Sunday, May 06, 2012

New home help, 4 sisters reunited, Olivia reporting from Galicia, a 93rd birthday, the new Samsung Galaxy SIII, dinners with friends and family, a super moon and other things.

My father, enjoying the small pleasures in life on his 93rd birthday on 1st May

Hello again my friends,

Another Sunday is here and finally the sun is shining.  I am sitting at the kitchen table at my computer, like most mornings, with the dogs asleep at my feet.  Whilst I write I am syncing my Samsung Galaxy SII to Outlook, after having adventurously upgraded the software to Android 4, commonly known as Ice cream Sandwich.  Hopefully, amongst other things, it may improve its poor battery life. Meanwhile, the men, Eladio and my Father are in the dining room reading the Sunday papers, Olivia, I think is sleeping in her room, Susana will be at her lovely new flat and Ivanka is cleaning the house which is music to my ears. 

The dogs asleep in the kitchen

But let me recap on the week.  We have spent a good part of it finding new domestic help to replace Olga.  Olga was very good with my Father but was somewhat lazy and the house was getting dirtier and dirtier.  We found lots of women looking for jobs on a page called, many of them Rumanian or South American but some surprisingly Spanish.  They all told us the job market was on the decline for home help, most obviously because of the current crisis, as fewer and fewer families can afford it.   In Spain it is quite normal to have someone come in to clean and cook and do the laundry or even live in.  Of course we need all that with this huge house but more importantly we need someone to be here for my Father, who is less mobile after his hip operation last October.  We must have interviewed 6 or 7 women until we came upon Ivanka, a 59 year old Bulgarian lady who started on Friday.  So far she is doing a great job and we are happy to have her living with us and help us run our home. 

I don’t know if you know but Bulgaria is a country close to my heart, even if I have never been there, because it was where my Mother and Aunty Masha were brought up.  Their family, my grandparents and children went to live in Sofia in exile after having to leave Russia just after the revolution.  But that is another story, a story I will have to tell in a book when I retire; a book about my Mother and her family and how the revolution and Second World War scattered the family around the world forever.  So, of course you will understand now that I feel comfortable having a lady from that land join our family.  

Today is Mother’s day and I cannot help but remember my Mother and after writing about her Bulgarian roots above, I remembered a clipping I have which sends shivers down my spine every time I look at it.  It is a photo of the 4 sisters reunited after 46 years and was published in The Telegraph and Argus in 1991.  Just read the article and you will get a feel of what happened to my Mother’s family.  Amazing isn’t it?

My Mother reunited with her sisters 46 years on.

My Mother and my Aunt would have been delighted to meet Ivanka and speak in Bulgarian.  My Father, meanwhile, who knows 6 languages, has exchanged a few words of that difficult language, surprising Ivanka, also with his knowledge of that country he visited twice with my Mother after the Iron Curtain fell.

Olivia had left for Galicia on Sunday and was to be reporting live every day, except Tuesday, 1st May which was a national holiday, for the programme she works for, La Mañana de la 1.  We missed her on Monday where she reported on a family from a small village whose house burned down. She went on to report every day with the help of the team that accompanied her: the producer, the driver, the cameraman and the technician.

Oli with the TVE team in Galicia this week

She thoroughly enjoys being a correspondent away from the TV news room she normally works from in Prado del Rey in Madrid.  Here is a photo of the TVE van with the equipment they use, including satellite.  Here she edits what they shoot from wherever they happen to be reporting and it gets relayed to the main studios. 

The TVE van with all the equipment Oli and her team use to relay back to the news room

That night, Pili and Andrés, my sister and brother-in-law, arrived in Madrid as they were travelling to Cuba the next day.  It was to be their first flight abroad ever and they had chosen Cuba as their destination to celebrate 25 years of marriage.  Cuba is a country close to Eladio’s family as it is where my Father-in-law, Antonio, was born when his family, from Galicia, emigrated there at the beginning of the last century.  He and his family returned to Spain when he was still small.  Later, Eladio’s great uncle, Constante, the brother of his grandmother on his mother’s side, emigrated to Cuba too.  The family remained in contact with Constante who later married in Cuba.  His daughter Rosa came to Spain a few years ago and since then we have all been in contact.  Pili, Eladio’s youngest sister, used to write to Rosa’s sister, Lecinia (the same name as their grandmother from Montrondo) and one of the reasons for choosing Cuba as their 25th wedding anniversary trip, was to meet Lecinia and her family, including dear Rosa, who is now a firm friend of mine on Facebook. From what I hear they are enjoying their trip immensely.

