Sunday, February 20, 2011

Birthdays in February, a burning platform, Egypt is free, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, home again and a family trip to La Granja de San Ildefonso.

Me happy with my family on my 54th birthday on 8th February at home.
Hi again,

I am back after a 2 week absence. I didn’t write my blog last week as I was just too busy and tired. So ahead you have the promised bumper edition packed with news.

Let me start where I left off last, on Monday 7th February. That day I went to my dentist, Dr. Garralda, for an x-ray after the recent implant. It came out ok and I will now have to wait until May for the crown to be put in. I’m rather fed up of the hole in the back of my mouth and cannot wait for it to be filled again. I remember it fell on 11th January 2010, the day of the incredible snow fall, which is now over a year ago.

The rest of Monday was spent working on the video story of Yoigo which has proved to be a much bigger project than I thought when we started. In reality we have made a short 30 minute film. One day soon you will see it when I upload it to You Tube. But not yet as our staff haven’t seen it yet. I hope they like it.

Tuesday was my 54th birthday. Yes 54. It seems a lot but I actually feel much younger, especially after losing so much weight. When I was a girl, women of that age seemed old to me. But things have changed and women look younger than my mother’s or grandmother’s generations. One of the reasons, maybe, is that today women dye their hair to cover the grey. Also I think we dress more in fashion and of course live longer. I certainly intend to keep on looking good as long as I can. The scales that day said 63 kilos so I had no problem eating my birthday cake. I went on my birthday for a meeting  and lo and behold a wonderful bunch of roses was awaiting me. Guess who they were from? No not one of my agencies, but my dear husband Eladio. Here is a picture of a delighted me holding them in the reception of Yoigo.

Happy with Eladio's red roses which were waiting for me at the office on my birthday
We had a family lunch together as is tradition at home and of course a present, a card and a birthday cake were an essential part of it. And here I am with my wonderful husband just before blowing the candles. My big present was to come later and it was a family trip from Eladio and my Father for the five of us to La Granja de San Ildefonso for a night in the Parador from where we have just come back, but more about that later my friends.

With Eladio just before blowing the candles on my birthday cake
In the evening the 4 of us went out to dinner to Tony Romas, a delicious American joint in nearby Majadahonda where we enjoyed the ribs and of course a brownie for dessert.

That day was not only my birthday. It was also Juan my nephew’s with whom we had had lunch the Sunday before at José Antonio and Dolores’ house. I recently found a job for Juan as an account executive at Lewis PR where he seems to be very happy. I couldn’t believe my eyes when he gave me a great Desigual dress and expensive earrings as a present and was very touched indeed for his gratitude and the gesture. He has no need to be grateful as I know from inside knowledge that he is doing a great job at this PR agency.

It was also Copi’s, Susy and Oli’s exotic friend from school who is living in The Hague now. For a silly reason they are not on good terms and I think we are all missing Copi in our lives. In my birthday message to her, I asked her to return to our lives. I sincerely hope she does soon.

My birthday is on the 8th February and my brother, George’s birthday was on the 12th, just 4 days later. But he is no longer here to celebrate it and that always makes me sad. When we were children, our grandmother would send a cake every year which would always arrive in time for his birthday and not mine which used to bother me a lot. Today I would do anything for him to be here to celebrate his birthday with me. I mentioned it was his birthday on FB that day and dear Andy, a friend from our Callosa days, wrote back: “Remembering George. Remember him arriving in Callosa out of the blue from Morocco unannounced, with many tales to tell and a ticket to Caracas in his pocket” which of course brought a smile to my face. Dear George, my beautiful tall, blonde and blue eyed talented and globetrotter brother, I am forever sorry that life did not treat you well and that you are no longer here and remember the good times with much nostalgia. God bless you.

With my brother George in the 70's.  His birthday would have been on 12th February, something I can never forget
It was also Javier’s birthday on the very same day as George’s and I happened to be in the office the day before when he was handing out slices of a carrot flavoured birthday cake made by his American wife. I, of course, captured the moment on my camera and here is one of the pictures below. 

