Sunday, January 27, 2013

Snow, to Barcelona and back, a reunion weekend with Andy and Charlotte, farewell Dave, great sporting news, goodbye Sara and other things.

Sunday 27th January 2013
The girls and their group of friends they call "la manada" off to Fresnedilla de la Oliva on Saturday for a goodbye weekend for Dave (in the striped jumper) who is leaving for Brazil.

Hi everyone and welcome back.  This week’s blogpost is full of news and looking back it has been a good week all in all.

On Monday morning I had a conference call with Stockholm.  You probably don’t know but I avoid conference calls like the plague and only accept them very occasionally.  However I couldn’t get out of this one, about our plans for the upcoming Mobile World Congress at the end of February in Barcelona.  The funny thing was that I was on line for about 5 minutes until my Swedish colleagues joined; quite unusual for them to be late.  Afterwards I drove to the office for meetings.  Of interest was the second meeting which was with the Chinese manufacturer of mobile phones, ZTE, about a possible joint launch of a new smartphone.  The Chinese were fast entering this market and now dominate much of it.  When I first started in the telecoms sector, it was the Americans and Nordic companies who dominated.  

I missed Olivia on the television that morning.  She had gone to Valencia on Sunday and would be working there all week with her cameraman boyfriend Miguel and I think they make a great team.  She did a live report about a very sad story of an abused baby in Castellón.  She hates this sort of news and so do I.  You can watch her here on this link if you go to 11.34h.

The news on Monday of course was the 57th presidential inauguration in the United States and Barack Obama’s swearing in on the commencement of his second term of office.  The funny thing is he had to so in private on Sunday afternoon because the Constitution says that was when his office begins but as it was not a good day to do so publically, the live ceremony would take place the next day when, also, all Americans would have a day off to watch and celebrate the occasion.  In the private ceremony the main news was that his daughter Sasha remarked afterwards that he had done a good job and “didn’t mess up” in reference to his having to repeat part of the oath in the first Inauguration Day when he missed some words out.

I didn’t watch him swearing in on Monday but most of the world did.  The biggest news I have seen seems to be about how Beyoncé mimicked the national anthem instead of singing live.  I suppose she must have recorded it beforehand and preferred to lip synch just in case something went wrong.  But I’m sure she now regrets the decision after worldwide criticism.

Barack Obama at his swearing in ceremony and Beyoncé lip synching the national anthem.
On Monday in Spain there was much warning about snow forecast for the next day and there were warning signs on the roads in Madrid whilst the capital prepared for this unusual occasion.  I woke up hoping to see snow in the garden but was disappointed.  After breakfast it started to sleet and a few moments later it snowed.  Unfortunately the snow fall lasted under 5 minutes and that was the end of the story.  I was very jealous seeing photos posted on Facebook by my friends in Yorkshire of the snow that had fallen there this week.  When Kathryn commented that her school had been closed, that reminded me of the good old days in Yorkshire when they used to shut down my school, St. Joseph’s College and we would have great days off enjoying the snow.

Snow in Keighley West Yorkshire this week
 I drove later to the office for the weekly management team meeting and the traffic was pretty dense, because people were worried about the snow that never came.   I was meeting Julio and Fátima for a belated birthday lunch nearby but Fátima, so frightened of the snow, refused to leave her house!  I ended up picking her up and the two of us had lunch in Boadilla at one of my favourites: El Buey. We had a great girly lunch and agreed to meet up soon again this time with Julio.

Finally Wednesday came and my awaited trip to Barcelona.  I was going on a site inspection trip to scout for locations for a party and press conference for our participation in the Mobile World Congress at the end of next month.  I always travel these days on the high speed train which takes under three hours to reach Barcelona.  However, I was astounded to see that the ticket cost 300 euros, a lot more than the airplane and more expensive than a flight to London for example. This was my first work trip without lugging my pc and my first high speed trip using my adored iPad.  With it I was able to deal with my emails, look up the places we were going to site inspect and of course use Facebook and Twitter. With work out of the way I was able to enjoy the rest of the journey watching television.  Yeah, thanks to the BBC iPlayer I watched three hilarious episodes of Benidorm, a series about English people on holiday in that tacky resort town which I know so well because my parents bought a house in the mountains some 20km inland in the late 70’s – those were what we call “The Callosa Days” and saw my beginnings in Spain and which you can read about here.

