Sunday, October 28, 2012

The dark age of cycling comes to light, site inspection in Madrid, the Poppy appeal, Nuba came to stay, Olivia a bride for one day, my film of the week, the clocks went back and other things.

Sunday 28th  October 2012

The dark age of cycling comes to light, site inspection in Madrid, the Poppy appeal, Nuba came to stay, Olivia a bride for one day, my film of the week, the clocks went back and other things.

On Friday Olivia was a bride for one day

Hi again this sunny but cold last Sunday in October.

I hope your week was good. Mine was much dominated with stories of cycling after the aftermath of the USADA report accusing Lance Armstrong of doping. This week I read David Walsh’s book From Lance to Landis where I read a lot about how he cheated his way to win the Tour of France and also discovered the stories of his team mates, many of whom I knew from the Motorola Cycling Days.  On Monday the UCI, also accused of corruption, acknowledged the findings of the USADA report when Pat McQuaid, its controversial head, said that Lance Armstrong had no place in cycling and thus finally stripped him of his 7 Tour de France wins. Not so long afterwards the Texan removed this description from his now very silent Twitter account.  

On Wednesday the Tour de France presented its 2013 edition which will celebrate its centenary but most of that event was clouded by the Armstrong scandal.  At the presentation, Alberto Contador, the Spanish cycling champion, also under suspicion, spoke out in favour of Lance, as did Miguel Indurain later, the 5 times winner of the Boucle.  When I hear cyclists like them supporting Lance Armstrong when the evidence is there that he cheated, it makes me think they don’t want to acknowledge the truth as they themselves may well be tainted in the process. Meanwhile the British team Sky, in an attempt to clean up the sport, announced they would ask all the team members, including the staff, if they had been involved in doping and if they had they would have to leave the team but would be paid “umbrella money”.  If they didn’t own up and it was later found out that they had been involved in doping, they would then not be paid.  Bradley Wiggins is the Sky Team’s leader and the first Brit to win the Tour and it is widely acknowledged he did so in a clean way.  The manager David Brailsford is on a mission to clean the sport and his starting point is the Sky Team.  On Thursday another ex Motorola rider, BobbyJulich, Sky’s race coach, admitted to doping and quit the team.  That left me thinking about Sean Yates, Sky’s Senior Sports Director, an ex British cyclist who had also formed part of the Motorola Cycling Team and was very much Lance’s mentor at the beginning.  Sean was a domestique but he did once wear the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France in 1994, even if only for one day.  I was at that Tour de France and was given a wonderful signed photograph of Sean with the yellow jersey and Lance with the rainbow jersey for having won the 1993 road racing world championship just ahead of Miguel Indurain.  He was just 21 at the time, very brash but quite a nice kid.  I could never imagine when I was given that photograph what would happen 20 years later

Sean Yates and Lance Armstrong at the 1994 Tour de France.  I have a signed copy of this photograph

The photograph was taken by Graham Watson, the best professional photographer in the trade who I am sure must be even more shocked than I am at this week’s news.  I looked at his Twitter account and his only tweet recently was “ouch”.  Many other people I knew through my experience with the team seem to have remained pretty silent this week but I’m sure they must be as shocked as I.  I refer to people like Paul Sherwen (ex PR Manager for the Motorola cycling team and now a TV commentator and very close to Lance) or Rupert Guinness, the Australian cycling journalist.  Others like Johan Bruyneel will probably be silent as they are equally guilty as Lance Armstrong.

And finally today I read that Sean Yates also quitted the Sky Team after admitting that he too had been involved in doping.  So wow another Motorola cycling team member admitted to doping.  I wonder if anyone of them road clean.  I was confused to read just a few hours later on The BBC website that he had left because he wanted to retire and not because of having doped.  I wonder what the truth really is or if you can ever know the real truth in this sport.

Meanwhile on Friday the UCI announced that Lance Armstrong’s 7 Tours would not be allocatedto anyone, leaving the years from 1999 to 2005 blank.  They said they decided not to upgrade any other competitors, due to the widespread doping in the peloton at the time.  Those years are now considered the dark age of cycling which this week has finally come to light.  I am still in shock and so disappointed at the sport I always loved and became so involved in thanks to my job with Motorola in the 90’s. I can only hope that David Brailsford’s mission is a success but I have my doubts.  Let’s see how many more cyclists come clean in the following weeks.  My mind strays constantly to Miguel Indurain the Spanish cycling legend but also to what must be going on in Lance Armstrong’s head and whether he has any regrets.  But only he will know and for the moment he is silent although, knowing him, probably raging inside.

