Sunday, January 29, 2012

Flat hunting with Suzy, to Barcelona and back, feeling the crisis in Spain and other things.

In Barcelona this week with Bea and Miguel at Cal Pinxo in the Port Vell

Hello again, this sunny Sunday in January.

The week has been busy and rather tiring because of the trip to Barcelona but there is lots to tell.

On Monday, after a flying visit to the office, I rushed back home to join Eladio and Suzy flat hunting, just before lunch in Brunete.  Brunete is a small town not so far from where we live and just 15km from the centre of Madrid. My Father always remembers it for its role and fame in the Spanish civil war.  Today it is a peaceful, sleepy, pretty little place but you if you look on the road from Boadilla you can still see the original gun turrets used in the Battle of Brunete in 1937 when it was anything but peaceful.

The map of the Battle of Brunete in 1937.  Today it is a sleepy pretty little village

The first flat we saw was right by the Plaza Mayor and was a gem with three bedrooms and three bathrooms, all small but new, fully equipped and in an impeccable state.  Other flats were not as attractive.  However Gaby was not as happy with it as Susana, who, very reluctantly, had to give it up.  They continued flat hunting yesterday, Saturday, and found a place both of them liked enough, a two bedroom two bathroom flat with a terrace and in a complex with a garden and swimming pool just outside the village.  If things go as planned, they will be moving in at the beginning of March and not after the summer as they had initially planned.  That leaves very little time left for us to enjoy Susana living at home. As she will be going to Tanzania with Oli, Rocío and Elena from 7th to 21st Feb, her time left at home will be reduced to less than two weeks.  If you subtract the number of nights she spends at Gaby’s house and her long working hours at the Zarzuela private hospital where she also has her lunch, you can probably count the days she will coincide with us on the fingers of one hand.  Oh my God, Suzy is going.  I know she has to spread her wings, after all she will be 28 this year, but we will miss her so much. Life will never be the same again as it is the turning of a new page in all our lives.  I just wish her lots of happiness and luck and hope she and Gaby will be happy in their new flat in Brunete.  Thankfully they will be just a few miles away which means we will still see her quite often, I hope.

The main square or Plaza Mayor in Brunete

On Tuesday I went into the office again.  I also had a lunch appointment at the nearby Aspen restaurant, my favourite in the posh Moraleja area.  It was with an English colleague, Corinne who used to work for Vodafone.  We had a lot to catch up on.  Since I last saw her, Corinne had since got married and had two children. She had also returned to the UK to live but came back to Spain as she and her English husband missed their home here and the Spanish climate.  

On Wednesday I was off to Barcelona on an important site inspection trip for the up and coming Mobile World Congress which takes place this year at the end of February.  I had to look for venues for our press conference and blogger party.  I was up at the crack of dawn to catch the 8.30 high-speed train.  Once I had eaten the rather unappetizing stodgy breakfast and dealt with all my emails, I turned on Spotify to listen to my collection of wonderful classical music.  I can’t begin to describe the uplifting experience of listening to Oh for the wings of a dove by Bach or Charlotte Church singing Fauré’s Pie Jesu and Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus on my old iPhone whilst travelling at more than 200km an hour across Spain.  It was so amazing that I repeated the experience on my journey back the next day.

Charlotte Church, the Welsh singer, has the voice of an angel

As soon as I had checked into my hotel, my all time favourite in Barcelona, the 1898 on the Ramblas, I was met by Bea and Miguel from my events agency.  We had a very productive morning walking the streets of sunny and busy Barcelona.  In fact they had done some better ground work than usual, showing me only the places they thought were really suitable.  So after just visiting  4 locations, our work was done in the choice El Mordisco and El Cachito which were just the sort of places I had in mind.  Pleased with our morning’s work, we went to have lunch in the old port (Port Vell) at Cal Pinxo which serves the most mouthwatering cod fried delicacies called “buñuelos” you can possibly imagine.  The weather was good enough to eat outside which is precisely what we did, right by the waterside, an area I return to time and time again when in Barcelona.  I remember taking Eladio there in 2010 and when I clicked on google images for a photo of the restaurant to accompany this text, believe it or not, there was mine of Eladio tucking into black rice at Cal Pinxo.

Eladio at the Cal Pinxo restaurant with me in October 2010.

The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me with Bea and Miguel enjoying lunch at Cal Pinxo.  

In the afternoon I was free to work from my hotel room and there was even time for a visit to the sauna and spa and for some evening shopping.  I visited Cortefiel where I splashed out on a cream lace Pedro del Hierro dress and matching scarf which is actually longer on me than the one in the picture below.  I also got a shiny sequin blue dress at H+M which I am now wondering when I am ever going to wear. 

The cream crochet dress I bought by Pedro del Hierro in Cortefiel in Barcelona this week.

In the evening whilst Barcelona was playing Madrid in the Camp Nou football ground, Bea and I went out to dinner to Neichel, another favourite restaurant of mine in Barcelona.  We weren’t particularly hungry and enjoyed mostly the small delicacies they put on the table that came with the meal.  Later as I returned to my hotel I saw football fans following the match from TVs in shop windows and bars and it was quite obvious Barcelona was beating Madrid to the ground in this return match of the Copa del Rey; another “clásico”.  The week before, Barcelona had beaten Madrid in the Bernabeu stadium.  Madrid battled gallantly and at the last minute drew by 2-2.  However they didn’t make it through to the next round.  The following day, a friend on Facebook remarked that Madrid’s coach, the famous José Mourinho, may well be out of a job by the summer.  Meanwhile in the more coveted “Liga”, Madrid is at the top and leading Barcelona by 7 points.  If Madrid wins the “Liga”, maybe Mourinho’s skin will be saved but having been whistled at by the fans recently, something that infuriated him, there is rumour he may leave at his own decision.  Whatever happens remains to be seen.

