Sunday, January 15, 2012

A bombshell, off to Stockholm and home again


Me in Stockholm this week.  The photo is taken from the top of the TeliaSonera's offices in Stureplan
Hello everyone, this cold and quiet Sunday in the middle of January.  

The week has been eventful.  On Monday evening at dinner with the family, Suzy threw a bombshell, when she told us she would be leaving home after the summer to live with Gaby, her boyfriend of now more than 7 years.  Did I expect it?  Well she is certainly at the age or past the age, coming up to 28 next April.  I think I did, as I myself had suggested the idea not so long ago.  It came to me from Bernard, Adele’s French psychiatrist husband who visited us last October.  When he saw that Suzy and Gaby alternated the nights at each other’s home, he observed it must be a dichotomy for them both to have to change houses each night in order to be together.  He was right of course.  What has prevented them so far is the lack of money as neither of them earns very much but my advice to them is that their independence is worth much more than the money they lack.  That was based on my own experience when Eladio and I lived in what was called “sin” in the early 80’s in a flat in Saconia outside Madrid. So am I upset?  In a way of course but my head rules my heart and I think it is time for her to experience independence.  No doubt we will miss her but there is one rule she will have to stick to and that is coming home for lunch every Saturday or Sunday.  Olivia I think will miss her most.  But then it is only a question of time too before Olivia leaves too.  However I hope that bombshell takes a while to come, as losing them both at the same time would certainly bring a lot of emptiness to this enormous house and life would never be the same.

The next day I didn’t have much time to think about it as I was going off into my own little world and travelling to Stockholm for a meeting with the communications team I belong to in TeliaSonera, the main shareholder of my company Yoigo.  I was up at the crack of dawn as I had to catch a plane at just past 10. Unfortunately the direct flight was full so I had to change planes at Geneva airport.  I was to use my new Samsonite luggage, a cabin sized suitcase and pc case which fits snugly at the top and was happy to avoid the bag drop queue as well as waiting for my luggage in Stockholm.  This was not only a time issue but also a means to avoid having the luggage left in Geneva. In my experience if you check in your luggage for a flight with a transfer, it usually ends up getting stuck at the transfer airport.  Being a seasoned traveler, or so I thought, I waited until the queue to get on the plane was down to just a few people and there I learned a new travel trick.  The plane had filled up with too much cabin luggage and I was told the plane was full and that I would have to give in my lovely new Samsonite luggage to be stowed away with the rest of the checked in luggage.  I protested that it would be left in Geneva as I had an ongoing flight and was allowed to board with it only to be given the same instructions by the hostess at the entrance of the plane.  My determination won the day but from now on when I travel with the new luggage, I shall go the front of the queue when boarding a plane before it gets full.

Changing planes at Geneva airport was a doddle, as I got off one and basically got on to the other in a nearby slot without having to change terminals to catch the next SAS flight to Stockholm.  Another travelling tip here is to avoid Frankfurt and Paris CDG airports if you ever have to change planes as they are a nightmare.  Geneva airport is full of chocolates which I didn’t buy although I was tempted.  I had asked for an aisle seat on the flight to Stockholm but unfortunately I was given a window seat.  This ended up being an advantage as I was mesmerized by the views of the Alps and Lake Geneva when we flew out of this very chic Swiss airport.

I got a bird's eye view of the snow capped Alps as I flew out of Geneva towards Stockholm

I arrived in Stockholm after 3 in the afternoon and it was already dark.  It wasn’t particularly cold for this time of year at about -3ºc.  I had hoped for snow on the ground but all I got was a thin coat that later disappeared and turned into rain.  In contrast to Spain where it gets light at 8 in the morning and dusk comes after 18h, in Sweden at this time of year, there is not light until 9 and dusk comes at about 3.  The Swedes need the snow to give them so light.  But so far, they are out of luck and so was I.  

The taxi took me to my hotel, the Skeppsholmen, on the island of the same name just a ten minute walk from the old centre of Stockholm.  It is a hotel I have now stayed at three times and if I could choose, I would stay there every time I go.  I love the place, an old army barracks turned into a very stylish and cosy Scandinavian design hotel with a soul.  It’s like a home away from home.  The rooms, and if you go, make sure you get a sea view, have wooden floors, great lighting, thick white bed linen and have a warm Ikea feel about them. 

