Sunday, February 10, 2013

More corruption scandals, a meeting about robberies, girly time, a perfect birthday, greetings from Burma, Carnival and more.

Sunday 10th February 2013
What a happy woman I was on Friday on my birthday with my red roses Eladio ordered from Interflora
Hello again everyone

Today is the official start of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the snake.  Gong Xi Fa Cai” my friends. This week being my birthday and prompted by my friend Sandra in Brussels, I looked up my Chinese horoscope to find out that I am the “rooster”.  Do you know what you are?
Today is the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Snake

The week has been great, busy and fun.  Monday saw me at the office for a meeting with my PR team to see how we can improve our activity on social media.  We are doing a good job but can always do better.  I was happy later in the week to hear that Yoigo is the 2nd most sociallydevoted brand of all brands in Spain on Facebook.  It was interesting to see that our competition (Orange, Vodafone and Telefónica) are in the top ten of the least socially devoted brands. But, as I pointed out to my team, I want to be top in other rankings too such as top content and engagement rate.  Let’s hope we get there.

On Monday too we had the pleasure of the company of Susana and it was day Olivia returned from her skiing trip to Baqueira. Dinner together was a luxury as it always is these days now that we are no longer together as often as when the girls were younger. 

The news that day was about yet another corruption scandal, this time a sporting one, as if we hadn’t had enough with Lance Armstrong and the Operación Puerto.  The world heard via the Interpol that up to 380 football matches around the globe have been fixed – players and referees had been bribed to fix matches and the mafia organizing this from Asia made money betting on matches.  The only good news to come out was that no matches had been fixed in Spain, so for once Spain was in the clear.

Nearly every country has its scandals and very few, or none, are free of corruption.  This week it was the turn of Germany where the Minister for Education, Annette Schavan, resigned.  Her crime was plagiarism when she did her PhD.  In Spain that would be sort of run of the mill and few authorities would resign over something similar.  

My own country England was in deep trouble this week.  First there was the horsemeat scandal – horsemeat found in hamburgers and similar food – which I for one wouldn’t have taken as seriously as some of my compatriots.  But it has generated reams of articles and activity on social media, as well as lots of jokes.   English wit has truly risen to the occasion here and I have enjoyed following the story on twitter.  I particularly like these twits:Since the horsemeat scandal I've been having my burgers extremely well done - they're black beauties” and “Would you like some beef in your burger Sir?”
British wit at the horsemeat scandal is endless, this is just one example

Much worse is the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal also in the UK, where up to 1.200 patients have died unnecessarily through atrocious lack of care.  I hate to read the details but if you haven’t, you can read about them here. I have always said that English hospitals are grim places, having seen my brother not very well cared for at the dirty Royal Free Hospital in London or my Mother spending the last weeks of her life on the cancer ward at the Bradford Royal Infirmary.  I have to say she was not badly cared for but her surroundings were not pleasant.  On the other hand, hospitals, both public and private, are much more pleasant and efficient in Spain.  They are not perfect but we have no record of lack of care or unnecessary deaths here.  I’m sure David Cameron, when he made an apology in Parliament this week, must have felt enormous embarrassment as the world looked on in utter disgust that something like this could happen in England, a country that is in the top ten most prosperous in the world. 

Equally embarrassed I imagine Spain’s premier, Mariano Rajoy, must have felt when he had to face the press for the first time since his own political corruption scandal – the supposed slush fund hand outs to top party members, including himself, by the former party treasurer, the now infamous Luis Bárcenas.  He had to do so in the presence of Europe’s iron lady, Angela Merkel and it must have been a very tricky situation for him.  I am personally embarrassed by the scandal, the biggest in politics in Spain for some time, but only one of many.  We have yet to find out if the documents published by El País are bonafide and who is lying here, the left wing newspaper or the right wing ruling party, PP, who deny receiving slush funds.  It is embarrassing when the news spreads the world but of course inevitable.  So I was shocked to see this article by The Economist entitled “Another Blow”.  In actual fact the article which describes this and other corruption scandals in Spain, is not only objective but a very good summary of what is happening here.  I encourage you to read it.

On Tuesday I had lots of girly time, or what my Mother used to call “moments with Mummy”.  Suzy was here for breakfast and I went shopping with Olivia in the afternoon.  We had a very productive bit of retail therapy.  I found a fabulous figure hugging black and white lycra dress at H+M.  The picture below doesn’t do it justice.
My new black and white lycra dress from H+M - love it

Of course we went to Zara too and here I jumped at this tapestry mini skirt.  To go with it I chose an emerald green cardigan.  Just love this outfit; so me.
Love my new tapestry skirt and emerald green cardigan from Zara

We went to Centro Oeste in Majadahonda.  There is a new little boutique there called “Cosas bonitas” or something like that and here I found a great jumper with the word Love, the “o” being the peace sign.  I wore it on my birthday and got lots of compliments.  Apparently it makes me look younger.  If that’s true I shall be wearing it a lot hahaha.
My new "love jumper"

On Tuesday too something funny happened.  I looked at our joint account on internet and lo and behold found a charge from Interflora.  Thus I guessed that Eladio had ordered flowers for me for my birthday or for Valentine’s day.  He didn’t know I had found out and I didn’t tell him.  I put this on my FB status and got lots of comments, including one from my ex Swedish boss, who said he hoped the flowers would be for me.  Thus I promised a photo of them when they came.  But I had to wait a few days before that happened.  You will have to read on now until the end to find out what happened!

