Sunday, April 27, 2014

A rainbow in Montrondo, a claw foot bathtub, Olivia reporting for TVE from Cartagena, a business lunch with Julio, a letter to The Local on why I’m a Brit who is staying in Spain, another photo from the past, the end of an era; Nokia becomes Microsoft Mobile, RIP Tito Vilanova, Suzy is home, a shopping expedition with the girls and other stories

Sunday 27th April 2014
Shopping with Suzy on Saturday morning
Hi everyone,

This week I have been as busy as a bee.  There has been so much to do on the work front and at home; preparing for Suzy’s arrival on Friday and so many other things.  I felt like “speedy gonzález”, only stopping to think for myself on my two hourly walks per day.

We came back from Montrondo last Sunday after a wonderful Easter break and the weather held until we left.  Just as I had published last week’s “missal”, my sister-in-law sent me a photo of the view from their kitchen of the village with a full rainbow.  Maybe there was a pot of honey or of gold at the end, but for me it was the photo of the week.  If you look closely you can see another lighter coloured rainbow just behind.
The rainbow in Montrondo last Sunday after we left
Since we returned Eladio has been busy talking to builders and the town council for the building license.  In any spare time I have had I have been researching rural and old fashioned type bathroom suites.  In my mind I can see a black and white floor with white tiling and old fashioned furniture, especially for our own bathroom in the newly reformed house.  One of the elements just has to be a claw foot bathtub and here Eladio has gone all out to find me one. And voilà, he did, from a small factory in the province of Toledo and it is now on its way. 

At “home” (my childhood home at 6 Heaton Grove) in England, all the bathroom furniture was Victorian and we still regret enormously not bringing it all from the house when my Father came to live with us.  The bath tub at home was enormous and I remember my Mother enjoying her baths there when I would sit and chat to her, both of us smoking.  So maybe my quest for old fashioned bathroom furniture has something to do with nostalgia for the beautiful Victorian washbasins we had in all our rooms with their old fashioned taps.  In any case the quest for the rest of the elements continues while the house hasn’t even been started on yet.

Monday was quiet and busy with me working from home as usual.  Olivia meanwhile was in Cartagena, a big town in the province of Murcia.  She had been sent by TVE to report on the story of a civil guard who had shot a young man and left him paraplegic after a silly brawl about a fight over a car mirror. 

Olivia is at her best reporting on court cases and had learnt about the rather complicated case and her reporting was flawless.  She was on at 11.40 and you can see the clip here if you fast forward to that time.  She was on again at 13.08 with an update on how the trial was going which you can see on the same link if you go to that time.
Olivia, my youngest daughter, reporting live for TVE from Cartagena on Monday
I think I told you last week that her cameraman that day was to be her boyfriend Miguel.  That was certainly a plus for both of them.  She sent me this lovely photo of the two of them by the TVE truck.
Olivia and Miguel "working together" on Monday in Cartagena
On Tuesday I had an important business lunch.  It was with Yoigo and the COIT (Spanish official college of telecommunications engineers).  It sounds like a boring business lunch but it wasn’t because my great friend and ex Nokia colleague, Julio who works part time for the COIT was also there.  After the lunch we went to the College offices to sign the agreement and official photos of the event were taken.  I just love the one of Julio and myself with the Spanish flag behind us. I cropped the photo so that just the two of us appear in the photo.  Great isn’t it?  You may notice I was wearing the Zara “kaftan” type dress I had bought the week before with a matching green summer coat from the same shop I bought last year.
With my best friend Julio on official business on Tuesday
That night was the first leg of the Champions League semifinal between Atlético de Madrid and José Mourinho’s Chelsea FC.  Thus most Spaniards, even if they were Real Madrid or Barcelona fans, would be behind the Spanish team. Even I watched the match last night.  I write a lot about football in my blog but I have to confess I am not actually so interested in the play itself, although I like to see the goals, as in the outcome and the competition.  As the match started around dinner time, we decided to eat in our room.  Soon Olivia joined us and found the scene so funny she had to grab us on camera and here we are.
Candid camera:  Photo Olivia took of us having dinner and watching the Chelsea Atlético Madrid match on Tuesday
As there were no goals the match was very boring, so whilst Eladio had his eyes on the screen I started reading my new book delivered by Amazon this week, Mao’s last dancer, the story I told you about last week.  It is going to be a great read and in the league of “Wild Swans, three daughters of China” from what I have read so far.  When I’ve finished it I shall pass it on to my Father who I know will also be very interested in Li Cunxin’s life story.

