Sunday, September 07, 2014

A missed flight, Santander again, a second barbaric atrocity committed by the Islamic State, the last of the summer roses, a barbecue at home and other stories.

Sunday 7th September 2014

In beautiful Santander with its lovely flower beds
Hello everyone,

I can hardly believe another week has already passed and that summer is nearing its end. I can hardly believe too that once again I have been to Santander for this year’s annual telecoms conference.  Every year I go, I never know whether I will be going again the following year, so each year I try to enjoy it as if it were the last. And this year wasn’t going to be different although it got off to a bad start. 

I missed my 09.30 plane to Santander on Monday morning convinced it was leaving at 10.30.  This is the first time in my life I have missed a plane and I felt a complete idiot.  I was going through security at 09.15 at Terminal 4 when I realized the plane was actually leaving at 09.30, so started to panic.  I had more bad luck as the security officer asked me to open my suitcase as she thought there was liquid in it which there wasn’t.  Then I bolted for Gate K95 at the furthest end of the terminal only to see the boarding gate just shut in front of my eyes as I arrived.  I could see the plane on the tarmac but the ground hostess stuck to the rules and there and then I missed my plane.  There wasn’t another one until 8pm but it was full.  So I had no choice but to buy a ticket to nearby Bilbao which didn’t leave till 11.30.  Once in Bilbao I had hoped to take a taxi to Santander but the fare was astronomical so for once in my life I had to opt for a bus.  I could only get a seat on the 14.30 one and thus didn’t arrive at my hotel in Santander until 16.00h.  I felt as if I had spent the whole day travelling. But finally I was there. 

The weather was beautiful, my work was already done, so what did I do?  Yes you guessed right I crossed the road to my favourite town beach in Spain, El Sardinero.  There I grabbed a sunbed and after a quick bathe I lay and read a new book I had bought at the airport, Khaled Hossein’s latest novel,” And the mountains echoed”.  He is the author of “The Kite Runner” and “A thousand splendid suns” both of which I adored.  However his latest novel, also set in Afghanistan, is nowhere near as good, very rambling with a good initial plot which gets lost along the way and has a very disappointing end.  In a way it is a collection of short stories and I have never been a fan of short stories. Despite what I think there are some good reviews of Khaled Hossein’s latest novel. Getting a bit bored with it I went for the 40 minute walk from end to end of the lovely Sardinero beach. 
The Sardinero Beach in Santander, my favourite town beach in Spain.
Santander is one of my favourite towns in Spain, on the north coast with wonderful green and mountainous scenery.  The seaside town is one of the best kept in Spain with some superb architecture and beautiful flower beds along the pavements.  Despite there being a ferry service two or three times a week to Plymouth in the UK, I realized from comments from a friend on Facebook that Santander is only really known as a bank in England, not as a town.  So let me explain. The bank is called after the home town of the owner Emilio Botín, one of the richest men in Spain and father-in-law of world famous Spanish golf player, Seve Ballesteros.  So you would have thought that thanks to the bank’s branding the town would also be famous.  But there you and I are wrong.  It may be great branding but there must be something wrong with the marketing if this beautiful town is not well known outside Spain. Maybe that could be partially repaired as next week the 2014 Sailing World Championship takes place in Santander.  I don’t know much about sailing but can only imagine Santander being one of the best locations in the world for such an event.

There was a sea breeze which was quite strong so, despite the mild temperature of about 24ºc, it felt quite cool therefore at about 6.30 I headed back to my hotel across the road to have a shower and wash my hair in what I consider the best water in Spain for that purpose.  My hair always looks splendid after washing it in Santander or anywhere on the north coast really, much better than here in Madrid. That night I was to be free of any professional engagements so was able to go out to dinner with my great friend Fátima who was also in town.  I walked to her hotel at the far end of the beach and then we walked back towards the town.  We also walked back again after dinner and my fitbit was extremely pleased with me that day when it registered I had walked nearly 19km.  I think that’s my record.
A selfie of Fátima and I in Santander
Dinner was at La Posada del Mar, one of my 4 favourite restaurants in Santander which also include Zacarías, La Bombi and De Luz.  I am always made welcome at La Posada del Mar by the owner Tomás and his faithful group of waiters.

On Tuesday morning I was up early as that morning at the conference it was Yoigo’s turn to make a presentation.  I always walk to the lovely conference centre in La Magdalena Peninsula called “Caballerizas”.  Every year you see the same group of people, top representatives of most of the big telecoms companies in Spain.  In a way we all consider this event a bit like the start of school after the summer holidays.  Thus I saw many familiar faces and greeted many colleagues from my past and present professional life.  This year our CEO couldn’t make it to the conference so our CFO had to take his place.  Our presentation was much more institutional than I would have wanted but we did get our messages through.  Afterwards my CFO was subjected to many questions from the big group of Spanish telecoms press present which he answered very competently. 

