Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Yoigo turns 7, Bradford Grammar School, Nelson Mandela dies, so to London and home again.

With Adela and Suzy in London (Borough Market)
Hi everyone,

I completely forgot to record that last Sunday Yoigo turned 7.  We launched on 1st December 2006 and it has been a roller coaster 7 years since then.  We were born as an unknown Swedish owned mobile phone operator in Spain.  Today we are the well-established 4th operator in Spain and can boast nearly 4 million customers.  It has been an amazing journey to where we are today and I am proud to be one of the founding members of that incredible team that created the company we are today.  In 2010 on the occasion of becoming the fastest European operator to reach profitability, I made this lovely video of our story.  The essentials of the story are still in place today and you can watch it here. This was the celebration photo we posted on our social media pages.  Translated it means: nobody wants to be asked how old they are.  But we do, we are 7 years old today. Happy birthday Yoigo! How could I have forgotten?
Yoigo was 7 last Sunday

On Sunday we had Juli for lunch.  Juli is Olivia and Suzy’s Colombian friend and I often think of him as the son I never had. For the occasion Fátima made her famous homemade pizza which we all adore.

We had news from Suzy that day from London.  After many years of dying her hair red, she had decided to dye it back to her natural colour – medium brown - and this is what she looked like.
Suzy dyed her hair back to her natural colour

Suzy is enjoying her life in London and that night she sent us photos of herself and friends skating at the outdoor rink by the Tower of London.  She said it was magical.  I bet it was.  I loved skating as a child but have never skated outdoors and have always wanted to.  So I was pleased to receive this photo of Suzy skating at such a wonderful location.
Suzy skating outdoors at the rink by the Tower of London

Monday, my first fasting day of the week, was spent sending all sorts of reports.  I had to send in my monthly PR reports in different formats to Stockholm and to the Board.  I also had to submit my PR plan for 2014 which I had been putting off.  But when I got down to it, it was ready in less than two hours.  

I was very frustrated with our internet connection that day as I had been downloading the video collection of the series called 24 since the Saturday before.  Believe it or not, it is still downloading today, one week later and will probably take another couple of days as the percentage reached right now is 87%.  We are desperately waiting for Telefónica to come and install optical fiber for which we have had to dig a trench in the garden for the wire to be laid.  They keep promising to come but no sign of them so far.  I am really looking forward to the 100 megabits speed they promise.  Hopefully when that happens I will be able to download TV series a lot faster than right now. Meanwhile Juan, my nephew, keeps me happy by sending me the latest episodes of Homeland.

On Tuesday it was one of our youngest nephew’s birthdays.  Mario, the second youngest, was 23.  Today he is a professional handball player and physical education teacher training student with a stunning girlfriend, a far cry from when he was a hyperactive loud toddler and the desperation of his Mother Pili.  Today she must be very proud of him.  Happy birthday Mario.

Mario was 23 last week.  Here he is fulfilling a dream, playing handball at the Barcelona stadium.
 On Wednesday, the second fasting day of the week, I had breakfast with Olivia and Miguel who had arrived on Tuesday night from Valencia to spend the rest of the week with my daughter. He brought with him the necklace she had bought for me in the Gili Islands at Meno in Indonesia.  It is a beautiful turquoise necklace I look forward to wearing.  Thank you darling.

