Monday, April 08, 2013

Oli reporting from Valladolid and her faux pas, 40 years of mobile phones, friends from abroad, a night at Hotel Fontecruz in Avila, Goodbye Margaret Thatcher and other things.

Monday 8th April 2013
Outside the Fontecruz Hotel near Avila where we were invited on Saturday
Hello everyone,

I’m one day late.  Some of you will know that this was because I was cross yesterday.  Well I was but it’s over now, so here I am again ready to tell you the tale of last week.

I left off last Sunday, Easter Day. That was the day of Suzy’s moving home before leaving for her London adventure in May.  I was so looking forward to having her home for some quality family time but it seems that is not happening.  In a way I am cross with myself for being so naïve and try to remind myself that the girls are now young women and have their own lives.  That though is no excuse for them not taking part in family life.  

On Sunday, the day I ate too much chocolate, the new Pope Francis gave his first Urbi et Orbii blessing in St. Peter’s square.  This increasingly popular Pope delivered a passionate plea for peace where he singled out Syria saying “how much blood has been shed and how much suffering there must still be before a political solution is found”.
Pope Francis at his first Easter blessing last Sunday
At home in England, followers of the celebrated University Boat race which first took place in 1856,  would be watching Oxford beat Cambridge in the 6.8km stretch of the Thames in West London, from Putney to Mortake.  For the record I looked up who had won more times and was happy to read it was Cambridge, my birth town, who, as of 2013 have won the race 81 times.
Oxford beat Cambridge last Sunday at the annual boat race
England was to celebrate another sport victory that day, one I had two minds about.  David Ferrer of Spain was to meet Scottish Andy Murray in the Masters 1000 Miami tournament final.  Murray won despite Ferrer having a match point in the tie break.  Murray is now number two in the world, no mean feat for a player from Britain, not exactly famous for producing great tennis champions, although enamoured with the sport, albeit only once  year at Wimbledon.

On Sunday by the way it rained all day.  It has been very rainy recently so I wasn’t’ surprised to read later that in Spain where we usually complain about droughts, March has turned out be the rainiest month since weather was recorded. On Monday morning Olivia was sent to Valladolid to report on the flooding of the rivers there and in the surrounding towns. And that was the beginning of a media adventure, where news of her reporting went viral on other tv channels and on internet.

At 10.15 on Monday she reported from the river in a place called Viana de Ciega in Valladolid.  I was not to see it as I was attending the weekly management team meeting at Yoigo.  So I never heard her faux pas on TV.  The talk back internal channel did not work, so she had no idea she was live.  She found herself dressed in a wet suit and standing in the middle of the river with water up to her waist waiting to interview the mayor of the town and said, not knowing that she was live, “oh shit the mayor is not here”.  This tv piece then was aired on other tv channels and I think she got some fame out of the incident.  You can see the clip with the faux pas here.  I think she got out of the situation quite well and thankfully her colleagues from the programme didn’t give her any stick for it.
Olivia was caught unawares on tv on Monday - this is her at the famous faux pas moment when she said live  "shit, the mayor is not there".
Later in the morning she reported from the Pesquera River in Valladolid and once again she did so from the river wearing a wet suit.  Her idea of reporting on the flooded rivers got her into trouble as she was photographed doing so by local media and apparently the Civil Protection unit from the town criticized what they said was dangerous reporting on their twitter.  This news spread on internet and was a bit of a scoop.  The silly thing though, was that she had done nothing dangerous.  In the photo it looks like she is in the middle of the river but if you see the video of the live report (go to 11.30h) you will realize she is right by a wall and in no danger.  Olivia always likes to be as original as she can and I agree that it is much more visual to report on the flooding from the river rather than by the river bank.  I alerted my family to the first article and many of them made lots of comments in her favour.  You can read it here.  All in all, both activities were probably good for her personal branding; I mean it’s good to stand out from the crowd and have people talking about you rather than going unnoticed.  I wonder if you agree?  You probably do I’m sure.

