Sunday, November 10, 2013

The heating and hot water are back, Olivia and Miguel in Indonesia, a photo shoot, a communications team meeting in Madrid, "If" by Rudyard Kipling, more tales of Suzy in London and other things.

One of the photos of me taken at the photo shoot this week
Hi everyone,

This week has been extremely busy for me, but now and then I was able to travel in my mind to Indonesia and vicariously enjoy Olivia and Miguel’s trip to that exotic part of the world which you will hear about later.

But first let me tell you that on Monday the plumber came and restored the central heating.  He had been a month before to set it up for the winter and had charged us some 300 euros for his efforts.  So little did we expect it to break down during the visit of Ziuka and Aunty Valya and on the eve of the All Saints’ bank holiday.  It’s great that we got the heating back on Monday but not so great that we had to fork out another 300 euros for his visit.  However I am now enjoying wonderful daily hot showers and I no longer have to wear thick winter pyjamas at night.  I should also mention that thankfully the heating and hot water broke down during quite mild weather.  Would you believe that this week we had temperatures of up to 22ºc on several occasions?  This week coming we are expecting yet another “indian summer”. Even so last week Eladio, with the help of Miguel, covered the pool for the winter.  It is now covered in Autumn leaves and looking a little sad.

This happened whilst Olivia and Miguel were leisurely finalizing their packing for their three week trip to Indonesia, to Bali, Java and the Gili Islands.  They were to take a Qatar Airways flight via Doha and would not be arriving in Bali until the next day; some 24 hours.  

Oli boarding on Monday at Madrid airport
Their first destination was Seminyak, probably the most well-known tourist area in Bali, where they would be staying at the Hotel Sarinande which looks lovely, to judge by the website. Poor Olivia experienced the worst symptoms of jet lag.  I told her that in my experience it is not so bad on the return journey.  Now I know she is over it and thoroughly enjoying the holiday. Since their arrival Olivia has sent us lots of photos. She has gone native, buying local clothes as you can see in this photo here.
Oli who has gone native in Indonesia, savouring the local environment
What Olivia loves best when travelling is meeting people, especially kids and some of her best photos are with children.  I specially love this photo of her greeting these people and touching a little girl’s hand, whilst they pray next to Goa Lawah in Padangbai.
Olivia loves taking photos of children on her travels
Miguel has followed suit and in this charming photo he is showing his camera to the kids he just taken photos of with Olivia.
Miguel with children in Bali
 They have stayed two nights in Seminayak from where they have moved to Ubud which is where they are now.  Ubud is located amongst rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency.  One of Bali’s major arts and culture centres, it has developed a large tourism industry.  Their next destination is Java where after a night in Kuta their final destination will be the Gili Islands, but more about that next week.

Of note on Monday I made an order of some 60 crackers on a site called Uniquely Crackers Online.  I had scoured the web for good online cracker sites that deliver to Spain; always looking for new and creative crackers with good gifts inside.  That is the most difficult part as they all seem to have similar rubbish inside.  In any case I now think we will have enough for all the Christmas and New Year festivities.  Christmas for me would just not be the same without crackers.  I’m sure, if you are English, you would agree.  

