Sunday, March 06, 2011

Quiet times and not enough action, Norah, Carnaval and Shrove Tuesday, the Oscar goes to The King’s Speech, my books and film of the week, a small PR crisis, Madrid Restaurant week and other things.

Norah on Eladio's lap.  She has brought so much joy to our lives.

Hi again

The week has not passed by fast as at other times. It was my turn to rest after a hectic 2 months of stressful activities at work. It was ok for the first few days and I am sleeping better now and no longer getting up at the crack of dawn. But I am beginning to get bored. I have found this week far too quiet and need some action and I need it soon. Quiet times are ok for me but only if they are spiced up with action in between time.

The weather has been pretty ghastly to add to the quietness with rain and snow threatening most of the week. It actually stopped me from going on our walk but only once. My daily walk is now an integral part of my life and I hate it when the weather won’t let me go out. Norah doesn’t like to miss the walks either. I can’t tell you how much joy our beagle dog Norah has brought to this house and family. We all dote on her and she must be one of the happiest and most spoiled dogs in the world. She is just over two years old but still thinks she is a puppy because she often tries to jump onto our laps where we would cuddle her when she was small. In the photo illustrating this blog you can see her on Eladio’s lap, as happy as a sandboy or “sanddog” maybe I should say, hahaha.

I could have got some action from Carnaval week but actually that leaves me feeling pretty cold as I was never a one for dressing up nor was I brought up on it. I was, however, brought up to celebrate Shrove Tuesday (commonly known as “Pancake Day”) and regret not having carried on that tradition when creating my own family. I have half in my mind to make pancakes next Tuesday for my Father, Eladio and the girls, to make up for that. Not that we will be fasting for Lent afterwards of course.

I think I might reinstate Pancake Day in our lives this coming Shrove Tuesday

I could also have got some action this week by going to the Valencian “Fallas” festival which has begun this weekend. But then again I hate huge crowds and fires and fireworks on a big scale can be a bit worrying. I think I once told you about a terrible incident during our Callosa Days when a man got burnt. In fact he died in front of me after someone threw a match into a box of bangers in the Bolulla social club right next to my Aunt’s house. That is something I shall never forget. Amazingly the culprit who remains anonymous got away and the tragedy was never investigated by the police. That was in the mid seventies and I think things would have been different today even in that remote part of Alicante. In the Valencia and Alicante region stories like this are rife as fire and fireworks are a part and parcel of nearly all their local festivals and you often see, or you used to see, people with fingers or whole limbs missing. I particularly remember the owner of the bar in Tárbena, I think his name was Pepe, being armless and when I asked what had happened I was told he had lost his arm when throwing a banger as a young boy. So no, I didn’t and won’t be going to the Fallas nor did I celebrate Carnaval but have yet to decide about the pancakes on Shrove Tuesday coming up next week.

The Fallas festival in Valencia commencing this weekend but I won't be going.

Thus there hasn’t been much action this week but actually when I look at my preparatory list for this blogpost’s entry, the list is quite long. As the work front was very quiet, just concentrating mostly on reports or little things I had left on my “to do list” (yes I am always drawing up lists), there was a lot of time for reading and films which I will come to later. I worked at home all week and didn’t go into work at all which I actually rather missed.

When I finished my blog entry last Sunday, we went out for dinner that night, unexpectedly, with our friends Roberto and MariCarmen to La Vinoteca in nearby Boadilla. Hopefully we will be having dinner again with them tonight.

On Monday I woke up to the news of this year’s Oscar awards. I was not surprised to hear that this year’s Oscar went to The King’s Speech which in fact got four Oscars, including best film, best director and best actor to Colin Firth. I really must see it in English as the dubbed version I saw did not  live up to my expectations. I loved some of the English paper’s headlines which referred to the award as “King’s speech crowned as best picture”. English headlines are full of puns and plays on words, something I miss in the Spanish press.

Colin Firth won Best Actor for The King's Speech at this year's Oscar Awards.

My only professional engagement was on Tuesday and it was a lunch appointment with Sarah, an English correspondent for Reuters. We went to an Indian place I love called Annapurna. It was great to speak English throughout and to compare notes on why we both came to Spain. Sarah seems to live more within the Madrid English community than I do and she got me thinking whether I miss that or not and probably I do, to some extent. She has promised to introduce me to her boss June, an English lady of my age who has also lived here for “donkey’s years” and I look forward to that.

Sarah and I shared a plate of onion bhajis at Annapurna on Monday.

On Tuesday too an ailing Steve Jobs announced the new iPad from Apple. It may well be magnificent but as I haven’t had the privilege of owning the first edition, I cannot compare. What I thought intriguing was that there seemed to be as much or more interest in Steve Job’s physical state than in the new tablet. He is after all convalescing from his second bout of cancer and as he is such an integral part of the brand, there is concern for Apple’s future without him. The launch was accompanied by the usual Steve Jobs/Apple fanfare which I discern may now well have lost its shine with the press. Maybe Apple will have to pull another one next time.

Steve Jobbs unveiled the new iPad from Apple this week in his trade mark black t-shirt and jeans.

This quiet week also brought with it the chance to read again. When I am very busy and stressed I don’t read much but when I am not, I often read one or more books in a week. My books of the week these last few days were two very different stories but both in the biographical genre which is probably my favourite. I read the biography of Natascha Kampusch called 3.096 days, the days this young Austrian girl was imprisoned by her kidnapper who abducted her when she was just 10 years old. I cannot tell you how harrowing her story is but it is also a story of personal triumph of how she managed to survive throughout by never giving up or forgetting her identity which he tried to tear completely away from her.

