Saturday, January 28, 2017

Golubtsy, a new CV, Congratulations Suzy on your new job, a brave new world as a freelance communications consultant, Theresa May meets Donald Trump, dinner with Pedro Delgado and other stories.

Sunday 29th January 2016
In one of Oli's minuscule dresses this week.
Hi everyone,

How has your week been? Mine has been what is now casually called a "game changer", I should add, in my professional life.  However I'll come to that later.

On Sunday last we had guests for lunch.  As Zena, our Ukranian weekend carer was here, I asked her to make one of our favourite Russian/Ukranian dishes, one my Mother used to make. It's stuffed cabbage and called "golubtsy" and is quite fiddly to make.  She par boiled the cabbage leaves and then stuffed them with rice, mince meat and onion and cooked them on the stove.  She made a delicious sauce to accompany them but that I didn't try as it looked full of calories.
Golubtsy, one of our favourite Russian dishes.
Our guests were Eladio's beloved brother (the next one down of the 5 siblings after my husband), Toño and his wife, Dolores.  We hadn't seen each other since we left Cuba and there was lots to catch up on.  Cuba is still in my mind as it was such a great trip for many reasons.  And this week, Claudia, Toño and Dolores' new daughter-in-law, sent me some of the photos of their wedding, the reason for our trip.

I particularly like these two, one a group photo and one of  me madly dancing with my nephew Miguel's lovely Cuban bride.
A group photo at Claudia and Miguel's wedding in Cuba this month
Me madly dancing with Claudia, the bride at the Cuban wedding this month
So of course we talked about the wedding and our time in Castro's Cuba. They also got to learn first hand about my losing my job.  Later in the afternoon we took all 4 dogs for a lovely sunny but chilly walk.  

Monday was back to work. That sounds funny doesn't it.  But really my job is to find a job or jobs now.  One of the important tools to do so was to update my CV or rather revamp it. One has to keep up with the times and mine had a format which I used 10 years ago.  Yep, it was time to change it. For this I visited Microsoft last week where my ex colleague Juana kindly helped me. By Monday morning the English version was ready.  This is what it looks like, at least the first part of it. I'm really happy with it. Now I have to translate it into Spanish.

My new CV which I'm very happy with.
I commented to Juana that day, after she had made some minor corrections to the format, that maybe I wouldn't need it as I had 2 freelance jobs in the pipeline.  One was with an American company based in Florida who want me to do the PR for the European launch and sale of their mobile phones and tablets. I had a con call that afternoon after which I wrote a launch plan to send to my new "client". Doesn't that sound grand haha?  I wasn't sure they would like it but later I would hear they did.  

Tuesday was a busy day as all days seem to be at the moment.  It's funny but I am busier now than when I was working. That, of course, is because I had been gradually relieved of all my functions. I far prefer to be a busy bee I can tell you. That morning I was to meet a friend and ex colleague from the sector who is also unemployed like me.  He is working hard to become self employed too and I wish him lots of luck. We met at Centro Oeste shopping centre and I am pleased to tell you that despite the temptation to go into Zara and the likes, I refrained from doing so.  Until I earn some money from my new clients, I won't spend a penny on clothes.  That's not quite true actually as my birthday is coming up and what do I want for my birthday? Well clothes of course for my new figure hahaha. 

There was breaking news on  Monday in the UK.  The High Court had ruled that Parliament must vote before the Government can trigger Brexit.  What was not so good is that this didn't include the parliaments of Scotland, Wales or Ireland, the  most interested parties.  

The best news of the day for me came from England too but it was personal news. My dear darling daughter Suzy who went to London to find her fortune as a nutritionist and dietitian nearly 4 years ago, has finally landed a job with the NHS. Rather, she has her foot in the door.  She will be starting on 6th February as a locum community dietitian for the North East NHS Trust Foundation and the job sounds exciting, much more so than her current one with Pronokal; plus the pay is a lot better.  Well done darling, congratulations, we are so proud of you. 

Wednesday was the day the new US President, the clown, Trump, announced officially he will build the wall with Mexico, his main campaign message. His plans are to add a 2000 mile barrier to the wall already existing.  He also insists Mexico is going to pay for it which I very much doubt will happen.  Oh how I hate this man.  I hate walls between countries and this is one dreadful example. Later the Mayor of Berlin warned him against it whilst the Prime Minister of Israel told him it was the way to go. Well, it isn't.
A sad sight, part of the existing barrier between the US and Mexico. 
No doubt this is one of the subjects Theresa May would touch upon in her visit to the US. this week. She would be the first world leader to meet the newly elected President. The Times said that "bullish May will tell Trump they will lead the world together". If only Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan could lift their heads to see this new "special relationship".  It's beyond belief. 

On Wednesday I had my first meeting with my first "client".  For the occasion Olivia lent me one of her dresses.  I don't have new clothes but full access to her wardrobe which is nearly the same haha.  I wore the one in the photo illustrating this week's post.  It looked minuscule and I was amazed that I got into it. Well, that's the new me I suppose hahaha. Eladio was impressed with me in the dress with my new figure so took photos from the front and from behind. This is it from behind. 
Looking good from the back too hahaha
We met at the lovely English tea room, Living in London. We discussed their communications needs and it seems I will now have to explore the avenue of "tailored customer communication" as this is b2b business on a 121 level.  This is when I realised that in order to take on two freelance jobs I would have to become self-employed.  For me this will be a  brave new world from a professional stand point  as all my life I have been employed in the corporate world with all my needs covered.  I will be my own boss, a "freelance communications consultant"  but will it work out?  Will I have enough clients?  How the hell will I go about becoming one?  I spent some of Wednesday afternoon surfing the web on how to do it without renouncing my unemployment benefit. I came to the conclusion I needed a professional accountant's help.  But who to choose, how much do they cost, etc?  Oh my goodness, then a light lit up and I remembered my best friend Julio is self employed and spoke to him and now I shall be seeing his accountant of whom he spoke highly.  Wow I am on a learning curve here and beginning a new professional life. That night I spoke to my client in Florida and we clinched a deal for me to work for them for a monthly fee.  So of course I have to become self employed and must go about it as soon as possible.  Wish me luck. 

Both Suzy and I are embarking on a new phase in our professional life.  That's why this week has been a "game changer" as I said at the beginning. We spoke on the phone both on Tuesday and Wednesday night. That's news as all our communication is usually via whatsapp. Suzy was bubbling with joy.  As we were on the phone, she told us her flat mate, Anita, was making a special cake for their Argentinian friend Vicky's birthday celebration. It was to be themed on Game of Thrones. I asked for a photo of the two of them with the cake and this is what I got.
Suzy and Antia and The Game of Thrones cake
On Thursday I had a lunch appointment with a former colleague from our Motorola Days, Carlos C.  When we worked together he was just starting his career.  He is blonde and blue eyed and from Bañares in Alicante.  Once many years ago on a trip to Amsterdam for the Champions League final, an air hostess confused us as Mother and son.  It has been a standing joke since then and he always calls me "Mum" hahaha. I hadn't seen him for a long time and he has grown into a delightful man, now married and the proud father of 3 children. We come from way back and he knows a lot about the sector so we practically talked shop throughout the lunch which he insisted on paying for.  We went to La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo, one of favourites.  We had such a good time I forgot to take a photo. 

I found out later that that very morning Yoigo was holding its first press conference without me.  The event organisers, my darling girls Cris, Bea and Gloria sent me a message to say how they missed me. I heard there had been a lot of cost cutting with the event itself and that there wasn't even a screen to see the presentation on.  They were launching a new convergent offer and I was horrified to hear the "small print"; no tethering, no You Tube streaming.  So obviously they got some pretty negative headlines.  The next day they rectified but from a PR point of view it was a little late as the damage was done.  What else can I say other than that it wouldn't have happened in my day:-(

On Friday morning I woke up to the news that the programme I featured in in 2015 as Yoigo's Comms director had been aired yet again the night before.  It was like another stab in the back as I got so many positive and congratulatory messages and I had to tell everyone that I "no longer form part of the company".  It was very ironic and something I could have done without if I want to put the recent past behind me. 
Just some of the lovely messages from anonymous people who saw me in the Spanish version of Undercover Boss for Yoigo on Thursday night.
Those were the thoughts on my mind as I answered anonymous people on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and my blog on my way into Madrid.  You see that morning my journey towards a "brave new world" was starting as I was going to see Paco B, my new accountant or a "fiscal advisor" as it is called here.  I would need a good accountant on my journey to become self employed and capitalise my unemployment benefit; all very bureaucratic things to do.  I always thought people who had an accountant were pretty important and now I have one too as well as a lawyer. You see I am on a learning curve after being axed from Yoigo.  He was a darling and put my mind at rest. All can be done and all will be done by his office.

