wouldn’t be able to come until the family holiday and of course all the stuff would not fit in the car with the people and luggage.   Coming on our own is a joy and for the first time in all our trips here since we bought the place 11 years ago, we decided not to bring any food or to cook and that we would eat out even for breakfast.  True to our promise we had lunch on the way at the Parador in Albacete and a delightful dinner last night at our favourite place in this area, Restaurante María Picola.
Restaurante María Picola on the road from Santa Pola to Elche, our favourite around here.
At María Picola we ordered their delicious “arroz a banda”, one of our favourite dishes and typical of the area (a type of paella with no “bits” in it). You can see what it looked like here.
The Arroz a Banda we had at María Picola last night.  Delicious, specially with ali oli.
I was in charge of the bedding and general cleaning and finished my job pretty soon.  Eladio is in charge of the curtains which is a much bigger job.  Thus this morning I was able to sneak away to the hairdresser’s downstairs to deal with my roots (yes the grey area the dye no longer covers when your hair grows when you are middle aged!).  So whilst most people were on the beach or at the market in Santa Pola, there I was having my hair dyed and cut.  It was in great need and I have had no time recently to go to my usual hairdresser’s where we live so this was a good opportunity.  It cost about half the price here but Eladio says it doesn’t look as good as usual at the back but I think it looks fine.
Our block of apartments in Gran Alacant, near Santa Pola and Alicante, just recently painted.  It was in dire need.
We have yet to go to the beach for our first bathe of the season and for a nice long walk.  Hopefully Eladio will finish the curtains in time enough for that to happen.  Tomorrow we should have time too for another bathe before making our way back to Madrid.  Next week we have the visit of Sumit and Sandeep to look forward to.  They are the Indian friends Olivia made when she was on her Erasmus year in Falmouth in the UK.   They landed in Barcelona last Sunday, the day of the World Cup final, and are visiting Granada and Seville before coming here.  It’s going to be great to see them again.  My only worry is food, as they are vegetarians and like hot and spicy food.  Maybe gazpacho with curry powder could be in order.  There will be news on their visit next week of course.

Till then,
Cheers Masha

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