Monday, December 03, 2012

Robberies where we live, Oli reporting in Valencia, a funeral and a goodbye party, a woman and a phone, off to Brussels, Yoigo is six, a reunion dinner and other stories.

The picture, a woman and a phone.  I like it now.
 Hi everyone,

Well it’s been two weeks since I last wrote.  Sorry if you missed my post last Sunday but I was in Brussels and just didn’t have the heart to spend any of my precious time there writing my blog.  So, here is a bumper edition.  

I shall start this post then from Monday 19th November.  We woke up to news in the papers about robberies in the area we live; multiple robberies carried out by Albanian Kosovar immigrants who are known for their violence.

You can read the news in El País about the robberies here.  That very day Eladio decided to reinforce our alarm system and now we have the most up to date alarm you can imagine with cameras in most of the rooms.  The great thing is that you can manage it and switch it on and off from your mobile phone. So far, so good, just let’s hope we are not a target.  Eladio is delighted with what I call his new toy.  

On Monday too, Oufa, our new and delightful Moroccan living in home help, rang to say she couldn’t come back from her day off as she had fallen ill and was at the Emergency Ward at the hospital.  So she sent her older sister Achouak to cover for her while she was ill.  Achouak is a few years older and seemingly more religious.  She arrived with a veil and prayer mat.  What she didn’t tell us was that it was the first time she would be separated from her 4 month old baby boy which would prove a problem as she is still breastfeeding him.  When we found out a couple of days later, we sent her home to take care of her baby.  I was interested to see that although Ramadan is over, she was fasting now as during her pregnancy she couldn’t.  I already knew but witnessed firsthand that she could only eat when the sun set and just before it rose; thus she would get up at 5 in the morning to eat.  During the day she could not eat or drink and mentioned that she got very thirsty.  She kept going off to pray so I asked her to pray for us, I mean to make use of the time!  Luckily Oufa was better soon and came back the following Monday and the house is well looked after, as is my Father.

Meanwhile Olivia was in Valencia where she was to be all week and working again with her boyfriend Miguel.  Monday saw her in Tarragona reporting on devastation there because of storms. She did not warn us so we didn’t see it nor have any pictures to show.  I don’t think she knows quite how much, her appearances on television brighten up our day and I wish she would be more proactive in telling us.

On Monday night I had bad news.  A former colleague Carlos rang to tell me that his ex boss at Nokia, Juan Carlos, had lost his 19 year old son of the same name after he was run over in the street when crossing the road near his home.  I was very fond of Juan Carlos and was shocked and upset.  Being a Mother I can only imagine how terrible it must be to lose a child.  I sent him a message to which he replied and I was to see him the next day at the very sad funeral.

Tuesday was 20th November and the anniversary of the death of Franco.  I can’t tell you how much Spain has changed since his dictatorship and I know because I started coming to Spain with my parents towards the end of his life. 

On Tuesday I went into the office for the weekly management team meeting and there were cakes on the table.  I commented that I hoped they were not in honour of the Spanish dictator.  While I was at the office I missed Oli on the television reporting on a very sad case, the death of Vicente Guarner from the small town of Benigámin, who was violently robbed in his jeweler shop a few weeks ago. Olivia had reported on the robbery and met the whole family including Vicente who she immediately liked, a jovial man in his early 60’s.  So when she heard the news of his death, probably caused by the vicious attack, she went to cover the story but decided to talk about it outside the funeral parlour before going into to greet the grieving family.  She said if she had done it the other way round she would probably have broken down and cried live on the television.  You can see the clip here if you fast forward to 13.49h.

Olivia with the Guarner family on 8 Nov. She was sad to report on Vicente's death (the man in pink) two weeks later.
Tuesday was a sad day in many ways.  In the evening I went to the funeral of Juan Carlos’ son. The church was absolutely packed with friends and family and many of his colleagues including José Antonio M, Emilio E, Carlos LA, Luis R, Oscar C, Barbara U and myself of course.  His loss is enormous, something he and his family will never get over, just as my Father will never get over the loss of his brother and sister.  I have my own losses too, Mummy, George, Aunty Gloria and her family, Aunty Masha and then my dear sister-in-law Sanya.  So I could understand some of Juan Carlos’ pain.