Wednesday was busy too.  I had a meeting with my events team, the two sisters Cristina and Bea from QuintaEsencia at Zielo, where we always meet to brainstorm.  We were to discuss our activities at the up and coming Mobile World Congress at the end of the month. 

In the afternoon after our walk, Eladio and I had a neighbourhood community meeting to attend.  We had received a letter about the recent spate of robberies.  You will have read in earlier posts that because of this we have modernized our alarm system and are putting in a doorbell video camera intercom (if that’s what it’s called in English).  We never go to community meetings but this was important.  Here we learned that robberies have increased since the late autumn from two a month to thirteen.  The room was packed and we were addressed by the head of the police for this area of Madrid, the head of the security company in charge of this neighbourhood and the local councilor for security.  We were happy to hear that three bands of robbers have been caught and that the robberies had decreased but only slightly.  We also learned lots of tips on how to secure our home better and ward off thieves.  We have always felt very safe living here and have been quite careless, leaving the door open when we go shopping, not putting the alarm on very much, but from now on we shall be much more vigilant.  I suppose the robberies are very much a sign of our times.
On Wednesday we attended a very packed neighbourhood community meeting about the recent spate of robberies where we live

Thursday was very much transition day for me, also my last pure protein Thursday on the Dukan regime as tomorrow Monday, I shall be starting the 5:2 diet, otherwise known as The Fast diet  - remember I wrote about “intermittent fasting” last week.  So watch this space to see how I get on.  My “fast days” or rather semi fast days where I have to restrict my calorie intake to just 500 (a quarter of a day’s ration) will be on Mondays and Thursdays.  

Of note that day I went to the hairdresser to look good for my birthday and best of all Susana stayed the night so as to be with me for breakfast on my big day.

And the big day came and it was perfect. The wonderful messages on Facebook and whatsapp kept coming through the day, as well as phone calls, text messages and emails.  I had to go the office and even my boss who is not into social media knew it was my birthday.  My overall favourite message came late in the day via my nephew Roberto who sent a video greeting from his 3 year old daughter Diana. Isn't she lovely?

I have played it over and over again.  She says in Spanish “feliz cumpleaños Masha” (happy birthday Masha).  Isn’t she lovely?

Yes my friends on Friday I was 56!  Not much I can say except that I don’t feel that age.  When I got home the much awaited flowers (red roses – my favourites) were waiting for me with a little card that said “I love you” (as if I didn’t know).  That’s when I owed up to Eladio that I had been expecting them ever since I saw the charge on our bank account.  He picked me up and whirled me round the room and we laughed and hugged for a while.  I’m not sure my Father, who was looking on, realised what that was about.  Well he will now when he reads this post.

Of all the photos of my birthday the one with the flowers is my favourite so that’s the one I picked to illustrate this week’s blog.  We shall laugh about the Interflora incident for years to come I’m sure.

Lunch was a quiet affair.  Suzy couldn’t be there but Oli was (nice).   My family led me to believe there would be no cake (a must at all birthdays in this house) but there was and here I am blowing the candles.
Me and the birthday cake, a surprise

Afterwards I got the first of my wonderful presents: Tous jewelry from my Father (a gold plated heart shaped pendant with matching earrings and bracelet), silver earrings from Tiffany from Eladio (under instructions of course) and a fabulous pair of modern walking Nike trainers from the girls.  You really feel you are walking on cushions when you wear them.  I was so pleased.

I spent more girly time with Olivia in the afternoon with a trip to El Corte Inglés to change the trainers for a bigger size but also to get ingredients for the girls to make a tiramisu dessert for Copi. I should mention that Copi’s birthday is on the same day as mine. 

So many cakes were made that day, but one was very special and deserves a mention here.  It was made by Anita, the girls’ friend, for Copi’s birthday party – see the picture below.  Anita is fast becoming a really good cake creator and I have even suggested she should try her hand at becoming professional.
The amazing Hello Kitty birthday cake Anita made for Copi whose birthday is on the same day as mine.

