Sunday, December 07, 2014

A girly weekend in London with Suzy and Oli, home again, a meeting with a magician, a press conference to announce Yoigo’s revamped image and a big party to celebrate it all on the same day, in love with “little Yoigo” a miniature dachshund puppy and the new company mascot, a new home help, Suzy with Pernille and her family in London and other stories.

The girls and I in London last weekend
Hi again everyone,

So much has happened since I last wrote on Friday 28th November and today, the first Sunday in December, is the day to tell you all about it.  Let me add that the sun is shining as it has most of the week although the temperatures are much cooler now as winter approaches.

On Friday 28th November I worked hard all day at home, leaving as much done as possible for my upcoming events, so that I could fully concentrate on my time in London with the girls.  I left the house at 17.30 and met Olivia at the airport.  We were flying with Easy Jet to Gatwick and our plane left at 21h, arriving at LGW at 22.30h.  I nearly always fly by Easy Jet to London because the price is reasonable and because there are many flights to choose from.  However I do not like their new rule; if you don’t check in your luggage which is quite costly and which we didn’t do, you are allowed one cabin bag only; i.e. your handbag has to go inside.  Our cabin luggage was full of things we were taking for Suzy but would be pretty empty on our way back with enough room for our intended shopping.  I soon realized how to skip combining my handbag with my onboard suitcase and put the former in a duty free plastic bag with things I bought at the airport.  Even Ryan Air these days doesn’t make you combine your handbag with your suitcase. 
A selfie on board
We arrived on time and Olivia followed me as I rushed through all the procedures of landing, the most important thing being to get to the front of the passport queue.  Thus we were on the Gatwick Express, thanks to my prepaid internet tickets, in a jiffy and even arrived at Victoria Station before Suzy was there to meet us.  Just five minutes later my darling daughter was there. I rushed to greet her as you can see in this video Olivia had a cool enough head to take. It was a wonderful moment.  You see I think this has been the longest time we have been apart.  The last time we saw her was at the beginning of August.
It was lovely to be reunited with Suzy 
Suzy who is so savvy with how things work in London ordered a taxi via Uber as soon as we had stopped hugging.  This was to be my first time and I was very impressed at the cost (half that of a black cab), the service and the app itself.  I have now downloaded it at home but unfortunately where we live there are no cars available. 
Uber rocks
Soon we were at Suzy’s new flat in South Bermondsey (one train stop from London Bridge) which she shares with her boyfriend Gabor and their flat mate, Stefania, an Italian research biologist.  Very sweetly Gabor and Suzy gave us their bedroom and they slept in the lounge.  We liked there home immediately, it is clean, compact, warm, light and we felt at home immediately.  We didn’t get to bed until 2 in the morning and despite a comfortable bed neither Oli nor I slept very well; mostly due to my snoring.  Sorry Oli.

We had a lovely breakfast together on Saturday morning and whilst both Gabor and Stefania went off to work, we got ready leisurely and generally enjoyed just being the three of us in Suzy’s flat.
Breakfast at Suzy's on our first day
We had a lunch appointment with Dolores my sister-in-law and her daughter Sara at one of my favourite restaurants in London, the Turkish Grand Bazaar just off Oxford Street.  Dolores was in London too that weekend as she was going to a 70th birthday party of a friend of hers.  Our trip started at South Bermondsey station.  Here you can see my two lovely girls on the platform with the City in the background (the gherkin, etc).
Ready to go on our first day, the girls at South Bermondsey train station
We took the train to London Bridge and from there to Green Park and then walked to Oxford Street which was so packed we got away as fast as possible.  We walked through the lovely St. Christopher’s Place until we found the Grand Bazaar.  It was a bit early so we took a walk around the streets until it was time to meet Sara and Dolores.  And there they were and we were all delighted to see each other.
At the Grand Bazaar with Dolores and Sara, a great lunch

