Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunrise walks, a family outing with my Father, poor Pippa, covered nude statues at the Vatican for Iranian PM, figure skater Javier Fernández does Spain proud, press breakfast for results’ day, a girly afternoon shopping in Madrid, Laura and Maya came to visit and other stories.

Sunday 31st January 2016
It was all smiles at the Yoigo press conference on Friday morning
Hi again everyone. 

It’s another sunny Sunday, the last in January. It’s been a busy and good week so let me tell you about it. 

Last Sunday I was up at 06.40.  I seem to be waking up earlier and earlier these days.  It means I have more hours in the day and now I go for my first walk of the day straight after my quiet breakfast with the dogs.  Thus all my early morning walks these last few weeks have been at sunrise and I must say it’s a privilege to witness such a beautiful sky in the morning whilst power walking and listening to music.  Today, being Sunday, I chose my list of favourite hymns which always takes me straight back to school assembly. 
Sunrise on Monday morning on my walk
My fitbit goes with me everywhere and the statistics it shows motivate me to do at least 20.000 steps each day, some 13 or 14km!  Here is the badge to prove that I have done 20.000 or more on at least 117 times. 
One of my Fitbit badges
The old adage of “red sky at night shepherds’ delight, red sky in the morning shepherds’ warning”, was wrong, at least last Sunday.  Whilst there was a snow blizzard in the US on the East Coast, called Jason, the fifth worst, since records began, here we had sunshine with temperatures reaching 20c.  My friend Fátima’s niece, Gloria, who lives and works in New York described the storm very well when she published this photo saying it was like something out of the film The Day after tomorrow. 
New York - the Jason blizzard - like a scene out of The Day after Tomorrow
Meanwhile it was a glorious day in Madrid so we decided on the spur of the moment to take my Father and the dogs for a walk in the parkland just outside Boadilla del Monte.  It was a challenge getting everyone into two cars but we made it and it was well worth it. It seemed the whole of Boadilla had had the same idea and there were people running, walking and cycling, many in their shirt sleeves.
My Father last Sunday morning with Eladio by the palace in Boadilla
The walk, past the palace and playing fields is very pleasant with many paths to choose from and lots of flora and fauna to interest my Father who had a grand time.  After about an 8km walk, we went to have a drink before lunch at a bar opposite the palace with the exhausted dogs at our feet. 
Drinks in the sun after our walk in Boadilla last Sunday
We were home late and lunch was late, but it would have been a crime not to take advantage of such a wonderful warm and sunny day.  We must do it again soon.  It was such a pity Suzy wasn’t with us. 

I haven’t written much about her recently in my blog and that’s because, ashamedly, I hadn’t spoken to her on the phone since she left Madrid on 29th December.  Thankfully we did so last Sunday and even skyped.  It was great to see her whilst we talked.
Skyping with Suzy last weekend
However, as usual the signal was not strong and the image began to get very pixeled so we rang her on the phone in the end.  She is full of news about moving house and interviews for various jobs. I do wish her lots of luck.  Love you darling.

On Monday morning, believe it or not, there was an earthquake in Mellila (Spanish enclave in North Africa) which was felt all along the coast of Andalusia, including Málaga.  Thankfully no one was killed but there was lots of damage to buildings in Mellila itself. 

On Monday I fasted, had time to go the hairdresser and also went to an important meeting at Yoigo in the late afternoon on our strategy for communicating the financial results for quarter 4 and full year 2015.  I was to be busy all week on preparations for the press conference we would hold on Friday, the day of the results.

Tuesday was an anxious day for me.  Poor Pippa was to be spayed that day.  We had come to the decision that we will not have puppies from her and that it’s better for her health in the long run to be spayed and of course to avoid the nuisance that being on heat brings with it.  I was to take her to the vet early in the morning on an empty stomach.  I felt like a criminal when I took her.  I was told her operation would be early and they would ring to say how it went.  I didn’t hear anything until around 2pm and was cross when I realized that she must have been alone, frightened and hungry in a cage for so many hours.  We picked her up at 8.30pm and she was thrilled to see us. She seemed as fit as a fiddle and had only 2 stitches on the incision.  Thankfully she didn’t have to wear a “lampshade” and she’s been pretty good about not licking the stiches.  We have been giving her the medication of course but I witnessed no suffering of any kind.  Amazingly she went on our 4km walk the very next day.
Whilst Pippa was at the vet, life went on at home where I worked quietly with Eladio at his desk next to me.  I say quietly until a plumber came to investigate damp on the ground floor on the passage outside our office.  Boy did he make a noise breaking the floor boards trying to find out where the damp comes from.  Here is the hole he made.
The hole in the floor boards on the ground floor!
He wasn’t sure what caused the damp but has told us the whole floor will have to be lifted which is a major problem.  I just hope they find the cause soon and also hope the insurance policy covers the repair work necessary.  I am keeping my fingers crossed. In a house like this all sorts of things can go wrong.  At the moment we have two issues, the ground floor and the swimming pool. The main drain has a leak and the pool has lost all the water.  It will need repainting too.  Both jobs are Eladio’s domain and of course are worrying him at the moment.

