Sunday, November 29, 2015

Leaving the snow in Montrondo, St. Lucia invitation, a visit to Anovo, to Barcelona and back, new clothes, Thanksgiving and the unknown Spanish origin, the craze of Black Friday, Suzy in Bath and other stories.

Sunday 29th November 2015

About to devour this delicious Fideua on Thursday in Barcelona at Cal Pinxo
Hi everyone,

It’s been an extraordinarily busy week.  It started off quietly though.  Last Sunday we woke up to snow in Montrondo. The day before it had snowed on and off but then it must have snowed all night as we woke up to a white Montrondo. 
We woke up to snow on Sunday morning last week in Montrondo
It was Pippa’s first experience with real snow and I’m not sure she liked it.  What I loved apart from the white scenes, was having a cozy breakfast inside our warm house with wonderful views of the snow outside.  Here is Eladio enjoying his breakfast that morning.
Breakfast in Montrondo last Sunday with snow outside.
My idea was to stay and enjoy the snow, go for a walk with Pippa, have lunch and set off for Madrid in the afternoon.  However Eladio foiled my plan.  He and his family always seem to enter into panic mode when snow falls in the village, perhaps remembering being trapped there when they lived there many years ago.  So Eladio hurriedly made preparations to leave despite my protests. I tried to point out that the snow plough would be here soon and that we would have no problem driving.  But it was not to be.  This is what it looked like when we left.
It was snowing hard when we left
The main road was quite clear of snow and just a few miles down the road there was less and less snow.  There was more in Montrondo as it stands at 1.300m high in the mountains.  Pippa wasn’t too keen to leave either.  She now travels “legally” with a proper seat belt fastener on the back seat rather than on my lap.  She is not very keen on travelling and I’m sure she too would have preferred to stay that day in the village.
Pippa travelling legally now
On the bright side we were home for lunch.  I was happy to see my Amazon order of Downton Abbey Season 6 (the last one) had arrived and spent part of the afternoon watching the first episode.  I am very sad there will be no more seasons, my only consolation being that I have yet to see the Christmas special which I can only order after it has been aired in the UK later next month.
Downton Abbey Season 6 arrived in my absence.  Needless to say I devoured all of it in less than a week.
On Monday I was up early.  I had to be in Madrid that morning with my boss for an interview with a new radio station belonging to Forbes which will be launched next week. The interview was taped so there were no nerves and we both enjoyed the session.  The questions were very general; none of them too tricky.
The interview at Forbes Radio
Once back at the office, I went through my pigeon hole.  Normally it is full of junk mail; mostly boring sector magazines, but amongst all the mail there was one envelope which looked interesting from the Swedish Embassy.  It was an invitation for two to the Swedish Ambassador’s private residence to celebrate St. Lucia.  Gosh that meant having to dig out a suit for Eladio; not an easy task as the last time he wore one was probably about 10 years ago. 
The invitation from the Swedish Embassy
St. Lucia is an important Swedish and Nordic Christmas tradition where a beautiful young girl wearing white and a crown of candles on her head together with a cortege, bring the light to the dark days of Christmas singing and offering traditional gingerbread biscuits and other typical products of this festival, one of the most important in the Swedish calendar.  From what I have read about its origins, “St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304AD. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means 'light' so this is a very appropriate name”.  St. Lucia takes place on 13th December, although the Embassy celebration will be a few days earlier.I look forward to it and for once I will have Eladio to join me.