On an empty stomach due to my fasting day on Monday, I went into the office in the afternoon to meet with the photographer who would be coming into the office on Tuesday morning to do a photo shoot of my boss. We wanted to explore the possible locations for the photos, one of them being the rooftop at Yoigo.  Here we tried a photo of me next to the gigantic logo of the company and as it was very windy, this was the result.
Me on the rooftop at Yoigo
The next morning, whilst Eladio took Fátima to the doctor for a blood test to check her iron level – remember last week we discovered her hemoglobin was dangerously low – I left the house very early to be at Yoigo by 9.30 for the photo shoot. The photographer, his assistant and makeup artist were already there.  They seemed very professional.  Once we had finished taking the photos of my boss and another colleague, they did some of me too.  I needed new “official” photos as I had been using the same ones for ages.  I chose a lovely corner of the cafeteria with a colourful background for mine.  Above, illustrating this blog is the one I like best.  It yet has to be photo shopped and I am interested to see how that will turn out. The one below is of me standing up. I wanted my legs (from the knee down you understand) in the photo as recently I have come to believe they are one of my best features.  It’s funny when you get to my age (yes I’m 56!) how you become less self-conscious of yourself and begin to appreciate your best features.  When I was 18 I would never have thought my legs were good. Well they are.  However in this photo you can hardly see them unfortunately.
One of the photos taken at the photo shoot
After the photo shoot which took quite a few hours, I went into Madrid for a lunch appointment with Carlos and Isabel from my PR agency.  We were hosting a lunch for the new telecoms journalist, Emilia and her editor, Adrian, from the Spanish news agency Agencia Efe.  I had chosen a place I like a lot, Ten con Ten, but where it is difficult to get a table.  Most of our conversation, over a wonderful dish of pure oxtail hamburger, was about Yoigo and our agreement with Telefónica to offer fixed telephony.  Emilia is new to the telecoms journalist arena and is getting to know everyone.  

The middle of the week came, Wednesday, and with it came the beginning of the visit of my communications colleagues from the Mobility Services division of TeliaSonera, the mother company of Yoigo.  My colleagues, Kaja from Estonia, Daiva from Lithuania, Elina from Latvia, Charlotte from Norway and Nina, Karin, Linda and Anna from Sweden, all arrived that afternoon in Madrid and checked into the Hotel de las Letras on the famous Gran Via.  I was to host the all women team dinner later that night at Casa Lucio in the old part of Madrid and within walking distance of their hotel. Casa Lucio is a very special old restaurant in Madrid where you can meet kings and prime ministers (I once sat at a table and the ex-President Aznar was on a table nearby) and famous people from all over the world.  It is not haute cuisine and is nothing like El Bulli or other top Michelin star places now in Madrid. But Lucio is equally famous as the man, now in his 80’s, explained to us how he rose from being the errand boy over 68 years ago.  Today you can still sample the same recipes, the most famous being his broken eggs and chips.  Other traditional dishes are roast suckling lamb and pig.  We took many photos of the night, but the best one is of us together with the famous restaurant owner who told us that his restaurant was the most famous Spanish restaurant in the world!
With my communications colleagues from TeliaSonera at Casa Lucio with Lucio (in the middle at the back)
Afterwards I walked my colleagues back through the old streets of Madrid.  I was ashamed that they were to see the consequences of the street cleaners’ strike as we passed the usually beautiful Plaza Mayor which was full of papers and empty cans.  I showed them the kilometer 0 in the Puerta del Sol where all roads are measured from in Spain.  We went up the Alcalá street where I showed them the entrance to the old casino with its wonderful stair case, hoping that they would not notice the rubbish too much.  I then left them to drive back home and arrived at nearly one in the morning. The next day I would be up at 06.30 in order to be on time at the office on Thursday morning for our 09.30 start.

My colleagues arrived a bit late because of the traffic but were eager to have their photo taken at the entrance before going up to the board room to begin our meeting.  Juan, kindly, took this photo of us.
With my communications colleagues from TeliaSonera at the entrance to Yoigo
We spent most of the day in the board room talking and debating on various communications topics.  I had decorated the table with two splendid bunches of sweets which looked like flowers which proved very popular.  Angeles and Carmen took care of our catering needs and our meetings went well.  We finished just before 5 and my colleagues then went by mini bus into Madrid whilst I drove there by car.
Our meeting room - notice the bunches of sweets, a lovely touch my colleagues thought.
The next item on our agenda was cultural and team building.  We went on a walking tour of Madrid  - despite the noise and the rubbish – and our delightful guides who were historians showed us the main streets starting with the Gran Via.  I was delighted to see the tour was organized by an old colleague, Diego A who now heads up a VIP tour company in Madrid called “Madrid and You". I hadn’t seen him since my Motorola days! His wonderful guides had with them an iPad and could show us the pictures from the past of the buildings and monuments we were to see on our tour.  I learned quite a lot that evening about places I had passed many times without paying much attention.