Whilst the hole was being drilled I tried out some new headphones, for two purposes, to drown out the noise but also to try them out. They were the headphones we would be giving out at the press conference; some colourful Bluetooth ones made by Energy Sistem (BT1). It took me a while to figure out how to pair them but once they were working I was very pleased with the quality.  I now use them on my walks.  It’s so much nicer to wear cordless headphones I must say.
New headphones
Meanwhile in The Vatican the Iranian Prime Minister, Hassan Rouhani, was visiting the Pope.  The visit came after agreements with the US to halter the Iranian race for nuclear weapons.  Sanctions were lifted, Iran will now be able to export oil and the Prime Minister is making visits to Italy and France.  There was an uproar when the world heard that The Vatican had covered any nude statues the Iranian premiere may see on his visit. 
Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani and the covered up nude statues at The Vatican!
A cousin of mine said it would have been better to blindfold him. I personally think it is outrageous because if a western leader went to Iran there would be no concessions there for him or her.  Funnily enough we later found out the request had not come from the Iranian government.  Even so.  His next visit was to France where the French Government would not bend at excluding wine from the menu.  So in the end they had afternoon tea instead of a state dinner!! 

That afternoon Olivia was doing a TV report in the village called Robledo de Chavela, not very far from where we live. Believe it or not this is a deep space communications complex belonging to the NASA.  Here you have Oli dressed in a space suit!!  We really must go there one day to visit the space museum.
Oli dressed up as an astronaut at the space station in Robledo de Chavela which belongs to the NASA
Wednesday morning was foggy so I went for my walk a little later.  We then took Pippa to a big pet shop called Petuluki in Majadahonda to buy her a jumper which was supposed to cover her wound.  In the end we bought this pretty red one which she seems to love and we do too.
Pippa with her new red jumper. She looks very smart
Then it was time for a coffee and we dared to take her with us to Centro Oeste; not sure whether she would be allowed in.  Later we heard you can take dogs only if you are carrying them.  Well it’s easy to carry little Pippa as she only weighs 4.2kg!  Here is Eladio having coffee with our little darling sitting on his lap.
Eladio with Pippa - coffee time at Centro Oeste
It was on Wednesday that the Spanish figure skater, Javier Fernández, from Madrid won the European Championships for the 4th year in a row.  You can see how pleased he is in this photo; positively radiant.  I was very proud of him for Spain; yet another Spanish sports person doing well in the world.  It’s not very usual for Spaniards to excel at ice skating and Javier Fernández had to go and live in Canada if he wanted to progress to the level he is at now.  Funnily enough he used to train at the little ice rink in Majadahonda.
Javier Fernández, the Spanish figure skater who garnered his 4th European championship in Stockholm this week. 
Friday was my big day.  It was results day and we had our press breakfast.  We held it at a lovely café in Madrid called El Perro y la Galleta where, by the way, dogs are allowed.  I couldn’t take Pippa though as she was still recovering from her operation.  I’m not sure whether she would have behaved either.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me by the photo-call at the café before the press conference started. I was happy with how everything had been executed.  Bravo for my events agency QuintaEsencia, as usual.
The Yoigo press breakfast on Friday at El Perro y la Galleta in Madrid 
We had a full turnout.  As the results were good, sales were up and our outlook in the sector quite rosy, we were to get some great headlines.  By lunchtime we had counted 215 online clippings.  There will be more by Monday.  I came home relieved and happy that everything had gone well. It’s funny how I still doubt myself after all these years. Maybe that’s what keeps me on my toes.

That night Eladio and I went out to dinner to celebrate to La Txitxarrería.  We love that place, the meat is amazing and I always enjoy the good Basque or is it Asturian cider they serve.

Saturday was another sunny day. On my first walk I caught the sun coming up and I felt like singing that very British hymn that all children learn at school or at least they did when I went to school in England; “Morning has broken”.
The sun coming up on my early morning walk on Saturday
I got a lot in that morning, including making a full lunch of meat loaf with mashed potatoes with carrot, salad and fruit as well as my second walk of the day, this time with Eladio.

