Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spanish sport in the news, a respite for me but lots of hard work, more lunches, dinners and shopping, disturbances in the Middle East and Lina Ben Mhenni, an extraordinary woman.

Lunch with Ketchum, our PR Agency  Monday, to set the scene for 2011
Hi again

As I begin this week’s blog, I can’t help including that Spain has beaten Sweden a few minutes ago to take the bronze medal in the Handball world cup. Spain is now a big player in international sports. However Nadal did not manage to win the Australian Open this week in his particular fight to win all four grand slams in one year, something no one has done since Rod Laver. To be fair he had an injury making the task at hand impossible. Neither did the number one, Roger Federer. In fact the final was won by the Serb and world’s number three, Djokovic who beat Andrew Murray from Scotland (the great British hope who has still to win a grand slam) in three straight sets. On the dark side of Spanish sport, much in the news these days is the case of Alberto Contador, the Spanish winner of the Tour de France who has been banned from cycling for one year after a much disputed doping test when a minuscule amount of clenbuterol was found in his blood. He claims it was because of a piece of steak he ate. The sentence actually mentions that he had done so unwittingly. Therefore I find the sentence hugely unfair. Contador now has 10 days to appeal. His case and that of a recent group of Spanish athletes including Marta Domínguez, have certainly put a question mark on Spanish sport. Spain, though, is not alone in the question of doping in sport. It has happened always and what annoys me is that the stars from the past who probably took all sorts of substances will go down in history as the good guys, whereas people like Contador who either took nothing or really little will go down in history as one of the bad guys because doping in sport is taken far more seriously today than in the past.  Seriously though, can you imagine riding the Tour of France for 3 weeks with stages of over 200km a day and climbing up mountain passes of up to 2.500m, just on pasta and meat? Maybe you could do it just on pasta but I wonder if you would win. Cycling is close to my heart as I was very involved in it in the 90’s and I think I know what I am talking about. I remember seeing healthy young men at the start line in the mornings and some 5 or 6 hours later see those same men cross the finish line looking haggard and some 30 years older, exhausted and hardly able to breathe let alone talk. Cycling is probably the toughest sport in the world.

A very serious Alberto Contador at a press conference this week.
My week has been tough, with lots of hard work, though nowhere near as tough as even the easiest cycling race. However I have my own race, of finishing the Yoigo story on video by 3rd February. On Monday though I was given a respite, i.e. another 2 weeks to finish and you can’t believe how relieved I am, not to mention Bea and Angel, my colleagues in this race. I have spent most of the week working on more interviews and editing but stopped the translation into English for the moment which I am doing myself and which is quite a herculean task actually. Now there was enough time to include more interviews.

On Monday I had a break and went to lunch with the team from Ketchum, my PR agency. It wasn’t any lunch but our annual lunch to thank the team for the year’s efforts and hopefully to further motivate them for the year ahead which is going to be as challenging as ever. This year we went to Casa Paco in the old part of Madrid where they serve the best fillet steak in the world, or so our German friend Alex who used to live in the Cava Baja street nearby, always says. 

Casa Paco, a lovely old Tavern in Madrid where I had lunch with my PR team from Ketchum on Monday
On Tuesday we had a second date, this time at my events’ agency, QuintaEsencia’s premises in downtown Madrid, to interview Jacob Benbunan from Saffron Brand Consultants. As I told you last week it was this agency which created the Yoigo brand. And boy did they do a good job. It was really interesting to hear the thinking behind the creation of this amazing new brand, born to compete with big traditional mobile operators in the very saturated Spanish market in 2006.

The building where my events agency, QuintaEsencia have their offices in Madrid.  I love the Queen on the balcony!
On Wednesday we interviewed Fernando Urrutia, head of The Phone House Spain. I went early to have a coffee with my good friend Carlos who works there now but who was my colleague in our Motorola days. We go back a long time and I have a soft spot for Carlos who was a young trainee at the time. Just after we left Motorola he had a terrible car crash and nearly died. He had burns all over his body and was in coma for weeks. However months later he slowly recovered and apart from a few scars you would never know he had ever had the accident. I will never forget those weeks when I would send a daily report to all our colleagues on his progress and when he was finally on the mend I organised a special party for him. Today he is a top executive at The Phone House Spain, is married and has 2 children, his first daughter being called Olivia like mine. I like to think he chose that name because of her.