I went into the office that day on various errands, quite a few in fact as I hadn’t been in for a while.  As usual I love greeting my colleagues.  The Yoigo staff is a great bunch of people.
On Thursday I received an email from the head of marketing at Bradford Grammar School (these days schools have marketing managers!). Bradford Grammar School (BGS) was the school where my Father taught languages (Russian, French and German) from the 60’s until he retired in the 80’s.  It was the best school in the area and plenty of our boyfriends were pupils there, our school, St. Joseph’s College being next door. She had written to ask permission to publish a post from my blog where I had written about my Father which apparently had been sent to her by a past pupil of my Father’s.  I was very “chuffed” to use the Yorkshire word for pleased and proud.  I reread the post I had written on his 90th birthday and found what I had written quite emotional.  You can read it here too.  The link to my post was published on the BGS website here.  I told my Father and I think he was pleased.  Also recently he received an email from another past pupil, Andrew B who learned Russian under him and went on to study it at Oxford.  I thought it was lovely that he had reached out to my Father after so many years.  He must have made a mark on him. I can proudly say my Father was a gifted teacher of languages who helped many bright BGS pupils go on to study the language at either Oxford or Cambridge, quite a feat for any teacher.
Bradford Grammar School where my Father taught for many years.
Thursday of course was a big day for me.  Finally the day had arrived when my sister-in-law Adela and I would be travelling to London.  I of course was going to see my older daughter Susana whom I hadn’t seen since August – the longest period we have ever been apart.  But I was also accompanying Adela who would be travelling on a plane and visiting London for the first time.  It was a big ordeal for her and I was determined she would enjoy every minute. Her daughter Marta and son in law Ministro drove her from León to the airport.  Eladio drove me and we met in the early evening at Terminal 1 where we were to catch the 19.30 Easy Jet flight to Gatwick. Here is a photo Eladio took of the two of us with our suitcases outside Barajas airport.
Adela and I ready to leave at Barajas Airport last Thursday
I warned Adela that travelling aboard and flying is only for the fittest and that it is like an obstacle race. She fully agreed as she took off her watch, boots and coat to go through security, queued behind the passport control and showed her boarding pass countless times.  Finally we were on the plane and even though I knew she was feeling nervous I preferred to ignore it to make her feel less so.  I touched her arm as we took off and once in the air she had a huge beam of a smile on her face.  She found the flight quite short and it is. No sooner were we airborne than we were preparing for landing.  Once again I touched her arm as landing took place and thankfully it was smooth.  Afterwards she said she loved the experience.  For me it was funny to be concentrating on every single “obstacle” of the journey as flying for me is as natural as breathing.  So as the plane landed I showed her how to be off the plane fast and to go ahead of the exiting passengers so as to be at the front of the queue of the passport control at arrival.  I warned her that the luggage would take some to arrive but actually it was fast.  Now we were at Gatwick, our next stage of the journey would be getting on the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station for which I had already bought the tickets online.  On the train we enjoyed two Spanish Iberian ham sandwiches we had bought at Barajas, as our dinner that night.  At Victoria Adela learned what an Oyster pass is as we bought one for her to use on the underground and topped up mine.  As I had warned my sister-in-law the worst thing about the underground when travelling with luggage are the steps, but we managed.  Soon we were at Paddington, our destination.  As we walked out onto the dark London streets, I guided her the 200 metres or so to our hotel, the Balmoral House Hotel where Eladio and I had stayed in the summer.  For me this little Bed and Breakfast in the centre of London is a home away from home. It is modest but cozy, warm and very clean.  Thankfully Adela liked it too and we were treated like house guests at this B&B run by an elderly Spanish couple and were welcomed at breakfast by Arancha from Tarragona and the other staff.
Adela outside our hotel.

We were shocked to learn on arrival that Nelson Mandela had just died as the story of his death was unfolding on the BBC at the reception of our hotel.  I could hardly believe it although of course he was 95 and very frail.  The whole world was to be united in mourning his death and flags the world over would be at half mast, as we would see them in London the next day. Nelson Mandela, often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, “Madiba or as Tata (Father) was South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon and led South Africa’s transition from white minority rule in the 90’s, after 27 years in prison for political activities. He was also a Nobel Peace Laureate and was one of the world’s most revered statesmen.  He will never be forgotten and the least I could do was pay tribute to him in my blog.  Rest in Peace Madiba.
RIP Nelson Mandela.  We mourn your death but celebrate your legacy.

We arrived too late that night to do anything other than unpack and go to bed.  But we were up early on Friday morning at 7 and on time for breakfast which we had each day at 07.30.  Here is a picture of Adela having breakfast on our first day.
Eladio having breakfast at our hotel on the first morning.