Rosa María, Eladio's cousin in Cuba

So on Monday we joined them in Madrid for dinner, on the eve of their trip to Cuba.  We went to La Vaca Argentina near the Plaza Castilla and enjoyed a wonderful family dinner together.  

Tuesday 1st May, was labour day of course and a national holiday in Spain, as in most parts of the world.  It was also my Father’s 93rd birthday and the highlight of the week for us.  Unfortunately Olivia was missing, enjoying a day off from reporting with her team mates in Santiago de Compostela. It started off with a special breakfast with Eladio and I when we gave him his presents and card signed by us all.  He looks so well for 93 in the picture that illustrates this week’s post, don’t you think?  Most of all I like the smile on his face. Suzy joined us for lunch, brightening up her grandfather’s birthday.  This is the cake I made for him, a heart shaped Victoria sponge.

The cake I made for my Father's birthday

Wednesday was a holiday in Madrid, the 2nd May, to celebrate the uprising against the French in 1808.  Olivia, of course had to work and this time we did not miss her live appearance on the television.  She reported on gypsy squatters in new housing in Penamoa, La Coruña, quite an issue in the area. You can see the piece here if you click on this link and fast forward to 12.11h.

Oli live from La Coruña on Wednesday

Wednesday was a glorious day for the Real Madrid football club, as it won La Liga, Spain’s Premiere league.  It was also a great victory for Mourinho, Madrid’s coach as the notorious Portuguese becomes the third coach to win league titles in four different countries after triumphs with Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan.  That night was the last football match for me for a while, watching Madrid beat Atlético de Bilbao.

I was happy to see Madrid win this year's Liga

Meanwhile a live debate was going on, on French television between Sarkozy and Hollande who, from what I read the next day, spent most of the time accusing each other of lying.  We have yet to see who will win the general elections but in all probability it will be the socialist, Hollande.

A very ugly live debate with Hollande and Sarkozy.
Thursday was a busy day, back to work and with lots of activity.  Suzy spent the morning with us working from our house.  At midday we were to see Olivia live again on the television. She reported from a town we know in Galicia, Vilagarcía de Arousa.  There has been a new local law passed whereby passersby can be fined for obstructing the street, something the local people are up in arms about.  You can see the piece here if you go to minute 12.19h.

Olivia reporting live from Vilagarcia de Arousa on Thursday

In the afternoon, Suzy and I went to Pozuelo to the English shop to get cake ingredients for her birthday party which she would be celebrating here this weekend.  Blow of blows, it had shut down.  This is just yet another commerce we like to frequent that has shut down and of course is a real sign of the current crisis. 

Thursday was the day I discovered a new social network, Pinstagram.  You will be aware of Instagram, recently bought by Facebook for a cool million dollars.  Pinstagram is a sort of merge between Instagram and the increasingly popular Pinterest which has more than 11 million users, me being one of them.  At first I thought Pinstagram was a joke until I actually connected on Twitter with one of the founders from Silicon Valley, Pek Pongpaet.  You cannot imagine how honoured I felt to be in contact with him.  I told him what a great idea Pinstagram was and please not to sell it to Facebook.  He actually favorited my tweet!

If you are a techy or social media freak like me, you will enjoy Pinstagram a merge between Instagram and Pinterest

Thursday was a big day for Samsung Mobile, who has now overtaken Nokia’s top spot in the mobile phone market.  I cannot take that sentence lightly, as you will know, of course, that I worked for Nokia for 6 years when I was the Communications Director for Nokia Spain.  That was when Nokia were very much the number one and totally dominated the mobile phone market.  But yes the takeover took place, just as Nokia took over from Motorola, a company I worked for too from 1990 to 1999 when it went from being an unknown quantity in Europe to being the world’s leader in mobile phones. Today that place belongs to Samsung.  However I wouldn’t bet on that being so forever, as I have seen before.  However on Thursday, the worlds’ eyes, were on this company as it launched the much awaited for new Samsung Galaxy SIII from Earls’ Court in London, in the presence of 2000 journalists.  That’s the sort of clout Nokia used to command which I remember so well.  I contented myself on watching the event live on internet from this marvelous link.  Today mobile phone launches are world events with so much jazz and style at which the journalists lap up the news reporting on the new device like sheep, producing reams and reams of news any PR person would be delighted to achieve. 