After the funeral I went to a goodbye party for a well loved journalist Antonio Ruiz del Arbol, one of the best in the telecoms sector.  He has lost his job with the financial daily Cinco Días at the very wrong age, his late 50’s.  I felt for him, just as all my other colleagues and journalist friends probably did and who were with me at the party held at Obsidian in Madrid on Tuesday night.

The goodbye do for Antonio Ruiz del Arbol who I will miss so much

Tuesday was not a good day for the Church of England either.  The Synod in the UK voted against women clergy becoming bishops.  Funnily enough the votes against this came not from the clergy but from the House of Laity.  I mean if more than 30% of the clergy in the UK are women, why is there discrimination in them moving up the echelons?  I for one was not happy with the outcome of the vote.

On Wednesday there was again bad news from the church, this time from the Vatican.  Pope Benedictus XVI revealed to the world that the Nativity cattle and donkeys were a myth.  Thankfully he added that that shouldn’t stop people putting them in crèches at Christmas.  I think this news from His Holiness was quite uncalled for and we didn’t need to know.  In fact I consider him a bit of a Christmas wet blanket.

On Wednesday Olivia was on the television live again.  Her report was about a group of Mothers, sort of Valencian Calendar girls, who were trying to raise money for the school bus by making an erotic calendar.  Their problem is that the route to the children’s school is just over 3km, the minimum the local council will consider to provide a free bus.  And they have to pay 90 euros per child per month for the school bus which is a lot in these times of crisis, especially for families with more than one child.  You can see the clip here if you fast forward to 11.30h.  Achouak, Oufa’s religious sister watched the report with us and I think was very disappointed with the subject of the report as she walked out of the room before it finished! 

Oli reporting on the Valencian "Calendar girls"

Thursday saw Olivia reporting on something very different which turned out to be my Father’s favourite report of the week from his granddaughter.  This time the story was about the oldest couple to run the Valencian marathon the weekend before.  It was a great piece of innocent news which you can watch here if you fast forward to 11.11h.

Olivia reporting on the oldest couple to run in the Valencia marathon.

On Thursday I was tickled pink to receive some photos from a photo shoot some weeks before which I had completely forgotten about.  I have always been known as the “woman with the phone” as I work in the mobile phone sector, so the photo illustrating this week’s blog, completely sums that up.  At first I wasn’t particularly pleased with it.  There was no photo shop and if you enlarge it you can see so many wrinkles around my eyes that I was a bit shocked at how old I look.  However I have very generous friends who posted some great compliments.  Now I like it a lot and I hope you do too.

A woman and a phone . that's me!

On Friday, the day Oli and I were going to Brussels, I was up early to get a hairdo. I was there by 8.30 and was the first customer, so was home just on time to see Olivia reporting again at 10.22.  This time the story was about a small town in Valencia, twinned with another small town in Germany and the agreement to offer jobs to unemployed Spaniards.  This, of course, is news in Spain as jobs are now so scarce.  You can see the story on this link if you go to 10.22h.

Oli reporting on jobs in Germany for unemployed Spaniards

She was on again later, this time reporting on a super Christmas hamper worth 100.000 euros, which would be raffled to coincide with the the 6th January seasonal lottery.  Some local people from Ibi in Alicante, a town well known for producing toys and now struggling to compete with Chinese produce, came up with this great idea.  They bought all the goods, including a car, a motor bike, trips worth thousands of euros, a salary of 15.000 euros and even gold bars, not to mention cured Spanish hams and many other enticing goods.  The idea is to sell some 250.000 lottery tickets at 10 euros each which if they do so, will result in huge profit for the people behind the idea of the “super cesta”.  Olivia and Miguel bought tickets and told us that in fact there were very few left.  However, can still buy a ticket on their website.  As I wrote that I decided to try myself and I have just bought 5.  Hope I’m lucky.  By the way you can see the clip here if you fast forward to 13.48h.

Oli reporting on the super Christmas hamper in Valencia.

