Sunday, March 16, 2014

Out of hospital, a missing airplane, anniversaries, 25 years of Internet, spring is on its way, the death of Tony Benn, the richest town in Spain, Oli went to Soria and Suzy found a flat, troubles in the Crimea, the best place to live in England and other stories.

Oli having breakfast with her friends Gioanna left and Paula right (black stripes) in Soria this weekend.
Hi again

Well what a week it has been, memorable in many ways on the news front.  We have had marvelous weather and spring is on the way. So let me start.

This time last week Eladio was in hospital.  Thankfully it all turned out to be a storm in a teacup and on Monday he was discharged.  They made him wear a halter (a device worn to measure your blood pressure for 24 hours) as the doctors suspected his feeling faint was possibly because of a valve in his heart.  This worried us quite a lot but the final diagnosis was that he has a clean bill of health and that he probably felt faint as he had been standing reading the newspaper for an hour before sitting down to breakfast.  Now he has breakfast as soon as he is in the kitchen and reads the paper sitting down!

The week’s news has been dominated by the story of a missing Boing 777 belonging to Malaysia Airlines.  Last Saturday it took off for Beijing with 237 people onboard and went missing shortly afterwards.  There has been no sign of the plane since and the signals are now turning to a high jacking attempt which probably ended in the plane crashing into the sea.  It is a very mysterious story and I have been following the news daily.

Tuesday 11th March was the 10th anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, the deadliest terrorist attack in Spanish history.  For people in Spain this is like our 9th September.  The bombs on 4 packed commuter trains heading for the Madrid Atocha station killed 191 people and wounded about 2,000.  It is something none of us can ever forget and each and every one of us remembers where we were and what we were doing when it happened.  I was in Segovia with Anne N and the other members of the Nokia marketing team.  We had gone there for a farewell event.  I was with Anne when it happened and it was thanks to her Mother we found out, who had called her from Finland to see if she was alright.  That is a day I will never forget.
It was the 10th anniversary of the Madrid train bombings on Tuesday

Tuesday 11th March was also the 3rd annivesary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, tsunami and earthquake disaster which killed some 16 thousand people in Japan.  That is a day that will go down in history as one of the worst natural disasters ever to happen.

That day I got a phone call from my new (dotted line) Finnish boss Tatu.  It was funny for me to receive a phone call from a number beginning with 358.  I immediately recognised the number as coming from Finland, due to the many years I worked for Nokia.  I look forward to meeting him and my new team members at the beginning of April in Stockholm.

On Tuesday too I had lunch with a colleague, “A” who has just lost her job as the communications director with a well-known mobile phone manufacturer.  We had lunch at the only English restaurant I know of in Madrid, The Bristol Bar.  Here we devoured a wonderful plate of fish and chips, followed by an enormous portion of fruit crumble.  There was a lot of advice I could give to “A” about finding a new job as I have been through the experience twice.  We also had a story in common she wished to discuss with me.  The story was not pleasant and was about a nasty person called Carlos L who had bullied me terribly whilst at Nokia and then went on to bully her too at the mobile phone company they both worked for.  The conversation brought back some bad memories but at least we could commiserate together.  I wish her lots of luck and trust she will find another job soon.  My advice to her was to take her job hunting as seriously as if it were a work project and to give herself a year.  Hopefully it will take a lot less.
The delicious fruit crumble with custard and ice cream I had at the Bristol Bar on Tuesday and again on Saturday!
On Wednesday I had a conference call with all the “communicators” in our mother company. When the Swedes or Finns pronounce local names, if I don’t know the people, I can’t understand who they are talking about. Thankfully I was later sent a power point with the new organisation chart and now know who is doing what.  It is amazing to see big communication teams structures in some countries with fewer customers than Yoigo when I am a one woman show doing communication here in Spain.  I really think if you are organised and efficient you don’t need big teams to do the job. But there you are.

Wednesday was the 25th anniversary of the internet.  I can hardly imagine life today without if although of course I do remember life before the Englishman Tim Berners-Lee invented a way of using networks of computers to talk to each other. 

