Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pippa at a dog show, a visitor from Sweden, serenaded by Tuna singers, dinner at Dstage, the most common names in Spain, a red letter day for Suzy, a family gathering to celebrate Alicia’s graduation, Oli reporting for TV on robberies at high street cash points, summer solstice and other stories.

Sunday 21st June 2015
A great photo of me taken by my niece Paula
Hi everyone,

Today 21st June is the official beginning of summer,  my favourite season  In fact today is the summer solstice, but more about that later.

Last Sunday the girls were still in Barcelona where they enjoyed time together with their friend Laura from the scouts.  They met when they were 6 and 7 and have been fast friends ever since.  Laura will be giving birth to her first baby next month.  Time really has flown.  Here is a photo of my two lovely girls together in the Catalan capital.
A selfie of Suzy and Oli last Sunday in Barcelona
That morning, Eladio and I did the weekly food shopping at our little gourmet supermarket in El Bosque or part of it as the big ones, such as Mercadona, where we buy our basics, are closed on Sundays. There was a dog show going on in the square next to the supermarket, organized by our local vet.  I was in my element seeing so many beautiful dogs of all sorts of breeds.  Once we had brought the shopping home I persuaded Eladio to come with me and take little Pippa along.  I wanted to show her off of course but I also thought it was a grand moment for her to socialize as she tends to bark at people and dogs she doesn’t know.  Unfortunately it was too late to register her.  I think she wasn’t very happy at being taken there as her tail was between her paws the whole time but I enjoyed every minute of the event.  I am not at all objective so you will understand that I thought she was the most beautiful puppy in the show.
With Pippa at the dog show last Sunday
Monday was not a good day.  The Carpenters’ song, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down” was in my thoughts as it poured with rain that day.  I fasted, had meetings at 11 and at 12 in the office then had to go to the urologist for the 3rd session of my unpleasant treatment.  Thankfully this time it was less painful.

Tuesday was a full day.  I spent most of the morning after our walk preparing presentations and briefings for an illustrious Swedish visitor who was coming to Madrid that afternoon.  Peter, the group head of communications for Yoigo’s mother company, would be visiting the office next day to get to know the company.  But first I was to take him on an informal walking tour of Madrid and then out to dinner.  Our guide was to be none other than Diego Antoñanzas who heads up his own company called “Madrid and You” which offers personalized guided tours of the city.  We could not have been in better hands as we walked from Gran Via up Alcalá to the Puerta del Sol, then on to the Plaza Mayor.  In the Puerta del Sol we took the obligatory photo of the kilometre zero plaque, the spot where all roads are measured from in Spain as it is considered the exact centre of the country.
Peter and Diego at Kilometre 0 in the Puerta del Sol
From there we visited El Mercado de San Miguel and then walked to the Royal Palace, past the Almudena “cathedral” to the Plaza de Oriente Square built in the time of King Joseph 1st, who was Napoleon Bonoparte’s brother.

On our way there we came down the steps from the Plaza Mayor at the Arco de los Cuchilleros (arch of knife makers).  Walking down with us was a group of Mexican Tuna singers (University singers of Spanish tradition).  The Tuna singers used to make money and still do by serenading women but more likely tourists these days.  As I walked down with them I asked them to sing for me and they did.  It was a purely magical moment.  I loved every minute of it. 
Being serenaded by Mexican Tuna singers in Madrid this week
After a drink at the Café de Oriente bar where we discussed the economic situation of Spain, it was time to take a taxi to the other side of town if we were to be on time for dinner at Dstage where I had booked a table for two.  It is difficult to describe Dstage, apart from to say that it is one of the best haute cuisine restaurants I have ever been to.  Peter agreed too and was very impressed.  It was my second visit but I enjoyed it as much as the first.  This modern storytelling creative food restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere is the success story of Diego Guerrero, the chef who came from the 2 michelin star restaurant Club Allard.  Dstage has only been in existence for 11 months yet already has its first star.  If you want to book a table you need to do so 4 months in advance.  The story of Dstage has reached many parts of the world through foodie tourists who have told its tale and posted photos of the wonderful culinary creations; each one a piece of art.  It even reached The New York Times and I am sure that this article has something to do with its ever increasing popularity.  In the haute cuisine category, it is surely Madrid’s number one.  I look forward to seeing it next year in the top 10 or so of The Restaurant.  It certainly deserves to be there.
Food at Dstage is simply extraordinary
The only thing that needs improving at Dstage is the spoken English of its employees. They all speak it or more probably have learned off by heart how to describe the dishes.  The problem is that is nearly impossible to understand what they are saying. I am seriously thinking of offering them private lessons in pronunciation.  Maybe I will get a free meal in exchange.  Well that would be a good barter wouldn’t it?