I walked out feeling pretty good but I also walked out into the rain.  In fact it rained pretty much everywhere that day in Spain but also snowed a lot, this time in the north of the country.  I was delighted to hear there had been the first big snowfall of the year in Montrondo that morning.
Snow in Montrondo on Friday morning
I ached to be there to enjoy it but we can't go as Eladio gives his private lessons from Monday to Saturday every afternoon to his young pupil Sara who is not a good student I'm afraid. It frustrates him as he is such a good teacher but there was one good sign this week his tutoring is working in that she actually passed an exam in history of art the other day.  

I couldn't resist the temptation to walk into Zara which was across the road from my accountant in the Princesa Street in Madrid.  But believe it or not I didn't see anything that I fancied so made my way to the Metro Station and travelled to Colonia Jardín where I leave my car these days.  I was home just as "my men" had started their lunch.

I heard in the car on the radio whilst driving back that Rafa Nadal was in the throes of an epic 5 hour and 5 set semi-final against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov which if he won would mean he would meet Roger Federer in the Australian Tennis Open this Sunday.  Well he won by the skin of his teeth to reach the first Grand Slam Final since 2014.  The score was 
6-3 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 6-4.  With the likes of Murray and Djokovic out of the way it will be a great final for both men for whom the Australian Open has seen their astonishing comeback.  Nadal was overjoyed at his win. 
Nadal overjoyed after his epic win on Friday in the semifinal of the Australian Open
But he won't have much time to recover before the final unfortunately and here Federer has an advantage. Well as a Brit I should say: "may the best man win" although in my heart you all know on whose side I am hahaha.

And of course on Friday the much awaited for world meeting happened when Theresa May met Donald Trump.  In the airplane flying to the US in answers to the press she stated that "opposites attract". The British press were likening her future relations with the new President to those of the "special relationship" Margaret Thatcher had with Ronald Reagan. Whatever the case, the British Prime Minister will have to keep her real thoughts about him to herself as I can't possibly believe that on a personal level she has anything but negative thoughts about Donald Trump like the majority of the rest of the world.  And here they are shaking hands across the famous bust of Winston Churchill which Trump has replaced in the Oval Office. 
Theresa May and Donald Trump meet - the start of a new special relationship?
If only the great statesman could lift his head from the grave and tell both leaders what he thought of their terrible politics; the exit from the EU and Trump's threats to Muslims and the dreadful idea of the wall on the Mexican border.

Whilst Theresa May whose name was spelled wrong by the White House, without the "h", was wining and dining and giving speeches in Washington, my normal life continued. I did the afternoon shopping on my own and came back overloaded with the week's provisions.  I also worked on press lists for my new clients and was so caught up in the job and still at it after 8pm when suddenly Eladio reminded me we had a dinner date that night in Madrid with our friends Pedro Delgado of professional cycling fame and his delightful wife Ludy who hails from Villablino near Montrondo.  So I had to rush to get ready.  For the occasion I wore a newly discovered imitation Custo t-shirt which I had bought on my trip to China in 2004 with Nokia.  I also wore a lovely black Desigual coat Oli has lent me as nearly all my coats are far too big now hahaha.

Dinner was at La Vaca Argentina in the city centre.  It had been renovated since our last meal there and was really nice.  Our friends were on time for a change and we had a great meal together.  They too had suggested the dinner to hear my story of my job loss.  They are so sweet.  Here we are together round the table. 
Dinner on Friday night with Pedro Delgado and his wife Ludy.
They were keen to know about our recent trip to Cuba and had nearly joined us but decided not to at the last moment.  I broke my diet that night as prescribed by my doctor. Oh how wonderful to be able to enjoy a glass (or two) of lovely red wine.  Thankfully I didn't get a headache later.

On Saturday, thankfully my body clock allowed me to sleep until 7am as we had gone to bed at 1 a.m. It was by the way the Chinese New Year, so Happy New Year to any Chinese readers here on my blog. 

After my morning walk, Eladio and I went to Centro Oeste shopping centre in Majadahonda to buy my upcoming birthday presents from him and my Father.  We started with a cup of coffee together.  So far, so good. The first shop I chose to go into was Massimo Dutti and that's when my dear husband who hates clothes shops, decided to leave me to buy my own presents and sit outside waiting for me. Well he had a very long wait.  The best thing about shopping yesterday was that absolutely everything I tried on fit me. I kept going for the "m's" but soon realised they were too big so nearly everything I got was an "s". I was flabbergasted. I didn't find much in Zara except for 2 jumpers.  But I did find a lovely see through embroidered blouse which they only had big sizes.  So there and then in the changing room I ordered an "s" online.
The beautiful see through embroidered top I ordered from Zara online on Saturday
Whilst Eladio waited, I went into other shops.  At a little boutique I found a gem of a red tartan jacket and at Cortefiel a skirt which I bought in both shocking blue and black.  

We came home for lunch with my Father after which Eladio and I had our afternoon siesta and were joined by little Pippa.  My husband went off to his afternoon class and I spent part of the time cooking. I made vegetables to last me the week: artichokes, leeks, cauliflower and runner beans. As I was cooking, my friend Juana alerted me on whatsapp that I was on TV once again.  For the umpteenth time the programme, El Jefe Infiltrado (Undercover Boss) featuring me for Yoigo was being shown that afternoon, just a few days after the last time.  Twice in one week!  It was yet another stab in the back and doesn't help the healing process of getting over losing my 10 year job with Yoigo.  On the bright side again I got some lovely messages on twitter such as this one. And there were lots more on FB, LinkedIn, etc. It's so damned ironic.

Another lovely message from a TV spectator
I tried to ignore my thoughts and concentrated on cooking. I was joined by Zena. I had asked her to bring some beetroot (difficult to find the fresh one around here) and make borsch for us this weekend.  Borsch is perhaps Russia's most famous dish as it is in the Ukraine where Zena comes from.  Half way between a stew and soup, the ingredients are: meat, beetroot, carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Then it is typical to add "smetana" (sour cream). I was looking forward to eating it for lunch today as indeed was my Father.  
Zena's borsch which she made for Sunday's lunch.
Every time Zena makes borsch for us, I am transported back to my childhood when my Mother used to cook it for us. 

That night we started watching a new series on Netflix, "Revenge" an American production which is loosely based on the Count of Monte Cristo.  Its a bit of a soap opera but highly entertaining with lots of "goodies" and "baddies" hahaha.
"Revenge" our latest series on Netflix
Today, Sunday, I was up at 6 as seems to be the norm these days.  Over my breakfast of coffee, fruit and oat bran I read the news.  I was most pleased to read that Spain's famous ice skater, Javier Fernández, had won the European Figure Skating Championship for the 5th time in a row held in Ostrava in the Czech Republic.  Wow that is quite an achievement.  Let's see if he can win at the World's again too which will take place in March in Helsinki.
Spain's ice skating champion Javier Fernández who won the European  Championship for the 5th time in a row yesterday
But today all eyes will be on the tennis final at the Australian Open where Rafa Nadal will meet his old enemy, yet friend, Roger Federer.  No one dares place their bets as both men are still the kings of tennis. I am waiting to know who wins with baited breath and keeping my fingers crossed for the Spaniard, one of Spain's best ambassadors ever.

And so my friends I come to the end of the tales of this week. As you have read, I am beginning a new journey to become a freelance communications consultant.  Wish me luck on my travels as I will need it.

Meanwhile let me wish you all a happy and relaxed Sunday.

