Sunday, April 21, 2013

Maduro for President, bomb attack at the Boston Marathon, the Pulitzer photography prize, English neighbours, “the lady’s not for turning” laid to rest, Clarks shoes, the girls came back from Tenerife, wonderful weather and meals outdoors, Suzy in Avila and other stories.

Suzy in sunny Avila today (at the Plaza Mayor)
Hi again my friends,

What a week it has been in all senses, full of political news as well as tragedies in the United States, good news for Yoigo and lots of things happening on the home front.

On Monday the world woke up to hear that Hugo Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro had won the elections in Venezuela but by a very small margin.  His opponent, Hector Capriles, called for a recount after 3000 or so “incidents” in the voting which the new Government rejected and later in the week Maduro was sworn in.  There have been protests every since and it remains to be seen how the situation will progress.  It is certainly a questionable victory that the democratic countries are not happy with.  I for one would have liked to have seen an audit take place.
Nicolas Maduro

On Monday, when the wonderful weather continued, as it was to do all week, Eladio got out the summer furniture for what we call our “outside dining room”, the patio outside the kitchen where we enjoy our meals in the good weather.
My first meal outside this year was on Monday

Whilst we were enjoying dinner that night outside, albeit a very frugal meal for me as Monday was my fasting day, the news was breaking about bombs at the Boston Marathon.  We were amazed to hear on TV in bed later how homemade bombs, using pressure cookers (the Spanish Fagor brand), killed three people and injured and maimed for life many of the spectators and runners.  I mean terrorism, if that’s what it was – and we didn’t know at the time – just doesn’t go with sport.
The Boston Marathon which was bombed by two Chechen brothers

The news continued through the week of the repercussions of the terror and how the US police and FBI finally caught up with the culprits.  They were two young brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, of Chechen origin aged 26 and 19. They were spied on the public cameras wearing black and white caps and people who knew them identified them immediately and alerted the authorities.  It is yet to be found out why they targeted the Boston Marathon, one of the big five, and it will be some time before we know.  Tamerlan is now dead after a shooting fight with the police and his younger brother who managed to get away but was caught a while later, was shot in the throat and is clinging for life in a Boston hospital and obviously because of the wound will be unable to talk for sometime if he recovers. 
The Chechen brothers

There have been articles about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, but one which caught my attention was written by David Remnick and published in The New Yorker and analyses the story behind the woes of the Chechen people and the story of the Tsarnaev family.  It all boils down to Stalin who in the middle of the second world war declared this region’s people disloyal to the USSR and banished them from their homeland in the northern Caucasus to Central Asia and Siberia.  Many did survive but the Tsarnaev family finally found themselves in Kyrgyzstan and some ten years ago moved to the US.  The rest of the story you know, how Tamerlan did not adapt and yearned for his roots and eventually became a fundamentalist. He committed this awful crime and is now dead.  And you know what? I just think it is all the fault of one of the worst dictators to ever walk the earth, Joseph Stalin.  If you think Hitler was worse, talk to my Father who knows his history and will tell you that the latter devil massacred many more people than the former some of whom were Chechens and whose ancestors bear a grudge still today.  In my readings to document this story, I was fascinated to find out that Chechens who turned to Islam in the 15th century, speak Russian with a thick accent and that their own language is called “Noxchiin Mott”.  I wonder whether the two now famous brothers who perpetrated the horror of the Boston Marathon spoke that language or whether they were more familiar with English after having spent their formative years and done all their schooling in the US, the true melting pot of the world and supposed bastion of democracy.

Tuesday saw me thinking about the Boston bombings but busy at the office in the morning.  Tuesday was also the day the news of this year’s Pulitzer prizes was announced.  I was happy to hear that a Spaniard, Manu Brabo, had won the Breaking News Photography prize.  The prize was awarded to him and his team from the Associated Press for their “compelling coverage of the civil war in Syria, producing memorable images under extreme hazard”.  You can see the full collection here, but the one that stands out most is of a Syrian man crying whilst holding the body of his son.

