Saturday, February 25, 2017

The secret German church in Madrid, Oli goes skiing, Julio and Fátima for lunch, a last minute decision to go to the Mobile World Congress, "astronomical" news, Theodore Storm in German Gothic script and other tales of the week.

Sunday 26th February, 2017

With my best friends, Julio and Fátima who came for lunch on Tuesday

Hi again everyone.

Another week has passed and it's now nearly the end of February, the shortest month of the year. 

Last Sunday was a quiet day as most Sundays have been so far this year.  We had gloubtsy for lunch (cabbage rolls stuffed with meat and rice) made by Zena our Ukrainian weekend carer.  It's always a favourite with my Father and I and I asked Zena to make a lot so as to have more during the week!

Whilst Zena was making the Russian dish of my childhood, I was cooking artichokes and we were talking comfortably together all about the Bolshevik revolution and how it affected my Mother and her family. We talked so much that I didn't notice the artichokes were burning.  I had stupidly forgotten to add water and they had dried and the saucepan was burning.  The saucepan bottom was completely black which upset me a bit as it belongs to the first set we ever bought when we got married.  However, dear Zena came to the rescue and I'm not sure how but when I saw it later it was glistening and clean.  

Olivia didn't join us for lunch that day and missed the gloubtsy which she loves too.  No she had to work that day, shooting a story for her next programme, secret places in the main streets of Madrid such as Gran Vía, Calle Alcalá and Paseo de la Castellana.  I felt sorry for her having to work on a Sunday but not for long when she told me that she would get 2 days off in exchange.  Her subject that morning was the hidden away German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Paseo de la Castellana 6 where she would attend the service; thus she had to work on a Sunday.
Oli with the pastor of the German church in Madrid on Sunday
It was built for the German protestant population in Spain in 1888 and opened in 1907.  The Spanish King Alfonso XIII who had to abdicate just before the Civil War, gave his uncle Kaiser William II permission.  That was not an easy thing to do at the time as any religion other than Catholicism was frowned upon then.  One of the conditions for building it was to house the German Embassy in a mansion next to it which is now the parish priest's home (lucky him).  The church was to be hidden behind it and could not have a tower of any sort. So it really is a secret church and not at all known in Madrid. It is called the Friedenskirche (church of peace). Oli told me the mass or service was very boring.  I can imagine it was hahaha.  It's not often she goes to church on Sunday either. 

Monday came and brought the good weather with it. It has been sunny all week and the temperatures in Madrid have reached 20ºc at midday.  It's pretty cold in the morning though and I have to wrap up well for my walks. 

That morning I had a "meeting" with María, an out of job journalist who knows me through another colleague.  She wanted to meet me to find synergies as she too wants to set herself up as a communications consultant.  The difference between us is that I am nearly 30 years her senior. Despite that we had a lot in common.  We met at Starbucks in Pozuelo and over a lovely cup of coffee shared our stories.  I'm not sure we will find synergies but it was good commiseration therapy hahaha.  

We weren't the only ones to lose our jobs.  My previous company has just fired 2 more directors, both of whom are women I worked closely with.  I spoke to one of them that night and it wasn't good for my spirits as the whole conversation got me reliving my own redundancy process and I'm afraid I hardly slept that night.  Oh sugar!!! 

Tuesday was a much more positive day thankfully.  Oli took a day off on Tuesday to go skiing with Miguel in the mountains outside Madrid.  I bet you didn't know there are skiing resorts just a short drive away from the centre in the Guadaramma mountain range.  I always heard that Madrid is the highest capital in Europe.  So yep, off they went with their skiing gear and enjoyed a day in the snow with lots of sunshine.  Here is Olivia that day on the slopes of the mountains where they skied from 11.30 am to 4.30 pm and only ate a sandwich for lunch. No doubt they had a hearty dinner.
Oli skiing on Tuesday 
The slopes outside Madrid are very popular with the "madrileños" but as the resorts are rather small they get far too crowded at the weekends.  Even so, Olivia complained about lots of school trips hogging the snow.  We haven't been for years as I can't ski but I do love the snow. 

Back home, I continued work on the Spanish version of my website. It's all translated now and you can see the finished product here.  I'm quite proud it already has more than 1.400 page visits. Please visit it and do me a favour, share it on twitter or facebook from the page itself so as to help improve its SEO (search engine optimisation); i.e. for it to come up on Google in the first few positions when you google my name.  I have done the web to find more freelance jobs, so if you hear of any, do let me know.  Jackie, my dear friend from Yorkshire, is proof reading the English and I have yet to get Eladio to proof read the Spanish text.  So if you see any mistakes, bear with me or send me comments. Thank you all. 
A screeenshot of my website now available in both English and Spanish.  Updating it is very addictive a bit like playing with a favourite toy.
Tuesday was not only a more positive day, it was the highlight of my week when my friends Julio and Fátima came for lunch. In fact they came early, especially for Julio and I to work on synergies too as he is a telecoms consultant.  Of course we all worked together at Nokia which is where our threesome friendship came from. Fátima, though, I met at Motorola.  So there you go, its the people that count, not the companies. I have chosen the photo of the three of us to illustrate this week's post. And below is a photo of Julio and Fátima together at our dining room table after a lovely lunch of meat loaf and carrot and potato pure.
Julio and Fátima
After lunch, I took Julio on my walk in the sunshine to further explore synergies and there are many.  It was thanks to him that I decided at the last minute to go to the Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona next week. I haven't missed an edition since it was first held there some 9 years ago.  I decided to go to see my new customers and a prospective customer too.  After all, it's the very best place to find people and to be seen.  Getting an exhibitor pass for free when they cost 600 euros each, was actually much easier than I thought thanks to lots of contacts. As to accommodation, a dear school friend from Yorkshire, Grainne, will be putting me up. I will be going in very different circumstances to the past when I had everything paid for; but there you are that's the price you pay for becoming self employed. 