Javier's birthday celebration at work.  His birthday is on the same day as George's, 12th Feb
And lastly it was Roberto’s on Sunday 13th, Eladio’s friend but also mine as we are travelling companions of Roberto and his wife Maricarmen who is my own personal pharmacist. So happy birthday too Roberto and I hope we see you soon. It has been too long.

The day after my birthday I had a celebration lunch with my good friends Julio and Fátima. We were also supposed to be celebrating Fátima’s 50th birthday for which she did not organise anything at the time, to my chagrain. But then Fátima is too busy to ever think about herself and there is nothing I can do to change that. We had lunch near work at a great Argentinian place called La Lumbre del Cacique. We obviously have like minds as we both had bought Pandora bracelet charms. Actually my bracelet is now completely full, so please no more charms anyone. Fátima and I had worked at Motorola together. Then when I moved to Nokia, where I met Julio, I brought her along with me and Julio was her boss for a time. So, Nokia, very much connected us.

On Friday ironically, Nokia was to announce some ground breaking news which the market wasn’t going to take too well. Previously the new Canadian and first non Finn to head the company, Stephen Elop, had sent an email to the staff which was leaked to the press, probably intentionally. He spoke about Nokia being on a burning platform with nowhere to turn. These words meant a lot to me as I had worked there for 6 years when Nokia was the king of the mobile phone market. 5 years later Nokia has lost market share and is being squeezed at the high end by the Apples and Blackberries and Samsungs of this world and at the low end by the increasingly dominating Chinese manufacturers. There are probably many reasons why this has happened but one is certainly an outdated operating system called Symbian which we all used to love but not anymore. Today we prefer Android by Google or the iPhone system. The news Stephen Elop announced in London at the annual market analyst conference on Friday 13th February was a partnership with Microsoft, their ex arch enemy but also the company from which the new CEO comes from, and the adoption of the Windows operating system. This was not really what the market expected precisely because Windows has never really taken off and is not very popular with the mass market. So Nokia is very much in the news these days but very negatively. I, for one, would not be happy doing my old job today as just no one seems to be happy with what was once one of the most admired companies in the world. Later at the Mobile World Congress I was devastated to see that they had no stand and just occupied a couple of closed rooms for interviews with the press as if they were hiding from the world. This was in sharp contrast to the huge Samsung and Android stands, the makes which have taken Nokia’s space in the market. I am also watching with astonishment on Facebook how so many of my ex colleagues are leaving, one by one. I suppose they do not want to burn on what has now become a phrase that coins Nokia. If you don’t believe me, just try googling: “burning platform” to see how many results you get.

The Nokia burning platform, now a coined phrase.  The story reminds me of what happened to Motorola

Friday 13th February, an unfortunate day for Nokia, was also a day with ground breaking news from the Middle East. As I left the Iralta Film studio after last minute changes to our video, I read on my phone that Mubarak, the octogenarian Egyptian dictator who had been in power for some 30 years, had finally resigned after intense pressure from the riots in the now famous Tahrir (liberty) Square. The news in Egypt was greeted with great enthusiasm all over the world. I quote Barack Obama here who said: “The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard. Egypt will never be the same again”. What happened in Egypt I think in part was a consequence of similar events in Tunisia which forced the Tunisian leader to resign too. We are seeing a domino effect all over the Middle East with other countries now holding riots and demonstrations like Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Jordan and even Morocco. I am sure too we will see more dictators resign over the following weeks but we will also read of more deaths of innocent people while this happens. Freedom comes at the price of bloodshed usually.

On Saturday, George’s birthday, I had to go into Madrid again for some finishing touches of the video and so the girls came with me for some shopping and lunch together before I went off to Iralta Films to meet Bea and Angel. We had lunch at Naia in the centre, in Plaza de la Paja. We later discovered some charming gardens where of course I captured the moment on my camera.

