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.  


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