Sunday, March 04, 2012

My Oscar goes to … , this year’s Mobile World Congress, home again, a visit to Suzy’s new flat, farewell Gustavo, the week I discovered Jackie Evancho, Spanish treasure, and other things.

Me at this year's Mobile World Congress

Hello everyone,

It’s Sunday again, another week has gone by and it’s nearly spring.  My week has been great but exhausting and I am still feeling tired after this year’s participation in the biggest mobile fair in the world, a sort of huge circus that takes place every year in Barcelona, the Mobile World congress

This time last Sunday I was on the high speed train to Barcelona, along with many other Spanish participants, including my best friend Fátima with whom I worked both in Motorola and Nokia.  That night, while we were having dinner at one of my favourite places, El Merendero de la Mari in the Port Vell, this year’s Oscars were being awarded.

And the Oscar for best actress went to Meryl Streep, as most people had predicted, for her magnificent role as Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady”.  I was pleased for her as I always am for women stars in their 50’s and 60’s.  They all look so good these days and are a sort of role model for me, to keep on looking good. I had lots of compliments this year in Barcelona for my new figure and looks where a lot of thanks are due to Dr. Dukan but also to my other role models, my beautiful young daughters. I for one, hope to look as good as Meryl Streep when I reach 62.

The eternal Meryl Streep won this year's Best Actress Oscar for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady

As also predicted The Artist, that funny French silent film in black and white, won 5 of the top Oscars.  Hugo, by Martin Scorsese, won another 5.  One film which didn’t win an Oscar but had many nominations was War Horse by Steven Spielberg.  I went to see it with Eladio on Friday and loved every minute of it, but then I am a sucker for animals and war films.  You could call it “cheesy” but then I love sentimental cheesy films.  It was a wonderful creation, the story of a beautiful horse called Joey, set in Devon in England and its adventures in the cruel World War I.  It now belongs to my top ten films, the type you can watch over and over again.  So, my Oscar this year goes to Joey and his wonderful young owner Albert, played by the young English actor, Jeremy Irvine, in this epic film by Steven Spielberg.

War Horse by Steven Spielberg got my Oscar for this year's best film
I have digressed writing about the Oscars and should tell you about Sunday, our first and most relaxing day spent in Barcelona last week.  Upon arrival at the train station we took a taxi to our hotel, the Diplomatic where all the TeliaSonera delegates had a room.  The hotel is run of the mill but fine, the sort of hotel which could be anywhere in the world. Its salient feature is that it’s very central, on Pau Claris,  a stone’s throw from the Paseo de Gracia street, possibly Barcelona’s most elegant thoroughfare where all the best shops can be found and some wonderful buildings such as Gaudi’s Casa Battlo and Casa Mila, the city’s most well known architectural gems. 

As soon as we had settled in, unpacked and connected our pcs to internet (via my modem as the hotel’s wifi signal was very weak), we took a taxi to Port Vell (old port) to the area by Pau Villa where there are a string of wonderful open air restaurants.  The sun was shining and the place was bustling with people, both local, as well as tourists and many delegates from the Mobile World Congress (MWC).  Thus we didn’t get a table at Cal Pinxo until well past 15.30 but we didn’t mind as time that day was not a constraint.  We had the first of the three fidueas I was to consume during my stay.  It’s a dish very similar to paella but made with thin noodles and boy is it good. 

Fideua, a delicious sort of paella made with noodles

To work off the wonderful lunch, we decided to walk to the Fira to register for our MWC badges.  The crowds grew thinner as walked our way up the Paralelo Avenue and were amazed to see that we took nearly an hour and a half to do so.  Just as we reached the Plaza de España where the Fira is located we came upon the huge Yoigo building poster featuring my phone, the excellent Samsung Galaxy S2, so we had to stop here for a photo session to mark the happy moment.  My mind took me back to the first time I came to the MWC with Yoigo, 5 years ago when we were just starting and were a very small player in the market.  Who could have predicted then that just 5 years later we would be a profitable company with over 3 million customers?  The huge poster made me smile at the success story of the great little fighting brand operator I am proud to work for.

