Saturday, February 27, 2016

TV series “The Heavy Water War”, Daddy fell, to Barcelona for this year’s Mobile World Congress (encounters with an EU member of Parliament, a Romanian beggar and women of ill repute), Roman Polanski’s film “Doubt”, the Yoigo party, Spain’s the place to live, Oli and Miguel in Paris, home again, my book of the week, off to the snow in Montrondo and other stories.

Sunday 28th February 2016

With my ex Nokia colleagues, Marc and Julio at the Yoigo party at the MWC in Barcelona this week
Hi again everyone,

I am now writing from Montrondo where it’s snowing. We have come to relax and recharge batteries, enjoy the snow and for me to wind down after an exhausting week which included this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

I left off last week on Saturday.  It was a quiet day and very sunny.  I just had to capture our lovely dogs enjoying sitting in the sun at the back of the house.
The dogs in the sun last Sunday at home
The sun always makes our walks more pleasurable, for the dogs as well of course.  Lunch was my home made lamb casserole; a bit like an Irish hot pot I think. Here is the dish:
My lamb casserole
It was on Saturday after lunch that Eladio and I started watching a new series on Netflilx.  We are suckers for 2nd World War films and started on The Heavy Water War, a six part TV series; a Norwegian/Danish/British co-production.  I mentioned it to my Father who immediately told me the Production plant called Hydro was near the village of Rjukan in rural Telemark.  He would know of course as he was in the Royal Navy in the war and took part in the liberation of Norway. The series is based on the real story in the war when Norwegian saboteurs in coordination with the British war secret services in Scotland, try to prevent the Nazis from acquiring the heavy water to develop their atom bomb.  If you like war films or series, this is one for you. I especially like the ones based on fact and not fiction.

The Heavy Water War TV series we have been watching this week
Similarly to the breaking of the Enigma Code which I mentioned in last week’s post, these actions also helped to make the war shorter and saved many people’s lives. If Hitler had made the atom bomb on time, the end of the war would have been a very different story.

On Sunday morning I was off to Barcelona for this year’s Mobile World Congress.  Oli and Miguel were coming with me but for a different reason; to see Oli’s Scout friend Laura and her new baby, 6 month old Maya.  Just as I was getting into the taxi, Eladio called to say my Father had fallen.  I was alarmed of course but as he has fallen so often and nothing much has ever happened, I wasn’t very worried until I saw the damage done.  The poor man who is 97 had fallen off the bed whilst trying to put his shirt on and hit his arm and hand badly on the bedside table.  There was a pool of blood on the floor and his arm was badly damaged with a lot of the skin destroyed.  I told Oli and Miguel to go and catch their train and that I would go later but first had to go with my Father and Eladio to the hospital. I rang the national emergency number: 112 which functioned perfectly.  Within 15 minutes the ambulance was there and my father’s huge wound bandaged for the journey.  Once at the brand new and very efficient public hospital, Juan Carlos 1 in Mósteles, my Father was seen to immediately.  It was a team from the plastic surgery unit that sewed him up.  The part without skin of course wasn’t and we shall have to wait for the skin to grow there again.  Thankfully nothing worse had happened.  Recovery will be slow with lots of visits to the hospital which will require a lot of patience.  We shall also have to be much more attentive to my Father and avoid future falls. Below is a picture of him with the nurse.  He is beaming and took the whole episode as an adventure.  He really is a wonderful old soldier, or should I say sailor as he was in the Navy hahaha.
My father being treated in hospital last Sunday
We were home by 10.30.  I immediately left for the train station and caught the 11.30 to Barcelona which would have me there by 14.40, just over 3 hours.  The truth is I caught it by the skin of my teeth and was a bundle of nerves after my Father’s fall, but thankfully I caught it. This train was stopping at 4 stations but the trains that go direct are shorter.
On the Ave high speed train to Barcelona last Sunday morning
In my carriage I spotted the Spanish ex Minister for Education with the Popular Party, Pilar del Castillo who is now a European Member of Parliament.  I looked her up on internet and was amazed to see she is 63, just 4 years older than me. I imagined she was off to the MWC too as she heads up one of the technology commissions in the EU
Pilar del Castillo, the European Member of Parliament I had the pleasure to meet on the train on Sunday
She looks a lot younger than 63.  I also thought she looked a bit like me.  I didn’t think I’d get the chance to talk to her but I did, thanks to a fellow passenger, my ex-boss at Nokia, Félix. We bumped into each other on the train and went to talk in the corridor.  I mentioned Pilar del Castillo was on the train and then suddenly she was coming towards us.  He said hello to her; although he doesn’t know her! His excuse was he had seen her at the Spanish telecoms annual event in Santander - he would later confess they had never been introduced -   So we got talking and she confessed to me that she was going into the loo to put her make-up on in time for her first meeting in Barcelona.  It was very much a woman to woman comment which I liked. Later as I was waiting by the door with my luggage for the train to pull into Barcelona, she was there too and we got talking about Brussels and the terrorist attacks. I just had time to ask her a burning question; her thoughts or rather the Spanish government’s position on Brexit.  She said it was firmly for the UK to stay in the EU.  Then off she went to find the car that had come to pick her up.  My ex-boss also had a car coming for him.  There were plenty of private black Mercedes hired cars in Barcelona at the MWC. Being pretty low down in the congress pecking order, I, of course, had to take a taxi.  Taxi drivers are great sources of information and this one told me two interesting facts; 1) the date of the MWC is fixed according to the date of the Chinese New Year and 2) the drivers of the hired cars are nearly all Spanish English speaking University students who are paid 3.000 euros for one week’s work!

