Sunday, September 30, 2012

When it rains it pours, controversial pictures of Spain, anti austerity protests in Madrid, a goodbye dinner, Apple says sorry and other things.

Sunday 30th September 2012

When it rains it pours, controversial pictures of Spain, anti austerity protests in Madrid, a goodbye dinner, Apple says sorry and other things.

A great pic of Gloria (blonde), Cris (brunette) and I taken by Robert just before the goodbye party on Tuesday

Hello everyone,

The week the weather has been wet and awful.  The beginning of autumn certainly made its mark.  We came back last Sunday from 30ºc in Campello, near Alicante, to 17º and rain in Madrid.  It was the first rainfall I can remember in months.  The problem here is that it hardly ever rains but when it happens it does so with a vengeance.  And this week it didn’t just rain, it literally poured and caused floods in many regions. I’m not sure if it’s true that “the rain in Spain falls mostly on the plain” as the worst hit areas were the south of Spain.  Tragically 10 people died in Malaga, Almeria and Murcia which are usually very dry areas. 

It didn't just rain but it poured and caused awful floods in the south of Spain this week with 10 victims.

Monday saw me in the office where I met up with Gustavo who wanted to interview me about my memories and experiences with the Motorola cycling team, after a post I wrote recently when I learned that Motorola was closing down in Spain. The interview is for the popular cycling blog “El tío del mazo” he writes together with other cycling fans.  I look forward to seeing the published interview.  

Cycling was much in the news this week.  Last weekend the Belgian cyclist Gilbert won the men’s road race in the Cycling World Championship and Spain’s Alejandro Valverde came third.  In Spain this was not much celebrated as this country is far too used to more spectucular victories from the likes of Pau Gasol, Rafa Nadal, Fernando Alonso, Alberto Contador and other great Spanish sports figures.  On Wednesday Alberto Contador went on to win his first ever one day race in the UCI World Championship, in the Milan – Turin race.  And on Saturday, “Purito” (Joaquim Rodríguez), his rival in the recent Tour of Spain, won the last race of this championship in the Tour of Lombardy, putting him in the top spot ahead of Bradley Wiggins.  So, yes, Spanish cycling is doing well again.  But for me, it is nowhere near as exciting as when Pedro Delgado or Miguel Indurain were racing.  Also cycling since then has become somewhat tarnished with all the doping scandals.  This is what I had in mind when I said to Gustavo in the interview on Monday that I would no longer recommend corporate sponsorship of this sport which once did a huge service to Motorola.  Indeed it served its purpose of enhancing awareness of the company and mobile telephony in Europe but if I were to launch a brand today, I would certainly not consider the sport of cycling, however dear it is to my heart.

On Monday, the New York Times, that most prestigious and universal of international newspapers, published a series of photos entitled: “hunger on the rise in Spain”. As if we didn’t already have a bad image abroad because of the crisis, these photographs have added insult to injury in that they will have done even more damage to how the country is portrayed outside Spain than before.  They caused huge controversy in social and other media.  Take a look for yourself if you haven’t seen them. 

One of the controversial photos in the NYT by Samuel Aranda.

I myself thought they were a little biased. After all, surely people here are not hungry?  Or are they?  Maybe they are if 25% are unemployed and maybe I just don’t see them where I live. The author is a Spanish photographer, Samuel Aranda.  I have written about him before, when he won the World Press Photo.

The photo by Samuel Aranda which won the World Press Photo this year.

I then googled him and found a very “touché” twit where he defends the publication of the photos.  This is what he says in Spanish: “a los críticos les animo a que se den una vuelta por los barrios humildes” which roughly translated means: “to my critics, I would encourage them to go and visit the poor (humble) neighbourhoods. After all it must have been in these areas where he took the controversial photographs. 

On Tuesday, there were huge protests against the austerity measures of the government and the event was then coined 25S (25th September).  It was mostly lead by a group of people who call themselves the “indignant”. They protested around the Spanish parliament and there were some very ugly scenes.  There has been talk of police in plain clothing amongst the crowds who have been accused of sparking the violence, but as in all these types of demonstrations I suspect the violence is often caused by troublemakers who join them just for the sake of havoc. 

The demonstration on 25S this week

The riots have continued most of the week, including Friday when the Spanish government announced the budget for 2013, one of the most austere in recent years. Some Spanish newspapers reported that at least half of the cuts had gone towards paying the enormous national debt.  