Lance Armstrong's 7 Tours are now blank years

My week wasn’t only about cycling. Monday saw me in the office for an interview with my new boss by the top financial daily in Spain Expansión.  I have yet to see the article which will probably come out tomorrow Monday.

Tuesday saw me in Madrid.  I went into town to site inspect venues for the Yoigo Christmas activities. I was accompanied by Bea, Gloria and Miguel from my events agency QuintaEsencia.  We met at the Costume Museum first on a glorious sunny day where we had a coffee and planned the morning’s visits.  I had been there before but knew before we left we wouldn’t be considering it for our Christmas party.  Our next venue was the sky scraper building Torre Espacio.  We took the lift in this very security conscious building to the top floor, number 42 from where you have great views of Madrid.  It is nowhere near as tall as any big American sky scrapers but is one of the tallest buildings Madrid has to offer.  I felt rather shut in as I often do in tall buildings, but could not help but admire the view outside. 

On the top floor of Torre Espacio on Tuesday with Bea and Gloria

Again I knew I didn’t want this venue for our Christmas party.  I was looking for something much more special or unique.

Our next stop was the new Spanish college of architects’ headquarters, the COAM, a modern building in the heart of Madrid.  It was very suitable for the party so we haven’t ruled it out yet. 
Then we went to a brand new location in Madrid, the swish new Isabela gourmet market in Paseo de la Habana, not far from the Bernabeu Stadium.  This place is really something special and has risen to the top of the list of possibilities for the final choice.

Our last stop of the morning was at the very fashionable and up market restaurant called Ten con Ten, another possible location for our party and where we were also going to have lunch.  I fell in love with the place but soon realised it was rather too small.  Later we learned they wouldn’t hire it out so it came off our list.  However it was a great discovery.  It’s the place where many of Madrid’s “beautiful people” come and as I Iooked at the posh and well dressed people eating here I wasn’t sure I really felt at home.

Afterwards we went to have a cup of coffee at another fashionable location, with a view for using it at an up and coming press event I have to organize.  I was intrigued to hear it was called “Whitby”, after the seaside town in North Yorkshire I so love but was disappointed to see no resemblance or relationship with its English counterpart, other than the name.

The next topic in this week’s headline is the Poppy Appeal.  You will wonder why I am including that.  Well I was inspired by our visit to the sky scraper Torre Espacio which happens to house the British Embassy in Madrid and here at the reception desk on the ground floor I saw they were selling the English poppies.  I have only ever bought one in England so was delighted to see them on Tuesday morning.

A Remembrance Poppy

Poppy Day, or the Poppy appeal is probably England’s most famous charity appeal.  The paper poppies people buy and wear in October and November are in remembrance of the Armistice on 11th November after the First World War and proceeds go to the Armed Forces in general.  I looked up why the red flower is a symbol and learned that it comes from the poem “In Flanders Field” by the Canadian  Lieutenant Colonel and physician John McCrae.

In Flanders Field, the poem the poppy day is inspired by

The poppies of course grew on the battlefields of Flanders, Belgium, where so many soldiers were killed.  So, on Tuesday I proudly made my donation and bought a poppy for myself and for my Father.  My friends, Bea, Gloria and Miguel loyally bought one two as I explained their origin.

Wearing my poppy at Ten con Ten on Tuesday

When I came home and gave the poppy to my Father, I was greeted not only by our two dogs Norah and Elsa, but by Nuba, José Antonio and Dolores’ mongrel of terrier descent.  They have gone away to a spa in Castellón with family and friends for 11 days, so Nuba came to stay.  So now we have three dogs in the house.  Nuba is much better behaved than our dogs but they do get on thankfully. 

Eladio with the three dogs

They are a bit of a handful on the walk as you can imagine, however they look forward to it enormously.  Feeding them in the morning is also a problem so we have to separate them.  As they sleep outside in the cold, they generally end up sleeping most of the morning in the kitchen.  Here is a great photo of them asleep (each on separate blankets) while I work peacefully from the kitchen table one morning this week.