Tuesday was a headachy day and I think I didn’t shake it off until I returned from Barcelona later in the week.  That day we had a “Yoigo Morning”, a staff event which I organise where the staff gets an update on how the company is doing and can ask questions.  It is followed by fun  and personal presentations from new employees and then a cocktail party to enjoy and to network.  We had full house and the information shared was of great use to the employees.  Everything went off without a hitch, including the presentation I had put together at the last minute.
The Yoigo Morning on Tuesday
I then dashed off to Anovo.  What’s Anovo you may ask?  Well it’s a phone repair company that we use for most of the models of phones we sell to our customers and one of our strategic partners.  If you saw me in Undercover Boss you may remember my session there, learning how to repair a mobile phone with a young employee called Miguel.  After me, I think he was the star of the show.  So why did I go?  No, not to repair a phone but to get mine repaired.  The screen of my phone broke a while ago and I never seemed to find the time to go to Anovo to get it mended on the spot.  I needed to go in person to make sure all the data remained and that it was not put back to factory settings.  It was very funny going back to Anovo as Masha and a customer, rather than my fictional self in the programme, Melanie the fruit seller from London hahaha.  I got red carpet treatment and the screen of my phone was replaced in a jiffy; a perk of my job I suppose.  Whilst there, I met the people in charge of Yoigo, as well as an old colleague from Motorola, Lubas who I am always happy to see. Then to my joy, Miguel turned up and I threw my arms around him.  You can’t imagine just how close I am to the employees who took part in the programme with me.  Here is a photo of that moment.  It was really nice to be back at Anovo.  Thanks guys for your help.
At Anovo on Tuesday
Whilst all this was happening, on the international scene, I was amazed to find out that the Turkish government had given orders to shoot down a Russian military jet in Turkish airspace according to them.  According to Vladimir Putin it was in Syrian air space.  The Russian plane was given ample warning which it ignored and the plane was downed and the pilots had to parachute themselves out.  I personally think the Turks were wrong to shoot the plane, especially in these times when they should be allies and not enemies, in getting rid of ISIS.  The incident brought the wrath of the Russian President but thankfully it’s not war with Russia or Turkey, more like sanctions and the similar.  Meanwhile in Brussels the lockdown continued, as did the search for the terrorists behind the Paris Attacks.
The Russian fighter jet shot down in Turkish air space
On Wednesday I was up early again. That morning we were to issue a press release on the launch of the Yoigo app, called “Mi Yoigo”.  The app, available on Android and IOS is for customers to manage their use of their tariff and many other things. It comes late but it’s a very well made app and the response that day was positive, thankfully.
Proud of the new Yoigo (Mi Yoigo) app
Whilst it was being launched, I was on my way to Barcelona for a site inspection trip to choose locations for our press conference and party at the Mobile World Congress next February.  I have to confess the best part of all my events, are not the events themselves which I generally do not enjoy, but the sight inspection trips.  Here I am on the train setting up my office (pc, etc), except that I couldn’t work much because despite the avant garde technology of the high speed train, it doesn’t have wifi.  So I was content to continue watching Downton Abbey, albeit with not very good headphones.  It kept me entertained until my arrival at the Sants trains station at about 1.20.
On the high speed train to Barcelona on Wednesday morning
I had lunch with Bea and Miguel from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, at one of the possible locations, “Chapeau” a private club in the heart of the city.  Barcelona was looking good as it always does when the sun is shining. This is the view from my hotel room.
The view of Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona from my hotel room
As I took the photo I reflected that it would be a pity if Cataluña ever separated from Spain, the big issue on the nation’s agenda on the eve of General Elections to be held on 20th December.

It was a great lunch after which we went to see more of the locations on the list.  We loved the first two we saw and which were perfect for our needs; so much so that we spent the whole afternoon brainstorming at Chez Coco the fashionable venue we have chosen for the party and which was used recently by the Barcelona Football Club.  We talked until 7.30 when I had to rush off if I was to be on time for my date with Grainne. 

If you read my blog regularly you will know that Grainne went to school with me and that she is the older sister of one of my best class mates, Brenda.  Like me, she has lived in Spain for more than 30 years.  She is a teacher of English and when I arrived at her home by the sea in Badalona she was in the middle of a conversation lesson with 4 men pupils.  She asked me to join the class which I willingly did and enjoyed talking English slowly to her eager pupils; all of whom had seen me “star” in the Undercover Boss programme!