Meanwhile, Spain’s troubled and worried President, Mariano Rajoy was in New York attending the UN General Assembly where he also had to defend the recent cuts his government has made.  And whilst some of his countrymen were surrounding the Parliament in Madrid he was caught unawares and photographed smoking a cigar in Manhatten.  The photograph was taken by Jonan Basterra.  All it needed was for the photographer to upload the photo to his blog and internet did the rest.  It was soon a trending topic and a very negative one at that.  This turned out to be another controversial photo to add fuel to the fire of discontentment in Spain.

Spain's President Mariano Rajoy caught smoking a cigar in New York in sharp contrast to the anti austerity protests  going on in Madrid.

Later in a press conference in New York, Mr. Rajoy praised the “large majority” of Spaniards who, although they have to suffer similar sacrifices, did not go out on the streets to protest.  I thought of myself and many others who didn’t join the demonstration and sincerely believe that even if they didn’t protest that doesn’t mean they are happy with the situation or approve the measures the government is taking or is not taking, as maybe the case.

So no, on Tuesday I was not at the demonstration. I was attending a goodbye party. It was for the two Johans, our Swedish CEO and CTO who were leaving Yoigo after 6 years since the start up.  They were very much the heart and soul of the company, and it will be impossible to fill their place.  But they have gone now and we will manage, although we will always miss them.

The dinner took place at a restaurant called Filandón, very far from where I live.  It’s a wonderful venue, a sort of mansion with a country flare or theme, set in big grounds just outside Madrid on the El Pardo road. We had decorated the room where the dinner took place for the staff of Yoigo and distributors.  As the two Swedes are joining Orange in Switzerland the girls from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, had made two life size cut outs of them dressed in what I thought was to be the Swiss National dress.  It turned out we had made a mistake, by dressing them in lederhosen.  This is a misconception as apparently lederhosen come from Austria.  In any case, it added a lot of colour and fun to the event; although I’m still rather cross with myself for making such a silly mistake.

We used a photographer called Roberto or “Rober” for the occasion and these are the photos he took.  He catches people unawares and the results are more of how people are enjoying themselves rather than posing.  However, one photo is a pose, as it is of the group of us attending the party.  Group photos cannot be any other way.

The group photo at the goodbye party on Tuesday at Filandón

The food was good but rather too rich.  I’m not used to big dinners or drinking much wine, so I’m afraid I got a migraine during the night.  It was one of those awful episodes I have a few times a year, when the migraine only subsides after you have been sick.  That thus was not a good end to the night. Also as I left the restaurant at midnight in the dark and pouring rain, the first to leave – always the Cinderalla these days – I bumped into a car whilst reversing out of the car park, despite the camera in my car.   So I left my card with my number plate written down by the door of the car I hit. Luckily the damage was very minor and I had only slightly broken one of the headlights.  As I drove home I I wondered if the car in question belonged to anyone from the party.  Later when I sent an email with the link to the photos of the party to the attendants, one of our distributors, David, wrote back to say it was his car I had hit.  I was very cross with myself for the “accident” as I hardly ever have one but thankfully the damage to my car was very slight, with just a minor bump on one side.  

The week, apart from Tuesday, was very quiet.  Friday was perhaps the highlight when Eladio and I went out to dinner.  We had seen in the afternoon when we went to Decathlon to change the clothes Oli and Suzy had bought their Father for his birthday, a TGI Friday had replaced the Alpargatería which closed down a few months ago at Equinoccio, the leisure centre in Majadahonda.  Not having been to one for ages and attracted by the idea of their fabulous onion rings, we decided that would be the place for our Friday night dinner.  “Fridays on Friday”, as I said to Eladio.  We weren’t happy with the choice though, not because of the onion rings which were up to standard, but because the service wasn’t.  They took nearly an hour to serve the first course and then nearly another hour to serve the second by which time we were no longer hungry.  Add the slow service to the very loud ambience, we both agreed as we left that we would not be going back. 

Friday was definitely the highlight of the year for Apple as sales started for its new iPhone 5.  The papers reported huge queues which I wasn’t sure whether to believe or not.  And I say that as when at Nokia we launched the “NGage” games phone with a lot of hype, I staged a queue at a Nokia shop in the centre of town and invited the press for them to see just how popular the product would be.  When I say “staged”, I mean I actually paid people to queue.  When I did that, I did so through an agency that provides queues for the likes of El Corte Inglés  (big Spanish department store) when sales start.  So now when you see big queues on the television at the beginning of sales days, think too that they may not always be for real. Whether or not the queues for the iPhones were real or not, the product is sure to be out of stock soon, as the company does not have enough to satisfy demand. 