The day before Olivia had done a TV report on Spain’s swankiest street, Calle Serrano in Madrid. A green quilted feather jacket caught her fancy in the sales at Roberto Verino a Spanish designer and she had asked the shop assistant she interviewed there to keep it for her until Saturday.  Thus I got asked to go shopping with her after lunch that day. I was all for it.  Not only did she get the green jacket, she also got a lovely poncho type garment and an elegant red dress.  Here we are leaving the shop with Oli’s purchases.
Oli and I outside Roberto Verino yesterday afternoon in Calle Serrano.
Oli’s bosom friend Ana (Anita) joined us as we were leaving, so the afternoon was fast becoming a girly shopping outing in Madrid.
Oli with Anita at Platea yesterday afternoon
From Roberto Verino we walked a few steps to Zara’s flagship store.  There I nearly bought a pink coat but was put off by the very long queue and the price which I thought was far too high for Zara. 

From Zara we walked to Platea, that lovely gastronomic centre opposite the Colon square.  Here I bought some delicious pie to take home for dinner  My sister-in-law Dolores was to join us at Platea and soon we were sitting down to coffee and cakes at a super little cake shop called Mama Framboise. 
With Dolores, Oli and Anita at Mama Framboise yesterday afternoon
We left Madrid at sunset, happy with our afternoon out shopping.  We were home in a jiffy as the roads are hardly ever congested at the weekends.  Dinner was at home and Ana joined us.  Wow was the Platea pie good as were the Christmas ham and wine we are still consuming. 

And today is Sunday. I’ve now done my two walks and had lunch.  At midday, Oli and Suzy’s friend Laura from their scout days came to visit with her 6 month old baby Maya.  It was amazing to see one of the girls’ childhood friends with a baby.  Both Mother and baby were looking super.  Laura is such a natural relaxed mother, unlike the obsessive ones that seem to abound so much these days.  She had no worries about the dogs and no problems of her baby's photo being on my blog or her facebook which also seems to be the norm with fussy new mothers these days. Oli was so happy to see Laura with her baby, she cried with joy.  I nearly did too.  
Olivia with little Maya and Laura.  Lovely picture, lovely moment.
Maya behaved beautifully and didn’t cry once. She just smiled and did baby faces and was very interested in the dogs.  Pippa, as usual, barked too much. Thankfully she later calmed down.  Hopefully we will be seeing them again soon in Barcelona where Laura lives.  The baby visit got us talking about Oli having a baby. She seemed to be surprised I wanted to be a grandmother.  There is nothing I want more.  I sigh here as she is in no hurry although thankfully I know she does want to be a Mother but just doesn't know when. 

Now I have come to the end of this week’s tales.  As you have read it has been busy but happy.  Next week will be less stressful and who knows what awaits us all.

So I will love you and leave you to get on with your day whilst I publish this.  Later I will be watching the end of Downton Abbey.  I have now re-watched nearly the whole series and soon will be missing Mr. Carson, Lord Grantham, Lady Mary and co. 

That’s it for now.  Cheers until next week


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Blue Monday, having it all and wanting more, a year since I broke my leg, Rajoy declines offer from the King, Oli and Miguel in Chinchón and other stories

Writing my blog this afternoon
Sunday 23rd January 2016

Hello again. It’s actually Saturday, not the day for writing my blog but I’m having a break from binge (re)watching Downton Abby this afternoon.  Also Oli and Miguel are away and I want to be here for them tomorrow.  I don’t really have a good photo to illustrate this week’s post so decided on one of me, writing my blog.  Yes, this is the moment, courtesy of Eladio.
It has been a quiet, unexciting but busy week.  Monday was Blue Monday, perhaps not the best start to a week.  It is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, apparently when the weather is at its worst, debts are high and we are still under the influence of post-Christmas malaise.

It wasn’t going to affect me or so I thought.  What was incredibly depressing that morning was reading the findings of Oxfam’s 2015 report on the gap between the rich and the poor.  The statistics make frightening reading.  The richest 62 people in the world are worth the same as the poorest 3.5 billion. That translates into the richest 1% own as much as the rest of the world combined.  In Spain 1% own 80% of the wealth!  That is so unfair. Even worse, the forecast for 2016 could not be bleaker when the top 1% will be richer than the rest of the world combined.

It seems the rich come mostly from the financial, pharmaceutical and health care sectors.  Basically the wealthy get wealthier and the poor get poorer.  The Oxfam report was entitled “Having it all and wanting more”.  It couldn’t have been better put.