After the report from Ibi, Oli had to rush back to Valencia to catch the high speed train to Madrid and we were to meet at the airport in time to catch the 19.50 flight to Brussels. You are probably wondering why we were going to Belgium.  Well Olivia was to be the MC for the U4Energy school competition organized by the Commission for Energy to be held on Monday night at the Belgian Comic Strip Museum and I was going along for the ride.  We decided to go out on Friday and make a long weekend of it and stay with my great friend from University Sandra who I have mentioned many times before in this blog.  We go way back and are kindred souls in many ways.  Sandie was born in India to a Catholic Italian Father and Jewish Hungarian Mother, Magda (my friend on Facebook) now aged 84 and who is a survivor of the Holocaust. Sandra was educated in England and now lives in Belgium.  I don’t think you can get more multicultural than that. 

We arrived at her lovely flat in Fort Jaco on Waterloo way, at around 11 and after settling in we probably chatted until way past 1.30h. We slept in separate bedrooms, partly because Olivia says I snore but for my part it was because I didn’t want the mess Olivia carries around with her to invade my privacy hahaha.

Saturday was ours for taking and we enjoyed it immensely.  We were up at a decent time and enjoyed some pastries and croissants Sandie had bought for our breakfast.  Our idea was to go out shopping to Brussels and shop was what did until we dropped.  First we attacked a little boutique in her high street called Blue Wood.  Here I bought a practical warm and pretty little red jumper dress which I adore.  Olivia invested in two colourful jumpers.  Then we caught the tram into Brussels.  But that alone is a story to tell as Sandie got talking to some of our fellow passengers; a gay couple, a man from England who works at the EU Foreign Affairs office and his Lebanese Syrian Jewish partner from Jerusalem.  They had a delightful little boy and Sandra being Sandra interrogated them for all the bus to here as to whether the boy was theirs biologically or not.  She added that they were the first gay couple she had met with a child.  I had thought that but didn’t dare say it to them like she did. By the time our journey ended we had become firm friends.

Our first destination in town was the Apple Reseller store.  Olivia had wanted to buy an iPad for a while and Sandra finally persuaded her.  We came out with a lovely iPad 2 for which Sandie had bought Oli a beautiful pink case. 

Sandie and Oli just after buying the iPad

From the shop we walked towards Le Sablon, one of Brussels’ most beautiful squares and here we stopped at the Gien shop.  It was on my first trip to Brussels to see Sandie with Eladio that we had bought the beautiful Indian motif plates here and I wanted to buy the matching tray and I did.  It is now in pride of place in the dining room at home, far too good to use.  Our next destination was lunch at the nearby Le Pain Quotidien, which has become a tradition when in Brussels with Sandra.  Here we restored our energy with their wonderful food.  After lunch we explored the chocolate shops in Le Sablon and ended up buying low cost Belgian chocolate at Leonidas which I thought was great.

Sandie and I goggling at chocolate in Brussels

Tired but happy we took the tram back to Fort Jaco and even Sandie was too tired to talk to the passengers sitting next to her.  Once in Fort Jaco we looked into a lovely shop called Cook and Book and here we took photos on the sofa made of soft toys.  I loved the place.

Oli and I on the soft toy sofa at Cook and Book in Fort Jaco.

We were meaning to go home as it was getting late and we had a dinner date but Olivia spotted a shop called CKS which had a huge closing down sale on.  Here Sandie and Olivia bought armfuls of jumpers, jumper dresses and trousers but I didn’t spot anything I particularly liked.  I kept wondering how on earth Olivia and I were going to get all our purchases in our already quite full suitcases.

The dinner appointment was exciting.  We were going to have dinner at a former Motorola colleague’s house, Didier who had been head of Motorola Belgium and then Denmark and France.  He had invited another great colleague Harry H who used to head up Motorola Holland and they were a very lively pair who would make any meeting I used to be lots of fun.  Didier and his lovely family live in a very up market street in Uccle not so far from Sandra’s in a fabulous old house which we later saw was full of paintings his wife Dolores does for a living.  We were joined by their teenage children and another couple, a Belgian woman who had worked at Motorola and her American husband who works for the EU.  Ah and I forgot to mention that Harry came with his delightful wife Virginia, a South African teacher. So yes we were a real mixture of nationalities.  We had a great evening and the food was fabulous, the only awkward moment being when I dropped some lentils on their expensive looking carpet.  We laughed about that afterwards of course.