The new Samsung Galaxy SIII

Of course the new phone comes with the Google Android operating system, the system that today dominates mobile phones, much like Symbian did before. However, the VP of Samsung Mobile, Mr. J.K. Shin, did not as much mention Google in his opening speech.  So what is the new phone all about you may ask?  I was expecting just a better version of the Samsung Galaxy SII, my current phone.  But this one does much more.  To quote the BBC correspondent, this one has “all the bells and whistles”. In its TV commercial it says it’s designed for humans, something which seems a bit too obvious.  I mean what mobile phone is not designed for humans?  In a clear battle to beat Apple’s, Samsungs bête noire, just about everything you could possibly imagine has been packed into this lovely new device. Yes it is an evolution of its predecessor but does much more.  Its three best features appear to be its front cover which knows when you are looking at it, its share feature with other Galaxys (you just place one galaxy on top of another and the photo or whatever is automatically transferred) and something called Pop up Play whereby if you are watching a video, you can minimize and do something else on the device, like surfing, whilst continuing to watch the video in a smaller window. I, for one, cannot wait to own one.  

By now you have all understood that I am rather techy for my age.  Ah but I am classical too, so that night enjoyed a romantic drama film, Band of Angels,  with Clark Gable made the year I was born, 1957.  The story is fabulous, set in the time of the end of slave labour and the American Civil War.  Amantha Starr (Yvonne De Carlo) is the privileged daughter of a Kentucky plantation owner. After he dies, she learns that her mother had been one of her father's black slaves. Legally now property, she is taken by a slave trader to New Orleans to be sold. Hamish Bond, played by Clark Gable, buys her.  And thereby starts the most beautiful love story I have seen on the screen for some time.

Loved this film, Band of Angels

Friday was the day Ivanka started with us.  Once again Olivia brightened up our day with another live appearance on TV, this time from La Coruña before she returned home later that day.  This time she reported on a group of young people with Down Syndrome who had made a video clip to demonstrate that they were no more different than other human beings.  You can see the piece on this link if you fast forward to 11.37h.

Oli with the boys with Down Syndrome she reported on on Friday from La Coruña

On Friday we had a dinner appointment at a lovely modern restaurant of Navarra origin in Madrid, La Manduca de Azagra.  Julio, my friend and ex colleague at Nokia was inviting Fátima, Juana, Oscar, Eladio and I to celebrate his new found work. He is now a freelance consultant, as well as a University teacher amongst other things.  The dinner was wonderful, as was their company.  Oscar, Juana’s wife, both ex Nokia colleagues, had come straight to dinner after landing from Amsterdam and had bought the three women a lovely wooden tulip each.  Thanks Oscar!  And thanks Juli for a fabulous dinner.

Dinner on Friday was a treat.  Here with Julio and Fátima

Saturday was very busy with many preparations for Susana’s birthday party which in the end had to be held in the garage because of the rain. 

I made a cake, Susana made another, plus two or three delicious tiramisus and dear Ana brought an enormous decorated brownie of which there is so much left over we don’t know what to do with it.

The cake I made for Suzy's birthday party yesterday

Whilst the party was going on, for some 20 friends, Eladio and I made an escape and went to the cinema.  

Suzy's birthday party on Saturday held in the garage because of the rain.  The big cake in the middle was made by Ana

 We enjoyed enormously the French film, The Intouchables, a tragic yet comical film based on a true life story.  The official website describes it like this: “A true story of two men who should never have met — a quadriplegic aristocrat who was injured in a paragliding accident and a young man from the projects” (the projects must be the poor suburbs of Paris where many unemployed immigrants live).  What it does not say is just how superbly funny this film is.  Instead of being sad it has you laughing throughout.  It is a film I will remember for a long time and no doubt I will watch it again to appreciate the gags I probably missed or to hear some of them again.

Great film The Intouchables

Afterwards we had dinner at Ginos, as we can no longer go to our favourite restaurant La Alpargatería which shut down, thanks to the crisis again.  We were joined by our friends Roberto and MariCarmen.  A few months ago they went their different ways after many years of marriage but in an amicable way.  It was great to catch up on how they have got on since and to do so over a delicious dish of pasta and lambrusco wine.

Whilst we were having dinner, we totally missed the “super moon”, which has been reported on hugely in the press.  Last year I saw it but this year I missed it unfortunately. They call it a super moon because it appears larger than normal, I think because it is nearer the earth.  When I was a child I used to love seeing the moon in the early evening at dusk and used to call it “pink boony”.  Those words have remained in the family ever since.  Here is a photo of the extraordinary event for the records.

The super moon I missed last night was much in the news today

And today is Sunday and I have reached the end of this week’s tales.  It has been a quiet day with a family lunch with both girls which always makes me happy and of course, our daily walk with the dogs.  The week ahead promises to be busy, with no bank holidays or trips to look forward to.  But of course you will hear about it in next weeks’s blog post.  Meanwhile I hope you have enjoyed this one.

That’s it for this week then folks.

Cheers Masha

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