Until next week,

Friday, January 20, 2017

Insulting prank calls, a car accident, Oli MC at a gala dinner, visiting Microsoft, lunch with Ketchum, light at the end of the tunnel, Trump's big day and other stories.

Sunday 22nd January 2017

Photo with my team from Ketchum past and present after lunch with them on Thursday
Dear all

This has been my first week without a job.  Another, rather more relevant person than me has also joined the ranks of the unemployed, possibly one of the most popular Presidents, ever, Barack Obama.  Oh we shall miss him.  I miss belonging to Yoigo; it's so strange and job seeking is one of the most difficult tasks I am facing.

Sunday was a quiet family day.  However I shall remember it for 2 late night prank phone calls supposedly from the CEO of Másmóvil.  I realised it wouldn't be him so late at night. No, it wasn't him but the same nasty man who keeps calling me using fake identities from the phone numbers in my mobile.  When I answer the call he starts insulting me and I feel attacked as I don't know who he is. It's always the same voice and I just want to know why he does it and would he please stop. He has done this on other occasions using other identities or a number I don't know.  I have reported the case to the IT and security people at Yoigo but there is not much they can do.  I have found out my stalker calls me using a phone app called "ID caller faker". I have done some research and in the picture below you can see how it works
How prank caller id faker apps work

These nasty phone apps can even choose a different voice for the caller. I could report the case to the police but I think even they wouldn't be able to do much. It's very unpleasant and on Sunday night it stopped me from sleeping.  The CEO promised to look into the case but I have heard nothing since.

A piece of news I read on Monday upset me a lot.  Believe it or not it was reported all around the world that 8 billionaires are as rich as the world's poorest half. This comes from Oxfam's report on the wealth and poverty in the world.  Don't you find that disgusting?  I do.  The big names are very well known and include the owner of my favourite shop Zara, Amancio Ortega.  These are the culprits, all men by the way.
1. Bill Gates (US): co-founder of Microsoft (net worth $75bn)
2. Amancio Ortega (Spain): founder of Zara owner Inditex (net worth $67bn)
3. Warren Buffett (US): largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8bn)
4. Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico): owner of Grupo Carso (net worth $50bn)
5. Jeff Bezos (US): founder and chief executive of Amazon (net worth $45.2bn)
6. Mark Zuckerberg (US): co-founder and chief executive of Facebook (net worth $44.6bn)
7. Larry Ellison (US): co-founder and chief executive of Oracle (net worth $43.6bn)
8. Michael Bloomberg (US): owner of Bloomberg LP (net worth $40bn)
(Source: Forbes billionaires' list, March 2016)
The richest men in the world. The top 8 are richer than the poorer half of this world!

Why don't these people give up half of their wealth to the world's poorest half to balance the injustice?  What they donate seems like peanuts to me.

Monday was not a good start to the week.  No sooner had Oli left the house for work than we got a phone call to say she had had an accident on the big roundabout over the M50 not far from home. She had bumped into the car in front of her and unbelievably both air bags had exploded, hurting and burning her right hand.
Poor Oli's hand injured from the explosion of the air bags
Eladio rang the insurance company to report the accident and order a tow lorry and was with her pretty quickly.  Not soon after I was there too only to find our 3 cars, various policemen, the area cordoned off and poor Oli in tears and in pain sitting in the back seat of Eladio's car.  
We caused quite a spectacle on the M50 roundabout after Oli's accident on Monday
She told us the explosion of the airbags was a terrible experience as gas came out and she just didn't know what was happening.  Thankfully the driver of the other car helped her move it and neither car was damaged, except of course for the airbags which would need replacing at a very high cost. Soon the ambulance arrived and cleaned up Oli's nasty wound and sent us off to the nearest hospital to have it looked at and bandaged.  Then the tow lorry arrived and took her car to a garage in Alcorcón. It was quite a spectacle I must say but I'm relieved that Oli only suffered minor injuries as it could have been a lot worse.   I should also add that the police and ambulance staff were very helpful and we learned that day how the protocol for car accidents involving injuries works;  very efficient indeed.

I took Oli to the hospital in my car and we were ushered in immediately to be attended to because it was a car accident; otherwise we would have had  to wait longer.  Thankfully, although the wound was quite nasty at first sight, there was nothing broken and it was just an abrasion.  It was bandaged up and Oli was also given a tetanus jab.  We were home by 1 but then I had to dash off again as I had my diet doctor's appointment at 2.10 pm, the first since before Christmas.

He was late, his pc didn't work and neither did his scales so he had to rely on the weight information I gave him. I was not impressed with him and never have been. I only needed him to prescribe the Pronokal diet products but have not found him supportive or even interested in my case.   Meanwhile I was starving during the wait as it was way past lunch time. He put me on a 1000 calorie maintenance diet for 2 months, allowing me to eat a bit more at 2 meals a week. This means, hurray, I can now go out to dinner again on Friday nights.  I shall sorely miss the luncheon vouchers I got at work  which we used to use for meals out. It was one of many  of the perks I am losing now after being fired, including the fabulous car, the free petrol, free motorway toll pass, free internet, mobile phone and private health insurance and  quite a few etceteras.  Last week when I mentioned this to my friend Grainne she said she had never had any of these perks so didn't miss them.  The large majority of the population don't have them either so I shall just have to get used to being a part of those who don't.

I came home to find Oli waiting to have lunch with me. Mine was a frugal affair as I hadn't left anything prepared.  Just as I was having lunch I was sent a link to a second media article about my being  fired from Yoigo or rather its mother company MásMovil who bought us recently.  I was very flattered once again.  I wasn't behind any of the articles, rest assured. It's not my style but it's nice to get public recognition that I was good at my job and was fired unfairly.  Thank you José Tercero for taking the time to think about me and thanks for the flattering comments.  You can read the article here. It's entitled MásMóvil fires the Yoigo Undercover Boss in clear reference to the TV programme I "starred" in last year which has been repeated countless times  and which you can see here.  I suppose the author found it rather ironic. 

A shot of me in the programme Undercover Boss (El Jefe Infiltrado)
Eladio went off to his daily private lessons which I suspect are tiring him out, especially as his pupil seems to be very slow and difficult to teach and I  went out again, this time to the hairdresser.  I haven't had my hair cut or the roots dyed for quite a while and I have to look good if I'm job seeking at my age.  It was slow here too and I didn't get home till nearly 7pm having had to sacrifice my afternoon walk for getting my hair done. Whilst I was there I realised that finally my corporate email account had been suddenly removed.  So no more emails from Yoigo.  It was just a part of the mourning process of being fired.  There would be more to come during the week. 

Oli was at home feeling better.  She was busy working on the script for a hotel chain gala dinner awards event where she would be the MC in English one  night this week.  She has presented quite a few prize giving events in the past, in Brussels, Madrid and Lisbon. This opportunity came out of the blue through a TV friend and now that she is a fully fledged TV reporter, she has what is known as a "caché" in Spain (celebrity net worth) and was paid well for just a few hours work; the equivalent of quite a few days of Eladio's tutoring lessons I could add haha. For the event she had to wear a long evening dress. We only have 2 at home, the ones I bought for the girls some 15 years ago for New Year's Eve. that amazingly still fit them. Oli's was light purple and cinderella like and Suzy's sleek and blue.   Friends lent her other long dresses but the company hiring her went for the blue one. 
Trying on the dress Oli would wear at the gala hotel awards as the English MC
I tended to agree.  I had to act as photographer for the photos of her in the different dresses she sent to the organizers for them to choose haha. I was also to be the chauffeur to drive her to the beautiful Casino restaurant in the  Alcalá street in Madrid and of course helper in the translation of the long and boring script of the hotel awards.  We spent more than 2 hours on it after I came back from the hairdressers. Why do event organisers for prize giving ceremonies make their scripts so boring I wonder?  

Tuesday was the day Teresa May outlined her terms for a hard Brexit.  There was no mention of what her intentions were for Brits like me living in the EU.  For citizens of the EU in the UK, however, there was mention of a cap figure.  Oh Theresa May and you other Brexiters, you sure have made a big mess with the decision to leave the EU.