Yoigo's presence was certainly noticed at this year's MWC

We took a taxi back to our hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon working.  Later I joined my other TeliaSonera colleagues at the traditional get together which took place this year at Taller de Tapas.  However I didn’t stay for dinner as that would have meant leaving Fátima all on her own.  So as I said earlier, we had dinner at El Merendero de la Marí, right next to Cal Pinxo.  We were in bed early as we would both be in need of a good night’s sleep to face the busy few days coming up.  Fátima was staying in my room as she had been unable to find accommodation until Tuesday night.  It was great to be together again and reminded us of our cycling tour days when Motorola had a team, starring none less than the Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong.  However I was not to get much sleep thanks to my friend’s very heavy snoring.  I am a very light sleeper anyway and any noise, however slight, will keep me awake so the nights were torturous, despite the foam ear plugs I had brought with me.  The next day I bought some wax ones which worked slightly better.  But it wasn’t until Tuesday night that I got some decent slumber. 

Monday morning was spent working from our room.  Well not quite.  At one stage I took the opportunity to get a hair do as well as the luxury of having my nails painted, red, of course, after which I ventured into my favourite shop Zara where I bought two lovely jackets, one white and one pink.  It was very warm in Barcelona and the clothes I had brought were far too wintery.  Any excuse will do for shopping in Zara is the actual truth!

The pink jacket I bought at Zara in Barcelona this week

Every time I bumped into acquaintances or friends they often remarked how busy I must be.  In actual fact that wasn’t true as most of the work had already been done before getting to Barcelona and in a way I was there just to see it executed.  The activities I had prepared were multiple.  First we had a blogger group hosted by Yoigo and accompanied by my team from our PR Agency, Ketchum, then we had a Carnaval party organized for the bloggers and Yoigo shop owners on the Tuesday and lastly on the Wednesday, we were to celebrate our annual press conference, possibly our most important media event of the year. As all the work was done, previous to coming, I was able to relax and just see the activities roll out to perfection, thanks to good organization and two wonderful teams of people from our PR Agency, Ketchum and my events agency QuintaEsencia.  

For me the Mobile World Congress is all about meeting old and new colleagues and Monday lunch was a highlight as I had a date with Keka, a colleague from Nokia who I first got to know when she started as a very young trainee and I was able to help her in her beginnings.  Being a very clever and pretty girl, Keka went on to shine professionally when she went to live in Finland and then London.  After leaving Nokia she had a stint in Nepal and India, countries that have left a mark on her and today she is living quietly in her native Santiago as a writer, author and coach.  It was great to see her again after so much time and catch up on our lives over another wonderful fideua again at El Merendero de la Mari.

With Keka at lunch one day this week at the MWC

I was to see her again that night, this time at the fabulous Yoigo Carnaval party held at Cachitos, a great little bar on the Rambla de Cataluña.  I think you know I hardly ever enjoy my own professional parties but this time it was different.  I enjoyed the whole evening, talking and mixing with shop owners, bloggers, colleagues and contacts from some of our suppliers, as well as friends like Keka and also my dear Turkish engineer friend Berk whom I once dreamed would marry my daughters. But that was not to be. You can see what a great party it was if you click on this link to see the photos.

With Gloria (left) and Bea (right) at our Carnaval party in Barcelona this week. I remarked we could have been at a playboy party instead because of our head gear hahaha

On Tuesday morning I worked again with Fátima from our room but soon had to leave to attend the TeliaSonera press conference at the Fair.  It was to be hosted by my old boss Thomas J, from Nokia who today is head of external communication with TeliaSonera.  Isn’t the world a small place?  I felt sorry for my TeliaSonera communications colleagues who fell foul to a breakdown in electricity and thus the whole press conference had to take place without the use of microphones or power points.  If that had happened to me, I would have “died” but the Swedes seemed to take the whole situation quite philosophically. 