We were joined of course by Angel and Bea but also by Marta, the Yoigo account manager for The Phone House. After the interview Marta and I decided to have lunch together at Viancco, the lovely Italian place I went to for the ex Motorola Christmas dinner which is in the Zielo shopping centre round the corner from The Phone House in Pozuelo. Of course we looked in the shops too and I am afraid I bought yet another piece of clothing, this time a tapestry mini skirt from Trucco. Maybe I should mention too that I bought a new black winter coat at the Corte Inglés on Monday too! I can’t stop shopping for clothes. In my fat days whenever I went to Zielo I never looked at the clothes but rather bought food at Le Pain Quotidien or the luxury supermarket Sánchez Romero. On Wednesday I hardly noticed the latter when I went past them. How the tables have turned for me!

The tapestery skirt I bought this week at Trucco, I can't stop buying new clothes!!
On Thursday I didn’t have any interviews but went into the office for a briefing with my events agency. Bea and I then went into Madrid for more editing of the video. Lunch that day was with Cris, Bea’s sister (and avid reader of my blog) who had to perform a miracle to get away for 2 hours and leave her new born baby in good care. Thus the four of us, Angel, Bea, Cris and I went to the very ornate and lovely Café de Oriente in the square where the Royal Palace is. Unfortunately it was my pure protein Thursday so all I could have was yet another piece of steak for lunch.

The Café de Oriente in Madrid
Friday was by far my busiest day and one of those days when you have lots of engagements and have to be punctual for all of them. Friday was also the day after the second pure protein Thursday of the consolidation phase of the Dukan Diet. Similarly to last week, I hardly slept for fear of the scales and worrying that I would have put on weight. I was awake at six and decided to get up and see what my fate was. Lo and behold once again I hadn’t put any weight on, and had in fact lost 200 grammes, despite the 2 slices of bread and a piece of fruit every day, plus the enormous celebration meal, etc. Thus, as you can imagine, I felt on top of the world and ready to take on any amount of engagements or new challenges.

I had two meetings in the morning on Friday which went really well and will set the pace of my work for the next 2 months which I can tell you is going to be challenging. After the interviews, I went with Bea and Angel to ACS, the big Spanish construction company which owns a 17.6% share in Yoigo. We went there to interview another Angel, the GM of the company and President of Yoigo, for our famous video. Later Mica commented on my Facebook: “going up in the world” which made me laugh of course.

Getting ready for the interview at ACS this week. The guy in the chair is Edwin, a charming Chilean photography technician.
After the interview we had to rush to Madrid to have lunch, do some more editing at the studio (Iralta Films) and then be ready to receive Natalia for the last interview of the week. Natalia was our customer number 100.000 and is a sweet young garden designer in her late 20’s. I think she was a bit awestruck about the whole thing but in the end did a great job and came out on the camera quite naturally. She did, however, tell me that the next time I call her she won’t answer the phone!! For the record when Natalia was our customer number 100.000 in February or March 2007, she won a trip to Finland to attend the Eurovision Song Contest sponsored by TeliaSonera. I accompanied her there and you can read about that trip by clicking here. Natalia, it was nice to see you again and thanks for appearing in the video.

Natalia, our customer 100.000 who I interviewed this week.
I didn’t get home till late on Friday night I but really felt like going out and celebrating my good work of the week by having my celebration meal with Eladio on Friday night rather than Saturday. He agreed at once so off we went to Tony Roma’s, an American “joint” and old favourite of ours in Majadahonda. I wanted a photo for my blog and this was the best Eladio could do. Of course there is no make up on me and I look really tired. However I thoroughly enjoyed a shared plate of onion rings, half a portion of Carolina honey ribs, rounded off with a wonderful brownie and all washed down with a glass of Rioja. Needless to say I got a headache that night. But you know what? It was well worth it.