In any case I felt lucky on Blue Monday. You see it was a year ago that day that I broke my leg in Montrondo when I slipped on ice and now I am well and fighting fit. There is nothing like an illness or accident to appreciate good health.  It was actually Facebook that reminded me via this photo of me with my sister-in-law, Pili at the hospital in León. I was smiling then but not later when I knew I had to be operated and would be bedridden for at least 2 months. I’m so glad that’s behind me.  It seems not much more than a hiccup now but it was quite big at the time mostly because I am hyperactive and being home bound and bedridden was a real drama for me.
It was a year ago this week that I broke my leg in Montrondo
I was busy too on Monday and up early to go to a management team meeting.  I hardly had time to be hungry so didn’t really notice I was fasting, as I would again on Thursday.  I have been very good with my New Year’s resolution so far, to fast twice a week and go for an hour long power walk twice a day.  I am determined to keep it up.

Tuesday was the 19th January, a date forever ingrained in my mind as it would have been my cousin Jacqueline’s birthday.  She died tragically aged only 12 on the 23rd May 1971 along with all her family in a terrible air crash in Rijeka (Croatia).  We can never forget the loss of my Father’s sister Gloria and her family, husband Derek and children Jacqueline (12), Michael (9) and little Anthony (7).

But I had to put those thoughts out of my mind to concentrate on a very long conference call with Sweden on quite a boring matter; well more like long winded and complicated.  You’d think the Swedes were more practical and simple. Usually they are but not always and certainly not on Tuesday. 

Tuesday was a bitter sweet day for Eladio. After 20 years he was to give his last University lecture with the UNED that evening.  He has been obliged to retire against his wishes but he can’t complain as he was allowed to work for 1.5 years after the official date of retirement.  He has mixed feelings about stopping work completely.  Both Oli and I tell him he should enjoy his time.  After all he has worked all his life to earn his retirement and he is fit and well and should make the most of it.  I hope he will.

We had this conversation on our morning walk. It was sunny as it has been most days of the week except for fog in the mornings.  Elsa our golden labrador is shedding at the moment so we take along a special comb and create our own outdoor pet parlour as you can see in the photo haha.
Our outdoor pet parlour 
On Wednesday morning I was interested to read a piece of news from the Spanish Institute Cervantes.  Spanish is now the second most spoken language in the world after English and ahead of Mandarin.  Spanish comes third on internet but second on Facebook and Twitter.  Wow.  It’s nice to know I speak the two most spoken languages. I cannot find one single article in English to corroborate the prestigious Spanish institute.  I wonder what the reason for that is.

That morning I was to have a coffee and a chat with Consuelo, a highly experienced bilingual (yes in Spanish and English, so part of the Institute’s statistics) journalist who is out of work.  I met her recently when we did a PR agency pitch and it was great to see her again as she had made a good impression on me.  I have been where she is now so could sympathise and give lots of good advice as well as moral support.  We met at a café at the Zielo shopping centre in Pozuelo. Whilst there I went to buy some fresh fish for lunch which was incredibly expensive so when Eladio said how delicious it was I decided not to tell him what it cost haha.

On Thursday I went into the office yet again, this time for a meeting with the agency that takes care of our Wikipedia page.  They do talk such jargon but I must say they do a good job.  Just as I got home I was called back to the office for a management team meeting and then a staff meeting, so it seemed like I was in my car all day as it’s 50km there and back each time.  I was back too late for my second walk but the trip was worth it as both meetings brought good news for us all.  I can’t believe I’m into my 10th year with Yoigo.  It’s the longest period I have ever worked with any company but long may it last as it is by far the best company I have ever worked for.

On Friday I was up super early at 6.22.  I went on my early morning walk at 7.30 when it was still dark.  Just as I was returning I got a message to cancel my morning meeting and postpone it until Monday.  The message couldn’t have come at a better moment.  I needed some quiet time to get up to pace with all my emails, etc. 

It was on Friday evening that Spain’s acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the PP (right wing) party announced after meeting the King that he would not be accepting Don Felipe’s proposal for him to be the first candidate to try and form a government.  It was like he said No to the King. Well he did.  He shocked Spanish politics yesterday.  In a press conference later he explained he did not have the support to win a confidence vote in parliament.  The problem we are facing is mathematical and a pull between the right and left wing old and new parties.  A coalition has to be formed and we have yet to see who will be the next President.  If there is no consensus, elections will have to be held again.
Rajoy said no to the King
Just as Rajoy was making this unexpected announcement, Eladio and I went out to dinner to Ginos nearby.  We kept looking at our phones, over our pizza and scaloppini, to see what was being said about Rajoy’s latest move which came a few hours after the leader of the anti-establishment party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, had suggested a coalition with the socialist party PSOE with him as Vice President neither of whom want to form a coalition with the PP. These days in Spain this is all people are talking about.