That morning I had an appointment with my dear friend and ex Nokia colleague, Juana who now has a high flying job with Microsoft.  She invited me to their offices nearby to help me update my cv. The format of mine is at least 10 years old and needs a fresher look.  I felt something of an alien entering the amazing building of the 3rd most valuable brand in the world just after Google (1) and Apple (2).
Microsoft is the 3rd most valuable brand in the world

Of course its former CEO, Bill Gates, is first on the list of the 8 billionaires mentioned above.  The whole place felt like another planet, sleek, clean, glistening with lots of young geeks walking around looking like superior beings.  My jobless state made me feel quite inadequate, not to mention old,  in the Microsoft Spain surroundings that day.
The impressive Microsoft Spain HQ which is even more impressive inside
My friend showed me around and I was very impressed. There are 500 employees but only usually some 200 there on one day as anyone who wants can work from home. When they do go in, no one is assigned a desk and uses anyone available.  There are no private offices, but lots of small empty rooms for the employees to use when they want some privacy.  There is a huge customer area which feels like one big VIP airport lounge but sleeker with food and drinks available all day long. There are auditoriums for events, gardens, beautiful sitting areas and meeting rooms that feel more like modern lounges. If this was the Spanish Microsoft building I wondered what the US HQ in Redmond would be like.  Juana told me it was a huge campus with many buildings.

We got on with the job in hand in one of the private rooms and here we went through various formats. We finally chose one and started work on it which I would later finish at home.  Thanks my friend for your help and support. Juana had to rush off to London straight afterwards where she would be working at the company's Paddington office for most of the week.  I left feeling a little inadequate until another friend, the Spanish cycling celebrity, Pedro Delgado, called as I was crossing the road to get my car.  He had seen the article about me being fired the day before and had tweeted it of his own accord which was very kind of him. He's such a sweetie and is always on my side. We arranged to have dinner with our partners next week.  I look forward to that.  Thanks Pedro.

I came home to have a late lunch on my own again.  But it was lovely to have Oli waiting for me. She was rehearsing for the awards.  I was pretty bushed that day as was poor Eladio with his 3 hour afternoon private lessons.  It was on Tuesday afternoon, once again sacrificing my second walk of the day, that I went to the dentist, my dear Dr. Garralda.  You see I am losing the company dental care policy too.  It expires at the end of this month so I decided to use it for one last time by getting an appointment to check my teeth and more importantly have them  properly cleaned, something I don't remember when I last did.  He was so sweet and understanding; he feels more like a friend and offered me the same prices as with the insurance company.  How nice of him.  We always have a good chat and exchange stories on how our daughters are doing, as they are the same age. One of them got married to a South African and lives in Dubai. Quite exotic I think.

Thankfully my teeth were ok and thankfully they were very professionally cleaned by the most competent dentist I know.  On my way out I crossed the road to enter what must be the best fruit and veg shop in the area, La Frutería Luis and where I bought some delicious tangerines and leeks.  I would have bought a lot more but it's quite an expensive place and after losing my job we are on a cost cutting exercise (ouch).
La Frutería de Luis in Majadahonda
I had a craving for vegetables that night and as soon as I got home I boiled leeks, cauliflower and carrots to have with an omelet for dinner.

As usual we were in bed at about 9.30 and I fell asleep during a new episode of our current Netflix series, "Bajo Sospecha".

On Wednesday morning I was tickled pink to hear from a close acquaintance that this daughter had got into the final of this year's Masterchef.  She got into the last 15 from months of competing with what began with 2000 applicants.  I have been sworn to secrecy as to who she is.  All I know is that she will be separated from her family for more than 3 months and will not even be allowed to use her mobile phone while the programme is being shot. What an experience for an amateur chef and what an experience for her and the family. Watch this space when the programme comes out in the spring.

It was a freezing cold day.  The cold front finally hit Spain and on my walk at 9 a.m. my phone registered -2ºc, even lower than London, the difference being the sun was shining here.  It was even colder than in Ottawa, Canada, where my cousin Andrei lives!
It was very cold in Madrid this week
But the sun wasn't shining in much of Spain.  In the South East (Alicante region) it had actually snowed for the first time in more than 30 years.  Schools were closed for example in Murcia hahaha. There was snow in the village my friend Jacky lives in inland Murcia on the border of Alicante.  She said it was the first time in a century!  Meanwhile it also snowed in Benidorm of all places and this image of the white covered beach there says it all. I feel sorry for all the pensioner tourists on holiday there who had hoped for better weather. I'm sure they didn't take the right clothes hahaha.  You would have thought there would be snow in Montrondo too but there was no sign of it. This is the world upside down weather wise.
The beach in Benidorm this week.  Unbelievable.
That morning, using some of the clout I still have from my role as Ex (ouch) Comms Director for Yoigo, I went to have  my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge screen repaired (replaced actually as it was broken) at the mobile phone repair centre the company uses.  It's miles away in a small town north of Madrid called San Sebastián de los Reyes and I got a little lost on my way despite the sat nav. Funnily enough it was here that one of the scenes from the Spanish Undercover Boss programme in which I featured, was filmed.  Being a curved phone, it took ages, over an hour but whilst I was at the offices I was well looked after by Nadia and Félix.  Thanks guys and thanks for the standing invitation to go whenever I need my phone mended which I hope won't be for a while.

As I was leaving to get my car, another car passed me and stopped.  The driver was one Miguel Angel, the boy who had featured in the phone repair scene with me on TV.  He was with his Father and sister Sara and told me he was, like me, now on the "dole".  So now there were 2 people who had featured in the programme in the ranks of the unemployed.  He parked the car and we hugged and his Father kept thanking for me for treating his son so well. He didn't need to thank me as Miguel Angel, although a little aggressive in the programme, has a heart of gold.  He just lost his job as a phone repair technician as the brand he was working for, Sony, is losing market share.
With Miguel Angel who featured in the TV programme Undercover Boss
The 3 of them had just come back from the Job Centre after signing on.  Gosh, that means most of his family is now unemployed.  We are told Spain is getting back on its feet but Wednesday's episode told a different story.  It was great to see Miguel Angel and I wish him lots of luck in finding a new job. !Suerte amigo".

I didn't get home for lunch until late, just as Eladio and my Father were finishing theirs.  After a 15 minute siesta (I need a little nap in the middle of the day as I get up so early), I went off for my afternoon walk.  Thankfully the temperatures had climbed to a more bearable 5ºC.  Eladio went off to his private lessons to Sara, the 18 year old who is in her last year at school and needs constant tuition.

Just as I was coming back I got a notification on Facebook to tell my my administrative rights for the company FB page had been removed.  It was yet another part of the mourning process of losing my job.  It felt like a stab in the back especially as it was I who had set up the page years ago, when FB was only just starting.
This Facebook message was yet another stab in the back in the mourning process of losing my job. I wondered who the guy in the picture was, the guy who removed me. 
I just tried to shrug it off and once back I had to dress up and go out again.  My friends and General Managers of my now ex PR agency, Ketchum, Tony and Teresa, knowing of my situation, had invited me to join them at the British Chamber of Commerce's New Year Cocktail to do some networking. I'm not a one for cocktails and never have I been  one to be a part of the British expat society here, preferring to integrate into Spanish life.
The invitation to the cocktail party
But I thought I had to make the effort and an effort it was.  At work I used to drive to a car park in Pozuelo and then get a taxi into Madrid. Now when I got into the city I drive to the nearest Metro station, Colonia Jardín (20 mins from home), try to find a place to park (difficult) and take the metro to town (approx 35 mins).  This is news from me as I don't normally "do" the metro.  I didn't even know how much it cost or how to buy a ticket but after a few tries and with tips from Olivia, I took to it quite easily. You see in Madrid nearly only the working class, low paid people and students use it, unlike in London. So I took the metro (Line 10) on Wednesday night to the Gregorio Marañón metro station in the centre of the city and stepped out into the freezing cold and walked 700 metres up the María de Molina street until I came to Lagasca.  It was in this street the cocktail party was taking place at a fashionable place called Warehouse.  Ironically it was where the last press conference organised by me which was to announce  Yoigo's financial results took place in the summer.  The mourning process continued as when I registered I was given a name badge with the company name below; Yoigo.  I felt a bit of a sham as I no longer work there and had to explain to anyone who spoke to me that night and looked at my badge that I had lost my job:-).  I didn't know many people and most of them there were small Spanish financial companies looking to find contacts for business.  I did however bump into a dear English/Spanish friend, Rose, who is the head of the PR company Weber Shandwick.  It was great to see her and we shall meet soon for lunch. Tony, who knows everyone, as Ketchum does the Chamber of Commerce's PR, introduced me to the British Ambassador, Simon Manley.  Well that was a pretty wow moment. I should have taken a photo, damn!  So what did we talk about? Brexit of course.  I asked him what would happen to Brits like Tony and I who have lived and worked here for so many years.  His answer was we would be ok and that it was in the Spanish Government's interest to let us stay on. Well it better be.