We were to meet Suzy at St. Paul’s at 11 so had plenty of time before that to go for a walk.  I took Adela to Hyde Park from where we would walk to Marble Arch, except that in the end we walked all the way around the huge park.  We were amazed to see people swimming at 08.30 in the morning in December in the freezing cold Serpentine Lake.  Here is a picture to prove what we saw. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day and although Hyde Park is nicer in the summer it was still lovely and we thoroughly enjoyed our bracing walk.
People swimming in the freezing water of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park at 08.30 on Friday morning.

With our Oyster passes we took the tube from Marble Arch to St. Paul’s where Suzy was over half an hour late.  But I forgave her as soon as I saw her and we had a mammoth hug.  We took her to have breakfast where we enjoyed a coffee and chocolate drink too before we hit the streets. 

First we sent shopping as Suzy was keen to spend some of her second salary on clothes.  We went into H+M where I bought her lots of garments.  I also bought a lovely cream coloured jersey dress for myself which I know was a great buy.

From St. Paul’s we crossed the street to walk across the Millennium Bridge to the South Bank where we would walk along the side past all the wonderful bridges until we reached Suzy’s work place, the Oxo Tower.
With Suzy on the Millennium Bridge on Friday morning.

But first we walked along the river in the other direction until we came to Borough Market.  The photo illustrating this post is of the three of us there.  Here at a stall we bought Christmas wreathes from a charity for underprivileged children, some of whom posed for a photo with us. 
At Borough Market on Friday morning.

From Borough Market in old London we made our way to Oxo where Suzy is the catering manager at Oxo 2 a popular events venue where she works for the London agency Create Food and Party Design.  I just had to take a photo of Suzy on the steps of Oxo 2 which has great views of the River Thames.
Suzy at the steps of Oxo 2 where she is the catering manager.

We went inside to see the venue and to meet some of her colleagues.  Their next party was starting at 19h and would end way past midnight, but they had to be there early to set everything up.  I took another photo of Suzy at Oxo 2 to remember what the venue is like and to record her working there.
Suzy in her element at her place of work at Oxo 2

We left Suzy in search of somewhere to eat and found it at the Riverside café where I had once been with Sandy, Susan and Adele.  Here I introduced Adela to England’s staple dish: fish and chips which she adored.  Well so did I of course.
Introducing Adela to fish and chips at the Riverside café on the Southbank

Afterwards on our way along the river side to Westminster, our next destination, we were in luck as there was a wonderful Christmas market with very enticing products on sale.  I would have loved to buy a real gingerbread house but of course couldn’t have carried it home so settled for pink and white coconut ice and walnut fudge bars to be enjoyed at Christmas. Not really able to explain what they were to Adela I said they were similar to Spanish “turrón”.
Adela at the Christmas market on the Southbank

At the Christmas market we met a very authentic Father Christmas who would only allow you to take a photo if you paid him 2 pounds.  I did so anyway only to find later he had put his hand on his face to spoil the photo. There were many very original “living statues” which made us laugh.  We carried on past the London Eye where there were huge queues to get on and of course looming ahead of us were the Houses of Parliament. 
Adela on Westminster Bridge on Friday afternoon

Here we crossed the very busy bridge and found a group of people following a Jesus like figure carrying a huge cross which if you looked hard you could see ran on wheels.  I got talking to him. He was called Eric and was from Florida. He and his group were preaching and Eric told me his whole mission was just to pray with me and to convert me.  I told him he didn’t need to convert me, just ease me out of my lax Christianity.  I must admit I felt a little moved.  Adela remarked that I talk to a lot of people in the street and I do, just like my Mother and brother.  She had seen me talk to the fat black waitress at the Riverside café, to the Father Christmas, to one of the living statues and now to Eric.  He was not to be the last person I would chat to, as it is very much in my nature to talk to people when I am travelling.  For me it’s part of the fun. 

