Sunday, December 12, 2010

December bank holiday, a VIP flying trip to Valencia, Christmas is coming, I need your votes please and lots of other things.

The highlight of my week, the pre public trip to Valencia on the AVE high speed train with Dircom.

Good afternoon my friends,

It’s Sunday again and here I am writing from my lovely desk, trying to get my thoughts together on the run down of this week.  Eladio is clearing the autumn leaves in the garden and my Father is having his siesta.  The girls have gone for a Christmas lunch with Suzy’s University friends.  I must include a photo below of the lovely cake Suzy made for the occasion.  As she’s on my diet, the Dukan diet, she won’t be eating any of it I’m afraid. 

The cake Suzy made today to take to a Christmas lunch with her University friends.

Today is a quiet day for me but not for Kattyand her family who have been in my thoughts all day as today is the day they are leaving the UK to live permanently in New Zealand.  I wish them a good trip and a very happy life there.  I also refuse to believe we will never see them again.  As I wrote on my cousin Katty’s FB wall this morning, their visit to us last month has left a lasting impression and created a bond between the two families that will remain forever.

So yes the week has been quiet.  I left off last Sunday and that evening we went out to dinner with our friends Roberto and MariCarmen to La Vinoteca in nearby Boadilla.  Monday and Wednesday were holidays which actually made the week a bit boring for me especially as we didn’t go away for the bank holiday.  So what did I do all week when I wasn’t working?

On Tuesday I went to have my eyes tested to see if I am suited for an operation.  I am far sighted (hyperopia) but also have presbyopia (the scientific name for losing eye sight as you get older).  I went through 2 hours of tests at the Clínica Aver in the centre of Madrid, including dilating my pupils.  The good news at the end of the tests is that yes I am suited for the operation.  The bad news however, is the cost, the astronomical amount of 5.500 euros.  Had I known the cost beforehand I probably wouldn’t have bothered going.   For the meantime, unfortunately, I shall have to continue to wear my varifocal glasses.  Friends say they look good on me but I hate depending on them so much.

On Wednesday Eladio and I did our first Christmas shopping and chose to go the Centro Oeste shopping centre in Majadahonda.  He really surprised me when he said that both he and my Father had already bought my presents.  Neither of them ever have a clue about buying presents, so unless they got some advice from the girls, I very much doubt that their surprise or surprises will be appreciated.  Just in case, I was able to persuade Eladio to buy me some fashionable laced brown boots which I later wrapped and put under the Christmas tree.  
The Centro Oeste shopping centre in Majadahonda where Eladio and I went Christmas shopping this week

Friday was the absolute highlight of the week as it was the day of the long awaited pre public ride on the new high speed train (Ave) to Valencia and back organised by Dircom, the association of Communications Directors to which I belong.  The train which will come into operation next week takes 1 hour 40 minutes to Valencia, some 391km from the capital.  It certainly has brought Valencia nearer to Madrid.  The downside is the price which people predict to be 80 euros for a single trip.  We left at 12.05 and were in Valencia just after 13.30h.  The Diplomatic Corps in Spain were also on the train and were greeted by the Mayoress of Valencia upon their arrival, the larger than life Rita Barberá.  From the Joaquín Sorolla train station we got onto coaches to take us to the wonderful Hotel Arenas by the Malvarrosa beach.  I had stayed here with Eladio in the summer and have only good things to say about this marvellous hotel.  Lunch, hosted by the hotel, was in the Zeus lounge overlooking the sea and here I had a dilemma. Was I going to break my diet and eat forbidden food, including the tantalising paella?  I debated the idea but soon threw it away and only ate the protein and vegetables leaving the delicious looking rice untouched on my plate. 

Me at the Hotel Arenas in Valencia during the Dircom trip on Friday. It's a great hotel.

At 16.15 we were back on the train, in club class of course, as the occasion determined.  The trip and event were great, the only drawback being I didn’t know anyone.  That’s probably because I don’t go to many of the Dircom events but I think I’ll be going to more in the future, especially if they are as good as the trip on Friday.  We arrived in Madrid at 18.45 and I felt I had been in some sort of dream. Had I really gone to Valencia, had lunch at the Arenas hotel, and come back in such a short space of time?  It really was what one could describe as a flying VIP trip and I’m sure people will prefer the train to the plane once the new Ave starts this  route.  I know I will.

On Friday I did some more Christmas shopping, this time all for me, hahaha.  Before going on the trip I stopped at the Spanish department store, El Corté Inglés, to buy some accessories for my iPhone and new toy (Samsung Galaxy Tab).  They didn’t have everything I wanted but I managed to get a usb hub and card reader for my pc and a car charger as well as an extra pc cable and charger for my iPhone.  Later in the evening I bought the rest online at a wonderful page called Octilus.  Here I ordered a new case for my iPhone and a case, a screen protector and car charger for my Samsung Galaxy Tab.  I have been searching for these accessories for some time so am mighty pleased with the purchases I made on Friday.  I now have a drawer in my desk full of accessories.  I for one, when I look at them, think there could be huge demand for universal accessories.  I wonder if the day will ever come.

If Friday was the absolute highlight of the week, Saturday was definitely the most important day for this family.  Yesterday Olivia took the most crucial exam of her life in an internal promotion with  There are just 5 places for reporters and nearly 100 aspirants; so pretty difficult to be one of the lucky people.  The lucky 5 people will get a job for life with Spanish TV.  She has been studying for weeks for this incredibly difficult 5 hour long exam.  The questions were all about general knowledge and the news and were really tricky.  There was a practical part too.  I wish her all the luck in the world.  Oli has always been a good student but the odds are not in her favour.  Meanwhile cross your fingers as her future will be decided by the outcome of this very important exam.  Good luck Oli, “whatever will be, will be” and if it isn’t to be, I know you have a brilliant future ahead whatever the outcome. 

