Sunday, September 27, 2015

“Call me Dave”, the Yoigo family in El Rocío, Eladio’s birthday, the end of the summer and a hoodie for Pippa, the weekend in Montrondo, the new kitchen and other stories.

Sunday 27th September 2015
Happy in Montrondo to see a donkey and a pony on a walk to Murias
Hi again,

It’s blog day and I am writing from José Antonio and Dolores’s kitchen in Montrondo whilst the lentil stew I am making for lunch is bubbling on the hob.

Last Sunday was a quiet day. I was on my own until the evening when I went to pick up Olivia and Miguel from the airport when they came back from their week’s holiday in Ibiza and Formentera.  Later that night the Undercover Boss episode I was in was broadcast again on TV and once again my twitter began to go up in smoke with all the comments; this time much more positive than before.  Eladio didn’t come home until very late that night.  He had spent the weekend with José Antonio in Montrondo and I was asleep when he arrived. 

It was on Sunday that the Spanish national basketball team won the European Championship, beating Lithuania in the final to go on to win for the fourth time in recent years.  I did not find any news about the victory in the British papers who never write about this sport.  But then again I suppose the Spanish newspapers never write about cricket or rugby.  There was of course news and much praise for Spain’s captain Pau Gasol who is a star in the NBA in the US media.
Spain Eurobasket champions again 
On Monday I fasted and worked from home, catching up on a lot of work after the El Rocío summer party the week before; the same week I “starred” in the Spanish edition of Undercover Boss.  That morning Miguel’s friends and colleagues from Valencia were coming to pick him up in a big caravan which they would take to Galicia for a week’s holiday.  They would be going surfing amongst other things and it would be Miguel’s first attempt. Not surprisingly he took to it like a duck to water.
With Miguel (orange t-shirt) and the friends he went with to Galicia this week for a caravan holiday
On Tuesday a scandal involving the British conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, erupted after an extract of a non-authorized biography was published in The Daily Mail. It was written by his ex-friend and crony Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott and entitled “Call me Dave”.  It was a vendetta by Michael Ashcroft who had funded Cameron’s party and campaigns but never got what he wanted in exchange, probably a ministerial post.  The allegations in the book about Cameron’s behavior as a student at Oxford could not have been more damaging and the story went on to become known as “Piggate”.  According to the book, David Cameron “put a private part of his anatomy into a dead pig’s mouth as part of the antics of the very exclusive Oxford Piers Gaveston Society of which he was a member.   There were many other allegations, but this particular story was by far the most newsworthy.  The Prime Minister has not made any statement and is trying to ignore the news but it could well be his downfall.  The society in question is a sort of exclusive old boy’s network where all the members know the secrets of the other members which gives them all a power whereby they go on in life to be part of the ruling establishment and help each other up the ladder whilst the antics are supposed to be kept secret.  But this week Lord Ashcroft’s vendetta broke the rules and all hell was let loose in British politics.  I have pre ordered the kindle edition which I shall read with gusto when it is released in November.
The book that gave rise to the "piggate scandal"
Tuesday was a busy day.  I had to all sorts of errands to do; mostly organizing Eladio’s birthday which was the next day.  I also had an important lunch with a journalist and my CFO and CEO and I didn’t get home till after 5.  Everything is late in Spain; especially meal times but that’s something I cannot change.

On Wednesday too I finally got to see the photos of the Yoigo party in El Rocío.  And here is this year’s picture of the Yoigo family outside the “Eermita” (church) in that magical village just before we went inside to listen to the wonderful “Salve” the Rociero choir would sing especially for us.
The Yoigo family in El Rocío
You can see all the photos here by the way. One I especially liked was of me with the participants from the Undercover Boss programme (El Jefe Infiltrado);  Miguel Angel, Sergio, Javier, Patricia and Ana. 
With the Undercover participants in El Rocío last week
Little did I know that that evening in one of Spain’s most popular after news evening programmes, El Intermedio, I would be featured again on TV.  It was in a manipulated video where I am seen telling off a very famous Spanish politician; Pablo Casado.  You can see it here.  I must say even I found it very funny watching myself telling the guy off and asking him if he was happy whilst he just nodded his head hahaha.

Wednesday was the highlight of the week.  It was Eladio’s birthday.  I can hardly believe he turned 71 whilst he looks 20 years younger and that’s not just me being subjective.  I had lovingly prepared a wonderful day for him which started off with a family breakfast for which I went out to buy “chocolate con churros”.  This is what the table looked like.
Olivia at Eladio's birthday breakfast table on Wednesday morning
And here is Olivia with her Father that morning when he was about to read his birthday card and open his presents.  My Father and I bought him a tablet and Oli got him the case.  Later in the day Suzy’s card and presents arrived and he was delighted with them – she got him special vitamins from Planet Organic which he is now taking religiously.
Olivia with her Father on his birthday
I didn’t go all out to make a special lunch as Salud was away and I was busy working but I did get Eladio a lovely cake.  I think it’s one of our favourites.  This is the cake which my Father especially enjoyed owing to the raspberries and cream in it.
Eladio's birthday cake
In the evening we had dinner at home with Olivia and I made Swedish open prawn sandwiches.  All in all it was a very special day for Eladio.