Adela was in awe of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.  I took her all around Parliament Square and gave her a short history lesson in famous English people, including Churchill, Oliver Cromwell and Emily Pankhurst to whom we women owe many thanks for obtaining votes for women.
Just had to take this iconic photo

From Parliament Square we walked down Whitehall, past Downing Street which when I was a child you could walk right up to number 10.  Sadly that’s not so today and the entrance is heavily guarded by policemen armed to the teeth.  Thank you Osama Bin Laden and co.  By now it was 4 O’clock and dark but we were in luck again as by then we had reached the Whitehall entrance to the Royal Horse Guards Parade and actually witnessed the changing of the guard.

Suitably impressed we carried on until we reached Trafalgar Square, the next important place in London I wanted to show Adela. It was lovely to see the huge Christmas tree donated each year by the city of Oslo since 1947 as a token of the gratitude to the British for their support of Norway in the Second World War.  As I looked at it I reflected that my Father was one of those people the Norwegians were grateful to as he has a medal for being part of the British Naval efforts in liberating Norway.
Adela at Trafalgar Square with the Norwegian spruce behind her.

I had hoped to see South Africa house and the tributes being paid to Nelson Mandela but it was getting dark and we didn’t find it.  

From Trafalgar Square we walked through “Theatre Land” to Piccadilly Circus to see the famous cupid statue and of course the famous Christmas lights.  They were truly wonderful. The cupid statue was covered in a transparent bubble and inside fake snow was falling.  This is what it looked like.
Piccadilly Circus dressed up for Christmas.

The Christmas lights on the streets turning off from Piccadilly were amazing.  I remembered being taken to see the London lights when I was a child by my wonderful Aunty Gloria.  Her husband, my uncle Derek, would drive us all through the main streets to see them. And there I was with Adela some 50 years later seeing them again and remembering those times.
The lights at Christmas in London are spectacular

We walked along the regal Regent’s Street with its expensive branded shops until we reached Oxford Street which was just as beautifully decorated for the season.  By the time we reached Marble Arch our feet would no longer take us any further and there and then we took the tube back to Paddington to rest our aching bodies from so much walking.
Adela on Regents Street one of the most streets in London.  Great Xmas lights too.

In the evening we couldn’t meet up with Suzy for dinner as she would still be working at Oxo until the early hours, so at about 8pm we wandered out to the nearest street with shops and restaurants which was called London Street.  Here I was familiar with some of the restaurants from our visit in the summer.  Adela was not as enticed as I was with the Lebanese, Indian or Greek food on offer so we opted for an Italian restaurant and the food was ok.  We were in bed by 9.30 exhausted from the long day of walking and sightseeing and soon we were asleep in our ultra-comfortable and clean room number 3 at Balmoral House Hotel.

On Saturday after our early breakfast I suggested we walk towards Oxford Street, destination Marks and Spencers, via Maryleybone High Street so that Adela could see some of the ordinary London streets on our way.  We were to be lucky with the weather as we were throughout our stay as it only rained once and very shortly, the temperatures were not too low and the sun made its appearance several times. It was quite a walk, nearly an hour but we were on form from so much walking the day before.  The window dressing on Oxford Street was quite something, especially at Selfridges.  Having watched the TV series Mr. Selfridge I knew the story of the beginnings of the company and how important window dressing was to its success.
The window dressing at Selfridges on Oxford Street was out of this world.

We arrived just as the M+S flagship store opened and here we shopped to our heart’s content until Suzy arrived at about 11 o’clock when we had a break for her to have breakfast.  The three of us continued shopping until we realized we had so many bags, the only option being to take a cab to our hotel to leave them there which is what we did.
Shopping madly at Marks and Spencers

Taking a London cab was part of Adela’s London experience but the truth is the three of us enjoyed it equally.  We left the piles of M+S shopping in our room and were soon out on the street again, this time to Paddington Underground Station to take the tube to Covent Garden another destination I wanted to show Adela.
Suzy in a black cab with us in London on Saturday

And wow was Covent Garden full that Christmassy Saturday morning.  But it was fun and there was lots to see.  I was eager to see if anyone was singing or playing an instrument down the steps by the outdoor cafeteria and we were in luck, four people were playing a jolly song on the fiddle and people from the public were dancing.  Gosh there is so much life going on at Covent Garden.
Adela at Covent Garden on Saturday morning.  It was very busy.

