Sunday, May 19, 2013

Oli in Galicia, Russian Easter, Yoigo announced 4G, a secret mission, remembering George, Madrid the coldest capital in the world, finally Suzy went to London, a day trip to Montrondo and lots of other stories.

Suzy's friends gave her and Chati a great sendoff at the airport on Friday
Hi again

It’s been two weeks since I last wrote and a lot has happened since then, so let me start from where I left off, Sunday 5th May.  That afternoon Oli returned from a weekend in Valencia with her boyfriend Miguel.  No sooner had she returned, she was off again, this time to Santiago in Galicia where she would be reporting most of that week for tve.  Suzy and I had to pack her case via instructions from her from the train.  I had predicted moments of bedlam and I was right.  The most stressful moment was closing her new suitcase whilst the driver from TVE was waiting for her outside.  Thankfully she caught her plane, but only just

I realised the next day that Sunday had been Russian Easter and was cross for not realizing it on the day and writing about it in my last post.  When I was a child we would celebrate it at home, my Mother making magic of the event.  She would prepare a table full of Russian Easter fare: paskha, kulich, painted boiled eggs, … which was to be eaten at dawn after going to church for the Easter service. 
Kulich, eaten at Russian Easter (very similar to panettone)

We would be woken up at 3 in the morning to go to the Russian church in Bradford which was really a room in a house somewhere near the University.  It would be full of Ukranian orthodox as there weren’t many Russians in Yorkshire.  The “church” would be full of this religion’s followers holding lit candles and chanting “Xristos Vaskresi” (Christ has risen) and there would be an overwhelming smell of incense which the bearded priest would swing towards the icons.  We would kiss the icons and stand throughout the service which was very long.  In the Russian church, there are no pews to sit down on.  Very often fervent older women believers would prostrate themselves on the floor in front of one of the icons and as there was hardly any room you had to get out of the way.  I remember standing with my brother and Aunty Masha who sang beautifully and being worried about my hair catching fire.  I liked some of the atmosphere but got tired of standing and mostly looked forward to the feast afterwards at the heavily laden dining room table.  I felt ashamed on Monday that I had not carried on the tradition my Mother had brought me up on when I was a child.  It was thanks to my cousin Katty who lives in New Zealand that I knew that day was Russian Easter.  Unlike me, she has carried on the tradition, through her Mother, my cousin Zuka and her grandmother, my Aunty Valya, my Mother’s contemporary.  They both arranged a beautiful Russian Easter for my New Zealand family. Xristos Vaskresi to you all.  I wish I had been there with you.
A typical scene at a church for Russian Easter

The next day, Monday, was my fast day of course. But I was too busy for it to bother me.  I had to be in the office for a meeting about last minute preparations for the next day’s important press conference.  Thus I missed Oli on the TV.

Tuesday was crazy but great.  At 13.30 we held our press conference to announce our plans to launch 4G this summer.  4G for those of who are not in the know is the new super fast internet for your mobile.  To quote our Ericsson speaker Reine, it’s like the difference between black and white and colour TV.  The press conference, which was with both Ericsson, our network supplier, and Samsung, now the top mobile phone supplier, was held at the Torre de Cristal. This amazing building is one of the very modern high rise towers in Madrid and was built by our shareholder ACS.  It was the perfect location to announce our ambitious plans.  As with most press conferences, you never know what the turnout will be like. Luckily for me, all the big guns from the telecoms press in Spain were there to witness our news.  Yoigo, the last mobile network operator in Spain and the smallest was audacious enough to announce we would be the first to have 4G in Spain.  Or so we thought as just a few days later, Orange pipped us to the post by saying they would launch 10 days earlier.  Our launch date is the 18th July and theirs is now 8th July.  It’s funny they should be so wary of us.  The good news really is that it means two operators will be offering the new super fast mobile internet this summer. 
A scene from our 4G press conference

You can see the photos of this event here.  I was very pleased later to see we had made it to trending topic, at least twice that morning as well as abundant news on the online and offline press.  This is what my job is all about; lots of positive news about our company in the media and I achieved it.
We got TT (trending topic) on Twitter during our press conference, not easy to achieve.