Wednesday 23rd was also the beginning of autumn.  So of course it marked the end of the summer but it didn’t feel like it as the weather has been great.  It’s always so in the last week of September.  It is Spain’s Indian summer.  However the forecast for Montrondo was rain so that morning on my way to the meeting I stopped off at El Corte Inglés (Spain’s most famous department store) in search of a coat with a hood for Pippa in case of rain and cold in the village.  I bought what I thought was a small one but actually it turned out to be too big.  As it can’t be returned we shall have to find a way of making it smaller around her middle.  This is what she looked like.  Suzy exclaimed “you got her a hoodie”.  Well yes I did so as to protect her little head.  You probably think that a coat for Pippa is just spoiling her but actually as she is so thin and has such short fur she trembles from cold when the temperature goes down.  This is what she looked like.
Pippa in her new hoodie coat
Thursday morning was taken up by a meeting with one of the finalist PR agencies in a pitch I am doing.  It started at 11 and went on till past 1.30.  That meant I got home rather late for lunch; thankfully made by Salud.  I then had to rush to get everything ready for our trip to Montrondo.  In fact that morning I got up at about 6.30 to start on the packing and preparations.  José Antonio was coming with us and the car was full to the brim with bedding, kitchen stuff, lamps and heaven knows what else for the house.  I sat in the back with Pippa whilst Eladio drove rather too fast to get to the village and sometimes I had to hold my arm up to stop packages falling on top of Pippa and I.  We were going to Montrondo because the next day the Ikea kitchen fitter was coming to finally install the kitchen in our refurbished house.  All that is needed now for us to be able to move in is for the inside doors to be put in.  There is one more very necessary thing too and that is the task of cleaning as there is dust and dirt everywhere.  Eladio thinks we can tackle it ourselves but I feel very daunted at the thought of it, not really knowing where to start. I have suggested we find a professional cleaning firm to do the job but first we have to find one.
Photo taken on our arrival in Montrondo on Thursday evening
We arrived just before 8.30 and guess what it was warm.  The forecast was wrong and we have had wonderful weather throughout the weekend.  Pippa only had to wear her hoodie one evening and not because of the rain, just the evening chill.

As soon as we had unloaded and taken a look at the house, it was time for dinner.  I made everyone’s favourite here; egg and chips.  Very yummy.

On Friday the man from Ikea came.  A guy called Nico who had driven all the way from Madrid.  We were astonished that only one person had come as the job required would really have needed three people at least.  At the same time he was also supposed to assemble a sofa, the washing machine and a bathroom cupboard which he was very reluctant to do.  He was in a bad mood all day and we tried to butter him up by offering him lunch but he refused.  I was a bit hurt that he didn’t want to try my “cocido madrileño”.  We also had to be on hand the whole time as there were many minor details he would have preferred to forget and which I kept pointing out to him. Thankfully I had support on the phone from Paula, the Ikea outsourced decorating company, and in the end he installed everything apart from the kitchen lights.  There were some incidents, such as broken kitchen drawers which will have to be replaced.  Also he couldn’t install the extractor which will now have to be done by an electrician or a plumber.  However we were very happy with how the kitchen looked like after all his efforts. As my friend Lorraine commented it looked very “Scandi”.  Yes the idea was to have a Nordic inspired country style for our house whilst respecting the local architecture; such as the stone walls.  Here is a photo of the kitchen when Nico had finished.
The kitchen front after it was just installed
Below is a view of the kitchen area taken from the end of the big room which is the centre of the house and encompasses not only the kitchen but also the dining area and lounge.
The new kitchen
That same morning the central heating expert came and got it to work.  It was a pleasure to see the smoke coming out of one of the chimneys as you can see in the photo below.
Smoke coming out of the chimney!
Meanwhile in London, Suzy had news about a possible new job as a dietitian in a hospital.  I was amazed to hear that it would be working for the children’s wing of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.  I mean it could have been in any other town in England but it had to be Norwich; a town that means so much to my family in England from so many stays there when my parents taught Russian at the summer courses organized by the East Anglia University when I was a teenager.  My Aunty Masha went on to be a lecturer there and lived in Norwhich for many years.  Even the girls know the town; not from when they were babies and we used to spend summers there, but from an English summer course they went on when they were in their late teens and which was organized by my sister-in-law Dolores.  I do hope she gets the job.  Cross your fingers please.

On Saturday I was up early as usual.  After breakfast Toño and Eladio made a fire to burn all the cardboard waste from fitting the kitchen.  Meanwhile I went for a walk to Murias de Paredes and back with Pippa.  It was a glorious morning and I took photos all the way and back which you can see if you click here on the album of photos I have uploaded on Facebook. 
Pippa on our walk yesterday
Beautiful Montrondo as seen on our walk yesterday
 In the afternoon whilst the men installed lamps all around the house, Pippa and I went on another walk, this time nearly all the way to Senra (the village further on from Murias) and back.  We accompanied some of our neighbours who go on a walk every day together: Salo, Pili, Luis and another lady whose name I cannot remember. On our way we came across flocks of sheep and herds of cows; very usual scenes in Montrondo.  But this time I saw a lovely grey donkey and a small brown pony in one of the fields on the way to Murias.  I just had to stop and stroke them.  They were friendly and came right up to the wall and I only wished I had some sugar cubes to give them.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of me with the donkey and pony.  The one below is of the herd of young oxen.  They look so lovely I felt sad that one day they will be slaughtered for what I am sure will be amazing meat because of their quiet lives happily grazing in the fields of Montrondo and Murias. 
Oxen in the fields yesterday
And today is Sunday and our last day here.  But we plan to make it is long as possible and enjoy the sunshine and great country air.  After I finish this post, I shall go on my last walk to Murias and back with little Pippa.  The men meanwhile are waiting for their order of firewood which should be arriving shortly.  Eladio can’t wait to use it in our fireplace in our new home in Montrondo.  I can’t either but we shall have to wait still until the doors are fitted and the whole place is properly cleaned until we can move in.  The time never seems to come but now it is much nearer.  We will love our new home when it is finished and look forward to bringing many of our friends here.

