Sunday, April 06, 2014

A busy week, an inaugural flight, sunshine in Stockholm, chutney for the Pope, a hit and run episode in Spain, Suzy has visitors in London and bought a bike as well as other stories.

Sunday 6th April 2014
Suzy on her new bike yesterday, happy as a sandgirl in London
Hi again,

Wow it’s Sunday again and the week has flown past.  It was definitely the busiest week of the year so far and quite action packed; just how I like it.

Monday, my fasting day, started off quietly.  Eladio bathed the dogs whilst I worked quietly from my desk on the ground floor. In the photo below you will observe Norah our beagle worriedly watching my husband bathe Elsa our Labrador.  It’s amazing how close these two dogs are and how Norah became Elsa’s surrogate mother.
Eladio washed the dogs last Monday
On my morning walk, once again I came across the flock of sheep which now seems to frequent the fields we go past.  I snapped a shot of a ram and the shepherd dog came running towards me aggressively which made me put some speed in my heels and regret the action.
The flock of sheep on my walk
It was during the walk I got a request to attend an urgent meeting later that afternoon to prepare the management team presentation for an illustrious visitor.  You see the next day was 1st April and the mark of the beginning of the organization change in our mother company.  On that very day the new boss of the Europe region, my boss’ new boss was coming to visit Yoigo.  So off I went to join the meeting which would last till quite late in the evening.  As I drove home in deep traffic I realized just how lucky I am to be able to work from home and not face the traffic daily commuters have to on a daily basis.  Spaniards may start work later than their European counterparts but they sure do work much later hours, many of them not getting home till past 9pm.

That night Barcelona was playing Spain’s top of the “Liga” team, Atlético de Madrid, at the Nou Camp in the first leg of the Champions League quarter final.  The result was a 1-1 draw which seems to be the norm recently when these two teams meet.  However it was a good result for the Madrid team as the aggregate will put them in a good position when they meet again next week.

Tuesday was 1st April and of course April Fools’ Day which I sort of missed out on this year.  I was up at 5.45 to be in the office by 8.30 when our meetings were to start.  As the traffic can be so bad I left the house early, only to arrive at Yoigo at 07.30.  It was still dark and the lovely colour changing neon light of the Yoigo logo was lit up. I caught the orange one as you can see in the photo below.

Thus I caught up with my emails quietly from the cafeteria before it even opened only to be the first in the queue for coffee when it did. My main focus of work that day was the issue of a press release to announce that Yoigo now has 4G coverage in all Spanish capital cities (nice eh?) and in 220 towns, most of them with over 70k inhabitants. I’m still gleeful that Telefónica, the biggest operator in Spain, is roaming on our 4G network when we are the smallest network operator in the country. 

I spent the whole morning in the office with the management team giving an overview of the company to the new head of Europe.  Funnily enough he is a Finn and worked for 27 years with Nokia before joining TeliaSonera.  So we had something in common as I too worked for Nokia as most of you know. 

The highlight of his visit was a staff meeting which are called Yoigo Mornings at the company.  Getting the staff to ask questions is always a challenge but we managed at least 3 after which there was “a mingle” with food and drinks as befitted the occasion.
A moment during the Yoigo Morning on Tuesday 
We had lunch out and took our visitor to El Filandón, a lovely place near the office. I really must take Eladio there one day.

It was no joke that night when Real Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund 3-0 at the Bernabeu in their fixture of the first leg of the Champions League quarter final but we couldn’t watch it on TV as the match was only available on pay per viewL. I well remember being at the Champions League matches when I worked for Motorola and we sponsored the Champions League.  Those were such fun days!