I couldn't eat any of the cocktail stuff and only drank water, so at about 9 pm (it started at 7.30) I left. So did Tony and Teresa and we arranged to meet again soon for lunch. It took just under an hour to get home by metro and car.  Eladio and Pippa were waiting up for me and came down to join me as I had a quick bite to ease my hunger.

Thursday turned out to be the best day of the week.  It was packed with activity and good news.  It was the best day since I had lost my job.  At 12 I had a phone call meeting with an ex Nokia colleague who wants me to collaborate as a freelance consultant for his company that deals in professional two way radios.  We agreed on an initial project; a press conference in Barcelona at the beginning of February and others to come. There and then I had landed my first freelance job. I have been debating whether I want a permanent corporate role or whether I should be a communications consultant.  It seems I don't get to decide and to start with, at least, it will be the former.

Afterwards I had to rush off and drive to the metro station Colonia Jardin, leave my car there  and take the train into the centre of Madrid yet again. This time I was invited to lunch by Isabel and Ludi from my PR Agency, Ketchum as a sort of farewell meal. We have worked together successfully for 10 years and will sorely miss each other.  The "girls" had a surprise in store for me as they had invited 2 former team members who left Ketchum a while ago; Carlos and my dear dear Gustavo H.  A more recent team member, Víctor, also came. It was a lovely reunion.  I have chosen one of the photos we took as the main photo for this week's post.  Guys you rock.  It was great working with you and I hope to again one day soon.
With my lovely PR team. From left to right: Carlos, me, Isabel, Ludi and Gustavo
During the middle of the lunch I got more good news in a phone call from the USA from a former Motorola colleague.  He offered me the possibility of working on another freelance communications project, this time for a mobile phone company which obviously is right up my street.  I couldn't believe it; 2 freelance projects in 1 day.  You see there is now light at the end of the tunnel.  I am raring to go now and want to make an impact.

Once home, I started immediately on the first project which is more concrete and has a deadline.  My afternoon flew past whilst I worked until Eladio came home from his private lessons at 9 in the evening.  He was happy too although being a more cautious person, he is wary of me being a freelancer rather than a full time corporate employee.  Well time will tell.

On Friday I was awake at the unearthly hour of 5.45.  I had decided my weighing days after the start of the 1000 calorie maintenance diet would be Friday mornings from now on as at the weekends I was going to follow the doctor's advice and break the diet for at least 2 meals.  I got on the scales grudgingly, worried I had put on weight since the new diet, but wow oh wow I had lost another kilo. I now weigh 59.3 kilos.  I don't think I have weighed that in more than 30 or 40 years.  I have gone from 74.1 to 59.3 since October 4th which in stone my English friends is from 11.6 to 9.3 stone. Suzy says that's too little but I don't agree as many people my height weigh a lot less.  What she has suggested is that I stop the 1000 calorie diet as it's very restrictive and I feel hungry most of the day. Instead she will draw me up a more reasonable one.  I'm very proud of myself. To celebrate I would take Eladio out to dinner that night using some of the last company luncheon vouchers in my possession.

Friday was the day of the dreaded Trump Presidential inauguration and swearing into the highest office in the world.  The country is divided and there was to be an anti Trump march of an estimated million people at the same time.  Oh how I hate that man and all he stands for.
Donald Trump's swearing into Presidential office.
The words of the oath are: "I do solemnly swear  that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Donald Trump added at the end, as most Presidents have done although it's not obligatory, "and so help me God".  That would be absolutely unheard of here in Spain which, although known for being a Catholic country, is a completely secular state today. I'm not sure if he said yesterday "God bless America" which is used a lot by politicians and seems cheesy here in Europe.  By tradition, incoming presidents raise their right hand and place the other hand on a bible or other book.  Donald J. Trump chose his childhood Bible given to him by his Mother which was held out for him by his wife, Melania, the new First Lady. Their 10 year old son Barron who is rumoured to be autistic poor boy, looked on as it happened.  I wonder what he was thinking.  I didn't hear the speech nor watch the inauguration but heard the crowds were fewer than when Barack Obama was sworn in.
The crows compared - Obama and Trump's Presidential inauguration day. The picture speaks for itself.
The next day the crowds of women marching against Trump all over America and in other parts of the world, certainly beat that of Friday.  I was proud to see my friend Sue in the demonstration in Chicago.  You can see her in the photo below.  I do hope that makes Donald Trump think.  According to an American friend living in Finland who has followed the whole process closely, all the big bully wants is to bask in the glory of being President as the world's top "Alpha male" and doesn't care about the politics which he will leave to his close equerries.
My friend Sue (right) in the women's march against Trump in Chicago on Saturday.
I did hear though that his speech was very aggressive which didn't surprise me and was based on "America First".  The world did not take kindly to his becoming President and I keep asking myself how the hell it happened. I suppose in the same way Brexit happened.  There were huge anti Trump demonstrations too that day but they came far too late.  All I can say is, "God bless America" with its new and frightening President Donald J. Trump.

After my first freezing walk in the early morning, I came home and settled down to work on my first project for the upcoming press conference to be organised in February. I have to come up with the press materials; press release, power point presentation, facts sheet and q+as, so I started on the press release. Eladio was my proof reader and I was quite proud of myself for having written it and also happy with the visual format.  I was only to find out later in the day that the company hiring me for this project had already drafted their own press release with information I didn't have so Friday morning's exercise may well have been in vain.  But not completely, as it showed me I was capable of drafting one.  You see it has nearly always been my PR agency who wrote my press releases until now of course.

Eladio joined me on my second walk of the day and the dogs came for the first time in days.  It was still very cold.  After a short siesta - I need one if I get up at 5.45 in the morning hahaha - Eladio went off to his 3 hour tutoring in Pozuelo and I went to do the weekly shopping.  Our usual supermarket, Mercadona was closed. It must have been a local holiday in Villaviciosa that I wasn't aware of. So I decided to try my luck at the new Dia in Boadilla.  If it takes me 30 minutes to do the shopping at Mercadona as I know where everything is and follow my list, at Dia it took ages as I didn't know where anything was.  I was not impressed with the French owned supermarket even though the whole chain has been recently refurbished.  There were lots of things on my list they didn't have so I had to go to Supercor nearby afterwards to get the rest.  Thus I got home much later than usual.  Just as I was arriving so were Oli and Miguel who helped me carry in all the provisions together with Salu our home help.

They had news for us.  After Oli's accident, her hand was better but still bandaged and sore and she can't drive.  The news was bad in that her car was a write off after the accident, as to restore the airbags the price would be over 4000 euros which the car is certainly not worth. So she will give it to a friend who owns a garage for scrap and now has to buy a new one.  Miguel is in charge of finding one for her. Today they are going to see a "0 kilometre" car, a black Ford Focus. I asked him to look for a car for me too.  They wanted to buy it up front but that is not possible these days.  You are obliged to finance it, of course to boost the financing market.  Isn't that just ridiculous?

Friday night was the best night of the week.  It was the night I would go out to dinner and break my diet for once and boy was I hungry hahaha.  It was also my first night out to dinner since I started the diet, not counting our time in Cuba. Oli and Miguel joined us and Eladio came straight from his long lessons in Pozuelo.  We ordered pizza bread for starters and I had pasta with tomato sauce, prawns and asparagus which tasted just delicious.  I was not able to finish it though which is highly unusual for me but maybe that's because my stomach has shrunk. I even had dessert, 2 delicious scoops of pistachio  ice cream, all washed down by lambruscco rosé wine. But don't worry it was back to my diet the next morning.
My choice of pasta with tomato sauce, asparagus and prawns for dinner at Gino's on Friday night
Thankfully on Saturday the freezing temperatures receded a bit and on my walk I saw the temperature was 5ºc. Plus the sun was shining.