Wednesday was St. George’s day and I couldn’t help remembering my brother.  My Mother always told me she chose that name for her son in honour of St. George and the dragon.  In many parts of the world it was celebrated and very much so in the Barcelona area of Spain where the tradition is for men to give women a red rose and for women to give men a book; a bit chauvinist I think but a nice idea too. 

I had no time for thoughts of that English saint that morning when I had a very early start that morning.  You see it was results day when TeliaSonera, Yoigo’s “mother company” was announcing the first quarter financial results.  I had to attend a conference call at 8 and then watch the web cast of the conference call in Stockholm at 10.30 as well as send out a press and internal releases. The results in market share were good for Yoigo.  We had reached over 4 million customers but it had come at a cost in profitability.  In operator business you always have to balance customer intake with profitability; never an easy balance.  At 12, I had another conference call, this time with Finland, with my new communications boss, Tatu.  Later I had another business lunch, this time with Xavi, an ex-Motorola colleague.  It was great to see him. Thanks for the splendid lunch at La Española in Pozuelo Xavi my friend.

It was on Wednesday after my evening walk that I decided to write to The Local.  This is an online English written newspaper which has editions in many countries and I find the Spanish version really quite entertaining.  It explains local events well and is mainly targeted at British people living in Spain, like me.  So when I read an article about Brits leaving Spain because of the crisis, entitled “British expats flee from crisis-hit Spain” it rather rattled me.  On their Facebook page they asked Brits to tell them why they were leaving and I suggested they also asked Brits why they were staying.  This is the letter I wrote to them and which I share with you here, for you to understand why I am staying here and not leaving.  By the way I got an answer and I think they will be quoting in me in another article soon, so watch this space.

My letter to The Local:
 Yesterday I read your article about Brits leaving Spain (I read many of your articles and find most of them very informative and entertaining).  It was also echoed on the news here. This morning on your FB page you said you would love to speak to Brits who had left Spain to find out their reasons for doing so.  That sort of annoyed me as I think the statistics are not very clear and can hardly imagine the British love affair with Spain being over, despite the crisis, although of course some people are leaving, either because they want to spend their final years back home or because they can't find a job.  

I suggested you also talk to Brits, like me, who choose to stay on so as to tell both sides of the story and you asked me to write and tell you why I am staying.

I am a British born woman who fell in love with Spain in the 70's in my teens when my parents bought a ruin of a house in a remote village in the hills of Alicante.  I went on to study Spanish at University, fell in love and married a Spanish priest and came to live in Madrid in the early 80's.  I have had a bird's eye view of the development of this amazing country from the times when Franco was in power, to the transition to democracy and have lived through both times of economic boom and crisis.  It was never easy to get a job but I always managed and have gone from working as a teacher of English to translator, to being part of  marketing departments of multinationals and latterly heading up PR in telecommunications companies.  I do not live in an English bubble and have never had the need.  I consider living in Spain like marriage, you carry on through the good times and the bad if you love the country like I do. 

Ok we have had a crisis since 2008 and of course it's tough for many people but if you have a job here and a house, there is absolutely no need to go.  Life is great in Spain; the climate, the food, the people, the very open society with far less rigid rules than in the UK for example.  Spain is also one of the most liberal countries in the world and has come a very long way from Franco's times.  Spaniards live life to the full; enjoying work and play. You might also like to add that the siesta and "mañana" attitude are clichés and things of the past.  Healthcare is of a very high standard.  I wouldn't leave Spain for "all the tea in China". The only home comforts I miss from the UK I can get online.  When I first arrived in Spain in the 70's you couldn't even get corn flakes or fresh butter.  Now everything is available. 

So please also include in your story that there are English people staying on in Spain who are happy to do so.  The quality of life in Spain is just too good for me to ever want to leave.  Ask your other British readers living in Spain and I'm sure they will agree.

That's all from me, hope my side of the story is relevant to you,
 Best regards

I could have added in the letter that Spain plays probably the best football in the world, something Brits here will also appreciate.  Proof of that, once again, was that night when Real Madrid beat Bayern Munich 1-0 in their first leg of the Champions League semifinal; although ironically the winning goal came from a Frenchman, Benzema. Everyone here is hoping for an all-Spanish final but that remains to be seen.  Last year we wished for the same when both Real Madrid and Barcelona were in the semifinals only to be beaten by Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich (last year’s winner) in an all-German final.

