Monday, September 12, 2011

The anniversary of 9/11, the cousins in Ponferrrada, royal glamour in Santander, dinners out, and other stories.

Me in Santander last week, just before a big storm.  Luckily the sun shone for the rest of the week

Hello again

I am writing from the swimming pool terrace, this Sunday afternoon which happens to be not just any Sunday but the anniversary of the 11th September.  How time has flown. I don’t need to tell you what happened that day as you will all remember it clearly.  Like any other event that makes a big impact on us, you never forget what you were doing when you heard the news.  Many lives were lost that day because of terrorism and hatred of the American people; a new kind of war which still hasn’t ended.  For most of us, as an ex colleague wrote in his blog, it means air travel has become so security driven it is no longer pleasant.  It has got to some ridiculous extremes and what annoys me most is that I cannot carry on board more than 100ml of toiletries, nor water nor a yoghurt carton for the journey nor many other usually harmless things. The days of enjoyable and glamorous air travel were put to an end this day 10 years ago I’m afraid.  The news is full of the anniversary and it’s impossible to be immune to the stories which in a way affected all our lives.  We will never forget the images of the passenger planes crashing into the Twin Towers and of people jumping out of the towers and bewildered people running away from the scene covered in dust.

This week was the 10th anniversary of the 11th September.  Who could ever forget?

We are alone at home on this anniversary. It is still relatively warm and Eladio has just had a bathe. My father is sitting in his new wheel chair reading his book by the kitchen terrace where he spends most mornings and afternoons.  Olga looks after him splendidly during the week and we are now looking for someone to be here at the weekends too, otherwise we have to be here 24 hours a day and cannot go out unless we do so singly.   He seems better but has not yet tried to stand on his foot which he sprained now over a week ago. For someone his age it takes much longer to recover and I’m sure he looks forward to when that happens, to be back on his feet again and not dependent on us all which I know he must hate.  

The girls are on their way back from Ponferrada, a town in León where their older cousin Marta and her footballer husband Ministro, live.  All the cousins were invited to a special house warming weekend at their new detached house.  I am looking forward to details of the weekend but meanwhile will have to suffice with a few pictures posted by Suzy on Facebook.  This is the first time the cousins have spent a weekend together on their own and they will have had a whale of a time.  There are 13 of them with ages ranging from 40 to 18.  Not all of them will have gone, but most I am sure. Also some will have taken their partners, so there must have been a fair crowd.  I wonder whether there was room for them all to sleep but imagine they all slept on mattresses on the floor. Oh to be young again and enjoy what are now called “sleep overs”, but not for me I’m afraid anymore because my body just wouldn’t be able to take them hahaha.

Happy cousins in Ponferrada this weekend.  My girls are in the centre sitting down, Oli in green and Suzy in white.

My last entry was a week ago today, when I wrote from rainy Santander.  I spent most of the day waiting for Julio whose plane landed 4 hours late.  We did get a good long walk on the Sardinero beach though before dinner. Sunday night was a time for being with my team, the people from QuintaEsencia and Ketchum.  I invited them to dinner at Zacarías, which is turning out to be an annual event.  Julio joined us and the dinner was great; not least thanks to Zacarías’ magnificente “Palenque” tomatoes.

The tomatoes at Zacarías are spectacular.  Rumour has it they are grown exclusively for his restaurant in Santander

Santander, or rather the Telecoms Conference held there, is an annual event for me and was once again a great success for Yoigo.  Our presentation was on Monday as was our party and I felt like I was hanging around all day until both were up and running and I could relax. It’s always like that.  You’ve been working on something for months, then, you just have to cross your fingers all will go well when the moment comes and of course you have to wait for that moment at Santander until the other presentations are over.  They are all usually conventional power point presentations and made by what I call “men in black”.  One good thing about hanging around in Santander is that you get to network a lot as everyone who is anyone in the telecoms corporate and press world are there too.  Our presentation, original as ever, was well received. There were no hitches, except for the projector dying 10 minutes before it was time for us to present.  Thankfully it was working again on time but I must say I got a few more grey hairs when that happened.  Funny for me was doing a joint press conference afterwards with Nokia as Yoigo and Nokia were on stage at the same time and it was only fair to the press that we made both our spokesmen available.  You can see the Yoigo presentation here.  Our main news was terminal financing, a novelty in the Spanish market brought by Yoigo from the Nordic countries.  We must have done a pretty good job with the media as when I googled the term in Spanish “Yoigo +pago a plazos” a few days later,  I got over a hundred thousand of results.  The power of internet never ceases to amaze me.

