Sunday, November 02, 2014

Olivia in Valencia, Gone Girl the film, a 25 hour day, the good weather continues, corruption in Spain, an interview on the radio, a “Chinese” girly lunch, Suzy counselling on nutrition in London, All Saints’ Day weekend in Montrondo and other stories.

Sunday 2nd November 2014

Me on a walk in the mountains around Montrondo on Saturday morning.
Hi everyone.

It’s Saturday evening and I am writing from Montrondo, from José Antonio and Dolores’ kitchen.  Everyone has gone now and Eladio and I are alone and as I have a couple of hours to spare before dinner, it’s the perfect time to start this week’s chronicle as tomorrow we will be travelling back to Madrid.

But let me start from where I left off from last Saturday.  None of the girls were at home on Saturday, Suzy lives in London now as you know and last week Olivia went with Miguel to spend the weekend in Valencia where he lives and works as a cameraman for TVE.  They had superb weather as we did too.  Being in Valencia the obvious choice was to go to the beach.  And here they are enjoying the sun.
Olivia and Miguel enjoying the beach last weekend in Valencia.
As I told you on Saturday evening we went to see the film Gone Girl after I had read the book.  For the record it stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and was directed by David Fincher. The book keeps going back and forwards in time so it could not have been easy to adapt to a film. However a pretty good job was done and I enjoyed it. The truth is though that, as in most cases, the book is better. 
We went to see the film last weekend after I had read the book
Whilst we were at the cinema the “Clásico” was taking place: a Spanish “Liga” match between the rival teams Barcelona and Madrid at the Real Madrid stadium, the Bernabeu.  I was extremely pleased to hear the latter had beaten the Catalan team 3-1 as we left the cinema. I later read that it had been watched on TV by over 400 million spectators around the world. I was not one of them but happy all the same.

On Sunday morning we woke up to what would be a 25 hour day as the clocks went back in the early morning.  The day felt so much longer and every time I looked at my watch I realized I had an extra hour to myself.   I spent most of the day reading by the pool as it was so sunny.  Here is a lovely photo of dear Elsa, our faithful Labrador, at my feet.
Elsa enjoying the sun with me by the pool this week
In fact the weather has been just great all month; this week specially.  Most of the days it was in the mid to high 20cs, which is amazing for the end of October.
The weather in Madrid has been amazing in October. 
We were expecting visitors that morning, our new Spanish-Russian neighbours, Julio and Katya.  Katya’s parents had arrived from Moscow on Friday night and they were coming to see us and meet my Father who was looking forward to brushing up his Russian.  Unfortunately that was not to be as Katya’s father fell ill and had to be taken to hospital.  I think he has spent most of the week there but should be home now and I do hope we get to meet them before they return to Russia.

In the evening Eladio drove to the train station to pick up Olivia who was returning from Valencia on the “Ave” (high speed train).  I made dinner for the three of us; a tuna salad which looks like this:
My tuna salad, a favourite dish at home
We enjoyed it together as we watched the very popular journalist Jordi Evole interview Pablo Iglesias, the head of the new Podemos party which grew out of the 15th May “indignant” movement.  He is a teacher of politics from the Madrid Complutense University who wears a pony tail and has some great ideas to rid Spain of corruption and is gathering huge momentum.  His party is now edging towards taking the socialist party’s (PSOE) second place in Spanish politics. 

On the topic of corruption, on Monday a huge embezzlement scandal emerged as the country heard that local governments in towns in Madrid, León had been caught with their hands in pots of money; doing what I suspect local politicians do in nearly every town in Spain; i.e. sign contracts with local companies in exchange for hefty illegal commissions.  The country is sick and tired of politicians making money on the side illegally whilst almost 25% of Spaniards are out of a job.  It is scandalous and the current government and opposition party are unable to do anything about it.  Meanwhile Pablo Iglesias’ Podemos party gains more and more supporters.

Tuesday was a great day.  On Tuesday my Father got to wear some new trousers and shirt I had given him.  I thought it was time to throw out his old M+S and Corte Inglés trousers which we had bought for him quite a few years ago.  Fátima, his carer, was as pleased as he was and sent me this photo of him in his new clothes.  I think he looks so elegant for all of his 95 years!
My elegant 95 year old Father in his new clothes

Tuesday was a busy day for me.  At 12.30 I had a live radio interview in Madrid with a station called Onda CRO which belongs to PR Noticias (one of the only two media dedicated to PR and communications in Spain).  I was to talk about the prize I got recently as best communications director in the telecoms sector and also about my work in communication at Yoigo.  The interview lasted at least 15 minutes and I had the time of my life answering the questions.  I felt so at home and comfortable with the subject.  You can listen to the interview here (if you understand Spanish).  Later I did a video interview which has yet to be published so watch this space. I’m not sure I liked listening to my voice afterwards and realize I speak far too fast although I did make a conscious effort to speak slowly.  But once I get going I do tend to talk like a machine gun haha.
I enjoyed my radio interview this week
It was a lovely sunny day in Madrid and I had an hour and a half to play with before my next engagement: a “Chinese” lunch in Madrid.  So I decided to walk to the restaurant, “Ten con Ten” which was quite a distance.  On my way I passed our old house in Madrid where Eladio’s brother, José Antonio, and his wife Dolores live.  They were leaving for Buenos Aires the next day on holiday so I rang the bell and up I went to see them and wish them a good journey.  Both my nephews were there too; Juan and Miguel.  I was invited to lunch but had to decline and told them I was actually having lunch with their daughter Sara and two Chinese girls.  That was sort of funny.

