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

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