Friday, November 28, 2014

Another interview, a sad end to Monday, Downton Abbey Season 5, Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Yoigo is “the pear”, off to London to see Suzy and other stories.

Friday 28th November 2014

Looking forward to being with Suzy in London this weekend
Hi everyone

You will be wondering why I am posting this week’s blog on a Friday instead of Sunday. The reason is that tonight I am going to London with Olivia to see Suzy until Monday, so thought I ought to summarize this week and tell you all about our trip next time.

It has been a very busy week indeed as I have two big events next week, a press conference and a party on the same day for 300 people.  You can’t imagine the amount of detail that goes into organizing them.  My intention is to finalize as much as I can before I leave for London and right now I have a quiet moment to write this week’s post. 

Last Sunday I was delighted to see the interview Top Comunicación had done with me about my career in PR in Spain on the occasion of the prize I got recently from ADSL Zone where the journalists voted me best Communications Director in the sector.  If you can understand Spanish here it is.
A screenshot of my interview on the Top Comunicación site
Monday was my fasting day.  I went into the office, this time for an interview with my boss for a video blog to be published in El Economista. Later Susana who used to be the account executive of Llorente y Cuenca, my PR agency when we started up Yoigo, came to have a coffee with me at Yoigo.  Susana is now the Communications Director of ITP a big aeronautical company that makes engines for airplanes.  It was great to catch up with her.
With Susana H at Yoigo on Monday
Monday ended sadly.  That afternoon Copi (the girls’ friend since they were very small) told us her godmother Ernestina, aged 69, had died of cancer that afternoon.  Ernestina, who I knew very well from school events, was much more than a godmother to Copi, she was like a second mother.  That evening Eladio, Olivia and I went to the funeral parlour in Boadilla to pay our respects.  Next week we shall be going to the funeral.  You see Copi is a very special person in our lives.  She is like an extended person in our family and we love her very much.  It was a very sad end to Monday.

Tuesday saw me in the office again for a very long management team meeting.  I came home feeling extremely hungry as I hadn’t had a bite to eat since 6.30 in the morning. After my evening walk I just managed to see Olivia reporting on robberies in Madrid street cafés. As I got out of my bath to quickly watch her, there she was sitting at the end of our bed watching herself on TV which I thought was very funny. 
Olivia reporting on robberies in street cafés this week
On Tuesday I robbed some time myself to watch episode 1 of Downton Abbey Season 5 which arrived last week.  I would love to binge watch the whole series but am too busy for words.  I must say I thought the first episode was very entertaining.
I am loving Season 5 of Downton Abbey
On Wednesday I was as busy as a bee again but had plenty of time for everything as I got up at 6.30 which seems to be the norm recently.  Thus I got in my first hour long walk early and took a break during the day for my second one.  I always come back feeling energized.  It’s so true that exercise releases the endorphins that make you feel happy as well as keeping you fit. 

It was on Wednesday that the builders of our house in Montrondo sent more photos to Eladio.  They are now working on my porch, the porch I so wanted.  It looks just as I wanted it.
The porch is coming along nicely in Montrondo
Yesterday Thursday was busy too but again I had time for everything as I was up at just past 6 in the morning.  Eladio was off to Montrondo with his brother to meet with the builders about many of the details of the building, not least, the final decision on the partitions of walls of the three floors.  Fátima prepared food for them both and I, as usual, packed his suitcase.  It’s funny whilst he is in Montrondo with his brother this weekend, I will be in London with Olivia and Suzy and will meet up with José Antonio’s wife, my sister-in-law, Dolores and her daughter Sara who will also be in London at the same time.   We shall also meet up with Paula, another of my nieces, and her boyfriend Pedro and family.  As Yoli, another of my sister-in-law’s, commented: “The Freijos in London” – Freijo being my husband’s family surname. So far I haven’t heard a word from Eladio, no calls, no messages, mostly because the mobile signal there is very limited.