On Wednesday I was up early again although not as early as on Tuesday.  I was off to Stockholm from the newly baptized “Madrid “Adolfo Suárez” Barajas Airport” and had been lucky to get a seat on the only direct flight there run by Iberia.  I only realized when I was on board that I was on the inaugural flight.  We were offered chocolates and champagne for the occasion!  I was excited to learn that finally there was a direct available flight from Madrid to Stockholm but disappointed to hear that it only runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The direct flight takes only 3.15h whereas when you have to fly through another airport it takes about 7 hours and is a very long haul.  When I arrived at Arlanda airport, the flight leaving for Madrid, the flight we had come on, was festive too with lots of red balloons and I was happy to see a familiar face, my ex colleague Claes, who was taking that very flight.  We hugged and laughed at the coincidence.  Nice to see you Claes, bet you got champagne and chocolates too!

I was happy to see sunshine in Stockholm.  In fact the sun shone throughout my visit making the Scandinavian capital more attractive than ever.  It was quite chilly though for me and I regretted not having brought my gloves.  The Swedes behaved as if it was midsummer, some of them not even bothering with a coat! I took a taxi to my destination, the delightful little island of Skeppsholmen (“skepps” is shipbuilding I think and “holmen” means islet or little island).  I have worked for a Swedish company for nearly 8 years but have never bothered to learn the language, something I think I should have done when I joined Yoigo.  Maybe I will, you never know, it could be one of my biggest new objectives. I kept looking at words whilst I was there this week and realized I recognized many of them or could at least guess what they meant. 
Skeppsholmen Island  - to the right and smaller is Kastellholmen and in front is Djurgarden
Skeppsholmen is a small island just off the town centre and easily reached by crossing a wooden bridge with golden royal crowns and is about a 10 minute walk from the Grand Hotel.  I checked into my home away from home in Stockholm at the Hotel of the same name as the Island where I always try to stay.  I love staying there because of the location which permits me to go on long walks to the city and back but also because the hotel which I think was an old prison or army barracks is a wonderful place to be.  It’s very Scandinavian with wooden floors and simple decoration but very homely too.
Skeppsholmen Hotel
As soon as I had checked in, unpacked and connected to internet (like breathing for me, hahaha), I set off on the wonderful walk along the Baltic Sea with views of Gamla Stan (the heart of the old town), past the Grand Hotel and through a beautiful park on my way to the shops.  There were many signs of spring but also flowers everywhere and I kept stopping to take pictures. I particularly love the flower arrangement outside the hotel.
Flowers outside my hotel
I was heading to Galerian (shopping centre) to see my favourite shops Lindex, Vero Moda and Kappahl. These are brands you don’t see in Spain, they are quite low cost and the style is very Scandinavian (lots of cotton, blue, white and striped garments). Here I had a field day.  Once back at the hotel I spread my purchases out on the bed and took a photo.  You will notice I am mad about stripes!!
The clothes I bought in Stockholm at Lindex and Kappahl
The clothes are both for me and Olivia as we seem to have a similar taste. They are not for Suzy though who prefers a different style.  I promised her I would buy her some new clothes when she comes for her 30th birthday at the end of this month.  Can’t wait darling!

Dinner was alone at the hotel dining room, but not completely alone as I whatsapped with Suzy, my eldest daughter who lives in London, throughout my dinner.  This was the dining room, not a good picture, but you get the feel right?
The dining room at the hotel
As usual I had my favourite dish there and in Sweden, the shrimps on toast which is called “skagen”.  Dessert turned out to be the “pièce de résistance”: toffee tart with raspberry sorbet.  Wonderful eh?
My delicious dessert at the hotel on Wednesday night.
I went to bed early, eager to watch series 2 of Mr. Selfridge I had ordered from  I was loving every minute of it but when I put disk two in to my pc, it was faulty so I had to make do with the BBC World News.  I was a bit cross with Amazon and still have to contact them to get a replacement.  I had hoped to sleep well that night but that wasn’t to be, don’t ask me why, except that I can tell you I am a very light sleeper waking up many times during the night.