In the evening we were able to relax before the traditional Yoigo party and so a group of 10 of us or so went out for a well deserved dinner to La Posada del Mar.  I must add that I always walk from our hotel by the Sardinero beach to town and back, or rather to the Puerto Chico area where all the restaurants I mentioned are located.  It takes some 25 minutes there and 25 minutes back.  I do it for the exercise of course but also because of the wonderful sea views and because it is such a pretty walk in general with flower beds on most of the pavements and wonderful English type mansions to feast my eyes on.  

I love the walk from the Sardinero beach to the Puerto Chico in Santander

Our party takes place in the Puerto Chico area too, at the Olympic Sailing Centre. The party was as successful as other years.  The guests are all participants in the conference plus local Yoigo shopkeepers and even Yoigo Facebook “fans”. This was the invitation; the theme being about the future.

The invitation to this year's Yoigo party in Santander.

It might have been great for the guests but I never enjoy my own parties so I did a disappearing trick just before 2 in the morning as I was in desperate need of my beauty sleep.  The walk back in the cool of the night helped for that to happen.

People always look forward to the Yoigo party, it's the most exciting item on the conference programme

On Tuesday the telecoms conference was to be rewarded on its 25th anniversary, with a bit of royal glamour, with the visit of the Crown Prince of Spain, Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia and I didn’t want to miss the occasion.  There was a reception for the CEOs of all the sponsors at the Palace of the Magdalena where they had their photos taken but then had to pay for them! At 12 o’clock on the dot, they came into the conference room at “Caballerizas” preceded by bodyguards, the Director of the Conference, the Rector of the University, the Mayor of Santander, the President of the Community of Santander and finally the Minister of Industry.  Unfortunately you couldn’t see them as they sat on the front row whilst we had to listen to a speech from each and every one of the authorities mentioned above until the Prince finally got up on the stage and delivered his own.  He is indeed tall, towering above everyone.  He didn’t say anything spectacular but he was the only one to greet the followers “online”, a nice digital gesture or so I thought.

I must say the royal couple added a lot of glamour to this year's telecoms conference in Santander

Later I was to see them up close as there was a private cocktail party for the participants of the course and in they walked where it was to be held into the pretty gardens of the Caballerizas building at the UIMP University.  I took a photograph and was immediately told to put my camera away.  Well here is the photo, not a very good one, but at least a token of the event for me to keep.

A stolen photo of the royal couple as they entered the gardens for the cocktail party

They looked just as they do on the TV and magazines.  I’m sure this was just another act for them and not a particularly interesting one either.  It must be difficult to have to be on show all the time which is how I perceived them; not very interested but having to act as if they were.  But now to what you are probably most interested in, what I thought of them.  The Prince was charming as all princes should be, very good looking and tall and never took his wonderful blue eyes off his pretty wife Letizia, the ex TVE news presenter.  I am told she is not obsessed with fashion although she has to follow it to some extent.  She was very casually dressed in what looked like simple Zara style clothing, with dark cotton trousers, a light grey cotton jacket and striped t-shirt.  Interestingly she wore flat shoes and of course was dwarfed by her very tall husband.  I knew she was supposed to be very thin and that is how I saw her too; very very skinny and bony but still a striking girl. On several occasions she came alive when greeted by ex journalist colleagues.  I’m sure she misses that world.  But then again she has exchanged it willingly  for the golden cage of the Princess of Spain.  In any case it was a great occasion to get a bird’s eye view of the royal couple and it certainly added glamour to the “men in black” conference Santander always is for me.  

