Saturday, February 25, 2012

The girlies are back, the story behind Dr. Zhivago and other things

My girlies having a whale of a time in Africa.  In this picture with their guide Moses.

Hi everyone.  
It is Saturday and we are all at home but not for long as tomorrow I will be off to Barcelona for the annual telecoms conference, the so called Mobile World Congress.  That is why I am writing this week’s blog on a Saturday.  So let’s look back at how the week has been.

Let me start from last Saturday when I forgot to record that it was Whitney Houston’s funeral in New Jersey.  Whilst that was happening I was watching, along with many other Spanish spectators, the rerun of the marvelous film, The Bodyguard which brought her so much fame.  In fact her co star, Kevin Kostner, was at the funeral and said that he had been her bodyguard.  If you haven’t seen the film I highly recommend it.

Whitney Houston

Sunday was quite a highlight in our week.  We had visitors for lunch, our friends Benito and Loli whom we first met when we “lived in sin”, as it was called in the early 80’s in the Saconia area of Madrid.  We always talk about those days with Benito and Loli and often refer to them as the happiest days of our lives.  We were as poor as church mice, starting off in our careers but were ecstatic with joy at our new found independence and life together.

Benito and Loli came for lunch last Sunday

Of note on Sunday, the Real Madrid basketball team beat Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey.  That was a sort of compensation for Barcelona being a better football team.  They are, indeed, the eternal rivals, as are the two cities.

Sunday was also the night of the Spanish film awards, called “Los Goya”.  The film that got most awards is called “No habrá paz para los malvados” (there will be no peace for the evil) with José Coronado being awarded best actor for his part in the same film.  Pedro Almodovar who was attending for the first time in years, did not do so well for his “La piel que habita” (the skin that lives) which got three minor prizes.  Best foreign film went to The Artist, that funny French black and white and silent film which seems to be winning awards the world over and which I, for one, will not be going to see.  

José Coronado got best actor award at this year's Spanish film awards, Los Goya.

To wrap up Sunday, that was the day I discovered and started using the new social network for photos called Pinterest.  I’m not sure I can take another social network, what with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but time will tell.  A communications colleague, David, commented on Facebook the other day that a communications director he knows had warned that social networks were just a passing phase.  I’m afraid I totally disagree.  They will continue and they will develop and will not disappear.  Meantime, try out Pinterest and see for yourselves.

On Monday I was in Madrid with Eladio.  He wanted to pick up his Father’s 1940s radio which was being repaired and I was returning a handbag, a wonderful birthday gift, from that very exclusive shop, Loewe.  It’s probably the only time I have ever been there for something more substantial than a scarf or a perfume.  The prices are scandalous.  The shop is on Madrid’s  most exclusive street, Calle Serrano, where nobody seemed to notice the crisis or worry about the Government’s recent labour reform.  

After a coffee together, we parted ways as I had a lunch appointment with Víctor.  Víctor and I go way back, having met when I worked at Motorola in the mid 90’s and he was in the PR agency which worked for us, Perception and Image.  When I moved to Nokia I worked with Perception and we coincided again.  Víctor is now leaving the agency, he more or less created, after some 15 years there.  He is a great professional and even better sort of person with two qualities that I admire most: intelligence and a great sense of humour.  No doubt he will continue to be successful at whatever he attempts to do now.  In any case I wish him the best of luck in this new stage of his career.  I must mention we had lunch at a wonderful new place, for me, called Wagaboo, where they offer “fun food” with a mix of Asian and fusion cuisine.

On Tuesday the girls were arriving home at lunchtime but I was to miss it as I had two meetings at work and a business lunch, mostly for preparations for our participation in the Mobile World Congress next week.  I was only able to get home at about 6 and greet the very tired and slightly ill Olivia, as Suzy had left with Gaby to go and choose one of the flats they had been awarded.  It was not until dinner that we were all together.  Olivia was falling asleep over Olga’s excellent tortilla and had to leave us to go to bed as she would have to be up the next day at 6 to go to work.  My advice to both girls was to add an extra settling in day to their holidays in the future.  It was wonderful to see them so brown and hear their adventures and see their photos.  They have had an amazing experience.  You can see their companion Rocío’s photos in this link and judge for yourselves.  Ah and here are Suzy's too,

The girls in Zanzibar with their friends.  From back  left to right: Elena and Oli and from front left to right Suzy and Rocío

Oli happy as a sandboy with African children in Zanzibar

On Wednesday I worked from home.  That afternoon Eladio was giving for the first time a class at the UNED (Spanish open university) via video conference, something he had been preparing for weeks and had kept him awake at night as this was so new to him.  Well, as you can imagine, he passed this personal test with flying colours.  He went on to do another video conference lecture on Thursday evening and came home feeling very confident about the whole process.  I was very proud of him.