There may have been no snow in Madrid but there was plenty in the countryside on my train journey.  It was sunny too and I captured the scene with my iPhone.

The snow I saw from the train going to Barcelona on Wednesday
Whilst I was on the train Olivia would be reporting live again from Valencia, this time from Denia in Alicante; an amazing story about a false doctor who had been practicing for five years until he was detected.  I was able to watch the piece later on this link.  You can too if you go to 11.37h.

Olivia live on TVE1 on Wednesday reporting on a false doctor in Denia
A funny thing happened on the train.  Just as Olivia was reporting live, a team of TVE ambled towards me.  They were doing a story on the prices of the high speed train (apparently to be decreased shortly) and I agreed to be interviewed.  The journalist was Antonio Parreño who Olivia later told me she knew.  After the interview I sent a whatsapp message to my friend the sports presenter Sergio Sauca who promised to let me know when the report would be broadcast.  So far it hasn’t come out.  But watch this space.  My comment in the interview was that I thought the ticket was extortionately expensive and that if I had to buy it myself I would think twice about taking the AVE (high speed train) and that if tickets were cheaper these trains would be much fuller.

We actually arrived 30 minutes late in Barcelona because the train had to slow down because of ice on the rails, but luckily it was sunny in the Catalan capital.  I took a taxi to my hotel, the 1898 where I always stay in Barcelona. It’s on the Rambla and a stone’s throw from the Plaza de Cataluña.  I quickly checked in and then took a taxi to where I was having lunch with Gloria and Miguel from my events agency, QuintaEsencia.  We had chosen another favourite, the Agua restaurant by the beach and next to the Hotel Arts.  Amazingly we ate outside.

The Agua restaurant in Barcelona right by the sea, a great location

We then had a very productive afternoon visiting all the recommended venues for the party and press conference in February.  I was finished by 6 pm and had plenty of time until my next engagement, dinner at Grainne’s house in Badalona later that evening.  I went to school with Grainne and her sister Brenda in Bradford so we go back a long way and I can never visit Barcelona without meeting this amazing charismatic woman of Irish origin.  In order to keep to my Dukan diet I bought some of the food: ham and steak from the Corte Inglés which I enjoyed with Grainne and her son Marcel at their cozy little flat in Badalona, a suburb of Barcelona.  We had such a good time catching up I’m afraid I forgot to take any photos.

The next day I worked from my hotel room until time to check out.  We were to have lunch in the Barceloneta area at Cal Pinxo and it was such a lovely day, I decided to walk there from my hotel.  Here Gloria, Miguel and I enjoyed another meal outdoors and remarked just how much we love Barcelona – except for the local language of course.

With Gloria at Cal Pinxo in Barcelona on Thursday
We caught the 15h train and I spent most of the journey being entertained on my iPad.  I watched another hilarious episode of Benidorm and also two episodes of a wonderful BBC period series called London Hospital.  If you know me well you will know I love hospital stories, although I hate hospitals in real life.

I was home in the early evening, a bit too late for our walk unfortunately.  I had been sticking to my Dukan diet in Barcelona and was very cross to see the result on the scales the next day: I had put on half a kilo.  Since then I have cut back on the oat bran biscuits and fruit yoghurt and luckily today, Sunday, I am back on track.

Friday was a quiet day at home, working, food shopping and general routine stuff.  In the morning we watched Olivia report from Calpe, a town close to Callosa by the way.  It was another awful story, this time about how a Moldavan woman was killed by her partner, the third case of female genocide this year in Spain. 

Olivia reporting from Calpe on Friday
On Friday too we were getting ready for visitors.  A friend from the past, very much involved in our Callosa Days, Andy was coming to stay with his daughter Charlotte who will be living in Madrid for 6 months to learn Spanish.  Andy got to know my family at the University of East Anglia in Norwich where my parents and Aunty Masha taught at the Russian summer course every year for about 10 years.  These intensive courses were a highlight of my youth as I used to go along for the ride.  In those days it was not easy for students of this language to go to Russia and this course became very popular with students of all ages and from many countries.  Andy, a schoolboy from the North of England, joined the course 3 times and won the prize for best student each time.  Being a pretty brainy chap he then went on to study Russian and Philosophy at Oxford.  One of those summers he joined us afterwards at Callosa.  I remember him as a lanky awkward boy not used to “foreign food” but today he is a mature husband and father of 4 children living in France and working in External Relations for the United Nations in Geneva with the International Labour Organisation. His memory is much better than mine and according to him the last time we met was at the train station in Oxford in 1978 when I was saying goodbye to my friend Amanda who studied there.  