The week took its toll on me as you can see in this picture of me at Tony Roma's on Friday.
And suddenly it was the weekend. I suggested to Angel and Bea that we work on the video over the weekend but they both disagreed. They were right really as we were all exhausted and in need of a rest. So on Saturday I suggested to Eladio and the girls that we have lunch in Madrid. Eladio said yes, on the condition that we wouldn’t go shopping. We told him it was not our intention but of course we weren’t telling the truth. We went to Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world. It was nice for the four of us to be together as it doesn’t often happen and we hardly ever go into town together.

Oli and Eladio in the Plaza Mayor yesterday.  The 4 of us  had a lovely time togther in town.
Botín is near the Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol. I knew Yoigo had plastered the Sol Metro station with outdoor or rather indoor advertising and I was keen to see it. I am no great fan of advertising but actually love the Yoigo truth slogans as they are very provocatibve. And here I am amongst all the outrageous Yoigo billboards at the metro station with the most traffic in Spain.

Me surrounded by Yoigo billboards at the Sol metro station in Madrid yesterday
Of course from Sol we dragged Eladio down the most commercial street in Spain, Preciados, also the street where you are most likely to be pick-pocketed in this country. We couldn’t do much shopping, just glance in the shop windows or buy stuff off the racks without trying them on. But I have seen two lovely dresses in Zara I might be trying on next week in another branch, maybe in Barcelona, who knows.

We came back home in the late afternoon and I sat down to finally finish Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. Did I like it? Well yes but only in parts. I got a bit stuck in the World War 1 battle scenes and actually thought the stories of the main characters were not engaging enough. I have now started on Sarah’s Key, which I wrote about recently when I referred to the film and the author, Tatiana de Rosnay. I have had a busy week but always set aside time, if possible, for our daily walk and for at least half an hour’s reading in the evening. I need both for the good of my body and my soul.

Today Sunday has been another relaxing day at home, in preparation for a crazy week ahead. Tomorrow I will be having an implant, or rather the screw put in for the implant at 11 am and at 16.30 I am off to Barcelona on the AVE (high speed train) with Bea on the lookout for a location for our press conference at the upcoming Mobile World Conference. I will be back on Tuesday afternoon but will be off again on Wednesday, to Stockholm again for a global Management Team meeting until Friday. I am looking forward to both and to a guaranteed week of excitement, except for the implant of course.

Talking about excitement, before I finish, I want to put this week’s blog post into international perspective because something extraordinary is happening in the Middle East which I just cannot omit from my blog. There have been disturbances, demonstrations and riots starting in Tunisia which are having a domino effect in many other neighbouring countries, mainly Egypt but also Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Why are they demonstrating you may ask? They are demonstrating because of the rising prices of food but mainly for democracy and an end to dictatorships. In Tunisia the revolution, because it was a revolution, forced the long reigning President and his most hated wife to leave the country. Will that happen too in Egypt? We will see this week. Meanwhile countries like Morocco, are subsidising staple food even order to avoid similar disturbances. I wonder if that will be enough to keep their people from protesting. In Egypt this week, the authorities stopped internet and mobile phones from working, but that didn’t stop people meeting despite the curfew. People want freedom and democracy and food. Aren’t those the basics to an ordinary existence? I am going to be watching this space carefully and really hope things will change for the better in these authoritarian countries where women are the most down trodden in the world. One Middle Eastern woman has caught the world’s attention and has certainly called mine too. Lina Ben Mhenni, is a young Tunisian University teacher of English. What is extraordinary about her is that she has a blog called A Tunisian girl where she has reported on the uprising in her country, minute by minute as she lived it herself in the centre of the disturbances. I admire her for fighting for her country in this way and will be following her blog closely.  Follow her too!

Lina Ben Mhenni, an extraordinary woman. Read about the Tunisian revolt in her blog, a Tunisian Girl

Cheers my friends till next week. Masha

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