Working at the kitchen table with the three dogs asleep at my feet

On a totally different topic, on Wednesday I was astonished to hear on the news that the famous London landmark, the Admiralty Arch between The Mall and Trafalgar Square, was to be sold for a 90 year lease to a Spanish developer Rafael Serrano.  This rich Spaniard will be turning the landmark built in 1912 by King Edward VII in memory of his Mother, Queen Victoria into a luxury hotel.  I wonder how many crisis struck Spaniards could even dream of staying there.  The selling price was some 60 million pounds.  Apparently it costs the British Government 1 million pounds a year to keep up this decaying building, so they will now make a profit over the next 90 years.  I wonder if Edward VII is turning in his grave at the news.

The London landmark Admiralty Arch has been bought by a Spanish developer who will turn it into a luxury hotel

On Wednesday evening Eladio and I enjoyed another episode of Gran Hotel.  I was thus interested to read later that the series, dubbed “The Spanish Downtown Abbey” will be shown on TV in the UK later this year.  I read this on The Daily Telegraph’s online site. I then looked at some of the comments and was upset to see a reader comment: “A show about a Spanish hotel? Will they have finished building it yet?”.  I thought the comment was not only disparaging but also prejudiced but then again that is the image Spain sometimes has abroad and which it has often brought upon itself.  In any case I hope English viewers enjoy the series which is very well done.  However I suspect they will not be too happy with the script writing which I think is not a patch on script writing of English series. 

A scene from the Spanish Downtown Abbey, Gran Hotel which will be shown on English TV soon

I have now come to the item in this week’s blog post referring to Olivia being a bride for one day.  You will have seen the picture of her dressed as a bride above and I bet you are wondering what this all about and whether she got married.  No, no, it wasn’t that, not yet at least.  On Friday she was asked to report on a wedding exhibition taking place in Madrid.  She decided to do the live report dressed in one of the gowns being exhibited and of course looked stunning.  She commented later that all the dresses were tiny, being model sizes and could only find one that fitted.  Olivia is quite thin so that does say something about models’ sizes at fashion shows, I must say.

Olivia reporting live from the bridal exhibition in Madrid on Friday.

She had no time to warn us of her TV appearance but Suzy actually saw her live.  I was able to see her later on internet and here is the link for you to see her too, if you fast forward to 12.51h. 
That day we all had lunch together and it turned out to be the only day of the week we did.  When José Antonio came to bring Nuba to stay on Tuesday he brought us some special chick peas and we had them for lunch on Friday. Ivanka cooked this magnificent stew made with chick peas, vegetables, chorizo and stock, a lovely winter dish for such a cold day.

The chickpeas we had on Friday

On Friday too, Eladio and I went out to dinner, after our energetic walk with the three dogs.  Our choice this Friday was Síbara, a place introduced to me by Juana and where we had been recently with Roberto and Mari Carmen. The best thing on the menu there, at least for me, are their pseudo fish and chips, the nearest you can get in this area to the real thing.

Fish and chips at Síbara on Friday night

Saturday was a quiet day.  We were joined by Oli for lunch and went for our walk in the afternoon, once again with the three dogs.  In the evening we decided to go the cinema as we wanted to see the new film Argo and Oli did too.  It was well worth it and one of the best films I have seen in a long time.  Directed by Ben Affleck who is also the main character, the story is true and amazing and is about the rescue of the 6 American Embassy staff who escaped just as the Embassy was taken hostage by Iranian students in 1979.  I remember the case as we more or less watched it live as it developed.  Jimmy Carter had just come to power, the Sha of Persia had fled Iran and taken exile in the USA where he was being treated for cancer and the famous Ayotallah Homeini returned from his own exile in Paris to Teheran to carry out the revolution of the time when fundamentalism returned to the country.  It was because the USA had given refuge to the Sha, that the furious students stormed the Embassy.  But what I did not know about at the time was that 6 of the staff had managed to escape and hide in the residence of the Canadian Embassy.  The story of their rescue was portrayed in the film last night, certainly my film of the week.  You can see the official trailer here.

Argo, my film of the week

We wanted to have dinner at Ginos with Olivia after the film, but despite the crisis, every restaurant in the leisure centre seemed to be choc a block.  In the end Olivia left us to go to a birthday party in Madrid and Eladio and I drove into Majadahonda and had dinner at Hollywood.  It was also pretty crowded and loud.  I noticed many places over decorated with the up and coming Halloween theme, something I can never relate to, not having been brought up on the tradition.  The girls, though, have and will be enjoying their Halloween party next week, on Wednesday, the last day of October.  The next day, 1st November will be a holiday and they will be able to sleep off any excesses and hopefully we all have lunch again together that day.  So, no, there will be no “trick or treating” in this house next week.