Later Yoigo hostesses distributed invitations to our 80’s party that night which is a party I organize for all the conference attendants and which is much looked forward to by everyone.
Yoigo hostesses giving out our 80's party invitations
I was free for lunch that day too as was my other great friend in Santander, dearest Julio, so the two of us had lunch at De Luz. 
Lunch at De Luz
De Luz is a beautiful English looking house with a lush garden, flowers and hedges.  It feels like having lunch at someone’s house, even though it is a restaurant.  It’s quite unique really.
The De Luz restaurant in Santander, more like a beautiful private home.
Later Julio treated us both to one of the best ice creams in town, sold at a kiosk by the beach called Regma.  The size of the ice creams is huge so you have to eat it quickly otherwise it melts all over you. 
The Regma ice cream kiosk by the Sardinero beach in Santander
I was free again until the evening so once again spent time on the beach.  The sea was quite rough and when I bathed in the water I was tossed under by the strong waves. Once again I walked the length and back of the beach so as to tot up more mileage on my fitbit. 

It was when I was walking into town later that evening with Carlos and Isa from my PR agency to attend a big dinner I had organized for some of our distributors, that I heard from Carlos that the IS had published another video with the beheading of a second American journalist.  I was shocked, just as I was shocked at the previous video of the beheading of James Foley.  Even worse this time, the perpetrator warned the next victim would be a British aid worker.  It is time to fight back, it is time to stop the tolerance of the west towards these fanatical jihadists who want to conquer the Muslim world and even reconquer the Spanish territory, Andalusia which was once invaded by the Muslims centuries ago.  So I was glad to read later that 10 nations have formed a coalition to combat I.S.  I wasn’t happy to learn that Spain is not included in this list as I think it should.  However signs of tolerance here may just be beginning to wane as Spain announced this week it may prohibit that most awful and degrading of garments, the burka that covers women’s eyes.

At dinner that night with some of my fellow Yoigo colleagues and distributors, much of our conversation focused on this new and barbaric terrorist group but then, as is normal, returned to topics in the telecoms world.  All this was over a most wonderful dinner served by the waiters at La Bombi under the close surveillance of César and his brother, the owners of the restaurant.
A display of some of the food at La Bombi restaurant in Santander
After the most delicious dinner, it was time to go to our own party, the 80’s revival we had organized in the main “tapas” square in town, Plaza de Cañadío.  The party took place at a street level discotheque called Loft.  It was great fun, well patronized and full of all sorts of fun activities, such as having to sit on a balloon until it burst.  The prizes were popular too.
The Yoigo 80's party at Santander this year
I had an enormous headache that night, probably because of the white wine at dinner, so surreptitiously made my escape at just past midnight.  I walked back to my hotel in order to clear my head and of course add mileage to my fitbit. I slept badly that night after all the stress of the preparations for our activities in Santander but happy that all had gone well.

The next day was Wednesday and time to pack and leave Santander once again.  You spend the whole summer organizing your activities there, they take place and suddenly it’s all over and you get a feeling of emptiness.  This time I was not going to miss my flight and left the hotel early in a taxi shared with Carlos, Isabel and a colleague, Gaby.  We were in Madrid by mid-morning and I was home for lunch after a quick visit to the office.  It was great to have lunch with my Father and Eladio and to be home again.

Later that night I was to see Olivia and Miguel and we all had dinner together.  Whilst in Santander I had missed her live on the TV.  It was just lovely to be together again.  It was also good to witness the fact that my Father now seems nearly totally recovered from his operation.  He really is an amazing old soldier or should I say sailor as he was a Navy officer in WW2.

On Thursday my fasting was resumed as were my two morning walks.  Later I had to send reports on the media coverage obtained at the Santander conference as well as my monthly PR reports for the Board of Administration and our HQ in Stockholm.  Later that evening Eladio and I went to Ikea just to take a look at kitchens and bathrooms for our “new” house in Montrondo. It is early days, but we do want to be prepared for when the time comes. We want country style furniture and will be looking elsewhere but we did like this kitchen although everyone tells us to be careful about Ikea’s quality.  And here my feelings are divided.  I love the style, the price is good, but what will the end quality be like I wonder.
The kitchen we like from Ikea
On Thursday my Father’s day must have been brightened quite a lot when he received a long letter from Susana, handwritten and sent by post from London.  She sent it to him after his operation and with lovely grand daughterly love and concern.  Suzy that was lovely of you!  It made me reflect that no one sends letters anymore.  Of course we all have email and many other ways to connect instantly but there is something much more meaningful in a letter that these days is now nearly lost. 