A morning and lunch with the girls in Madrid, such fun.

From here we walked towards the Plaza de Oriente Square which is dominated by the Royal Palace. However that day people were more interested in preparations for the Spanish “Goya” film awards than the palace and so were we. The Spanish TVE set was there too and funnily enough the presenter of the news from there was Olivia’s TV journalist master teacher. So she stayed to watch him present live whilst I joined Bea and Gloria for a coffee at the Café de Oriente.

Preparations in the Plaza de Oriente square for the Spanish film awards, the Goyas

The awards were to take place the next day, on Sunday evening. The overall winner of this year’s awards was a Catalán film called “Pa Negre” (Black Bread), a post Spanish civil war family drama which I know I will adore as I love historical or period films of events close to my heart.

Pa Negre (Black Bread) won 9 tropies at the Spanish Film Awards, the Goyas

And soon the week was over and it was Sunday and time for me to go to Barcelona to put into action all the activities I had been preparing for Yoigo’s participation in this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Whilst I was packing, Eladio decided to pack a suitcase too and join his brother José Antonio and his nephew Miguel, in Montrondo whilst I was away. His trip was to be quite memorable as whilst he was in his native village there was a huge snowfall. Also whilst he was there, our neighbour in Montrondo, Antonio, passed away after a long illness and his remains were brought there to be buried. Eladio of course went to the funeral where he was joined by his Mother and sister Pili and her husband Andrés. Rest in peace Antonio, in the niche next to my Father-in-law, in the peaceful cemetery by the village church in Montrondo. We will miss you. Despite this sad episode, Eladio had a grand time and enjoyed the snow with his brother and nephew. Here he is clad in his new red anorak with Nuba, José Antonio’s mongrel dog.

Eladio in Montrondo with Nuba in the snow whilst I was in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress

Miguel actually sent this lovely photo of snow in Montrondo to the Spanish TVE weather section and they showed it on the news last week. The picture is great and looks like a post card from a village Christmas scene. It was funny to see it live on the television as Montrondo is such a remote village more or less unheard of unless you are a member of our family or one of the very few inhabitants and their families.

Montrondo in the snow, the picture Miguel sent to Spanish TV and which appeared in the weather news last week

Whilst Eladio was driving northwest to Montrondo, I was on the high speed AVE train to Barcelona which takes just over 2.5 hours. I had checked in on Foursquare so all my social network friends would know where I was and settled down to work and have lunch on the train. Suddenly I received an sms from a friend and colleague whom I hadn’t seen for quite a few years, Jesús, an ex colleague of Motorola who now lives in Miami.  The sms told me he was also on the train. I was both surprised and happy and rushed to his carriage to greet him and I hugged him with great enthusiasm. He was travelling with his new wife from Puerto Rico, Renata, whom I had never met. It was a joy to be with them both and Jesús and I had much news and information to exchange as we had to catch up on 4 years in just under an hour. Unfortunately we were not to meet again during the congress which is not surprising when you think that some 60.000 people visited it this year, ten percent more than last year.

At the station I took a taxi to my hotel, the AC Diplomatic, where my colleagues from TeliaSonera were staying (thanks Ana and Birgitta for the room by the way) and as soon as I had checked in and unpacked my enormous suitcase, I took another taxi, this time to Badalona. I was off to see my old school friend Grainne and her son Marcel. The only time I had free was Sunday afternoon so we made the most of it over a cup of tea and two glasses of wine. Grainne is an out of work translator and private teacher of English, her handicap being not knowing enough Catalán to find a job, plus her age of course. I just wish I could help her more. I was glad to know that my visit had been a tonic for her. Actually for me, being with Grainne is always a tonic too. I love her personality and we share the same childhood background. Grainne, it’s time to move on, maybe to Alicante, maybe to Madrid or back to England. Whatever, I wish you loads of luck and moral support. That you will always have from me.

With my dear friend Grainne in Badalona last week.  We went to school together.