After the class, Juan Carlos, one of her pupils, drove us and Marcel, Grainne’s son, to a local restaurant where my friend had booked a table, called Ca l’Arqué.  The wife of the owner was one of Grainne’s pupils and the next day her first English lesson would be with her.  In Badalona Catalán is widely spoken and at the restaurant I guessed even more so as I kept having to ask the owner and my hosts to speak Spanish, not to mention get a menu in Spanish.
Dinner with Grainne and Marcel is always a hoot 
It was a wonderful dinner, not just because I liked the restaurant and the food but because I always feel completely at ease with my dearest funny and charismatic friend Grainne and her delightful and loving son Marcel.  I reflected and pointed out to Grainne that I have visited her on perhaps every one of my trips to Barcelona over the years. Yet she has only visited us in Madrid once.  I would love them to come here and also to take them to Montrondo one day.

Soon it was time to leave and we called a local taxi.  I was amazed again when the taxi driver recognised me from the Undercover Boss programme.  He was a huge fan of the series and didn’t stop talking to me about it until we arrived at my hotel.  He was so happy to meet me and it felt like being famous for 5 minutes; not an unpleasant feeling I can tell you.
I slept well that night and in the morning decided upon the luxury of breakfast in bed.
Breakfast in bed - a rare luxury
I spent most of the morning working quietly from my room until it was time to check out.  I decided to walk to my lunch appointment with Bea and Miguel at Cal Pinxo.  My hotel was on Paseo de Gracia, one of Barcelona’s smartest streets which is full of enticing shops.  I could not resist going into Mango, Punto Roma and Zara on my way and when I arrived at the restaurant I was carrying quite a few shopping bags.  I told Bea that I hadn’t bought any clothes for a long time.  And it’s true as my priority for the last year or so has been buying things for the house in Montrondo rather than anything for me, but that morning I was inspired.  I bought two dresses, a black top, a coat and a pair of jeggings.  I just loved this little black dress with a white collar from Zara and think it will be perfect for the Swedish Embassy St. Lucia reception.
The little black dress with a white collar from Zara
I got to Cal Pinxo, one of my favourite places in Barcelona, by the Palau de la Mar and the Port Vell, at around 1. Soon I was joined by Miguel and Bea.  We sat in the sun and ordered a dish we all love called “fideua”.  This is like paella but made with vermicelli.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me and the fideua the moment it was brought to our table. There was so much I took home a doggy bag and we ate it for dinner that night and for lunch the next day.
With Bea at Cal Pinxo
I was home on time for dinner with Eladio and Olivia. Recently I have been so busy I have hardly seen Oli on the TV but was happy to see a photo of her doing a report on babies. She loves doing stories about babies and children. 
Oli doing a report she loved this week
The story was about a baby being massaged by an Indian girl.  How strange right?  Well not when I heard from Olivia that this is an Indian tradition whereby babies are massaged when they are young to strengthen their bodies and do them good in general.  In the report she went to a parlour in Madrid where young Indian girls offered the same service to mothers in Spain. 

Whilst Eladio, Oli and I ate the remains of the “fideua”, in the US and many parts of the world, North Americans were eating turkey and celebrating Thanksgiving.  I have never been to a Thanksgiving dinner but it might be interesting.  What was interesting to read was that according to historians at a University in Florida, the first Thanksgiving dinner did not take place thanks to the English Mayflower Pilgrims as we all thought. No, it was apparently Pedro Menéndez Avilés, the Spanish explorer who celebrated the first Thanksgiving dinner 50 years earlier in 1565 in St. Augustine Florida, in gratitude for the safe arrival.  And they didn’t eat turkey but ham and olives, wine and chickpeas.  This is not widely known in the US or anywhere else for that matter, probably because the US prefers to link the celebration to its Anglican rather than Spanish heritage and roots.