So, on Friday, my Father and I were to see him for the first time in 35 years.  His beautiful daughter Charlotte, 20, is the age we were when we last met!  He was keen to see my Father as he said my parents were very instrumental in his youth and a great help and inspiration.  They both taught him at Norwich and he remarked just how colourful and fun my Mother’s classes were.  I can imagine as she was very charismatic. 

Suzy and Olivia joined us for dinner – I hadn’t seen them for a week – and we had a truly international family dinner and even my Father joined us which made us all happy.

Andy and Charlotte at dinner at home on Friday night

The next morning after breakfast we took Andy and Charlotte on what I call our “special occasion walk” in nearby Boadilla.  We took the dogs and it was their first time together in the car.  I had expected them to behave badly but they were ok.  The walk was magnificent, with the sun and the view of the snow capped mountains outside Madrid.  In fact it got warmer and warmer and we had to take our coats off.  So much for snow, it reached 17ºc, a lot more than our visitors’ home town near Geneva I guess.

Out walking on Saturday morning with Andy and Charlotte in El Bosque de Boadilla
After such a long walk we treated ourselves to drinks and tapas at lovely bar called La Lonja de Boadilla opposite the palace.  I was wondering how the dogs would behave but they sat quietly at our feet.

Tapas with Andy and Charlotte, Eladio and the dogs in the sun in Boadilla on Saturday morning.
Lunch yesterday was the last meal together as Andy and Charlotte left to spend Andy’s last afternoon with his daughter in sunny Madrid.  We said goodbye but knew it would not be another 35 years until we meet.  We hope to see Charlotte whilst she is Spain and her family when they come to visit at Easter.

The house seemed very empty afterwards.  The girls were not there. They had left to spend the night at a rented cottage in nearby Fresnedilla de la Oliva with their friends. They call their group “la manada” or the herd and they are very close knit.   It was to be a goodbye event for Dave, their friend from school who is leaving Spain to find his fortune in Brazil.  Many young Spaniards are leaving Spain as the job market is so desperate here.  Suzy herself will be going to London in May, also to find her fortune.  It just remains for me to say “farewell and good luck Dave”. The photo illustrating this blog is of the “manada” just about to set off.

They  (Suzy, Oli, Elena, Elena, Rocío, María, Carolina, Ana, Dave and Juli) posted photos all afternoon from their lovely cottage which is located in a field with donkeys (my favourite four legged animals) just half an hour’s drive from where Suzy lives.  I haven’t heard much since. I will probably not see Suzy until next weekend but am expecting Olivia back this afternoon.  It won’t be for long though as tonight she will be travelling to Valencia.  Tomorrow she will be going with her boyfriend Miguel for a week’s skiing in Spain’s most up market skiing resort, Baqueira.

The girls at the cottage in Fresnedilla de la Oliva this weekend. 
On a normal weekend we would have gone out to dinner but yesterday was a PP (pure protein) Dukan day, so we stayed in, had an early dinner and went to bed to watch the news.  The best news was about sport.  A Spaniard from Madrid called José Fernández (equivalent of Joe Smith in English!) had won the European men’s figure skating and became the first Spaniard ever to win a gold medal.  I later read that he lives and trains in Montreal, Canada, which I suppose is one of the skating capitals of the world.  I have yet to see his performance which I hear was amazing. 

Javier Ferández, the Spaniard from Madrid who won the European figure skating gold medal in Zagreb yesterday

Now is the time to write about other sports news that has interested me this week.  First there was the Bradford City football team’s first too this week.  This is the football team of the city I lived at in my formative years.  Their feat is being in the 4th division and getting through to the final of the League Cup (now called Capital One Cup) by beating Aston Vila.  They will now play Swansea City in the final at the most iconic of football venues in the world, Wembley.  I really hope they win on 24th February.  Even if they don’t, they will still have made history for the club.

Bradford City FC fans celebrating their win over Aston Vila to get through to the final in Wembley
Today Sunday, there are two sporting fixtures that interest me.  First there is the Australian tennis final which Britain’s Andrew Murray is playing now against Djokovic.  If he wins he will make history for Britain.  So please cross your fingers.  The second is the final of handball world championship in Barcelona today when Spain meets Denmark.  You will have no doubts as to which side I am on, so please cross your fingers again my friends. 