The Motorola memories dinner at Didier's in Brussels

And suddenly it was Sunday.  We had a leisurely breakfast, after which Sandra and I went for a walk in the wonderful forest near her house, leaving Olivia behind to prepare for her MC work the following day.  Not only did we walk in the forest, we visited the slightly disappointing Marche de Noel (Christmas market) where we hardly bought anything, but we also walked around the hippodrome which is now turned into a golf course.  It was a beautiful refreshing morning and I was well in need of the exercise after the dinner the night before.

My dear friend Sandra during the walk in the forest on Sunday in Brussels

On our way back we did a bit of food shopping for dinner that night at Jeffer’s (Sandra’s partner) after which we drove Olivia to her long rehearsal at the Strip Comic Centre, a beautiful art deco building near the Grand Plaçe and which is home to Belgian’s most famous character, Tintin. 

Sandra and I then walked through the beautiful Galeries Royales to the Grand Plaçe which was preparing for Christmas.  We wanted to have a bite to eat and had decided upon a kebab or rather a doner kebab at a great little Lebanese place called L’Express.  It was time for coffee afterwards and we chose a cozy cafeteria called La Chaloupe D’Or and were lucky enough to sit on a table next to an open fire.  Our next stop was the biscuit shop called Maison Dandoy where I was eager to buy the speculoos biscuits we had been offered at the dinner the night before.
Maison Dandoy near the Grand Plaçe

But our real destination was the Belgian Bourse (stock exchange) modeled on the one in London.  And no, we didn’t go to buy shares but to see the Terracotta Army exhibition.  

A photo from the Chinese Terracotta Army exhibition in Brussels

I was rather disappointed to learn later that they were replicas and actually the exhibition was rather small, so we had soon seen everything and made our way again to the Strip Comic Centre to pick up Olivia. I think we sort of barged into her meeting with the organizers of the event, one of them being Carolina, a friend of Sandra’s, and through whom Olivia got the job of MC last year and of course was repeating the experience.  Olivia did look a little embarrassed to see the two of us larger than life, very visible and rather noisy (yes that is how we are), barge into the quiet of her rehearsal come meeting. In any case it was time to go, so they called a stop and soon the three of us were on our way to what turned out to be the highlight of the day; dinner with Jeffer and his daughter Isaline, who I was to meet for the first time, at their house outside Brussels.

Jeffer’s renovated old town house is a haven of peace and good taste near Louvain la Neuve some 30km from the centre of Brussels.  Here Olivia met both Jeffer and Isaline for the first time and with the wonderful atmosphere we just felt relaxed and completely at home. 

Feeling at home at Jeffer's place

Jeffer, an American communications professional, is a very creative cook and he had rustled up a delicious carrot soup and quiche to which we added some of the food, mostly of the finger type, we had bought earlier in the day. Isaline was keen to talk to Olivia, as, although she is only 13, she wants to become a journalist and wanted to get some advice from my daughter. 

With Jeffer and Sandie

We left, feeling relaxed and happy but keen to go home to bed after such a long and active day. Thanks Jeffer, Isaline and Sandra for the best dinner of our stay.

Monday came and it was Olivia’s big day.  She was up early to continue preparing and was off at midday by taxi for an all day rehearsal.  Olivia is used to doing live TV and prefers last minute preparations to long winded organization of work, so I think this event frustrated her a bit, or at least the way it was managed.  Sandie and I both worked happily and peacefully from her flat and at midday she left me on my own when she went out to one of her coaching or teaching sessions. 

Sandie working in her sunny flat on Monday morning last week.

I continued working but then decided to get ready for Olivia’s event which was starting at 17h and to do so in a pleasant and leisurely way.  Part of the process was a hot steamy bath, washing my hair and doing my nails.  I think when I was ready the effort was worth it.  