"The first Thanksgiving meal in 1565 in St. Augustine that was shared between Spanish settlers and the native Timucua Indians: salted pork, garbanzo beans, ship’s bread and red wine"
The next day was Black Friday, a sales day the day after Thanksgiving which was until very recently an exclusively US event.  Amazon brought it to Europe, as did other online sites, but I was amazed to witness this week just how much Black Friday has invaded Spain and most of the world too.  Black Friday this year was huge here and wasn’t just on Friday but in many parts started on Thursday and will last all weekend until Monday which is another bargain selling day event called Cyber Monday.  Has the world gone crazy or what?  I ask myself why in Spain and most of the world we have taken on as our own celebrations such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween and now Black Friday.  I hope that doesn’t mean we will all be celebrating Thanksgiving next year.  My answer to its success can only be money; i.e. consumerism.  Even in Yoigo we celebrated Black Friday slashing prices from Thursday to today.
Yoigo joined in the Black Friday craze which took Spain by storm this week
I wondered what the origin of the day was, apart from being a sales day after Thanksgiving.  There are two possible theories, one about the association with “black” and coming into money and the more plausible one of the police calling it that due to so much traffic the day after Thanksgiving.  Be that as it may, Black Friday has come to stay.  I ignored it and did my shopping on Thursday in Barcelona and was not inspired to enter the frenzy this weekend as I hate crowds, just as much as I hate following sheep which is how I see Black Friday.  No, it’s not for me for the moment.

On Friday I had the occasion to wear some of the new clothes I bought in Barcelona on Thursday. Here I am wearing the new grey and white striped dress from Mango and the grey coat from Zara.  You probably know that my favourite brands of clothing are Zara, Mango, H+M, Lindex and M+S.  For shoes it is Clarks.
Wearing some of my new clothes on Friday morning
Off I went into town to Madrid for a meeting with my PR and Public Affairs agency Ketchum.  Here we were to go over the issues we have in Public Affairs and come up with a plan for 2016.  It was a productive session.

That morning we had another press release. This time it was to announce the return of our star tariff, the Sinfin with 20 gigas of internet and unlimited talk time.  It’s for new customers and is the focal part of our Christmas promotion and campaign.
Yoigo's sinfin tariff with 20 gigas is back for Christmas for new customers
I was home on time for our walk with the dogs and lunch.  The weather was glorious and it’s amazing that we go for walks in our shirt sleeves at the end of November. The bad weather came and went and it’s like summer again, at least during the middle of the day.

In the afternoon I did the weekly food shopping with Salu.  It always feels we are buying enough food to feed an army as we leave the supermarket with 2 full trolleys.  This time I bought even more food as I contributed to the nationwide campaign where food is being bought and collected for poor people on the biggest scale I have ever seen.
This week there was a nationwide collection of food for the poor at nearly all the supermarkets in the country
It was my good deed of the day.

Later that night we went out to dinner and were joined by Oli and Miguel, who is recovering slowly from his appendicitis operation.  We chose to go to La Vaca Argentina where we can use my excess number of luncheon vouchers and where I booked a table via The Fork, thus benefitting from a 30% discount.

Once home, Eladio and I continued to binge watch Prison Break which has us riveted with all the suspense this American prison series brings with it, not to mention rather too much violence at times. 
Some of the cast from Prison Break
Saturday was a lazy day.  I spent part of the morning watching the end of Downton Abbey and felt gutted afterwards as that was really the end and I wasn’t satisfied.  We went for another sunny walk in our shirt sleeves after which we came home and I made a lovely family lunch when we were joined by Oli and Miguel again.  Whilst Eladio slept his siesta, I watched one of the Call the Midwife Christmas specials I hadn’t seen. Then and there I ordered series 3 and 4 on Amazon and was disappointed to see there was no discount for Black Friday.

Meanwhile Suzy, Chati and their Italian friend were spending the day in Bath.  Suzy told me the weather was awful and that it was packed.  They were not able to see the Baths due to the huge queues.  The only picture I got was a selfie of her with Monica by the church next to the Baths.
Suzy in Bath yesterday - here with her Italian friend Monica
Later last night they drove on to Bristol where they would be spending the night with a friend of Chati’s who lives there. I look forward to talking to Suzy today to find out all about their trip and how she is in general.  We haven’t spoken for ages, just have contact on whatsapp.
Oli and Miguel went out to dinner last night and Eladio and I stayed in.  It was Salu’s day off, so we weren’t going anywhere.  And, yes, we watched more of Prison Break until it was time to fall asleep.

Today, Sunday, is another sunny day and we shall all have lunch together, but not before I finish this blog post and go for our walk.

Next week we shall be going to Montrondo again and Oli and Miguel will join us for the weekend.  But of course you will be hearing all about that in next week’s post.

In the meantime, I wish you all a great week,

Cheers till next time


No comments: