Sunday, November 27, 2016

A rainy week, what a difference a few kilos makes, mentoring session, Thanksgiving and Black Friday, goodbye Fidel Castro, becoming an Airbnb host and other stories.

Sunday 27th November 2016

8 kilos down and 3 to go.  What a difference a few kilos makes.
Good morning everyone,

It's been a cold and rainy week but that's November for you and I can tell you it's not my favourite month.  I far prefer the spring and the summer but on the bright side Christmas is coming soon and I adore it.  Suzy will be here on 17th December and I can't wait for our family to be complete to enjoy and celebrate  the festive season together.

When I left off last Sunday it was raining too, perhaps fitting weather for the 41st anniversary of the death of Spain's ex dictator, Francisco Franco.  It was hardly mentioned here and only a few die hard fascists would honour the day.  I can imagine a small group of elderly fanatics visiting his grave at the Escorial cathedral he ordered to be built under a rock by republican prisoners after the Spanish Civil War, a fascist monument built by blood. 

Oli was home for lunch.  It rained so much in the afternoon I had to skip my walk. Instead we did a lovely Sunday afternoon type of activity, watching a film with a blanket on.  Our choice from Netflix was a film called "Searching for Bobby Fischer".  I loved it although I suspect Oli wasn't quite as interested as she seemed to spend more time watching the screen of her phone than the TV.   
The film Oli and I watched last Sunday afternoon
It is about a child chess playing prodigy who could well be the next Bobby Fischer except that he refuses to emulate the American champion's winning and aggressive character.  It is a very compelling story and I am a sucker for this sort of genre, especially tucked under a warm blanket on a Sunday afternoon. 

That night Eladio and I finished watching the Peaky Blinders series and now we are immersed in The Good Wife.  
The latest series we are watching on Netflix.
It's an American legal series, not quite our favourite genre but it's quite entertaining and wonderful for helping me fall asleep. 

Monday brought good news on the scales.  I had lost 1.2 kilos since the Monday before. That makes a total loss of 8 kilos in 7 weeks.  You can follow my progress in the photo illustrating this week's blog. There I am wearing a blue and white striped dress I bought in Stockholm quite a few years ago.  Well, you know I love stripes. Every week I try on the clothes I didn't fit into before and there are more and more of them which is a great boost in morale. So, no need to buy anything new yet but you bet I will when I reach my target weight.  I have 3 kilos to go or hopefully a couple more but we'll see. The worst thing is that Christmas is looming and it's difficult to be on a diet at Christmas.  I shall break it but only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Or that's the idea at least. Keeping my fingers crossed. 

Tuesday was the quietest day of the week.  The weather was miserable. I was all dressed up to go to a meeting when it was suddenly cancelled. There is nothing more frustrating than that. So I down dressed, braved the weather and went on a wet walk. 

Wednesday started off quietly.  There I was having breakfast early in the morning, reading the news on my iPad with the dogs in their beds. I just had to have a picture of them and called it, "let sleeping dogs lie".  However, as soon as Eladio came into the kitchen, as always happens, they jumped out to greet him and stood at his legs while he prepared his breakfast, hoping for some crumbs. Oh how I love our dogs.
"Let sleeping dogs lie".
Don't you just love how little Pippa is curled up next to Elsa our Labrador?

The big news that day in Spain was the sudden death of the larger than life Spanish politician, Rita Barberá, the ex mayoress of Valencia.  She was in the middle of a corruption scandal and had been appearing in court the day before when the next morning she died of a heart attack in her hotel room in Madrid. Aged just 68 she was not a healthy looking woman and I can only suspect that the tension of the court case and media hassling were big contributory factors to her death. 
Rita Barberá, one of Spain's most famous politicians and embroiled in various cases of corruption, died of a heart attack on Wednesday this week. 
I was no fan of the woman but many were, especially in her home town Valencia.  So all I can say is RIP.  You will be remembered for sure. Ironically I could add she will now have no more need for any of the luxury handbags she was accused of receiving as bribes from town hall suppliers. 