Meanwhile Oli and Miguel went to Chinchón for the night.  Oli had recently done a TV report on this beautiful little town some 40km from the centre of Madrid which you can see here.  She loved it so much she wanted to go back.  We have only been once.  It was with my Father in 2007 and we loved it too.   For memory’s sake I have dug out this photo of me in the middle of the legendary town centre square which also doubles as a bull ring.
Me in Chinchón in 2007. Oli and Miguel's trip there has inspired me to go back and visit it again
Oli and Miguel were lucky with the weather and had a really relaxing time.  They very much recommend the restaurant called La Casa del Pregonero which is number 1 on Trip Advisor.  Oli sent me some photos of the food and it looked great.  On offer too are prize winning tapas.  We must go again soon and if we do we will certainly go to La Casa del Pregonero.
Oli and Miguel today in Chinchón.
I asked Oli to look out in the shops for plates like one I had bought there and which I cherish. I couldn’t believe my luck when she found 2 round plates which are just like the rectangular serving plate I have.  I think one of them will be going to Montrondo.  Thanks Oli, love them.
The plates from Chinchón
Today has been a long and quiet day.  I woke up just before 7 and once again went on an early morning walk.  I was well wrapped up and it was foggy.
On my walk early this morning
I would never have known that later in the day the temperature would soar to 18c.  If you don’t believe me this is proof.
The temperature in Madrid this afternoon.  It was more like spring than winter
The dogs got their baths this morning, something they used to hate but now seem to enjoy.  Pippa looked as though she wanted to get in the bath with both Elsa and Norah as you can see in the photo collage below.
The dogs got a bath today!
My second walk was in the sun and both Eladio and I had to remove our coats.  I would have taken my jumper off too but couldn’t carry any more. We came home to a meal made by me which my Father later said was delicious.  It was only steak with vegetables but they were his favourites: Brussel sprouts and cauliflower. 

And now Oli and Miguel are back with lots to tell about their trip to Chinchón, a town where Goya once lived.  We shall have a quiet dinner in the kitchen followed by a few episodes of Homeland.  I am watching it again. Eladio has never seen it but was hooked pretty quickly.  I will not give him any spoilers even though I am very tempted to tell him what happens to Brody and Carrie.  No I mustn’t. 

Tomorrow Sunday will be a quiet day and next week who knows? On the work front it will be busy because on the 29th Jan our mother company TeliaSonera will be announcing the Q4 results and year end 2015 which of course include Yoigo’s.  We will be holding a press conference, always a tense event to organize.  I’ll be telling you how it went next week. 
Meanwhile cross your fingers.

Cheers now till next week,


Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Who is David Bowie?", The tiger and the goat living in peace, Suzy in Tenerife, a controversial parliamentary opening, cloudberries, Platea a gastronomic discovery, a family outing to see Titanic The Exhibition and other stories.

Sunday 17th January 2016
"Boarding" the Titanic on Saturday with Eladio, Miguel and Oli.  What a great exhibition
Hi again,

It’s a cold, crisp and sunny day in January, my Father’s favourite month of the year in Spain.  It’s not mine but I love the days when it’s sunny.  There has been snow in many parts of Spain this weekend.  Last Sunday it rained here whilst it snowed in Montrondo.  We haven’t been back since we returned on 4th January but rest assured we shall be going soon to enjoy the snow.  Meanwhile I make do with the photos posted by Javi, the village’s youngest inhabitant, who yesterday went up the Tambarón mountain and skied his way down.  The pictures were to die for. Here is the photo of the village covered in snow he posted last Sunday.
Snow in Montrondo - can't wait to go
This week I returned to my Fast diet (5:2) where I fast on Mondays and Thursdays and eat normally on the other days.  I also went back to doing 2 hour long walks a day and it is a battle to find the time as I have been very busy.  In the past 2 years or so I have gradually put more weight on and now is the time to try and shed it.  The trick is not to eat too much on the 5 non fasting days as time has told me. So wish me luck.