Again on Tuesday I missed Olivia on the TV, although I was able to see her story about a couple stealing in Sanxenxo later here.  You can too if you fast forward to 10.28h.
Olivia reporting from Sanxenxo in Galicia

From Wednesday to Sunday I was away on a secret mission I can’t tell you about until later, as otherwise a surprise I am planning will be revealed and that can’t happen yet.  Suzy came with me, which meant I had some quality time with her; something we both needed before her moving to London.  Eladio joined us on Friday and the three of us had some quality time together as well before she left to return to Madrid on Friday night.  It was most frustrating for me not to be able to post anything on Facebook about my activities during my secret mission but I managed it as I had no other option.

Suzy was keen to return to Madrid to organize her goodbye party that was held at home, of course. It was to be the first of many good bye events for her before she left.
Suzy's big goodbye party

On Sunday we were back and it was beautifully warm in Madrid, warm enough to have dinner outside. It was a great dinner as both girls were at home, as well as Miguel.  Suzy and I were wearing the same dress, the ones we had bought at a flea market that week.  I think we look great, don’t you?
What fun, Suzy and I wearing the same dress.

Sunday was a great day again for Spanish sport.  Rafa Nadal, now nearly recovered from his injuries, won the Madrid Master’s tennis tournament and Fernando Alonso won the Spanish F1 GP held in Barcelona.

The next day, Monday 13th May, was another fasting day for me and very necessary to work off the excesses of the previous week.  

On Tuesday we finally saw Olivia on the TV.  She was back in Madrid but was sent off to nearby Guadalajara to report on a sad case, the court case of the suicide of a 15 year old, Mónica Jaramillo, who had committed suicide after years of bullying.  You can see her here on this clip if you fast forward to 12.25h.
Olivia reporting on a court case about bullying in Guadalajara this week

Olivia, I think excels at reporting on weather but also on court cases and sport.  In her job she has to be able to report on nearly anything and thereby the excitement of her reporter profession.

Tuesday was also the last day of Eladio’s tutorial teaching at the UNED University, until October.  He was very pleased also to hear the week before that he had been awarded with the prestigious “Venia Docendi”.  A Venia Docendi means literally a “license to teach” and is a requirement of the UNED and other Universities if you want to have a permanent post as a University teacher.  Well done Eladio.  

Wednesday, 15th May, was a holiday in Madrid to celebrate the patron saint, San Isidro.  It was of course Eladio’s youngest brother Isidro’s birthday.  But for me the 15th May will always be the date I remember my brother George passing away.  My beautiful talented but troubled brother died on 15th May 2001 in Hampstead London.  I wrote a tribute that day on Facebook and this is what I said: “Remembering especially today my dear brother George who died 12 years ago today. RIP my beautiful talented and special brother who life did not treat well - but remember the good times, our chats at night, you playing the piano or guitar which you learned to play by ear and my singing to your tunes, your trips to South America, your hitch hiking to Afghanistan, your ability to pick up languages, your outgoing nature when you were happy, your love of food, your beautiful smile, your blue eyes and amazing good looks, your talent for sport and above all your inner goodness. There is hardly a day when I do not remember you. Your sister who misses you, Masha”.  What I could have added is that I feel forever guilty that life has treated me so well whilst it treated my brother unfairly, especially because he was so much more talented than I.  That is something I will always regret and feel sad about.  My Father will have been thinking about George too that day.  There was not much need for us to exchange words as we both knew what we were thinking. 
This week was the anniversary of the passing away of my brother George

I have very few photos of my brother and perhaps this is the only one of us together.  It was taken in Norwich when we were in our late teens and I love it. The original hangs on the wall by my bedside and means so much to me.