One of the winning Pulitzer prize photos by Manu Brabo

I think the thermometer was at its highest this week on Tuesday. I went for walks on my own in the afternoons in the middle of the week as Eladio has his UNED tutorials then.  I probably recorded the highest temperature on Tuesday afternoon on my walk as you can see in the photo below.
My warmest walk this week
It was on Tuesday afternoon that I found out we would be having an English neighbour. Imagine that for me!  As I came back from an errand, I met two women just outside the house next door which has been on sale for quite a few years now.  It has been difficult to sell not just because of the crisis but because the house, more of a shell really, is unfinished and will need a lot of work and money to become a proper home.  We began to talk in Spanish and I immediately recognized the English accent of one of the women.  Kate too was very surprised and pleased and told me she had made an offer for the house and that it had been accepted.  I invited my new English neighbour and her friend in for a “nice cup of tea” on our outside dining room table and here we introduced ourselves properly.  Kate is a teacher of English at a local school and is married to a Spaniard, like me of course which tickled us both pink.  Her husband is from the north of Spain and works in the telecoms market the same as me.  So they are just like us; an English woman married to a Spaniard and with similar professions.  In their case she is the teacher and in my case Eladio is the teacher.  I look forward to their moving in and having an English neighbour and hopefully a friend but I think it will take some time because of the work needed doing on their new house.   

Wednesday was an important date in the history of Great Britain.  It was the day of  Margaret Thatcher’s “ceremonial funeral” (one step down from a state funeral) and it was of course broadcast in its entirety on television. 
Margaret Thatcher's coffin fittingly draped with a Union Jack flag

Many of us have been following the news of her death and not unsurprisingly the nation was divided in its sentiment as it was during her premiership and indeed for much of her life.  There were those who mourned her death and those who celebrated it.  I am sort of in the middle.  I was a teenager when she came to power and I lived through the major events when she governed such as the Miners’ strikes, when she removed the school milk allowance and was called “Thatcher the milk snatcher”, the bomb attack on her own life during one of the Conservative Party conferences, the war with Argentina over the Falklands and of course her downfall which had much to do with the proposal of the “poll tax”.  I think she became just a little too regal or full of herself especially towards the end of her last government.  So yes, she did some good things and some bad things.  She will be very much remembered for some amazing public speaking and celebratory quotes.  I think the most famous quote of all is when she said “the lady’s not for turning” at a Conservative Party Conference in 1980.  It has now become a Thatcherite motto and even a name to describe Baroness Thatcher which is why I have chosen it for this week’s headline.  The full declaration was the following: “you turn if you want to” but “the lady’s not for turning” in reference to her opposition to the liberalization of the economy that her predecessor, Ted or Edward Heath had urged. Another quote I read this week and loved was this: “Being powerful is like being a lady.  If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t”.
A quote I particularly like from the late Margaret Thatcher
I didn’t see the funeral but read about it as being the biggest funeral for an ex British Prime Minister since Winston Churchill and the first one since his death that the Queen attended.  People lined the streets to view the funeral cortege.
The route of the funeral procession

One thing that struck me of the funeral was the reading by her young granddaughter Amanda, aged not yet 20 who read flawlessly at the funeral service.  When praised on her performance she was to comment that it was “in the blood”.  I’m sure her grandmother would have been proud to hear her, although I wonder what she would have thought about her pronounced American accent.
Amanda Thatcher reading at her grandmother's funeral, a flawless performance
 But not everyone was mourning her death that day.  I particularly found funny this picture I found which reflects the sarcastic negative sentiment some people have about her figure.
Some people wished the Iron Lady a rest in rust
So yes on Wednesday, the lady who was not for turning, that most charismatic, loved and hated English woman figure who was part of my growing up years in England, was finally laid to rest.  I am not one who would like her to rest in rust, just in peace and to have her place in history if only for one major achievement: being the first woman premier both in England and in Europe. RIP Maggie.