Because of the lack of electricity the press conference was cut very short and I was able to get away to have lunch with my two best friends and ex colleagues, Julio and Fátima.  This was to be my last fideua at Cal Pinxo.  If you are worried about my weight, don’t be as I am back into the Dukan diet fold this week hahahaha.

It was on Tuesday when I got to see some of the fair.  In the morning I made a beeline for what feels like home when I’m at the MWC, the Nokia Siemens Networks hall.  Here I greeted old colleagues like Antonio, Julio, Pentti, Paloma and dear Emilio B.  It’s always great to see them.  In the afternoon I visited the Nokia stand and was happy to see they were back at the fair after a few years absence.  Here I greeted Kaisa, Solange, Kristina, Mark, Claire, Xavier, Anna, Ben and it was lovely to see them and catch up on how things are today in communications at Nokia.  But it was even lovelier to bump into Jesús S, my dearest colleague at Motorola who now lives in Miami. Fittingly my dearest colleague from Nokia, Julio, took this lovely photo of us both. Jesús who turned 50 this year, remarked that when he first joined Motorola he was just 29.  Wow that takes me back a while.

With Jesús S, one of my favourite Motorola colleagues on the Nokia stand at the MWC this week

As to the fair itself, at the beginning of this week’s post, I referred to it as a sort of giant circus and that is literally what it is.  Some 60.000 delegates attended this year and goodness knows how many firms, some known some not.  The noise around the fair and the bustle are at times a little too much.  I think what most caught my attention was the Pegasus horse made of mobile phones.  If you looked closer you could see it was made by the Chinese manufacturer Huawei and it is really a work of art.  I had my picture taken with Pablo X who heads up sales at Huawei Spain and is Chinese.  I think it was the most photographed thing at the fair.

The amazing Pegasus horse made with mobile phones with Pablo X from Huawei

Most delegates, and they were from all over the world, with many representatives from Asia, were busy snapping at all the tablets and mobile phones on display.  As you can imagine, the latter don’t really seduce me after so many years in the sector.  What I thought worth photographing were other things, such as the enormous taxi queues, a Japanese lady dressed in a kimono, promoting her restaurant in town, anti capitalist demonstrators, a bit like at Davos, a woman shouting against the use of coltan in mobile phones and funniest of all, two elderly gentlemen offering accommodation in far away Sitges for 150 euros per “nigth” as they spelled it. It seems there are enormous parallel activities trying to cash in on the well off delegates.  They were a sight to see and hear.

Everyone gets on the MWC bandwagon in Barcelona.  Here, two elderly gentlemen offering accommodation in far away Sitges for 150 euros per "nigth" hahahaha

Tuesday was all about meeting people; thanks to Julio I even met the General Manager of Google Spain who has the same name as Spain’s last President, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and causes havoc when he makes a restaurant reservation.  It was also full of social events.  At 18h I had an appointment at the huge Ericsson hall where I was to meet up with our bloggers before the annual party started.  Here I met three charming Indians from Kerala who now live in Stockholm working for Ericsson.  They have developed communication via the human body and showed me how when they took a photo of me with a phone, just by my touching the back of it, the picture showed up on a screen behind us.  That was mind blowing and I was delighted it had been invented by the three delightful Indians whom I told I loved their country and remembered to say “Namaste”. I’m not sure whether they thought I was mad as a hatter.

Three delightful Indian engineers who work for Ericsson.

A little later I escaped from the party and left the Swedes and their colleagues beginning dinner at the unearthly hour of just past 18h, to get ready for a private dinner I had arranged for my team from Ketchum, QuintaEsencia and other Yoigo colleagues at the more reasonable time of 21h (no one has dinner earlier in spain).  We had the most delicious dinner at La Venta at the top of Barcelona in an area called Tibidabo at what turned out to be the most enjoyable and relaxing event of the week, so much so that I even forgot to take any photographs.