The image that caused the controversy: that Olivia was doing dangerous reporting in the middle of the flooded river when actually she was right next to a wall in the river. 
Monday 1st April was of course All Fools’ Dy.  It is not celebrated here, the Spanish version being on 28th December, so I had to enjoy it via internet.  Here there were plenty of pranks.  I think my favourite was one about an airbag for the whole of a Volvo car or possibly the one about a new product from Google called “Google Nose”.  You can read about some of them here if you missed them.
Monday 1st April was of course April Fools' Day
But I wasn’t thinking about April Fools’ Day when I heard on Monday morning the good news that Yoigo’s major shareholder, the telecoms operator of Nordic origin, TeliaSonera, who were to announce officially the next day that they had abandoned plans to sell Yoigo.  I had to keep the news to myself until it was official the next day.  I am happy to continue belonging to TeliaSonera, as there is no better corporate culture than the Nordic one and I have some experience with others too (Spanish, British, American, French).  Also I think it is great for the competition in the Spanish market to continue to have an agile and low cost challenger such as Yoigo.  On the personal side, it also means that my working model will continue to be the same and I can tell you I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Yoigo with its 109 employees and nearly 4 million customers is by far the best company I have ever worked for and I would not have liked to see it being absorbed by a global operator which would also have meant a huge change to my status quo.  

On Tuesday I was relieved when the news went out about TeliaSonera’s decision.  Olivia on that day reported again on the flooding of the rivers at towns like Tordesillas or Toro – you can see the latter on this link if you go to 12.17h and 13.06h.  Once again she did so dressed in a wet suit from the rivers themselves and the story of her doing so continued to grow on internet. I should mention, she had expected to come home on Monday and so had taken no luggage.  That proved not to be a problem as all she had to do was visit Zara and get yet more new clothes!
Olivia reporting on the floods
She came home, accompanied by her boyfriend Miguel, on time to watch the football match with my Father, between Barcelona and Paris S.G. where both teams were hoping for a place in the finals. In the end David Beckham’s new team drew with Barcelona 2-2 at the Camp Nou, not a good result for the Spaniards.  They will play again this week, so good luck to them in the second leg in Paris this time.

Wednesday 3rd April marked the 40th anniversary of the first call with a mobile phone – well that is if you can call the “dyanatac”, made by my old company Motorola, exactly that.  Ironically today Motorola is owned by Google and there are something between 6 and 7 billion users.  The phone call was made by a Motorola employee, Martin Cooper, who I am sure could never have envisaged how much mobile phones would change our lives or what the smartphones of today would do or look like.  I remember using a dynatac in the early 90’s before the smaller phones came along.  The battery used to last some 20 minutes or less and the talk time was about half that.  I should also mention that it cost a bomb, so we should not complain about the price of smartphones today.
The first mobile phone call took place 40 years ago and it was made on the Motorola Dynatac by a company employee, Martin Cooper.
For the record the said Martin Cooper uttered these words in the first ever mobile phone call which took place in New York on 3rd April 1973: “I’m ringing you just to see if my call sounds good at your end”.  Motorola went on to do amazing things and it is sad to see it disappear from most of the countries in Europe, including Spain.

Wednesday was also the day Real Madrid played the Turkish team Galatasary in the first leg of the quarter finals of this year’s Champions League.  I am happy to report they won 3-0.  Today, Monday 8th April, they will play the return match in Turkey.  I am confident they will get through to the semi final and only hope they will not meet Barcelona then.

If on Wednesday the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first mobile phone, on Thursday, Facebook, the social media giant, who I am sure Martin Cooper could never have imagined existing, chose that day to announce what we all thought would be a “facebook phone”.  But we were to be disappointed as in the end all they announced was what they call “Facebook Home”, a sort of set of FB applications to be placed on the home screen of the mobile phone – but only on some Android terminals to start with.  This news, at least for me, was a bit of a flop as I think it will only serve to accentuate what is becoming known as “Facebook fatigue”.  I mean I do not need easier access to the social network as I am quite happy with what already exists and do not want my phone dominated by Facebook.  I prefer to access it when I want and not have it shoved down my throat so as to speak.
Mark Zuckerberg introducing Facebook Home on Thursday, a bit of a flop I think
Thursday was also the day my nephew Juan chose to announce a new blog called “El Calecho” (a term which in Montrondo which sort of means a cozy gathering) written by him and his brother Miguel who was living in London till recently and his sister Sara who lives in China.  I have already linked it to my only blog and am extremely proud of my nephews and niece for having started this great personal blog where they will be telling us about their lives and opinions.