And of course last night, after coming back from the film and dinner, we came back to an extra hour of sleep.  That is because the clocks went back an hour last night, officially ending summer time.  It always takes some getting used to.  The upside is that it will lighter when we get up in the morning and the downside is that it will be darker when we go on our walk in the afternoon. 

The clocks went back last night

Thank goodness that the clocks in our mobile phones and pcs go back automatically, not so though all our watches and clocks which always have to be put back manually.  

By next week we will have forgotten the time change and get on with life as normal.  I don’t have anything particular to look forward to next week but trust that the week will be good.  I trust that it will be good for you too.

Cheers then till next week my friends.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fearless Felix, Olivia reporting for TVE in Galicia, an interview of my memories of the Motorola Cycling Team, Yoigo best mobile operator of 2012 and other things.

Sunday 21st October 2012

Fearless Felix, Olivia reporting for TVE in  Galicia, an interview of my memories of the Motorola Cycling Team, Yoigo best mobile operator of 2012 and other things.

Proud to receive the prize of best mobile phone operator 2012 for Yoigo with my colleague María Luisa

Hi everyone

How was your week?  Mine was at times quiet and at others rather hectic and stressful what with it being financial third quarterly results week for Yoigo.  

My week, however, has been nothing compared to 43 year old Austrian Felix Baumgartner’s I’m sure.  By now he has become a worldwide household name after his amazing supersonic jump last Sunday where he broke three world  records during his descent from a balloon 24 miles above earth.  He apparently hit Mach 1.24 or nearly 850 miles per hour.  He had to wear an amazing space suit and jump from a spacecraft with the whole world looking on, including his tearful mother.  The descent lasted 9 minutes.  Imagine.  The whole project was financed by Red Bull, the drink teenagers take to keep awake during exams or whilst clubbing.  I heard it took 5 years to achieve and cost some 50 million dollars.  I just wonder whether Red Bull will see any return on investment in sales.  It seems a silly thing to finance to me and that the money could have been put to better use.  Fearless Felix, as the Austrian is now known, will surely not agree with me.  Whatever the case, the man and the project had the whole world looking on in amazement, myself included.

Fearless Felix when he landed in New Mexico

Oli’s week must have been stressful and hectic too as she was reporting live nearly every day from Galicia this week.  Her boyfriend Miguel joined her for a busman’s holiday and accompanied her everywhere.  Monday saw her reporting on an English teacher giving free lessons to unemployed Spaniards in Santiago de Compostela which you can see here (fast foreward to 11.42h).

Oli reporting live on TVE1 on Monday about free English lessons for the unemployed in Santiago

And on Tuesday she reported on the big court case concerning the Prestige tanker which spilled oil on the coast of Galicia now some ten years ago (see the report here  if you go to 13.50h). Olivia is at her best reporting on court cases and I have always thought she would have made just as good a lawyer as a journalist.

Olivia reporting live on the Prestige tanker court case in La Coruña on Tuesday

Later she posted a photo on Facebook of her and a group of journalists trying to record declarations from Gaspar Llamazares, the head of the left wing party I.U. who are involved in the case as one of the accusers of what they say was bad practice of the government at the time.  I loved her Indian friend Sumit’s comment on the photo which I share with you here: “Reporting is like boxing... the longer your arm reach... the better you are at your job! Well done for crushing the lady in white Oli!”.

Oli trying to get her arm in with other journalists outside the court in La Coruña

On Thursday she reported on a very sad case, the mysterious death of an 11 month old baby in Pontevedra which you can see here (12.40h).   Later on Friday she did another story on the case and interviewed the Father live.  She spoke to both parents and told us how difficult it was for them to agree to do the interview.  Of course it would have been.  What an awful story.

She had some fun moments too, like this one where she reverses her role with her cameraman in this picture by the coast.  They were going to be reporting on the weather but had technical problems or rather the satellite TV van didn’t arrive on time for the report, which annoyed Olivia intensely.

Oli having fun on the job reversing roles with her cameraman

There was also time for some tourism with her boyfriend Miguel.  The photo below is of the famous Hercules Tower in La Coruña apparently the oldest lighthouse in the world. 