The iPhone 5 queue at Covent Garden in London on FridayI wonder just how many of those young people in the queue can afford one.

The iPhone will sell, for sure it will, and despite what has become known as the “mapplegate” issue.  You will have heard that the new operating system (iOS6) for the iPhone includes its own maps application, not the widely used google maps.  It has been a disaster since its launch, with many towns missing or misplaced geographically and other glitches.  So on Friday, coinciding with the sales launch, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, actually went out and said sorry, a sort of first for Apple and ironically even encouraged customers to use its rival Google Maps.  But it took the company nearly two weeks to do so.  An issue like “mapplegate” could be the beginning of a downfall for any company but not yet for Apple which is still in the sweet spot.  Apple faced another PR issue this week with huge criticism resurfacing on how employees are treated or rather mistreated in the Foxconn factories in Chine where the new phone is assembled. With a few more issues like this it could be the beginning of the end.  Companies who reach the top don’t often stay there, so watch out Apple and learn from companies like Motorola or Nokia who are no longer there.  No doubt Samsung will have enjoyed the show and Google too of course.

The latest iPhone maps application gone wrong.  It thinks Berlin is in the Antarctic.

Saturday was just as wet and cold as the rest of the week, so I decided it was the day to make the first cocido of the season. This is a heavy Spanish dish which varies in different regions in Spain and is always eaten in the winter and at lunch rather than dinner.  My speciality is the cocido madrileño (cocido from the Madrid area).  It is a sort of stew cooked with chickpeas, meats and bones of all types to which you add vegetables cooked in a separate pot, mostly cabbage, carrots and potatoes.  When everything is cooked, you drain the ingredients and then mix the vegetable and meat broth together to make a clear soup to which you add vermicelli (thin short noodles).  The first course is the soup and the second course is the solid ingredients served separately.  For you to better understand what the finished “cocido madrileño” looks like, here is a photo of me making this dish back in January 2010.

Cocido madrileño

Cocido can only really be made if you have a lot of guests and on Saturday both girls came and joined my Father, Eladio and I and they were accompanied by their friend Juli and Olivia’s boyfriend Miguel. For me it was another of our cherished family lunches.

In contrast, today Sunday, it was just “the oldies”, Eladio, my Father and I for lunch. Sunday is nearly always a quiet day and today has been no exception.  Thankfully though the sun finally made its appearance and the forecast for next week is sunshine nearly every day with temperatures in the low to mid 20ºs.  I think we will be having what is called here, “el veranillo de San Miguel”, an Indian summer being perhaps the nearest equivalent. 

So wherever you are, I hope the sun shines for you too and that you have a good week.

Till next time my friends.

All the best, Masha

Monday, September 24, 2012

A family lunch, the death of a communist, interviewing Michael O’Leary, a weekend at the beach, Eladio’s birthday and other things.

Monday 24th September 2012 

A family lunch, the death of a communist, interviewing Michael O’Leary, a weekend at the beach, Eladio’s birthday and other things.

With Eladio today celebrating his birthday

 Hi again my friends.

Sorry for not updating my blog on Sunday but we were away for the weekend, so I am one day late. There is quite a lot to tell. So let me start.

On Monday for the first time in quite a while, we were all home for lunch which actually means that both girls joined my Father, Eladio and I for lunch that day. We three “oldies” nearly always have lunch together.  Olivia sometimes joins us but Susana not so often now that she has left home.  So I have begun to cherish every time we are together.

The four of us after lunch last Monday.

Just as we were having lunch a rather special resignation was taking place.  The very visible and well known President of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, from the right wing PP party, was in a press conference announcing her resignation after more than 30 years in politics.  This was big news in Spain.  There has been a lot of speculation as to why she did this and although she told everyone it was because she wanted to enjoy her family and life in general, after her cancer scare last year, it has since transpired that one of the main reasons was her discrepancy with the head of Government, Mariano Rajoy.  She was a very colourful and popular politician and I think she will be missed.