Thursday was another busy day working at home. There is not much to report unless you count my two hour long walks, a visit to the chiropodist, food shopping with Fátima our home help and other domestic duties. 

Friday started off early too.  There were lots of things to do in preparation for Susana and Gabor’s arrival late that night.  I will have told you already that they were coming for Suzy’s 30th birthday which is on Monday.  First things first; upon Suzy’s request, I made a big fruit trifle which we would have for lunch on Saturday.  Then I went out on various birthday errands which I can’t write about as I don’t want to include any birthday spoilers in case Suzy reads this post before Monday. I wanted the house to look nice so I gathered flowers of all types from the garden and filled our home with even more colour.  Suzy got some beautiful yellow roses in her room which I also put in a vase on one of the tables in our lounge.  We even bathed the dogs so that Norah and Elsa would be sweet smelling for Suzy’s arrival.  I’m not sure they appreciated the gesture hahaha.
I filled the house with flowers for Suzy's arrival
I felt happy and excited whilst preparing for Suzy’s visit.  The other day Olivia had been copying some of our old photos of when they were small, like the “photo from the past” I posted last week and she dug out another wonderful photo, this time of me with both girls.  I put it on FB that morning in honour of Suzy’s arrival and I am happy to share it with you here too.  It was taken in our first Madrid house in the Calle Francisco Silvela in 1986 when Suzy was 2 and Olivia was 1. Suzy later told me she remembered the giant pink rabbit in the picture. I got some wonderful compliments on my looks which was great for my ego too.  But I specially love the “bubbliness” on Suzy’s face.  It just sums her up when she was a toddler, happy and full of life.
This week's photo from the past.  1986 with Suzy aged 2 and Olivia aged 1
Ok so on Friday I was happy and excited.  However Friday also marked the end of an era for the telecommunications industry and for me too.  It was the day the Nokia branded phone division was to become Microsoft Mobile. For an ex Nokia employee, like me, that was especially poignant news.  I can only imagine how hard that must be for current Finnish Nokia employees.  I have often written about my times working with Nokia and as a company it was just the best in terms of culture and employee welfare and here I am referring to the company, certainly not Nokia Spain which was a different story completely.
The end of an era
The sports world went into mourning on Friday evening.  The ex-Barcelona coach, 45 year old Tito Vilanova died after a long struggle with cancer. 
RIP Tito Vilanova
Condolences came from all around the world.  Especially ironic was a tweet from Chelsea FC from “the special one”.  It is not surprising he should be sad too but then I think he must regret forever his antics when he got into a brawl with him, poking him in the eye and calling him “Pito” instead of “Tito” (pito also meaning “penis” in Spanish) as if he was a nobody, during the 2010 Spanish Super Cup won by Barcelona.  His tweet made no mention of the incident on Friday when he wrote: “On behalf of Chelsea Football Club I send my deepest condolences at this most difficult time".

To fill the time until Suzy and Gabor’s arrival at midnight, Eladio and I went out to dinner.  Unfortunately all our favourite restaurants on The Fork are no longer available.  In the end we went to Ginos to have pizza and pasta.  The day seemed endless until it was time to go and pick Suzy and Gabor up.  Luckily they were on time and as they didn’t have to wait for any luggage, soon my darling daughter was in my arms.  That night we all went to bed very late but very happy.

Saturday was the highlight of the week, the happiest day so far.  It started with breakfast all together in the kitchen.  Both girls were with us and both boyfriends too, Gabor and Miguel. I quickly prepared the food for the family lunch: homemade Spanish lentil soup, fish to be baked in the oven accompanied by fresh peas and artichokes and Suzy’s favourite, mashed potatoes. The dessert would be my trifle.  Thus I was free to go out shopping with the girls.

We went to Gran Plaza 2, one of the bigger but more manageable shopping centres.  First and last stop for me was Zara.  Here I bought a lovely red summer coat I don’t really need but couldn’t resist.
My new red coat from Zara
Olivia very generously bought all the clothes Suzy chose as part of her birthday present.  What a generous daughter I have.  The photo with Suzy illustrating this week's blogpost is of us shopping in Zara.