As you know, in this blog, I comment on important worldly events but also on the mundane, often the trivia of our lives, so don’t be surprised about my next story.  Whilst Margaret Thatcher was being laid to rest, Eladio was giving our dogs their fortnightly or rather monthly bathe.  And here is a photo of dear Elsa stoically putting up with the warm water and soap which I sometimes suspect she secretly likes as she puts up no opposition.
Elsa having a bath this week
 More trivia that day for you, but important for me: my new Clarks red and blue shoes ordered online the day before arrived just as the dogs were having their baths. So why is that important you may ask? Well, I have ungainly and funnily shaped feet, rather too wide and cannot wear dainty shoes to be found in the shops here for Spanish women with elegant feet.  Clarks, the good old English shoemaker, makes shoes which are good for imperfect feet like mine; i.e. they are slightly wider and generally more comfortable.  I needed some blue shoes and some red shoes to go with all the new outfits I keep buying and this week I found just what I wanted on, shoes in those colours with medium sized heels which would fit the bill.  And they arrived on Wednesday and were a perfect fit.  All I can say is 10/10 for Clarks for making shoes that are nice (not beautiful but pretty enough), that fit me, are not too expensive and are delivered almost for free the day after purchasing them. 
Red shoe, the model I bought from Clarks online this week
Blue shoe, the model I bought from Clarks online too this week

My dear girls were back on Wednesday night from their four day break in Tenerife.  You may remember me telling you last week that they had gone with Rocío, Erika and Anita to stay with their school friend Estefanía who now lives there.  From what they told us when they came back it seems much time was spent on the El Médano beach and relaxing at Estefanía’s home.  For the record here is a photo of them having lunch together one day.  It must have been Anita who took the photo as she is not in it.
The girls with their friends in Tenerife last week
They were home for a late outside dinner that night, having been picked up at the airport by Olivia’s boyfriend Miguel who had come to join her for the rest of the week.  I went all out, or rather Oufa went all out to make a special dinner.  I’m sorry now we didn’t take a picture to capture the dinner we prepared for their return.  They told us it had been warm in the Canary Islands but not quite as warm as here.  Ironically the islands are now going through a heat wave with temperatures over 30ºc.  Suzy commented it was Murphy’s Law.  I suppose it was.  In any case they came back quite brown from sunbathing on the beach which they later told me was rather windy.

Of interest on Thursday I went out shopping in search of a full cover for my iPhone which I dropped at the beginning of the week. If fell on the screen side which is made of glass and it splintered. Funnily enough it still worked but it was difficult to see text or photos.  When I posted the photo below on FB I got comments from ex Nokia colleagues to say that didn’t happen to Nokia phones.  I don’t know if it does but it is true that I never broke the screen of any of my Nokia phones.  I am lucky I work in the industry as I soon got a replacement phone whilst mine is being mended.  But I decided I didn’t want it to happen again because of the fuss of restoring all the information, pictures and applications which can take a few hours and went in search of a full cover.  I went to the Apple store at Gran Plaza 2 but didn’t find anything suitable there. In the end it was at The Phone House that I found a lovely white leather case which is now protecting my replacement phone.
My broken iPhone  a sorry sight
When I told Suzy I was going to Plaza Norte 2 for a case for my phone, she commented I would be doing some clothes shopping too.  She was right.  I just couldn’t resist going into H+M and Zara and at the latter found a great black and white checkered blazer and matching skirt.  So “me” the girls told me me later.
The black and white checkered blazer from Zara
Thursday of course was the day tragedy struck the US for the second time this week. This time an explosion occurred at a fertilizer plant in a town called West in Texas.  The death toll was higher than in Boston and 14 people died whilst 200 people were injured.  Thankfully this time it wasn’t because of terrorists.
The blast at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas this week
Friday was a very busy day for me and a great day for Yoigo.  It was the 1st quarterly results day and they were published by our majority shareholder, the Swedish telecoms operator TeliaSonera at 7 that morning.  At 8h I was attending my first conference call with the communications staff in the group and at 08h.30 the second one, this time with the head of the Mobility Services division which Yoigo belongs to.  The other countries in this group are Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.  The news for Yoigo was good and it was my job to communicate it quickly to the press and employees in Spanish.  Yoigo’s sales had increased by 19% vs the same quarter in 2012, a sort of wow in these times of crisis. 
It was good news for Yoigo on Friday
One good thing about being busy on Thursday, my second fast day of the week, is that it took my mind off food.  I had to be in the office for a meeting with my boss to go over an important agenda for next Monday and to discuss some other important upcoming projects I am responsible for. Some of the items discussed at the meeting had me working a lot of this weekend, but I do not mind. I hardly distinguish my work time from my private time and always prefer to have lots of projects to deal with being the busy bee I am.

