Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fit as a fiddle, a 90th birthday party in León and other stories

Ernestina with her birthday presents and cake flanked by Olivia, her grand daughter, Pitulines (Diana) her great grand daughter and Eladio on the right, her son.  They represent the 4 generations present in the family at the birthday lunch in León this Saturday to celebrate Ernestina's 90th birthday

Good morning my friends this sunny Sunday morning in Madrid.  I hope you are all well.  I am extremely well as you will find out later.  But let me start from the beginning of the week.

On Monday I had a meeting with Pedro G who used to work for my press clipping agency, PressTracking, the people who monitor my press coverage.  Pedro left to work for JP Media and meanwhile PressTracking did not even bother to tell me.  I found JP Media to offer better services and will be signing with them very soon and one of the reasons I will do so apart from a better price and service is because of the person I know.  For me the most important thing is the people who work in the agencies, not the agencies themselves.  Some time, soon, I am expecting a call from someone I don’t know at Press Tracking but by then it will be too late. So long Press Tracking, hello JP Media.

On Monday too I had lunch with two journalists from La Razón whom I have known for many years, Emiliano C and Jesús.  They chose to go to Castellana DF, the place we last did a press conference in Madrid.  They thought it was the restaurant which offers the best hamburgers in Madrid.  That made me feel good because another journalist, Ignacio C had complained at the time telling me he thought the place was awful.  When I mentioned that to Emiliano and Jesús, they comforted me by saying that Ignacio always complains about everything.  Well I too think Castellana DF offers the best hamburgers in Madrid, on a par with New York even, and we had a great lunch in its comfy surroundings.  They even had gin tonics after lunch on the terrace but I’ve never been a one for gin tonics or for any kind of drink apart from wine with a meal.  We talked about my Motorola and Nokia days and of course how Yoigo is doing.  We had shared a lot of adventures together, mostly in my former companies and know the telecoms sector very well, so our conversation was interesting and dynamic.  It’s funny how companies come and go but people remain.  That is actually what I like best about the corporate world.

One Tuesday I went with Suzy to MediaMarkt to buy electrical appliances for their new flat.  MediaMarkt had two promotional days last week when you could buy without paying VAT, so she and Gaby took the opportunity to purchase a fridge, a washing machine and a dishwasher.  My contribution to their newly found independence was for appliances for their new domesticity.  They will now have to clean and wash for themselves so I thought I might as well help them a bit.  Thus, for just over 200 euros, we chose an iron, a chopping machine, a microwave, a juice maker, a toaster and a “minipimer” which I think is called a blender in English.

On Wednesday, the abuela (grandmother in Spanish) Ernestina, my mother-in-law turned 90.  I just hope I reach her age in the same state of physical and mental health and surrounded by a loving family.  To celebrate, the whole family was to gather on Saturday for a special birthday lunch in León.  Meanwhile Eladio rang her to wish her a great day which I’m sure she had.

On Wednesday I had my company medical.  To tell the truth in all the 5 years with the company I have never once done one.  There are two reasons, one being to have to go in at the crack of dawn on an empty stomach for a blood test.  The second is that I always dreaded the scales.  But this year I had no excuse as I already had some recent blood test results and of course I no longer dread the scales.  The test turned out to be pretty exhaustive including an electro cardiogram.  When the doctor saw the blood pressure results (12.6 and 62 bpm) she asked whether I was an athlete!  Actually I have always had a low blood count, the type athletes need to perform, so I wasn’t actually surprised when she asked the question although I was tickled pink to have results like that not long after my 55th birthday.  Thus she pronounced me fit as a fiddle. Hopefully this is so because of having similar genes to my long living Father but it may also be because I am in good shape as I go for an hour long brisk walk nearly every day in the year and have been doing so for quite a few years now.  It’s nice to know I am as fit as a fiddle and I shall do my best to remain so too.

Thursday was International Women’s Day and brought with it the first Yoigo get together of the year, named by me Yoigo Mornings.  It was full house as usual.
There was a good turn out at the Yoigo morning on Thursday this week

People round the world were congratulating women and others were questioning that the very existence of the day denoted inequality.  Well of course it does, because inequality between mena and women has always existed and always will.  At the Chinese bank my niece works for, Sara, all the women at work were given a 200 euro tip to celebrate the day.  How nice!  I didn’t get anything.  However that day I did a good deed in that I helped a homeless woman who had just lost the flat she was living in, her boyfriend and her job to find another one.  I should say that my friend Fernando, equally touched by the story, helped Mónica to find the job. She will become what today’s El País call “ni mil eurista” (i.e. those who don’t even earn 1000 euros a month) but she will have a job and will be able to pay for some sort of shelter over her head. I felt good that day, having helped an anonymous woman from the comfort of my life at least a little bit.