After visiting Grainne I had two more engagements. First I went back to my hotel for the TeliaSonera get together. Here I greeted many familiar faces over another glass of wine before leaving for the Cal Pinxo restaurant where I had a late date for dinner with Fátima. On the table next to us was my successor at Nokia Spain, Solange but also too my ex colleague from Hungary, Anna. Anna it was wonderful to see you. Of course we spoke about Nokia and I was not surprised to hear Solange support Stephen Elop’s announcement of the alliance with Microsoft. I suppose she does not have any other choice. All this was over a plate of wonderful cod “buñuelos” and salad and more wine which of course gave me a headache the next morning.

Monday was my least busy day, so after replying to my emails I made my way to the fair to registration to get  my pass where security is similar to that at airports which is most frustrating. My first stop was NSN (Nokia Siemens Networks) where I had many friends to greet; Julio, Cristina, Kaisa, Pentti, Paco, Emilio, .....and there was even time for a coffee with Julio.

With Julio at the NSN hospitality suite at the Mobile World Congress

From here I went to see another old colleague, Dee Gibbs whose PR company heads up the GSMA Media Centre. I hadn’t seen Dee since our Motorola days and that was probably 15 years ago. She told me her story since she left Motorola as I did mine and I am very proud of her success. She is now the owner of a big London PR agency with offices in Chelsea and many clients, including the GSMA association. Well done Dee, it was great seeing you again. After seeing Dee I went to see Ilkka, another ex Motorola colleague, the ex GM for Switzerland who now lives in the US. Thanks to him I am now in touch with Irene (of Chilean origin) my marketing counterpart in Switzerland at the time. I had forgotten her surname but now I know it we are in touch on Facebook. I remember many a meeting in Basingstoke outside London when we used to chat until the small hours over a drink in the bar of the wonderful hotel Audley’s Wood. Great to see you again Ilkka and great to have found you Irene too. What I like most about the Mobile World Congress is meeting old colleagues. Of course the technology is interesting but to me it comes second to people.

What struck me most about the fair this year was the change in the players. Nokia occupied hidden little rooms in a small hall and there was Android (Google’s mobile phone operating system), the star of the show.

The Android stand at the Mobile World Congress this year, the star of the show

Certainly this year was the year of the tablets and as some journalists are writing, they are now destined for the masses, not just the chosen few. I totally agree. The phone I most desire, of those announced this year, is the Samsung Galaxy II, the upgrade of the one I am using now, with Android of course. Not so long ago I only wanted a Nokia phone but not any more I’m afraid and I think I speak for many people, not just me.

The Mobile World Congress this year, with dark cloudy skies.

On the way back to the hotel I must admit I stopped off for a bit of shopping on the Paseo de Gracia Street near the AC Diplomatic. I only went into Zara.  I think it’s my favourite shop since I’ve lost weight and now I love it and seem to want everything I see and like. So in less than 30 minutes I tried on and bought a pair of tight white trousers, a leopard patterned silky short dress and an emerald green v-necked jumper plus a blue and white striped long sleeved t-shirt.

In the evening I had two appointments. The first was to the Nokia Siemens event organised by my friend Fátima for Telefónica at the most exclusive club in town, “El Círculo Ecuestre”. To hire the place or visit it you must do so through one of the members and it was through Fátima’s fellow student friend Oscar (now an illustrious notary in Barcelona) and his wife Margarita that NSN was able to use the club for this event. I went along to have a drink and meet them and they are a delightful couple. They showed us all the wonderful rooms and the place reminds you of a London top club. Not that I have ever been to one, but I have seen them on the screen of course.

With Fátima at the Círculo Ecuestre in Barcelona last week

My next stop was my own party, a St. Valentine’s party at Leounge owned by Julia, the girls’ Austrian friend they met at the N-Gage team building event in Finland some years ago. Here we had invited the bloggers from our blogger trip to the MWC, as well as some Facebook fans and of course the Yoigo shopkeepers who had won tickets to the congress. All in all some 50 people mingling and enjoying food and drink amid giant red hearts and a wonderful magician who had us all in awe but also in stitches. It was a great party for which I got another well deserved headache.