And right now I am taking a break from writing this post as we are off to have lunch in Madrid at Eladio’s brother’s house, José Antonio and our sister-in-law Dolores.  We don’t often visit them, but today is special as it will be the last time we see their daughter Sara for a long time as next week she is going off for an extended stay in China.  My niece is yet another young Spaniard who is going to seek her fortune in another country.  It is a country she is familiar with as after University she spent two years there learning the language.  Again, then, I say goodbye and good luck.  Soon it will be Susana I will be saying goodbye to, but luckily London is nearer than Peking.

And now I am back at my desk from lunch in Madrid and have found out that Murray lost to Djokovic. We had a lovely time together and were joined also by Juan, Sara’s youngest brother and also Eladio’s godson.  I wish I had taken a photo for this week’s blog, but sort of hesitated as I know Sara doesn’t like her photo being published on internet.  We have all agreed to meet again for my birthday on 8th February and which is also Juan’s birthday.  Sara, of course, will be in China and we won’t see her again until the Summer.

And now I will leave you.  You have all this week’s news and as Olivia has just come back, I want to spend some quality time with her before adding the internet links to this post as well as the photos and all the palava (a good word for my Spanish friends – a slang word for “hassle”) of uploading it and publishing it.

All the best then till next week

PS If you haven't heard Spain won the Handball world championship - another great sporting victory for Spain!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Welcome Lidia, back to Dukan, Phoebe returns to our lives, Lance Armstrong confesses, trouble in Mali and Algeria, my readers on the world map, the perfect storm and other things.

 Sunday 20th January 2013
Roberto, our nephew with Lidia just a few moments after she was born
Hi everyone,

The week has been packed with news both on the home front and around me.  So, yes my readers, there is much more to tell you than last week.  

On Monday I had lunch with my colleague Juan and we enjoyed what later turned out to be my last “normal” meal for a while. We chose Illunbe, just a stroll from Yoigo and spent our time catching up and exchanging stories of how we had spent Christmas.  Lucky Juan went to London.  Of course we talked shop too but as we both remarked things are very quiet at the moment.  Yeah Monday was quiet, but Tuesday turned out to be a remarkable day.

It was remarkable for many things.  There was a very unusual story from Sweden of all countries.  A cleaning lady for the national train company, in her early 20s, took the keys and actually drove a train from the dock outside Stockholm.  I don’t know how she managed to do either or why apart from the lark of it.  What wasn’t funny is that she drove it into a block of housing, causing lots of damage but luckily no one was hurt.  I later read that actually it’s not that difficult to drive a train without any training, but I would certainly not like to try.

Extraordinary news from Sweden about a train escapade
Tuesday was remarkable too because we learned that Lance Armstrong was to confess to doping in a taped interview with the most famous interviewer in the world, Oprah Winfrey.  However we weren’t to learn the full extent until the two part interview was to be broadcast later in the week on Thursday and Friday.  But just this news caused an avalanche of speculation of what he might or might not say.  I was happy to think that he would be remorseful but, knowing him, had my doubts.

Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey was huge news this week

Unaware of any of this, at 13.40 on Tuesday Lidia chose to be born.  Lidia is the second daughter of Ana and Roberto; the latter being our oldest nephew and son to Adela, Eladio’s sister.  This was a big event, a new member of the family and Freijo clan.  Thanks to Marta, Roberto’s sister, I had minute by minute live news and the first photos came just a few minutes after Lidia arrived in this world.  As I write I can feel the emotion.  A beautiful baby was born, a baby that will be loved and cherished and will grow happily into our family.  Welcome Lidia and congratulations Ana and Roberto.

Marta’s real time and minute by minute information told me that the birth had been easy with hardly any pain.  But unfortunately, strong and resolute Ana had problems with the afterbirth and had to be operated on, which slightly tinged the good news.  However everything went ok and Ana is now recovering and Mother and baby are now doing well.  They are now one happy family of four with two daughters like us.