Yesterday’s highlight was a tasting lunch at a wonderful building called The House of Velázquez (Casa de Velázquez) on the campus of the Madrid Complutense University building.  I was tasting the food for our big party next week together with Miguel and Cristina from my events agency, QuintaEsencia.  We also took the time to go over very many of the details of next week’s events.
Casa Velázquez, a beautiful building
Yesterday of course was Thanksgiving, that big American traditional holiday. Olivia did a report on an American family in Madrid preparing the traditional dinner which always includes turkey.  You can see it here.
Olivia during her report on Thanksgiving
Meanwhile I was shopping at Mercadona with Fátima, our home help when I came across a group of American students.  I looked at the contents of their trolley and noticed there was no turkey and commented on this to them.  They replied forlornly that there was no turkey to be had at Mercadona.  So I suggested they might find turkey legs at least at the local supermarket up the road.  I offered to ring and see if they had any.  They did and the students were very grateful.  I think that was my Thanksgiving good deed of the day.

I have never celebrated Thanksgiving as it is not an English tradition, however it is getting increasingly popular in Spain.  Also popular now is something called Black Friday (a sales day the day after Thanksgiving) and that has even caught on in Spain. I noticed too that it has also become something of a tradition in England and that Marks and Spencer's will have a 4 day long “Black Friday” coinciding with our visit.  I’m looking forward to that.

That night, Olivia and I had an ordinary dinner whilst Americans around the world were having their Thanksgiving dinners.  In bed alone that night I took advantage of Eladio’s absence to watch two more episodes of Downton Abbey.

And today is Friday and it has been raining non-stop all day, preventing me from going on my walk.  I was up early and took Olivia by car to the metro station and we will meet up again this evening at the airport.  I can’t wait!

Meanwhile work continues on my events next week.  Yesterday we sent out a physical invitation to 100 journalists inviting them to the press conference and party.  The claim on the invitation was “come and discover why Yoigo is the pear” (pear in Spanish means both the fruit but also exceptional or amazing. These days in the UK they would probably use the slang word “sick” or the “the dog’s bollocks”.  In any case we had sent the invitation with a real pear and all morning I have been monitoring twitter for reactions and they have been great.   Of course we also sent an online invitation, just in case some of the boxes with the real pear got left in receptions rather than delivered to the journalist in the newsrooms.
The Yoigo "pear" invitation we sent to the press 
Now my quiet time is over and I must get on with more work.  So I shall publish this now whilst wishing you all a great weekend and week ahead.

Till next time


Sunday, November 23, 2014

What every European country is worst at, a meeting in Madrid with my PR and events agencies, Olivia reporting for Telemadrid, Suzy on coffee at Apple in London, the Duchess of Alba dies, progress on the house in Montrondo plus the kitchen and lounge plan, autumn colours and a “madroño” tree in the Retiro Park, buying pelmeni at the Russian shop in Madrid and other stories.

Sunday 23rd November 2014

In the Retiro Park with Eladio yesterday
Hello again,

It is Sunday and I should be on my first walk but it is raining cats and dogs, so here I am writing my post and reflecting on the week. If last week was the busiest in a long time, this week was even busier.  That’s because I am embarked on a very ambitious PR plan which will see me occupied from now until the middle of January.  I have so much to do I can’t find enough hours in the day.  No more reading or watching films for a while I’m afraid and that is quite serious because Downton Abbey Series 5 is on its way from Amazon right now.  I wonder when I will have time to “binge” watch that.

Monday was a great day.  I had a mid-morning meeting with my boss to present a project.  I was so happy when it was accepted and congratulated my teams on the great work we have done together so far.  My teams are external, 2 people from Ketchum our PR agency and 3 sisters, the owners of my events agency QuintaEsencia. 

That morning I wore black and white to work, quite appropriate for a journalist I thought as I drove there.
Dressed in black and white, ready to go to the office on Monday
After my meeting, three of the University students who had interviewed me last week for a study on crisis communication were waiting for me to take a photo together at Yoigo.  Remember I told you last week that their lecturer had thought it wasn’t very professional to have a meeting with me in a cafeteria! 
A photo with some of my University Communications students at Yoigo on Monday, Ruth, Tamara and Alba.
My experience with these students has been very positive.  I really enjoyed answering their questions and advising them about their studies and career.  It made me think that perhaps I would enjoy doing some part time lecturing on PR and communications in the corporate world. 