We all had a huge siesta afterwards, tired from so much emotion and from having gone to bed late the night before.  Later Eladio and I went on our walk with the dogs which I would repeat an hour later.  The girls meanwhile were getting ready to go out to Suzy’s 30th birthday party at a place called Euphoria which belongs to one of their friends.  Copi and her boyfriend Miguel came to join them in their preparations, or rather Copi made up both girls as she is an expert in face makeup.  Meanwhile both Miguels made dinner for the group. 

They were going out to a great birthday party but we just stayed at home and went to bed, feeling exhausted and a bit flat really.  It wasn’t until today that I got to see photos of the party. Everyone who was anyone in Suzy’s circle of friends and family were there, including her cousins, Juan, Sara, Alicia and Paula and their partners.  I love this photo of them together although unfortunately Juan had left when the photo was taken.  I think I heard them returning this morning at around 4 so a good time must have been had by all.
Suzy's 30th birthday party yesterday in Madrid with some of her cousins
Celebrations will continue today and tomorrow.  I have always said that Suzy’s birthdays are like Indian weddings, they go on for a week or longer.  In fact she will be having another one in London on 2nd May.  Meanwhile today we will be having a family barbecue so when I sign off I shall start preparing for that.

Tomorrow will be her official birthday but of course I will tell you all about that in next week’s post.

So cheers till then


Sunday, April 20, 2014

A photo from the past, hot cross buns, Mao’s last dancer, family “cocido”, the dog trainer, Easter in Montrondo, Suzy has visitors in London, home again and other stories.

Sunday 20th April 2014
In the mountains of Montrondo, here with Eladio and the Tambarón peak behind us.
Happy Easter everyone,

Most of you will still be on holiday. I have just come back from Montrondo and our Easter break with the family was blessed with sunshine most of the time.  I will get to that later; first let me start from where I left off, last Sunday, Palm Sunday.

Olivia was home from Ponferrada for lunch and we had our first barbecue of the season.  Here is a photo of Eladio preparing the food and my Father sitting at our table in the patio outside the kitchen.
Our first barbecue of the year was last Sunday
I spent some quality time with Olivia who I hadn’t seen for a while.  She came back from a weekend with her cousins enamoured with the smallest members of the family Diana and little Lidia.  Everyone said Lidia looked like Olivia when she was small so Oli decided to dig out old photos from our countless albums to see if this was true.  She found quite a few she loved and sent the family this beautiful one of her with me in 1986 in a small town called Figueras de Castropol in Asturias.  She was just 1 and I was only 29.  This photo from the past made me remember the happy times when the girls were babies and I love it; so I am happy to share it with you too.
The photo from the past, me with Olivia in 1986 in Figureas in Asturias. I was 29 and Olivia was just 1.
Later in the evening I started watching the replacement disk 2 of series 2 of Mr. Selfridge which had kindly sent to me, after I cunningly found out they do have a customer care number and you don’t have to do everything online.  Later during the week I finished watching the series and now look forward to series 3.

On Monday morning when I came down to the kitchen at about 07.30 am I found two packets of Marks and Spencer’s mini hot cross buns on the surface I call “my island”.  They had come from England. Suzy bought them for me and gave them to her friend Elena who visited her recently and on Sunday night Elena gave them to Oli who brought them home for me.  In my house the rule is you can only eat them on Good Friday and afterwards but never before and Easter, in my mind, is not the same without them.  They are difficult to find in Spain and cannot be bought online because of the short sell by date, so thanks Suzy, Elena and Oli for your efforts in making it possible for us to continue with the age old tradition in my home as a girl and a woman on Good Friday.
The hot cross buns from England
Monday was my fasting day but I was busy so hardly thought about food.  First I had a conference call with my communications colleagues in Sweden and other countries.  I managed a walk that morning before my meagre one yoghurt lunch.  I also took the time to pick some lovely white flowers and purple lilac from the garden which is beginning to bloom at this time of year.
Picking flowers in the garden
On Monday night Eladio and I watched a fascinating film called Mao’s last dancer which I loved and have now ordered the biography by Li Cunxin.  At the age of 11 Li was picked out from a school in a remote part of China to study ballet at Madame Mao’s dance academy in Beijing.  He went on to become a renowned ballet dancer and was one of the two first dancers ever who were allowed to travel abroad in a cultural exchange programme in the US.  There he falls in love and defects and is forbidden to return to China.  If you haven’t read the book or seen the film I will include no spoilers here. Suffice it to say it is a wonderful film.
What a great film
On Tuesday we had a family lunch outside again as the weather continued to be superb.  I made a winter dish which is very popular in Spain; the “cocido”, a speciality of mine.  We were joined by Miguel, Oli’s cameraman boyfriend who lives in Valencia. The photos I have of that lunch are thanks to him. Olivia was on holiday as from Tuesday until the end of the week.
Family cocido on Tuesday
On Wednesday I fasted too instead of Thursday as on Thursday we were off to Montrondo.  I joined Olivia on a shopping expedition that day and she took me to a new shopping centre I didn’t know; Parque Sur, but it looked just the same as most shopping centres these days.  In a short space of time we had bought quite a few garments from my favourite shop Zara. These are two of them, a blue jumper and a silk type kaftan.
More new clothes from Zara this week
On Wednesday evening we had an appointment at home with a dog trainer I had found on internet.  Juan Carlos who trains dogs for the blind and for the police had come to see what could be done with Elsa our Labrador and Norah our beagle.  They are lovely dogs but have not been trained the basic “dog code” he was to teach us; getting them to lie down, sit and stay at command.  We thoroughly enjoyed the session.  All the code words – sit, platz, no no, allez, etc were employed using bits of sausage which the dogs fully enjoyed.  He will be coming again, this time to correct the way they walk with us.  They pull on their leads and will be learning to walk beside us.  Also we want Juan Carlos to help Norah with her trauma with cars, bicycles and motorbikes on our walk.  She gets into a frenzy and we don’t know why.  I think he will have a hard job there. 