On Wednesday I worked from home which is now my official office.  In that way nothing has really changed since I left Yoigo. I took a break just before lunch to go with Eladio to the main department store here, El Corté Inglés, to buy 2 pairs of bottom sheets for our king size bed.  The old ones have holes in them and I seem to be the culprit, although I don't know why hahaha. That afternoon I gave my second conversation lesson in English to my new "pupil", a neighbour called Carmen.  Afterwards I went on my second hour long walk of the day, accompanied by little Pippa.  On the walk I rang Suzy and we had a long chat; mostly catching up on our lives.  It was nice to hear she's happy working for the NHS as all you read in the British press are negative things about the British health system.

But the biggest news on Wednesday came from the NASA in the US.  I'm not into astronomy but even I was impressed to hear scientists had discovered there is a new solar system. It has 7 planets similar to earth and it even has water on 3 of them which shows they could be inhabited.  It is called Trappist I think. So, the search for alien life is on.  It will take a while I imagine as I heard the new planets are 39 light years away.  I wondered whether that meant it would take 39 years to travel there.  Actually it seems I am right but you would have to travel at the speed of light hahaha.  I looked it up in a science magazine and this is what it says: "TRAPPIST-1 is 39 light-years away from Earth, or about 229 trillion miles (369 trillion kilometers). It would take 39 years to get there traveling at the speed of light. But no spacecraft ever built can travel anywhere near that fast"Well no one will do it in my life time for sure.   But yes, it was big news; "astronomical" news in fact.
The new solar system.

They may not do that in my lifetime but I have a feeling instant travel on earth is coming some time in the much nearer future.  As part of what is called the 4th generation industry, which we are on the brink of, there is a technology called "hyperloop".  Hyperloop is the transport of the future, first in trains. This week I heard there were plans for  a hyperloop (sort of tube like the ones we see in some establishments to carry money up and down floors) train that could transport people, goods and cars from Madrid to Tangiers in just one hour.  Just think what that could bring and mean to people.  One day, when I am no longer here, maybe one of my granddaughters will be reading this prose and laugh as she is already using instant or hyperloop transport to see all corners of the world in no time.  Sorry for the ramblings.

On Thursday I weighed myself and was down to 57.7 Kgs. When I told Suzy I was losing more weight on my supposed "maintenance" diet, she said it was probably because of my exercise, 2 x 1 hour long walks a day. So I decided to "up" the quantity of milk and fruit a bit at breakfast. Let's see what happens from now on. 

That morning I continued work on my website. It's becoming a bit of an obsession as I could carry on working on it forever, adding and changing content, etc.  Now my CV and website match thanks to the great photo of me with the giant blue phone. And my dear events agency, QuintaEsencia, have made me matching visiting cards too which I love.  The front is with my picture on a white background and the back is in turquoise matching the colour of the phone. They are so cool and will come in handy for my trip to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The front side of my new visiting cards. They are so cool.
I also updated the list of confirmed guests to the goodbye Yoigo dinner I am hosting next week.  While I was doing all this, I got the news that the King's brother-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, who was sentenced to 6 years prison last week for gaining illegal income for inflated priced sports events, using his royal connection, got a "get out of jail free card" that morning.  So, no he won't be going to prison which is what he deserves. Don't ask me how, the legal system is so complicated, but what I do know is that justice is not the same for everyone in Spain. He'll be delighted of course, as will his wife, Cristina, the King's ousted sister. But everyone else here is outraged at the news. 

Iñaki Urdangarin got a "get out of jail free card" on Thursday. 

On Friday morning I weighed myself out of interest after having increased my milk and fruit intake the day before and was surprised that even so I had lost more weight and was down to 73.3 kilos. There and then I skipped on my oat bran porridge and made toast from a  roll of brown bread spread with low fat butter. Oh it was delicious.  On Friday I would be looking forward to dinner out as one of the 2 meals or so  I am allowed to break my maintenance diet.  Most of all I was looking forward to a glass of wine and dessert!

Eladio joined me on my first walk of the day on Friday morning.  I would do my second one later. Funnily enough it was very foggy although the sun would make its appearance at midday.  And here we are; the "walking couple", in a selfie I took for the girls but it's also for you.
Eladio joined me on my morning walk on Friday

We came back to find the gardeners Eladio had hired, shearing the hedges. It would take 3 able South American workers one whole day to do the whole job in.  It's a job I persuaded Eladio not to do on his own this year thank goodness.
Eladio talking to one of the hedge shearers on Friday morning.
I spent part of Friday morning applying for two PR Manager roles with Amazon in the UK.  Am I crazy? Well maybe.  But you have to think outside the box.  I'm happy to be a communications consultant but need more projects to retain the standard of living we are now used to.  I didn't think they would  bother including me in their candidate list but there you go, I tried.  

As I get up so early these days, I have taken to enjoying a short siesta after lunch with Eladio.  Pippa always joins us which is so funny. Here she is about to settle down for that lovely Spanish tradition, lying at the end of our bed.
Pippa who always joins us when taking a siesta after lunch. 
Towards the end of our short siesta that afternoon, Oli texted to ask me to pick her up in Boadilla at around 5. She was shooting the introduction to her upcoming programme about palaces and castles for sale, using the Boadilla palace as the background. Unfortunately I got there when she had finished and wasn't able to see her in action. 