On Monday whilst eating my rather unpalatable oat bran for breakfast, I read that David Bowie had died aged 69 after a battle with cancer.  He is hard to describe, a controversial musical figure, born David Robert Jones in Brixton South London; a cockney boy who was good at music and discovered his talent playing a recorder at school.  Everyone knows who he is, except for my Father.  He asked the next day: “Who is David Bowie?” and commented that The Daily Telegraph had dedicated 8 whole pages to his life and death!”  I just had to say he was a famous “pop singer”, a term which my Father would understand and a term and genre he always hated.  When I was a child and the Beatles and Rolling Stones emerged he was against them and did his best to stop us listening to their music.  I was brought up hearing they were anathema and in a way that is sort of ingrained in me.  Recently Spotify have made available the song tracks from The Beatles and I have listened to their hits on my walks this week but always deep down feeling a little guilty as if it was wrong to like their songs.  Well I do I suppose, but mostly the more lyrical ones like Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday, Let it Be, The Long and Winding Road and Strawberry Fields.  As I listened to these songs this week I reflected a little on my youth and thought about my dead brother George who was a great piano player and loved and played the pop songs of the times to my Father’s chagrin as he would have preferred him to play classical music. I’m not sure because of this heritage whether I am a Beatle fan but I am certainly not a David Bowie fan; although of course I was sorry to hear he had died.   
RIP David Bowie
At breakfast on Monday I just read the headlines about Bowie’s death, finding another piece of news far more interesting because it was about animals, my passion.  The story was unique and could have come from The Bible or the Aesop fable.  In a safari park in Shkotovo near Vladivostok in Siberia in Russia, there is a Siberian tiger called Amur.  It is fed live animals once a week, mostly goats but a few months ago something unique happened.  Timur the goat was introduced into Amur’s den and instead of eating it, they became friends. If you don’t believe it just look at the photo of the two of them together or watch a video of them playing.
The tiger and the goat living in peace
They have been friends for many months now and who knows if Amur will end up eating his friend Timur or whether they will remain so.  Their story piqued my interest and reminded me of the verse in the Bible about the wolf and the lamb.  I looked it up and found out it comes from Isiah 11.6 and this is the transcription: The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. Their story of peace is something we should reflect on in these violent times of terrorist attacks as I would realise later in the week.

On Monday too Spanish Princess Cristina went on trial for embezzlement with her husband Iñaki Urdangarin in one of the most high profile court cases in Spain ever, because it affects the Royal Family.  We know she won’t be sentenced precisely because she is the sister of the King but just that she is on trial shows that some things have changed in Spain and in the world.  I’m a bit naughty and would secretly like to see her in prison as I suspect many Spaniards would. That’s because there is a little bit of the anti-establishment in me; although I was brought up by Conservative parents.
The Spanish Princess Cristina and her husband entering court on Monday
On Tuesday I went into the office to do various errands and see people for projects I am working on.  It was whilst I was there that Isis chose to attack tourists at the Sultanahmet square in Istanbul one of the major landmarks of the city. Once again they used the suicide bomber method which makes me cringe.  10 German tourists were killed in this attack; an attack that will do damage also to Turkey’s all-important tourist industry.  I mean who hasn’t been to the Sultanahmet Square if they’ve been to Turkey and walked from there to the Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sofia Mosque?  We stayed at a hotel opposite many years ago and our hearts go out to the ancient city which has so much to offer.  I was very sorry to hear the news.
Sultanahamet Square in Istanbul
On a lighter note that day an interview was published with me on my thoughts on communication in this day and age.  A journalist called Mar C. who I have known for many years and who works freelance interviewed me some months ago.  I had completely forgotten about the interview.  It’s very classic me, giving all my secrets away and saying what I think in plain language.  If you are interested you can read it in Spanish here.

On Wednesday we woke up to a whatsapp message from Suzy greeting us from Tenerife in the Canary Islands. She has been there on holiday all of this week with her friends Chati and two Monica’s.  We haven’t spoken to her but have seen some photos of her looking to be having a great time. 

Suzy having a grand time with her friends in Tenerife

It must be her 3rd or 4th visit there.  The nly island I have ever been to is Gran Canaria and that was some years ago just before Christmas time. I was not very impressed. Yes the weather was good but there were too many tourists but it was all very dry and there was not much to see.  I don’t know why but the Canary Islands have never been high on my list of places to travel to.

That morning I was up early as I had to be at Yoigo for a management team breakfast starting at 9.45.  It took me nearly 1.5 hours and as I drove in the dense traffic I listened to the radio.  That morning the only news in Spain was the opening of Parliament and the vote for the parliamentary speaker.  In Spain this title is much more highfalutin: “President of Congress” (the lower house). It is the 3rd highest authority in the land and the news was that the post for the first time in history would go to a member of a party which had not won the elections; in this case the PSOE.  It was seen as a possible first step in a coalition with the winning party PP who do not have enough seats for an overall majority, together with the votes of the new centre  party Ciudadanos.  The post went to Patxi López, a famous PSOE MP from the Basque Country. His rival was Carolina Bescansa from the anti-establishment party Podemos.  She didn’t win but stole the show by taking her 6 month old baby Diego in a pram to the opening session.  She was making a statement about the work life balance but has received much criticism as she has no need to take her baby to work if there is a crèche at the Spanish Congress. 

