Sunday, February 03, 2013

Oli went skiing, sorting out her room, birthdays in February, Suzy at work, intermittent fasting, a political scandal in Spain and other things.

Sunday 3rd February 2013
Suzy at work, isn't she lovely?

Hi everyone,

Here I am again, another Sunday and time to write my blog.  It’s now the beginning of February and for most of the week the sun has been shining.

It’s been a busy week and one with lots of news to tell you.  The week started with a conference call with Sweden, pretty much a repeat of the one the week before to discuss the company activities in the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of this month.

Whilst I was talking to Stockholm from the comfort of my desk at home, Olivia was on her way to Baqueira with Miguel and two of his friends.  They drove from Valencia to the Pyrenees, which is just over 500km, quite a way.  Baqueira is Spain’s biggest and most fashionable skiing resort; after all it’s where the King used to ski.  Oli had only skied once in her life some years ago in contrast to her sporty boyfriend who, I’m sure, is a good skier. We were thus surprised to see how well she took to it when she sent us this photo of her experience the next day.
Oli skiing in Baqueira this week

She got better and better during the week and seems to have enjoyed the experience and time off from work.  We look forward to her return tonight.
Olivia and Miguel on their skiing holiday in Baqueira this week

Whilst she was enjoying her skiing holiday, on Tuesday I decided the time had come to sort out and tidy up the huge mess in her spare room that has accumulated over the six years we have been living here.  The job was massive and took me most of the day.  I had to clear her desk and sofa and the floor of mountains of discarded clothing and then I even tackled her wardrobes.  Oli is a hoarder or magpie and never throws anything away.  To make a long story short, here is the photo of what the room looked like before I started and what it looks like now.  I kept intending later to tackle the shelves and the desk drawers but I’m afraid I got rather disheartened and will leave them to another time.
The before and after photo of clearing out and tidying my younger daughter's spare room

Tuesday was our niece Laura’s 30th birthday, quite a milestone.  In fact it marks the start of quite a few birthdays to come in February.  First there is Laura’s sister (also my god daughter) Alicia’s birthday which was on 2nd of this month when she became 21. Alicia is the youngest of all our nieces and nephews and it’s amazing how time has passed.  Next week will be another nephew, Juan’s 30th birthday which is on the same day as mine, 8th February.  So I have arranged a big family birthday dinner next Friday at Naia, a bistro restaurant owned by a colleague at Yoigo, Pedro.  There will be 11 of us around the table, quite a family gathering.  By the way, I used a great website called Evite to create the event and invitation.  

On Tuesday too Susana joined us for dinner.  The house was pretty empty without the girls, so when she came, as always, she brightened up our lives.
It was great to have Suzy's company this week  - here she is with her Father at dinner on Tuesday

Later we watched the news together on TVE1 and lo and behold, I appeared, albeit very briefly, in a report on the decrease of the high speed train fares.  Remember I was interviewed on the train when I went to Barcelona recently?  Since then many people have commented they saw me on the TV.  

On Wednesday I finally went to see Susana “live at work”, something I had been promising to do for a long time.  Suzy works as a nutritionist for the American multinational Aramark which is a food services supplier to all sorts of institutions and Suzy works in the healthcare area and is responsible for a group of residences. At the same time she is working most days at a private hospital called Nisa in Aravaca outside Madrid where her tasks include the supervision of the whole food supply chain.  I went to have a coffee with her but she was busy and so we only got about 10 minutes together.  I was immensely proud to see her sitting with her pc working and wearing her white Aramark coat.  The impression I got was of how grown up and professional my older daughter is.  She plans to leave Aramark and move to London in May to seek her fortune, hoping to improve her career plans with more experience and better pay and also to find out what living in England is like, the country which she feels is hers because I was born and bred there.  It seems to be the same adventure as mine but in reverse.  I wonder if she will end up living there like I ended up living in Spain.  In any case it will be a wonderful excuse to visit England more often and I wish her lots of luck. The photo illustrating this week’s post is of her at the hospital when I visited.