You might be interested to know what was on show this year.  Well I can tell you it was mostly about 5G, virtual reality and self-driving cars. I was much more interested in the figures for this year’s event.  For the first time in its 29 year history, the 100.000 visitor mark was reached.  They came from 204 countries; 5.000 of them were CEOs and only 21% were women. Not for nothing do I call the fair “men in black”.  2.200 companies showed their wares in 1.100 square metres.  It is held at a huge venue on the outskirts of the city and is just so big you walk miles and miles.  My fitbit nearly burst after the first morning! The congress, the biggest of its type in the world, generated 460 million euros to the local economy and created some 13.000 part time jobs, like the student drivers I mentioned.  Yeah it was huge as always and rather chaotic.  Part of the chaos was due to the public transport strikes as well as local demonstrations.

I made my way to Agua, a restaurant by the Barceloneta where Oli and Miguel were waiting for me for lunch.  Afterwards we took a taxi to my hotel, The Gallery just off the Paseo de Gracia, for me to check in.  Whilst Oli and Miguel went for a walk, I settled in, making sure my internet connection was up and working before I unpacked.  At about 6 I walked to Plaza Cataluña to meet up with them and on my way was happy and surprised to see a registration booth where I could pick up my MWC badge which I did there and then, so as to avoid the long queue the next day at the congress venue.
The MWC badge collection point on Paseo de Gracia last Sunday
The whole city seemed to revolve around the MWC delegates.  There was signage and publicity about it everywhere and hoards of Chinese.  Everywhere we went was full of MWC delegates but fortunately we found a quiet place for dinner called Gaig. 
It was great to coincide with Oli in Barcelona this week
Once back at my hotel my idea was to go straight to sleep but I got caught up watching a film called Doubt.  It’s directed by Roman Polanski and based on the Pulitzer prize winning play of the same name by John Patrick Shanley.  It stars Meryl Streep as the forbidding Sister Aloysius head of a catholic school in the Bronx (NY) in 1964. The head, a formidable and rather frightening figure, has doubts about the kind actions of the Irish school and parish priest, the jolly Father Flynn, who she suspects of child abuse.  You want to think he is innocent and he most probably is but the audience is left forever with the doubt, a subject Father Flynn talks about in his Sunday sermon in the school church in the opening scenes of the film. I whatsapped Eladio to tell him it was on, knowing that he would like it too.  It was just our sort of film.
Doubt, my film of the week
Monday was my big day, the day of the Yoigo party but I also had work to do; mostly preparing the press release we would be sending on Wednesday. I was up quite early even though I had gone to sleep at 2 in the morning watching the film.  I ordered breakfast in bed which I nearly always do when staying at hotels.
When I am staying at a hotel there is nothing I like better than breakfast in bed
As soon as I was ready, off I went to the Congress.  I was to meet my friend and ex colleague Julio and as usual we would visit the fair together.  As I queued up to go in, I bumped into my colleagues from Yoigo, Maryvonne, Manolo and María.  I thought it was the perfect time for a selfie.
A selfie with colleagues in the queue to enter the MWC
When I finally found Julio – no easy task at this enormous venue – we visited the Nokia stand. It’s always my first stop at the MWC.  Here we met old colleagues that brought to mind the old Nokia adage: “Connecting People and Reuniting Colleagues”.  Here we are with Paloma on the stand.
With Julio and Paloma my ex colleagues from my Nokia days.  Always a delight to meet up at the Nokia stand at the MWC
It was on the Nokia stand that I had a bit of a shock. Whilst I was talking to colleagues someone suddenly pushed me physically to one side.  I wasn’t quite sure what was happening until I looked up only to see the new Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Calao, smiling.  I was pushed aside by her bodyguard so that she and a Minister and the whole entourage could pass.  I just could not believe what was happening.  I mean Ada Calao, the hailer of a new age of politics, where we are all supposedly equal, just showed me that she is no different to the politicians she herself despises.  I am sure she didn’t see what happened and would have been appalled.  Even so, she should be careful about the bubble she is now living in.  I tweeted her to tell her about the episode and I have yet to receive an answer. 