Suzy has turned vegan, much to my sorrow, but there was lots of choice for her on the wonderful mezze menus.  The food was delicious.  This is what some of it looked like. 
Some of the food at The Grand Bazaar - just look at the bread!
Afterwards we had mint tea and baklava on the street terrace where Sara took the photo illustrating this blog.  Soon they had to leave and we decided to spend the rest of the day shopping.  We ventured into H+M on Oxford Street but as it was so packed we decided to go to Westfield Shopping Centre at the end of the Jubilee Line.  It was packed too but not quite as much.  Here we parted as I went into Marks and Spencer and the girls went to Top Shop where Oli bought Suzy a lovely grey coat in which you can see her in some of the photos below.
Me at M+S at Westfield shopping centre
We decided to have dinner at home and buy the food from M+S and here we chose produce that would make a delicious bits and bobs dinner. 

On Sunday we had a leisurely breakfast again and then Suzy, Oli and I walked all the way to Brick Lane.  On the way we stopped for a coffee at St. Katherine’s Docks which is a very lovely area just next to Tower Hill.  Here we took lots of photos and it is difficult to choose one for this post.  But here you go, it’s a lovely one of the two sisters.
My girls at  St. Katherine's Docks on Sunday morning.
There were far too many people in Brick Lane so we carried on until we reached Spitalfields Market.  Here we had lunch.  Olivia’s and my choice was ….. yes you guessed right; fish and chips.
Fish and chips at Spitalfields market on Sunday
After lunch we made a quick entry into Urban Outfitters where we didn’t find anything that took our fancy and then made our way to Marble Arch.  We were to meet my niece Paula, her boyfriend Pedro and his brother at the entrance to Winter Wonderland; a sort of gigantic Christmas fun fair in Hyde Park.  I’m sure it’s lovely if you go on a Monday morning but on a Saturday afternoon in December the crowds were somewhat overwhelming.
With Paula, Pedro and his brother at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park last Sunday
In any case it was great to meet up with more of our family who once again just happened to be in London like us that weekend.

We parted at Green Park and the girls and I made our way home, stopping to do more shopping for dinner at Marks and Spencer’s. We were to be joined by Gabor and Stefania.
Dinner on Sunday night at Suzy and Gabor's flat
After dinner we played cards (sevens) accompanied by a wonderful box of M+S chocolates.

The next morning was Monday morning and our plane was in the evening at 7pm which meant we had most of the day to spend with Suzy.  We decided just to chill out together, instead of seeing the sights or walking in London.  We have done that a dozen times and what we most wanted to do was just be together. After getting ready and packing (me for Oli and I as usual), we went off to Tesco’s at Canada Water a 20 minute walk from their flat.
Going to Tesco on Suzy's bike
Suzy and Gabor do their shopping on their bikes.  That morning we went with Suzy on her bike and met Gabor at Tesco.  Here is a photo of Olivia trying it out.
Suzy shopping at Tesco
Dave, Gabor and Suzy’s friend who was in Olivia’s class at St. Michael’s school, came for lunch and made steak for the meat eaters.  It was to be our last meal together.  Afterwards we sat on the settee playing sevens and eating chocolate.
Our last afternoon at Suzy and Gabor's flat
Soon it was time to leave.  Suzy had ordered an Uber taxi for 15.30 which took us to Victoria.  We caught the Gatwick Express immediately and were at the airport with far too much time on our hands.  The trip back felt long and was a little sad after having such a good time in London with Suzy.  We were home at nearly midnight but Eladio was awake to welcome us. 

On Tuesday I felt tired all day and had to make an effort to move. My early morning walk felt very uphill.  I had a meeting in Madrid that morning with a magician.  Yes, a magician.  I was meeting a famous young Spanish magician called Jorge Blass who is well known around the world.  When he was very young he won the prize for best young magician in Europe or was it the world.  We were to contract his services for our party on Thursday and had to brief him about his audience and the party.  I had used him before twice when I worked for Nokia; once at an NGage launch in the pretty Segovian village called Pedraza and once for an employee Christmas party.  He remembered me as I remembered him.  He has an amazing number where he seemingly makes snow out of paper dipped into water and I told him that the first time I saw him do that in Pedraza I cried. I knew that his show at the Yoigo party was going to be just great and it was as I will tell you later.
Jorge Blass the young Spanish magician making snow on stage

That afternoon all I could do was sleep for 2 hours and go for my second walk.  I then worked a bit more on my two events whilst waiting for Olivia and Miguel to have dinner together.