On Tuesday night I got my best night’s sleep as Fátima had left, so I was up feeling fresh and full of energy the next morning which was good as our press conference was taking place at 10.  It was great to arrive just after 9.30 to find everything ready and beautifully prepared by my teams from Ketchum and QuintaEsencia.  We held it at lovely bar called Mordisco and the setting was perfect; a lovely glass roofed room with a table in the middle heavily laid with fabulous fruit and other breakfast delicacies. 

Everything was perfectly prepared for our press conference on Wednesday at Mordisco in Barcelona

Soon the place was heaving with colleagues, bloggers and journalists.  Thankfully the turnout was excellent with some 35 representatives from the media.  If you consider the size of the fair and the amount of information shared by all the exhibitors, we were lucky to get our own share of voice in the middle of such bedlam.  That day we were announcing our objectives for 2012, some great new flat tariffs, but the most important news was the launch of a mobile voice over IP voucher.  For just 6 euros a month our customers will be able to use applications like skype or viber on their mobile phones, for the equivalent of 1 cent per minute, a bit of a revolution in the sector and something very new for Spain.  I was very pleased to follow the online coverage after the event which continued through the day and offline the next day.  As we are very innovative in Yoigo we also tweeted and posted the news on Twitter and Facebook (and on Google+ and Tuenti) during the conference itself and as we did it I thought just how the way I communicate has changed since I first started in the trade.  Everything these days is fast and immediate.

Our journalists hung around for an hour or so after the press conference, talking to us and writing the news and enjoying the food.  In a way it was a bit like a party.  Something happened on Wednesday that has never happened before; the journalists and bloggers actually clapped when the conference finished.  I think they enjoy themselves thoroughly when they are with us.  Why ever they did it, it felt good.

Soon I was rushing back to my hotel to pick up my three pieces of luggage to take a taxi to catch the 13h high speed train back to Madrid.  As on the outbound journey, I coincided with many colleagues and other familiar faces on the way back.  I spent most of the journey working, sending out the releases to the staff, uploading photos, replying to emails and the 2.45h trip went past in a flash. 

I was home just after 16h where I was greeted by Eladio, Suzy and my Father.  Very soon I was off with Suzy to see her new flat in nearby Villanueva de la Cañada. She and Gaby will be living in a very modern block of flats built specially for young people and subsidized by the local authorities.  They reminded me of student accommodation in the UK, the difference being that these colourful Lacasito (name for the equivalent of smarties in Spain) flats are spotlessly clean and have all the latest finishings. 

Suzy outside the colourful block of flats she will be living in in Villanueva de la Cañada

The flats are small but cosy and have lots of light because of their enormous windows.  They have a kitchen come lounge, one tiny bedroom, one larger bedroom and luxury of luxuries, two bathrooms, as well as lots of cupboard space.  They are not furnished so Suzy and Gaby probably won’t be moving in until the beginning of May as they need to get all sorts of things before they finally make the move.  I can feel from Susana that she is very excited about going to live in the new flat but at the same time a little sad about leaving home.  I think we all share the same feeling.  You can see the rest of the photos I took of our visit to her new flat here.

The next day, Thursday, I had to go to the office for an important meeting which kept being rescheduled to 30 minutes later which meant I missed lunch at home.  Thankfully though I was able to go for a walk with Eladio, the only one this week unfortunately, unless you count last Sunday with Fátima in Barcelona.