The happy family, now a unit of four after Lidia's birth on tuesday
This photo of the four of them reminded me of the day Olivia was born on 22nd May 1985 in the San Francisco Clinic in Madrid, so I looked for the photo I knew there was of the four of us on that day in our old albums and here it is.  That was one happy moment I shall cherish forever as I imagine Roberto and Ana will cherish theirs.  I wish them at least as much happiness as we have had.

Their family photo reminded me of ours when Olivia was born on 22nd May 1985
And it was on Tuesday that I took an important decision and it was thanks to my daughter Olivia. She remarked to me that she thought I had put on weight, something I had suspected but didn’t want to hear, something I had been thinking about all Christmas.  I hadn’t weighed myself since September and had eaten far more than I should.  The only Dukan rules I stuck to were having oat bran for breakfast, doing the PP (pure protein) diet on Thursdays and going on our daily walk.  I only wore loose woolen dresses, worried I might not get into my trousers.  However I didn’t think I looked fat so carried on eating normally or rather more than I should.  For the records I did the diet over two years ago and was very successful.  I was also the VID (very important Dukan) of the week and you can read about it here. 

My before and after Dukan photo of 2 years ago.  2 years later I am still slim and intend to stay so

Amazingly two years later I am still going strong, apart from this latest lapsus.  So on Tuesday, spurred on by Olivia, I decided to do two days of attack (PP) and then go on to “cruise” (alternating Pure Protein with Protein and Vegetables (PV).  Being afraid of the scales, I decided to weigh myself after the two days rather than before.  So wow was I pleased to see that in fact I was only 1.6k above my supposedly perfect weight (64.2).  Then after two days after “cruising” I am now only 0.7kg away from my target.  I shall continue and actually hope to reach a kilo or so below so as to have some margin.  For any doubters out there, Dukan works and is not dangerous if you do it properly.  For me now it is a way of life and I am not going back to the fat Masha.  Thanks Oli for spurring me on.

On Wednesday, feeling already lighter and happy, I treated myself to a new red coat (size 42, yes that’s my size) which I bought at a little boutique near one of our super markets. 

It was over a coffee after buying the coat that I read about the helicopter crash in the centre of London, due to fog apparently.  It had crashed into a crane on top of London’s tallest building at about 08h that morning,  The Tower on One St. George’s Warf, and fallen into Wandsworth Road in South Lambert.  The pilot died as did a passerby from Reading.  The chaos that ensued was big, with 80 firefighters tackling the blaze, people being hit by the debris.  The photos conjure up a very Dantesque scene which miraculously didn’t cause more damage as it happened when people were going to work.

The helicopter crash that caused havoc in London this week
On Wednesday morning too I read an interview with Spain’s premiere, Mariano Rajoy in the Financial Times. Used to reading about Spain’s woes magnified in the international press, this was actually quite balanced and even positive and I think it reflects what we are all seeing now, that Spain is on the road to recovery, albeit at the beginning of the road.

Mariano Rajoy was interviewed by The Financial Times this week
 I’m not sure many people were very interested in the interview; the big news coming out of Spain that day being about football, something the world is much more passionate about.  I mean Mariano Rajoy is a pretty grey prime minister and not well known outside Spain, but the person who is object of the football news, who is also Spanish, is famous in all the corners of the world.  I am talking about Pep Guardiola (see, you know who he is right?),  apparently the most coveted coach in the world.  The ex Barça player and coach who is on sabbatical, learning English in New York is now learning German and if you have read the news you will know why. He shunned Chelsea and Manchester United and has signed with Bayern Munich and will be their coach.  The next piece of news is that Raúl (does the ex Real Madrid striker need any introductions?) currently playing for Schalke, will be his second in command.  They both played together in the Spanish national team and will no doubt make a formidable team and the Bundesliga is delighted.  Meanwhile, the world’s second most coveted coach, Real Madrid’s José Mourinho, is in trouble because the team is so far behind Barcelona in the Liga and seems to be on bad terms with many members of the team.  The latest news tells of a nearly hands on fight with Cristiano Ronaldo in the dressing room last week.  I am a fan of Mourinho for many of his facets but think he lacks the ingredient that sets Pep Guardiola above them all: emotional intelligence. 
Nice to know that it is a Spaniard, Pep Guardiola, who is the most coveted football coach in the world

Tennis fans on Wednesday will have been pleased to hear the other big sports news that day: Rafa Nadal is to return to tennis, clear of the injury which has grounded him since the summer.  I love tennis and follow it quite a lot, but when my Father asked how the Australian Open was going, I didn’t know.  That, is because Nadal isn’t playing.  Hopefully he will soon be on form and when my Father asks me for news of the US or French Open I can answer that Nadal is winning.  Yes, I am a Nadal fan, another sportsman with emotional intelligence.