Free time for Oli in Galicia.  With her boyfriend Miguel and the Hercules Tower light house in the background (La Coruña)

Whilst Olivia was away, we had the pleasure of the company of Susana quite a few days of the week when she worked with me by my desk, often staying for lunch with us.  We even went clothes shopping one evening.  She is a little frustrated with her job which although interesting is extremely badly paid and is talking of moving to England. So this week has found me scouring the internet for food related jobs in the UK of which it seems there are plenty. One of them was for Nestlé in York where the old Rowntrees factory is.  I thought how funny it would be if she ended up working in Yorkshire, sort of reversing what I did, moving from Yorkshire to Spain for my own career.  

On Tuesday I discussed the difficult job market for young people with Susana and Juan who work for the PR consultancy, Llorente y Cuenca and who used to head up the Yoigo PR account for me when I first started with the company.  For lunch we went to a great Asturian restaurant called Esbardos where Juan and I shared a delicious “fabada”.

Wednesday was the results day and TeliaSonera, our mother company, announced the Q3 financials where, unsurprisingly Yoigo had done really well.  I am proud to tell you we have now reached 3.5 million customers in just under 6 years.  This meant a lot of work in the morning preparing the external and internal release but also putting on a staff briefing which we call Yoigo Mornings.  It was the first without our charismatic Swedish CEO Johan and you know what, it went fantastically well. 

On Wednesday too I was tickled pink to read an interview with me about my experience with the Motorola Cycling Team in the 90’s.  You can read it here too, if you know Spanish.  Gustavo had interviewed me and written it for a very popular cycling blog called El Tío del Mazo.  It came out in the throes of the news of the evidence published by the USADA on Lance Armstrong’s doping his way through 7 Tours of France.  This subject has been on my mind most of last week and this week too because of my interest in the matter and of course because I knew the Texan personally.  I read somewhere “We're talking about millions of fans being deceived and tens of millions of dollars being fraudulently earned by Armstrong”.  Yes he was a cheat, there is no doubt about it and a bully too.

This week too I read the book by his former team mate Tyler Hamilton, “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs” and my mind is still boggling with all the undercover doping that most of the peloton seem to have been involved in. On Monday the UCI who come out nearly as badly as Armstrong does in the USADA report, will finally give their opinion.  I just wonder what they will do about the 7 titles. If they strip him of them, will he have to give the money back and who will they be given to which could be quite a problem as most of the runner ups are tainted with similar accusations?  All I can say, as I did in the interview, is that I sincerely hope that this issue finally serves to clean up a sport so tainted but one that I am passionate about.

Tyler Hamilton's book reveals nearly all about Armstrong's doping

The interview with me was called “The Motorola Cyling Team, a story about pedals and mobile phones”.  I sent the link to some of my cycling friends and contacts, including the Spanish Tour of France winner Pedro Delgado.  He thanked me for mentioning him in the interview but also commented: “cycling and mobile phones, what a nice mixture”.  In a way he summed up my involvement in the sport; always related to mobile phones.

I remembered his comment when I attended the prize giving dinner organized by the online publication ADSL Zone on Thursday night which took place at the Hotel Eurostars Madrid.  Here the whole sector got together including people from Motorola, the sad thing being that Motorola Spain will be closing down in December.

It was at this dinner that I was proud to represent Yoigo and receive the award for best mobile phone operator 2012.  It was rather fitting to receive it the same week as the good results published by TeliaSonera although there are rumours they want to sell the company. The photo illustrating this entry above is of me receiving the prize with my colleague Maria Luisa.

I sat at the table for the sector journalists and communications directors and we had a ball of an evening.  We suddenly realised that all 4 communications directors for the 4 big mobile phone network operators (Vodafone, Yoigo, Telefonica and Orange) were present at the same table so jumped at the chance of a photo.  We may be huge rivals but Juan Carlos, Pepe, Fernando and myself are first and foremost colleagues. We were all delighted when Pepe got the prize of best communications directors as he is so popular.  Well done Pepe.  Of course I would have loved to win the prize but you deserve it more than any of us.

With my counterparts from the competition who do the same job as me (communications directors).  From left to right, Pepe from Vodafone, me from Yoigo, Juan Carlos from Telefónica and Fernando from Orange - at the ADSL Zone prize giving dinner.

So yes you see the week was busy.  But finally Friday came and I was able to relax.  Oli came back from Galicia with Miguel but they arrived just as we were leaving.  We had a dinner date with José Antonio and Dolores in Madrid.  They had booked a table near where they live at a Restaurant that serves food from the Santander area called “Cañadio”.  I must say my fish, sort of fish and chips without the latter was superb. It was great to catch up on their news and I just wish we saw them more often.

