Sunday, October 27, 2013

A meeting with colleagues, “The time in between”, photos that make Royal history, member of a jury, cooking and more cooking and other stories.

At the colleague reunion - here with my counterparts from Telefónica (Juan Carlos on the left) and Vodafone (Pepe on the right).
Hello everyone,

This week, the last week in October, has been quiet and extremely wet but has had its highlights as most weeks do.  So let me tell you about it.

On Monday of course I fasted, never easy but great for your body after a weekend of excess.  That morning I attended a conference call – that is news as I try to get out of them and hate them because communication is so difficult.   I attended what the communication people in Stockholm call “speakers’ corner” which is a once a month event for all communications people in the company.  It’s not really what it says as no one gets to talk apart from the official speakers.  My conclusion is that is was mildly interesting and I may well join the next one. 

Midday was much more exciting as I had a live meeting – i.e. face to face which I far prefer to any virtual encounter.  I had been invited to a meeting with colleagues at the prestigious Club Financiero de Génova in the centre of Madrid.  It was a sort of debriefing event organized by Ametic, the people who run the telecoms conference in Santander.  The staff at Ametic is new and all of us who attended, journalists and communications managers from all the telecoms companies that sponsor the event, commented that they did a much better job than their predecessors. The Club is on the top floor of a high rise building next to the Colón square and the views that morning of Madrid were great. 

The photo illustrating this week’s post is of me flanked by my counterparts from Vodafone and Telefónica, Pepe and Juan Carlos.  We are supposed to be competition but we get along famously.  

Later a group photo was taken with the communications managers and journalists from the sector who I know so well.  We are a great bunch of people and I always love it when we are gathered together, something that doesn’t happen too often.
With many of my colleagues on Monday
But I was in for a surprise during the meeting when suddenly my closest friend and ex colleague at both Motorola and Nokia walked in unannounced.  I had no idea Fátima would be coming and it was a pleasure to be together at an industry event, a bit like old times.  My dear Fátima drove me back to pick up my car and we both commented it that it felt like old times.  This is the photo of us together at the event.
With Fátima at the meeting on Monday
Meanwhile in London, Suzy was having a goodbye lunch with her friend and flat mate Chati’s Mother and sister, Elena who had come to visit.  She sent me this photo later, saying it was for my blog post. So here it is.  For the record they went to The Phoenix (pub) in Victoria where Keith and his family took us this summer and where the fish and chips are amazing.  I aim to take my sister-in-law Adela there when we go to London at the beginning of December.
Suzy on Monday (right with red hair!) next to Chati her flat mate and friend.  Behind them Chati's Mother and sister Elena
On Tuesday there is nothing of great interest to report, unless of course I tell you about an amazing book, “The time in between”, which has been made into a television series and which we tried to watch that night on internet, here on Antena 3 TV.  The book is very famous in Spain and is called “El tiempo entre costuras”.  My friend Mari Carmen, who happens to be the cousin of the author, María Dueñas, had bought me the book for my birthday a few years ago.  It seemed interesting, the story of a young woman, Sira, who is a seamstress and goes to live in Morocco just before the Spanish Civil War with a promise of intrigue, love and mystery, but I never got round to reading it.
The Time in between - what a story

The reason I have never read it is that I never really read in Spanish, preferring to read in English; the objective being to keep up my English.  After all I have lived in Spain now for more than thirty years and sometimes my English gets rusty.  The miniseries had actually started on Monday night but it coincided with the one on TVE1 about Isabel and Fernando, the Spanish Catholic Kings. Thus I suggested to Eladio that we watch The Time in between on internet on Tuesday night.  It was starring an actress we adore, Adriana Ugarte and there was much publicity around its premiere. 
Beautiful Adriana Ugarte who stars as Sira in the miniseries The Time in between
So far so good, I registered on the site and paid 0.72 euros to “buy” the first episode.  We loved the beginning but the screen kept freezing so we gave up on our attempt to watch it.  However I persisted the next day when it froze less and managed to watch the wonderful first episode.  Now I am hooked.  I fell in love too with a new actor, Ruben Cortado, who I think is the best looking actor I have ever seen on screen.  Of Cuban origin he is new to Spanish TV but I am sure that won’t be for long.  He is so good looking that no doubt he will be discovered soon in Hollywood as a sort of new Antonio Banderas.
The very handsome Ruben Cortado who stars as Ramiro in the new miniseries The Time in between
I was so hooked that I finally picked up the book to read.  It was funny to read in Spanish but I am loving it.  Meanwhile I am looking forward to the next episode, when Ruben Cortado, “Ramiro, abandons Adriana Ugarte, “Sira” in Tangiers.  If you haven’t read the book, just go for it and let me know what you think.