The harrowing story of Natascha Kampusch was one of my books of the week

My other book of the week is, coincidentally, the King’s Speech written by Mark Logue, the grandson of the King’s therapist, Lionel Logue. It is based on the letters and diaries and scrapbooks Mark found after his Father’s death and is a wonderful story of both men; his grandfather the larger than life Australian speech therapist and the King, Bertie, who became George VI after his brother Edward VIII abdicated. I highly recommend both books.

One of my books of the week

Action finally came on Friday but not the kind of action I like. We had a mini PR crisis on our hands when a very beligerant consumer association called Facua made public a fine the Community of Madrid wanted to impose on Yoigo after the association had accused us. What of you may ask? Well, of keeping the money left over in prepaid cards that people don’t spend. How stupid you may think. Well that’s what I thought. It’s a bit like accusing the cinemas of not returning your money if you buy a ticket and don’t use it. However the story was published right left and centre on internet and was of course tarnishing Yoigo’s name meanwhile. The media had published it but hadn’t asked for our opinion. By the time we had our statement ready (that this practice is included in all our contracts – and in all the other operators’ too for your information) the damage was done and it wasn’t until the afternoon when I began to see our side of the story published. Friday was full of action but as I said not the type of action I like. A PR crisis is not a favourite part of my job I can tell you. Let’s hope the whole thing blows over next week.

Friday evening was far more enjoyable. We had a date for dinner with our friends Pedro and Ludy. Pedro is Pedro Delgado the famous Spanish cyclist who has won both the Tour of France and Tour of Spain. Today he is a commentator for TVE. I had heard on the radio a few days before that  from 25th February to 6th March it was Madrid Restaurant Week. Some 30 or so top restaurants offer a menu for 25 euros per head and one euro goes to charity. So I looked at the list and and the menus and decided on a place called Nuevo Gerardo in town. We were not disappointed as the place specialises in fish and rice and the menu was splendid. Pedro although nearly 50 is still very recognisable and many times during the evening people came up and shook his hand or took a photograph with him. He is very patient and always smiles; a part of his charm and charisma. We talked so much that night that I forgot to take a photo for my blog. Sorry guys.

Nuevo Gerardo, the restuarant I chose from Madrid Restaurant Week for our dinner with Pedro and Ludy

The radio this week informed me not only about the Madrid Restaurant Week, but also about a new film I knew I just had to see because of my roots and interest in that part of history. The Spanish film director and actor Carlos Iglesias was talking about his new film called Ispansi. Ispantsi in Russian means Spaniards and refers to the children of the Spanish Civil War who were exiled in Russia in 1936.  They were mainly the children of republicans known as “the reds” and were later caught up in an ever worse war, the Second World War. Many of them were never ever able to return to Spain and the film is dedicated to them. It was certainly the film of the week for me and one of the best I have seen in a long time. We saw it last night at a cinema called Renoir in Majadahonda where more cultural films are shown and we remarked that only people our age go to see them.

Ispansi, my film of the week

Of course we went to dinner afterwards and I know I will surprise you when I tell you we went to McDonalds. Well we did, because we too like fast food occasionally. Also our car was parked right outside and the smell of their chips was what lured us in; the best chips in the world according to my Father, but not to me.

I well remember the first time I ever entered a McDonalds. It was in 1972 in Stockholm when I was travelling around Northern Europe on inter rail which cost me 25 pounds for a month’s ticket at the time. I hadn’t seen one in England and was very impressed although a little flustered with how fast the ordering took place. I remember too when I was in Madrid on my exchange year in 1978 that American hamburger joints began to expand. The first McDonalds in Madrid, which is still there today, was in the Gran Via and I often had a meal there as a way of a night out as it was both very “in” and of course very cheap.

Instead of a quiet week at home, I would have loved to have been travelling but as that couldn’t be, I have been vicariously enjoying my god daughter Alicia’s trip to England via her posts and photos on Facebook. Alicia has gone to be an au pair with a mono parent family in a small town called Chertsey, just outside London on the "commuter belt".  In fact her first trip ever to London was yesterday and here is a lovely photo of her at Piccadilly Circus.

Alicia, my god daughter, on her first visit to London yesterday

I have also been enjoying someone else’s travels, Arja’s to India, a place that has left an enormous mark on both Eladio and I after our trip there 2 years ago. Arja used to be the head of communications at Nokia and I was shocked to hear that she had left recently after 17 years there. But I was happy to see on Facebook that she is enjoying a long and well deserved trip to Incredible India. I am so looking forward to travelling again and will have to wait until next month. I will be going to another communications team meeting which was scheduled for Finland, a country very close to my heart. To my dismay though the location has been changed and the meeting will now be held in Stockholm once again. Not that I don’t like Stockholm, which I do, but I would far have preferred Helsinki. The next scheduled trip after that is to Brussels in June for a long weekend with Sandie and Adele. After that the following destination will probably be the UK as I haven’t been “home” now for over a year and a half. Travelling, as you know, is in my blood, but for now I shall have to wait.

Today, Sunday, has been quiet too and we have done all the usual things like reading the papers in the morning. Joy of joys, we were all here for lunch today and I made one of my best dishes, the Spanish “cocido” made of vegetables, chick peas and all sorts of meats and bones. Needless to say Norah enjoyed some of the latter. And now I will leave you as it is time for our walk which as I am always telling you is now an integral part of our life and also very instrumental in my diet. Yes I am still following the Dukan way of living and am now well into the consolidation phase and have not put on an ounce since I reached my target weight at the beginning of January.

Meanwhile I hope you all have a great week and I hope I get a bit more action than I did this week.

Cheers my friends,


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