I was up early the next day at around 7 and as my meeting wasn’t starting until 12, I decided that I would take the boat to the island across the way, Djurgarden (literally “animal garden” but really the “royal game park” - everything is “royal” in Sweden).  Djurgaden is home to the famous Vasa museum, the boat that sunk and is perhaps Stockholm’s top attraction.  I have seen it once and wasn’t planning to go again, preferring a walk around Skansen the open air museum of the history of Sweden.  I adored the little boat ride, catching the boat at the little jetty a few minutes’ walk from my hotel.
My boat arriving at Djurgaarden
Once on Djurgarden Island I made my way to Skansen only to find it didn’t open until 10.  It was sunny again but freezing and my fingers froze as I took the time to check in using my mobile on my Air France flights back to Madrid via Paris on Friday. I didn’t have much time to walk around Skansen so chose to visit the old high street, the centre of the park and the Scandinavian animals.  On my way past the children’s zoo I was delighted to see this peacock opening its wings to court a “peafowl”. I had to look up the word for female peacock which is apparently a typical question on crosswords!.
The peacock courting the peafowl at Skansen on Thursday morning
Usually when you try to catch a peacock with its feathers open it closes them but not this time as it was the mating season. 

It was the Scandinavian animals I most wanted to see and I was in luck as the brown bears had just come out of hibernation.  According to the signs they were still a bit sleepy but they seemed quite playful to me.
Brown bears at Skansen
I suppose the most Scandinavian of animals is the elk or moose (in American) and I was rewarded with this close up of a magnificent example.  It had no antlers yet which I thought must be a much less cumbersome situation for these huge mammals.
One of the elks at Skansen
I had to curtail my visit as I had a sudden PR issue to deal with; nothing alarming, just a press release by a partner who nearly sent it out without our go ahead. Thank God for mobile phones as I was able to deal with the issue in the middle of a park in Stockholm. Once that was sorted it was time to catch the boat back to my hotel, put some make up on, don high heeled shoes and take a taxi the head office.

I was at TeliaSonera well on time.  It was a big day for communications people in the office, or at least for the European team of which I am a part. We were to have a rounding off meeting with the old team and then a get together with the new team after which all the Communications staff in the building would join us for a mingling session (that very corporate word again) or party.  We met on my favourite floor, the 7th floor which is the top floor of the building and has some great views of the Stureplan square below.
Stureplan as seen from the 7th floor at TeliaSonera
Here my colleague from Denmark, Mette, who will be with me in the new team, took a selfie of us both.  Someone later posted on her FB: “two powerful women”.  I’m not sure we are but we are close colleagues.
A selfie with Mette my colleague from Denmark on the 7th floor of TeliaSonera
Timo, my dearest colleague from Finland who will no longer be in my team, took this selfie of us both for old times’ sake.  I will miss you Timo, thanks for the photo and thanks for all the good times.
A selfie with Timo my colleague from Finland
Whilst we were having our meetings a much more important meeting was going on in The Vatican. The Queen of England and consort Prince Philip, were meeting the new Pope.  It was to be a private visit, unlike the visit of Barack Obama last week, so we never got to hear what they spoke about.  I was amazed to hear the Queen was about 15  minutes late for the half hour meeting; something pretty unheard of for her.  Later I read that instead of 30 minutes, due to her lack of punctuality, the Pope cut short the meeting after just 17 minutes.  Tit for tat I call that.  We may not know what they talked about but we did hear about the gifts they exchanged.  The Queen gave the Argentinian Pontiff a hamper of produce from Buckingham Palace including honey, whisky and chutney.  I rather doubt this Latin modern Pope will know what chutney is.  If you don’t it’s a delicious sweet sauce of Indian origin that became popular with the British during the Raj (British rule in India).  I particularly love mango chutney. We had it today for lunch with chicken and rice.
The Queen and Prince Philip with the Pope exchanging gifts.
But back to Stockholm.  Towards the end of the “mingle” at the office, I decided to leave early in order to get my full daily exercise.  Generally I try to get in two walks a day and do about 12 to 14km a day, all recorded and registered by my wonderful little wearable device, my “fitbit”.  So off I went – you may remember I had donned high heeled shoes, but I had a pair of trainers with me to change into.  I walked from Stureplan towards the Grand Hotel and from there I decided to add extra mileage by walking all around beautiful Gamla Stan.  I stopped at Stortorget (big square in Swedish) to take a selfie against the beautiful houses in this oldest square in Stockholm.
A selfie at Stortorget (big square), Stockholm's oldest square
From there I made my way past the Royal Palace back to the Grand Hotel from where I walked across the bridge and to Skeppsholmen.  When I reached the hotel I checked my fitbit to see how many kilometres I had done so far that day (my fitbit records every step I take during the day) and it was about 12k.  It was 8pm and I decided to do two or three more kilometres.  My feet took me across another bridge to the even smaller island of Kastellholmen (bet you guessed what that means didn’t you?  Yep, small castle island).  I walked all the way around it as far as I could and then on the only road inside the island which takes you to the beautiful red castle from which the island gets its name.  Below is a picture of the island and castle I took that morning on the boat coming back from Djurgarden to Skeppsholmen.  Pretty isn’t it.
The red castle on Kastellholmen as seen from the boat in the morning
Satisfied I had walked enough that day, I entered the hotel at about 8.30 when my fitbit registered over 14km, my record of the week.
I was pleased with the results on my fitbit on Thursday
Thus I had a small but well deserved dinner again in the elegant dining room of the hotel, my last night in Stockholm. Later that night I had to deal with requests from Spanish press on our position on an issue from the European Parliament who have proposed an end to roaming costs for customers travelling in Europe.  That was not easy to deal with but managed to get the correct statement from our head office.