I spent the afternoon in my room working. I had set up a veritable office there.  But it was time to stop in the late afternoon and also time, believe it or not, for a sauna.  Not many hotels have them in Spain but the Gallery does. My love of the sauna comes from my many trips to Finland when I worked for Nokia and also latterly to Sweden in my current job for meetings with Yoigo's mother company, the Nordic and Baltic Operator, TeliaSonera.
There is nothing more relaxing and healing than a sauna
Soon it was time to get all dolled up for the Yoigo party. It was starting at 9 and was to be held at a very fashionable bar called Chez Coco.  When I had visited it in November I fell in love with the place.  I was told the Barça football club had staged an event there and I thought well if they could so could Yoigo.  The theme for the night was magic and the party was absolute magic too.  We had a fantastic turnout, including quite a few of the 5000 CEOs at the congress. Even the TeliaSonera CEO, JD came too.  There were many things to do apart from drink mojitos and eat. We had a palm reader, Francisco Rodriguez who is apparently an eminence in his field.  He read mine and nailed me.  Oli later said it was because I lead him on but I was very interested to hear from him that I still had to develop the creative side he read on my palm.  Could that possibly refer to the book I want to write when I retire? 

There were many magicians performing their tricks and they were marvelous.  God knows how they were able to pull a card out of my phone! We even had a tarot card reader and she had some interesting things to tell me too; such as that I would have a very long life and that when I retired I would have many projects to work on and would remain close to the sector I work in.

But best of all was seeing so many people I know.  There must have been over 250 and the place was packed.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time.  You can see some of the photos here.

The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me with 2 ex Nokia colleagues I am very fond of; Marc and Julio.

Normally I do a disappearing trick at around midnight, a bit like Cinderella as I don’t usually enjoy my own parties but the party at Chez Coco was so magical, I enjoyed every minute. So when it finished at 2 in the morning I joined the revelers who were off to a place called Opium by the beach they told me.  I was to regret the decision as soon as I got there as it turned out to be a huge discotheque which was very noisy and packed. I felt as if half the MWC delegates were there too.  As soon as I stepped in, I went straight to the loo and couldn’t believe it when I saw 3 scantily dressed girls.  They were talking in English and so I realized immediately from their conversation that they were “women of ill repute”, a phrase I have chosen to use instead of the word beginning with “p”.  I was a bit shocked really and it was there and then I felt as if I had been brought to hell and just had to make my escape.  A Moroccan taxi driver took me home and told me terrible stories about the place; mostly that foreigners often left it crying their eyes out after having been robbed.  I checked my bag immediately and was happy to find my wallet was still there.  No, discotheques like Opium are not for me.  I later heard my entourage had stayed up till 8 in the morning in that infernal place!
The Opium discotheque in Barcelona. It felt like being in hell!
Thanks to the mojitos I went to bed with a headache. It must have been 3 in the morning and I was dead.  On Tuesday morning I awoke at 8 and tried to get back to sleep but I couldn’t.  I realized then, whilst ordering breakfast in bed again, that I had lost my voice. That was thanks to all the talking against loud music; something which always happens to me.

As usual I read the news whilst having breakfast.  My attention was caught by a headline in one of the online newspapers saying that “Spain’s the place to live”.  Well I already know that.  The story was that Spanish is the happiest language in the world and that Spaniards are the people who are most in love.  It seems Spanish people sent more love related messages on internet than any other region, ahead of France, Italy and Japan.  As to the language it was found that it is the happiest and most positive from a study of the words used on internet.  Portuguese came second and English came third. Now wasn’t that a positive story to read?