So I shall leave you now.  The lentils are ready and all I have to do now is upload the photos and publish this post before I can enjoy the rest of the day.

This evening there is supposed to be yet another super moon; or a lunar eclipse which with a bit of luck I shall be able to witness tonight at home in Madrid, clouds permitting.

Wishing you all a great week ahead,

Cheers till next time


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Undercover Boss (El Jefe Infiltrado) premiere, the repercussions and then to El Rocío for the annual Yoigo summer party, Eladio in Montrondo, Suzy dressed in bin bags to escape the rain in London, Oli and Miguel back from Ibiza and Formentera and other stories.

Sunday 20th September 2015

Me as me in the programme the Spanish version of Undercover Boss
Hi everyone

I think this week has been one of the most intense and exhausting for as far back as I can remember, at least in the past few years but it has also been very happy overall.  This week brought with it the premiere of Undercover Boss in which I was starring (what a word) and the week the big Yoigo summer party took place in wonderful and magical Andalusia; El Rocío, Doñana and Sanlucar de Barrameda.  I came back hoarse but happy late on Friday night but with the satisfactory feeling of a job or jobs really well done.  My mission was to create another wow event and for the employees and suppliers to have the time of their life and that mission was happily accomplished. Once back home I now feel emotionally, mentally and physically drained but overall very happy.  More about the actual event later on ok.

The nerves began already on Monday, the day before the programme was to be broadcast.  I was a bundle of nerves as although I was happy with the content I didn’t know what the reactions from our employees and suppliers would be like; not least the approximately 2 million viewers.  But I had to concentrate on work which is the best way to take your mind off any worries.  Both Yoigo and the TV channel La Sexta sent out their respective press releases on our part in the Undercover Boss.  Finally in the release we would reveal my undercover identity. I was to be Melanie Norris a divorced fruit seller from London with an unemployed 25 year old daughter supposedly taking part in a TV contest whereby I would be working in Spain for Yoigo. The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me as Masha Lloyd in the programme whilst the one below is of Melanie Norris. 
Me as Melanie Norris in the programme
And below is the transformation of the two women. A lot of people said they liked me with long brown hair but not me I’m afraid.
The transformation
This is Yoigo’s press release.  I had an interview that morning with Colpisa, which is the news agency for most of Spain’s regional newspapers.  Later it was published not only online in all of them but also printed in at least 27 local newspapers in full colour including this photo which seemed to be the most popular of all the scenes in the show; me learning how to repair a mobile phone hahaha.
One of the 27 articles in the written press
Finally Tuesday arrived, my big day, the day of the premiere of the programme.  It wasn’t going to be broadcast until 10.30pm which is Spanish prime time; probably the latest TV prime time in the world.  Meanwhile the TV channel was promoting our episode heavily and here is one of the “promos” as they are called here and here is the other.  I was devastated to hear that on the same night there would be football, none less than Real Madrid playing in the Champions League.  The football would finish just before my programme began but on a different channel which meant many spectators would probably switch off the TV after watching Real Madrid win.  In any case I heard later that the Yoigo episode had a 10% share, higher than the week before and that it rose to 15% towards the end, over 2 million people.  I also got figures from our Press Tracking company and their very conservative estimate for what the hour long programme would cost in advertising terms was over 3 million euros.  Bear in mind you cannot buy 1 hour’s advertising and as this was not advertising but pure company content the real value is far higher.  In the end we reported a total audience of nearly 15 million people – TV, print, online and twitter and an equivalent advertising spend of just under 4 million euros.  To think the whole project just cost us the prizes worth some 40.000 euros our return on investment was 100 percent. It was amazing publicity for Yoigo and something which no advertising money could ever buy. So you see the power of PR is often much bigger than a marketing campaign.

But let me get to the broadcasting of the programme itself. My friends who had appeared in it were coming to watch it with Eladio, Salud and I and I prepared a lovely buffet dinner.  Unfortunately just as they were arriving Norah managed to eat the whole plate of the best Iberian ham.  Lucky her!

And here we are all ready to watch it.
Watching the show with my friends
Thanks Fátima, Marta, her husband Fran and Gloria for coming.  You made up for Suzy and Oli’s absence.  Oli was watching it with Miguel from their apartment in Ibiza and was full of praise at the end. As most of the spectators we all laughed and cried and afterwards the repercussion was just amazing. I think I was still reading tweets, posts, whatsapp and emails until past 1 in the morning. Since the programme my Klout score has gone up from 60 to 66.  Klout measures a person’s influence on social media and that is a very high score, within the top 10 of social media influencers.
My Klout score went up from 60 to 66 this week thanks to the show
The next day my twitter feed grew, some of the comments being downright nasty but I also got some lovely ones from people I knew and people I didn’t.  I think I now understand the frustrations of famous people who are hit out at by nasty trolls on their twitter.  There were some great articles too and I think my favourite is the one from a techy blog called Movilonia (la verdadera cara de Yoigo – the real face of Yoigo) which was a joy to read.  You can read it here. I just loved the photo the journalist included of Pippa our Yoigo mascot in the article which you can see below.
Pippa in the show
Another good one was from an interview I did with an influential marketing blog called Reason Why.  It was entitled “Así funciona realmente Yoigo” (this is how Yoigo really works).  There was also a more personal one about me from PR Noticias (PR News) called Masha Lloyd from Comms Director of Yoigo to aLondon fruit seller in Undercover Boss! But best of all were emails from anonymous people who just wrote to say how much they loved the programme and what a wonderful lesson they had learned from me in the advice I gave to the participants; to fight for what they want and to do so always with a positive attitude.  They are perhaps what made it all worth it. Thank you.

If you didn’t manage to see it, here is the link to the programme.  However you have to live in Spain or have a Spanish IP address to see it. Otherwise you can see parts of it on You Tube (just google Masha Lloyd Google).

The day after the programme, Wednesday, I had to catch the midday high speed train to Seville to get to El Rocío ahead of the guests, just over 200 people.  Luckily I met up with two colleagues on the train.  Manuel who is head of logistics and is from Seville took us to lunch and then drove us to El Rocío where our party would start.  Unfortunately it rained that day in most of Spain even down south but we were lucky that from the next morning onwards the sun shone non-stop and the weather was very warm.

El Rocío is a unique place in Spain in the province of Huelva and looks like the Spanish Far West.  It is officially a horse town so there is no tarmac.  El Rocío is located near or in Doñana, the biggest nature reserve in Europe. It is the destination of a famous pilgrimage called El Rocío where more than one million people take part coming from all over Spain in their horse driven carriages or old fashioned gypsy carriages.  We were to be doing our own Rocío and as you will hear later this was the first summer party where I managed to get all of Yoigo to go into a church. You see the final part of the pilgrimage is entering the Hermita (church in El Rocío) to venerate the Virgin and when a group of “rocieros” sing the haunting song “La Salve”. If you’ve never heard it, listen to it here.
El Rocío is a unique place in Spain
We all slept in houses belonging to the “hermandades”, or pilgrim associations from different parts of Spain. They are simple but very pretty with their patios and wooden steps. Here is one of the houses our guests slept at.
One of the Yoigo houses in El Rocío
Meanwhile our guests were on the high speed train on their way to Seville.  Amongst them were 5 of the participants from the programme.  They themselves had their own moments of fame as you can imagine.  I was told later that everyone at the Madrid Atocha train station recognized them and wanted a photo of them. I was really looking forward to welcoming Miguel, Patricia, Sara, Sergio and Javier my fellow partners in crime in Undercover Boss.  Miguel, the phone repairer got the most fame as his scene with me was probably the funniest, especially when I broke a phone on purpose to see how he reacted. Since the programme a fan club was set up for Miguel in Facebook and now has over 500 fans.  He is the guy in the photo in the newspaper article above.  And here are the 5 of them on the train just not believing their luck.
The 5 participants from the show on the AVE high speed train on their way to El Rocío on Wednesday
I booked into my house and unpacked after which I switched on my PC to read more tweets or articles from all the repercussion that we got from the programme. It was to say the least overwhelming.  Then I got ready for our first party which was to be a dinner at the Hermandad de Pilas
The Hermandad de Pilas where the first night party took place
It was at “Pilas” where I finally got to greet the 5 participants in the programme and here is a selfie of us there just before the sit down dinner.
A selfie in El Rocío with the Undercover Boss participants
The evening went off very well.  It was not just the place and super food which people loved but also the entertainment provided by the local women who sang beautifully as well as the master class in flamenco dancing.

Meanwhile Olivia and Miguel were enjoying life in Ibiza where they were staying at an apartment for 5 days before moving onto the quieter island of Formentera.  Here is a lovely photo of Oli on the beach with a new hat which she actually later lost on the ferry going to Formentara when it was blown away by the wind.
Oli in Ibiza this week
It was Suzy that most made me laugh that night.  She was of course in London and couldn’t come and help me at the Yoigo party this year.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this photo she had posted of herself on Facebook with no explanation when I came back from the party at the Pilas Hermandad.
Suzy dressed up in a bin bag to fight off the rain on her bike in London
I know she likes to dress in quite a bohemian way but I really thought that here she had gone too far and this couldn’t be a new London fashion could it?  She later explained she was wearing a bin bag to fight off the rain whilst cycling to work and back.  I’m sure you will have laughed too at the photo.  It could not be funnier and had me in stitches in my hotel room when I left the party at Pilas after midnight. The rest of the party I heard later carried on until much later, some not going to bed until 6 in the morning!