Wednesday was also the first anniversary of Pope Francis, that revolutionary, at least in attitude and style of living, very popular Argentinian Pope.  I am a great fan of his but as I wrote to my own parish priest recently, Brandon J, I very much doubt he will make a difference where it matters: women being admitted to the priesthood, priests being allowed to marry, contraception, etc, etc.  In any case on Wednesday Pope Francis was big news.  He is by far the most popular Pope ever and that is good for the Catholic Church, whether you like it or not.
Pope Francis on his 1st anniversary this week - true to his style, getting off a bus and carrying his own briefcase
I reflected on all these things as I went on my two walks every day of this week.  The walks have been heavenly because of the weather and I have walked past so many signs of spring that have lightened my step. I specially love the blossom on the trees at this time of year.  
Blossom on my walk, the sure sign spring is on its way
As I walk on my own on the second walk of the day (Eladio comes once with the dogs, mainly in the mornings), I enjoy listening to music on Spotify.  I have come to realise that much of the music on my lists is music I listened to in the 70s and 80s and it was music my brother George also liked or played, so I have thought much about him during my walks this week.  He is dead, that is a terrible fact, but he lives on in my heart.  When I listen to Carole King particularly I remember him playing “Tapestry” on the piano.  Oh George, how terrible that you went but how wonderful to have you in my thoughts when I walk in the sunshine in the afternoons.

Thursday of course was my second fasting day of the week but I tried not to think about the hunger pangs when I went on my two walks that day.

On Friday, when I particularly enjoy my breakfast after a fasting day, I read that Tony Benn died aged 88.  Today’s generation won’t know who he is but I remember him clearly from when I was a teenager.  A difficult man to describe, he was a sort of left wing national treasure.  He served under Harold Wilson and was possibly one of the most radical Labour politicians in English history, after Michael Foot.  He is most known perhaps for giving up his hereditary peerage but I remember him particularly for backing the miners’ strike in 1985 and being a huge annoyance to Margaret Thatcher.  He will be remembered also for his amazing rhetoric, for constantly smoking a pipe, but perhaps I remember him most for his incredible ability to drink copious amounts of tea. He claimed once that he drank one pint of tea per hour.  He must have had a huge bladder I’m sure. Neither his smoking nor his tea drinking seem to have hindered his health in old age lucky him.  RIP Tony Benn.  My parents never liked you but I secretly admired you as I imagine many people did.
RIP Tony Benn
The other piece of news that interested me that morning was the publication of a study by the AIS group on the richest and poorest towns in Spain.  It turns out that 8 of the 10 richest towns in Spain with over 10.000 inhabitants are in the Madrid area and that nearby Boadilla del Monte, where we lived for 18 years, is the richest town in Spain based on income per capita.  The average salary per person in Boadilla is apparently 2,910 euros/month.
Boadilla del Monte the richest town in Spain
Where we live now is the 5th richest town.  Quite amazing to know and now, in a way, I feel I must be living in the Spanish equivalent of Surrey, one of the richest areas in England.  If you look at the map below you will see that as in most countries there is a north south divide, as the richest towns in Spain are all located in the centre or the north. 
Map of the richest and poorest towns in Spain
On Friday Olivia took the day off work and went to Soria for the weekend.  She is staying at a rural hotel in Valdelinares with her TVE master friends Giovanna and Paula.  I think they have had great weather.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of her enjoying breakfast on Saturday morning with her friends.  I do hope she comes back relaxed, refreshed and happy.  She has just posted a great picture on Facebook of the three of them at the natural park area we also visited and loved when we went to Soria; Cañón del Río Lobo.  Beautiful Oli, thanks.
Olivia with her friends Paula (left in blue) and Giovanna at Cañón del Río Lobo in Soria today
On Friday too, there was news from Suzy from London.  Missing both my girls, it was lovely to talk to her two or three times this week.  On Friday she was going to see a flat Gabor had liked and it was being kept on hold for them if she liked it too.  The flat is in Canada Water (Southeast London) in the Docklands area which is apparently becoming quite a genteel area – not like in the past.  It is on the Jubilee Line and only 4 stops from Waterloo near where she works at the Oxo building.  As soon as Suzy saw it she loved it and they will be moving in next Saturday.  Nothing will be stopping them this time, I hope.  They will be sharing with 3 other people (two Italian boys and one Spanish girl).  The flat looks lovely, new, refurbished and has all the mod cons.  Their room has private access to a garden, there is wifi, the bills are all included and most importantly a cleaner is too.  This is a photo of the house from the outside.  I am so happy for Suzy and Gabor.
Suzy's new house in Canada Water
On Friday I had lunch with my great friends Julio and Fátima.  It was a belated celebration of Fatíma’s and my birthdays which were in January and February respectively.  We chose our favourite place, El Buey in Boadilla del Monte (yes the richest town in Spain hahaha).  It was a great lunch except that Fátima arrived 2 hours after the agreed meeting time (2.20h).  She is always late but always has a valid excuse.  Julio told me to hold my tongue and not tell her off, so I reluctantly agreed as I just hate a lack of punctuality.  Anyway, she was forgiven and we exchanged our presents.  I got what I wanted, a lovely red handbag from Zara.
My belated birthday present from Julio and Fátima
Yesterday Saturday I got in two walks as I did every day this week.  They must have helped to work off the copious meals as for lunch I made “real” fish and chips and for dinner we went out again.  Dinner yesterday night was once again at the English restaurant, the Bristol Bar and it was with our friends Pedro and Ludy; Pedro being the famous Spanish cyclist and TV commentator Pedro Delgado.  Eladio thought the place was a bit noisy and he didn’t think the food was up to much.  We had roast beef with all the trimmings.  It certainly wasn’t the best I’ve ever had but as I love that dish so much I wasn’t complaining. It was great to see our friends again and we chatted a lot that night about TVE which Pedro knows very well and where Olivia works.  It was thanks to him she first got an internment there and for that I am forever grateful.