On Wednesday I was refreshed and spent practically the whole day working on the last minute details of my two events the next day, a press conference to announce our revamped image and new tariff and a big party in the evening to celebrate the new image and Christmas with our staff and many of our partners.  We were to be some 300 people.

Finally Thursday arrived and I at least was ready.  All the documents; two press releases and a presentation were finalized after many drafts and the lists of confirmed journalists and guests for both events were done and ready. All that remained to do was to execute the two events in one day; events which my agencies and I had been working on for many weeks.  It was going to be a very long and stressful day so I was up early and went on my walk to charge my batteries.  Later in between the two events I did my second walk too just to feel fresh for the evening.

37 journalists attended our very uniquely organized press conference where our CEO dressed up as an Indian apache chief. (Some headlines in English: It took place at a new restaurant in Madrid called Casa Carolo which is partly owned by Bea from my events agency, QuintaEsencia. 

A few shots from our jam packed press conference
The tariff we announced is called the never ending tariff and appears in a spot with a sausage dog with a never ending body, part of the new image.  The dog (Nick) from the ad was present at the press conference! 
Our sausage dog ad.  The dog's name is Nick

Me with Nick at the press conference
Our new image keeps the essence of Yoigo’s values and logo but changes the positioning to “long live the difference”; i.e. Yoigo is different to the other operators and so are our customers.
Our new image
We had a field day using some of the elements from the new campaign and image; giving out banana shaped usbs, making bunches of sweets where all were of one kind except one single sweet.  We even got a wonderful cake maker, Ana, to make a giant sausage dog cake.
Ana and her giant sausage dog cake for our press conference
We had a great photographer that day and of all the photos he took of me, I think the one below sums up just how happy and content I felt when everything was over.  Just before our press conference Google Spain held their own where only 8 journalists turned up and yet Yoigo, the 4th mobile network operator gathered nearly 40! 
Very happy at how our press conference went
The press conference which started at 1pm didn’t end till 4.30. Then I had to rush home to get changed, go on my walk, come home, shower and get ready to go out again to the second event of the day, our big party to celebrate the new image and Christmas. Thankfully my dearest friend Fátima was picking me up and would drive me home.  Julio would be joining us too and Olivia my daughter would be there to give me a hand, as well as her friend Ana, the incredible cake maker and it was lovely to have them with me.
With Fátima, Julio and my daughter at the big Yoigo party on Thursday night
The event took place at a singular location, a round marquee on the campus of the Madrid Complutense University called “Domo”.  All of its inside is a 360º screen and it is unique.  I think there are only three of its kind in the world.  On the outside we used the cowboys and Indians theme again and people could enter via a wigwam or a cowboy camp. Some of the Indians and cowboys were even on horseback.
The set up outside the event venue for our party
Inside was just as spectacular. We set up a Christmas corner with lots of prizes, the waiters dressed differently (women with rollers in their hair, people dressed up as doctors, firemen, etc) and there were tables and chairs for those who wanted to sit and have their cocktail dinner.  After the presentation of the new brand, the cocktail party started and then for me the best part of the night begun, Jorge Blass’ magic show.  Gloria and I were at the front enjoying every moment.  Here you can see us cheering at the end when he finished his act making snow appear in the whole marquee.  It was just amazing.
Gloria and I ecstatic at Jorge Blass' performance
One of his tricks was to make our new mascot appear, a miniature chocolate coloured dachshund puppy called “Yoigo”.  I fell in love with Yoigo as you can understand here from this lovely photo.
In love with little Yoigo our new mascot
After the show Jorge Blass stayed on to have a drink with us and it was lovely talking to him.  He started learning magic when he was 12 and was inspired by Tamariz, a very famous Spanish magician.  He also studied psychology and you can tell that helps him gain his audience although his charismatic eyes seem to do it all.  He is so special.
With Jorge Blass after the show with Ana, my daughter and Cristina
By 1 in the morning I had had enough. Everything had gone so well, I felt ok to leave.  So off we went quietly, Fátima and I to get her car and drive home.  I didn’t go to sleep until 2 in the morning telling Eladio all about the party which I think is possibly one of the best I have ever organized.  Thanks Bea, Cristina, Gloria and Miguel (QuintaEsencia),  thanks Isabel and Carlos (Ketchum) for being such a great team.