Carolina Bescansa of the anti establishment party Podemos on the first day of Parliament with her 6 month old baby Diego who she breast fed in public.
Her story was told the world over with voices for and against.  To make a further statement she even breast fed her baby in public.  Was that really necessary?  Isn’t breast feeding something very personal and private? How can you possibly concentrate on voting in Parliament whilst you are breast-feeding I wonder?  It doesn’t seem fair to the baby. My own opinion is that she used her baby for political reasons; something I don’t think is right.  I would far prefer her to fight for longer parental leave for both men and women and that the solution to the work life balance is certainly not taking your baby to work.  How can you pay full attention to your work when your baby needs your full attention too? Enough said.

Anyway, back to my trip to Yoigo.  Here I joined my team members for a breakfast hosted by our one Swedish member Urban. He had brought along churros and also homemade cloudberry jam.  He told us cloudberries are the gold of the forests in Sweden and in Finland of course too. Cloudberries are like a yellow raspberry or blackberry but taste tart. These delicate wild berries grow in the northern hemisphere in high latitudes and can withstand up to -40c but also need the sun. That’s probably why they are not mass produced. I’m not very keen on them but my Father loves them.  Urban very kindly gave me the remains of the jar to take home for my Father who I hope is now enjoying it on his toast each morning. 
Cloud berries

If on Tuesday ISIS attacked in Turkey, on Thursday it attacked in Jakarta at a busy shopping centre.  At least 8 people died; the 4 attackers, 3 Indonesians and 1 Canadian.  Are we getting immune to this kind of terrorism which can happen at any moment in any place in the world?

Friday was a busy day.  I had a meeting in Madrid at 11 with my events agency to scour locations to find a venue for a press breakfast we will be holding at the end of the month to present the financial results for 2015.  Again I was up early but this time even before the crack of dawn at 6.22.  I decided to go for my first walk of the day and left in the cold and dark at 7.30.  The sun only rose on my return.  I got home, had a shower, did my executive look transformation and set off for Madrid. My first place of call was a café restaurant called El Perro y la Galleta.  It is unique in that it allows people to take their dogs; something practically unheard of in Madrid.  That I suppose is why the name dog (perro in Spanish) is part of its name. 
Loved this bar
I arrived early and went into the sunny bar only to be greeted by two people I hadn’t seen for many years, Alex and his wife. They are a German couple we met at Amanda and Andy’s wedding many years ago.  They have lived in Spain for 10 years and we have seen them on and off.  I must say that apart from being lovely people their professions are very high profile too.  Diana is a brain surgeon and Alex is or was until recently the CEO of a branch of Bertelsmann in Spain.  It was lovely to see them again and I wish I had taken a picture.

Soon Gloria and Julia from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, arrived.  I loved the place and sort of knew from the beginning it would be the venue we would choose. But before taking the decision we visited another 4 or 5 places.  We walked everywhere.  It was sunny of course but wow was it cold when the wind blew.  Thankfully I was wearing my Swedish fur scarf which can be turned into a hat.  We finished early so I suggested we went to have a drink at nearby Platea, a gastro centre I had heard of but had never visited.

It was superb.  We entered via the fruit and veg shop entrance where I just had to stop to buy some expensive black cherries from Chile and miniature bananas for Oli.  Here I am in my Swedish fur headscarf paying for the fruit.
Buying fruit at Platea on Friday
The shopkeeper commented that this green grocer (are they still called that in the UK?) was the most photographed in Spain.  I wasn’t surprised as the display was as good or better than any I have ever seen including Fortnum and Mason or Harrods.  The variety and origin of the produce was amazing.

Platea was once a cinema but has been turned into a huge gastro centre, unique in its kind. There are shops or stands selling the most high quality food which you can buy to eat there or take away.  The idea is to buy food from various shops, such as the Basque tapas one (pinxos in Basque) and sit down anywhere you want and be served a drink.  This is just what Gloria, Julia, Bea – who joined us later – and I did.  It was a marvelous experience and I highly recommend anyone coming to visit Madrid who is reading this, to go along and visit.  For someone like me who loves top quality food and drink, Platea was a real gastronomic discovery.
With Bea, Gloria and Julia at Platea on Friday
That night Eladio and I had dinner at La Vaca Argentina, no gastronomic discovery as we go there very often. We usually love the food there but on Friday night we were disappointed.  I don’t know what went wrong or why but the food was just not on the same level as usual.  The meat was tough, the order was wrong and part of it was served very late.  Maybe they have a new chef.  I’ll have to find out.