Tuesday was a busy day which started with the TeliaSonera press conference. Afterwards we worked on the final touches to our own press releases and presentation for the Yoigo press conference the next day. The day was busy but there was time for play too. So at midday I took Anna and Birgitta for lunch off site. We went to El Merendero de la Mari where I introduced them to the wonderful dish of rice with lobster. After lunch Anna and I walked to the old town our destination being one hour in the shops. On the spur of the moment, though we entered the old Gothic cathedral for a bit of culture in sharp contrast to the high tech congress we were here for. We were back on time for our next event, the premiere showing of the Yoigo video to the Nordic press. Things went wrong from the start. Don’t ask me why but there was trouble getting it started and then the journalists were not interested as I had actually predicted. The only people watching were internal and frankly for me this was a huge disappointment for the premiere showing after so much hard work.

From here we went to the Ericsson party at their enormous pavilion. The party started at 6pm which is far too early for anyone living in Spain! The next day we were to announce a contract for the extension of our network with them, so of course we were very welcome. We took along our bloggers who you can see in the picture below.

With the bloggers at the Ericsson party at the Congress last week

I had a dinner date but skipped it after a not so happy day and decided to go back to my hotel room and order room service with the company of the BBC World News. The next morning I did not have a headache.

Wednesday, the last day of the congress for me, was the day of our press conference which was to be a breakfast at 10 am at Brown 33 on Paseo de Gracia just across the road from our hotel. I was not expecting many journalists as most of them are heading back that day so I was in for a surprise. We had a full house with some 15 journalists and 20 bloggers plus some gate crashers! We had lots of news that day, the objectives for the year, the contract with Ericsson, a new mobile data tariff for heavy users plus a novel service, cheap international calls using IP. Needless to say we got loads of coverage, mostly online of course, as is the rule of the day. What made me most happy was that we were the Twitter trending topic of the day in Madrid and Barcelona thanks to our press conference. By the way, try googling “Yoigo MWC” to see how many results you get. At the end of Wednesday there were some 11.000. Right now there are 52.300!! Online rules my friends doesn’t it?

The Yoigo press conference was packed this year at the congress

So rather happier, I went back to my hotel to pick up my suitcase, check out and get a taxi to the station to catch the 13h AVE high speed train to Madrid. I enjoyed club class which included a superb lunch and more importantly a switch to plug my computer in. Once again I checked in on Foursquare only to find that a Facebook friend, Virginia, was also on the train and was going to Boadilla afterwards. So we took a taxi together. It was great to be home again and to sleep in my own bed, the most comfortable one for me in the world.

You can see the full set of photos of my time in Barcelona here on my Facebook page.

The AVE high speed train that brought me home from Barcelona

The next day, Thursday 17th February was a busy day for me. I had to go into the office for 3 meetings and I can tell you I’m not a meeting person. I prefer to agree things by email or over the phone but this time there was no choice. I had lunch with Marta, another ex Nokia colleague, who needed some professional coaching from me. I was happy to help her over lunch at Imanol (my PP day after so much gluttony in Barcelona) but knew my case was difficult. Marta has to set her priorities and learn to say no to an overload of work and insist on getting some extra resources and help. But can she do that? Only she knows.

On Friday at last I was able to have a quiet day of work at home, this time preparations for 3 events next week. I was worried that not having followed the Dukan recommendation for the consolidation phase I am supposed to be on in Barcelona, that I would have put on weight. But no I hadn’t. In face I had even lost a bit and now weigh just over 62 kilos. Whoopee. Therefore I took Eladio out for dinner that night for a mini celebration and we went to La Vaca Argentina. There I had chips for the first time in many months and boy were they good.