On Monday I came across the sort of survey I love; “what every European country is worst at”.  It was by no means rigorous but quite a bit of fun.  In short, Finland has the highest depression rate, Spain the highest dropout rate in education, France the lowest proficiency in English, Lithuania the highest suicide rate, Sweden the fewest hospital beds per capita and UK the highest use of cocaine. You can read the full report here. The Danish “worst at” was rather silly; the fewest Zara shops per square metre and annoyingly Russia was not on the list.  I can only conclude that that is because there are too many “worsts” there to choose from hahaha.
What every European country is worst at
Tuesday saw me in Madrid for a morning long meeting with my agencies followed by lunch.  We were to develop our PR plan and agree on the schedule, tasks etc and for the first time ever we held our meeting at the events’ agency’s offices, QuintaEsencia in the heart of the fashionable part of Madrid, on the Lagasca Street. This is a photo of our meeting; the sort of meeting I’m sure my communications’ students’ teacher would not approve of either. 
A very fruitful meeting in Madrid with my agencies Ketchum and QuintaEsencia this week
The meeting was constructive and a lot of fun and we continued working over lunch at a new restaurant which has just opened in Madrid; Casa Carolo. Bea from QuintaEsencia is one of the owners so we all felt very much at home.
Lunch at Casa Carolo on Tuesday.  In the forefront, Isa (left) and Bea (co-owner) right.
I was home on time for my second walk and even to watch Olivia on the TV.  That evening she reported on a financial scandal involving a Chinese gang in an area called “Polígono los Gallegos”.
Olivia reporting on a Chinese gang financial scandal on Tuesday
Later I saw a report she did on wine made in Madrid.  She told me some of the bottles cost 55 euros and when she tasted the wine, she thought it was very good but not worth the price.  For a lot less you can buy an excellent Rioja or Ribera del Duero.

Olivia reporting on wine made in Madrid 
Wednesday started off strangely.  I woke up, looked at the clock without my glasses and it was 8 am, very late for me to get up, so I rushed to get ready and start the day.  Once washed and dressed I put my glasses on and saw that it was not 8 but 6 in the morning, far too early to get up, so I went back to bed fully dressed until 7.30.  I felt such a fool.  Breakfast was with Olivia and Miguel, something I enjoy enormously.  When Miguel is with us, Elsa our golden Labrador is at her happiest.  She really has a thing about him.  I couldn’t help but snap this lovely moment in the day.
Miguel with Elsa our lab at breakfast on Wednesday
Wednesday was a busy day at home, working on the development of our PR plan and all that it entails.  The highlight though was lunch with my great friends Julio and Fátima whom I hadn’t seen for a few months.  We met to celebrate my prize as best communications director in the telecoms sector.  Unfortunately I completely forgot to take a photo.

Thursday was probably the busiest day of the week.  Whilst I was having a meeting at Yoigo Suzy was working at Apple in London as an outsourced dietitian, a part time job she enjoys very much. 
Suzy in the Apple cafeteria in one of their London offices this week
I was impressed when she sent me a photo of “coffee at Apple” whereby you order and choose your coffee on an iPad which is connected to a tap where you place your Apple mug.
Coffee at Apple is ordered via an iPad connected to a tap!

Later a former colleague from Nokia, Roberto, posted on Facebook that he has experienced coffee like this at Apple and another company but that according to him it never worked at the former’s offices.  Whatever the case, working conditions at Apple are magnificent.  They even have what is called a “wellness manager”.

On Thursday I had a lunch appointment with Jill, a global HR manager for Nokia, and her friend Lola who heads up a communications agency in Madrid.  It was a great lunch, part getting to know Lola and part talking about communications and some of my fun experiences at Nokia.  Once again I forgot to take a photo.  I should have because Jill, who is a very beautiful woman, was looking stunning that day.  Just as I was arriving home on time for my walk with Eladio, I realized I had left my PC at the IT sickbay in Yoigo and had to drive all the way back to Alcobendas to pick it up and then drive home again. Thus I wasted 2 hours hours of my day and once home had to catch up on my emails and forego my evening walk.