It was on Wednesday that I gave my first mentoring session ever.  Mentoring is very much in fasion as is coaching in the corporate world and I was keen to give it a try. I had agreed to give an initial 3 sessions, each lasting an hour or hour and a half, in the next few months with L, a marketing and communications manager who works for a company in the medical and dental industry.  
In case you didn't know it, this is the definition of mentoring
She was a bundle of fun and a great person to mentor to.  Talking to her and giving her some of my experience and tips, I realised how the same sort of issues come up in most companies in the corporate world.  We all have difficulties with certain people and the corporate office is much like a classroom. There are the popular people, the quiet people, the loud people, the jealous people, the drab people and yes the bullies. Bullies are everywhere as I know from my own experience and from what my "mentee" or protégé told me during the session.  I really hope my mentoring will guide her to find her place in the corporate world which I told her is often like a battle field and it is. Later I got some very positive feedback from the company about the session and I look forward to the next one. Perhaps this is something I can explore more. It was right up my street and I have plenty of advice and experience to share with younger executives.

Thursday was Thanksgiving in America. We do not celebrate it here yet and I hope we never will.  It is the biggest festive holiday in the USA although this year it will have been tinged by the tension of the outcome of the recent elections.  Americans don't get as much paid holiday as the rest of the world and in the 4 days off to celebrate Thanksgiving, the whole country seemed to be on the move to gather with their families. I was amused to see a photo shared by my friend Sandra of a gigantic traffic jam in Los Angeles. That can't have been fun.
Traffic in Los Angeles because of Thanksgiving
I have always heard that Thanksgiving is more important in the US than Christmas which is our big holiday.  Funnily enough though there is a smaller equivalent, at least in the UK, which I well remember celebrating as a child. It was called "Harvest Festival" and we used to take food, mainly vegetables, to the church or do special projects at school. I have a feeling it has fizzled out now. Hopefully it won't be replaced any time soon by the bigger American version.  After all we eat our turkey at Christmas and not for Harvest Festival.  

On the subject of Christmas, I have been busy this week organising a reunion Christmas dinner for my ex-Nokia colleagues.  It's going to be at one of my favourite places, La Vaca Argentina in the middle of December.  The Christmas menu is very inviting but that night I shall stick to protein and vegetables if I don't want to break my diet.  To animate the party, I have been thinking of activities and games for the event.  They are already in the planning and now all I have to do is write down the instructions for the guests and take along the things needed to play.  I hope they like what I have planned.  

That day Oli had good news. Her programme, "Mi Cámara y Yo", moved its production offices to the HQ of Telemadrid in Boadilla at the area called Ciudad de la Imagen. It moved from "Callao" in the middle of the city where it was impossible to park and the office was too small for the team. Oli is delighted as it nearer her home (and ours) and she will be able to go by car.  
The Telemadrid HQ, Oli's new workplace since this Thursday
On the plus side she will be working at the TV station's headquarters with all the advantages that offers.  Her next programme will be about special things to do at Christmas.  I wonder what she has in store for us. 

Meanwhile in London on Thursday, Suzy had a very special visitor, Sandeep who is one of Oli's greatest Erasmus friends. He is Indian but lives and works in the UK in Devon and has recently acquired British nationality That day he was passing through London and would be spending one night there before travelling to Delhi on Friday morning to spend a holiday with his family and friends. 
Sandeep with Suzy in London on Thursday night.
Suzy would later tell me they had a great night out together.  I would love to see Sandeep and Sumit again soon and hope they can come and visit us in Spain in the not too distant future.  

Friday was "Black Friday", another American invention.  It is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving and the black refers to making money by the retail trade.  Don't ask me how but over time, we in Europe and in many other parts of the world, have adopted first St. Valentine's Day, then Halloween and now Black Friday. I really do hope we never ever adopt Thanksgiving (see above).  Black Friday for me is just one big commercial invasion I do not want.  I am not one for joining huge queues in a rush and fight to get products at a supposed discount.  
A typical image of Black Friday. Fighting to shop is not my thing.
I think it is shopping for shopping's sake and prefer to buy things I need as and when I want, not prompted or provoked into doing so thanks to campaigns like Black Friday. On Monday we shall have Cyber Monday for electronic goods and I shall pass on that one too.  