It was shortly after we got home that, very surprisingly,  I did get a reply from Amazon but not one I was expecting. I must have gone through the first filter as I got an email asking me to do a "numerical reasoning test" to get through to the next stage. Well, I'm not very numerate only being good at mental arithmetic.  The email explained I could do a practice test and provided the link. I got Oli to sit with me so's to do it together and oh my God it was so difficult.  The questions are complicated maths and economic type problems and you have to answer 18 questions in 23 minutes while the clock is ticking.  I think we managed  3 when about 10 minutes was up.  Later her boyfriend tried it too with a a bit more success but the time factor was the most hindering factor.  I'm not sure how I'm going to go about this but will certainly have to practice. I then looked up on the internet just how important the test is and my goodness the stuff I found was pretty awful.  I also found out that to get a job with Amazon you go through about 10 rounds of terrible HR stages.  I think I could manage them all, especially the verbal reasoning, the presentation, a case study, role playing, etc but it's the numerical reasoning test that's daunting me.  So watch this space.  But do I really want to go and live in London which is where the job would take me?  Not sure at all. 

Friday afternoon was not the time to be practicing numerical reasoning tests.  No, it was time for my second walk, this time in the sun. Eladio and Oli joined me and we took the dogs.  Meanwhile the 3 gardeners who hail from Ecuador, were still pruning the trees and shearing the hedges.  This is what the garden looked like towards the end of the day. What a job and I'm very relieved Eladio outsourced it this year.
The garden on Friday in the throes of tree pruning and hedge shearing.
That evening we went out to dinner to one of our favourite places, La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas and were joined by Oli and Miguel.  I was looking forward to breaking my diet as I am allowed to do a couple of times a week on the maintenance diet I am following.  Wearing a size 10 black dress belonging to Olivia (!!!), off we went in the Yoigo mini car that the company has lent me until 10th March.  I'm afraid I ate too much.  I started off with a small glass of wine, a small roll of brown bread dipped in olive oil, then an artichoke dripping in foie sauce and an oxtail croquette. By then I was already full but still had the second course coming; Argentinian fillet steak with chips of which I could not even eat half.  I wanted a dessert and the 1/3 of the brownie we shared was all I could manage.  Suzy later warned me when talking on the phone that night that, as I was now "petite", my stomach had shrunk and that I could no longer eat the portions I could before. How right she is. Next time I shall skip on the starters and bread and just have a second course and share the pudding. Obviously that night my eyes were bigger than my stomach. 

I woke up on Saturday morning still feeling full and had no appetite for breakfast apart from a cup of coffee.  Whilst I read the "papers" - well The Times on my iPad -  Salud, our home help, was making everyone else's breakfast.  She had brought up my Father's glasses and book.  I glanced at it, interested to see what he was reading. For the  records it was Immensee by Theodor Storm, a famous German author he is fond of and he was reading it in old German Gothic script!!! 
The book my Father is currently reading is Immensee by Theodor Storm and he is reading it in German Gothic script. He bought in in 1938 when he was just 19!

I took a look inside and saw his inscription: "C.C. Lloyd, The Vicarage, Henbury, Bristol, 1938". So he had bought it when he was just 19.  I bow down to him; he is simply awesome. Not many 19 year old's or nonagenarians would be able to do so neither now, nor in 1938. The thing is he is very humble too and doesn't think that this is anything special when it is actually incredible. My Father is indeed "immense". Please forgive the pun haha.  It was nice to see he was using a bookmark Olivia had bought for him on her trip to Indonesia a few years ago; rather sweet I thought.

Saturday morning was a bit of a rush.  After my walk I came home to get ready to go out again, this time to do the weekly food shopping with Eladio. Home again, I left him to unpack it all and put it away and went out yet again. I was to meet Gloria and Ramón in Pozuelo, yes at Starbucks in the Corté Inglés, where she would be bringing me the freshly printed visiting cards. They are so nice and I am very grateful to QuintaEsencia.  Thanks girls.
My new visiting cards by QuintaEsencia, freshly printed.

By then it was past 1 o'clock and I had to rush home to prepare everyone's lunch.  I made chicken noodle soup followed by mini hamburgers with all the works.  

I think yesterday was the warmest and sunniest day of the week and I enjoyed my second walk in splendid sunshine and without a coat.  Poor Eladio, meanwhile, had gone off to his daily afternoon private lessons.  

Saturday ended with a light dinner, just the two of us, then a session on Netflix. We finished the detective series "Paranoid" and started on "Fauda".  Let's see if we get hooked or not.

And today is Sunday, blog day and time to publish this post.  I shall be off to Barcelona shortly, destination MWC, the biggest mobile phone fair on the planet which expects to see more than 100.000 delegates invading the city and I will be one of them.  You will, of course, be able to follow my adventures on my social media profiles and will get  a summary in next week's post.

All it leaves me now is to say cheers till then and wish you all a great week,

Bye till next time,

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Philosophy lessons, birthday lunch with QuintaEsencia, Oli’s TV programme this week, rhizarthrosis here again, St. Valentine’s Day and other stories.

Sunday 19th February 2017

Eladio and I at dinner on St. Valentine's Day, as much in love as when we first fell in love. 
Hi everyone,

How has your week been?