On Wednesday evening, Eladio and I did something we don’t normally do during the week, we went to the cinema.  We had wanted to see Lincoln, the top candidate for this year’s Oscars, but just hadn’t had the chance.  I was disappointed but wonder too if not being in the mood to go the cinema had anything to do with my negative response.  I found it rather boring, very grey and far too long.  I have to admit that this could also be because I am not familiar with that period of American history. Nor have I ever been particularly interested and thus am not familiar with the intricacies of American politics.  I much prefer the other films up for an Oscar, such as Les Miserables, Argo or Zero Dark Thirty.

Was not impressed with the film about Abraham Lincoln

Thursday was the big day of the week.  I was up really early for a conference call with Sweden about the Q4 and 2012 financial results of the group Yoigo belongs to, the Nordic and Baltic operator, TeliaSonera.  

A big motivator for me that day was what the scales told me at 07am.  I had reached my target weight according to Dukan and had shed the 3 kilos put on between last September and January.  That meant that I could quit the Cruise phase (alternating with pure protein and pure protein + vegetables) and go on to the much more palatable “Consolidation phase”.  For every pound lost you have to do five days of consolidation.  That works out at 31 days of this phase where I can now eat two slices of brown bread, a piece of fruit each day and also eat carbohydrates occasionally and best of all, have one celebration meal a week when you can eat what you want.  But the weight only stays off if you stick to one day a week of pure protein which I usually do on Thursdays. Later in the week I came across an article in The Daily Telegraph about a diet called 5:2.  I googled it and found a website called The Fast Diet.  I then investigated more and watched a video by Michael Mosley where he explains the benefits of what is known as “intermittent fasting”. This was shown on Horizon on the BBC last summer and I have only just heard of it.  You can watch it here.  It got me thinking maybe it was time to change my way of dieting.  I then ordered Michael Mosley’s book The Fast diet, intermittent fasting, via kindle and have begun to read it on my iPad.    I’m not sure yet whether I want to fast two days a week (500 calories on each fasting day – they cannot be consequetive) whilst being able to eat whatever I want on the other days.  Before I started the Dukan diet just under three years ago, I did a similar diet: the Up and Down diet, also called the Alternate Day diet where you fast one day and eat as much as you want the next.  I actually lost 10 kilos but found the “down days” or fasting days very difficult and tended to eat more than I should.  But, there is something about fasting that in the dieting world seems to be gaining advocates and I shall be thinking more about this before abandoning Dukan and taking the plunge.  Whatever I do, I know that I shall have to diet the rest of my life to remain healthy and in shape. 
This seems to be the latest diet in the dieting world and I am interested

But on Wednesday morning after the good news on the scales I had to get down to work immediately.  Results days for me are always stressful.  First there is the conference call with Sweden. Then we have to send out a local press release and of course not forget internal communication.  We have to include the right messages and interpret the figures right and give them in local currency – not in Swedish kroner – and at the right exchange rate.  Then I have to listen in or rather watch the press conference on a webcast from the HQ in Stockholm when the company CEO, Lars Nyberg, takes the stage.  It is then that I have to listen to every word he says and every question, to know what has been said verbally about Yoigo.  By the time I am finished it is nearly midday and I am exhausted from the mental pressure. The good news is that Yoigo’s results for 2012 were spectacular: 3.7m customers and net sales of almost a thousand million eurosJ.  To top that, I was proud to see that within the group Yoigo was the third biggest business, just behind the home market Sweden. 

Whilst I was digesting this news, Eladio was reading the papers and called my attention to the front page of El País, Spain’s left wing but also most prestigious newspaper.  He was to show me what for me is possible evidence of the biggest political scandal in recent times in Spain and I was astounded. El País reproduced documents that showed payments from a number of well-known Spanish business people to the party that were then partly used to pay regular supplements to senior party officials over more than a decade. The most recent payments were in 2009.  The “documents” were apparently a hand written ledger belonging to the previous party treasurer, the now famous Luis Bárcenas.  The payments in envelopes were supposedly handed to top party members including the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy himself.  The English press referred to these payments as “slush funds” – money that came from anonymous donations to the party, many of them from construction companies, and paid out in what is called “black money” or “dinero b” – money that is not declared.  The Spanish people are fed up with the corruption of its institutions and politics and I think that with this issue, “Bárcena’s secret papers” they have come to their tether.  Just as Spain was beginning to see some recovery in the crisis, this happened and any improvement in the brand image of the country will have gone into reverse. 
The  news about slush funds being paid to top party officials has been a real bombshell