It was to be a positive day too but not completely as you will read shortly.  Again the sun was shining and as soon as I was ready I made my way down Paseo de Gracia to Plaza Cataluña where I was to meet up with Oli, Miguel, Laura and little Maya.  When I got to the square and was going past the impressive Apple store I saw a wizened old lady bent nearly double begging for money.  My heart went out to her and I gave her a 10 euro note.  I tried to talk to her and she told me she was very poor.  I hated the contrast of the luxury of the Apple store and the congress and this poor old lady who should not be on the street but be cared for and not begging in the centre of the city.  There and then I rang the emergency services 112.  As I rang, she began to disappear.  112 told me to ring social services which I did but then I saw three policemen so hung up and decided to talk to them.  Meanwhile the old lady, no longer bent over, had disappeared down the metro steps.  The police told me there was nothing they could do; that this lady was probably controlled by the Rumanian mafia; possibly by her own family.  They said there were places to go where she could find shelter and food but it was voluntary so they can’t make people go there.  I was very shocked and actually cried a few tears.  If she had been a minor, she would have been taken away and looked after by social services.  I sincerely think this should be applied to old people too.  So all I could do was walk away and continue life in beautiful Barcelona which I am afraid, like all big cities, has unfortunate destitute people like the wizened old lady I found that morning in the heart of the city. 

I spent the day with Oli, Miguel, Laura and little Maya.  In the afternoon we took the latter shopping.  She is only 6 months old and this would be one of her first girly visits to Zara. Oli and I wanted to buy some clothes for her as a present.  I just loved the range of kids’ clothing at Zara.  Here we are outside with little Maya, who by the way, behaved perfectly the whole day.
Maya's first girly shopping expedition

That night was our annual team dinner at the MWC.  It’s the night my PR team from Ketchum and events team from QuintaEsencia get together in Barcelona for dinner together.  This year we went to a lovely place called Chapeau.
Team dinner at the MWC
We ended our evening in heaven as opposed to hell at Opium. This time the choice was mine and we went to the Hotel Casa Fuster, a favourite with Woody Allen.  He has played jazz in the lounge we drank our cocktails and one of the scenes from his film about Barcelona with Penelope Cruz was filmed in that very lounge.  It’s a lovely place.
Hotel Casa Fuster - paradise vs hell at the Opium discotheque
On Wednesday morning I was leaving to go home.  My train was at midday.  Oli and Miguel were continuing their holiday and were off to Paris probably to celebrate their romance.  Oli has been a few times before but Miguel had never been. I was half hoping he would come out with an engagement ring on the Eiffel Tower but so far I have heard nothing.  I sigh as I write that young people today are just not into weddings.
Miguel and Oli on their way to Paris on Wednesday
I was home in the afternoon and actually felt whacked.  We had sent out a press release that morning about the expansion of our 4G network in Catalonia and it was getting quite a lot of press. 

It was on Wednesday evening that I downloaded a new book on my kindle, “Behind closed doors”, a debut novel by B.A. Paris.  It’s a gripping thriller about a perfect or maybe not so perfect marriage. I couldn’t put it down but had to unwillingly for dinner with Eladio.  Dinner was a very frugal affair after all the meals in Barcelona.  
My book of the week was this gripping thriller
That night I wasn’t watching Netflix as Iker Casillas, the Spanish football legend of the Spanish team and Real Madrid fame – now the goalkeeper for Oporto -  was being interviewed in a popular programme by Bertin Osborne.  He had been unfairly dismissed from Real Madrid, probably after falling out with “the special one”, the dear or not so dear Mourinho and I and all the other spectators were interested to hear his version. I was equally interested to hear about his beginnings and how at the age of 16 he was suddenly summoned from school to join the main team and travel to Norway for a match.  His story is quite amazing as he comes from a very humble background in the working class area of Móstoles on the outskirts of Madrid.

Thursday finally came, the day Eladio and I were going to Montrondo.  I was dying to go and see the snow and wind down and relax after two months away and the busy week I had had what with the trip to Barcelona etc. 

As usual we stopped at Rueda on the way and had our traditional glass of local wine and a plate of ham.
Pit stop at Rueda
The ham was so good we decided to buy one.  The staff at the Palacio de Bornos are very hospitable and even offered to remove the main bone, which makes it much easier to slice afterwards.
The bone being removed from the ham we bought at Palacio de Bornos in Rueda on our way to Montrondo
Later we stopped at the pretty little village of Pandorado for lunch at Casa Yordas; although we weren’t very hungry.  We arrived in Montrondo at around 4 to find there was not much snow left after the big snow fall some 10 days ago. But we knew there would be more snow as it was forecast for many parts of Spain including León. After putting everything away and settling in, I sat down to finish reading “Behind closed doors” and there and then on the sofa with Pippa by the fire, I fell asleep from 5 till 7.30. I must have been exhausted.  It was already getting dark but we needed a walk so off we went to Murias and back.