As is the norm since I was made redundant, mine has been very busy and has had its ups and downs as most weeks do.

On Sunday last it was raining all day. Even so, like "mad dogs and Englishmen", Oli and I braved the weather and went on a morning walk. 

Meanwhile, Eladio was giving one of his philosophy lessons.  He has 2 pupils studying this subject and that morning it was the turn of his Brazilian pupil, Luciano, who is studying for the pleasure of it and to gain knowledge.  Well he certainly has come to the right place. I took the opportunity to take a photo of the 2 of them and here they are happy to pose in between talking about St. Augustine and the Roman Empire hahaha.
Eladio with his pupil Luciano during their philosophy lesson last Sunday
Eladio has gone back to teaching, well giving private lessons, to make up a bit for my loss of salary after being axed from Yoigo (ouch!).  Good for him, although it worries me he is taking on too much and hardly has any free time.

But he did have some free time that day when, after his lesson, we went to have lunch with our friends Benito and Loli from years back, when we lived "in sin" in Saconia when I first came to Spain.  Loli had made a splendid lunch and that day I broke my diet as my doctor allows me to do twice or so a week.  She is a great cook and served us 4 dishes. Yes, 4 dishes beginning with "hors d'oeuvre" of roast red peppers and anchovies, cheese and "lomo" (similar to Spanish cured ham). The first course after that was a mouth watering soup made of white butter beans with large prawns and the main course lamb cutlets. Thankfully the dessert was not heavy; sliced oranges with walnuts and prunes.  I totally forgot to take a photo of either the food or of the 4 of us.  It was good to see our friends and as, always when we meet, we speak about how we first me. We were so young then. I was just 25 I think! Amazing.

We had to leave at around 5pm as Eladio had his second philosophy lesson of the day that afternoon. This time it was for his Italian pupil, Emiliano, who is preparing to do a degree in the subject at the "Uned University".  

I took the time to cook vegetables for the week and which I eat every day on my maintenance diet. 

Monday was good and bad, like the "curate's egg", hahah - good in parts. It started off really well. That day as part of my 60th birthday present from my wonderful events agency, QuintaEsencia, they invited me to lunch at De María in Majadahonda, an upmarket Argentinian steak place.  It was so good to see them all. They all came; Cristina, Beatriz, Gloria, Julia and yes one boy, Miguel.  Bea had some great news to share which made me very happy. And here we are around the table at the restaurant on Monday.

Lunch with my team from QuintaEsencia on Monday, a pleasure
After lunch I was meeting my friend and ex Nokia colleague Juana who now works for Microsoft.  She was coming to see me at the restaurant to help me set up a new outlook account as I just can't use gmail for work purposes.  She has saved my life on various occasions now vs-a-vs computer issues and I am extremely grateful. When you are made redundant you are completely alone in many ways and I have had to do so much stuff on my own which previously would have been done for me at work.  

The bad part of the day came when I got home and opened an envelope from my lawyer who works for a legal company called Broseta.  I was in for a huge shock.  I used him for all the redundancy procedure from Yoigo.  He was charging 170 euros per hour.  The total came to 4.000 euros!!!  I cannot fathom how he claims to have worked so many hours on my case when in my mind he was not a good lawyer. He didn't fight my cause and was not able to change any of the clauses or conditions imposed by my former employees. In fact I found myself having to defend myself against his so-called "better judgement".  Later I was told that the price charged was normal.  I don't think that's very normal. I remember using a superb lawyer called Iñigo Sargadoy when I left Motorola and he really fought for me, even getting me my company car and I paid him a much more reasonable fee at the time. Unfortunately I couldn't use him this time as his legal office only deals with companies not private people.  I do wish I had shopped around instead of using Broseta, the company my fellow colleagues used.  I shall warn any other future colleagues being made redundant to shop around before choosing him as he is expensive and does nothing to fight for his clients; at least he didn't for me.  

I had another bit of bad news that day.  A new prospective customer project had fallen through leaving me feeling more vulnerable in my new journey as a freelance communications consultant. 

The day could only get worse as that afternoon whilst typing furiously on my PC keyboard I began to feel pain in my right hand, just where the thumb joint is.  I realised immediately that my rhizarthrosis had returned with a vengeance.  I had to give up writing and put on a special bandage to immobilise my hand.  I couldn't make dinner and had difficulty in getting into my pyjamas.  The episode lasted 2 or 3 days and now the pain has gone. I wonder when it will return and whether one day I shall need an operation. The arthritis in my hand is obviously one of the drawbacks of turning 60!

The other good part of the day came that night.  On Monday at 23h, one of Olivia's new programmes was being broadcast.  The topic that night was street jobs in Madrid and I enjoyed watching her interview window cleaners, traffic police, a postwoman, flower sellers, a baked chestnut seller, a 72 year old shoe cleaner as well as the porter of the famous 5 star hotel, The Palace.  You should be able to watch the whole programme on this link.

Olivia with the flower sellers in Monday's programme

Olivia with the shoe cleaner in Monday's programme.
Tuesday was St. Valentine's Day and a better day on the whole.  With the bandage on my hand I painstakingly spent the morning compiling the media coverage report after the Genaker press conference in Barcelona. There was another offline clipping that  day in El Mundo and later in the week the newspaper would publish it on their website which has an audience of 4.5 million people!!  It's funny how people in companies outside the "trade" of PR which is my case, always tend to be more impressed with written press coverage but they are wrong as the number of readers online is far superior to those offline.  