The issue has dominated all the news this week and culminated yesterday with a  disappointing appearance by Spain’s premiere on television, denying ever having received any illicit money.  The press was denied access and no one could ask questions.
Spain's premiere, Mariano Rajoy on TV denying the charges of receiving illicit money from party donations

He talked about being transparent and carrying out an investigation, but there was no transparency in the way he made his statements.  You can see the video here. The scandal will continue and evolve and many people are wondering if he will have to resign.  The next few weeks, will no doubt, bring more clarification and I think the Spanish people deserve to know the truth.  Either El País is lying or the Government is lying.  One day we will know and hopefully that will be a turning point for a less corrupt future.

None of this will have been on Phil and Kathy’s mind, our friends from Keighley in West Yorkshire (UK).  Ironically that day, 31st January was Phil’s birthday but it was also the day his Father died.  My heart goes out to them as I know what they will be going through, a tough period that I experienced myself when my own Mother died on 1st October 1999.   

Friday morning was just as stressful as Thursday morning.  I was up early to drive to work for an internal meeting with the staff, what we call Yoigo Mornings.  I organize these events every quarter to explain the financial results.  I have to prepare the presentation of course and as usual, we were making last minute changes up until the last moment.  Most of the stress I felt that morning was from driving to work early with the traffic jam which on Friday was worse than ever because of extreme fog. When one of my colleagues commented to me: “but Masha everything you do always comes out fine”, I was happy to hear that is what she thought but replied that success never comes without some stress and loss of adrenalin. 
On Friday we had our first Yoigo Morning of the year

There was a very tense moment too during the staff meeting, for that was when I heard, via my phone, that the CEO of TeliaSonera had resigned.  The company is embroiled in its own scandal in Sweden with accusations about possible shady conduct in the acquisition of a network license in one of the most corrupt countries in the world, Uzbekistan.  A report from a legal company that week found nothing to support the allegations but when the CEO, Lars Nyberg, a big burly Swede, realised he did not have sufficient support from the Board, he decided to quit after five and a half years as TeliaSonera’s chief executive.  It was my job to send out a release internally explaining what had happened and to monitor the Spanish press to see what repercussions there would be locally.   So these are new times for our Swedish owners.  

The drive home was much easier and it was great to arrive to find the lunch ready and made by Oufa and nice to know that we were to be joined by Susana once again.  I spent the afternoon working with her.  

Being Friday and my first day of “consolidation” I decided there and then that my first so-called “celebration meal” would be that night.  After our walk, Eladio and I went to La Vaca Argentina where I enjoyed things like a simple glass of red wine or a piece of bread that tasted like heaven after three weeks of abstaining.  Not surprisingly I had a bad night because of the heavy stomach and woke up with a headache.  

The weekend has been quiet, our walks, reading, making meals and watching television in bed at night, one of our favourite pastimes if the content is good enough to keep me awake.  Well it was last night as the lovely, if somewhat controversial film called “Camino”, was shown again on TVE.  You can read about the film here and judge for yourselves or even better watch the trailer here. The film is a criticism of the Opus Day Catholic organization and a distortion of the real story of a girl called Alexia who died from spinal cancer aged fourteen and who is currently in the process of canonization.   Whatever anyone may think about the film, one thing no one will doubt about is of the wonderful performance of the actors and the beauty and freshness of Alexia, played by the delightful Nerea Camacho.
We watched this delightful film last night on the TV

Today Sunday is equally quiet, no Suzy for lunch, Oli only coming back late tonight, but of course the best day to write my blog.

Next week will be my birthday.  I will be 56, nearer 60 than 50 but I prefer not to see it that way.  I feel young, hopefully look young and with all my dieting and walks, feel healthy and on top of the world.  

So my friends, with that I leave you for this week.

Cheers till next time

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