It was on Thursday that one of Spain’s most famous women died. The quirky, extraordinarily rich, eccentric, frizzy haired, squeaky voiced Duchess of Alba aged 88 had died at her home, Palacio de Dueñas, in Seville that morning.
The Duchess of Alba was quite beautiful when she was young.
There has been so much written about her during the aftermath of her death, including lots of news in the British press.  You can read her obituary here in The Guardian. She was, after all, related to the British monarchy and according to the Guinness Book of Records has more titles than any other noble in the world, including the Queen of England. She also claimed the title of Duchess of Berwick and was a distant relative of King James II, Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales. Her full name was María del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James-Stuart y de Silva.  Some of the eccentric privileges she enjoyed because of these titles were, for example not having to bow to the Pope or to the Queen of England.  Also, she is the only person in the world allowed to enter the Cathedral of Seville on horseback.  I’m not sure she ever did the latter but she may have as she was an accomplished horserider.

In Spain she was known as Cayetana and her more intimate friends called her “Tana”.  Cayetana was Spain’s most rebellious noblewoman, as well as the richest.  In her first marriage to a Duke’s son, Luis Martínez de Irujo, she bore him her 6 children.  He died in 1972 and after his death the Duchess came into her own becoming the rebel she was famous for being.  When she was married to her first husband, Picasso wanted to paint her nude, as Goya did her predecessor in the famous painting (the nude Maja) but she didn’t dare.  6 years after her first husband’s death she fell in love with her Jesuit priest confessor and they married in what was considered in Spain a huge scandal at the time.  Jesús Aguirre made her a widow in 2001 and then when she wanted to marry Alfonso Diez, a commoner 25 years younger than herself, in 2011 the scandal was even bigger.  Her 6 children were so against the marriage that she decided to hand over her inheritance to them before finally marrying her third husband.  In one interview she complained that if it was alright for her children to change their partners, why couldn’t she? 
The frightening looking Duchess the day she married her third husband (25 years younger) in 2011.
Considered a beauty as a young woman (see picture above), she turned into one of the ugliest women I have ever seen as she grew older, with her frizzy hair, huge lips and squeaky voice.  I can only imagine this was because of plastic surgery gone wrong although I don’t know. I once saw her dining at the same restaurant as me, at Annapurna, an Indian restaurant in Spain.  Her life and death will certainly go down in history and the Duchess of Alba will be remembered forever for her rebellious streak and scandalous marriages. RIP “Cayetana”.

Finally on Friday I was able to work quietly at home and had no lunches out.  It was on Friday that the builders of our house in Montrondo sent more photos of the progress.  It is incredibly exciting to see they are fitting in the windows and doors and building the staircases.  They have also started on the porch at the front of the house.
Lots of progress on the house in Montrondo this week
On Friday evening too we received the latest plan of the kitchen/dining room/lounge open space room which will be the most important room in the house.  It was the third attempt and we are very happy with it. Here are some drawings which will give you an idea of how it will look in the end.
The interior decorator's plans for our open space kitchen/dining room/ lounge area in Montrondo
The mail arrived just before Eladio and I were going out to dinner, so I printed it and we spent most of our meal at Gino’s discussing the layout.  I wrote to the decorator Raquel to tell her how pleased we are with the design.

Yesterday Saturday was a lovely day.  I should mention that the weather has been great all week and that autumn colours in Madrid were at their best.  We were to have lunch with José Antonio and Dolores but decided to go early into Madrid so as to enjoy the morning in the beautiful Retiro Park; Madrid’s equivalent to Hyde Park or Central Park and every bit as good or even more beautiful in my mind.  The photo illustrating this week's post is of Eladio and I at the park on Saturday.  We took many photos and they came out really well because the light was ideal.
We had a lovely walk in the Retiro Park yesterday
On our walk around the park we came across a “madroño tree".  “Madroño” means the “arbustus” fruit but is more commonly known as a “strawberry tree” as the fruit is supposed to look similar to strawberries.  I disagree and I am sure you will too when you see the photo below; a close up of the fruit I brought back to put in this vase on my desk.
"Madroño" fruit I picked at the Retiro Park.  The redder the fruit is the sweeeter the berry is.
You may not know but actually the “madroño” tree, or rather the bear and the madroño tree are a symbol of Madrid.  I knew that but did not know why and had never seen a real tree until Saturday in the Retiro.  I looked it up and this is the explanation I found on Wikipedia: “Madrid was originally thought to be named Ursa, which means "bear" in Latin. The reason for this is the area had at one time been a frequent spot for bears who would inhabit the nearby forest. Within this forest there are the "madroño" trees that have fruit growing that closely resembles strawberries, hence the bear and madroño symbol you see frequently used around Madrid.” If you have visited the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, I’m sure you have seen the statue below; a symbol of the city.