You are probably wondering why I was having lunch with Sara and two Chinese girls. Let me explain.  To start with my niece who works for the Bank of China in Madrid is very proficient in Chinese as she lived and studied there for over 2 years.  A while ago I introduced her to Lisa W who heads up a Chinese firm in Spain similar to a chamber of commerce.  I knew Lisa from having appeared with her on a TV programme a few years ago. The other Chinese girl is Gia, a friend of Lisa’s and colleague of mine who works for ZTE the Chinese phone company.  I thought she would be another good contact for Sara to practice the language with.  When I got to the restaurant all three of them were chatting in what I suppose was Mandarin.  I was delighted to hear from Lisa and Gia that they were very impressed with Sara’s knowledge of their language.
Lunch with Sara, Lisa and Jia.
Lunch with these young girls who are not much older than my daughters was a sheer delight after the radio interview experience.  I was able to relax with them and enjoy the meal which I can tell you was superb as Ten con Ten’s cuisine is one of the best in town. 

Meanwhile in London Suzy was continuing with her temporary counselling job in nutrition at Apple’s headquarters.  Do you remember I told you she had counselled an employee called Angel who was an ex colleague of mine at Motorola?  Well they arranged to meet and he invited her to lunch this week.  I never got a photo unfortunately but here is one of Suzy counselling at the offices where he works.
Suzy working as a freelance dietitian in London this week
Wednesday was a quiet day. The only thing of interest I did that day was go into Madrid again to site inspect more venues for our Christmas party.  I’m still not sure where it is going to take place but have a vague idea.  Fortunately there is still time to find the perfect location.

Thursday was a very busy day as it was what I call a press release day.  That morning we were announcing to press and customers that we will be opening our 4G network to prepaid customers from 3rd November. That is quite a first as most operators only offer 4G to postpaid (contract) customers.  A press release entails quite a lot of work, the most important being that everyone involved inside the company, mainly the legal department, is ok with the wording.  Then it has to be uploaded to our press page so there is a link to the document.  Finally the release is sent out to the media but then I get hands on and email every journalist to remind them of the news.  The next part in the communication chain is posting it in on our social media pages.  Then you wait to see the reaction; i.e. followers’ comments on the company’s posts and most important of all, the online media coverage.  The next day you hope for some offline (written newspapers) coverage but in the end what counts today is the online media.  In between all this you must not forget the most important public of all; your own employees and send out an internal release.  There is nothing worse than an employee reading company news in the media and not having been informed previously.  In my mind employees are the most important ambassadors a company can have.

That very same day a consultancy firm called Iteligent published a report on the online reputation of 6 operators in Spain.  I was stunned so see that Yoigo had the best online reputation. Measurement comes from positive and neutral mentions in forums, blogs and social media.  We come first even if only just. I think this is our reward for all the efforts we put into online communication.  Part of it helps that I am a bit of an online addict which I’m sure you are aware of!
I was happy to see Yoigo has the best online reputation of all 6 operators in Spain, - although only just!

Friday came and Eladio and I were off to Montrondo for the All Saints’ Day weekend.  In most of the western world people would be celebrating Halloween, a festival I detest and see more as a US invention that has permeated other cultures and for me it was not the culture I was brought up on.  In England when I was a child we celebrated Guy Fawkes’ Day or bonfire night with fireworks on 5th November.  Our equivalent to Halloween was Mischief Night on 4th November. 

All Saints’ Day in Spain (1st November) is the day people remember their dead and take flowers to their graves.  The Spanish way of doing this was well portrayed by Pedro Almodóvar in the film “Volver” with Penelope Cruz.  The scene at the beginning of the film shows the women of the villages sprucing up the graves in the cemetery and placing flowers on the graves of their loved ones who had passed away.  We were going to Montrondo to do precisely that, to take flowers to Eladio’s Father’s grave in the little cemetery in the family village.