In the afternoon, after my walk, I joined Olivia on a short shopping escapade to our local “mall”, Centro Oeste.  Here Oli stocked up on heaps of things, whilst, I just bought this beautiful flowery blazer from Zara.  I have so many clothes now, that I ask myself just when I’m going to wear it.
The flowery blazer I bought at Zara with Oli this week

On Friday I acquired yet another item I don’t need. At my local seamstress, García y Limón, in the high street of Villaviciosa, they have taken to selling custom made bags by the apparent ex workers of the Spanish luxury designer brand Loewe.  They sell, supposedly, just the same models but at 10 times less the price and without the logo.  So here I was happy to have ordered the very classical Amazonas model, which I have always wanted but could never afford at 1.400 euros which is what it costs in the original boutique in Madrid’s most expensive street, Calle Serrano.  And here it is. I’m no expert, but it looks great.
My new "Amazonas" bag, a copy of the famous Loewe handbag

Being Friday it was our night out.  Eladio wasn’t feeling very well and there was no particular film I wanted to watch so we just went out to dinner.  We chose the nearby De Brasa y Puchero and shared a plate of “patatas revolconas” (sort of mushy potatoes cooked in paprika with peppers) and a “sobrasada” delicious sausage.  Later we heard that the English restaurant, La Pérfida Albión, we frequent has shut down.  That’s now two of our favourite restaurants no longer available. We shall have to widen our choice by looking for new places. 
De Brasa y Puchero, the restaurant Eladio and I went to on Friday night

The next day, Saturday, was the highlight of the week.  Eladio, the girls and Gaby and I were off to León for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday.  We were to spend the night too.  It was very special to be going this time as for the first time in years the girls were coming too.  Needless to say we stopped off on route, as habit dictates, for a plate of ham and other cold cuts with delicious white wine at Palacio de Bornos in the Rueda wine growing town in the province of Valladolid.  I must say I love this place.  We also bought two boxes of wine for our wine cellar and some biscuits for my Father.
Eladio with "the girls" in Rueda on our way to León on Saturday

We got to León just before two and drove to Pili and Andrés’ house.  Soon the whole family was together at a new bar come restaurant in town called El Establo de Omaña (the stable of Omaña – the part of León where Montrondo is located).  It is owned by Roberto, the grandson of our neighbours in Montrondo and it is a delightful little place, decorated with a horse theme as befits its name.  Rosi, Roberto’s mother turned out to be a great cook.  She made a sort of thick fish and potato soup followed by the proverbial roast lamb which we always have at all our family celebration meals.

We were 24 gathered around a huge table, with Eladio’s Mother in the middle.
The young generation at the lunch on Saturday in León
A lovely photo Oli took of Suzy and I at the birthday lunch in León on Saturday

I had brought a box of party poppers, great little items to make any party festive and they were of course a success, although the table looked like a litter tip at the end!  The 24 of us represent quite four generations, from Diana (or Pitulines), Roberto and Ana’s two year old daughter, right up to my 90 year old mother-in-law. 
The older generation at El Establo de Omaña where the lunch took place on Saturday in León

Just after the second course Ernestina was given three bunches of flowers, one from Rosi, one from the grandchildren and three roses from her great grandchildren.  From us, adults, or the older generation, she was given a beautiful watch to replace the one she has probably worn forever. 
Happy Ernestina at her birthday lunch on Saturday

It was a wonderful meal and gathering and I, at least, liked the place so much I spoke to Rossi and her son Roberto about holding the family dinner there on New Year’s Eve.  Let’s hope we do.

Eladio wasn’t feeling very well.  So when he heard that José Antonio and Dolores were returning that very day, he decided we should leave with them.  The girls stayed behind and came back in our car today.  I was a bit upset as we were all having a great time, but understood of course.  So at just after 19h we set off home, José Antonio driving in the front with Eladio  and Dolores and I in the back with little Nuba, their delightful mongrel dog.

We caught Olga at home painting her nails in the lounge watching the television, but I decided to leave any conversation about that until later, as I was in no mood for telling her off.  She is so good with my Father but not very good with the cleaning I’m afraid.

Today has been quiet.  I think I have caught the beginnings of a cold from Eladio and just hope that we will be well by next Thursday when we will be going to Yorkshire for a long weekend, including my school reunion dinner. I can’t wait!

For me today is a quiet day but for the victims and families of the victims of the Madrid 2004 train bombs, today is the 8th anniversary of that terrible event, the worst terrorist attack in the history of Spain.  Like all big events that touch your life, I always remember what I was doing at the time.  I was in Segovia with my fellow members of the marketing and communications team at Nokia, holding a goodbye dinner for my dear Finnish friend Anne. No doubt Anne will be remembering too that fatal next morning when we woke up and heard about the attack. 

And on that sad but unforgettable note, I wish you all a great week ahead.

Until next time

PS You can see the rest of the photos of this weekend's trip to León here

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