Our tour ended at the Anciano Rey de los Vinos, an amazing old bar which actually has a tunnel that joins it to the Royal Palace.  Legend has it that King Alfonso XIII (who abdicated in 1931 when a Republic was formed, just a few years before the Spanish Civil War) used to walk through the tunnel to drink at the bar which I think won’t have changed much since those times. Here my colleagues and I tasted wines and tapas and were then blindfolded in a competition to see whether we could tell the difference between somontano, rioja or ribera wines.  Elina from Latvia won. 
The blind wine tasting competition at El Anciano Rey de los Vinos with Diego
After the competition and lesson in Spanish wine, we walked to where we would be having dinner.  It would be dinner with a difference at Fuentes y Bonetillo which specializes in “show cooking”.  Here we learned how to make Spanish ham croquettes and gazpacho, a banda rice (sort of paella without bits), ali oli mayonnaise followed by a wonderful biscuit dessert made with Spanish “turrón”. 
Kaja and Elina making Spanish ham croquettes at our show cooking evening
I think we all learned a lot as well as ate delicious food.  I left my colleagues drinking coffee, in order to get home not too late.  Even so I was home again after midnight and had to be up on Friday morning, once again at the crack of the dawn!

Our agenda on Friday was great.  We were to have an external speaker talk about excellence in communication.  For this, I had asked a professional colleague and friend, Víctor to do the honours.  I have known Víctor since my Motorola days as at both this company and Nokia he headed up the team from my PR agency.  Since then he has set up his own company called Elocuent (remember I told you last week about being on the jury for prized in personal communication he has set up in Spain?) and is on a mission to improve personal branding and communication in Spain.  

I was at the office early to receive Víctor but before he arrived another old mutual colleague and friend arrived. I was delighted to see Isidro M enter the cafeteria.  We used to work together at Nokia but today Isidro is the Country Manager for Sony Mobile.  When Víctor arrived I told him there was someone he would be delighted to see in the cafeteria. Thus, Isidro, Víctor and I had a wonderful few minutes catching up on our professional lives and remembering our time together when we worked at Nokia.

Víctor’s presentation was very moving and went down well with us all.  He centred his ideas round the Zara case and finished with the Communications Manuel in one page: “If”, the fantastic poem by Rudyard Kipling which if you know it or read it you will totally agree. He moved us so much in fact that there were a lot of red eyes around the room afterwards. Thanks Víctor, you were great! If has always been one of my favourite poems.  The Nobel Laureate wrote it in 1895 in tribute to the British imperialist politician Leander Starr Jameson and also as paternal advice to his son John who was later killed in the Battle of Loos in the First World War aged only 18.

And here is the full poem for you to enjoy:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Our meeting ended early at 11.30 as some of my colleagues had a long haul back to their respective countries.  Others like Karin and Elina were staying in Madrid for the weekend. You can see the rest of the photos of their visit here.

Before I left the office I picked up my new pc – the one I am writing with now.  The other one was over 3 years old and beginning to crash a little too often.  I hate the pain of changing pc’s, but this time the experience has been nearly painless, thanks to the great IT guys at Yoigo: Manuel, Marius and Esther who did everything for me.  I felt and feel privileged.

I came home on time for lunch with Eladio and my Father.  In the afternoon I went shopping with Fátima to buy the weekly food.  Of course I bought more stuff than usual, food for her to take back home to her children this weekend who from what I hear do not eat well enough.  Thanks to me and the local private doctor I am taking her to, Fátima is now learning that eating is not just about satisfying your hunger but about eating the correct food: protein, fruit and vegetables, as well as cereals and food with a high content of iron and vitamins something she had no idea about. I was appalled to hear her children do not drink milk and live off a diet of pasta and tomato sauce!  No wonder she has anemia and no doubt they do too. 
That evening, Friday evening, Eladio and I went out to dinner.  Eladio was amazed I was in the mood to after such an exhausting week, but I was.  I must be eating the right things too as I seem to have boundless energy!  Well I got even more energy at Gino’s that night thanks to the wonderful plate of “paglia y fieno”.  