Some of the offline clippings from the Genaker press conference I organised on 8th Feb, my birthday
The media coverage garnered was quite impressive for a relatively unknown company which specialises in "critical communications": 30 online clippings, 8 offline clippings, 3 international clippings and hundreds of twitter posts with significant reach and audience on both Twitter and LinkedIn.  All in all this generated a total of 230.000 euros in equivalent advertising spend and an audience of up to 19 million people!  The return of investment (ROI) was 76 times the investment cost of the whole event.  In the report I also included the link to the photos which you can see here

Being St. Valentine's Day, we went out to dinner that night and chose the low cost restaurant, Ginos, a favourite of ours.  Olivia joined us and I was looking very much forward to breaking my diet that night hahaha.  The photo illustrating this week's post was taken by her.    I'ts a very romantic one  of the two of us raising our glasses to love, that essential part of any marriage. Without that element it wouldn't work. 
Eladio and I on St. Valentine's Day at Gino's
Dinner couldn't have been more delicious.  We had a tomato pizza bread starter with Lambrusco rosé wine. My second course was "paglia y fieno" (straw and hay) spaghetti and dessert was shared white chocolate and pistachio ice cream.  Wow, did I feel full, far too full that I slept badly that night.  But it was an unforgettable dinner.  Thanks Oli for joining us and thanks  for the lovely photos. 

Wednesday was a nice day and very busy. That morning I had a meeting in Madrid with a prospective customer, IraltaVR, a vanguard audiovisual producer owned by two brothers, César and Angel with whom I have worked in the past on many Yoigo multimedia productions, the most important of which was the "Story of Yoigo" made in 2010, the short version of which you can see here. Yes, Caesar and Angel hahaha, funny names in English but very common here.  

For the occasion I wore my new black Zara jumper with pearls and the Cortefiel black skirt both of which were birthday presents. I love the outfit as did Oli who wore it the day before.  
My birthday present outfit which I wore on Wednesday
It was a beautiful sunny day and I got to the meeting early so decided on having a cup of coffee in the Quevedo square when I got out of the metro and watch the world walk by.  It was a lovely moment and I took the selfie below to remember it.

It was great to see Angel and Caesar again and I was happy to see just how much their production company had grown.  They are really pioneering and these days are doing some amazing content using virtual and augmented reality.  They have teamed up with a company who do "CGI" (computer generated information) which blew my mind.  In order to see the content I had to wear goggles and headphones and suddenly I was transported into the middle of a play by Cervantes or a cellar with rats and coca cola cans where I wore plastic hands to pick them up and shoot at them or throw them in the bin.  It was just amazing. Later we went to have lunch to talk about how I could collaborate.  I'm not sure I'm a commercial person but I shall try.

I had to rush back home after lunch as that afternoon I was giving my first "Afternoon Tea and Talk" session or lesson to my first pupil who turned out to be a neighbour from our street who I didn't know. 
The tea tray I served Carmen my first pupil on Wednesday

Carmen turned up on time and we had an enjoyable hour speaking in English.  Her level is very basic but she has the drive and can make herself understood.  She was pleased with the "lesson" and has agreed to come every Wednesday afternoon. 

Thursday 16th February, just 8 days after mine, was my dear friend from Yorkshire, Jacky's 60th too.  Happy birthday my dearest. I hope you had a great day with friends and family. I spent the morning going on my walk, working on projects for Genaker and on my web page. It is nearly finished now, at least the English part.  I just have to translate less than half of the Spanish now. I know it's a very humble site technologically speaking but I'm quite chuffed with myself that I was actually able to set it up hahaha and am actually quite pleased with it.  The thing is, it serves its purpose and right now has had over 1000 visits which is quite a lot I think.  If you haven't seen it yet, you can find it here: (  I am trying to improve its SEO (search engine optimization) positioning so need your help here.  All you have to do is visit it and tweet it so that the link gets shared and more people visit. Thanks my friends. 

It was a day working at home and I got a lot done.  The reward was dinner with Eladio and Oli as always, the highlight of my day. I don't remember what I ate but I do remember the company of our lovely dogs.  In the photo below is a typical photo of Elsa with little Pippa underneath her in the same bed. Aren't they just adorable?
Elsa and little Pippa underneath her in their joint bed hahaha
The day ended with another 2 episodes of Season 2 of Happy Valley which in fact is not at all a happy series but I love it because it is set in my beloved West Yorkshire. 

On Friday Eladio and I went to see my new accountant, really called a "fiscal advisor" here. He gave us depressing news about how to become self employed; no easy journey and no way round the system either.  

But who had really depressing news that day was the King of Spain's brother-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, who was sentenced on Friday to 6 years in prison after a notorious tax fraud trial in Mallorca. It involved his wife the Infanta Cristina who claimed not to know where all the money was coming from.  Her husband was accused of using his royal connections to generate business income at inflated prices for private spending.  The Princess, stripped of her royal titles and exiled from the family in nearly every way, was  herself, unsurprisingly,  acquitted and only had to pay a fine. I wonder what she will do with her life when her husband is in prison. 