Once they had gone, I made my way back to the hotel and decided to award myself a little prize, after such a successful participation; time by myself.  The sun was shining and I was determined to spend the afternoon on the beach.  I loved every minute of it, except when huge waves engulfed me.  I had witnesses to the occasion, an Anglo Polish couple, Alan and Irena, whom I had met at the hotel at breakfast.  They live in the north of England and we have plenty in common.  Irena promised to read my blog.  If you are reading this Irena, it was a pleasure to meet you.

The sun always shines in September in Santander and I made sure I got some time on the Sardinero beach.

In the evening, my partner was my good friend Julio.  Free of all professional commitments we were able to indulge in dinner at one of our favourite places in Santander, La Bombi.  Unsurprisingly we spent part of the time there networking as half the conference seemed to have made the same decision as us, to have dinner at the ever popular La Bombi.  

The next day, Wednesday, I was up early for a last walk on the beach before packing and heading to the airport, only to find out my plane would be delayed by more than two hours.  I was kept company by my counterparts at Orange Spain, David and Fernando and we had fun talking about our job in the sector, our main conclusion being that the communications managers and media got on very well despite the fierce competition between our companies.  
Once in Madrid, before going home, I had a long meeting in the office which didn’t end till nearly 19h was when I was finally able to pick my car up from the car park and drive home.  Of course I met the rush hour traffic which made me realize just how lucky I am working from home and not having to confront it on a daily basis.

I was happy to hear on my return that my youngest daughter Olivia had been live on the TV again during my absence.  Her live appearances always make me feel so proud of her.  In actual fact she only does so to substitute a colleague who had been on holiday last week.  On Wednesday Olivia filled in because the colleague had a cold sore on her lip.  Very uncharitably I found myself hoping that it would continue.  The live report was quite exciting as it was about the new season for TVE and all the famous presenters were there.  It was nice that she knew one personally, Sergio Sauca, a friend of mine who is the sports presenter on the evening news.  Here is the link if you are interested.  You can see her bit at minutes 01:53:04 and 01:59:24.

The TVE presenters Olivia presented live on Wednesday on TV.  My friend Sergio Sauca, the sports presenter is in the middle with the colourful tie.

On Thursday and Friday I was able to wind down at home and catch up on work, as well as home affairs.  Friday was a holiday and to celebrate Eladio and I went out to dinner on our own locally.  We chose De Brasa y Puchero which makes a magnificent salmorejo.  As we were tucking in, Oli was working for the very last night of her 3 month stint with the TVE24h news channel as part of her master degree in TV journalism.  Today her inferno is over as she will now be able to concentrate on her job with the morning programme, La Mañana de la 1.  Here she starts at 7 in the morning and leaves at 2 in the afternoon, leaving her the rest of the day free.  Right now (today is now Monday) she told me she felt as if she was on holiday.  

The weekend was quiet without the girls and we spent most of the time by the pool with our books.  On Saturday night I had an exciting engagement on the occasion of the end of the Tour of Spain which was finishing in Madrid the next day.  I went out to dinner with my friends from the cycling world, Pedro Delgado, the ex winner of the Tour of France and his wife Ludy, Carlos de Andrés, the cycling commentator for Spanish TV and his wife Mireia, José Luis Laguía, a legend in Spanish cycling and Sergi Egea, the cycling journalist for the Catalán newspaper El Períodico de Cataluña.  We went to La Cesta de Recoletos in the centre of Madrid and spent a great evening catching up on each other’s news, some of which was quite surprising.  It is something we do every year except that I have been missing on the last few occasions.  It was great to see you all again my wonderful cycling friends.  I miss the sport, but I mostly miss you.

And this brings me to Sunday, yesterday, the anniversary of 9/11 and the beginning of my blog.  The day had a good end for me with the arrival of the girls and Gaby from Ponferrada after our evening walk and a family dinner, lovingly prepared, around our candlelit wooden table on our kitchen terrace.

And that my friends, is it for this week.  Hope you have a great week.  All the best till next time,

PS you can see the rest of the photos I took in Santander here.

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