That night, Thursday, the girls had a birthday dinner with their cousins in Madrid.  Our niece Paula was turning 24.  Happy birthday dear Paula.  My contribution was a packet of party poppers bought recently online at this great page ( at ridiculously low prices.

The party poppers I ordered from

Meanwhile Eladio and I were watching Doctor Zhivago, one of my favourite films of all times"  It was shown on TVE1 and even though we have the DVD I wanted to watch it once again.  How can I begin to describe why I adore this love story set in the Russian Revolution with Omar Sharif and Julie Christie made in 1965 under the direction of David Lean, the same director as for another legendary film, Bridge over the River Kwai. 
The incredibly beautiful Julie Christie who starred in Dr. Zhivago as the lovely and troubled Lara

Omar Sharif and Julie Christie as Dr. Zhivago and Lara in David Lean's 1965 film 

It is not just any love story.  It is the film adaptation of the book with the same name written by the Russian author Boris Pastarnak.  He won the Nobel literature prize for this book which was banned in the USSR.  Furthermore, as writer “in disgrace” he was not allowed to travel to Stockholm to receive the prize.  
Boris Pastarnak, the author of Dr. Zhivago which earned him the Nobel Literature prize which the Russian authorities forbid him to receive.

This, of course, made his book even more attractive in the Soviet Russia.  At the time my parents were visiting Moscow, hosted by the then head of the USSR Writers Union, a man called Alexei Surkov, a poet himself.  I have found literally no reference to him on internet unfortunately and can now only rely on my Father’s memories of him.  In their visit in the mid sixties, my Mother's first to her homeland, he took my parents to his Dacha outside Moscow.  It was here that he gave my parents a forbidden present, an ancient Russian icon which today graces one of the walls in our dining room.  It had been hidden away and covered in newspaper and the string marks can still be found in this pre revolutionary icon.  It was not allowed to take icons out of Russia and Surkov had told my parents that if they had any problems at customs to say who had given it to them and to give them his telephone number.  Thankfully my parents' luggage was not inspected. Surkov was famous at the time for being the man who stopped Pasternak from travelling to Oslo or Stockholm for the Nobel Prize.  He told my parents that he was Boris Pasternak’s henchman, an apt description. It was to Alexei Surkov that my Mother turned to when she first wanted to publish her Father’s poetry.  Her Father, Prince Andrei Lieven, had written poetry, just like Dr. Zhivago, I can imagine, and which my Mother loved since she read them with him as a young girl. Surkov took one look and pronounced the word: “traditional”.  It was obvious that they would not come under favour with the regime of the time, just as Dr. Zhivago’s poems to “Lara” were also banned, as you will know if you have read the book or seen the film.  The film, amazingly, was made in Spain, in Soria, Madrid and Salamanca.  I can hardly imagine there would be so much snow here as in Siberia.  My Mother loved the film but I always remember her saying there were lots of mistakes in its making and she was referring to the Russian religion and customs, something that annoyed her immensely.  I, of course, having been born in the west, would not notice any of them.  Then of course, there is the wonderful sound track, Lara’s theme which was a huge hit at the time.  My brother used to play it on the piano, something I can never forget.

So you see, it is probably because of all these memories, together with my Russian roots that I relate so much to the story and film, Dr. Zhivago.  

Friday was a lovely sunny day.  Olivia joined us in our afternoon walk with the dogs and in the evening we all went out to dinner.  The dinner was my belated family birthday dinner out, as the girls were not here for my birthday.  We went to the English restaurant, I have written about before here, La Pérfida Albión (The Perfidious Albion) in nearby Pozuelo. Here we girls feasted on fish and chips whilst the men, Eladio and Gaby, preferred the Lancashire hot pot!  

My belated birthday dinner last night with Eladio, the girls and Gaby.  It was great to be together

And that was more or less the week.  Today Saturday will be spent with the family.  Luckily for me the girls want to spend the day with me as they have missed me and I will be going away tomorrow.  So I look forward to a nice family lunch with Olga’s excellent lasaña and to shopping with the girls this afternoon.  It really is great to have them back.

And that’s it, my friends for this week.  More news from me next week.  

All the best Masha

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