On Wednesday I fasted too instead of Thursday, my usual day, as I had a lunch I couldn’t skip.  That morning the English media and media all over the world, were covering the story of the private christening of Prince George, the son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and future King of England.  As a mild sort of royalist I followed the news and was interested to read that the christening had broken with tradition in many ways.  The religious service was held in strict privacy with only the senior royals and just 22 guests present.  It took place at St. James’ Palace Chapel and the seven god parents (yes seven!) included only one from the Royal family, Prince William’s cousin, Lady Zara Phillips. A lot was written about the christening robe which was a hand-made replica of the 1841 robe made for Queen Victoria’s first child and subsequently worn for all Royal christenings, the original being too frail for use these days.
The christening of Prince George was big news this week
Much more interesting for me, were the official photographs taken that day of the four living sovereign and future sovereigns, published the next day, Thursday.  The photo of Queen Elizabeth, her son Prince Charles, her grandson Prince William and her great grandson Prince George, all in line to the British throne, was history in the making.  The last time a British monarch had been pictured with three heirs was in 1894 when Queen Victoria holds the future King Edward VIII  - (who abdicated to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson) next to George V (right), the current Queen's grandfather and Edward VII (left) at White Lodge in Richmond Park.  I have juxtaposed the two pictures side by side and marvel at the Royal history in the making.
The photos that make Royal history
Thursday was my busiest day.  I was up early and went off with Olivia on a couple of private errands to Madrid.  The rain did not help, although thankfully we were on time for our engagements.  We said goodbye in the centre of Madrid at just before 13h when she left for work and I headed to Club 567 in Velázquez.  My friend and professional colleague from my times at both Motorola and Nokia, Víctor, today heads up his own company called “Elocuent”, the main purpose of which is to strengthen personal branding and urge people to speak up.  That day he had gathered together some 13 experts on the subject from all walks of life where our mission was to be on the jury of a prize giving project on personal branding in Spain.  I am honoured to be considered an expert in anything, but I do suppose I know something about the subject, having been in PR and communications for many years and being an addict of social media.  It was great to sit around that table, discussing the candidates for the prizes and to have a stand up lunch, meeting people similar in many ways to myself but from different sectors; not just telecommunications.  I already knew three of the other jurors, Margarita, Carlos and Paz.  It was a grand opportunity for networking and I look forward to making new friends and colleagues as the project develops. 

It is the first time I will be a member of a jury, since I was called up in England at the tender age of 18 to form part of a court jury that was judging illegal Pakistani immigrants (bus drivers, some of whom I recognised) at Bradford City Courts in the 70’s.  I well remember the occasion; being paid for jury service and swearing the jury oath "I swear by almighty God that I will faithfully try the defendant and give a true verdict according to the evidence."  I was very much aware when I read out those words with my hand on the bible, of my non Yorkshire accent, what is today called “received pronunciation” and which we used to call “BBC, standard of Queen’s English”.  It was unusual in Bradford at the time, and I knew that the judge and legal personnel were staring at me because of it.

I always felt on the side of the accused; probably because I was so young. I also remember going off for lunch on my own one day during my jury service to Bradford’s cheapest and most famous curry house at the time, The Kashmir (where you had to eat with your hands) and finding the Pakistani lawyer of the immigrants, eating at the next table.  We just grinned at each other I remember. So yes, this will be my second experience as a juror but in a very different category of course.

Eladio and I talked about this and other things – mainly how the girls are doing – the next night over dinner.  Our choice this Friday evening was La Vaca Argentina, one of our favourites and where we are always welcomed as valued diners.