On Friday I was finally able to relax.  I went food shopping with Eladio in the morning and then I had another lunch date. But it wasn’t any lunch date, it was a goodbye lunch for Gustavo.  Gustavo has worked for me as the head of the PR team at Ketchum since the summer of 2006 since when he has grown professionally into the best PR executive you could ever dream of if you are a Communications Director like me.  He is leaving to work for another agency where he will head up the account for a big car manufacturer and I don’t think he knows just how much I will miss him.  He is not only a good professional but a lovely dependable and reliable person who never loses his nerve whatever the situation is.  So he deserved the best kind of send off we could give him.  With the help of the girls from QuintaEsencia and Carlos from Ketchum, we devised a lovely goodbye kit and an album of photos of his times on the Yoigo account. 

Gustavo's (in the middle holding the album) goodbye lunch on Friday

We went to a great place called El Bogavante de Almirante (lobster joint) and one of my surprises was a pack of party poppers.  Needless to say the table looked a picture at the end of the lunch.  Luckily Carlos will take Gustavo’s place and Isabel too will continue to work on the account.  Of course, they will miss him too.  But as he said in a lovely message he sent to me afterwards, he will miss me as a customer but has gained me as a friend.  I too have gained a friend.  Farewell Gustavo, I wish you all the luck in the world in the next step of your career.  You can see the other photos I took at the lunch here on this link.

The lunch didn’t finish until past 5 and I had to be home on time to go to the cinema with Eladio to see War Horse which was starting at 7pm.  Because of an accident on the way home, I had to take another way and ended up getting lost.  Thus I was home a little late and we got to the cinema just as the wonderful epic film was starting.  Afterwards we went to dinner to Fosters Hollywood, as our favourite, La Alpargatería has closed down.  It’s a poor substitute I must say.
Saturday and Sunday have been very quiet but there have been nice family lunches and it’s great to be home again.  I needed the peace and quiet in order to recover after so much activity in Barcelona from where I came home exhausted.

So, yes the week has been great.  However I am grateful that next week there are no trips planned and I can enjoy a few days of routine.  

It has also been the week I discovered a star, a 10 year old girl called Jackie Evancho who sings like an angel.  Whilst we were listening to my favourite songs on Spotify in our room in Barcelona, Fátima mentioned her.  Jackie Evancho, a beautiful, well mannered little girl from Penssylvania became famous after singing on the America’s Got Talent show last year where she came surprisingly number two and not number one. Since then she has gone on to make various albums and has sung none other than for President Obama.  Her style is what they call classical crossover and I love it.  She reminds me of Charlotte Church, although Jackie’s soprano operatic voice seems even stronger.  You look at this little girl and wonder how she can have the voice of a 30 year old opera singer.  If she can sing like this at the age of 10 or 11, I cannot begin to imagine what her voice will be like when she reaches 30. If you haven’t heard of her, just listen to her here on You Tube and I know you will agree with me that a star has been born. 

This was the week I discovered Jackie Evancho

Apart from being the week I discovered Jackie Evancho, it was also the week treasure returned to Spain and not just any treasure. Last Saturday saw the end of a journey that the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes ship started towards Spain in 1804.  The ship sunk after an attack by English ships when it approached the Portuguese coast.  200 people died and the sea swallowed its huge treasure of gold and silver that had come from Peru. Years later the 600.000 silver and gold coins were salvaged by an American treasure hunting ship called Odyssey who thought the treasure was theirs for keeping. However the Spanish authorities entered legal proceedings and in a way won the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes last battle when the treasure was returned to Spain.  I had hoped that it would help to improve the Spanish economy as it is worth thousands of millions of euros, but apparently not.  It will be considered historical heritage and as I write is being cleaned and polished and restored for later exhibition in some maritime museum.  The story has been in the news for days and the main angle is that Spanish treasure is being returned to its right owners.  But I ask myself whether that is really so and that perhaps the Peruvian authorities may think otherwise. 

The treasure from the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes ship, sunk in 1804 was finally returned to Spain last week

And on that note of a tale of naval history, I end this week’s blog.  I wish you all a great week and will be back next Sunday.

PS You can see all my photos of Barcelona here.

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