The prize giving ceremony was to take place from 17.30 to 20h after which there was a walk around dinner for which we were not going to stay.  The plan was dinner at a Moroccan place called Kasbah with Jeffer and Sandra.  Sandie and I thought we had arrived late, as our tram had broken down but we were lucky that the start was delayed.  The prizes were for national winners of the four categories of the U4Energy programme and there were representatives from the best winners, the countries being Croatia, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Frane, Italy, Austria, Romania, Sloveia and Spain.  In fact Spain was represented by three schools, one from a small village in Zamora, another from Las Rozas in Madrid and the last one from Alcalá de Henares near Madrid.

Olivia was to be the MC of this high profile event and I spied her studying her notes in a corner of the room full of 300 attendants, the teachers, their pupils, the sponsors and the representatives from the EU Energy Commision. I was literally dazzled by how she looked, so professional and oh so beautiful in the black and blue sparkling dress by Zara which I lent to her for the occasion.

Olivia in the beautiful dress as MC last week in Brussels.

Of course she did the whole programme in English, only speaking Spanish when she had to translate simultaneously for one of the Spanish teachers who could not speak English.  And I was so proud of her.  So many people congratulated her afterwards which was great for her confidence, something she lacks at times.  I was wildly happy to see the small school from the tiny village in Zamora being announced the overall winners in Category A: Best energy efficiency measures.

Olivia on stage in Brussels

The balloon artist from England, Michal Kahn was there making amazing creations with her partner for all the guests and she made this great hat, flower and bumble bee which she gave to Sandie.  You may remember Michal Kahn came to my Yoigo Christmas events last year after Olivia’s recommendation.

Sandie at Oli's event with Michal Kahn's wonderful balloon creations

It was extremely difficult to get away afterwards as everyone wanted Olivia’s attention, plus she was interviewing the Spanish teams as she hoped to include their stories on her programme on TVE back in Spain.  But eventually we did and we made it to Kasbah.  Here over the great pastela, couscous and tajin, I made friends with a youngish Moroccan waiter. He asked me if Olivia was my daughter and I replied, “yes, isn’t she beautiful” to which he made me a wonderful compliment by replying: “her mother is the beauty, she takes after her mother”.  Wow I liked that and will treasure that moment as I am now at the invisible age for women in their 50’s who don’t often get noticed.

Last Tuesday, our last day in Brussels was the day after the day before.  We woke up happy but tired to enjoy breakfast with our hosts.  They soon left, but before so, Sandra helped me pack my case and I learned a great lesson from her.  Instead of folding all your clothes in little piles, as I have done all my life, if you put them in all flat you get much more into your case.  Later I tried this out with Olivia, whose case was overflowing and amazingly we were able to get everything in.  I thought that was a bit of a miracle.  Before leaving, as our plane was not until 15.30, Olivia and I enjoyed a long walk in the forest.  On our way back we spied a great tree trunk from where to take photos.  The photo below took some taking from me and after much insistence from Olivia I managed to capture her jumping in the air.

Oli jumping in the air (for joy maybe) in the forest near Sandie's house last Tuesday morning

Just as we had finished our photo session, along came two women who were dog walkers and to our delight they had with them at least 12 dogs.  Olivia and I were thrilled as we are great dog lovers.

It was great bumping into the dog walkers in the forest on Tuesday morning in Brussels

Believe it or not, just before we went back to Sandie’s flat, once again we went into the closing down shop called CKS where Olivia bought even more clothes, some for Suzy of course.  This time I found a lovely indigo jumper dress, identical to one Oli had bought the day before and now I am delighted I did.  I had some trouble getting this last shopping spree into our cases but thanks to Sandie’s technique I managed it.

By 13.30 we were in the taxi on our way to the airport where of course we did more shopping: biscuits and chocolate mostly.  They would later contribute to the family dinner that evening.  It was so good to be home and to have dinner with Eladio, Suzy, Olivia and her boyfriend Miguel.  We had had a great time in Brussels, but there is nothing like coming home.  You can see the rest of the photos of our great trip to the capital of Europe here.

