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

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