That afternoon whilst Eladio was giving his last lecture at the UNED, I went on our walk on our own and throughout it I reflected on my memories of my brother George.  It was a beautiful walk and I took the time to take photos of the lovely wild flowers. My Father used to enjoy them when he went on that same walk and would often bring us back a bunch.  He would have enjoyed my walk on Wednesday.  The picture below is dedicated to him.  I always learned from my Father to enjoy the little things in life.  Thank you for teaching me to appreciate the little things in the life and its beauty which can be found even in the ugliest places.
Beautiful wild flowers on our walk at this time of year

There is much beauty in our garden too, especially at this time of year.  In May, we have a shrub which blossoms each year at the same time and has a wonderful fragrance.  We had the same one in our previous house and it brings back fond memories of spring and of the girls’ communions and eating outside in the good weather.  I have always loved it but didn’t know its name.  In Spanish Eladio says it’s called “celindo”.  Curious, I looked it up and found out that its botanical name is “philadelphus coronarius”.  In English it has two names: “mock orange blossom” or “dogtooth”.  Here is a photo for you.
The mock orange blossom flowers at this time of year in our garden and I love it.

Whilst I was on my walk, Suzy was on a surprise birthday excursion.  Her friends had bought her tickets to see the Lion King that afternoon but she was not to know where she was going until she was outside the theatre.  She told me later that she loved the show, or rather musical.  I was not surprised as she used to love and watch, together with Olivia, all the Disney films, when they were small.
Suzy's birthday from her friends - surprise tickets to see The Lion King. She was blindfolded all the way until they got there.

After my walk, with some time on my hands, I started my latest book: “They have their exits” by Airey Neave.  Airey Neave (1916-1979) was a British officer who is famous for escaping from Colditz, the German prisoner-of-war camp in the Second World War.  This famous Etonian was also well known for his political career as advisor to Margaret Thatcher whose life was cut short when he was killed by an IRA car bomb in 1979. 
The book I am reading at the moment.

Wednesday being a holiday, Eladio and I decided to go for dinner. Our choice was one of our latest favourites, Ginos.  Over our delicious dinner we reflected on the events of the week and of course of Susana’s imminent departure.

Thursday was business as usual.  I went to the office for a meeting with my boss.  But it was only later that day that I learned some good news which I would have liked to share with him.  The Social Baker’s first quarter report was out.  They are the experts in measuring corporate presence and how well brands interact with their customers on social networks.  I was delighted to see that Yoigo was ranked the third most socially devoted brand in the whole of Spain.  Socially devoted means how well you respond to your customer base or fans’ enquiries or problems.  I also took note that we were the only telecoms brand in the top ten, quite an achievement.  

According to Socialbakers, Yoigo was the 3rd most socially devoted brand in Spain in Q1 2013

This week has been much colder than the previous week and I was back in stockings, we were no longer eating outside and we had to wear anoraks on our walks.  Amazingly for this time of year, there was snow forecast in the mountains outside Madrid the next day, Friday.  This meant Olivia would be sent out early in the morning to Navacerrada to report on the unusual weather conditions for this time of year. 

Olivia reporting on the snow in the moumtains outside Madrid on Friday morning

We watched her here at 10.07h but what we didn’t know until later is that Friday 17th May 2013 Madrid would record its coldest high temperature since 1920 (9.2c) and, according to this article, would be the coldest capital in the world. It was pretty amazing to read that meanwhile there was 25c in Moscow and similar warm temperatures in Eastern Europe.  The cold temperatures were due to unusual cold currents.  Thankfully though the warm weather will return next week and hopefully soon we will be experiencing the usual warm weather we so enjoy at this time of year. I am even dreaming of getting the swimming pool and porch ready for when that happens.  So watch this space.