The bear and "madroño" tree statue in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid which tourists flock to see.
You can see the full collection of photos we took at the Retiro park here.

Lunch with Toño and Dolores was a lovely relaxed affair and we were joined by Juan, their youngest son, and his partner Cristina who is due to give birth to Toño and Dolores’ first grandchild just after Christmas. There is no name yet for the baby but I have a feeling it will be nicknamed “Toñín” which is what they are calling it whilst they finally decide on a name.

Whilst in Madrid I wanted to visit the Russian shop to buy frozen “pelmeni” (sort of Russian ravioli), so after lunch with the family we drove to one. I used to shop at a place called Tienda Bravo but it had shut down.  Thus we went to Mist Market (formerly called Yulya) near the Atocha train station.  It was actually run by Ukranians and there were plenty of them and Russians peacefully talking and buying produce in the well-stocked shop.  Here I bought various bags of pelmeni, a few cartons of “smetana” (Russian sour cream), a Russian newspaper for my Father and a bag of sweets he loves and which we used to call “krufki” at home.  It took me a while to explain what sweets I was looking for when the penny finally dropped and I was shown “karovki” which is the proper name.
Outside the Russian shop Mist Market in Madrid yesterday where I bought "pelmeni".
Once home, I had a long conversation on the phone with Suzy where we discussed point by point the items she had to give in or explain about after the assessment she received from the HCPC regarding her registration as a dietitian in England.  You would have thought that with her two degrees in Spain and her experience working as a dietitian for the last 8 years, she would automatically receive the “number” from the HCPC to be able to work as a fully qualified dietitian in the UK.  But that is not so, so right now Suzy is fully immersed in sending in everything they require by Friday next week.  Keep your fingers crossed.

And today is Sunday and it has just stopped raining as I finish this post.  So I shall leave you now and publish this later in order to go on our walk, come home, make lunch and have a well-deserved siesta to recharge my batteries as the week coming up will be just as busy as this one.

That’s it for this week folks, wishing you all the best, until next Sunday,

Cheers Masha

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Armistice Day, interviewed by “PR Noticias”, the top ten most powerful passports and the top ten most visited countries in the world, Olivia reporting on the story behind this year’s Spanish Christmas lottery advert, a visit to a funeral parlour, a surprise for Suzy, dinner with Ana and Tomy, a Hispano Russian English afternoon tea and other stories

Hispano Russian English afternoon tea with our new neighbours on Saturday
Hi everyone,

I hope you’ve all had a good week. Mine has probably been the busiest of the year so far, but it’s also been a lot of fun. 

Monday was a holiday in Madrid, thanks to the local patron Saint Almudena.  I spent most of the day working and poor Oli had to work too for her TV programme as TV programmes are rarely cancelled on bank holidays. 

Monday was also Armistice Day the day that marks the end of the First World War; the eleventh day of the eleventh month which ended on November 11th 1918. It was probably one of the deadliest wars in history where 7 million people lost their lives in the conflict.  In the UK where Armistice Day is linked to Remembrance Sunday, the Tower of London put on an amazing display, designed by Paul Cummins, called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” where there were 888.246 ceramic poppies planted in the moat to represent the life of every British military soldier who died in The Great War.  When the display comes down, don’t worry about the poppies as each and every one of them has been bought by members of the public as a keepsake. There is a wonderful video you can watch if you haven’t already seen it.
Poppies at the Tower of London
On Tuesday I had a 10 am meeting in Madrid with some of our PR and advertising agencies.  It rained cats and dogs and was so cold it felt like being in England hahaha. That morning too we sent out a press release announcing that Yoigo customers can now enjoy 4G roaming in the Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia.  As I tweeted the news I got immediate response from other tweeters saying yeah fine but it would be very expensive.  I was happy to be able to reply that actually, no, there is no extra fee for using 4G and our roaming data tariff in the EU and associated countries is only 3.6 euros a day for up to 50mb.