Esperanza Aguirre announcing her resignation

On Tuesday, as I was finishing the second volume of Ken Follett’s Century trilogy, The Winter of the World, the Spanish population was beginning to get the news that the communist politician Santiago Carrillo aged 97 had just died.  Ken Follett would have been interested, as he included the Spanish Civil War in his latest book.  He did not though mention this last bastion of Spanish communism and his role in that episode in history.  Santiago Carrillo was the leader of the Spanish Communist party and made a major contribution to the peaceful transition to democracy after the death of Franco for which he is much revered.  However there is a big question mark about his possible role in the massacre in 1936 of thousands of Franco supporters in Paracuellos in Madrid when he was in charge of public order, something he has always denied. Whatever the truth may be, one thing is for sure, this man had amazing genes.  He smoked like a chimney right until the last days of his life and had a privileged brain and was lucid  until the end. I remember once listening to him about 8 years ago at a conference and his diction was incredibly clear for a person of his age.  For me, his death signifies the death of one of the last bastions of communism in recent times.

Santiago Carrillo seemed eternal

The low cost airline Irish Ryanair has been much in the news recently because of problems with safety issues and many small incidents but also some emergency landings.  Ryanair is actually the airline with most flights in Spain, more even than the flagship Iberia. The Spanish authorities want more control over the airline, run by the famous CEO, Michael O’Leary, well known for his Irish blarney and marketing stunts.  And on Thursday there was a big press conference organized by Ryanair in Madrid and chaired by the man himself.  Olivia, who had done a piece on the story for her programme on TVE the day before which you can see here, was chosen to represent the programme at the press conference.  One of the main reasons was of course her command of English.  So there she was on Thursday morning surrounded by all the other big TVs and most important Spanish media. She was in contact with me via whatsapp and asked for suggestions of possible questions to ask the CEO.  I got media friends on FB to rally round and they came up with great questions, one being: Mr. O’Leary, with your hand on your heart would you feel happy to see your children board one of the flights with incidents like the the ones that happened in Spain?  I also used the communication to reassure Oli that she should not feel either nervous or intimidated, as she was representing the most important media in the country, was good at her job, very beautiful and that her English was a huge plus.  It turned out that all the journalists asked questions in Spanish which were translated but Olivia asked hers directly in English.  She was surprised when the question and answer session started that when many journalists put their hands up to ask questions, the microphone was passed to her first, obviously because she represents the most important TV channel in Spain, something I think she is not really aware of.  So on Thursday I was very proud of my little girl doing something so important and interesting in her career.

Oli in blue interviewing Michael O'Leary, the CEO of Ryanair for TVE on Thursday

Thursday saw me at a very fancy lunch, a goodbye event for my old boss.  You had to wear a tie and jacket to go in and the funny thing is that none of my colleagues was wearing one that morning at work as ties are frowned upon at Yoigo.  So they had to rally round and get the right attire from other colleagues.  My old boss remarked that I wasn’t wearing a tie to which I replied I wasn’t a man.  I hope he doesn’t think I’m masculine.  In any case here I am with Urban and Juan Manuel ready to go, the three of us looking very smart.

With my colleagues Urban and Juan Manuel, all dressed up to go to a fancy lunch

Friday was a very busy day.  I was up at 06.30 to be in the office by 9 as two distributors were coming from Córdoba to say goodbye to my old boss and meet my new boss.  Moises (Moses in English, lovely name) and Miguel turned up late and actually brought breakfast, a lovely cake typical of the region and of Arab origin.  Later they visited the offices and had lunch with some of my colleagues.

The distributors Moises and Miguel who came to visit on Friday

I then made my way home and just as I was nearly there I had to turn round and go back to the office.  There had been big management changes at the HQ of our mother company TeliaSonera and I had to prepare the internal communication which had to go out at 13h.  It actually didn’t go out until 13.30 as I didn’t get the text until quarter past and then had to have it translated.  I was in a rush as Eladio and I were going away for the weekend to the beach with our friends Julio and Fátima and had arranged to leave at 2.30.  I got back at 2, swallowed something which looked like fish and then packed our case and worried later if I had forgotten essential things like knickers as I did it in such a rush.  At 3 we picked up Fátima and at 3.30 we were at Julio’s flat in Madrid.  The journey took about 4 hours and we arrived in Campello at around 8 in the evening.  The four of us had been together in Campello, just outside Alicante, the year before at around the same date and we were looking forward to a relaxing weekend on the beach.  And that’s exactly what it was.  