Wednesday was an important date in the local football calendar. It was the final of the “Copa del Rey” between Barcelona and Madrid and was to take place in Valencia.  People all over Spain would be watching it, many of them turning the event into a party like Olivia and Miguel who invited the “manada” and made risotto and tiramisu for the occasion. We watched it in our room.  Of course I wanted Madrid to win but didn’t think they would as Cristiano Ronaldo is injured.  So I was delighted when Gareth Bale scored Madrid’s second goal at the end of the match bringing a result of 2-1 to the “blancos”.
Gareth Bale celebrating his winning goal in the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday
On Maundy Thursday, the day we were going to Montrondo, I was up at 6.40.  After breakfast I went on our walk and came back to pack and get ready to go. We left just after 10 and stopped in Rueda (the white wine area in Valladolid) for our customary plate of ham and glass of wine.  We were in Montrondo by 2.30 and were greeted by all the older members of the family; i.e. Eladio’s Mother and all his brothers and sisters and their spouses. The only members of the younger generation there that day were Alicia and Laura. Lunch was ready and we all sat around the big table in Toño and Dolores’ kitchen.  In the afternoon we lounged around. I spent most of the afternoon with the female members of the family.
In Montrondo on Thursday
The weather was good most of the time and we were able to be outside.  Nearly all our time was spent talking about the houses we were building.  Adela is just finishing her second house, Pili is in the middle of building hers and ours is still in the planning.

Later that day Adela, Dolores and I went on a walk to Murias and back where I took pictures of some of the porches I like there and which I want to build at the entrance of our house in Montrondo.

Friday of course was Good Friday and I would be allowed to eat the hot cross buns from England.  I had left one packet at home for my Father and Olivia and had brought one for us in Montrondo.  But first I would go on an early morning walk to Murias and back with Dolores, Adela and her daughter Marta who had arrived the night before. I would repeat the walk every morning of our stay in Montrondo this Easter.
On one of the morning walks to Murias with Adela
Lunch was a huge affair that day. It was also Marta’s 41st birthday. Being Good Friday I had decided to make English fish and chips for everyone.  I also made mushy peas which turned out to be quite popular. Adela made roast lamb and there was more than enough food for all of us.  We were joined by Adela’s son Roberto, his wife Ana and their two small girls, Diana and Lidia, the smallest members of our family.
The family lunch on Saturday in Montrondo
It was on Good Friday that the famous Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez died.  The author of A Hundred Years of Solitude was to leave this world bereft of the best South American author ever, in my mind.  I remember studying the book at University and getting mixed up with all the characters.
RIP Gabriel García Márquez
In the afternoon Eladio and I went for a walk up the mountains and were joined by Toño and Dolores and their dog Nuba. There was glorious sunshine and snow- capped mountains in the distance all of which made it much easier to climb up the first three very steep ramps.  We took photos all the way.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog is one of Eladio and I just past the “Abedular” with the Tambarón peak in the distance. This is the highest peak in the area (2.102m) and I think it has snow all year round although I might be wrong.
Dolores on the walk with the Tambarón in the backhground
We got as far as the “Canalina” just past the “cabaña” – every nook and cranny in Montrondo and surroundings has a name and I only know about 10% of them hahaha. That day my fitbit told me I had walked over 17km and had burned more than 2.500 calories.  So I went to bed happy with my physical exercise.