We went home to watch the end of Prison Break and I was disappointed with that as well.  The ending was not what I expected but no spoilers; just that I did not like the end.  It made me cry but not in a nice way.

Saturday was the best day of the week by far and the best Saturday in a long time.  We did something totally different and it was thanks to Olivia.  This week she did a TV report on the Titanic The Exhibition at the Centro Cultural de la Villa, Fernan Gómez (Plaza de Colón).  She came home enthralled telling us just how good it was.  Well I have always been fascinated with the story of the sinking of that amazing ship.  I was brought up on it, even though it happened in 1912 and I was born in 1957 but of course there were many survivors still telling their stories until the last one, possibly Eva Hart (1905-1996) who was 7 when it sank and whose story you can watch here.  As there were too few lifeboats for all those on board and priority was given to women and children in the first and second classes only she and her mother survived.

Eva Hart one of the last Titanic survivors with her parents the year they sailed.  Only Eva and her Mother survived
My grandparents of course were alive and young when it happened and it has featured in countless books and films, the most notable one being by James Cameron with Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio.  It was this film that captured the hearts of many, because of its story and music, not least our daughters, Eladio and I too, when we went to the premiere some 15 years ago.  Who doesn’t love the haunting music, “my heart will go on” or the story of Rose and Jack?  Spurred on by Olivia’s recommendation I bought two tickets for Saturday morning. Oli and Miguel, as journalists were lucky enough to get free press passes.

So off we went to Madrid together as a family outing on a lovely sunny day; quite a treat and something we don’t do often. I only wish Suzy could have been there. She would have loved it. I remember her being very affected by the film and watching the death scene of Jack in the cold sea over and over again.  

In the photo illustrating this week’s post there we are starting the Titanic experience which is possibly the only way to describe this exhibition which is highly interactive and very emotional.  I shed many tears throughout the visit although in the picture of us “boarding” I am smiling. 

I can’t begin to tell you just how good and well done it is.  It is an exhibition that is touring the world and is superbly created.  I usually hate audio guides, but these were excellent with great acoustics and and haunting descriptions; from the birth to the death of this great ship and through the telling of the stories of the lives of many of its victims and survivors.  Also on show were many objects which made the whole story come alive; some of them which had never been on exhibition before.  The recreation of the first class passageway and suites, the cabins of second and third class are perhaps the highlight of the exhibition as they are so well done.  In the picture below Oli, Eladio and I are standing in the first class passageway.
Eladio, Oli and I in the first class passageway during the exhibition
We came out 1.5h later emotionally drained, ecstatic with the visit and extremely hungry.  Guess what?  Platea is located just across the road from the Exhibition, so I took Eladio, Miguel and Oli to see it.  We went through the fruit and veg shop. It was quite busy inside but Oli and I couldn’t resist the Basque tapas. So we ate a “pinxo” each and shared 2 glasses of the most delicious Rueda white wine. 

From Platea we walked towards Calle Barquillo.  We were going to Casa Carolo for lunch.  It’s a restaurant part owned by Beatriz, a friend and we were there to try out the new menu from the new chef, Tania.  Here is Oli enjoying the moment
Oli yesterday having lunch at Casa Carolo
For me the best dish of those I tried was the “cochinillo deshuesado” (suckling roast pig with the bones removed).  It was out of this world.
This dish (cochinillo deshuesado) is a must at Casa Carolo
As we walked back to the car park in Colón Square Oli, Miguel and I went into a little shop called “Nice things”.  I didn’t mean to buy anything but couldn’t resist some flat blue suede boots.  Oli nearly bought the whole shop haha.  We came home at about 5.30 and all of us had a siesta as we were tired and sleepy from the exertions of the outing; or more like tipsy from the lovely wine at Casa Carolo.  Eladio and I woke up at ten to 7 in the evening of all times and I subjected him to more of Downton Abbey which I think he is beginning to like. 

We had actually had a light lunch at Casa Carolo, so by 8pm, Eladio and I were hungry again and had dinner.  It was yesterday that we started on our second and last Christmas ham. Here is Eladio starting to cut it with the 3 dogs drooling away at his side.
Eladio and the dogs yesterday - he's opening the new ham.
And today is Sunday and I have got to the end of the story of this week.  It has been a good one. I can’t complain.  Next week will be busy too but of course you will hear all about it next Sunday. Meanwhile, my friends and readers, I wish you all the best until then.

Cheers Masha