The dinner lasted 3 hours so I didn’t get home till nearly 1 in the morning.  I knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep as I had to be up at 6.45 the next day in order to get to the office by 09.30 for the management team meeting with Peter.  It took ages to fall asleep and then the alarm went off and Norah was found in the kitchen. It wasn’t until the next day that we realized we had left the study door open.

The drive to work was horrific.  Apart from the traffic, my beautiful BMW car started playing tricks with me.  I was in the fast lane on the M40 and each time I had to brake because of traffic, the car wouldn’t pick up speed.  I had to put my warning lights on and felt terrified.  I rang a colleague at work, Angel, who knows about cars and he advised me to stop the engine and start it again.  I did that and voila everything was ok.  I realized later that I must have set the limited cruise speed on and because of the slow traffic the car must have thought it had to go at 20km an hour.  Thank goodness I arrived alright at the office just on time for the important meeting and morning with our Swedish visitor. I had imagined myself having to stop the car and call the RACE but thank goodness that didn’t happen.

Everything was ready for Peter’s visit, i.e. the meeting room looked lovely with a bunch of Swedish sweets complete with Swedish and Spanish flags on the table.
A bunch of sweets with the Spanish and Swedish flags for our visitor from Sweden
We were to give Peter a presentation of the company.  Then I had to give an update on how I do communication in Spain.  Peter coming from very neutral Sweden, when it comes to media, was appalled to hear that often media coverage in Spain is related to the amount of advertising you put in the media.  I do not play that game and never will but often suffer the consequences.

The rest of the morning was taken up with a meeting with marketing and sales and a tour of the office.  I think our distinguished visitor went home with a very good impression of Yoigo.  That of course was my objective.

I was free just before two and drove home to have lunch with my Father.  It was his favourite, “spag bol”. Eladio had gone out for lunch with his ex-colleagues and friends Roberto and Juanjo. Afterwards caught up with my lost sleep with a mammoth siesta of nearly 3 hours and woke up feeling 100% better.  I then got up to speed with my work. 

You will remember recently that an ex Russian pupil of my Father, Jon, from Bradford Grammar School had written to my Father.  Since replying to him my Father was keen to know whether he had received my letter.  It was difficult to explain that I had sent an email and that people don’t reply to them always or at least not immediately.  So I decided to send Jon a Facebook message to ask and he immediately replied. There and then I printed out the messages to my Father.  I was amused that he was witnessing the modern way of communicating which with social media like Facebook is instant of course. Here is a photo of my Father reading the Facebook message.
My father reading his Facebook message from his ex pupil of Russian Jon.
Later Jon wrote a lovely long reply by email which I know my Father read with great interest, especially because Jon’s wife is Russian, just as my Father’s wife was Russian.

On Thursday I fasted as I did on Monday.  It was a day I spent at home working quietly, something I haven’t done for a while as I have been out and about so much.  That day I went to the dentist.  I also booked a flight to go and stay with Suzy for a long weekend in July.  Gabor will be away and there will be room for me in their flat.  I can’t wait.