The Skeppsholmen is my favourite hotel in Stockholm

The basins in the bathroom have a design I have never seen before and perhaps are a bit over the top.  In any case they are something special.  Judge for yourselves by this photo I took on one of my other trips

The basins in the bathrooms of the Hotel Skeppsholmen are ultra modern

I didn’t have much time to check in as I had to be at the TeliaSonera HQ office in Stureplan by 5.30.  I would have loved to walk but was in a rush so took a taxi, one of the thousands driven by immigrants from all the countries you can imagine in the world: such as Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, Iraq or in this case from Kosovo.  We had a good chat and I told him that Kosovo was really only known for its war and he agreed.  Sweden is home traditionally to immigrants who have suffered wars or political ostracism from all over the world.  But like in most countries, the immigrants live a semi ghetto existence.  It is a story that always fascinates me.

I arrived just on time but funnily enough two of the Swedes, better known for their punctuality, were actually late.  We had been invited along to do a team building exercise.  An agency called the Green Hat Games was to be our host.  We were divided into two teams and with the use of a Samsung Galaxy Tab we took the challenge and competed against each other via a variety of trivial type questions.  The other team won by a close victory but we all enjoyed the exercise.

Afterwards we walked to the nearby Story restaurant where we feasted on delicious fish and wine, as well as some interesting salted peas in a pod.  Our team is made up of members who do my same job in the Nordic and Baltic countries, so it was great to meet up with Indra, Kaja, Mette, Timo, Karen, Anna, Birgitta and the others.  I had missed the last meeting in Vilnius which was when my Father was operated on his hip.  I also missed last year’s meeting in Oslo which coincided with a Yoigo event but I am determined not to miss our next meeting which is scheduled for June in Wonderful Copenhagen.

The Story hotel restaurant in Stockholm where we had our team dinner

I walked back to my hotel afterwards to work off the dinner and enjoy the cool Stockholm air.  The next morning I got up early again in order to go for a short walk before our meeting started at 08.30h.  I would have walked to TS if I hadn’t had my heavy pc to carry with me.

I arrived in the dark and when I left the building at 17h it was dark again, so spent the whole day inside.  Luckily our meeting took place on the top floor which has a terrace so I was able to get some fresh air during the day and enjoy the lovely view of Stockholm from the top of Stureplan 1.  Mette, my Danish colleague took the photo of me on that terrace, the one illustrating this week’s blog.

Our intense and interesting meeting ended too late for me to catch a plane back to Madrid that evening, so I had decided to stay on another night.  My plane back the next day wasn’t until two so I had plenty of time for working quietly on my pc in my hotel room as well doing some shopping.

I left my pc at TS and went for a walk along the streets for a look in the shops.  I love shopping in Stockholm for clothes as you can find Swedish fashion that I love and which is different from anything you can find in Spain.  That afternoon I got as far as the Gallerian shopping centre and my first find was a blue and white tight fitting striped dress in Vero Moda which when I saw it I knew it was for me.  I love stripes, as those of you who know me better, already know.

The blue and white striped dress I bought at Vero Moda in Gallerian

I had been up really early for the last two days and felt very tired, so I took a taxi back to my hotel to relax.  After I had caught up on my emails I was suddenly very hungry but realised why.  We had had lunch at the unearthly Swedish time of 11.45 so no wonder I was hungry at 19.30.  I made my way down to the cozy dining room to sit on my own at a small table by the window, the one I always sit at if it’s free.  And I ordered what I always order at the Skeppsholmen hotel, their wonderful prawn open sandwich with two glasses of sauvignon white wine.  In order not to feel too alone, I whatsapped with Suzy and surfed the news on my phone.  The photo below which I took on my last trip here, shows you just how wonderful this very Swedish platter is and why I order it every time I come.

The Skeppsholmen Hotel serves as great prawn open sandwich

On Thursday morning, the world was mine and after working for an hour or so and packing and leaving my luggage in reception, I walked to the town centre, determined to buy some more new Swedish clothes to add to my wardrobe.