Whilst Oli was preparing for her exam in the morning, Suzy and I went off to Tres Aguas shopping centre.  The excuse was to accompany Suzy who was going to buy two Christmas presents for an “invisible friend” party.  Eladio’s famous last words were “don’t spend anything”!  Well of course I didn’t obey and we went into lots of the shops.  I was very pleased with myself when I tried on a striped long cardigan at HM which looked great on me.  When I looked at the label and discovered it was an “s” I was pleased as punch.  I cannot remember buying an “s” for a long long time.  We also bought tights and leggings, the latter being a first for me.

And finally Christmas came to our home yesterday.  Whilst poor Oli was slaving over her exam, we got Eladio to bring up the Christmas stuff and Suzy and I spent a good part of the afternoon decorating our home.  We think it looks lovely.  It’s very us, a mixture of styles, but very Christmassy.  Now my Father is sitting next to the tree enjoying his cup of tea after the siesta.

Christmas finally arrived at our house yesterday.

As Christmas was arriving at our home, Eladio was out car hunting for a “new” second hand car for the girls.  He fell for one he saw and rang us to say he was coming with the owner to show it to us.  So out Suzy and I came into the street in our “at home” clothes to see the red Seat Ibiza TDI 1.9.  We didn’t have a choice in the matter as he had already made an offer which Ruben, the owner, had accepted.  Suzy and I took it for a short spin and very soon agreed that Eladio had found a great car for the girls. If everything goes ok, it should be theirs by the end of next week.   

Saturday, a very full day, in many ways, was also the social highlight of the week for us.  We had a dinner date with Elena and José Luis.  Elena is my special friend and neighbour to whom I have given lots of moral support in the past two years when she was looking for a job.  Our dinner last night was to celebrate her new position as Communications Director for Thyssen Krupp Europe, Middle East and Africa.  They came to pick us up and we drove to El Plantío where we had dinner at “El Descanso”.  The company was great and the food excellent so I look forward to strengthening this new friendship with more dinners out together in the future.

Lots of things have happened in the news of course.  I was especially interested to read about the Peruvian Spanish Nobel Literature Laureate for 2010, Mario Vargas Llosa’s time in Stockholm to receive the most prestigious literature prize in the world.  It seems he had a whale of a time and was accompanied by friends and family and thoroughly enjoyed the whole event.  At one stage though he fell when asked to pose in a difficult position for a photograph and on the day of the banquet he lost his voice.  Apparently he thinks he has the body of a young man and the strain of the week and especially the cold took a toll on him.  However he was all smiles throughout but also shed a tear or two, during his lecture, something which even surprised him.  His speech was wonderful, as apart from a great writer, he is also a fantastic orator as I well remember when I organised his Doctor Honoris Causa at the Universidad Europea de Madrid.  In his academic slecture about the importance of fiction for society, he also had time to mention his wife, Patricia and here is where he cried and the rest of the world, including myself, with him.  He had not allowed her to read the speech beforehand, and of course, when she heard what he said about her, she understood why.  And this is what he said (in Spanish)."Ella hace todo y todo lo hace bien", administra la economía, pone orden en el caos, mantiene a raya a los periodistas y a los intrusos, defiende mi tiempo, decide las citas y los viajes, hace y deshace las maletas, y es tan generosa que, hasta cuando cree que me riñe, me hace el mejor de los elogios: 'Mario, para lo único que tú sirves es para escribir".  Roughly translated this is: “She does everything and she does everything well, she looks after the money, she keeps the house in order, she keeps the press and the undesired away, she defends my time, decides what appointments and trips to make, she packs and unpacks the luggage and is so generous, that even when she tells me off, she makes the best compliment possible and says “Mario, the only thing you are capable of doing is writing”.

Mario Vargas Llosa who made a wonderful speech for his Nobel Prize in Literature.  The words about his wife brought tears to many people's eyes, including his own and mine.  What a charismatic man!

The other news of great interest this week also has to do with Sweden.  You will have been following the WikiLeaks affair I mentioned in last week’s blog.  Julian Assange, the founder and editor, was not only wanted by the US authorities but he was also wanted by the Swedish judiciary for apparent sex crimes committed in Stockholm in the summer.  On Tuesday he was arrested in Great Britain and is now sitting in Wandsworth prison.  So what is his crime you may ask?  I asked myself the same question and found the answer in a very good article in the Daily Mail describing exactly what happened.  Apparently the sex he had with two Swedish girls was forced but read on here and judge for yourselves whether you really think he deserves to be sitting in prison.  I certainly don’t.

And in the news here in Spain, here is something which affects my work and for which I would ask for your help.  It is a survey in to find the best CEO in each sector.  If you click on this link and scroll down to the bottom you will find a section entitled "¿Quién es el mejor directivo del sector de las tecnologías y telecomunicaciones?" (Who is the best boss in the technology and telecommunications sector).  All you have to do is vote for Johan Andsjö by ticking his name and pressing “votar”.  Thanks my friends!

Now I have come to the end of this week’s blog post. Christmas is now on its way and this week coming I have two seasonal events to attend.  You will be able to read about them and other things next Sunday.  Meanwhile I hope you all have a great week.

Cheers Masha

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