The King of Spain's sister the Infanta Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin who was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
That afternoon I decided not to work.  After all it was Friday afternoon and I was pretty tired at the end of the week.   I spent part of the time digging into Suzy's wardrobe where lots of Olivia and her discarded clothes are kept. I had seen a huge pile of trousers and wondered whether they would fit.  They were all size 10 (38 here) and all fit, except some were out of fashion. But I did find a great pair of black Massimo Dutti trousers and some nice blue jeans from Pull and Bear.  It felt like having new clothes. Thanks girls! 
That afternoon I was shocked to hear that 3 or more employees at Yoigo who I know very well  had been made redundant. I felt very sorry for them.  It's such a pity to witness our beautiful project going slowly down the drain.  Very sad indeed. 
Life went on and after dinner together, Eladio and I watched the last episode of Season 2 of Happy Valley. I shall miss it.  Not knowing what to watch next on Netflix we came across a film called The Best of Me based on a book by Nicholas Sparks which are always very romantic with good endings. We both loved it and can highly recommend it. 
The film we watched on Netflix on Friday night.
Yesterday morning I woke up at the unearthly hour of 5.30 a.m.  I decided to weigh myself as I hadn't been on the scales since before my birthday and had broken my diet on occasion. But oh my God I wasn't prepared to see I had lost yet another kilo and was down to 57.9 kilos which is 9.1 stone.  That might be a good weight for my height but the more weight I lose the more gaunt and wrinkled I become.  There and then I decided to have a slightly larger breakfast and skip the usual bowl of oat bran porridge.  Oh how wonderful the two medium sized pieces of toast spread with butter tasted, followed by a bowl of fresh pineapple and all washed down by a big mug of delicious coffee.
I also decided to eat the same as the men for lunch that day and made cocido for us all. "Cocido" is a Spanish dish a bit like a stew but you separate the broth from the meat, potatoes and vegetables.  Each region here makes it differently but my favourite is the one from Madrid called "cocido madrileño".  It is made of meats and bones of different types, including chorizo, chickpeas and vegetables.  First you eat a soup out of the broth and then you eat the rest of the food dry like the picture below.  It's a great favourite in our house and my speciality.  
"Cocido madrileño" which I made on Saturday for lunch. 
I made plenty of broth to freeze to make soups for dinners, Olivia's favourite.

Eladio went off to his class and I worked a bit until Oli came home. She had been out to lunch with her school friends Sonia and Elena.  Their other friend Begoña who is nearly 9 months pregnant was not able to meet up with them.  Wow, it's amazing to think of these girls now women as future mothers.  I wonder when Oli will take the plunge. I'm dying to become a grandmother now that I am 60.
Oli with Elena in the middle and Sonia on the right
Oli came home on time to take me shopping with her to Centro Oeste in Majadahonda, a dangerous place for us with all its temptations. She wanted to buy t-shirts, sweets and socks for Suzy to send her a parcel to London as a gift for her having given up smoking. As we walked into Zara I tried not to look at anything but caught sight of a beautiful red suede coat which I am sad to say I didn't try on.

Going into the sweet shop reminded me of the times when the girls were small.  It's funny how they still like sweets, especially Spanish ones.  Here I was not tempted hahaha, well only a bit. I had to have a photo for the occasion and below you can see Oli, dressed, by the way, in my red birthday jacket, choosing sweets for her sister Suzy.  I call that sisterly love. 
Oli in the sweet shop on Saturday
After shopping for Suzy's goodies we ventured into the gigantic hypermarket Carrefour.  All I wanted to buy was some thinly sliced smoked salmon with dill for dinner but of course we ended up buying more things, notably a packet of tempting looking dried figs for Eladio which he loves. 

Dinner was lovely and very healthy: sliced tomato, the salmon and cecina (smoked beef) followed by fresh fruit.  

And today is Sunday and I was awake at 6.15, a bit better than yesterday. I do wish I could sleep just a little bit longer.

Now I am at the end of the tales of this week all that remains is to wish you a happy Sunday and a good week ahead.

Cheers till next time my friends and readers,

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lunch with the Nokia girls, to Barcelona for my first press conference as a freelance communications consultant, Oh my God I turned 60, I’m getting a Mini One Clubman, birthday celebrations with the family and other stories

Sunday 12th February 2017
Me on my birthday on Wednesday at the Genaker Press Conference, ready to go.
Hi everyone. 

Well there is lots to tell this week.  It was a milestone as on Wednesday, believe it or  not, I turned 60! It was also a milestone in my  professional life as a fledgling communications consultant when I organized a press conference in Barcelona on the same day for my new customer, Genaker.

But let me start from where I left off on Sunday 5th February. It was a nasty rainy day and I worked most of it.  I can tell you that as a freelance communications consultant I am working much much harder than I ever did in my previous job. But I'm loving it and feeling motivated.  In fact I feel on top of the world.  That day, apart from drafting the Genaker press release in English for the upcoming press conference, I also worked on my website (yes WIP work in progress).  This is what it's looking like now. I am amazed that it already has some 700 page visits! Later in the week, my dear friend Jacky proof read it for me. Thanks my dear that is much appreciated. I also updated my LinkedIn profile and was delighted to get more recommendations.  My next job is to make visiting cards that match the website and my CV!  I have so much to do setting myself up as self employed you can't imagine. 