That evening, Eladio and I went out for dinner as we often do on Friday nights.  The restaurant we went to was new and one that had been recommended by Juana for a lunch engagement some of my ex Nokia women colleagues and I will be having next month.  But intrigued by her recommendation, we decided to try out Xa Casa Picón in Majadahonda on Friday.  The pretty building it is housed in is one I am very familiar with having driven past it many times and one I have always liked.  It used to be a furniture shop but is now a restaurant.  It certainly lived up to our expectations and also the positive reviews I had seen on Foursquare and Trip Advisor.  We will definitely going back if only for the “salmorejo” which was out of this world.
Xa Casa Picón, the restaurant we discovered on Friday
Saturday was probably the best day of the week. Both girls were to be here for lunch which always makes me happy.  Because of the good weather we were to have the first barbecue of the season. 
Eladio cooking the barbecue meat on Saturday
I have to admit the temperatures went down this weekend but it was still sunny if a little cool, and even so our first family barbecue was a complete success.

After lunch Suzy went off to a rural hotel near Avila with her Russian friend who we call Vladimir, although his name is actually Emil.  Today she sent me some photos. The one illustrating this week’s blogpost is of her sitting in the beautiful main square of Avila, the “plaza mayor”.  The one below is of her standing by the walls of the town. We expect her home this evening.
Suzy by the walls of Avila today
I should also mention that on Saturday too Olivia and Miguel who are becoming keen short distance runners, did a 10km race. It was in aid of mental health and here they ran with a friend from Montrondo called Jorge who had a terrible car accident some years ago but is now a keen runner.
Olivia ready to run the 10km race on Saturday

Last night we were invited out to dinner.  Olivia’s boyfriend, Miguel, invited the three of us out to dinner for a belated celebration of his birthday.  We went to a great place called Sibara in Majadahonda.  They serve fish and chips amongst other things and which of course I chose.  It was a good occasion to get to know Miguel a little better.  Apart from being an engineer and cameraman for TVE he is a keen sportsman and especially loves swimming.  In May he will be swimming the 30km stretch between Ibiza and Formentera which will take him some 10 hours to do.  I don’t think I could even swim for an hour without stopping so am very impressed with his new challenge.

And now it’s Sunday again and the sun is shining and we are having a nice relaxing day.  When I say we I do not refer to Olivia who right now will be finishing an exam for a fixed job in Melilla with TVE.  She works for TVE but does not have a fixed contract, but this opportunity is a shot in the dark as there will be many contenders and only one vacancy.  In any case we wish her all the luck in the world.

Tomorrow will be very busy for me with an important series of events I am involved in at work, including lunch.  Thus I shall put off my normal fasting Monday until Tuesday.  

I will leave you now to enjoy a walk with Eladio and the dogs and some quality time with Suzy who has just back from Avila.  I wish you all a great week

Meanwhile, all the best

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