The next day I was up at 6 in the morning again this time to catch the 8 o’clock high speed train back to Madrid.  I arrived just after 11 and had to rush to the office for a meeting starting at 11.30.  I got there by the skin of my teeth.  Two hours later I was finally on my way home and in time for lunch with the family.  I was very tired and as usual had a headache after two stressful days.  

Thankfully the next day was Friday and I was able to wind down and get a bit more much needed sleep.  There is nothing more restful than sleeping in your own bed I always say.  Friday was quiet, spent working at home and then doing the weekly shopping with Eladio.  In the evening Eladio and I went to the cinema to see The Descendants with George Clooney.  It was a little disappointing as Eladio had expected, very superficial but easy to watch and for me, at least, entertaining and relaxing.  Afterwards we went to dinner to Ginos as of course La Alpargatería has shut down.  That’s difficult to get used to.  We had a surprise as we left the restaurant.  We bumped into Susana who was walking into the Vips restaurant right next door.  She was to join Olivia and their friends, Pulgui, Dave and dear Rocío.  It was a joy to see them.
The Descendants is very superficial but George Clooney is gorgeous in it.

On Saturday I woke up to the news of the closing down of the Catalan owned Spainairairline.  It has losses of up to 350 million euros and was to lay off over 2.000 employees as well as leave thousands of passengers stranded.  The news was brought closer to me as Suzy’s friend Erica’s Swedish Mother, Gunila, a Spanair hostess was affected.  In fact I read of the news from her Facebook post.

We all know there is a huge financial crisis in Spain but if you have a job and own a house without a mortgage you get on with life and the crisis doesn’t really affect you.  However it seems now to be getting closer and closer.  First our favourite restaurant closes down, then a hostess friend loses her job because of the Spanair closure and suddenly it begins to affect you too.  Around the same time the Spanish government announced that the unemployment figure in Spain has reached the all high of 5.400.000 people, the highest in Europe and even more than bankrupt Greece.  The numbers for young people are even higher.  I read today that 40.000 young people from Madrid have left the country to find their luck in other countries.  At the same time, over 80.000 immigrants have returned to their home countries.  It’s very depressing.  It’s difficult sometimes to understand what the crisis is all about.  So when I saw this viral picture on internet I thought it explained it better than any normal news article.  It’s all about spending more than you earn.  It is one way of looking at it.

These figures are a good way of explaining today's crisis.

Spain is not the only country in a crisis.  Companies, such as Nokia, the mobile phone giant I used to work for, are living the crisis too, but a different sort of crisis in this case. Nokia in the last quarter hashung on to its leadership in the sale of mobile phones but only just. There is always turbulence in the mobile phone market but today more than ever.  RIM or Blackberry’s newly announced German CEO admitted this week that  Apple and Google are winning but that change is coming, whilst Apple reclaimed the number onesmartphone spot in the same quarter.  But not all things are good for Apple who reported the best growth in sales ever.  It’s in the spotlight for bad conditions for workers in the Chinese factories that make it’s ever popular iPad.  I read last week that Nokia was no longer the number one mobile phone brand in its home country, Finland.  Its place had been taken by Samsung.  I myself am now using a Samsung, the Galaxy S2, its flagship product, since last week and it’s a wonderful piece of engineering. For me it’s the best mobile phone I have ever used.  But when I worked for Nokia we looked down on Samsung.  But then again when I worked for Motorola in the early 90’s we also looked down on Nokia.  Funny how the tables turn, yet companies never learn that lesson. Keeping the top spot is the most difficult spot to keep. 

With these thoughts in my mind, I spent Saturday morning cooking, a most relaxing exercise.  I created quite a few dishes to keep us going through the weekend, such as a winter chick pea stew, chicken legs cooked in honey and coconut and asparagus risotto.  Only Olivia was here to join us yesterday as Suzy was in Brunete with Gaby flat hunting.  However they joined us for lunch today, whilst Oli went off to spend time with her University friend Giovanna.  Suzy had brought some Russian food which a Russian friend from work had acquired for her.  I was delighted to see he had given her a packet of authentic pelmeni (sort of ravioli filled with meat) and real smetana (sour cream).

The Russian pelmeni and smetana Suzy's Russian colleague gave her and which we had for lunch today.

My Mother used to make pelmeni and my Father and I love them. I cooked them in vegetable water with butter and dill and between us we polished off half the packet for lunch today.  Suzy’s friend must have bought them at a Russian shop in Madrid and I will be asking her to pay him to bring us some more.  They were even better than home cooked pelmeni.  The waft coming from the saucepan brought memories back of my Mother making this very favourite Russian dish of ours when I lived at home with my parents. It’s funny how smells conjure up memories from the past so well.

Whilst I was preparing the pelmeni, Rafa Nadal was playing Novak Djokovic in one of the most disputed finals of the Australian tennis open.  There had to be one winner and after nearly 6 hours and 5 sets, I was upset to see the ever popular Spaniard lose this most important grand slam.  You can’t win them all, but here in Spain, at least, we are or were more used to Nadal winning than losing.  He will be much more upset I am sure.

And so another week has ended, as well as another Sunday and I am at the end of this week’s blogpost which I hope you have enjoyed.  I never fail to marvel at the number of people who read this blog and the many countries you all come from and often wonder why or how you came upon my diary.  In any case thank you for following my life.

Next week will be as interesting or more as this week as I will be off to Stockholm again.  This time I will be attending the annual meeting of the management teams from the countries where TeliaSonera is present in the Nordics, Baltics and Spain.  I do hope there will be some snow this time.  But you will hear all about that next time.  Meantime I wish you all a great week.

Cheers Masha

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