That was our only excursion this weekend.  The rest of it has been spent at home this cloudy and cool weekend in October.  Yesterday, Saturday, was a family lunch, the first for quite a while.  Today Sunday has been pretty routine, reading the papers, cooking lunch, a siesta, etc.  Later we will go for our walk with the dogs and watch television, a great interview programme called “Salvados” where the journalist, Jordi Evoli, corners politicians better than anyone.  We will also watch the results of the local elections in Galicia and the Basque Country, a sort of battle between the right wing (PP) and left wing (PSOE) parties and for which Spain’s head of Government, Rajoy was waiting to be over before deciding on a bail out from Europe; very important you see.

And that my friends, is the end of this week’s events and activities.  Thus I will leave you here wishing you a great week ahead.

All the best, Masha.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My novel of the week, Jimmy the creep, a courageous girl, Oli reporting on the Red Cross day, a Chinese writer, the truth about Lance Armstrong, a funny peace prize, a national holiday and family lunches and the film about the Spanish family that survived the Tsunami.

Sunday 14th October 2012

Cooking for a family lunch on Saturday
Hi again everyone,

I hope your week has been good.  Mine has been fine and quite uneventful but there has been lots of news that meant a lot to me and I will comment on in this week’s post. 

On Monday my latest book arrived from Amazon, my novel of the week, “The Casual Vacancy”, JK Rowling’s first novel for adults after the Harry Potter saga.  I was interested to know what it was all about, having read that this so called “big novel about a small town” was set in the fictional town of “Pugford” on the border of Wales but is actually inspired by her own home town, Tutshill which she is supposed to despise and includes her experiences at the local comprehensive, a nightmare of a place.

JK Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy, my novel of the week

The central plot is a battle for the vacancy left on the parish council following a councillor’s death. Here everyone is at war in a small town way over local politics.  In a way it is a criticism of prejudices and hang-ups as well as the terrible snobbery of the middle class. It sounds boring and has been criticized as such by some media but I suspect they haven’t read the book till the end.  Some of it is uphill, but as you get to the end you are riveted by the doings and dealings of her characters, nearly all of whom she most obviously hates.  No wonder the people of Tutshill have protested.  One villager is quoted as saying: ‘I suppose she’s got a bit of a chip on her shoulder. This has always been a happy area.’

Tutshill where J.K. Rowling is from and the town that inspired her new book

Without giving the story away, I must say she has some great lines which have you in stitches, some very explicit sex descriptions and an awful lot of bad language.  I haven’t counted but I think the four letter word beginning with “f” must be the most repeated word in the book.  However the novel, a sort of tragic comedy, with a lot of realism is actually damned good.  I finished it yesterday afternoon and have found myself thinking about it ever since and am sort of missing the nasty or unfortunate characters and hoping that there will be a sequel.  This is not Harry Potter but it’s good stuff and a great read.

This week much of the UK news was peppered with stories about Jimmy Saville, an icon of British TV who first became famous in the 70’s with the TV ads to get people to wear seatbelts.  I always remember his famous phrase “clunk click every trip” but today that is tinged with disgust.  I always thought this man was a bit of a creep.  I mean you just have to look at some of his photos, like the one below, to realize he was not exactly “normal”.  

Jimmy Saville, the creep for me

He went on to present his own charity show called “Jim ‘ll fix it”, supposedly bringing ill and underprivileged children’s dreams come true.  He died last year in his 80’s and now one year after his death, people have come forward claiming he sexually abused them when they were children and used the programme to do so.  These people were often underage boys and girls, some as young as 10.  They have done so after a documentary about the paedophile side of this ghastly man by the ITV. The BBC apparently knew, or it was common knowledge that his predatory behavior went on but they turned a blind eye. The BBC has a lot to answer for in this case, perhaps more so than Jimmy the creep for whom, unfortunately, it comes too late.  

Straight after the news of this awful man, comes the news on Tuesday of a very courageous young girl, Malala, aged 14, from the Swat valley, once called the Switzerland of Pakistan.  She stood up to the Taliban subjugation of women where she lived and had become well known for promoting the education of girls and denouncing the atrocities of who can only be known as thugs..  For this she nearly died on Tuesday when angry Taliban men boarded her crowded school bus and shot her with a near fatal bullet close to her brain.  But Malala has not died and is out of danger for the moment, although the Taliban have sworn they will try to kill her again. Meanwhile she has become an icon in Pakistan where people are outraged and are protesting, something the authorities and people have never really dared to do for fear of the revenge of these thugs.  Malala’s was one of the few voices to take them on, perhaps now there will be more.  I hope so.

