Sunday, July 21, 2013

We launched 4G! Moroccan food, the pain of getting a new passport, a lazy weekend by the pool, Nairo Quintana makes cycling history for Colombia at the Tour of France and other things.

The pool where we have spent this weekend lazing in the sun and shade
Hi everyone,

It’s Sunday again and the time to write this week’s post.  I’m not feeling very inspired this morning and keep putting off starting.  But here I am ready to tell you all about this week. 

On Monday I went into the office as I did several times this week.  It was mostly to work on our press activities for the 18th July “D Day” 4G launch.  I had coffee that morning too with Javier.  Right afterwards Olivia was live on TVE at 13.10 reporting on the case of the Madrid Arena New Year’s Eve party venue where 5 young girls lost their lives.  It is a very high profile case in Spain at the moment and Olivia did a good job as she excels reporting on court cases.  You can see her here if you go to 13.10.
Olivia as seen in the TV studio reporting on the Madrid Arena Court case on Monday
 On Tuesday the abuela (grandmother in Spanish and my mother-in-law) left for Montrondo, after her two week stay with us.  José Antonio, Dolores and Sara, their daughter who recently returned from China, picked her up at midday and they left with a very full car, including their mongrel dog Nuba.

I was busy that morning and missed Olivia reporting on a children’s summer camp but saw it later on this link.  You can too if you fast forward to 13.19h.
Olivia reporting on Tuesday on a children's summer camp
On Tuesday I had a lunch appointment with an old colleague from Motorola, Xavi M.  He now works for Blackberry in a senior role and one of his new responsibilities will be the Yoigo account so we had lots to talk about.  We had lunch at La Española in Pozuelo (a great place by the way), after which he had a very illustrious appointment.  He was off to see Iker Casillas and his beautiful partner Sara Carbonero.  Casillas, of course, is the Real Madrid goal keeper. He is also the club’s Captain as well as Captain of the Spanish National football team.  Xavi, who is from Barcelona, is naturally a Barcelona football fan and the connection with Casillas comes via Pujol, the rival team’s captain who is a friend of Xavi’s too.  You won’t be surprised that the object of the meeting was to help Iker set up his new Blackberry phone.  When I worked for Motorola and Nokia, I had plenty of these sorts of meetings with celebrities.  The first one ever was with Pedro Delgado, the Spanish cyclist and that first meeting led to a lifelong friendship.
My ex colleague Xavi with whom I had lunch on Tuesday
Wednesday was a crazy day work wise.  I was up really early to join a conference call with Stockholm to go over the company’s second quarter financial results.  Results days are always stressful, as we have to send out a press release before breakfast and also an internal release to the staff.  Yoigo’s results were excellent, as the press reflected in nearly all the national daily newspapers the next day.  Net sales went up 20% in local currency.  Even better was the increase in profits (EBITDA) which went up a mighty 51%.  I was proud to see that Spain is now the second most profitable unit within the Mobility Services group, behind Sweden but ahead of all the other Nordic and Baltic countries.

Wednesday was touch and go all day on what to say in our press release the next day when we would be going live with 4G – the new super fast mobile internet.  I didn’t have the final text until very late in the evening.  However my mind wasn’t on the press release when Fátima prepared our dinner that night.  We nearly always eat the same sort of dinner (Gazpacho, Spanish cured ham, salad and fruit) and this time I asked her to come up with something different.  So she made a new Moroccan dish for us.  It’s called “msemen” and we had huge laughs as to what this could also mean.  What it really is, is a square version of “rghayef” – flat Moroccan bread.  She stuffed it with a minced meat concoction and it was truly delicious.  I think the photo below doesn’t do it justice.
Fátima's delicious "msemen" Moroccan stuffed flat bread
My mind was on the food of course (I am such a foodie) but also on my daughter Susana as that evening she was meeting another old colleague of mine from Motorola: Antonio A.  He heads up a huge American advertising company worldwide and I think out of all my former colleagues he has climbed the highest on the professional ladder.  He lives in London and I had asked him to help Suzy in her quest for a job; not necessarily giving her one but coaching her or leading her in the right direction.  He very kindly took her out to dinner in London and then, as the true gentleman he is, he took her home in his car.  From what I heard the next day they hit it off immediately. That didn’t surprise me as I have always had a special chemistry with Antonio and it is natural that Suzy would feel it too as she is so similar in character to me.  I look forward to seeing him myself in London when I go there with Eladio to visit Suzy at the end of August and to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.