On Friday it felt like I had a non-alcoholic hangover.  I was so tired after so much tension and stress but happy that my events had been a success once again. 

It was on Friday that Suzy launched her new website where she offers dietitian services.  Take a look.  I like it.
Suzy's new website
I did the shopping in the afternoon with Eladio and in the evening I was too tired to go out to dinner as we usually do on Friday night.  So was Oli, so she and Miguel joined us for dinner which in the end was much nicer than going out to dinner on our own.

On Saturday I woke feeling refreshed.  Saturday 6th December was Constitution Day as well as Independence Day in Finland.  It was finally a day I didn’t have to do any work, apart from cooking of which I did a lot. I made bean stew (fabada), chicken noodle soup and cream of vegetable soup for lunch and for dinners this week. 

On Saturday morning Gloria came to see us and brought little “Yoigo”, the new mascot which is hers.  The idea was for Eladio to fall in love with it and let me have one too as originally we had planned to have two.  He immediately understood what our ploy was about and said no but eventually warmed to the idea with the condition that the new puppy would be our responsibility, i.e, Oli’s and mine to which we agreed immediately.  Here is a collage of little Yoigo’s visit.
Little Yoigo came to visit and met Elsa and Norah
I was worried how Norah our beagle and Elsa our Labrador would react but it went fine as you can see in this lovely video.

On Saturday, Zena, our ex Ukrainian cleaner came to clean the house as Fátima our home help had serious problems.  She arrived one night this week with her two children, Omar aged 6 and Sara aged 10.  Since her sister who used to look after them has found a job and she had split up with her husband, the two children were alone at home.  The neighbours called the police and she was warned they could not be left alone at home.  Thus she came to our house with them asking if they could live with us.  We just couldn’t say yes so suggested she took a few days holiday to sort out her problem. And on Saturday she came again with the children and announced they were leaving for Paris to live with her other sister, Oufa who used to be our home help before her.  I’m so glad she sorted out her problem but of course that left us without a home help. However she had found a replacement, the mother of a friend of Oufa called Gema who came with her daughter Saida to see us yesterday afternoon. She seems suitable as her last job was looking after an elderly lady who has now died.  Gema will be starting tomorrow and Fátima will come too to show her the ropes. I hope it all works out. We shall miss Fátima dearly; she is such a lovely person and looked after my Father so well. 

And today is Sunday and has been quiet.  I have been writing my blog, making a delicious full roast lamb lunch where we joined by Oli and Miguel. 

Meanwhile in London, Suzy met up with our one and only adored Danish family, Pernille, Thomas and their two daughters Julie and Alberte.  Pernille was the girls’ au pair when they were little and we have been in touch ever since.  This is a photo of them together this afternoon.  I wish they had been in London last weekend instead of this one and then we would have seen them too.
Suzy with Pernille and her family in London today
Tomorrow is a holiday in Spain (the Immaculate Conception) and it will be nice to relax a bit more after these events and before the next ones. Quite a few are in the cooking but more about them next time.

Meanwhile I wish you all a great week,

Cheers Masha
PS Here is the full collection of photos of our trip to London.

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