They must have been very tired on Thursday morning as we were to meet at 10 am at Pilas to take the bus to our departure place from where we would bein our Rocío or pilgrimage.  We were greeted with food and drink such as manzanilla or fino, local dry sherries, as well as with a rociero group dressed in flamenco outfits who would be our entertainment during the pilgrimage.  It would be a 10km drive or walk with 3 stops, one of them being for lunch.
The Rocío being greeted by the group of Rocieros
I chose to walk the first two parts of the pilgrimage along with Ludi, Isabel and other companions.  Here is a picture with the two girls from my PR agency Ketchum.
With Isabel and Ludi on the pilgrimage
For the last part I joined the pilgrimage on one of the horse carriages.
One of the horse carriages
As we were approaching El Rocío the horse carriages went very fast and competed with each other worrying me there might be an accident but thankfully there wasn’t.

We got to El Rocío just after 5 pm and all of us followed a group of singing rocieros as we walked to the Hermita (church).
Entering the church in El Rocío called La Hermita
Once inside we all admired the altar which is magnificent.
The altar in El Rocío church
For me the highlight of the whole day was when the Rociero group sang the “Salvé”.  I got goose pimples and actually shed a little tear from the emotion the whole scene caused in me and I can only imagine all of our guests must have felt the same.
The Rociero choir singing "La Salvé" in the church 
The Rociero choir who wanted a photo with me as they'd seen mme in the show on TV and I wanted a photo of them because they sang so beautifully.
We were all exhausted afterwards and in need of a shower after all the dust from the long walk or drive.  We had about 4 hours to rest until the last party which would be held at another “Hermandad” this time the one called Sevilla or El Salvador.

My events agency had decorated the big patio beautifully.  Seats and tables were made out of hay stacks giving a real village feel.  We had also set up side shows with village games such as hitting the pot and winning a cheese, a bottle of wine. The booby prize was water inside those ones without a prize. 
Hitting the pots game was by far the most popular game at the party on the last night.  It was inspired by the one played in Montrondo at the Santa Marta fiesta.
The highlight of the night and perhaps for me the main highlight of the 3 days was an equestrian show by Carmelo Cuevas. His horses come from the Jerez Royal school of horse riding considered to be the best in the world and equal to one in Vienna.  As Carmelo Cuevas representative pointed out to me most of the horses at the school in Vienna hail from Jerez.  There were 3 numbers, two of which were when the horse literally danced with a flamenco woman dancer. But the best number for me was when Carmelo Cuevas rode his magnificent white horse to music.  Again, like during the Salve, I shed a few tears of emotion.  The show was magnificent. Wow is the only word to describe it.

The magnificent equestrian show at the party on the last night.
The evening was fabulous but I was exhausted and made a quiet exit just after midnight a bit like Cinderella.  I heard later that people left earlier than the night before as they must have been very tired too even if they are younger than I am.

The next day was Friday and the last day of our summer party.  Eladio meanwhile was in Montrondo with his brother José Antonio. They went hoping the carpenters would have come to finish the staircase and put in the doors but they never turned up. In any case there was lots of work Eladio wanted to do on the house; mainly install all the lamps and bulbs we had bought from Ikea the previous week. They were lucky with the weather that day and later on I got this fabulous photo of Eladio high up in the mountains where the two brothers went on a very long walk.
Eladio on a walk in the mountains of Montrondo this week
125 people from our group went to visit Doñana early in the morning.  Having already seen it I joined the second group which would be going to Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Cádiz on the other side of the River Guadalquivir on Doñana four wheel drive buses all along a 20km stretch of natural beach, the longest of its kind in Spain.  The experience was unique especially as it was a lovely sunny day.

The drive along the Doñana beach in the 4 wheel drive buses was simply amazing. 
When we got off the bus we took the boat across the river, another highlight of our trip.
On the boat that crosses the river Guadalquivir from the Doñana beach to Sanlúcar de Barrameda
We arrived a few minutes later and got off on the beach at Sanlúcar to be greeted by a group of waiters offering us sherry and tapas.  We then all got into horse driven carriages to be taken to our final destination, the Barbadillo Bodegas on the other side of the town.
On the horse carriage in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on Friday
Here we met up with the other group and enjoyed a short cocktail party in the grounds of the Bodega.  The last item on our agenda was lunch all together at the winery where I was the MC even though I was nearly running out of a voice to speak. I had to announce the video that had been made of the first two days of the party. The rest will be completed and I will post it online next Monday.  The grand finale was a raffle for prizes left over from the night before; lots of bottles of wine, a ham, 20 chorizos and two mobile phones.

It was an exhausted but happy group that left the Barbadillo bodegas to board the bus that would take us to Seville to catch our charter AVE (high speed train) that would leave at 19.45 and arrive at Madrid Atocha at 22.15. 

I was home after 11 and greeted by Salud.  Unfortunately my Father had been ill and had been sick. Thankfully he is better now and there was no need to call the doctor.  But it was Pippa who gave me the best reception.  Her enthusiasm and happiness to see me lasted well over an hour before the two of us hit the sheets and went to sleep.

Yesterday was Saturday.  Eladio wouldn’t be back until tonight and Oli and Miguel were arriving yesterday evening.  So I had most of the day to myself to recover.  After breakfast I went for a walk and spent most of the day reading the Clifton Chronicles in the shade by the pool.