However our main mission was to see the progress on the house we are restoring and which we hadn’t seen, apart from in photos, since we were last there in August.  We were going to stay alone in José Antonio and Dolores’ house and would be joined by some of the other members of the family on Saturday for a family lunch together.  Eladio and I set off at about 11 with a carload of food (no shops in the area) and luggage, boots and thick anoraks expecting rain which was the forecast.  It turned out to be wrong and we have cool temperatures but beautiful sunshine since we got here.  As is the custom we stopped on the way at Rueda (a wonderful white wine growing area in the province of Valladolid) for a glass of their delicious wine and plate of ham.  Here is a photo of me happily tucking in.
Enjoying a glass of wine and plate of ham in Rueda on our way to Montrondo on Friday

We decided to have lunch in Pandorado, a small village not so far from Montrondo.  I love the name which in English means “golden bread”.  We ate at a little restaurant called Rhesty which was ok but not as good as expected.  We had a very light lunch and arrived in Montrondo at around 3pm.  We went straight to the house to see what work had been done since we last saw it.  The builders started on 20th May but we know they are building other houses in other villages so progress has been a bit slow.  However we really liked what we saw.  Here is a collage of the front and back of the house and some of the inside. 
A collage of shots of some of the progress on the house in Montrondo

Later the builders came (3 brothers called Benito, Recaredo and Santiago) and we must have talked to them about details of the house for at least 3 hours. We are satisfied with the quality and how they are going about restoring the old family home.  Eladio made them promise it would ready to live in at the end of March.  I don’t know if I believe that. Only time will tell.

It was nearly dark when we finished inspecting the building and only then did we start on unpacking and heating the house.  Whilst we were in the middle of it, Eladio’s sister, Adela and his Mother, Ernestina arrived.  Later we had dinner at Adela and Primo’s cozy little house and enjoyed time together talking until quite late.

On Saturday morning, as is now a tradition in the mornings when Adela and I coincide, we went for an early morning walk to Murias and back. Everyone else would be arriving at about midday.  After breakfast I prepared the first course for our lunch as well as two desserts.  Then Eladio and I decided to go on a walk up to the mountains and enjoy the autumn colours in the sun. It was a superb day.  As is usual when you leave the house you always bump into the villagers; people from Eladio’s past.  Two neighbours were on their way to the cemetery to put flowers on their parents’ grave, I assume, so we stopped for a chat and I got a great photo to illustrate what All Saints’ Day means in Montrondo and Spain.
Eladio with some of the villagers in Montrondo on All Saints' Day

We went past the village common known as “el campo” here and also greeted another neigbour, Ulpiano.  He went to school with Eladio but never left the village and is a farmer here.  His eggs and potatoes are renowned in the area.  Here is a great photo of the two of them.
Eladio with Ulpiano who he went to school with in Montrondo. 
We walked up the hill and took a different path to the usual one; thankfully less steep, passed a corner called “el retorno”.  From here you have great views of the village.  We both took loads of photos and were happy to see that we could just spy our house being built.  Can you spot it?
Beautiful Montrondo with autumn colours

The autumn colours and sun made the walk just a delight and I wanted to take photos of every scene there was, such as this great one of Eladio:
Eladio on our walk in the mountains on Saturday morning
We got as far as “el abedular” (cluster of birch trees) and were delighted to see horses grazing free in the fields.  I just wished we had had some apples or carrots to give them.  There was one beautiful dark horse on its own in a field and I spent at least 15 minutes coaxing it to come and touch my hand. I was so happy when it did.  But it didn’t bother with Eladio when he tried as by then it realized we had nothing to offer.  Today we are taking up a bag of apples from the trees near our house.
Eladio with "my horse"
We were back in the village at about 1pm and happy to see Pili, Yoli, Isidro, Alicia, Laura, Alejandro and Carolina had arrived.  Lunch was to be had at Adela’s house and she was making roast lamb for us all.  After lunch it was the perfect time to walk to the cemetery to place flowers on my father-in-law’s grave.  Here are just some of us on our way.
On our way to the cemetery on All Saints' Day in Montrondo

Once there we all gathered around Antonio’s grave and I took a photo which you can see below.  It was very much an “Almodovar” moment in time as it always is on 1st November, All Saints’ Day. 
By my Father-in-law's grave in Montrondo on All Saints' Day

Some of us later meandered down to the river and across fields, some of which belong to the family but very soon the family gathering was over and we were left alone in the village.  It was too early to have dinner, so off we went up the mountains again on a different walk to a place called “los secretos.  That day I must have walked over 15km.  We walked down to the village again planning to relax and read in the house before dinner but I used the time to start this post as you know.  Later we had a quiet dinner together before it was time for “early to bed”.

This morning I was up earlier than Eladio as usual and went on the morning walk to Murias and back on my own.  Here you have a selfie of me to prove it.  I so wanted to show you the lovely autumn colours on the old village path.
A selfie on my walk this morning 
I came back to enjoy breakfast with Eladio and we have decided to stay for lunch.  After finishing the text of this post (can’t upload it until I have internet at home in Madrid), I shall prepare our lunch (lamb curry!) and then we shall go up the mountains again, this time with a big bag of apples for the horses. 

We shall be leaving after lunch and of course will arrive home after dark.  It will be nice to see my Father, Oli and the dogs and to sleep in our own bed although I must say the bed we sleep in at Toño and Dolores’ house is extremely comfortable.

The week ahead promises to be busy.  On Wednesday I shall be off to Barcelona on a site inspection trip and look forward to seeing my dear Irish friend Grainne.  “Bit of craic” as she would say!

Meanwhile I wish you all a great week ahead.  Cheers till next time


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