 It is also my nephew Juan’s birthday too and on Friday he had reached the grand old age of 30. That night as you will have read in last week’s post, I had organized a family dinner to celebrate not only my birthday but Juan’s too and also Alicia, my god daughter, who turned 21 on 2nd February.  It was to be at Naia, a bistro in the old part of Madrid which is partly owned by my colleague Pedro.

Before the dinner, I had another date.  It was with Keka, my ex Nokia colleague and something of a protégé who now lives in Galicia.  She was in Madrid with her new boyfriend Fernando and wanted us to meet him, so we agreed to do so at Naia, an hour before our dinner. 
With Keka (Esther) and Fernando at Naia on Friday

They were sitting at a table at the entrance when we arrived and after our hugs she handed me a beautiful bouquet of purple orchids.  They are now gracing the centre table in the lounge and every time I go past them I smile and remember Keka.
Beautiful orchids from Keka for my birthday

It was great to see Keka again and lovely to see her in love and happy.  We parted promising to visit them in La Coruña, a town I have only visited once many many years ago.  

By 9.30pm there were 11 of us round the table – all the representatives of Eladio’s family who live in Madrid.  This was really a first, the first time the 11 of us were to have dinner out together.  For the record we were Eladio and I, his brother José Antonio and his wife Dolores, their son Juan with his girlfriend Cristina, Alicia, our god daughter, Paula our niece and her boyfriend Pedro and of course our girls, Suzy and Oli. 
The younger generation at the family birthday dinner on Friday

The dinner was good as was the company and atmosphere we created.  Once again there were birthday presents and I was very fortunate to get a digital AV adapter for my iPad from Juan and Cristina which we have yet to try out on a TV, a linen tablecloth for our outsized dining room table from Dolores and José Antonio and last, but not least, a beautiful silver plated necklace by the Spanish designer Purificación García from my nieces.  Suzy promptly borrowed it to wear at Copi’s birthday party afterwards and I have yet to try it on myself.

There were two people missing at the dinner on Friday but very much in everyone’s thoughts.  They were Miguel, Dolores and José Antonio’s son who lives and works in London and of course couldn’t be with us.  Also missing was Sara (Sarita) their daughter who had flown to Burma the week before on a journey which will take her to China to spend a year brushing up her Mandarin.  I even got a birthday message from her and told her we would miss her that night.  I think her greeting was from one of the furthest places of all those I received that day.  She also sent me some photos – one of which I am publishing below.  Have a great time Sarita, next time send me some photos with you in them ok.
A scene from Burma sent to me by my niece Sara on my birthday

If Friday was important to me because of my birthday, it was much more important for Carnival lovers around the world as the 8th February marked the commencement of this year’s Carnival celebrations.  I was not brought up on the tradition and am not a great one for wanting to get dressed up.  My sisters-in-law, Adela and Pili and Pili’s husband Andrés are quite the opposite and look forward to Carnival as if they had been brought up in Brazil. All through the weekend they have been posting photos dressed up in their costumes on whatsapp and I particularly like this one of Adela and her junior school pupils.  She is the clown in the middle of the picture.
My sister-in-law Adela dressed as a clow (in the middle) celebrating Carnival with her pupils on Friday

On Saturday the birthday celebrations continued.  I was blessed with a belated family birthday lunch with both girls here. We were joined by Juli and in the afternoon whilst we were sleeping our siesta, the three of them were working on creating a photo collage for their friend Dave who, as I wrote before, is leaving Spain next week to find his fortune in Brazil.  I wonder if he will be on time to see some of the famous Carnival celebrations there.
The girls and Juli making a photo collage for their friend Dave to take to Brazil

Last night we had a dinner date with my ex Nokia friends, Juana and Oscar, Julio and Fátima.  Juana had made the great choice of reserving a table via the El Tenedor restaurant website, at El Café de Oriente in the Madrid Costume museum.  Once again I was to receive more birthday presents which contributed to this birthday being the perfect one, the best in many years. I repeatedly told them and everyone to watch out for my 60th birthday in four years time, promising fireworks and whatever is needed to create the party of the century.  I must add that the food was out of this world as well as the setting.  We all agreed we would be back, especially in the summer where we look forward to dinner on the terrace in the splendid gardens and artificial lake that surround the museum.
We had a great dinner with out friends Oscar, Juana, Julio and Fátima yesterday night

And today is Sunday, the start of the Chinese New Year.  It is also Oufa, our Moroccan home help’s 30th birthday.  We surprised her with a card including a generous financial contribution and some special make up.  It was lovely to see her face light up and here her comment how happy she was.  She made a great cake to take home to have with her sisters, one I hope she makes for us too one day – it looked like pure chocolate, delicious!

It is a quiet day, a day on which I count my blessings, not just because of the perfect birthday but because of the wonderful family and friends I have who contributed to making it perfect.  Thank you everyone.

And so another week has ended and my story has come to an end.  I hope you had a good week too and wish you all the best for the one coming.  

Until next time my friends,

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