Meanwhile back in Madrid Olivia went out to the mountain area of Madrid with Miguel and some of the members of the “manada” (the name for the girls’ group of friends).  She posted this lovely photo of herself which was taken by Miguel in Los Molinos near Guadarrama.
Olivia in Los Molinos on Friday
Suzy meanwhile was of course in London but was to be having visitors for Easter.  The girls’ friend Merce from Yecla in Murcia who they have known since we bought our apartment in Santa Pola in 1999, was to spend the Easter weekend in London with her husband Josema and they would be staying at Suzy and Gabor’s new flat in Canada Water.  This is a photo Suzy posted of the 4 of them, sitting in the garden with blankets on.  I have yet to hear of what they got up to in London this weekend.
Suzy and Gabor with their visitors Merce and Josema in London this weekend
Saturday was our big day, the architect was coming from Murias with the plans of our new house, or rather how it is going to be reformed and then the two builders were coming.  I was up early again for our morning walk after which I had the last of the hot cross buns. That day my sister in law Pili was making lunch so I was able to be with Eladio when he met the architect and builders.  It was so exciting to see the plans and we went over them in the kitchen of the old house.  Later we met the builder who is building Adela’s house and we immediately clicked.  We just have to wait for him and the other builders to give us their estimates and voilà we can start to build, probably around the beginning of May.  I kept looking at the old house thinking how different it will look when it is finished.
The two brothers happy in Montrondo
In the afternoon I went for another walk up the mountains this time with Primo and Adela.  But just as we had gone past the Abedular thunder and lightning struck.  Adela got scared saying it was dangerous to be in the mountains in a storm, so we turned around and walked back, rushing down.  We were trying to get back to the village before the rain started and thankfully we did.

And today is Sunday, Easter Day. I went on the last morning walk to Murias with Adela and Dolores.  After breakfast we made plans to return to Montrondo at the beginning of May to empty the house of furniture and kitchen ware so as the builders can start on the house.  We packed and said our goodbyes and left at around 11.30.  On our way home in quite dense traffic we stopped at Tordesillas in Valladolid for lunch at the splendid Parador.  We were home in the middle of the afternoon, happy to greet my Father, Fátima and the dogs.  We had just missed Olivia who is now travelling by train to Cártagena in Murcia where she will be reporting live tomorrow on her programme, La Mañana de la 1 on TVE1.  The story is about a civil guard who shot a man who is now in a wheel chair.  The nice thing is that Olivia’s cameraman will be her boyfriend Miguel tomorrow, so they will have a great time.  I look forward to seeing her on TV in the morning.

The week coming up will be busy for me. It’s results week and lots of things going on at work. Soon the Easter holiday will be out of my mind and I will be looking forward to Suzy coming next Friday for her 30th birthday on 28th April, amazing eh?

So on that note, I will leave you my friends, wishing you all a great week ahead.


PS You can see more photos of our Easter holiday in Montrondo here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A delicious meeting, illegal to work after 6pm, lunch and a meeting with Julio, it feels like summer, remembering Adrian Mole, Suzy making fruit cocktails in London, Oli off to Ponferrada and other stories.

Sunday 13th April 2014
Happy on one of my sunny walks this week listening to Charlotte Church on my Sony headphones
Good morning, this sunny Sunday in April, Palm Sunday by the way. How has your week been?  Let me tell you about mine.

On Monday I had an early morning conference call with all my communications colleagues from TeliaSonera.  It will be a weekly fixture from now on.  Later I went into the office to meet a Swede from Riga.  Funny eh?  Kjell, a colleague from TeliaSonera, had asked me to set up the meeting with Anders, a public affairs specialist heading up the Stockholm School of Economics in Latvia.  He had heard lots about Yoigo and wanted to meet me and get an update on the company.  That was a nice meeting. 