It was on Tuesday that my interview with PR Noticias was published.  It came about after I was given the award as the best communications director in the Spanish telecoms sector.  I loved the headline they used from the interview: “it is unpardonable that a communications director does not have a twitter account”. I should have added “and use it”.  It's both text and video, the latter making me cringe when I hear my voice. 
Interview with PR Noticias
Lately I have been able to see more of Olivia live on TV as the end of my walk usually coincides with her programme (Aquí en Madrid – TeleMadrid 19.30-20h Monday to Friday).  So, on Tuesday I saw her reporting on a nasty case of child abuse but also an interesting one on how the control centre of the Madrid Metro works.
Olivia reporting from the Control Centre of the Madrid Metro this week
My curiosity was piqued when I saw a piece of news that day entitled, “the top most powerful passports in the world”.  I have always thought that colour was something to do with the importance of a passport, but this study had actually based the ranking on the travel freedom each passport allows (the number of countries they can visit without a visa).  You can read the findings in the link above.  I was pretty happy to see where my UK passport ranks – number 1!  Here are the top four positions: 1) UK, Sweden and Finland, 2) Germany, USA, Denmark and Luxemburg, 3) Italy, Belgium and Holland, 4) Spain, Ireland, Canada, France, Japan, Norway and Portugal.
The three most powerful passports in the world according to the study above.
On the same link I found another study, this time about the top 10 most visited countries and again my curiosity was piqued.  Spain came very high in position number 3, after France and the US! This is the ranking: 1) France 84.7 million, 2) US 69.8, 3) Spain 60.7, 4) China 55.7, 5) Italy 47.7, 6) Turkey 37.8, 7) Germany 31.5, 8) UK 31.2, 9) Russia 28.4, 10) Thailand 26.5.  Does it surprise you?  It does me.  I would have thought more people visit London than Paris but I must be wrong.

On Wednesday morning I had to go into Madrid again this time for a brainstorming session with my PR agency Ketchum to come up with creative and newsworthy ideas for a special PR Plan I have been asked to submit. The brainstorming continued over lunch at El Almirante de Bogavante where we were joined by Cris, Bea and Gloria from my events agency.

That evening I also watched Olivia on the TV.  That day she did a lovely report on the story behind the making of this year’s Spanish Christmas lottery advert.  It was filmed at a modest little bar in the humble neighbourhood of Villaverde, a working class area on the outskirts of Madrid.  The advert has been a huge success and has gone viral on internet like many other big brands’ Christmas adverts such as John Lewis, Marks and Spencer’s or Sainsbury’s (if you haven’t seen the latter they are good). The story is very emotional; the owner of the bar where the biggest lottery prize has been won, generously keeps a lottery ticket for a local customer who had forgotten to buy one.  The real bar is called La Muralla and is owned by a Colombian couple.  You can see the advert here and Olivia’s report on the story here.
Olivia reporting on the story of how the Spanish Christmas lottery ad was made 
On Thursday I had a long morning meeting in Madrid with my PR agency. It was a joint effort session working on the presentation of our PR Plan.  Afterwards I rushed to my next appointment in town, this time with the organisers and jury of which I am a member of the “Elocuent personal communication Prizes 2014”.  As soon as that was over, I rushed again this time to a lunch appointment with my events agency where we had another brain storming session, this time about an up and coming press event. On my way home, once on the elegant Velázquez Street I spied a beautiful red wool jumper in the H+M shop window.  I just had to have it.  Later I thought Olivia would love it too so left it on her bed as a present.  She wore it the next day and I know I can borrow it anytime from her.  It’s lovely to be able to wear each other’s clothes!