Yesterday Saturday it rained nonstop as it did most of the week – minus today when the sun is shining,  and as I didn’t have much to do, I decided to indulge in a bit of cooking.  Well actually it turned out to be a lot of cooking, or as I say in the title; “cooking and more cooking”.  I’m sure you are interested to know what I made.  I started off preparing the stuffing for what would be a batch of nearly 50 “perushkis” – little Russian meat pies stuffed with minced meat, onion and rice.  It took me most of the morning to make them as it did a huge batch of spinach and onion and mushroom croquettes.  I made the croquettes with these ingredients so that Fátima, our Moroccan home help, could eat them.  As you can imagine she only eats “halal” meat, so of course ham or chicken were out of the question. Then I made a mixed vegetable dish of runner beans, leaks and broccoli to accompany the delicious perushki and croquettes for lunch.  The family – yes Oli was with us – enjoyed my cooking yesterday; part of which was made for a very special visit we are expecting next week.  My Aunt Valya who lives in France (married to my Mother’s younger brother Niki (Nicholas) and who is now a widow) and Zuka (Sophie) her daughter who lives in England (widow to wonderful Bruce) will be visiting us, so I thought they might appreciate the Russian and Spanish home cooking.  I haven’t seen Aunty Valya since my Mother’s funeral in 1999 and my Father hasn’t seen her since then either, or Zuka who he last saw just before he left England some 8 years ago.  It will be a very special visit for us both. Also this week I made some “bitki” (Russian meat patties – a sort of hamburger) which I plan to serve them too.  My cooking didn’t stop there as today, Sunday, I have just made a Spanish lentil stew (using yesterday’s vegetable water) and plan to serve wiener schnitzel and homemade apple crumble for the second course and pudding.  

My Spanish lentil stew
Whilst I was cooking yesterday, some brave Saudi Arabian women took to the streets to drive in protest to the ban on women driving in that very repressive kingdom.  I feel for them very much as I cannot stand the subjugation of women anywhere, especially in these times.  I read that clerics there warned that breaking the ban would promote “licentiousness” and that one claimed driving could damage a woman’s ovaries!  Come on, that is crazy.  I can only hope that one day they will be allowed to drive and do many other things that right now they can’t either.
A brave Saudi woman protesting agains the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia
Yesterday football fans all around the world watched the “clásico” – if you don’t know what that means, you don’t know much about football.  The clásico is a derby match played between Real Madrid and Barcelona.  Yesterday it was played in Barcelona.  These days you can only watch these sort of matches on pay per view TV, so to find out the result (2-1 to Barcelona) I had to resort to twitter.  I was not surprised at the outcome; although I did hear that the referee missed the odd penalty in Real Madrid’s favour.  I do think it is unfair if a referee doesn’t see something and doesn’t blow his whistle, it’s like it hasn’t happened, although the action is in full view on TV for everyone to see.  

Whilst the two giant and rival football teams were playing their “clásico” match, Eladio and I took the dogs for their daily walk.  We were relieved the sun came out and that we didn’t have to face the rain.  Thankfully it seems to have gone away for a while.

And yesterday, after dinner with Olivia, it was time to turn the clocks back.  The next day in the early morning would be the end of summer time and the beginning of daylight saving time.  We like to be prepared the night before so that when we wake up all the clocks are on the right time.  It’s great that you don’t have to bother with your mobile phone which does it automatically.  However that doesn’t happen on my pc or in my car which I really think it should.  So this morning we all got an extra hour of sleep.  On the plus side it will be lighter in the morning but will get dark at around 18.15h rather than 19.15 which means we will have to go on our walk earlier.  It’s always funny getting used to the change in the hour but convenient that it happens on a Sunday.

The clocks went back an hour early this morning
 Today Sunday is quiet and sunny.  My lentils are cooking and Fátima’s just gone for her two days off and will be back tomorrow evening.  Meanwhile I persuaded Eladio to wash the dogs in their bath and right now they are drying off in clean beds with clean blankets.  That is how I love them most.  Here is the photo of Norah being washed by Eladio.  They don’t protest and I suspect they rather like the rubbing and the lathering although they are always reluctant to get in the bath.
Norah being bathed today by Eladio
And that my friends, is the end of the tale of this week.  Next week we are very much looking forward to Aunty Valy and Zuka’s visit which you will hear about in my next blog post.  

Meanwhile I wish you all a great week ahead,

Cheers till next time,


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