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


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