Monday was the first day for Suzy working for the NHS as a locum dietitian.  We were to hear nothing but good things about her new job.  She is enjoying it tremendously.  It is varied with lots of different tasks and a very nice welcoming team of dietitians.  I am so happy for her.
That morning I had a daunting task and it was to locate European and global telecoms media contacts to send the Genaker press release in English on Wednesday.  I knew about some publications like Euro Comms and Telecom Europe, Crunch and Wireless magazine but that was about it.  I got them mostly from internet but then I was helped by Beth S an ex colleague from Motorola who is now coincidentally working as chief of press for the association Genaker has just become a member of, TCCA - association for "critical communications" for professional users -  who gave me more names of journalists and their emails.  I was very grateful.  So what is critical communications you may ask if you are not a telecoms engineer like me?Well I've been finding out this week.  I thought Genaker was a professional mobile radio company (traditional walkie talkies) but no they are dedicated to "critical communications".  This is mobile communications for emergency and high security type teams where the communication in groups using avant guard solutions for walkie talkie type devices is critical. The strategy in this field is for the devices to be similar to smartphones but with a button for groups to talk to at the same time (push to talk, "PTT") and even using 4G networks. So what happens when there is little coverage I wondered.? Well, their traffic or use of voice is prioritised above all other users and the operators running the networks have to include something called "quality of service" whereby communication is guaranteed for emergency like teams. Have I explained myself?  I hope so.  So now I am hearing terms like "Mission critical communication solutions" and "Business critical communiation solutions".  No it's nothing like the walkie talkies that the police force, etc. traditionally use.   Not easy to communicate right? Well, here I am trying hahaha. I was to find there was even a magazine called Radio Resource Mission Critical Communications and I was delighted to see they ran our news on Wednesday in this article!!
I had a break from work, although my time was limited and I was on the run all day. On Monday I had a lunch appointment with my group of Nokia girls; a pre birthday celebration really.  Not everyone could come but that day I was joined by Juana, Fátima, Jill, Zenaida and Ana.  Lunch was at El Jardin de la Máquina in Pozuelo.  It used to be La Leyenda but has since been taken over by a new group and they have redone the whole place and it is looking lovely.
And here we are, the "Nokia Girls" having lunch around the table overlooking a beautiful garden.
With the "Nokia girls" at a pre birthday celebration lunch on Monday
The food was good under the new owners. I think we had artichokes and then I had a lovely piece of steak.  None of us was to order a dessert hahaha, until, suddenly a slice of chocolate cake with an M in chocolate drawn on the plate and a candle, appeared on the table. Wow it was for my birthday.
The slice of birthday cake in my honour at teh Nokia girls lunch on Monday
There wasn't just the cake, the girls gave me a present too and I was bowled over to open the box and find a beautiful Michael Kors watch. Isn't it just lovely? It was to be the best present I received for my 60th birthday. Thanks girls, I love it!
The beautiful Michael Kors watch my dear Nokia girlfriends gave to me at our lunch on Monday
I stayed on at the restaurant after lunch with Juana who was to help me install outlook or rather create a new account for me.  She is my own private IT assistant these days hahaha. Well, you see, she is a telcoms engineer and it all comes a lot easier to her. But I am extremely grateful for her help. It wasn't easy as the Yoigo one I had was still on my pc and would need removing.  In fact, I needed to get rid of all the Yoigo stuff from it without losing any content or programmes; something I would do on Thursday.
I rushed home after that, with a quick stop at the Corte Ingles, to make the watch strap smaller, and worked until 9pm when Eladio came back from his afternoon classes. I seemed to have so much to do and can hardly keep up with my lists.
Tuesday came and I was off to Barcelona for my first press conference after Yoigo.  I was joined by darling Gloria from QuintaEsencia my events agency who would set up the event itself. My job was all the press part. No way could I have done both on my own with only 3 weeks to prepare. I was to use "cabify" for the first time that day when I booked one of their taxis to the Atocha train station to catch the "Ave" (high speed train).  It's similar to Uber but with the advantage, at least here in Madrid, that you can book a cab in advance and there are plenty of them.
Both Gloria and I worked on the train throughout the 2.5h journey.  We arrived to 17ºc and sunshine in beautiful Barcelona.  We took a taxi to my hotel, the Catalonia Diagonal Centre which I loved. Thanks Miquel for booking me a room there.  The room was big with a very comfortable bed and had a terrace looking out onto the street, Balmes.  It was around lunch time and before our meeting at my new customer's offices at 4pm, we went to have a meal where we always go when in Barcelona; to "Cal Pinxo" by the Port Vell or next to the Palau de Mar right by the sea and port. Being much more weight conscious these days, I didn't order what I would have loved to eat; "fideua" (like paella but made of thin pasta) but had a sort of gazpacho followed by a salad.  And here we are, Gloria and I in the sun enjoying being in Barcelona.

After lunch was my first face to face meeting with Genaker with the CEO and founders, Miquel, Jordi and David all ex Nokia employees.  Gloria joined us and we went over the final materials for the press conference the next day as well as other projects I will be working on for them.  It was so nice to see my ex colleague Miquel who I consider much more a friend than a colleague and I am openly grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to work with him.  He and my second customer gave me the idea of becoming self employed as a freelance communications consultant. But Nokia is in both our hearts and when I spotted a Nokia flag in the meeting room, I had to have a photo with dear Miquel.  And here we are together.
With Miquel my first customer in his offices in Barcelona on Tuesday
Our meeting ended at about 5.30 and I had to rush off to the other end of town where I was meeting Toñi, a freelance journalist friend and her delightful 3 year old toddler.  Toñi has been a faithful friend always coming to my press conferences and events in Barcelona and the next day she would be there too.  Unexpectedly for me, we were joined by another close journalist friend, Carmen who works for a big Catalan newspaper, El Periodico de Cataluña.  I have known them both since my days in Motorola.  Toñi and Carmen have their own media portal called "Gadwoman" (a technological site for women) which I love and I think and hope is doing very well.  It's very fitting that they set it up, as they are both very techy women journalists hahaha. And here is a photo to remember that moment, the 3 of us together in Barcelona last Tuesday.
With Carmen (in the middle) and Toñi (right). Lovely to see them in Barcelona last Tuesday
Before winding down that day or night, I had to work hard contacting journalists to confirm their attendance the next day.  Gloria, helped by Julia from QuintaEsencia who was in town for another customer, did most of the hard work and it wasn't easy.  There are not as many journalists from the technological or economic sectors plus there are many other stories for them to cover. Whey would they find the story of Genaker interesting and come to the press conference if, for example, "Gas Natural" (the big gas company with its HQ in Barcelona) were holding a press conference at the same time the next day. Thankfully though by the end of the day we had a list of 9 journalists, most of them heavyweights. 