Olivia spent a lot of this week working on a video report of the first Spanish woman, Vanesa Veiga, to win the Madrid marathon in 15 years.  Her story is quite something, a woman athlete in her late 30s who gave up long distance running to have three children.  This was her first marathon in 7 years since their birth and to everyone’s amazement including her own, she won.  You can see the report here. 
Friday, the coldest day in Madrid, brought good professional news for me again.  On Friday the Yoigo Facebook page reached 100.000 likes.  Wow that is a number to celebrate as we have promised our fans on the page.  If you aren’t a fan yet, I invite you to be so.  All you have to do is go to this page and “like it”.
The Yoigo FB page reached 100.000 likes this week.

Friday of course was “D day” for us, the day Suzy was finally leaving with her nurse friend María (commonly known as “Chati”) for their London adventure.  I call it an adventure because they are leaving everything here to start a new life where hopefully they will be able to find decent jobs and in the field of their studies; something which is mission impossible these days in Spain.  It was a very emotional day for all of us, but especially for Susana who was cutting the umbilical cord; i.e. saying goodbye to all her friends and the life she has here and leaving for the unknown; i.e. London where all they have is a place to stay for the first few nights.  There is no comfortable home to go to, nor a good job, nor a family or friends. They will be starting from scratch; no easy task.  At the same time I consider it an adventure, an adventure I myself once lived but here in Spain in the early 80’s.  In a way she is following in my footsteps.  She is not aware that she is also following in the footsteps of her grandmother, my Mother who arrived in London after the war not knowing a word of English and in a much more precarious situation than her.  It all worked out for my Mother and for me and I want to think it will all work out for Susana too.  If it doesn’t she knows we are all here to help her if and when she comes back.

We had a quiet family lunch and Suzy spent most of the afternoon packing.  I was with her for some of the time as was Eladio.  We needed her Father to help with the weighing of her suitcase which could not go over 20kg.  So he had to go on the scales and then off and on again with the suitcase.  We of course would not go on, not wanting to see the result as we always weigh ourselves first thing in the morning and with nothing on which is when you are at your lightest (any woman reading this will understand).  Some of her clothes needed last minute drying and Eladio came in handy once again as you can see in the photo below.
 A bit of last minute fun with Suzy before she left on Friday - Eladio helping her dry some clothes
Olivia was to take her to the airport where a lot of her friends would gather too for a wonderful send off.  Suzy cried when she left but I funnily enough was dry eyed. My last words to her were typical of a Mother in my situation: to be productive and work hard to find a job and settle in.  However my dry eyes soon turned to tears when Olivia posted a photo of the group at the airport, the photo which is illustrating this week’s blog.  Suzy is second left on the front row (red hair) and Chati is on the second left in the back row.  In case you hadn’t noticed Oli is at the back in the middle with a bright pink scarf.  

We heard later that night that they had arrived safely.  They are staying in a very modest little room with bunk beds in Whitechapel.  I don’t know London well, only ever having been there as a tourist, but I do know from playing Monopoly that Whitechapel is one of the cheapest properties on the board and that it is in the East End which in the past did not have a good reputation.  I looked it up and found out that it is where Jack the Ripper came from and today is known as “Little Bangladesh”; not quite the area I would like my daughter to live in.  However she told me this weekend that the area is fine; what is not so great is the room or rather it’s a bit of a hole.  They will probably move out soon.  So far it seems they are in good spirits, exploring the terrain and meeting people.  The photo below of Suzy on one of the bunks in their small room, sums up her positive attitude.  I love it.
Suzy in her bunk bed in Whitechapel, very Suzy!
On Friday night my mind was in London and not in Madrid where the final of the Spanish Football Cup, La Copa del Rey was being played at the Real Madrid stadium, the Bernabeu, against the other famous Madrid team, El Atlético de Madrid. The latter won 2-1 and the Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho, later said that this season had been his worst.  He was sent off as was Cristiano Ronaldo and neither of them went up to get their semi finalist medal from the King of Spain flouting all the rules of fair play.  Fans, fed up of the Portuguese coach’s antics, were chanting for him to leave.  I think he will soon.  Wherever he goes it seems to me that his own brand image eclipses that of the clubs he works for, where very often he brings these clubs early victories but then he clashes with all around him and ends up leaving in disgrace.  I think there is a lesson to learn from him on how not to behave in an organization. 