On Friday evening we walked from Julio’s flat to the seafront and decided to have dinner at a lovely looking place called Tres Perlas.  It was a great choice and we went back the following night too.  We laughed a lot that night as both Eladio and Julio were wearing a blue and white striped top and so was I, the only long sleeved one I had brought and which I wore as it was quite cool on Friday night.  You can see what we looked like here.

The three of us in blue and white stripes, me, Julio and Eladio

If Fátima had been wearing a blue and white striped top too, then this picture of the four of us would be even better.

The four of us had a great weekend at the beach in Campello

On Saturday I was up early and went in search of food for breakfast whilst Eladio and Fátima slept on and Julio went for a morning swim in the pool.  By 11 we were on the wonderful beach called “Carrer de la Mar”.

The beach is great in Campello

We spent the whole day there, only leaving it for lunch.   We bought the papers, El Mundo, El País and ABC for my companions whilst I enjoyed reading Ken Follett’s “The third twin”, an excellent thriller. Lunch was at Arrocería Cavia, probably the best place in town and also on the seafront.

Lunch at Cavia on Saturday in Campello with Julio, Eladio and Fátima

We were all looking forward to a great rice dish.  Eladio chose a paella with chicken and vegetables and Fátima, Julio and I opted for an “arroz a banda”.

One of my favourite Spanish dishes, Arroz a banda at Cavia in Campello

Sunday too was spent on the beach and the weather was great again, reaching at least 30ºc, so we were surprised later to hear it was raining in Madrid, something which hasn’t happened for months.  Being creatures of habit, we ate again at Cavia and were treated to lunch by Eladio as it was his birthday yesterday.  We left the beach at just after four with a bit of a heavy heart, knowing that on Sunday we had taken the last bathe of the season.  After showering and some quick cleaning of the flat, we were ready to leave at just before 6pm.  We were home quite late, at about 10 as there was heavy traffic entering Madrid.

As we said our goodbyes, we all agreed that a good time had been had by all and that we should make this a yearly event.  For me it was the perfect relaxing weekend at the beach with good friends, good weather and good food.  You can see the rest of the photos of our weekend here.

And today is Monday and as we weren’t at home yesterday to celebrate Eladio’s birthday we had agreed to do so today.  Thus, after a meeting at the office, I went in search of a cake for Eladio for today’s birthday lunch.  Olivia joined us, thankfully and it was sort of touch and go if Suzy could make but she finally did, just as the lunch was ending, but on time to eat the cake together.  The photo illustrating this week’s blogpost is of Eladio and me and the cake, taken by Olivia and I love it.  My photo of her and her Father is not as good I’m afraid.

Olivia with her father celebrating his birthday today at lunch.

For the record, the girls gave Eladio some trousers and a sweatshirt and my Father and I gave him a new watch, a nice classic one with a brown leather strap.  Tonight the four of us are going out to dinner to round off the day and we have chosen La Vaca Argentina.  So many happy returns of the day my dear husband Eladio, albeit belatedly.  Birthdays are great but maybe I should say birthdays “rock”, the modern adjective so much in use today.

And that my friends, is all this week’s news.  Meanwhile I wish you all a pleasant week.

All the best


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Andy’s first grand slam, 11th September and new Arab protests, Oli in Valencia and a dangerous sport, Apple vs Samsung, goodbye Motorola, a nude princess, a Bollywood first, Winter of the World and more.

Sunday 16th September 2012

Andy’s first grand slam, 11th September and new Arab protests, Oli in Valencia and a dangerous sport, Apple vs Samsung, goodbye Motorola, a nude princess, a Bollywood first, Winter of the World and more.

Me at my first desk in El Carralero Majadahonda with Motorola in 1990 or 1991

Hi everyone,

It’s Sunday again and here I am writing my blog from the kitchen whilst my men are outside reading the papers.  The house is very quiet as today is Ivanka’s day off, Oli is in Valencia still and Susana is probably sleeping after a night out on the tiles.

The week has been quiet.  It’s a peaceful time at work for me, the weather was great, seems like summer doesn’t want to leave but I have been plagued with a seasonal cold which had me feeling a little down sometimes.