Monday was a warm day as were all the days of the week.  I managed two walks every day of this week; good on me!  The photo illustrating this week’s post is a selfie of me on the walk yesterday in glorious sunshine early in the morning.  I am wearing the Sony headphones Dani gave the Yoigo employees this Christmas and I am listening to the voice of an angel: Charlotte Church.  If you have never heard her and you like religious popular songs like Ave María, Oh for the Wings of a Dove, Panis Angelicus, etc, then you must look her up.

On Tuesday I had a very productive morning.  I was up early as always and made our lunch straight after breakfast as I would be out for the rest of the morning. That morning our editorial team for content on the Yoigo social media pages was having its kick off meeting.  I had promised to take along “chocolate con churros”; a great Spanish invention for breakfast which consists of thick chocolate that you dip the churros and porras (small and big fritters) in.  The meeting turned out to be delicious and we have now agreed that at each monthly meeting a team member will take it in turns to bring them in too.  I commented that I am not a “meeting person” preferring to resolve things on the phone or by email but I must say a meeting with productive and pleasant people like the ones in this team with “chocolate con churros” is a different story.  Here is a photo of just 3 of the team’s members at our “delicious meeting” on Monday last.
Isabel, Pepe and Carlos at the "delicious meeting" on Monday with chocolate and churros
That night Real Madrid got through to the Champions League semifinals beating Borussia Dortmund on aggregate as it turned out.  The Spaniards had beaten the Germans 3-0 in the first round at the Bernabeu but suffered dreadfully on Tuesday in Germany being beaten 2-0.  It must be said that this was without Cristiano Ronaldo who it seems has a recurring problem with his knee, similar to the one that Rafa Nadal suffers from. 

On Wednesday I had lunch with Julio, my friend from our Nokia days and whom I consider by best male friend.  The purpose of the meeting was to prepare the activities; interview, press release and signing of an agreement with the college of telecoms engineers in Spain.  I was to see him again the next day and it was a pleasure to work together again.

That morning our Ukranian cleaner Zena came to clean the house as Fátima our living in home help is on holiday.  As the weather was so good we decided it was time to prepare the outside terraces, particularly the one by the pool.  When Zena comes to clean she lifts my spirits as she leaves our enormous house spotless.  I just wish Fátima could clean as well.  In the latter’s favour, she looks after my Father so well I can almost forgive her.

Amazingly on Wednesday in the other Spanish second leg of the Champions League quarter final, Atlético de Madrid beat the almighty Barcelona and have got through to the semifinals for the first time in 40 years!  We would have to wait until Friday to see who would play who in the semifinals; would it be Spain against Germany or England or Spain against Spain.  No one here wanted the latter, preferring to see that in the final.

On Wednesday office workers in Europe read with envy that a new law had been passed in France whereby it is illegal to clock off in every aspect of work after 6pm.  This didn’t just refer to leaving the office.  It also included not responding to phone calls from your boss or emails on your phone.
The new law in France
I wonder if that will really work in practice, especially in the big multinationals whose headquarters are in places like the US where that just wouldn’t be practical.  I for one am not envious of the new law, as I am a person who never clocks off, not really distinguishing between work and play.  For me it’s all the same but that is because I enjoy my job so much.

On Thursday afternoon I met Julio again.  This time it was at the interview with my boss for the College’s magazine, Bit.  It was great to welcome Julio to Yoigo.  He came with the magazine journalist and photographer.  It was a very relaxing event as my friend knows my boss too; they studied together. It was great to see you this week Julio my friend; not sure you read my blog though!
My best male friend Julio who I met twice for work purposes this week
That evening I served Eladio his dinner on the terrace by the pool as the weather was so good.  This is the photo I took to mark the occasion.
Eladio having dinner outside this week
It really did feel like summer this week with temperatures reaching 27ºc.  Spaniards are enjoying the weather but more concerned about how it will behave during “Semana Santa” (Easter Week).  In my experience it usually rains but you never know.  In any case we have enjoyed the sunshine and warm weather enormously.  This is a photo of Eladio with a t-shirt and shorts on one of our walks this week.
Eladio with Norah on one of our sunny walks this week
On Friday I was sad to hear that the author of one of my favourite books, “the diary of Adrian Mole”, Sue Townsend, aged 68, who was left blind after suffering from diabetes for many years died at home on Thursday after suffering a stroke.  What a terrible end for her.