Yesterday was Saturday and Eladio and I had a date in Montrondo with his Mother, his brothers and sisters and their spouses.  It was the annual family gathering to remember the passing away of his Father on 20th May 2005.  The weather forecast was for cold weather and snow and rain, so we set off not really knowing whether we would return that day or the next.  The journey takes some four hours and we always stop at Rueda (famous for its white wine) to have a glass of wine and a plate of ham come rain or shine.  It’s something to look forward to on the way and we love our stop there. 
A stop off at Rueda on our way to Montrondo on Saturday
We arrived after the mass, the first one we have missed since we started the family gatherings.  But the most important part of the day for us was being together, so our objective was to get to the restaurant to join everyone for lunch. We were to meet Alejandro’s new sentimental partner, Carolina, for the first time.  It must have been a bit of an ordeal for her I’m sure.

Lunch was at the only restaurant in the vicinity, Cumbres de Omaña in Senra, two villages away from Montrondo.  It’s where we always go for a coffee in the summer.  It’s a nice enough place and offers very good local home cooking.

We spent the rest of the day at José Antonio and Dolores’ warm home.  I love the photo below of all the brothers and sisters with their Mother as it is not often they are all together.
Eladio, his Mother and all the brothers and sisters yesterday in Montrondo
It was raining and snowing outside, so impossible to go for a hike in the mountains, so towards the early evening everyone started leaving.  We left at about 8pm and were home by midnight.  All in all we had driven some 800km in one day, but it was worth it to be all together.  Once again, my father-in-law, Antonio, reunited us all as he does every year.  

We arrived home tired and with a speeding fine to turn on the television in our bedroom and watch the end of the voting of the Eurovision Song Contest.  I used to enjoy the show but not anymore. There are far too many countries and if you do not belong to the Nordic or ex Russian republics it is very difficult to get enough votes to win.  Spain came last but one with no Portugal or Andorra to vote for it and Ireland came last.  The UK who can only really receive support from Malta or Ireland did pretty badly too.  But let me be positive and concentrate on the fact that a singer from one of my favourite countries, Denmark, won; the barefoot, rag clad 20 year old Emmilie de Forest with a song called Only Teardrops.  As it was the only song I heard I cannot judge whether it was the best.  If this year’s ESC was held in Malmo just across the way from Copenhagen, next year it won’t be moving very far.  Teliasonera, the majority shareholder of Yoigo, was the main sponsor as it has been since Finland hosted the show in 2007, the only time I have attended the ESC – and a bizarre event it was too.  As the company owns operators in all the Nordic countries and most countries in Eurasia I predict they will be sponsoring the event for some time if the theory above proves right.  In any case, well done Denmark.
Emmelie de Forest who won the Eurovision Song Contest for Denmark yesterday
And today is Sunday, we are back from Montrondo and the house feels emptier than usual since Susana left.  I have told Olivia that now I will need her contact more than ever.  Thankfully, unlike my Mother’s or even my own times, Suzy will have all the technology tools available to keep in touch: a mobile phone and a pc and we will be able to send messages on whatsapp, talk on Line or via Skype, send each other emails and of course we will be able to get cheap flights to go and see her which we will of course buy online.  My Mother could never have dreamed of any of these things when she left Bulgaria during the war, never to see her Father again or when she arrived in London as a refugee.  Similarly Susana will be able to follow our lives via this blog, so chin up Suzy, we love you and wish you all the luck in the world.

And that’s it my friends for this week.  Till next time, all the best


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