On Friday I was up at 7, enjoyed a cup of coffee in my room before packing and getting ready to check out and leave.  I had a 9.30 meeting at the head office with my new Finnish indirect boss.  In multinationals you always have a direct boss (important, the one who decides your salary raise, hahaha) and an indirect boss who is usually the head of the department you belong to in but at head office.  We had a good chat, quite frank and relaxed really.  I think the new team will work fine and I look forward to our next face to face meeting, far more than conference calls which actually, if you know me, will understand I am not fond of!

We finished at 10.15 and as my plane wasn’t leaving until 13.15, I decided to leave my suitcase and pc at the office and go for my day’s walk as there would not be another chance that day.  So off I went again, walking in the sunshine on the same route as nearly every day, towards Gamla Stan, past the Royal Palace, to Skeppsholmen and back to Stureplan. Again it was a beautiful sunny day and the city looked its very best, as you can see in this photo below.
The bay of Stockholm in the sun on Friday
I was happy to see I did 8k when I finished.  The rest of the day was spent at airports, Stockholm and Charles de Gaulle Paris and on two very congested flights.  We were late leaving both cities and of course I was late home, arriving at Madrid Adolfo Suárez Barajas at 8pm.  Then I had to pick my car up from the office and drive home.  There was an accident on the M40 ring road so I wasn’t home till nearly 10pm.  Friday was a very long day.

It was lovely to be home, see Eladio, my Father, Olivia, for just a few moments as she was leaving to go out to dinner with her boyfriend Miguel, and of course the dogs.

As I was waiting to get off the plane earlier I caught up with the day’s news on my mobile and was astonished to read about a very high profile hit and run episode in Madrid that afternoon. A famous right wing Spanish woman politician who used to govern Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, referred to very fittingly by the Spanish version of “The Local” as Spain’s “iron lady”, had parked in a bus lane in the centre of Madrid to get money out of a cash machine.  The local police saw her and tried to fine her. The determined lady decided to ignore them and drove off and as she did so she knocked one of the policeman’s motorbikes over. The story has become huge news and has led to many jokes online. 
There have been endless jokes about Esperanza Aguirre's hit and run incident on Friday afternoon
The politician later said she had driven off to avoid photos being taken with the police.  That’s rather a lame excuse.  Criticism has been enormous.  A colleague of mine likened the incident to a quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a quote I love and have known by heart ever since I read the book as a teenager: “all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”; meaning that Esperanza Aguirre is more privileged than the public at large although she shouldn’t be.  I hope he is wrong and she gets due justice for the scandalous hit and run episode last Friday.