On Friday, the bad weather continued in Spain and Olivia, back in Madrid, was sent off early in the morning to report on the snowfall in the mountains of the capital, to Navacerrada.  We were happy to watch her doing so and loved her again for her creative reporting.  This time she nestled into an igloo she found there as you can see in the picture below.  You can also see the report here if you go to 12.15h.
Olivia reported on the snow on Friday - in this image she nestled inside an igloo!
On Friday I did the food shopping with Oufa as we usually do.  I have to tell you what we had for lunch, as it was very special and not bought at the local shops.  It was “pastela”, a Moroccan chicken pie made by Oufa’s sister Fatima.  This is what it looked like.
Oufa's sister's delicious "pastela"
That afternoon we were awaiting visitors from abroad.  Andy was coming with his teenage football fan son, Daniel and his daughter Charlotte who is learning Spanish in Madrid.  You will remember, if you follow this blog, that Andy and Charlotte came to stay when he brought her out to Madrid at the end of January.  We served afternoon tea and my Father, who had taught Russian to Andy who now lives with his family in France, near Geneva where he works for the UN, joined us of course.  It’s always nice to host someone important from our past like Andy.  Later we took him on our walk with the dogs and he commented just how cold it was; something rather unusual for this time of year here.  At dinner, which to my chagrin the girls did not attend, Andy and his children tasted the pastela and other more Spanish culinary delights.

On Saturday morning, Eladio I were leaving quite early as I had been invited to an “open doors” event for communications people at the Hotel Fontecruz just outside Avila.  I don’t often go to events like this but when I saw the invitation I couldn’t resist.
The invitation I couldn't resist
Feeling slightly guilty about not hosting Andy and his family for more time, I decided to put on a fabulous breakfast.  Thus I got up early to go and buy fresh mini croissants and the quintessential and favourite Spanish breakfast fare: “chocolate con churros” (thick hot chocolate drink and donut sort of fritters).  Knowing I would be fasting the following Monday and Thursday I’m afraid I slightly over indulged.  Below is a photo of Andy, Charlotte and Daniel enjoying the breakfast.
Andy, Daniel and Charlotte at breakfast on Saturday morning
We left shortly afterwards and arrived at the Hotel which is sort of in the middle of nowhere by midday, just on time for the presentation and tour of the hotel.  Eladio preferred to skip on the professional part of the stay but joined us all for lunch at 14h.  The group of communicators and marketers invited, included their partners, so at lunch I counted about 40 people around the tables.

Lunch was great but far too heavy. It included one of favourite dishes, one I have mentioned often before on this blog: “patatas revolconas”.  This is the dish we enjoyed at the Hotel Fontecruz on Saturday near Avila.
The delicious "patatas revolconas" at the Hotel Fontecruz Avila
Afterwards, feeling far too full and with a little too much wine to be digested, we fell asleep until it was time for the next item on our agenda, a session in the hotel spa.  The spa was ok as far as hotel spas go but the water in the Jacuzzi type pools was a little too cold as was the sauna a little below my preferred temperature.  But it served to wake me up properly from my stupor.  We were then in desperate need of a very long walk, if only to be able to face food for dinner.  Luckily it didn’t rain but it was awfully cold outside.  We found a charming farming path that actually led to the town which in the end we never visited as we have been to Avila quite a few times and our objective was more about relaxing at the hotel than touring the town. Below is a photo of my very attractive husband on the walk which was just under two hours and brought us back to the hotel feeling a lot better.
My good looking husband on the walk near Avila on Saturday evening
We decided against a heavy meal out at some fancy restaurant in Avila, preferring a simple meal via room service.  And this is just what we did, falling asleep earlier than planned whilst trying to watch The Day After on the tiny old fashioned TV in the room which had dreadful reception.

We were up early feeling relaxed and refreshed.  We were also the first into the dining room for breakfast.  And very soon we were on our way home.  We took the scenic route via El Escorial.  We stopped at a vantage point on the way to capture the view of the amazing monastery built by Philip II of Spain.  You can’t see it very well on the picture, but the backdrop of snow clad mountains only served to enhance the view.
The view of the El Escorial Monastery on our way home from Avila on Sunday morning
Here you can see the rest of the photos of our stay at the Hotel Fontecruz, which of course was one of the highlights of our week. The rest of the day at home was a bit of a damper after the excitement of the week.  Thankfully, today, I am feeling more positive.

And today is Monday and I can only end this blogpost by reflecting on a huge piece of news that happened this morning.  Incredibly the Iron Lady, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, born Margaret Roberts, the daughter of a grocer from Grantham and the first and only British Prime Minister, died this morning, aged 87 after suffering from a stroke.  She was PM of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990 and very much a part of my life there as a teenager.  She is and will go down in history for being one of England’s most charismatic political leaders, in league I would dare to say with the likes of Sir Winston Churchill.  Not long ago I read her daughter Carol’s story, “A swim on part in the gold fish bowl” and wrote about it on my blog here.  She was an important part of my formative years and governed in exciting times and I will never forget her.   RIP, goodbye Margaret Thatcher.
RIP Margaret Thatcher
And that my friends, is that for this week.  I wish you all the best and thank you, as always, for reading my blog and being interested in what is really, quite a mundane life.


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