Suzy’s life in London seems to be one endless party.  The weather has been great almost since she arrived in May.  Right now the UK is having a heat wave, or what they think is a heat wave.  If they had the temperatures we have in Spain I think they would not know what to do.  Here is a photo of her last Sunday with some of her new found friends; mostly Spanish I think. 
Suzy partying with friends in London (red haired and dark glasses in the middle)
And finally Thursday 18th July arrived and Yoigo launched 4G.  The launch was to take place in Madrid (the capital and province) and we will be rolling out the network in all towns with over 70.000 inhabitants in the rest of the country in various phases.  By December we shall cover almost 50% of the population and will continue to increase that number next year. I was delighted to see that I already had a 4G signal when I saw the LTE abbreviation (another acronym for 4G – means “long term evoloution”) on my phone just as I left our “urbanization”.  So I stopped my car and took a screen shot and immediately posted the photo on Twitter and Facebook to demonstrate 4G was live and working.  People asked me to do a speed test. However the speeds on the Yoigo employees’ phones will be lower than usual because of our mobile email application which slows it down.  Even so I noticed the lack of latency (or buffering or little round circle which appears when you are trying to open a page or app on your smartphone) when accessing internet on my phone and was amazed at the speed and quality.  
The first 4G signal on my iPhone, how exciting (see the letters LTE in the left hand corner at the top)
I was driving to work to attend a press interview with the Spanish news agency and it was lovely to greet my colleagues and congratulate some of them on making 4G happen.  I really felt part of it.  
 On Friday I had time to attend to my own projects and the number one project on my home to do list was getting a new passport to replace the one I left on the plane when I came back from Ibiza.  I scoured the internet to find the instructions and the forms which I filled out and got counter signed by a colleague at work, Tony.  Olivia had to renew hers too so we decided to go together to the British Consulate that morning.  Miguel, her boyfriend, came along for the ride.  We couldn’t believe what we heard when we arrived at the reception of the consulate at the very imposing Torre Espacio building in the Castellana.  The bad news for us was that you can no longer process a passport at the Consulate. Everything had to be done online at  The problem is this was not evident when I first scoured the net or tried to ring the local consulate (I say try because they don’t answer). Thus I spent the bigger part of Friday afternoon downloading new forms and filling them out just as the 30 odd page guidance document told me I should.  The whole “palava” is very complicated.  I now need to get the new form counter signed by Tony again and will then send off the forms in two separate envelopes to Her Majesty’s Passport office in Belfast of all places. I am worried now I may not receive the new passport before I travel to England on 21st August as it can take up to six weeks.  The new procedure to get a passport is a real pain and not at all easy to do.  But anyway I now have everything nearly ready to send.  It would be Murphy’s luck if my previous passport left on the airplane turns up in the meanwhile.  Even if it does it will be no use as it has already been cancelled.  Let’s hope my new passport arrives on time and that I don’t lose it or have it stolen again as has happened on various occasions in my life.

As I enjoyed another Moroccan meal on Friday with the family, I was kicking myself for having lost the previous passport.  But that didn’t stop me enjoying more of Fátima’s wonderful Maghreb food.  This time she had made lamb tagine with caramelized prunes and fried almonds, accompanied by her unique rice.  

For me Friday afternoon is already the weekend. And our weekend started by the pool as it has continued until today.  It has been so hot it is the only place to be during the day.  At night we have needed full blast air conditioning every day this week without which it would have been impossible to sleep. Eladio took a great photo of the pool overlooking one side of the house.  It is so good that it is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week’s blog.  I hope you like it too.
In the evening, skipping our walk as it was far too hot, Eladio and I went out to dinner as we do nearly every Friday night.  This time we chose De María a steak house in Majadahonda where we ate outside on the terrace.  To cool off, the outdoor air conditioning included sprinklers so every now and again we got a little wet. But we didn’t mind.  

On Saturday I fancied a little clothes shopping excursion, so telling Eladio I was going out to pick up some ear rings, off I went to the Centro Oeste shopping centre in Majadahonda.  I was in search of white t-shirts which I seem to be running out of.  I have to admit I came back with t-shirts of all sorts of colours and patterns, not just white. 