I worked quite a lot this week, going into the office on Monday and Tuesday and this week finally finished my PR plan for 2013, something that I had hanging over me all Christmas.  Actually when I got down to it, it only took a couple of hours. I can be such a procrastinator, a trait I hate in myself. I think I sent it off on Thursday, a day that felt so good, the day I got on the scales and which had me so relieved.  It was on Thursday too that Eladio decided to try out the Sony wireless speaker system I got for Christmas from Sony Mobile Spain as did all the other employees at Yoigo (thanks Dani).  I had hardly looked at it but when Eladio had it up and working – via Bluetooth, I suddenly took interest and connected this SRS-BTM8 model both to my iPhone and to my PC.  I then turned on Spotify and carried on working with my classical collection in the background.  Oh it was such bliss and the sound is heavenly.  How I love technology like this. No doubt we shall be using it too when we have guests for dinner as it is a neat little device you can carry around and connect to nearly anything that has Bluetooth.

Bliss and heaven come out of this neat little device, a Sony wireless speaker system
 Whilst we were working and enjoying the music in the background, our female cat, Phoebe, was sleeping on the best sofa upstairs.  Phoebe and Joe have been somewhat ousted from our lives due to the presence of the dogs, but Phoebe in this last week has returned to our lives.  She comes in with Eladio when he goes to get the papers from the post box and whilst the dogs are safely out of the way in the kitchen.  She then spends her day in between eating from her bowl in the TV room and sleeping on the best sofa in the lounge. She even lets us cuddle her which is rare as she is a very shy animal.  I caught her on camera and edited the picture below where her colours match the beautiful pink and beige mohair blanket we bought in Ezcaray.  I love it so much it is now my screen saver.

Phoebe our cat who has returned to stay blending in with the mohair blanket on the best sofa
That evening and it being my first PV day, I made a delicious Dukan approved salad which I posted on the Facebook Dukan pages and on Instagram and got some flattering comments.  Nice eh?

A nicely edited photo of the 100% Dukan salad I made for one of my "PV" days this week

That night I would have wanted to watch the first part of the Lance Armstrong interview but it would have been at 3 in the morning, so I skipped on that and instead read the transcript of the interview on the BBC website the next day.  And boy did he confess, he admitted in yes / no answers to having doped through all the Tours of France he won.  If you didn’t see the interview, you can read the transcription here.  He also admitted to being a bully, something I already knew, and thankfully he admitted to bullying his soigneur Emma O’Reilly.  I had hoped for more names to come out of people involved in his doping but that is something he avoided.  I was disappointed too that he did not admit that Frankie Andreu’s wife, Betsy’s story was true of how he told doctors when he was hospitalized for cancer, all the forbidden drugs he had taken.  I had to wait until yesterday morning, Saturday, to get the transcript of the second part of the interview which was aired again at 3am our time.  You can read that here too.  Was he remorseful?  Well, for Lance I think he was.  He nearly cried whilst talking about his son Lucas who tried to defend his Father by telling his fellow pupils that he was innocent.  That, apparently, was when Lance decided to stop living the lie and told his son the truth and then the world.  I think he can only feel better now that he is no longer living a lie.

Lance getting emotional in the second part of the interview with Oprah Winfrey

Lance was the big news of the week, but really more important is and was what has been happening in Mali and Algeria; both ex French colonies.  The Al Qaeda terrorist group is causing trouble again and threatening interests in Europe.  On Friday 11th January militant Islamists invaded the north of Mali.  French troops have gone into fight them, together with troops from other African nations to prevent the country from becoming a terrorist state.  And this week, the same terrorist group, in reaction to the French intervention, stormed a gas plant in Algeria and kidnapped tens of hostages working there who were from many different countries.  Nearly 40 have been killed, first by the terrorists during the siege and then in the ensuing storming by Algerian troops.  At least the European Union is totally united in this crisis which I hope ends soon.

This brings me onto the next topic in this week’s blog.  It always amazes me to see, not only how many readers I have, but all the different places they come from.  You are probably wondering how I know.  It’s thanks to Cluster Maps which monitors the countries you all come from.  Of course the map doesn’t tell me who you are but it does tell me where you are from. The map looked like this last week.