It was on Friday night that Suzy would be seeing her best friend Elena in London.  Elena and her parents were going to visit Elena’s sister, Chati, the girl who went to live in London with Suzy last May and who now works there as a nurse. Suzy was delighted to see Elena again and posted this lovely photo of the two of them.
Elena (long hair) and Suzy my eldest daughter reunited in London on Friday evening.
As I had been away most of last week, on Saturday it was time to turn my attention to running the house.  Fátima, our living in home help, has been on holiday but was coming in on Saturday morning to help my 94, soon to be 95, year old Father with his shower.  Meanwhile Zena, our ex Ukranian cleaner, was coming in that morning to clean the house. I was looking forward to the latter as Zena is the best cleaner in the world and I knew that by the afternoon our home would be spick and span.  Meanwhile I left to do the weekly food shopping.  I bumped into Fátima at the bus stop and she helped me with the shopping. 

There was time also in the morning for a voice chat with Suzy.  She told me she planned to visit the Science Museum and or the Natural History Museum that day with Chati, Elena and their parents.  So I was happy to see photos of that visit this morning when Suzy posted photos of their time together on Facebook.  I particularly like this one of Suzy with Elena. I pointed out to Olivia that I thought Suzy resembled my Mother a bit but of course I was referring to my Mother when she was young (the same high cheeks) so maybe Olivia didn’t see the resemblance.
Elena and Suzy (right shorter hair) at the Natural History Museum yesterday
Lunch yesterday was the best; real Yorkshire fish and chips and mushy peas all made by yours truly.  It was a joy to have lunch with the family and have the pleasure of the company of Olivia and Miguel after so much time apart.

After a well-deserved siesta Eladio and I took the dogs for a walk and we couldn’t believe just how warm it was.  The weather is becoming warmer and warmer here and next week we can expect temperatures in the late 20s.  Even so, Spaniards will still be wearing coats, unlike the Swedes!

Whilst we were on our walk, Suzy sent us a video of her on her new bike.  She has been thinking about buying one so as to cycle to work and back every day and she must have bought it just after our chat that morning.  A single journey takes about 30 minutes and is conducted mostly on bike lanes, thank goodness.  I think it is a great idea.  Later I got a great photo of her on her new bike and wearing a helmet; the one illustrating this week’s post.  A helmet is not obligatory but is good for safety.  She then of course bought a padlock and a basket for carrying things.  My Mother who used to ride a bike when were young would have been very proud of her granddaughter.

Later we went out to dinner, i.e. Eladio and I.  We chose La Escondida, our latest favourite.  We couldn’t understand why there were only 2 tables occupied, ourselves and just one other couple.  And then we cottoned on.  The answer was football.  The three “Liga” leaders, Atlético, Barcelona and Real Madrid, were all playing important matches last night, so I suppose few people would be going out for dinner like us.  Maybe they all have pay-per-view?  In any case I heard later that all three had won their matches and are still in the same positions.  It will be interesting to see who finally wins this 9 month competition. 

And today is Sunday and I have nearly got to the end of my tale. So far it has been like most Sundays.  We went for our morning walk and then had lunch, except that I nearly burnt the chicken as I left it in the oven whilst we were on our walk.  Olivia has gone with Miguel to his parents’ house where they will be celebrating his birthday one day in advance as he will be leaving for Valencia this evening.  Happy birthday dear Miguel. I shall be going for another walk later today and expect it to be even warmer than this morning. 

Tomorrow will be another day. I have to go into the office to welcome a Swede from Riga which I will tell you about next week.

Meanwhile I wish you all the best, till next time,

PS You can see the rest of the photos of my trip to Stockholm here

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