That afternoon whilst I was by the pool, Eladio was watching the last mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France.  I was really happy to hear later that a 23 year old Colombian of the Movistar team, Nairo Quintana, this year's best young rider (hence the white jersey) had won the stage (you can watch the last km here).  It happened to be the national day of Colombia, their Independence Day and I can only imagine just how pleased his cycling enthusiastic countrymen would be with this victory.  Nairo, who is racing his very first Tour de France, will now have a second place on the podium which is a first for Colombian cycling history.  The last Colombian to be on the podium before Nairo, was Fabio Parra who came third when my friend, the famous Spanish cyclist, Pedro Delgado won his legendary Tour de France in 1988.
Nairo Quintana after winning the mountain stage yesterday
So what you may say? Well to me, it means quite a lot.  You all know my background in cycling when I worked for Motorola and went to many Tours of France and Spain and other races.  I know from my time in professional cycling just how much the sport is followed and loved in Colombia.  I remember the radio commentators from Radio Caracol and Radio Nacional de Colombia who would commentate sometimes non top during a 6 or 7 hour cycling race and always in a very excited Latin way.  Yesterday when Nairo Quintana won, I can only begin to imagine just how excited the Colombian radio journalists would have been when they reported on his victory.
The Colombian radio stations in the 1996 Tour of Spain   - a picture from my archives.
The Colombian’s feat yesterday made me remember a Colombian cyclist on the Motorola Cycling team I became quite close to. That was Alvaro Mejía.  He raced first in Postobón and in 1991 was, like Nairo Quintana, the best young rider in the TDF.  In his debut with Motorola in 1993 he came fourth in the Tour de France.  He was a lovely gentle young man who didn’t speak very good English and I remember very well how the likes of Lance Armstrong used to bully him.  When I saw that I decided to befriend him and of course it was easy to do so as we had the Spanish language in common.
Me with Alvaro Mejía in the Clásica San Sebastián race . 1993 I think, also from my cycling photo archive
I would often find myself mothering him and realizing just how much he missed his native Colombia I always looked him out and spoke to him.  Then in the 1996 Tour of Spain which I was attending, he crashed on a stage in Galicia.  No one from the team could accompany him to the hospital, so I did.  I went with him to a nasty little hospital in Orense and guess what? The radio commentators from Radio Caracol and Radio Nacional de Colombia followed us. It was me they wanted to interview later to report live on the medical diagnosis.  I can’t quite remember but I think he had broken his collar bone and of course was out of that year’s Tour of Spain.  At the same time it meant he would be returning to his beloved Colombia to recover.  I spent the evening cheering him up by telling him his Mother would be looking after him soon and in reply I got a wan smile.  I am sure yesterday Alvaro Mejía was also very happy for Nairo Quintana yesterday.

The Tour de France ends today and will be won by Christopher Froome, the second British cyclist to win the Tour in two consecutive years after Bradley Wiggin’s win last year.  The Spaniard Alberto Contador, a contender for the final victory, will have to be satisfied with a fourth place which I am sure he is not.  There will be another Spaniard in the podium though, Purito Rodríguez, who gained more points in yesterday’s mountain stage together with Nairo Quintana.  

Whilst Contador was licking his wounds after the stage, there I was with Eladio enjoying the peace of our pool, with no visitors for a change or group of the girls’ friends.  At about 20h, Eladio left so that Fátima, our Moroccan home help, could enjoy a bathe with me, or rather a walk down the steps in the shallow end as she cannot swim. It was her second experience.  Afterwards she told me it had helped her revive from the stupor the fasting of Ramadan causes her poor body in this heat – I mean 17 hours of no food or water from 4 am to 9.45pm can hardly be healthy.  

Later we went for our walk and once home, although it was nearly 11pm, we decided to have another dip in the pool before going to bed.  The evening swim is my overall favourite time to do so.  It’s so cool and peaceful.

And today is Sunday, the last day of the tale of this week’s blogpost.  Olivia and her boyfriend Miguel were here this morning for lunch. But now they have gone. Miguel has gone back to Valencia where he works as a cameraman for Spanish TVE and Olivia has gone off to Galicia where she will be reporting for her programme all of next week, La Mañana de la 1 (TVE).  She has taken her friend Dave with her and they will be driving all the way to Santiago in the north of Spain.  We look forward to watching her live reports on TV next week which always brighten up our days.

Next week will be busy for me too with more projects coming to a fruition that I am working on.  I can’t wait for our holidays in August and some mental reprieve.  We had booked a holiday in Cádiz in July but because of too much work this month I had to cancel it.  At the beginning of August we will be off to Montrondo to join the rest of the family for the annual gathering and later we will spend some time at the beach at our flat in Santa Pola near Alicante, after which we are looking forward to a week in London.  These are all nice things to look forward to.

Meanwhile I have to slog a bit before that happens.  Whether you are on holiday or at work, I wish you all a great week ahead.

Cheers till next week

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