It always amazes me to see how many countries in the world the readers of this blog are from
The top ten countries in descending order are: US, Spain, UK, India, Belgium, Germany, Canada, France, Netherlands and Italy.  The list goes on and includes all sorts of remote countries but I just took a look and there are no readers from Mali or Algeria.  It’s also interesting to see which are the most read posts and very recently one I wrote in October, entitled “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.” is now the fifth most read entry and I seriously wonder why. But only you can tell me.

And this week I learned a new meteorological term in Spanish and it was: “ciclogénesis explosiva”.  There was a lot on the news about the weather, snow and wind and flooding, especially in Galicia in the north of Spain, and this new term came up in all the descriptions.  Not knowing what it meant, I Googled the term to see what it was called in English and was amazed to see that the translation is “perfect storm”.  This is a term in English I have heard of before, mostly in relation to Hurricane Sandie but I didn’t really understand it.  I looked up the definition and here it is: “a particularly violent storm arising from a rare combination of adverse meteorological factors”.  More interestingly, it seems to be a sort of buzz word or over used term to describe other situations, not only about the weather and this is the non meteorological definition: “an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically”. I read that it was used a lot to describe the financial crisis when it started in the US. So this week when the financial scandal emerged to do with the ex treasurer of the ruling party in Spain, the Partido Popular, Luis Bárcenas, and the story of his pocketing money and giving payouts to fellow party members, I thought that the term was particularly apt for the situation Mariano Rajoy must be finding himself in.  Just as he is restoring Spain’s image abroad and dealing slowly with the financial problems, he has been hit with this.  Financial scandals in Spain are big and nasty, just as sex scandals are in the UK and US.  So let’s see how Rajoy fights his particular “perfect storm”.  

Whilst the wind was blowing in Galicia where coincidentally Mariano Rajoy is from, the weather was quite benign in Madrid this weekend.  Yesterday Saturday, with the excuse of having to go and get a goodbye card for Bea and Johan’s farewell party that evening, I drove to Plaza Norte 2 to see what the sales had to offer.  Of course I was motivated by the good news the scales brought me and was delighted to buy a size M black down coat from Zara, a red lace dress, pair of turquoise jeans and a white jumper from H+M, both my favourite shops.  Do I need more clothes? Of course not, but since I lost weight two years ago, shopping for clothes is one of my favourite past times.

I was sort of shopping for a new dress to wear to Johan and Bea’s farewell party last night at La Lumbre de Cacique, but in the end chose a dress that would go well with my new red coat.  Johan was my charismatic Swedish boss who left Yoigo this last September and I still miss him.  It was nice to hear from him last night that he misses me too.  There were over 100 friends and ex colleagues of theirs present, many of them Swedes who of course stick out amongst the smaller and darker Spaniards.  I look forward to photos of the event which I hope Bea will post on Facebook soon, as I had such a good time, I forgot to take photos.

Suzy went off this weekend to stay with friends in Lozoya del Valle, a village in the mountains of Madrid and was worried there would be snow.  As I haven’t heard from her since I will have to wait to know if there was when she comes for lunch today.  Meanwhile Oli has been here with her lovely boyfriend Miguel and they will be happily leaving for Valencia after lunch today and will be working again together all of next week.  I look forward to seeing her on television; something that always gives me a kick.  Lucky Oli and Miguel will be taking the following week off and going skiing to Baquiera Beret, Spain’s most fashionable skiing resort.  I offered her what I thought was my lovely skiing outfit bought a few years ago when I organized staff event in Baqueira for Nokia.  The equipment which I acquired through the famous Spanish skiing family, Fernández Ochoa, was rejected by her as “out of date”.  It was, of course, a great excuse for her to do some skiing clothes shopping with Miguel at Decathlon and as I viewed her bright turquoise down jacket I sort of agreed my kit was out of date, although a lot warmer. 

I will also be going away next week.  I am looking forward to a sight inspection trip to Barcelona on Wednesday to look for suitable venues for Yoigo’s activities at the up and coming Mobile World Congress.  What I most look forward to though, is dinner with Grainne at her home in Badalona on Wednesday night, which you will hear about in next week’s post.  

Meanwhile, I wish you all a great week.   

Cheers everyone,