Oli and Miguel had a lovely time in Ibiza and Formentera.  Oli was especially impressed with the smaller island. It’s a sort of paradise although it seems to be invaded by Italians in the same way Mallorca is invaded by Germans and Brits.  Here is a photo of the two of them in Formentera.
Oli and Miguel in Formentera this week
And today is Sunday.  Oli and I went for a walk with the three dogs, quite a challenge as the leads get entangled and Norah and Pippa get very frisky if they see a bike or another dog.
Oli with the dogs this morning 
The rest of the day has been quiet.  I have been writing my blog on the table by the pool and Olivia has been reading. Salud made our lunch; homemade pizza and salad.  Meanwhile Eladio is still in Montrondo. It’s so strange to be in the house without him.

Next week will be a lot less intensive but challenging too.  I have a press lunch and a PR pitch meeting so the week could be quite tense work wise.  But of course you will hear all about it next week.

Wishing you all the best, cheers till next Sunday


PS You can see more photos of the Rocío Summer party here on Facebook.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A giant pumpkin, Oli’s carrot cake, revealed I’m the Undercover Boss – “who dares wins” - a tribute to the Queen, The Clifton Chronicles, Oli reporting on TV this week, Jez we did it, Jeremy Colbryn new leader of the UK Labour party and other stories.

Sunday 13th September 2015
Meet my Undercover Boss fake identity. Would you have recognised me? 
Hello again,

What a week it’s been; full of work, emotion and quite a lot of news.  My main news this week is that I am going to be the Undercover Boss for Yoigo in the Spanish version (El Jefe Infiltrado) which will be broadcast on La Sexta at 22.30 next Tuesday 15th September.  It will also be available online here but if you live outside Spain and do not have a Spanish IP address then I’m afraid you won’t be able to see it.  I have had to keep it secret since we signed the contract with the producer back in June.  More about this later.

Last Sunday was a quiet day.  Olivia and Miguel were in the province of Cáceres for the weekend and that that morning Miguel was taking part in the 4000 metre open water swim in the big reservoir in Valdecañas.  Being the champion he is I was not surprised to hear he came first overall.  Here he is on the podium. 
Miguel (blue trunks) on the podium after coming first in the 4000 metre open water swimming race.
We spent the afternoon reading by the pool and waiting for them to come home.  The dogs were of course with us as usual.  Here is a delightful picture of Pippa in Eladio’s arms.  It’s lovely isn`t it?
Pippa with Eladio or Eladio with Pippa last Sunday afternoon
When Olivia and Miguel came home, they were loaded down with fruit and vegetables for us, including a gigantic pumpkin. Well at least I call it a pumpkin.  It is the elongated type which these days I think is called butternut squash.  I really think that is an American term the British have adopted since I left the country in 1983.  I’m not sure if you can appreciate it how big it is from this picture.
The gigantic pumpkin
My friend Jackqueline asked for a photo of the pumpkin with Pippa so she could gauge the real size and here it is.
You can see how big the pumpkin is in relation to Pippa's size!
The next morning Eladio and Miguel chopped it up into big chunks to be frozen.  I have since made a lovely cream of pumpkin soup adding some courgette.  I forget to add a carrot or too and had run out of potatoes.  It was nice though.
Miguel and Eladio chopping and peeling the giant pumpkin
I left them to it after breakfast on Monday and went out of the house a bit nervous as I was going to a very important meeting.  Eladio took this photo of me before I went.  Like the blue?  The clothes are nearly all from my beloved Swedish fashion shop Lindex and they were bought on different occasions in both Stockholm and Salo in Finland.
Off to an important meeting last Monday morning
The meeting was for three members from Yoigo, including me, to be given an advanced showing of the programme I had taken part in, Undercover Boss.  If you are not familiar with the programme, here is a good description I found on Wikipedia: The show’s format features the experiences of senior executives working undercover in their own companies to investigate how their firms really work and to identify how they can be improved, as well as to reward hard-working employees. I was very nervous and not sure I would like it.  I was worried I would look overweight and that I wouldn’t like to hear my voice. In the programme I was given another identity, so that no one would recognize me.  I couldn’t work directly with the company employees as we are only 100 and they would all recognize me, or if they didn’t recognize my disguise they would know me from my voice. So what we did was go undercover in some of our main suppliers’ installations.  Actually in the end I was quite happy with it and we only had to ask for a few minor changes.  My colleagues, Juan and Juan Manuel thought I was great. I was happy that they did as I needed their opinion because I would be too subjective.