Of note on Saturday the US marine Glenn McDuffie famous for kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ day in the iconic photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt on14th August 1945, died last Sunday but I read about the news yesterday.  The photo often called “the kiss” is so famous you will recognise it immediately.  I was interested to read he was changing trains on his way to meet his girlfriend when he heard Japan had surrendered.  When he got out of the subway he was so happy and when he saw the nurse standing there he just went over and kissed her.  The nurse was Edith Shain who worked in a hospital nearby and who died in 2010.
The sailor in this iconic WW2 photo, Glenn McDuffie died last week
Today Sunday has been very quiet so far. Again we went for a walk this morning in the glorious pre spring sunshine and when we came home I spied our cat Phoebe perched on top of the gate.  In fact we found out recently that her “house” is the layer of tiles on top of the gate.  I love the photo for its colour and have named it “spot the cat”.  Can you spot Phoebe?
Phoebe our cat enjoying the pre spring sunshine outside her "house" - the row of tiles on the gate post
Today will go down in history as the day of the illegal referendum in the Crimea for the population to vote whether they want to belong to Russia or remain in the Ukraine.  This issue, more than the missing Malaysian plane, has dominated the international news this week.  It may be so that Crimea used to belong to Russia but who is Putin to invade another country with the whole world against him?  We shall know the results today or tomorrow which if the Russians win will be devastating for international politics. 

On a much more pleasant note, my last piece of news today is about the best place to live in England.  At lunch just as my Father was asking me once again what Facebook and Twitter were, I read an article posted by a school friend, Geraldine, on her “wall” (difficult to explain what that is to my Father).  She had posted a story from the Sunday Times which was publishing the results of a survey on the best places to live in England.  I was very interested to know the winner and very full of praise when I heard it was my beloved Skipton, also known as “the gateway to the Dales”.  I would also have been happy had the best place been voted Harrogate, Ilkley, York or even Gargrave, all wonderful towns in ”God’s own country” Yorkshire. I was also pleased to read that another town I love in England, Falmouth in Cornwall, came fourth.

And now I have come to the end of this week’s tales and news.  Wondering what next week will bring, I wish you all the very best.  I hope you have enjoyed this week’s post. Cheers till next time,


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