From Covent Garden we walked to Holborn Underground Station to catch the tube to St. Paul’s from where we would walk across the Blackfriars Bridge to Oxo.
The Oxo Tower on the River Thames where Suzy works and where we had lunch on Saturday

Here I had booked a table for lunch at The Oxo Tower Restaurant on the top floor which is run by Harvey Nichols. Here we had a splendid lunch, I mean really wonderful as the restaurant offers true “fine dining”.
Lunch at the Oxo Tower Restaurant was splendid (I'm wearing the jumper dress I bought at H+M in St. Paul's)

Soon Suzy had to leave us to start work on the 2nd floor, so we finished our lunch, paid and left and made our way again along the South Bank.  We went past the Christmas market again, crossed Westminster Bridge, passed Parliament Square and walked up Whitehall until we got to Trafalgar Square.  From Trafalgar I walked Adela up the Mall towards Buckingham Palace which she was to see in the dark as at 4 of course the sun sets in London at this time of year.
Adela outside Buckingham Palace on Saturday afternoon

We were quite tired by the time we reached Buckingham Palace so we walked to what I thought would be the nearest tube station at Victoria.  From here we took the tube to Paddington and went back to our hotel.  We were to rest in our room until we would meet Suzy again. That night, our last night, at 21.30h I would be inviting Adela, Suzy, her boyfriend Gabor and friend Chati to dinner at The Fish Works, a lovely restaurant on Maryleybone High Street where we had been in the summer.  However at around 7pm Suzy rang to say she had been allowed to leave work early and could meet us at 8pm. So we got ready quickly and walked for the second time that day to Maryleybone High Street.  Here we met Suzy outside The Fish Works and went to have a drink at a nearby pub whilst waiting for Gabor and Chati.  Adela treated us to a delicious raspberry mojito.  As the wait seemed to be quite long we decided to walk to Bond Street Tube station to meet Gabor and Chati off the tube and walk back together to the restaurant.

So what did we eat at the Fish restaurant you may be wondering?  Fish and chips was my choice as it was Gabor’s and Chati’s.  I hardly had any photos of Suzy and I of this trip so here was our chance and I asked Chati to take one of us.  This is it. 
Suzy and I at The Fish Works on Saturday night

Then of course we had to have a photo taken of all 5 of us which our waitress kindly took.  Here we are enjoying our last meal together at The Fish Works.
Dinner at The Fish Works on Saturday night. From left to right: Gabor, Suzy, me, Adela, Chati

After dinner we said our goodbyes, although Suzy would be coming to see us off at Victoria station the next morning.  Adela and I once again walked back to our hotel and were in bed at 11.30, rather late for us.  It is impossible to calculate the kilometres we had walked that day and the day before but it could have been at least 10km each day.  I was feeling the strain in my legs which thankfully when I woke up on Sunday morning had gone.

We had our last breakfast at the Balmoral House Hotel and said goodbye to our friendly waitresses.  Our final task was to pack, or rather to try and get all our purchases into our suitcases.  Adela managed hers, but mine looked impossible.  I was going to leave the feather pillow I had brought with me behind but Adela said no way, managed to get it into her suitcase and then did the heroic feat of shutting mine.  To do so I literally had to stand on it. Here is a photo of Adela performing what seemed to be an impossible task.  Well she did, you are a champion!
Adela closing my suitcase, no easy feat
We decided to take a cab with our heavy cases to Victoria and leave them at left luggage so that we could spend our final hours free of it.  Thus we walked out of the station empty handed and made our way once again to the nearby Buckingham Palace so that Adela could see it in daylight.  I also wanted to show her St. James’ park which is across the road from the Palace.  Here we enjoyed feeding the ducks and walking in the cold air.  It was a sunny morning and the views from the bridge on the lake of the palace were fabulous.  A nice Brazilian couple who were on honeymoon in London took this photo of the two of us.
On the bridge on the lake at St. James' park with Buckingham Palace behind us on Sunday morning.