Malala the courageous Pakistani girl

Wednesday was Red Cross day, at least in Spain and is known as the Red Flag day.  Oli was to be reporting on the members of the Spanish Royal family’s participation as patrons of this wonderful organization.  She and her TV team were present where the Princess Letizia was presiding over one of the tables where people queued up to donate in exchange for the famous Red Cross flag sticker, in the centre of Madrid.  In other places nearby the Queen and her daughter were also presiding over Red Cross tables but of course it is Letizia who is more newsworthy. 

Oli reporting on the Red Cross flag day

Here you can watch Oli’ s reports if you fast forward to 12.07 and 12.46.  She was unlucky to just miss the arrival of the Crown Prince who made an appearance at all three tables a few minutes after her live reporting.  It was the second time Olivia was to report on the Royal Family and I was proud to watch her do so.

On Thursday we had the pleasure of the company of Susana for lunch, upon her return first from Santa Pola and then from Barcelona where she had given a training course to new colleagues from her company Aramark.  It was the first family lunch for a long time and it was good to get Suzy’s news.

On Thursday too most of the world heard of a Chinese author, Mo Yan, for the first time ever as he was given this year’s Nobel Literature prize.  It was also the first time, I think, that a Nobel prize has been awarded to a writer embraced by a communist regime.  The Chinese government is delighted, just as it was reviled by the award of the 2010 peace prize to dissident Liu Xiaobo. I wonder if this is politics to appease the Chinese.

Mo Yan the Chinese writer and this year's Nobel Literature Laureate

I know nothing more about Mo Yan but have read he is the Chinese equivalent of Franz Kafka, so I will probably not be reading his books, preferring the likes of JK Rowling or Ken Follett and other less high brow writers.

On the same day the literature laureate was announced, a bomb shell exploded in the sports world. Finally the truth came out about the lies and doping of Lance Armstrong who I now know for sure cheated his way through 7 Tours of France.  For on Thursday the USADA published a 1000 page report and denounced what they called "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".  You can read the full report here.  I waded through some of it yesterday and read many of his team mates testimonies, some of whom I knew such as George Hincapie, Kevin Livingstone and Frankie Andreu when they rode for Motorola. At that time I don’t think they did take drugs.  I read later that it all started at the Milan San Remo in 1995 (I was there at the time) and that Lance was furious they had done so badly so commented to one of his team mates it was time to start on EPO.  How sad.

Me with Johnny Weltz and Frankie Andreu, Lance's best friend at the Tour of Spain in 1996

I never saw anything, but of ourse it would have been  hidden from me. This was cloak and dagger stuff. The report makes amazing reading and presents overwhelming evidence against the famous Texan who since its publication has remained practically silent on his usually very active Twitter account.  Up till now it seems he did everything he could from bullying to threatening to lawsuits to silence those few who tried to tell the truth, but he cannot stop them all, including Tyler Hamilton.  The latter, a former team mate, has just published a book called “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping,Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs”.  I ordered it this morning on and look forward to reading it this week.  I always remember seeing Lance at the Tour of Spain when he had just recovered from cancer.  Knowing his aggressive character I had heard that the illness had changed him for the better.  So I asked Frankie Andreu if this was true.  He answered me: “oh no, he’s still the same old son of a bitch”.  And he was because he bullied his team mates and made them drug their bodies too whether they wanted to or not. It is common knowledge, despite the code of silence in the cycling world that is now gradually being broken, that his generation of cyclists doped to perform to an extraordinary extent but he was the greatest of them all and has now sullied that sport for ever.   I wonder how long it will take until he is stripped of his 7 Tours of France.  If that hasn’t happened yet, it is partly due to the cycling ruling body, the UCI, who do not come out well in the USADA report either and look like they also have a role in covering up Lance’s story, in the same way as his and his team’s doping doctors, such as Pedro Celaya (I remember him as the Motorola team doctor; he spoke with a fast Basque accent I could hardly understand) or masseurs such as Freddy Viaene (the nice friendly Belgian soigneur who used to make bacon sandwiches with mustard which I hated for me at some of the races) or team coach where the spotlight is also on Johan Bruyneel, a very shady character in the cycling world who I remember once shouting at me when he rode for the ONCE team asking where the phone I had promised him was.  Since the report has been published he has been fired as coach of his current team but even covers that up too by saying on his Twitter that he has resigned.  For me these people are just as much to blame as Lance.  However it isn’t just Lance and his team mates who have taken dope.  This is a practice that has gone on always and probably explains the code of silence from many top and ex cyclists today.  How can they condone Lance Armstrong when they themselves are not free of guilt? And if his titles are to be stripped, maybe theirs will too.  And where would the investigation start, with Eddie Merck or Tom Simpson who died in the Tour of France on Mt. Ventoux because of doping in 1959?  The only hope here is that the Armstrong doping issue will clean up the sport forever.

Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel both equally guilty of doping in cycling.

Friday was a national holiday and brought with it a three day weekend.  It was the day of celebrations for Hispanic nations and also the day of the Spanish saint, Pilar.  It was also the day the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded.  I was astonished to see that this year’s prize went to the European Union, far too big an entity I thought and just as ridiculous as the prize to Barack Obama.  It sort of under minded the importance.  I understand that the European Union was awarded the prize for its role in uniting the continent over the last six decades but it comes at a time when the Union is at its weakest, embroiled in the Euro crisis and found it surprising that it came from a nation, Norway, which has always refused to join.  It came also during the week the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited Greece where she was greeted by protesters with Nazi salutes, not exactly a peaceful event!  Maybe though it will serve to strengthen the Union, but I for one could have thought of more deserved peace prize winners, such as Vicente Ferrer for his outstanding service to the poor people of India. 

That night we discussed the peace prize and the euro crisis and unemployment in Spain with our friends Roberto and Mari Carmen over dinner.  We went to Síbara which serves great fish and chips and came up to speed on the lives of our friends whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. As we left the restaurant, Eladio and I commented on just how civilized their relationship is given that they are now divorced.

On Saturday we had another family lunch and Juli came too.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of me cooking in the kitchen. Notice the pc with FB on the screen, the maps on the wall which are an inspiration for travelling, as well as Elsa at the door wanting to come in for the umpteenth time.  For the record I made Russian pelmeni with sour cream sauce (Smetana), roast chicken with vegetables cooked in honey and mushroom risotto.  After lunch it was sunny and Suzy was going to sunbathe but Eladio had decided that yesterday was the day to cover the swimming pool.  So we made a joint effort of putting on the cover and were all a little sad to see this as a symbol of the end to summer.

That night the girls were to celebrate Anita’s birthday as they had done Dave’s the night before.  They call their group of friends, “la manada” or the herd and here you have a photo of them on Friday night with part of the “manada.

The girls (in stripes Suzy left and Oli right) with part of the "manada" celebrating Dave's birthday

Whilst they were preparing for the birthday do, Eladio and I had a date at the cinema.  I had bought tickets to see the new film, The Impossible.  It is a Spanish made film but shot in English and stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor and is about the 2004 Tsunami in South East Asia.  The story is based on the experiences of a Spanish family, Maria Belón and Enrique Alvarez and their three young boys who amazingly survived the tragedy.

Members of the Spanish family with the cast who starred in the film The Impossible  based on the family's tale of survival of the 2004 tsunami in South East Asia.
 Eladio called the film the wave, and in a way he’s right because the replica on screen of the “wave” or tsunami was the most important moment of the film.  I think they used 12 million litres of water at the film studios in Alicante to make it.  The film was beautifully made and had me crying at all the right points and also left me wanting to know more about how this, up till now anonymous Spanish family, coped with returning to normal life after their awful and incredible experience.  It also made me understand what it must have been like to live through the Tsunami and just how terrifying and devastating it was.  Well done Juan Antonio Bayona for making this great film.

The Impossible a great film

Afterwards we went to Ginos for dinner and an ice cream at Hagan Dazs for “pudding” which had me feeling guilty.  Luckily I slept well afterwards.  

Today Sunday is a cool Autumn day with rain threatening any time.  Olivia will be leaving very soon for Galicia from where she will be reporting this week.  After publishing this week’s entry, we shall probably read a bit in the lounge – how different from reading outside in the sun – and then go for our daily walk.  You know us, creatures of habit, usually. 

And the week ahead will be busy and I hope a good one.  

Meanwhile I wish you all the best and sorry for too much international news and not much about home, but as you see it’s been very quiet here and there is not much to tell. 

Cheers for now