Meanwhile Oli and Miguel were exploring Paris.  They were staying near Pigalle, the old red light district and posted this lovely photo by the Moulin Rouge, a must if you are visiting Paris as a tourist.
Miguel and Oli by the Moulin Rouge on Thursday night in Paris
On Friday Pippa and I were up at 06.50.  It was snowing at last and I was delighted.  In fact it snowed for most of the day and quickly settled.
Snow on Friday morning was very welcome
I made cocido for lunch that day and whilst it boiled I went to pay a visit and have a coffee with my neighbour Salo.

Oli and Miguel meanwhile were further exploring Paris.  I suppose their first destination was the Eiffel Tower.  I heard no news of an engagement ring but got this jumping photo of the two of them by the most famous monument in the world.
Miguel and Oli in a jumping picture by the Eiffel Tower on Friday
Apart from visiting Salo, I worked most of the morning.  There was yet another rumour in the press about Yoigo being sold by its mother company.  There have been rumours ever since I started working with the company back in 2006.  I usually don’t take much notice of them but you never know.

I also took the time on Thursday morning to buy a ticket to go and see Suzy in London in March to spend a few days with her whilst she is in between jobs.  I can’t wait to have some quality time with her there in her new house, especially as she will be free when I go and see her.  I shall be working on a detailed programme soon.  Watch this space!

Lunch was delicious.  Cocido is the perfect winter dish.
The cocido I made for lunch on Friday
Just an hour or so after lunch we went for a walk to Senra and back with Salo, Manolita, Josefa and Marisa.  Pippa explored the snow for the first time, even trying to eat it hahaha
Pippa getting acquainted with the snow in Montrondo on Friday
For the walk, she needed her coat which is a little too big for her but hopefully keeps her warm. The village looked beautiful covered in snow.
The view of the snow covered village on our walk to Murias yesterday
Later the women all joined for coffee at Salo’s house.  I was home to make dinner quite early and Eladio fancied a Spanish tortilla (eggs, potatoes and onion).  It was delicious or is it perhaps that food tastes better in the mountain air. 

Just as we were starting on our dinner, we had great family news.  My sister-in-law Dolores sent a message to say little Lucas had been born to her daughter Sara.  I still haven’t seen a photo and only know that Lucas weighed just over 3 kilos and that Mother and baby are fine; well as fine as you can be straight after giving birth.  Hearty congratulations to Sara and her family.

It was Oli and Miguel’s last night in Paris and they went to the Pont Neuf where lovers and people who have just married hang a padlock on the bridge in sign of locking their love.  Like others before them, my daughter and her boyfriend, followed suit and hung theirs up; which you can see in the photo below.
Oli and Miguel's padlock on Pont Neuf
After dinner we finished watching The Heavy Water War and then I fell asleep so we went to bed early.

And today is Saturday and I was awake again at 06.50.  It had snowed all night and the snow was very deep. I was delighted. 

The thick snow this morning after it had snowed all night.
However it was rather windy and the “torba” (a Montrondo word for blustery wind) appeared, making it rather difficult to venture outside.  But then the sun came out and the flurries were lighter so I went out with Pippa.  I had a grand time taking photos like the ones below.

Some photos I took this morning of the snow. 
And now I think I will publish this week's post and get on with enjoying the snow  rather than writing about it haha.  

With a heavy heart we shall be leaving tomorrow, unless of course my dream comes true and we get stuck here because of the snow.  

So I will leave you now to go and make our lunch (good old fish and chips) and you will hear from me again next week.

Cheers to you all meantime and I hope you have enjoyed this week's tales.

All the best/Masha


David whitlam said...

Masha, I got your blog from Michael Forte, a recently reacquired BGS friend. Your dad taught me Russian in 1976-78 and he sent me to Tony Stokes at Univ Oxford. I subsequently lived in St Petersburg. Your dad was the greatest influence on my entire academic life and I'd be grateful if you could tell him a huge привет from Whitlam, whom he referred to as 'the phenomenon', which resulted in much teasing, I can tell you!! I hope he's feeling better after his fall. Saludos from SW4, Clapham Common !

Masha Lloyd said...

Oh my goodness, how lovely to get your comment. I remember Tony Stokes very well and his Russian wife, it was Tanya wasn't it. I used to babysit for their child at the Russian Norwich courses. My Father will be very happy to read this. Do please write to him via me: my email is Thanks so much. This will be the highlight of his day.