I often find articles from The Local website amusing.  The Local is an English language news portal which has a site in most countries. Of course I read the one that is in Spain.  I must say their journalists come up with some very good articles.  The one that caught my attention that day was about the most common immigrant names in Spain. According to the article there are just under 5 million foreigners living in Spain – that’s nearly 10% of the population.  Of these 19% are Romanian, 16% percent are Moroccan and 6% are British. Some 276.000 Brits live in Spain. Many more visit of course.  So I was not surprised to hear that the most common names are Mohammed and Fatima.  As to the Brits well it won’t surprise you to know that they are John, David, Susana and Margaret. This information piqued my interest to know what the most common names for Spaniards are.  Again I wasn’t surprised to see that for men they are Antonio, José and Manuel and for women María Carmen, María and Carmen.  There you go; a nice bit of trivia for you. The photo below is a map of the most popular men’s names by provinces in Spain. 
The most common men's names in Spain according to the provinces they live in
That night I had a blazing headache whilst watching our latest favourite TV series, Vis a Vis (a Spanish prison series).  I was about to switch my mobile phone off when I saw I had multiple whatsapp messages.  They were from our daughter Suzy who lives in London.  She was urging us to phone her immediately. Worriedly I rang her but was delighted to hear it was because of good news. Suzy had received a letter that day from the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council).  To be able to work as a dietitian in the UK she needs to be registered with this institution.  She started the process more than a year ago and it has been a bureaucratic nightmare, more typical of a third world country than of the UK.  She had been turned down three times with requests for even more detailed information, certificates, references, etc.  We were waiting for the answer to her last submission of documents which was about 4 months ago.  That day at home in London there was a letter waiting for her from them which was good news.  Here is the most important paragraph.
The most important paragraph in Suzy's "red letter"
She’s nearly there.  All she needs now is for her two Universities, San Pablo Ceu and the Madrid Complutense, to send the HCPC an email to confirm that Suzy studied and finished her degrees in nutrition and dietetics and food science at these Universities.  From what I know the CEU did so on Friday and the Complutense should do so on Monday. So very soon Suzy will be a qualified and registered Dietitian in the UK and will be able to apply for jobs for what is a very well paid profession in England.  It is even better paid than the nursing profession.  We are so pleased for Suzy. We can truly say that for her and for us it was a Red Letter day.  She earned it from determination and courage and never giving up.  There were times when the negative replies with complicated instructions could have put her off.  In fact I think they were designed to do so.  But no, we made it. Suzy your future is bright.
Suzy will soon be registered with the HCPC in the UK
Friday was a happy day, taking in Suzy’s news, ringing her Universities and helping her with this last bit of bureaucracy.  It was to be a happy day also as we were going to celebrate our goddaughter Alicia’s graduation in nursing studies.  Her parents had invited the family to lunch at El Cerillo in Hoyo de Manzanares, a 30 minute drive from here.  Here is a photo of Alicia, pretty and happy with a great future ahead of her too.
Sweet Alicia on her graduation day
For the record, there were 17 of us I think, Alicia’s grandparents, her parents, her sister Laura, her boyfriend Chema, Paula and her boyfriend Pedro, Roberto and his two adorable daughters Diana and Lidia, Dolores and José Antonio, Eladio and I.  Here is the group photo.
Group photo after Alicia's graduation lunch
The photo illustrating this blog post is of me. It was taken by Paula and I love it.  I cropped it. The original photo is of me and my sweet 2 year old grand-niece which you can see below.
With my delightful grand-niece 
Olivia couldn’t be with us as she was working and we missed her.  That day she did a report on the robbery at high street cash points. Here is a photo of her doing the report which was posted by the Spanish Police on their twitter page.
Oli reporting on robberies at high street cash points
We were back very late from the lunch and spent the rest of the day, or rather the evening, reading by the pool.

Yesterday Saturday was a quiet day.  In the morning I did the weekly food shopping with Eladio. It never ceases to amaze me how much food we have to buy for our household.  I suppose it shouldn’t as we are a lot of people and animals too: my Father, Olivia, our home help Salud, myself and our three dogs, Elsa, Norah and Pippa as well as our cat Phoebe. Come Friday and the cupboards are bare; well at least of perishable food.

We spent the afternoon by the pool reading and swimming.  Well I swam, Eladio hardly ever does.  I took a photo of one particular relaxing moment when Eladio is sitting at one of the tables.  Norah is in the background and I wonder if you can spot Pippa
Eladio relaxing by the pool yesterday afternoon. Spot Pippa
In the evening we went out for dinner.  I had booked a table for Eladio, Oli and myself at La Vaca Argentina.  Here is a photo of Eladio and Oli just before we left.
Eladio and Oli as we were leaving to go out to dinner last night
We wished Suzy could have been with us.  However we drank a toast to her when they served us the wine, as a pre celebration of her registry with the HCPC. I look forward to the moment when all four of us can celebrate that together.

And today is Sunday, another quiet and warm day.  I am writing from the pool whilst Oli is swimming.  Pippa is nearby as always.  When I have finished writing this post I shall start making lunch.  Today I’m making chicken korma curry and rice; a very popular dish in this house.

Today is 21st June, the summer solstice, supposedly the longest day of the year, or rather the day with the longest hours of sun.  It is called this because it is the moment the earth is nearest to the sun.  You can read about it here as I did just a while ago.  It is celebrated around the world. In England crowds gather at Stonehenge, a magical place to see the summer solstice, the last rays of the sun on that day.  In the Nordic countries it is a very big festival and many of my friends from my Nokia days and from TeliaSonera were all posting Glad Midsommar on their Facebook pages.  I do wish we celebrated here more. 
Summer solstice at Stonehenge
So my friends, I have come to the end of this week’s tale.  As you can see it has been busy and has had some very high points; especially Suzy’s news.

Wishing you all a great week ahead, cheers till next time


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