I had to rush home on Thursday evening to go with Eladio to the Funeral Parlour in nearby Alcorcón.  Sadly my new Russian neighbor, Katya’s Father had died whilst he and his wife Tanya were visiting them. You may remember I mentioned they were coming to have coffee with us a week or so ago. But that was not to be as Victor Sheynin (a famous Russian film director) aged 75 was very ill and died quietly in hospital in Madrid on Wednesday night.  He was to be cremated here and his ashes taken to Moscow for a full blown funeral with the Russian film industry. It was a very sad occasion.  As I commented to Katya, we are never prepared in life for the death of our parents.  R.I.P. Victor. I am glad I managed to see you for a few minutes last week and to say hello in my faltering Russian. I am sorry my Father never met you.  To cheer them up Eladio and I invited our neighbours to afternoon tea on Saturday afternoon.

I cheered up on the way home when I got a message from Olivia to say she had been allowed a day off on Monday 1st December to be able to go with me for a surprise visit to London to see Suzy.  Once home I spent time on my PC buying our tickets.  We wanted to keep this as a surprise but over dinner both Oli and I agreed it would be better to tell Suzy so that she has something to look forward to.  On the other hand logistically it would be better all round as Suzy and Gabor don’t have a sofa bed in their lounge and if we had arrived late on the Friday night, we would have had to sleep on the floor. Suzy was overjoyed when she heard the news.  I am so excited.  I realized too that it will be the first time ever that Olivia and I will be in London together.  Great!  Later I heard that my sister-in-law Dolores and my niece Sara will be in London too the same weekend.  That is quite a coincidence but when I heard that another niece Paula and her boyfriend will be in London too, I was even more delighted.  We shall do our best to organize a family reunion in London that weekend.  Meanwhile I am mentally doing my packing in the cabin sized luggage Easy Jet allows you on board and in which you now also have to pack your handbag.  Flying these days is no longer the joy it was some years ago. 

Friday seemed like a time trial to me as I had so many things to fit in the day.  First there was my morning walk, then a conference call, then a meeting with University students who wanted to interview me for a project they are doing on crisis communication.  Then I had another conference call with Stockholm this time during my lunch hour!  After lunch I had to do the weekly shopping with Fátima and somehow squeeze in my second walk of the day before getting ready to go out to dinner with our friends Ana and Tomy.

The interview with the students was a lot of fun.  We met in a bar in Boadilla and they remarked that their teacher had said it wasn’t very professional to meet me in a bar and why weren’t they meeting me in the company headquarters!  Their answer came when they met me when I told them that I generally work at home and that these days you don’t need to go to work to be productive.  Even so their teacher has insisted on a photo with me at Yoigo, so I am arranging that on Monday.
With the students who interviewed me on Friday
The group of students was very sweet, asking me lots of theoretical questions about crisis communications.  I tried my best to tell them that in the real world we don’t use communications manuals and protocols, that it’s more a question of common sense. After the interview I asked them what their impression was and I was told that I had totally “wowed” them with my real life answers.  I would be interested to see their project.

The highlight of Friday was dinner out with Ana and Tomy at La Taberna de Elia in Pozuelo.  I used to work with Ana at Nokia where she was head of Legal.  Today she works for HP and is happily married with two beautiful children to Tomy the most entrepreneurial person I know.  Apart from other things, right now he is immersed in selling and distributing a revolutionary street cleaner to remove chewing gum from pavements!  Dinner was great, there was so much to talk about as we hadn’t seen each other as couples for many years, although I had seen Ana at some of our “ex Nokia girls lunches”.  We were excited to tell them about the building of our house in Montrondo. By the way a lot of progress has been happening lately and the builders are about to start on the walls inside.  I did a collage this week to show the back and the front of the house before work started and how it looks today.  We told Ana and Tomy that we would love to have them as guests in Montrondo when the house is finished.
Our house in Montrondo from the front and back - above as it is now and below as it was when we started.
We promised when we said goodbye that we would meet again soon and not leave it as many years as last time.  I sincerely hope that is true.
Dinner with Tomy and Ana on Friday was one of the highlights of the week

Meanwhile in London Suzy was having a night out on the tiles with two of her ex Spanish flat mates, Chati and Mónica. 
Mónica (left) Chati (in the middle) and Suzy (right) having a night out in London on Friday
They went to a Spanish place called Sevilla Mia in Tottenham Court Road and I was pleased to see Suzy say on Facebook the next day that she had no voice left.  I’m so glad she had a good time.  I certainly look forward to a good time with her when we go in two weeks’ time.

