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


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