Monday was a historic day for the Scottish tennis player Andy Murray.  At Flushing Meadow’s he won his first Grand Slam title and became the first British player to win the US Open in over 70 years.  I can’t help feeling that may have been partly due to Rafa Nadal being out because of injury, but if he beat Djokovic to do so, then there is an awful lot of merit to his victory.  He is a strong player who was maybe lacking the killer instinct to win a Grand Slam.  Perhaps, though, he gained the “I can do it” part of his makeup that was missing after winning a gold medal at the British Olympics.  This will now surely spur him on to ever great heights to the delight of the British public.  All I can say is well done Andy.

Andy Murray wins his first Grand Slam

Monday saw Spanish Prime Minister, the troubled Mariano Rajoy, live on television in an interview with 6 top journalists.  This was his first proper TV appearance since he became head of the Spanish government earlier this year.  He has been much criticized for not appearing publically during this period of uncertainty in Spain because of the financial crisis.  The journalists were no Jeremy Paxman and, as is usual here, were very benign in their questioning, never ever putting him in a corner.  People wanted to know whether with all the cuts and kowtowing to Brussels because of a possible bailout, whether pensions would be reduced and what the eventual conditions for the bailout would be.  They never really got an answer and the interview was disappointing in my mind.  When I travel abroad, people ask me “how we are” or even how I am, as if the crisis was affecting us and imagining the country getting poorer and poorer.  They probably see Spain as we see Greece, far worse than it is. Of course it is bad but what keeps the country in check is really the families.  Grandparents’ pensions are key here, as it is thanks to them that families with no income survive, albeit on the bread line.  Young people also survive thanks to their parents, so if they don’t have a job or earn very little, they can continue to live at home.  And that, together with the submerged economy, is what keeps the country going.  So Mariano Rajoy would be making a huge mistake if he ever cut pensions. 

On Monday too and straight after the interview, there was a new series starting on the television, the much awaited historical series about Isabella the Catholic Queen.  I have always loved historical series and remember watching many with my Mother at home, mostly from the BBC, series such as The six wives of Henry VIII.  So I am sure my Mother would have loved Monday’s episode.  Her knowledge of history was vast and she would have had no trouble knowing who was who or the names of the Kings and Queens preceding or succeeding Isabella.  This Spanish Queen is most known for her expulsion of the Jews in Spain in 1492 and of course for her patronage of Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the “New World”.  Now we have something to look forward to every Monday evening for the next 13 weeks.  I must say Isabella  was a great antidote to the preceding political interview.

The new historical series on TVE about Isabella the Catholic Queen I will be enjoying

On Tuesday I had lunch with 2 English girls, Sarah and Clare, both correspondents for Reuters in Spain.  We met at La Kitchen, a new place for me and believe it or not, they, or rather Reuters, paid for the lunch.  Clare is new, just 23 and was a student of Chinese studies at Oxford University before joining Reuters as a trainee this summer.  After her 3 month stint in London she was transferred to Madrid to cover events here.  I can imagine this clever and beautiful girl going far.  We discussed, among other things, just how “benign” Spanish journalists are to politicians, and so different to how the British press does their job.  

Tuesday of course was the anniversary of the 11th September attacks.  We spoke about that too and could hardly imagine that later that day there would be attacks on the US Embassy in Benghazi in Libya.  The Ambassador, Christoper Stevens, was killed in the fire along with 3 other Embassy staff and his dead body was dragged by protesters through the street.  The protest was apparently because of a film which has caused the Arab world offence, “The Innocence of Muslims” which mocks Islam and insults the Prophet Mohammed. So yes, more fuel to the fire of pent up frustration and anger from the fanatics of this part of the world similar to the Salman Rushdie episode and other similar ones we are all now familiar with.  I sometimes think that these fanatics just need the slightest excuse to act violently in this manner.  It is also very coincidental that the attacks started precisely on 11th September.  They were probably orchestrated by Al Qaeda. 

The US Ambassador killed at the Embassy in Libya this week.  His photo is the symbol of horrific fanaticism.

Unfortunately they have continued all week, setting fire and attacking US Embassies and even American fast food establishments and threatening British and German Embassies too in other areas of the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia.

It was on Tuesday that Olivia left for Valencia.  She was going to cover news for her TV programme and was accompanied by Miguel, her new boyfriend.  Miguel is a cameraman for Spanish TV (TVE) in Valencia and has the luck to work one week and then have the next week off.  These days, when he has his week off he either accompanies her to Madrid or if it coincides with her being in Valencia, then they spend the week together there.  So love definitely seems in the air and if Olivia is happy then of course I am happy for her too.