It was cold, rainy and windy and funnily enough my first stop was H+M which we have in Spain of course.  However I was tempted by a beautiful flowery green silk dress I saw in the window.  I tried it on and size M was perfect, so I promptly bought some matching green tights, a cardigan and scarf to go with it.  Here you can see which dress I mean.  

The green flowery dress I bought at H+M in Stockholm this week

Later I walked into Kappahl where I always find something.  Here I bought a striped jumper and matching scarf and this lovely striped cardigan with bright colours.  I must have made the right choice as when I showed all my new clothes to Olivia, she chose this cardigan to wear the next day to work.
The colourful striped cardigan I bought at Kappahl

I also went into Lindex, my all time favourite of Swedish clothes’ shops, but didn’t really find anything that took my fancy except for a pink t-shirt.

I didn’t have much time left or room in my suitcase, so, loaded with my new purchases, I weathered the rain and wind to walk back to the hotel.  Here I managed to get them all into my Samsonite case, said my goodbyes and left in yet another taxi driven by an immigrant for Terminal 5 of Arlanda airport.

Here I had just under an hour and a half to get through customs and security, do some duty free shopping and have a bite to eat.  I also had to make a few phone calls related to work and in the end wished I had left the hotel earlier, as it was all a bit of a rush.  I had promised the family a Swedish dinner that night with food bought at the airport with prawn open sandwich being the main dish.  I got this at one of the lovely bars and the rest at a Swedish delicatessen run by a delightful Iranian immigrant.  He sold me more than I needed and gave me the recipe and ingredients to make a wonderful sauce to accompany the smoked salmon I purchased there. 

I couldn’t face another prawn sandwich so opted for Swedish tapas which turned out to be even more delicious.  I also need to buy a book to read on the plane as I had 4 hours to play with.  I got the English novelist Joanne Troloppe’s two latest books, The Other Family and Daughters in Law which should keep me going for a while.  Sleep overtook me for half of the flight, but for the other half I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of The Other Family.

I was home by just after eight, in time to greet my Father and give him the Swedish newspaper of that day: Svenska Dagbladet and some chocolates.  I had also bought him his favourite cloudberry jam. 

We had a superb family dinner with the Swedish food I had bought and everyone agreed the Iranian man’s recipe for the salmon sauce was out of this world.  For the record it was made of sour cream, horseradish sauce and cloudberry jam. 

The next day was back to normal and it was Friday.  Eladio and I had a dinner date with Eduardo and Graciela who are our neighbours as well as my ex Nokia colleagues.  Eduardo is now the general manager of Blackberry Spain.  It is perhaps fitting that many of my ex Motorola and ex Nokia colleagues are no longer with Motorola or Nokia and now head up or have high positions in companies in the same sector.  Eduardo commented that Blackberry had the best team in Spain and I pointed out that most of its members either came from Motorola or Nokia who in their heydays had the best teams in the sector.  

I had reserved a table at the English restaurant in Pozuelo, La Pérfida Albión which as you know is my current favourite because of the fish and chips on its menu.  We had a great meal together and as we headed home and said our goodbyes, I remarked that we should not let another two years pass by before we repeat the experience.  I hope my words come true.
The weekend has been quiet with very little to report.  We have done the usual things, make nice meals, sleep siestas, go for our walks and watch the news in the evening.  

The dogs missed me while I was in Stockholm as they didn’t get their daily walk.  When I got back, the new giant sized bed I had ordered for Elsa from Amazon.co.uk, finally arrived.  It was meant to be for Elsa as Norah had made it clear that the other new bed I bought recently was to be for her only.  Norah, however, has bagged the new bed too even though it’s far too big for her.. This goes to show that animals, the same as humans, always prefer something new.  In the picture you can also appreciate just how big Elsa has got with Norah fitting neatly in between her legs. 

Both dogs prefer the new giant bed to the old one and they both fit in it snugly.

Next week promises to be quiet too with no trips and hopefully no bombshells either.

Hope yours is a good one. All the best until next week
Masha

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