Friday was quiet.  I went for my two morning walks, worked in the morning and went food shopping in the evening with Fátima.  I was back on time to watch Olivia on the television.  She did several reports that day but the most shocking one was about a 41 year old woman who is a University music teacher, who killed her two year old baby and then tried to commit suicide.  What an awful story. Olivia later told me the woman was a manic depressive.
Oli and her colleague Lourdes reporting on a very sad case on Friday 
I wasn’t to see Olivia again as she and Miguel went to Valencia for the weekend where he lives.  All I know is that they went to the beach and then did some clothes shopping.  I can imagine they also went for a run as they are a very sporty couple.

Meanwhile Suzy nominated me for the ice bucket challenge.  I got quite excited and started to think when I would do it and who I myself would nominate.  Eladio thought the whole idea was rather stupid as did my friend Sandra who said she would be quite happy to donate but didn’t want to get wet.  I actually now tend to agree.  Also I have learned, as I suspected, that many people, at least in Spain, are doing the challenge but not bothering to donate the 10 euros.  Maybe though the ALS association here is Spain hasn’t done enough to promote how to donate.  In the UK all you have to do is send a text message.  I am also seeing people doing the challenge but donating funds to other charities.  So, given all the above, I have decided not to take up the challenge.

Suzy and I spoke for quite a while on the phone on Friday and I was pleased to hear she has an interview on Monday and a couple of other openings coming her way.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for her.  Life in London for the unemployed is not easy as it is such a competitive and expensive place to live.  But I am sure in the end she will succeed.

On Friday evening Eladio and I went out to dinner to Ginos where of course we discussed Suzy’s situation and talked about a lot of other things which are on our mind at the moment.

And Saturday came and turned out to be the highlight of the week.  José Antonio and Dolores were coming for lunch and to spend the afternoon and evening with us.  We hadn’t seen them since we left Montrondo at the beginning of August and there was  lots to catch up on. 

In preparation for their arrival I pruned the roses with Eladio’s help and picked some of the loveliest red ones which I think will probably be the last of the summer roses.  Hopefully after the pruning we may just get another bloom before all the flowers in the garden go when autumn comes.
Red roses from our garden possibly the last summer roses this year
As I was up so early everything was ready well before our guests arrived which gave me time to relax by the pool with my new book also bought at Madrid airport on Monday.  Yesterday I started on JK Rowling’s new novel, Silkworm, written under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith.  The occasion was enhanced with a lovely mug of frothy coffee as you can see in the photo below:
A good book and a coffee by the pool, a wonderful way to relax
I’m not yet hooked on the book, finding it a bit slow.  I suppose after having read I am Pilgrim any other book will feel the same.

Lunch was to be a simple barbecue but dessert was to be raspberry syllabub made from a Jamie Oliver recipe with my own finishing touches.  I would hate to know how many calories each generous portion contained. 
The raspberry syllabub I made for lunch on Saturday
Our guests arrived just as Eladio lit the barbecue and we had a nice quiet lunch outside, if you discount the very annoying flies which seem to be invading our meals outside at this time of year.  Afterwards we spent our time sitting by the pool reading and talking.  Before sunset we took Toño and Dolores on our new walk which I think they liked even more than our normal walk.  Dolores, like us before, was tempted with the prickly pears and was later to regret that decision and had to use my tweezers to remove them.
Setting off on our walk yesterday
Dinner with no flies was more enjoyable than lunch; a very simple meal of salad, Spanish ham and bread followed by mini chocolate ice creams (delicious).  The house seemed very quiet when our guests left and being the early birds we are we went straight to bed.  I, as usual, fell asleep with the television on.

Today is Sunday, it is Fátima’s day off (well today and tomorrow) and there are just 3 of us in the house until Olivia returns tonight.  I shall be making our lunch soon and afterwards will be continuing with my book, Silkworm.  Then we shall go for our second walk when the sun is down, after which Eladio will drive to the station to pick Olivia up from the train station.  I shall stay at home making our dinner.

Tomorrow will be another day and another week.  There are no trips programmed so it will be very quiet. As you know I always like a bit of excitement on the horizon so I will just have to make do with some routine for a change. 

Meanwhile my friends and readers, I wish you all a great week ahead.  Till next time


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