Here you can see a photo of the real me during the shooting. 
The real me in the programme Undercover Boss
I had no saying in how they would do the transformation and was really shocked with the end result.  In fact I didn’t recognize myself and just hated the awful “common” clothes I had to wear which were the exact opposite of how I like to dress.  That of course was done on purpose.  The photo of me in disguise illustrates this week’s post.  Do you recognize me? Most people said I looked great, 20 years younger etc, but I never felt great.  Below is another one of me in disguise, this time kitted out to work at a Yoigo shop.
My disguise in the programme
The shooting took more than 10 days in July when there was a heatwave here and we worked from dawn to dusk.  I was even supposed to stay at a nasty little hotel, more in accordance with my new lowly status as a bottom of the rung new employee.  I outwitted the producer though and only ever stayed there one night, coming home to sleep in my own bed hahaha.  I had to work in different areas of the company, ranging from a telesales operator, a customer service agent, repairing mobile phones (imagine!), load orders of mobile phones onto lorries to be distributed around the country and even in a shop.  It was the most amazing experience I have ever had. It was also difficult to maintain the two identities and to keep to my story line so that the employees would not suspect as I was actually a “boss” from Yoigo.  I had a lot of fun too and got to know the workers well and understand their problems and how the work is done. I was humbled by how many of them knew their job so well as well as the company.  As a communications director who is supposed to know her company like the back of her hand, the experience was more than fulfilling.
Learning how to repair a mobile phone in the programme
The best day of all was the last day, the “day of revelations” as the producer calls it when I was to meet the people I had worked with and when they would find out who I really was.  I felt like a sort of TV star or even Mother Christmas as I talked to them, telling them off first and then praising them after which I handed them cheques or vouchers for holidays as their reward.  Here I am with the two “boys” from the shop I worked at out after all was revealed.  I have kept in touch with 5 of the 7 since the programme and seem to be their mentor.  Their participation changed their lives in many ways and that’s the part I like best of my experience as Undercover Boss.
The "day of revelations" was just great
I was questioned by an ex colleague as to why we or I had accepted to take part in what he probably thought was a frivolous reality show with all its possible pitfalls. I answered that it was a serious proposition that we had debated internally and that we saw it as a good opportunity for TV visibility. One of Yoigo's values is transparency.  We have nothing to hide so why not let people see how our company works from the inside. It was an amazing experience. I also added to quote the SAS, “who dares wins”.  Here I meant that I’m sure other big operators were given the opportunity but only Yoigo accepted.  Yes we dared do it and I think the outcome will be successful but that of course is for the audience to judge. I should also add here that many people seem to think this programme is fictitious and that the people in it are either actors or have to follow a script.  I can tell you we were not actors and there was no script at all to follow. You can believe me because it is true.

After the showing and a quick lunch with my colleagues I went home to catch up with my work.  I have a huge project in hand organizing this year’s summer party in El Rocío (Huelva) for 250 people.  We will be going next Wednesday until Friday. The programme is very full and there are so many details still to be dealt with.  I just wish this and the Undercover Boss project hadn’t coincided but that’s how it is.

I worked till late that day and was very happy when I walked into the kitchen to start on dinner to find Miguel and Olivia in the throes of making it.  Miguel prepared huge platters of steamed cockles and mussels and Oli made a superb carrot cake.  I wonder if she has thought of making a pumpkin cake but I’m not sure it would taste as good.
Oli's amazing heart shaped carrot cake
On Tuesday, I was surprised that a very well-known PR website, PR Noticias had leaked the news of the programme and my part as the Undercover Boss.  That was because the channel was promoting the programme and I come out in it although neither my name nor the company’s name was mentioned.  This is their article after which I sent an internal release to all our employees with the news.  Finally the cat was let out of the bag and I no longer had to keep the story secret.  You cannot begin to imagine how difficult that was for me being such a transparent person.  The worst part was the 10 days of filming which I couldn’t even hint at in this blog.

I had a meeting that morning with my events agency, QuintaEsencia about the summer party after which we went to lunch at a new place in Madrid called Babelia.  That evening I finished the book about Lis Salander, The Girl in the Spider’s web which as you know was not written by Stieg Larsson the author of the Millennium series but by another Swedish author David Lagercrantz.  I am no literary critic and to tell you the truth thought it was just as good as the three books by the original author and did not notice any difference in the style of writing.  I really miss Lis Salander and Mikael Blomqvist now and sincerely hope David Lagercrantz writes a sequel.

Wednesday was a historic day for the British monarchy.  The papers had been full of the news that on that day “the Queen” as she is known, Queen Elizabeth II would become the longest reigning monarch of the United Kingdom just beating her great grandmother Queen Victoria to the post.  She would also become the oldest living monarch at 89 years old. 

My Queen on her Coronation Day in 1953
She herself did not want any celebrations in these austere times and only made a slight hint at the historic achievement when she opened a new train line at the Borders (the border of Scotland and England) that day. I watched her open mouthed speaking her beautiful Queen’s English with hardly a hitch and doing so on high heels and without the aid of a walking stick.  Gosh I do love her I have to admit being brought up in the 50’s and 60’s when she was a young and beautiful Queen and the British people admired and revered the Royal Family.   A portrait was painted of her for the occasion next to her famous red box. It was done so by the artist who is the daughter of Paul McCartney of the Beatles’ fame. 

The Queen 63 years later, aged 89 and still looking good
I loved The Daily Telegraph’s amazing video of her too which is made up of one photo of her from every year of her reign starting with 1952 when her Father King George V1 died. It makes fascinating watching.
A still of  The Daily Telegraph video of a portrait per year of the Queen since she came to the throne.
I posted my own tribute to her that day on Facebook and here it is if you didn’t see it there.  Long may she continue to reign over us. You are the Queen of my generation. When I was born you had been the Queen for 5 years. Today marks the 63 years you have been on the throne since you were just 25 years old and is the day you become the longest living monarch in the United Kingdom. Today is a very special day for your subjects myself included. You were beautiful on that day and have aged remarkably. I love the portrait taken to mark this historic occasion. I only ever saw you once but I have respected you always.

As I said I was brought up to be a royalist.  These days I am disgruntled with most of the Royal families of this world, not least the British and Spanish monarchies.  However I continue to respect the Queen herself and that day I felt shivers going down my spine and emotion from such an historical event.

