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,

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