Yesterday, Saturday, was a big day for the family. We were going on my birthday trip to the Parador (state run hotels in monumental buildings) in the historical town of La Granja de San Ildefonso in the province of Segovia and an hour’s drive from home. The five of us were going, Eladio, the girls, my Father and I, something which was very important for me. I love it when we are all together and usually we are all so busy that we don’t do many things together. We checked into the Parador at around 13h and had lovely spacious rooms next to each other on the first floor.

My Father, Suzy, Eladio and Oli yesterday at the Parador de la Granja
We had booked a table for lunch at 14.15 and were given a nice round table overlooking the garden. Of course we all ate so much we needed a siesta afterwards.

The dining room at the Parador de la Granja

In fact we didn’t wake up until 6 which was a little late for our walk. The Palace and Palace gardens were closed so we decided to visit them the next day and contented ourselves walking around the village 4 times to get a minimum of an hour and a half’s walk. At eight o’clock we had an appointment at the spa and this we thoroughly enjoyed. Below you can see us clad in thick white bathing robes with big smiles on our faces. We enjoyed the Jacuzzi with seven different power jets for different parts of the body, as well as the sauna (90ºc!) and the swimming pool where you swam one length with the current and then a length against the current. Thankfully after so much exercise we had built up a moderate appetite although I only had vegetables for dinner.  My Father just had a cup of tea and biscuits in his room as he couldn’t face another copious meal.

The 4 of us in our bath robes ready to hit the spa at the Parador.  We had great fun.

We slept really well, with total silence coming from outside and I actually woke up at eight o’clock in the morning which is late for me. We all had breakfast at around nine and it was scrumptious with everything and anything you could imagine. I had to contain myself and pass on all the enticing bakery produce, not to mention the savoury food on offer, such as friend eggs. Breakfast was long and included a second cup of coffee and of course El País and El Mundo where the main news was the up and coming anniversary of the Spanish coup d’etat (golpe de estado) on 23rd February 1981, many new details of which were reported on in today’s papers. I always remember being in England when that happened and seeing it on the 9 o’clock news. I will never forget the image of the Spanish colonel, Tejero going into the Spanish Parliament, shooting a gun into the air  and saying “Quieto Todo el Mundo! (be quiet everyone) and “que se sienten coño” (for ***** sake sit down). I also remember ringing Eladio straight afterwards and not being able to get through as the lines were down and being very worried.

Breakfast this morning at the Parador was out of this world

After checking out, we left my Father with some magazines in the Parador library and went off to explore the Palace gardens which are spectacular and well worth the visit. The gardens are famous for their fountains. Unfortunately today they were not in operation. We walked for another hour and a half and the sun made its entrance and brightened up the day at least for me.

The 4 of us today at the gardens of the Palace in La Granja

In fact we ventured quite far and saw wonderful statues and reservoirs, like the one in the picture below which I particularly liked because of the mirror effect of the trees around it. In sum the gardens are heavenly.

One of the beautiful reservoirs at the palace gardens in La Granja today.  Notice the mirror effect of the trees!

We had a table booked afterwards at the famous restaurant called Mesón Cándido in Segovia and in fact my friend and famous ex cyclist, Pedro Delgado, who is from Segovia, had made the reservation for me. However we were all so full and just couldn’t face another heavy meal that we decided to ring the restaurant and cancel and come home for something lighter. Thankfully Olga had left us a Spanish tortilla so all we had to do was make a salad to go with it.

So here we are back from a lovely family trip. You can see all the photos here. I am now writing my blog, Eladio is struggling with the printer next to me. Suzy is upstairs in her room, Oli is with her beau somewhere and my Father is reading in the lounge. So together but not together but under the same roof.

And that my friends, is the story of my last two weeks, with all my ups and downs and adventures and trips. Now I will leave you to publish it and then relax with a new book yet to be chosen from my last order.

I hope you all have a great week. Mine is going to be busy and I hope that after next week I may have a quieter paced life. That remains to be seen.

Cheers till next week


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the ride! A pleasure meeting you:)