Miguel and Oli, enjoying their new love.

Miguel has introduced Olivia to a whole new world.  He has taken her on adventure trips with his friends where she has tried her hand at snorkeling but also paragliding.  I knew she had tried paragliding a few weeks ago and had no idea that she would be doing so again this week, until I saw this video she published yesterday on Facebook.  I was so amazed and stunned to see her up in the air and apparently enjoying herself thoroughly. 

My daughter Olivia paragliding in Valencia yesterday

I showed the video to my Father who was equally amazed but then went on to say, what was already in my thoughts: “but that’s a dangerous sport isn’t it?  It certainly is and it is also a sport I know I would never dare to try but that’s probably because I am double her age.  I wonder if I would have tried it out when I was 27?  Probably not as I have always been intimidated by heights.  What an adventurous girl Olivia is!

I’m not sure whether her sister Suzy would be willing to try it out either.  Her scene is rather different to Oli’s I think.  Suzy seems to be sewing her oats to make up for lost time since she broke up her rather staid housewifely like relationship with Gaby earlier this year.  She is now partying like mad, getting to know new people and last night saw her at the famous Majadahonda fiestas which she has been going to since about the age of 14.  You can probably see what I mean about “sewing the oats” in this picture posted of her yesterday on FB.

Suzy my older daughter having fun at the fiestas in Majadahonda yesterday night

I haven’t seen much of Suzy either this week, although she did come a few times and worked with me from home. She is very busy during the week and is getting a lot of career experience with Aramark, the American food services company she works for.  On that note, I just must publish this lovely photograph of her in the middle of her very first public presentation.  It was to the top management of the company in Barcelona, earlier this year. 

Suzy my older daughter, in a more serious mode, presenting earlier this year in her first public appearance with the company

Wednesday was a big day for Apple as it was launching the iPhone 5 amongst much expectation.  So much had already been written about it by the naïve press who cannot imagine the service they are doing for Apple when gushing about its products so, no wonder, Apple doesn’t need to do advertising campaigns.  Samsung were probably looking on with interest too, the great rival these days of the company from Cupertino. Funnily enough the recent Nokia launch of their new windows phone caused a lot less stir, showing just how the market has changed.  The two giants in the mobile phone world these days are Apple and Samsung and they are both embroiled in a patent war.  The iPhone caught the world’s attention of course but I think, at least for me, the result was a little disappointing.  I was hoping for greater and newer features and haven’t seen any that caught my attention.  Samsung meanwhile, very cleverly are poised to launch an advertising campaign to show the world that the Galaxy S3 is a better phone.  It’s called “You don’t have to be a genius” .  I wonder what you think.

Samsung out to get Apple in part of their ongoing war.

If today’s giants are Samsung and Apple, yesterday’s giants were Nokia and Motorola, the two companies I learned my trade at.  So I was stunned this week to hear that Motorola was closing down in Spain and in many other countries in Europe.  It was like part of me inside had died as I had spent 9 years of my life working for Motorola from 1990 to 1999 from when no one knew it to being the number one brand in the market and then to a slow decline after I left.  The news broke on Friday although I had already heard, but when I saw it in writing, it hit me to the core.  I thought of all the good times and of the wonderful people who had formed Motorola “cellular subscribers” as it was called then, and wrote a sort of obituary on Facebook which I shall translate into English here.  I wrote it from my heart.

“I am saddened by this news and surprised because Motorola seemed to have picked up and was back on its feet offering great smartphones which were becoming popular in the Spanish market.  I was the 4th employee to join Motorola Spain when it started in 1990.  Soon after, we launched the first “personal” phone, the MicroTac which weighed 400 grammes and cost the equivalent of 2.400 euros at the time.  There was only coverage in Madrid and Mallorca and I remember the King of Spain was one of our first customers when the very first delivery of 20 units arrived.  The MicroTac seemed magical to me.  Motorola is in my professional heart as it is the company I worked for for 9 years and where I learned much of what I know today about the sector and my speciality, communication. In the 90’s Motorola became the number one manufacturer in the world and everybody wanted “a Motorola” which became the synonym for a mobile phone in Spain. I have great memories of wonderful colleagues and products.  We were like a big family, some 20 people who are now scattered around all the big companies in the sector today. We still meet to remember those wonderful days with nostalgia.  My best memories are of my involvement with the cycling team which later was lead by the one and only Lance Armstrong.  Motorola will always be in my heart.  Goodbye, farewell and thanks for the privilege of working there.” 