Saturday was busy but a great day.  I left Fátima to make our lunch and escaped with Oli on a shopping expedition to Centro Oeste in Majadahonda.  Oli indulged in two coats and a few tops whilst I only got a jumper, surprisingly from Pull and Bear where I never buy anything. 
In the afternoon our neigbours were coming for afternoon tea which was to be a Hispano, Russian and Anglo affair.  My Father was much looking forward to the occasion and was ready and sitting in his wheel chair in the lounge half an hour before they came. To entertain him I lent him my kindle to see if he could manage to read on it. He was which pleased me surprisingly.  Here is a lovely photo of him with my kindle.
My Father trying out my kindle whilst waiting for our visitors to arrive for afternoon tea yesterday
Soon Julio, Katya, her Mother Tanya and their very well behaved boys Fiodor and Ivan aged 11 and 7 respectively arrived.  Russians never come empty handed and in they walked with a cake, a box of chocolates and some Russian fridge magnets (little do they know I have a collection of fridge magnets!). The photo illustrating this post which was taken by Olivia is of all of us together at our house yesterday.  It was a great opportunity for my Father to practice his Russian of course, although as he is very hard of hearing he couldn’t join much of the conversation.  I tried to involve him as much as I could and when the boys were eating the raspberrries and bilberries I tested my Father’s Russian by asking him what “bilberry” was in Russian.  His answer was “chernika” which was right according to our guests although apparently there are two names for the small and larger varieties.  Really his memory is amazing and is perhaps the secret behind his ability to learn so many languages.  He is fluent in English, Russian, French, German, Norwegian and latterly Spanish; something very unusual for a British person I should add.

There was so much to say, so many things to learn about each other but I suspect we have neighbours who will become our friends.  You may be interested to know that they are TV advertisement producers and that they met on a set in Andorra.  I sincerely hope Katya and I, who are now linked on Facebook, can become good friends.  It was so exciting for us to have Russian visitors.  It reminded me of my darling Mother Yelena Andreivna who I would have died for to be with us yesterday. I told our neighbours part of her story, the most poignant part being when she left Bulgaria in her early 20’s to escape to Germany during WW2 and said goodbye to her beloved Father, Andrei Lieven whom she was never to see again. On my walk this morning I shed a few tears for my Mother.  One day I promise I will write her story.

To add a fun note to the story of the afternoon tea, when our neighbours left, we went out into the street to see them off.  Meanwhile Elsa and Norah our dogs managed to get into the lounge and polished off half of the leftovers! Trust them.  Fátima told me later that Norah was the culprit. She usually is hahaha.

Today is Sunday and it is sunny and clear.  At breakfast I looked up a book Tomy had recommended about a Muslim from Iraq who had converted to Christianity and all the problems that entailed.  The book is called “The Price to Pay” by Joseph Fadelle and is now downloaded on my kindle ready for me to start reading this afternoon.
The next book I will be reading on my kindle

Before my morning walk I had to work on final touches of my PR plan and then come home to write this post.  Luckily again for me, Fátima who has left for her two days off, has prepared our lunch which will be a Russian dish (glupsy – stuffed cabbage in tomato sauce) one of Olivia’s favourites.

Meanwhile in London, Suzy just sent me a photo of her Czech friend Jane.  They had just made a vegan cake together with Gabor.  I am a little upset that Suzy has now gone from being a vegetarian to being a vegan but can only respect her decision.
Suzy and Jane this  morning
Next week promises to be busy too with lots of trips to the office and meetings, one with the students for a photo with me at Yoigo tomorrow.So, I shall leave you now to go and have lunch with the family.

Hope you enjoyed the story of this week and “see” you again next Sunday. Cheers till then