I spent part of the morning working on the second project I have been given but will know more about it in a scheduled phone call with the US on Monday.  Exciting!

People have been so supportive of my recent dismissal from the company I have worked for for 10 years and I was to get some more support on Saturday.  My dear "Spanish family", the "González-Gálvez" with whom I lived from September 1978 to July 1979, organised an impromptu dinner that night.  It was to find out how I was coping after the dismissal.  The dinner was to be late though, not until 10pm at night.  Irene and her husband Tomas invited us as well as her brother Gerardo and his wife Vicky.  When I went to live with my "Spanish family" in 1978 as an au-pair to teach them English during my year in Spain as part of my University studies, Gerardo was about 14 or 15 and Irene one year younger.  It's amazing to see them today in their 50's with 5 and 4 children respectively, some of them now University students!
Dinner with my "Spanish family" - at Irene and Tomas' house on Saturday night
It was a great evening as we always feel completely relaxed with them because we have so much that bonds us. Our hosts put on a wonderful spread for dinner and I broke my diet just slightly.  But we didn't get home until 1.30 in the morning which is incredibly late for Eladio and I who are early to bed people.

And today is Sunday and we shall be having guests ourselves for lunch today.  Thankfully Eladio's Sunday philosophy lesson to his Brazilian student, Emiliano was cancelled. When I heard that I rushed to invited Toño and Dolores to lunch whom we haven't seen since we parted on 4th January in Havana.  But of course I will be telling you all about that next week.

I have got to the end of the story of this week now my friends.  It's time to publish this, print a copy for my Father and go on my first walk of the day. This week turned out better than expected.  Let's see what next week brings.

Cheers for now, Masha

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Kings’ Day, the end of Christmas for us but not for the Russian Orthodox, annual Kings’ Day dinner at Julio’s, the New Year begins, goodbye Yoigo, and other tales of the week.

Sunday 15th January 217

The 4 of us around the Kings' Day lunch table
Hi all

It's been a funny week for us, coming back from Cuba, celebrating Kings' Day and starting the new year which didn't get off to a good start as I lost my 10 year job with Yoigo.  Yeah, I'm now unemployed which doesn't feel good I can tell you. 

Friday was Kings' Day, the epiphany, which in Spain is celebrated as much as Christmas. Many people here give their presents on 6th January rather than on the 24th or 25th. Here, in our Anglo Russian Spanish home, we celebrate both Christmas and Kings' Day although we only give token presents on the latter.

For me it was our first full day home after our amazing trip to Cuba.  Both Eladio and I were suffering from jet lag which would take a few days to get over.

The day started with a family breakfast.  The most traditional item on this important day, the last day of Christmas, is the "roscón de reyes".  Oli and I had bought two the day before, one with cream inside and one with angelica to toast.  
Our Kings' Day "roscón de reyes" which we had for breakfast that morning
My morning was spent making a special lunch which would be the same as on Christmas day; pullet chicken with sage and onion stuffing, vegetables, gravy, roast potatoes and of course cranberry sauce.

In between time I posted a lot of the photos I had taken on our trip to Cuba and which you can see here.

Lunch was in the dining room with all our finery.  For the occasion I used our favourite dinner service by Villeroy and Boch.  This is what the table looked like - photo courtesy of Oli.
Lunch on Kings' Day
As you can see in the photos there were crackers, the last 4 of the ones I had bought online at an extortionate price.

We always exchange our presents after lunch on Kings' Day.  I had bought something for everyone as had Oli but my husband didn't get me anything as usual.  He is the greatest guy in the world but no good at buying presents.  However, I was to get some lovely hand-me-downs from Oli, in a pair of Asics Lyte 3 green trainers which Miguel had bought for her online for Christmas and which didn't fit her. Ah but they fit me and I love them.
My hand-me-down Kings' Day trainers
In the afternoon we went on our first walk since our arrival from Havana. We took the dogs who were raring to go and Oli came with us too.  I wore my new trainers and found them very comfortable.
Oli with Pippa on our walk on Kings' Day
It was a glorious sunny day but it felt so cold after being accustomed to the warm temperatures in Cuba.  

We came home to have a lovely cup of tea and then I got going on making broth from the pullet chicken carcass and other ingredients to make chicken noodle soup, everyone's favourite in this house.

We had it for dinner watching the news on my lovely iPad plus, a Yoigo gift from last Christmas (no more of these coming any more).  There was sad news that night when we heard about the Fort Lauderdale (airport in Florida, Miami) shooting. 26 year old Esteban Santiago was accused of opening fire at the airport killing 5 people and injuring 6 others.
The Fort Lauderdale shooting on Friday

He was caught later and will be charged and probably given a life sentence.  Some reports say he was obsessed with ISIS and others say he was mentally deranged. Whatever the case it is yet another airport attack that will make us even more nervous when we fly again. 

Saturday 7th January was the end of Christmas for most of the world except for Orthodox and Coptic Christians in Russia and other countries such as Greece.  So from this blog, let me wish a Happy Christmas to my Russian and Orthodox friends:  "Schastlivogo Rozhdestva!"  On 7th January I always remember my Mother because when I was a child we would celebrate it at home.  

If you are wondering why it is celebrated 2 weeks after the rest of us, it is because the majority of Orthodox churches use the Julian Calendar, created under Julius Caesar in 45 BC.  The rest of us follow the Gregorian calendar proposed by Pope Gregory in Rome in 1582.  There are 13 days between the two calendars.  But it is not only the Orthodox who follow the Julian Calendar. Believe it or not, the most remote inhabited island in the UK, Foula, belonging to the Shetland Islands, also follows the Julian Calendar.
The island of Foula in the Shetlands which celebrates Christmas 2 weeks after the rest of the UK
Their 30 inhabitants gather together in one of their houses to exchange their presents!  

That morning I was in no mood for celebrations as I woke up with a dreadful attack of wind. It happens to me every few years and is very painful. Suzy suggested a massage on my stomach and my husband suggested I walk up and down the stairs to get the wind moving. Both remedies worked and by 11.30 or so I felt better.  

Saturday 7th January was the first day of the sales in Spain and in the afternoon I went with Oli and Miguel to Centro Oeste. I wanted to change one of my presents and many people seemed to be doing the same as the queues were endless hahaha.  I ended up changing it for 4 lovely jumpers from H+M. This is one of them, striped of course haha.
One of my new Kings' Day jumpers
Whilst we were shopping, Eladio was giving his first class to his new pupil, a girl who he will be teaching 3 hours a day from Mondays to Saturdays until May. She needs tutoring in 5 subjects for her "bacalaureat" which she failed in the first term.  My academic husband will be giving her lessons in history, geography, Spanish language and literature, philosophy and the history of art.  It means we will be stuck at home and not able to go to Montrondo until May, apart from Easter hopefully.
Meanwhile we came home, had our afternoon tea and then I spent the time having a luxurious bath, doing my nails etc, to get ready for the annual Kings' Day dinner at Julio's. Fátima would be going too.  For the occasion Oli lent me a new dress she had bought from Custo, a Catalán designer label. I really didn't think I would get into it but I did and it made me look even slimmer than I am.  I loved it so much that the next day I bought the same dress online considering it to be Eladio's Kings' Day present to me haha.  I hope Oli doesn't mind me copying her.  The funny thing is that if I had seen the dress in the shop I wouldn't even have looked at it as it is not my usual style. This is it. 
My new dress from Custo 
Dinner at Julio's was at 9 and we picked up Fátima just after 8.30. She has just been made redundant by Nokia and had to give her car back.  Luckily, very luckily I should say, she found another job immediately.  She contributed to the dinner with two home made delicious Spanish omelets cooked by her Mother Gloria.  When we arrived at Julio's flat, the table was laid for a mouth watering dinner.
The dinner table at Julio's on Saturday
We have been celebrating this annual dinner since about 2003 and Saturday night's dinner was as good as they all have been.  Before we started we had a short photo session and here I am with my two best Spanish friends before we attacked the delicious food hahaha.
Dinner at Julio's on Saturday night
The main course was followed by the dessert, yet another cream filled "roscón de reyes" and I vowed to restart my diet the next day.  The roscón accompanied by delicious "cava" was followed by the traditional exchange of presents. I was very happy with my new bottle of perfume, one of my favourite, "Flower Bomb" by Viktor and Rolf and which I first discovered on a Nokia trip many years ago to Berlin. 
My present from Julio and Fátima this year
Sunday came and I started my diet again after breaking it at Christmas and during our trip to Cuba.  I was praying I hadn't  put too much weight on. I haven't noticed it in my new skinny clothes but I was sure I had gone up a kilo or two (not so as you will read later).
So it was back to normal.  I also returned to doing 2 walks a day. Whilst listening to Spotify (my favourite British hymns) that morning, I saw an offer for a family premium subscription. Instead of paying 9.99 euros per person per month which is what I was paying for me and the girls, I was attracted to and signed up to the new family subscription at 14.99 which allows 6 people living in the same house to join.  That is a great offer.  Finally the price has come down. Now Eladio has his own spotify and no longer has to share mine.