On Saturday morning I accompanied Fátima to the doctor to get more blood test results.  This time they had checked on her iron which unfortunately they had forgotten to do before.  The good news was that her very low hemoglobin had gone up from 7 to 8 in just a week.  However she has a long way to go until she reaches the normal range for a woman of her age which is between 12 and 16.  Her iron was very low as we suspected, just 19 when the normal range is 50 or over.  The doctor said she has to continue to eat well and take the iron and vitamin supplements and in three months both values should increase.  There is a tiny spot of pink in her normally yellow cheeks since she has started the strict protein and iron diet and I now think she is on the mend.  But, she did give us a shock I must tell you.

It being Saturday I had decided to make “cocido”, that typical Spanish winter stew like dish made with chick peas, all sorts of meat and bones and vegetables.  Cocido is the sort of meal to have with lots of people so we invited José Antonio (Eladio’s brother who lives in Madrid) and his wife Dolores to lunch.  They came and brought Nuba who will be staying with us for three weeks while they are away having a great time at a spa hotel in Murcia with some of their friends and Dolores' family.

We spent a great day together. Whenever they come, they join us on our walk.  Afterwards we had a light dinner together in our dining room made of fresh green beans and artichokes – some of which Fátima ate too of course.

And today is Sunday and it has been very quiet.  As it was Fátima’s day off, I cooked again – I have to admit I find it very relaxing especially when there is no pressure of tight meal times.  Today I made roast lamb the English style with all the trimmings.  Dessert was the usual: Eton Mess.  Afterwards I was rewarded with my Father’s compliment when he said it had been the perfect lunch.  Thanks Daddy, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Sunday roast lamb today
Olivia continued to send us great pictures from Ubud of her in a rice field, of Miguel carving wood, of her grinding coffee the old fashioned Indonesian way and of the two of them off on a bicycle excursion.  It seems they are having a grand time and I’m happy for them.

Meanwhile Suzy sent us a photo from London we were really pleased to see.  She had met up with Patrick, a boy who she and Olivia had met when they went to England to stay with my friend Amanda in Wells nearly 15 years ago.  They hadn’t seen him since but thanks to the power of Facebook had kept in touch.  Patrick who is now living in Bombay was back in London to renew his visa in India and last night they met, together with 7 of his English friends, according to Suzy.  Oli and I immediately told Suzy to put Patrick in touch with Sumit, our Indian friend who lives in Bombay too and works for Bollywood.  Here is the photo of Suzy with Patrick and two of her Spanish girlfriends.
Suzy's reunion with Patrick in London this week
I spoke once to Suzy this week – I have to admit I am not very good on the phone, but of course we are in touch every day via whatsapp and Facebook. She had sent us a photo of herself last weekend together with a colleague when they were working at a wedding organized by her events agency.  She is very happy with her new job, especially when she is at the Oxo building where she is the head supervisor of events.  We were not so pleased to hear from her that her new employer had forgotten to pay her first salary this week which I can only imagine she was much looking forward to.  They will do so next week of course, but it must not have been a nice feeling for poor Suzy after a month of intensive work at her new job. 
Suzy at work last week supervising a wedding at the Oxo building in London
I can’t wait for my visit to see her in London at the beginning of December with Adela, my sister-in-law, for whom it will be two firsts; a first flight and a first time in England.  It’s great to have a trip to London to look forward to and Suzy has many plans for us.  

And so my friends, I have now come to the end of the week.  It’s time to say thanks for reading my blog and to wish you all a great week ahead.  Mine will be busy and I have a trip to Barcelona to look forward to on Thursday and Friday.

So cheers until my next post,

All the best, Masha

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