On Wenesday I worked hard at home on preparations for the Yoigo press conference to be held on Friday but stopped for lunch.  I had an engagement with my great friends Julio and Fátima at La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo.  We talked about the ex Nokia Christmas reunion dinner I was organizing the following week, but my dearest Nokia friends will disappoint me by not attending.  

On Thursday I was busy all day with frantic last minute preparations for the press conference.  It was to be my first without my old boss Johan and I told him so in a message on Facebook.  He assured me everything would go well.  And it did.  We held the press conference which was to celebrate Yoigo being 6 years old.  Fancy, already 6!  But the main reason was to present our fabulous new tariffs which will come into force on 10th December for our Christmas campaign.  I was pleased to see some 25 journalists and how we managed to create a party and friendly atmosphere at a great little bar called Whitby (but nothing to do with the seaside town in England).  For the record I wore my new Belgian red jumper dress.  You can see more photos of the press conference here.  Ah and I also want to share with you, a video El Economista published of the event.  If you watch it, even if it’s in Spanish, you will get a feel of how the press conference went.

Yoigo was 6 last week

Friday was all a big rush. I rushed home after the press conference to have lunch with the family and again I rushed in the afternoon.  This time the rush was with Suzy, for our annual MOT (gyno) and then back for a late and rather dark walk with Eladio and the dogs.  Later Eladio and I went out to dinner to Ginos and it was a great way to celebrate the success of my press conference and a great way too to wind up a very busy but great week.  Plus of course I had some quality time with my wonderful and patient husband.  Something else happened on Friday.  Just as we were leaving for Ginos, the girls were preparing their dinner with Oufa and it was then that Miguel, Oli’s boyfriend, handed us a pre seasonal Christmas present.  We were surprised and pleased to receive a big Spanish ham which now has pride of place too in our kitchen. Thanks Miguel and by the way I tried it last night for dinner and it tastes delicious.

Funnily enough Saturday too was a bit of a rush.  It was 1st December and I gave out the advent calendars I had bought for my Father and the girls.  1st December in many ways is the beginning of Christmas, a period we love in this house.

I was happy to welcome December last week
It was another rushed day actually. In the morning I did the weekly food shopping with Oufa and Susana joined us.  I had to rush back though as I had to be at the Phone House convention at nearby Kinépolis by 14.30 for the Yoigo part of the programme.  And I only just managed it.  I was home at 16h but on time to have lunch with the family who were finishing their meal and had left some scraps for me hahaha.

Saturday was another highlight of the week as I was going to the ex Motorola employee Christmas bash at Clericó (an Argentinian joint) in Herón City.  Vicente H and Vicky S had organized the dinner and my thanks go out to them as for me it turned out to be the most enjoyable Motorola reunion dinner of all the ones I have attended.  Most of us who came, some 19, formed part of what we always call the “analogical group”, the group of people who started Motorola Spain in the early 90’s, 22 years ago. The photo below, where I am wearing my red Brussels dress, is of the group but you can see more photos of the dinner here.

The ex Motorola dinner on Saturday - wearing my red Brussels dress

And now my friends I am nearly at the end of this bumper edition of my blog.  I started writing yesterday Sunday and today is Monday morning.  Yesterday Olivia went off to Valencia again with Miguel from where she will be working this week and covering the news there for her programme.  Suzy didn’t come for lunch, it was Oufa’s day off so the house was very quiet.  We just did the usual things we do on  a Sunday, write my blog, have a quiet lunch, go for a  walk with the dogs and watch the Jorde Evole Salvados programme in the evening.   It was good that I had a quiet day to relax and unwind after such a busy period.  I say it was quiet but we had a bit of a scare when my Father fell, trying to get off the zimmer frame and into his chair.  He had a huge fright and was worried he might have dislocated his replacement hip.  But thankfully everything seems alright. I gave him a shot of whisky to calm him down.  He’s amazing at 93 to fall and not break anything. However we shall have to keep a better eye on him from now on. 

I must finish this blog post now and publish it as my Father is waiting to read it.  He is my biggest fan, as you probably know.  Have a great week my friends.  See you next time.


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