On Sunday I wore the first of my new jumpers from H+M.  My favourite, as I told you, being this striped one.
In my new Kings' Day striped jumper from H+M
Lunch was Kings' Day leftovers for Eladio and my Father. Mine was a chicken salad.  In the afternoon, in between preparing his new classes, Eladio and I went for what would be my second walk, this time with the 3 dogs.  I am seeing more and more people on our walk flying drones; probably their Christmas presents.  It seems to be the latest hobby although I don't see the attraction. 
I am seeing more and more people flying drones on my walks these days.
After Eladio's Sunday afternoon philosophy class to his Italian student, we both decided there and then that it was the moment to take down all the Christmas decorations. After all it was 8th January.  It is a task I always hate but we did it in a jiffy.  It's funny how it takes so long to put them up but less than half an hour to take them down.  I felt rather nostalgic as we did it.  It really felt like "goodbye Christmas".  
Goodbye Christmas. Taking down the decorations is always an unpleasant task.
With all the decorations down, Monday felt like the real beginning of the new year.  My New Year's Resolution was to lose a bit more weight and more importantly to maintain it.  But the day did not get off to a good start.  

That morning I got the phone call I was dreading, the phone call communicating my dismissal from my job, after 10 years with the company.  I was expecting it but didn't know when it would come.  Well it came on Monday.  I was expecting it because I had been gradually relieved of most of my functions since the takeover and because I had heard on the "grape vine" before Christmas.  It seems many people knew about it before I did (sigh). Thankfully I was prepared mentally and also had hired a lawyer.  I wasn't the only one being fired and this helped because we have supported each other throughout the process. I spent most of the day dealing with the dismissal documents and talking to my lawyer and my mind was in a bit of a haze.  I had lots of mixed feelings as you can imagine.  It had been the best job I have ever had but the last year or so things have been very awkward and I was expecting it to happen. After the takeover ,one by one, my main functions were relieved from me with no explanation so it was obvious my days were numbered.  But it was not a nice end to my career with the company. It was also not a nice start to the New Year.
Goodbye Yoigo. In my heyday with the company, here with a giant telephone in an official picture taken in 2012.
It hasn't come at the best time in life but I shall grin and bear it and be as positive as I can. I was dreading the actual moment of signing the next day and instead of going to the office had arranged to go through the process in a nice café nearby.  This now means my future is uncertain.  In my mind I am I thinking what to do next and how to go about finding a new job; nearly mission impossible for a woman of my age and in Spain where the unemployment rate is so high.  But I will not give in. I will fight and I will do my utmost to come out of this stronger and put my experience and know how to be challenged once again. All I can say now is "goodbye Yoigo it was great while it lasted". I therefore I now have one more New Year's resolution which is much more important than the other. My job now will be to find a job. Wish me luck my friends, don't abandon me because it can be pretty lonely out there when you don't belong to a company.   Ah and if you here of anything that might be up my street do please let me know.

Tuesday, "D Day" came and I met the group head of HR at 10 in the morning to sign the letter of dismissal and the agreement we had reached.  I felt like a lamb to slaughter and my stomach heaved as if I was going to throw up.  However R made the whole issue easier as he was kind and friendly; well as kind and friendly as he could be given the circumstances.  I waited around afterwards as I was going to meet up with my colleague who would be the next victim and then the phone calls started. I was flooded with calls and messages and by mid afternoon had run out of battery.  Many people wanted to help and for that I am very grateful.  Their support made the whole day easier.  There are opportunities out there that I have already begun to pursue and will not stop until I find something; possibly as a freelance consultant but not necessarily.  I spent the afternoon writing a list of all the things I have to do immediately like signing up with the unemployment agency. For this the list of documents is endless, one of them being a certified translation of my University degree!  

"D Day" ended with a series of nasty anonymous phone calls at about midnight when I was already asleep. That was when I worked out how to block a phone number.  From the voice, I know that this is the same guy who was harassing me some months ago. It was very unpleasant and unsettling and it was difficult to sleep afterwards.

On a lighter note, Oli that day was busy filming for her upcoming programme on street level jobs.  On Tuesday she interviewed a 72 year old shoe cleaner, of who there are very few left in Spain although they were a popular sight when I first came to live here.  He told her that these days people wore different types of footwear and keeping their shoes clean was no longer a priority.  

Oli cleaning the shoe cleaner's shoes hahaha. No one had ever cleaned them for him before.
As part of the shooting, Oli offered to clean his shoes and he commented that no one had ever cleaned them for him before hahaha. She later told me his personal story and it is a sorry one and it put my current circumstances into perspective.  He is in his 70's, he never had a partner, he never paid taxes thus won't get a pension and has to continue working.   He has cancer and lives in a hired room in a flat.  Despite all this he told Oli he felt happy. So I shouldn't be complaining about my situation should I?

On Wednesday I spent most of my time on gathering together the documents needed for my appointment with the unemployment agency or Labour Exchange or whatever it is called these days, on Thursday.  I even had to go to our bank to get a certificate that I was the holder of a bank account there.  Eladio and I have a joint account but it is his name that appears on all the statements - Spain is still very backward in gender equality hahaha. The whole process of signing on the dole seems so outdated to me.  It's quite obvious that  they have all my data in the "system"and to have to go the Labour exchange to sign on the dole and prove who you are and go through the whole degrading process just seems not only painful but a total waste of time. 

I was to get more phone calls, I sent more cvs to leads I had been given or knew, I sent mails and whatsapps to many contacts to tell them I was looking for a job and hoping for more leads.  It's not going to be easy but I shall not give up. 

Meanwhile, poor Eladio had caught a nasty cold but still had to go to the private lessons he gives in nearby Aravaca.  So after doing the food shopping in the evening with Oli, I made tons of broth for chicken noodle soup which I knew he would love for dinner.  I also made him my favourite cold remedy: hot water with honey and lemon juice.  I was worried I might get a cold too as most of Spain seems to have a nasty virus and hospitals are full. I could tell too because of the long queue at the chemist when we went shopping that day.

Thursday came and I was not looking forward to my appointment at the Labour Exchange (is it still called that?). I know from experience that they treat you like sheep (or worse). I wonder why the staff there are not trained to give more support as anyone who goes there feels very vulnerable.  

It was a whole morning ordeal.  Here I am arriving at the "oficina de empleo" (labour exchange).
At the Labour Exchange to sign on for the dole on Thursday morning
As I said on Facebook, it was one place I did not want to be seen. It took ages and the whole process felt frankly humiliating.  There was a bureaucratic issue as I was registered with another office and in the end the head of this branch had to deal with my case and sort it out. I must say Luisa was lovely and very helpful.  Hearing me speak on the phone to people ringing me about my departure from the company, she told me I was "muy preparada" (high powered and prepared) and added her office would love to help me in seeking  a job but that I would obviously have no need.  Bless her.