On Thursday I fasted and worked on the press release about Yoigo’s participation in the Undercover Boss programme, liaising with the Communications Manager of the producer who seems to live on whatsapp like me.  It’s a joy to work with Carmen or Carmencita as the director of the producer, Warner Bros Spain, calls her.

It was on Thursday evening, feeling bereft of what to read after finishing “The girl in the spider’s web”, that I came across a book or rather series of book I knew would be right up my street.  The seven part series is called The Clifton Chronicles and is by Jeffrey Archer, the well-known British author.  It is set in Bristol, where my Father grew up and in the same years he lived there.  It spans the end of the First World War and the Second World War and is basically a two family saga story.  The first book “Only time will tell” centres on the story of Harry Clifton the son of a London ship worker whose father dies before he is born and his quest to find out how.  I must say I devoured it and am now on the second book, “The sins of the Father”.
Some of the books in the Clifton Chronicles 7 book series by Jeffrey Archer which I am enjoying thoroughly
That night the first promotional advert of the upcoming Undercover Boss episode I will be “starring in” (doesn’t that sound fancy?) was broadcast and I’m not sure I like it.  The producer makes the programme which we could see before it was broadcast but unfortunately it is the TV channel which does the ad and here we have no say. I do wish I had known that before as I would have certainly changed the “promo” as it is called here as I come out far more aggressive than I really am.  But that is how TV works I’m afraid, they look for the images which will have the most impact.  See the promo for yourselves in this link if you have not already seen it on TV as most of my Spanish friends, colleagues and acquaintances already have.  Here are two still images from the “promos” as I think there are two, just in case you can’t see the video.
In the advert for the programme - the shopkeeper telling me to dust the shop!!!
In the advert for the programme - me horror struck when I saw my new look for the first time
Friday was 11th September and the anniversary of that dreadful attack in the US.  Who does not remember what they were doing when it happened?  It’s one of those major events that are ingrained in your memory forever.  However, life continued and I was busy again that day; this time correcting the TV channel’s press release about the programme. In between time I did the weekly shopping with Eladio.  I also managed to see Olivia on the TV that day reporting on a horrible story of a Russian woman who tried to kill her own daughter as well as her granddaughter.  Thankfully they survived.  Here is Oli reporting live that day.
Olivia reporting live on TV on Friday
The day finished nicely when Eladio and I went out to dinner together to La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas, one of our favourite places.  They do serve excellent steak I must say which is why, I, at least, always want to go back.  I always find it funny that when we go there Eladio usually orders fish. I mean who would bother ordering fish at a restaurant that specialised in meat?  My husband, of course.

Saturday morning was spent at Ikea when Eladio and I went to get lamps, light bulbs, towels and lots of kitchen stuff for our house in Montrondo.  I also visited the food store and stocked up on the Swedish fare we love so much.  As there wasn’t much time to make lunch when we got home you won’t be surprised to know that I served Ikea meat balls with all the trimmings I bought there.  My Father was delighted as it is one of his favourite dishes.  He remarked that the Scandinavians are very fond of meat balls and commented that he first had them on a Norwegian ship when he was in the Royal Navy in the Second World War!

It was at around midday yesterday when Britain and Europe were stunned to hear that the 66 year old “bearded leftie” (as described in one of the papers), Jeremy Cobryn a Labour backbencher had won the British Labour party leadership elections against all odds.  His theories are likened to Greece’s Syriza and Spain’s Podemos.  I also noted he was a disciple of the radical Tony Benn.  I wonder what that will mean for Britain and indeed Europe.
Jeremy Cobryn (Jez) the new radical leader of the British Labour Party
His slogan was “Jez you can” and afterwards his win was quoted as “Jez you did”.  I wander what he thinks he has won whilst witnessing most of the Shadow Cabinet  resigning fast and whether he will ever get elected to become Prime Minister.  Now I also wonder what the Queen, whose favourite Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, will think of Jeremy Cobryn who, if he gets his way, would do away with the Royal Family.  That will be an interesting fight if it ever comes to it.

The highlight of yesterday was dinner that night.  I went with my great friend Fátima to Madrid to have dinner with Pedro Delgado and his friends who were celebrating the end of this year’s Tour of Spain.  I used to go nearly every year since I got involved in cycling when I worked for Motorola which had a cycling team, but had lost the habit in the past few years.  It was nice to see everyone again and I’m sorry I don’t have a photo to remember last night’s dinner.  We chatted so much I completely forgot to take one. 

And today is Sunday and I’m at the end of the tales of this week. Of note my oldest and best friend from school, Amanda, is celebrating her birthday today. I do wish I could be with her.  We haven’t seen each other for some years and we must  remedy that soon.  Happy birthday dear Amanda. I miss you.

Today there is nothing else really to tell you.  After finishing writing this week’s post I shall be reading more of the Clifton Chronicles which will keep me entertained until dinner at least.

The week coming up will be both exciting and busy, not least because my Undercover Boss programme will be broadcast on Tuesday evening.  If you watch it I hope you enjoy it.  I can guarantee you will have good laugh, will learn more about how Yoigo works but you will probably also cry from emotion because some of the stories of the employees I worked with are really quite something.

Wishing you all a great week, I will sign off now until next Sunday.

Cheers till then