I read the first two diaries of Adrian Mole in the early 80’s and remember reading passages out loud to Eladio and the two of us bending over double with laughter.  I particularly remember his New Year resolutions in the first book which I reproduce here for you to enjoy.
“1. I will help the blind across the road.
2. I will hang my trousers up.
3. I will put the sleeves back on my records.
4. I will not start smoking.
5. I will stop squeezing my spots.
6. I will be kind to the dog.
7. I will help the poor and ignorant.
8. After hearing the disgusting noises from downstairs last night, I have also vowed never to drink alcohol.
Remembering Adrian Mole
I loved Adrian Mole but as I commented to my Father, I probably found “The Queen and I” even funnier.  With the death of the very talented Sue Townsend, it’s goodbye to Adrian Mole.  But not for me as the news prompted me to order the books on Amazon as well as the DVD of the TV series I never saw.  I look forward to laughing at the teenager’s antics again when they arrive.

That morning Suzy was busy at the Oxo building where she works for Concerto in London.  She was involved in a photo shoot of the agency’s new menus and it was a first experience for her.  She couldn’t believe how long the photographer took to do his work. She sent us a great photo of some of the fruit cocktails she had prepared herself which look delicious.
Suzy with the cocktails she made for the photo shoot
We had a chat on the phone later; the only one of this week.  Suzy updated me on her activities and told me how hard she had worked that week, working two stints of 12 hours and only sleeping 5 in between.  Ah and you will be happy to hear that she is now biking into work and back on her new bicycle. I can’t wait for her to come for her 30th birthday at the end of this month.  Neither can she!

Suzy wouldn’t have been interested but I was, to see the outcome of the Champions League semifinal draw on midday on Friday.  I was pleased to hear the two Spanish teams would not be meeting.  In the end Chelsea was drawn against Atlético Madrid whilst Real Madrid face Bayern Munich, the most feared team of the four. 

Olivia, on the other hand, would have been just as interested as me, being as interested in sport as I am.  That day, she would be leaving work early to drive to Ponferrada in the north west of Spain in the province of León.  She would be joined by her cousin Paula and boyfriend Pedro.  They went to stay with their oldest girl cousin, Marta, to celebrate her birthday and would be joined by many more of the close knit cousins: Alicia, Laura, Roberto and Ana.
As we were having dinner together that night, we got a whatsapp message from Paula and Olivia to hear they had arrived fine.  I was happy as I was a bit worried about 3 such valuable people driving so far together.  I’m not usually a worrying sort of Mother but on Friday I had my fears.  So I was happy to see the photo of the 3 of them enjoying dinner at Marta’s house that night and playing the fool as you can see below.
Olivia arrived safely in Ponferrada on Friday night with Paula and Pedro 
Ah I forgot to say that earlier that afternoon Eladio took advantage of the good weather to mow the lawn for the first time this year.  I rather wish he wouldn’t mow it as it takes 2 or 3 hours and is quite a tiring task.  He insists though, preferring not to call a gardener.  I must say the lawn looks lovely now.
Eladio mowing the lawn on Friday
Yesterday Saturday was another lovely summery day.  Zena came again to clean and Fátima to help my Father with his bath.  Eladio brought up the table and chairs for the kitchen terrace and we had our first lunch of the season outside.  Here is a photo of my Father and Eladio enjoying our first meal outside this year.
Eladio and my Father at the table yesterday, the first lunch of the season outside
And today is Sunday and I am nearly at the end of the tale of this week.  At breakfast I was happy to see a photo of Olivia and some of her girl cousins enjoying their time together in Ponferrada yesterday.
Olivia (right with the white cardigan) with some of her beautiful girl cousins yesterday in Ponferrada
She also posted one of the whole group which she baptized “The Freijo Bunch”, in allusion to the Brady Bunch.  I look forward to hearing all about her time with the family when she returns today.
The "Freijo bunch" in Ponferrada this weekend
Olivia will be back in time for lunch which we will be having outside again like yesterday.  We will be having a barbecue, the first of the year and I have just been to the local supermarket to get some good quality lamb chops, steak and Spanish sausages.  The first course will be the “salmorejo” (sort of thick gazpacho from the Córdoba region) which I made yesterday afternoon.

So, I will leave off now to publish this, then go on my second walk with Eladio before coming home to make the barbecue in time for Oli’s return from Ponferrada.

Meanwhile I wish you all a great week ahead, Easter Week.  On Maundy Thursday we will be joining the family in Montrondo which I will tell you all about in my next post.

Cheers till then