Part of the Motorola Spain family (with our own families too in a cleaning exercise in La Pedriza) in the early 90's.  We were a happy bunch.

 Lots of my ex colleagues commented on this, and an online techy website, Movilonia, quoted me in an article they wrote later which you can read here.   All day my ex colleagues and I were posting comments and photos, one of which is of me in 1990 sitting at my desk in the Motorola offices in Majadahonda.  I was in my early 30’s then and enamoured with my job.  That is the photo illustrating this week’s blog. You see, as I explained to a journalist friend later that day, I gave my professional soul to Motorola and you only ever give your soul once and to one company and that was, in my case, to Motorola. You can see the other photos of the “MotorolaDays” here.

I have digressed slightly and missed out Thursday. So let me go back.  Thursday was my oldest and dearest friend, Amanda’s birthday.  I haven’t seen her since February and sorely miss her.  I hope you had a great day Amanda if you are reading this. 

Thursday was also the day I found out that Olivia’s lovely Indian friend, Sumit, had finished the screenwriting for his very first Bollywood film.  I was so impressed.  Oli met dear Sumit and Sandeep during her Erasmus year in Cornwall and they became our friends too.  I am very excited and proud for Sumit on this amazing achievement.  The film is called Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and you can see the official trailer here.  The picture below is the official poster.  I hope one day the film will have English subtitles and I will be able to watch it.  I understand from the site that it is a comedy about a quirky Punjabi family in pursuit of a secret recipe that will enable them to reclaim their pride & wealth!  Sounds a lot of fun. 

The official poster of "Sumit's film"

On Friday when I heard the news of Motorola closing down which meant so much to me, the world’s attention was about a nude princess.  Not so long ago you heard the story of a nude prince from the same Royal family, the British Royal family of course.  Well on Friday, a French magazine called Closer, printed photos of Kate Middleton topless when she was staying at a 19th century hunting lodge this month in southern France. 

The nude, or rather topless, princess

Soon afterwards the royal couple issued this statement: "Their Royal Highnesses have been hugely saddened to learn that a French publication and a photographer have invaded their privacy in such a grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner. The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to the duke and duchess for being so. Their Royal Highnesses had every expectation of privacy in the remote house. It is unthinkable that anyone should take such photographs, let alone publish them." And later we have heard that they will be suing the French publication.  I wonder what will happen afterwards.  I really think this is much ado about nothing but the prude English public doesn’t think the same and none of the British press published it this time, not even The Sun who had published the famous nude shots of her brother in law Prince Harry a few weeks ago.

On Friday too my latest book arrived from Amazon.  It was the long awaited Winter of the World, Ken Follett’s sequel to Fall of Giants and the second volume of his Century trilogy.  The trilogy aims to tell the entire history of the twentieth century seen through the eyes of five linked families from America, England, Germany, Russia and Wales.  I loved the Fall of Giants. Now I am half way through the Winter of the World.  My expectations were high but somehow it is not quite as entertaining as the first volume but I will plod on as it is still a great book. 

My latest book, Ken Follett's Winter of the World.

I spent most of yesterday reading it accompanied by Eladio by the swimming pool and enjoyed a quiet Saturday.  It was an important day for the Spanish Royal family, as yesterday it was Princess Letizia’s 40th birthday.  A photo shoot of her and her husband and children was published on that day.  The photos are lovely, yes, they all look beautiful but they are in sharp contrast to the lives of Spanish citizens, many of whom are out of work who probably didn’t appreciate the luxury emanating from these photographs, so slick and unreal.  I’m sure Princess Letizia will have been appalled by her counterpart’s fate in England and glad that she is not in her shoes.

Princess Letizia celebrated her 40th birthday yesterday

Feeling better as my cold wares off, Eladio and I went out to dinner on our own last night and remarked what lucky people we are.  I am always aware of this.  Dinner was great, gazpacho and steak (Dukan of course) and we got our favourite table at La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo where we seem to go for most of our romantic dinners lately.  That was a nice end to the week.  Today will be quiet too.  We won’t see Susana and Oli won’t be back until tonight.  Hopefully we can have a family lunch together tomorrow.

And that my friends, is the end of this week’s tales.  I hope you all have a great week.  Mine promises to be similar so I’m not complaining.

Cheers till next time.