So many people are ringing and sending messages.  So many people are giving me leads, I feel overwhelmed and very supported.  It helps enormously to lessen the blow.  I was bowled over when that night, Xataca, the most important blog in the telecoms sector in Spain, wrote this article about me and my role in Yoigo. It was very flattering and they described me as one of the people responsible for the success of Yoigo!! My twitter and FB pages were literally "on fire" and still are although less and less so now.  It was like receiving a consolation prize and I am very grateful to the author, Mikel Cid.
Thanks Xataca for this tweet and flattering article about my 10 years at Yoigo in charge of communications
Friday came and I had an appointment with my lawyer in the morning in the centre of Madrid.  It was Friday 13th, an unlucky day in most parts of the world but not in Spain.  Here the unlucky day is Tuesday 13th.  In any case it turned out to be a generally lucky day for me. The appointment was to prepare the paperwork for the upcoming labour mediation and arbitration authority (SMAC) process which will probably take place in 2 to 3 week's time. It's the organisation that  companies and ex employees come to to make an agreement  about their exit from a company, rather than go to court about it.    There are so many tasks to do when you leave a company and go out into the cold,  So you see I am extremely busy and have no time to feel sorry for myself. In fact I am much busier now than I was before as I now have a full time job looking for a job for myself hahaha.

I decided to leave my car at the Colonia Jardin station and take the metro into Madrid. The whole journey took just one hour. But what a bore, there is no mobile coverage on the Madrid metro.  I was at the laywer's swanky offices by 11.30 and within under an hour (and thank goodness as each hour of his time costs 170 euros) the document was ready and signed and would be sent to the SMAC on Monday. 
At the lawyer's swanky offices on Friday morning
There was even time for a chat and I asked whether they enjoyed the Neflix legal series called The Goodwife, hahaha which of course they did.  

From there I crossed the road to a café to meet Gloria and Miguel from my now ex events agency to commiserate a bit about my being fired after 10 successful years at Yoigo.  It was a pleasure working with QuintaEsencia and if and when I get a new job I sincerely hope we can collaborate again. Thanks Bea, Gloria, Cris, Miguel and Julia for all the fun and wonderful work we did together.

Just as I said goodbye, my mobile rang (it had been ringing non stop since Tuesday) and guess who it was? I couldn't believe it was a top executive of the small Spanish company that had bought us in the autumn, the very same man who swore to us all that none of us would be fired.  He had been nowhere to be seen during the dismissal process but I could only guess was a bit worried about the press article that had been published the night before and all the activity on twitter praising me and blaming the company; many of them very flattering for me at least.  He had the gall to ask me how I was to which I replied I was feeling great.  He said he was very sorry there was no "room" for me in the new organisation (I know better) to which I commented that perhaps he shouldn't have sworn no one would be fired and that he should have been more transparent and honest about the whole process.  He even offered to be my referee to which I laughed out loud and said I had plenty of them. I should have added they were much better and that I didn't want the CEO who had fired me as my referee.  I was still reeling from this conversation when I got another call, this time from Finland.  It was about a potential and exciting job which I would love. So watch this space. I'ts amazing how so many people are indignant with what has happened to me after 10 very successful professional years at the company and are reaching out.  I thank them all from the bottom of my heart. They are brightening up days which would otherwise be very bleak. 

Meanwhile Oli was in Madrid too but I wasn't to see her until the evening.  She was doing 2 shooting sessions for her upcoming programme about jobs on the street.  She interviewed a very lively and charismatic 72 year old roast chestnut street seller first.
Oli's roast chestnut street seller
With no time for lunch, Oli bought a portion which costs 3 euros and for which she paid 5 including a tip.  Good girly Oli.  Later she came home starving. That's one of the drawbacks of her job; there is often no time for lunch.

Her next assignment was with a flower street seller near the Real Madrid stadium.  It is a very successful little business and I remember seeing it since my arrival in Madrid years and years ago.  In her job, Oli gets to know people from all walks of life. She certainly has a fun job not like most of the rest of us. The lady running the flower kiosk makes 1000 euros per month and has 3 assistants who apparently earn the same and is not complaining.  Maybe I shouldn't now either. Very kindly the flower street seller gave Oli a lovely bouquet of yellow tulips from Amsterdam with fragrant mimosa and she brought it home for me. The flowers are now decorating our main lounge. Thanks darling. I love receiving flowers. I wish your Father would remember that hahaha.
An unexpected bouquet of flowers from Oli on Friday
I was home for a very quick diet lunch with Eladio and my Father (their lunch was not a diet one hahaha) and soon after was in the car again, off to another appointment. This time I was having coffee with my neighbour and friend and fellow "communicator", Elena.  Many years ago when she was fired from a big telecoms company in Spain I gave her lots of moral support and help in finding a new job.  She recently resigned from the company where she eventually found one and where she had been very successful, as it meant a permanent move to Germany. Instead she has decided to retire early and spend more time with her family.  We have much in common but this time it is me who is looking for a job and she's helping me. 

Just as we were saying goodbye we bumped into my best friend, Fátima who was coming back from work after her first week in her new job. It was her birthday on Friday and although I had sent her greetings on whatsapp, I completely forget to congratulate her when I met her in person. Sorry "Fati" and happy birthday again. I'm so happy you found a new job after your dismissal from Nokia.

I came home on time for a walk before it got dark and was joined by Pippa. Eladio is too busy these days with his afternoon private lessons and besides he has a nasty cold so couldn't join me and take the other dogs  on my morning walks.  I wear the lovely new headphones Suzy bought me for Christmas and listen to Spotify but most of the time this week I have used them for hands free phone calls as so many people are ringing me and I am ringing so many people.  I predict that the calls will peter out as time goes by but that is natural.  People have to get on with their lives and won't be thinking about me and my job hunting.  Today's news is tomorrow's history and I will be a living example of that so I shall just have to grin and bear it and get on with my "new job" of job hunting hahaha.  

The weekend came and I finally relaxed a bit but not that much.  I went to do some food shopping at Mercadona in the  morning and whilst there got a great lead for a possible job. That set me into motion contacting the right people to make sure my CV landed in the right place. I was busy with that until lunch.  Oli joined us and was with us all day yesterday and will be so today. She is so supportive of my current situation.  Thanks darling. She cheered us up too yesterday by inviting us out to dinner.  Yeah, she invited her parents out and paid for the meal. Think that might be a first hahaha. Thank you my now grown up daughter.  

We chose a restaurant via The Fork app which offered a 40% discount, La Taberna de las Regiones in Las Rozas.  It was my first dinner out since I started the diet back in October and I was careful only to eat protein and veg although I did have a small glass of wine.  
At dinner last night with Oli and Eladio
It was an occasion to dress up, put makeup on and show off my new figure haha, except that it was freezing last night and we had to dress up warmly. We've had a lovely sunny and warm spell since we came back from Cuba but now a cold front has been forecast.  It's snowing in the north of Spain as it is in many parts of England. Suzy, hope you are not too cold and please wrap up well.

The restaurant was disappointing.  It was very noisy, small and crowded and the decor rather "démodé".  However the food was acceptable and there was so much of it we brought back a "doggy bag", something that is not really a tradition in Spain but we didn't care haha. We all agreed we would not be going back.  Our next dinner out together will be on my birthday on 8th February. I can't wait for that or can I? I'm not looking forward to celebrating my "big 6" but will accept the fact with grace.

And today is Sunday.  It will be Barack Obama's last Sunday in office. The whole world is going to miss him and his charismatic wife Michelle.  And oh God we have Donald Trump taking his place next week. That scares me and many other people too, not just because of his racism, bigotry, sexism, rudeness, narcissism but because of his total lack of preparation for the top job in the world.  He is a danger to the world's stability.   This week his name has been smeared thanks to the leaking of documents from the FBI on his secret conniving with Russia and lurid stories of his involvement in perverted sexual behaviour. It was drawn up by a British ex M16 agent, Christopher Steele who is now on the run, worried for his life. If only this could help towards a possible impeachment of this dangerous baffoon who is about to take the most powerful job in the world.  I wish .......

Our Sunday will be quiet with not much to tell.  But anything there is to tell I shall include in next week's post.

Cheers my friends till next week.  And have a good one.