The weather got worse on Friday but I was delighted to see it had snowed in Montrondo.  Manolita, who lives there, posted this picture of the village. 
Snow in Montrondo on Friday
She later wrote that she did so to make us jealous but that she herself is not a great fan of snow. Hahaha. To quote a friend of mine, Vicente, it was not Black Friday in Montrondo that day but White Friday.  I loved the comment and just had to add it here. Thanks my friend for the idea. 

Saturday came and brought with it the news of the death of the Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro aged 90. That was a surprise but I suppose it had to come one day. The former president and leader of the communist revolution passed away at 03.29 GMT.  He ruled the country with an iron rod for nearly 50 years until his brother Raúl took over in 2008. 
Goodbye Fidel Castro who died early on Saturday morning.
His party was a one government one and he suppressed any opposition with a vengeance.  I wonder if things will change after his death and hope they will for the better. His supporters, the mainstream of the country, who have been brain washed to support him as their sort of semi spiritual leader and as the hero who "gave Cuba back to the people", will mourn him for days and weeks to come. I wonder if it will be the end of Castro's Cuba.  This week we received our tourist visas to Cuba for our trip at the end of December and I suppose we shall find out then. I imagine things will stay the same as I can't see Trump and Raúl Castro seeing eye to eye and the election of the former may put an end to the truce that Obama set in motion in 2014. As I always say in events like this, only time will tell. By the way you can read the BBC's obituary here which very succinctly describes this most curious man and his life. 

But it was the story of a death much nearer home that shook me to the core yesterday morning.  I heard from my friend Grainne that a school friend was having her darkest hour after her youngest son, a doctor aged 28, took his own life on Friday.  That Friday for my friend E. was not just black but bleak and tragic.  It is the worst tragedy any Mother can ever suffer.  I can't even begin to understand or imagine how she must be feeling.  My thoughts are with her.  May God and her friends and family comfort her in her darkest hour.  
Later on that morning Eladio and I spoke to Suzy via the new whatsapp video call service.  It's new and the first time I have used it.  I wonder how its use will affect the amount of people using Skype. I felt so happy to be talking to her in contrast to the news I had just had.  
Our video call with Suzy on Saturday morning
Suzy was having a lazy "chillax" Saturday morning at her flat in Haggerston, Hackney in North London.  It was nice to see that since my last visit there in August, the girls had made some decoration improvements in the lounge.  It was lovely to talk to her but I long to see her for real which will be in just under a month's time from now. Can't wait Suzy Puzy.  Love you.
Oli and Miguel came to lunch yesterday after a session of swimming at the club they go to. I hadn't seen my younger daughter for a week and was missing her company. Later we spent some quality time together with Pippa of course who Olivia adores as much as I do.
Oli happy to be at home in her bedroom with little Pippa
I did something rather daring not long ago and it brought its first fruits yesterday afternoon.  We are rattling in our huge house since the girls left and after having redecorated both Suzy's empty room and a guest room I thought I might have a go at being an Airbnb host.  I did two adverts, one for each room. This is the ad for Suzy's room which you can see here.
Suzy's room which I have advertised on Airbnb
And this is the advert for our other guest room which I call the "green room".
The green room which is now available on Airbnb
My target are the parents of the students who attend the local private University, "Universidad Europea de Madrid" where, by the way, Oli studied.  You see there are no hotels around here so I thought it might be an opportunity. Many of them come from abroad like the French couple, parents of a physiotherapist student at the University, who will be our first guests.  Yes, they booked the green room on Saturday.  Am I mad?  Well, no actually, it's a great way to earn a bit of extra money and the way to go.  I am told "everyone" is doing it.  I'm not sure about that but we'll see.  Again, time will tell.  
And today is Sunday, blog day and time to publish this post.  It is wet outside but not actually raining so after posting this week's blog, I shall be out on my walk listening to British hymns thanks to Spotify (yes keeping up with the times) on my bluetooth cordless headphones.

So, let me love you and leave you until next Sunday.

Have a good week my friends and readers,

Cheers till next time

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