Once again we were in luck as just after taking that photo we spied the Royal Horse Guards coming down the Mall from Buckingham Palace on route to the Horse Guards’ Parade for the changing of the guard. This time we were to see the full performance at bird’s eye view.
The Changing of the Guards at Horse Guards Parade on Sunday morning.
After watching this wonderful piece of pageantry it was time to walk back to Victoria Station where we meeting Suzy at 11 to say goodbye before getting the Gatwick Express on time to catch our 15.30 Easy Jet flight.  Suzy was late again but we waited for her until she arrived at 11.45.  We said our goodbyes outside the station and I asked Adela to take a final photo of the two of us which you can see below.
With Suzy at Victoria Station on Sunday morning just before we said goodbye.
She accompanied us to left luggage to recover our suitcases and we walked together to the platform to say our final goodbye. I will be seeing her again when she comes home on 22nd December so the goodbye was not too painful.  All in all it was wonderful to see her happy and flourishing in London.  Love you darling.

We arrived at Gatwick at 13.15 and the obstacle race to the plane was quite painless with short queues so by about 14h with our duty free purchases made, we were sitting down to lunch at Caviar House.  Here I had my favourite meal, crab salad and Adela enjoyed a prawn salad. 

The flight home was uneventful and Adela enjoyed the experience again.  We arrived in Madrid 15 minutes early and our baggage was there in a jiffy.  In fact we were outside waiting for Marta, Ministro and Eladio much earlier than they had planned. We said our goodbyes as they drove off to Ponferrada.  Then I got into our comfortable car and was driven home by the best husband in the world.

Eladio meanwhile had just come back from a short weekend in Montrondo with José Antonio the brother who lives in Madrid.  There they were joined by their Mother, Adela's husband Primo, their brother Isidro and his wife Yoli and their sister Pili and her husband Andrés.  Both Adela and Primo, Pili and Andrés are very excited about the building of their new houses in Montrondo. Whilst we were in London Eladio sent me this photo of all of them outside the house that is being built for Adela and Primo.  Of course we would have loved to have been with them but far preferred out trip to London:-)
The picture Eladio sent me from Montrondo whilst we were in London.

 It was great to see my Father, Olivia, Fátima and the dogs and there was time for unpacking, the handing out of various presents and even time to enjoy a frugal dinner with Eladio.  Afterwards I got into bed feeling happy but thoroughly exhausted.

I had a great night’s sleep as there no bed better than one’s own. I woke up on Monday to be faced with a fasting day but I got through it fine.  Yesterday Monday was a calm and quiet day where I got up to speed with my work and settled in at home again.

Of note whilst I was away, apart from Nelson Mandela’s death and the continued demonstrations in Kiev, I had missed the World Cup Draw on Friday.  So I was eager to find out which teams Spain, the reigning champions, would have to confront and found out they were Holland, Chile and Australia.  In fact the first match will be against Holland. It’s quite funny as the final of the last world cup in South Africa was precisely against the Dutch who played dirty as far as I remember.  England doesn’t have an easy group either and will have to play against Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica.  Most people think Spain will get through the first round but will probably not go on to win.  Which country are you laying your bets on to win?  I think it will be the host country Brazil but that remains to be seen.

And now it is Tuesday and I am home again. The week will be relatively quiet.  Today I have a lunch with my great friends Julio and Fátima and on Thursday I have two engagements. The following week will be crazy though with the Yoigo Christmas parties happening on Wednesday and Thursday.  So I think this week we will put up the Christmas decorations.  That is a task we used to do with the girls but Suzy is not here and Olivia will not be that interested. So Eladio and I shall create the Christmas spirit alone as always.  Well he will bring everything up and I shall do the decorating. I look forward to that.

So my friends, I have come to the end of this post and all that remains is for me to wish you all a great week.  By the way you can see the full collection of the photos of our trip to London here.

Cheers till next week


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