Thus I was able to wind down properly at dinner that night.  We chose to go to Acontraluz, a beautiful little place with a super terrace and garden where we had hosted the Yoigo party at the Mobile World Congress in 2015.  We had a lovely dinner reminiscing and telling Julia about all the years we had worked together with Gloria and her sisters Bea and Cristina since the 90's, from Motorola, to Nokia, then to Yoigo and now to Genaker and whoever comes next hahaha. It was lovely to be back at AContraluz and the owner remembered us.  Both Gloria and Julia insisted I have a glass of wine and that we should wait up till midnight for them to be the first to wish me a happy birthday. Their wish was granted and here we are in the taxi going back to my hotel at exactly midnight, when I turned 60.
Midnight on 7th Feb with Gloria and Julia just as the clock struck 12 and I was suddenly aged 60!
The girls hugged and kissed me and then the messages started.  I would not be able to keep up with them until a few days later. 

So suddenly I was 60. Well, I didn't feel any different. In fact I don't think I look 60. Women today at 60 look a lot younger than our mothers or grandmothers did at 60. So I'm just one of the new generation of 60 year old baby boombers and feeling and looking good. I feel more like 40 with boundless energy and so much will power and motivation and I suppose "joie de vivre".  So yes I am 60 and accept it with grace but wonder how it happened and where the years have alk gone. 

On the big day, my 60th and the day of my first press conference as a communications consultant, I woke up at 5 in the morning with a big headache thanks to the wine the night before. I had plenty of time to have breakfast and get ready for my big day.  I was wondering how it would pan out. It was so wierd being in Barcelona on my birthday and I was missing my family with whom I would normally have been enjoying a celebratory breakfast. It was by the way also Jordi's birthday and David's daughter's.  Of course it was also Copi and Juan's birthday too.  I hope they all had great days like me. That morning, alone in my hotel bedroom, I had a present to open.  A little parcel had arrived for me at home a few days earlier with strict instructions not to open until 8th February. So I took it to Barcelona to open that day. My dear friend Jackie had sent me a book "Now we are 60" hahah and a lovely birthday card, both of which you can see in the photo below.

Jacky's original birthday card and book

Yes it was my birthday but my mind was only concentrated on the press conference.  I was worried, yes very worried, the journalists wouldn't turn up and that all our impeccable work organising the press materials and event itself would be for nothing.  It was touch and go mostly because the company Genaker is so little known outside its sector. That would make an awful impression on my new customer and would put any future work with them in jeopardy.
I arrived early at the location, the Restaurante Tuset near my hotel. It was the same place I had organised the Yoigo press conference at the Mobile World Congress in 2015 to launch the "Sinfin" tariff and which had brought me so much luck.

When I got there Gloria and Julia had already set everything up and it was looking beautiful.  All the press kits were arranged on tables for breakfast with "bunches" of tempting looking sweets". It was, by the way, Genaker's first set of merchandising I think.
The press kit for Genaker's first press conference
Miquel, Jordi and David soon arrived and we started a photo shoot using the special photo call we had made for the occasion.  But before we did it, Miquel who had brought his daughters, Laura and Nora along, presented me with a lovely birthday present, a bottle of pink Moet Chandon and a box of Belgian chocolates.  I was very touched. Then the shoot began with me clutching the presents. The photo illustrating this week's post is of me standing by the photo call.  
With my customers, holding the lovely birthday present from Miquel
Miquel, my friend, my ex Nokia colleague and now my customer
So everything was set up and we were ready but not one journalist had made an appearance. At 10.25 I was outside on the street with Gloria praying to the heavens they would turn up.  And they did, late of course, as is typical of journalists. One by one they came from El Mundo, Expansión, El Periódico de Cataluña, Netmedia, Gadwoman, La Vanguardia and most important of all; Agencia Efe, the main Spanish news agency.  A newswire from the latter would guarantee coverage in most of Spain's media and it did thank goodness.  Yep we only had 7 but as I said before, they were heavyweights.
The journalists at our press conference
And so it started.  First I welcomed everyone and then introduced the founders of Genaker and the story of the day, then I handed over the microphone to Miquel who did the presentation we had so lovingly made for them.
The press conference begins.
It went well and the news that Genaker , the Spanish mobile communications company, had been awarded an EU 1.3m euro grant for innovation went down well.  The company scored the highest marks out of 2000 competing from all over Europe.  There were plenty of questions and meanwhile I sent out the press release in English to the European media and the Spanish version to my data base.  In parallel we tweeted the news too.
When it was over and the journalists had left, all apart from Elena from the Spanish news agency who was writing her newswire, it was time to leave ourselves.  I was happy with how everything had gone as were my customers which for me, was the main objective.  Miquel invited Julia, Gloria and I for a celebration and birthday lunch. He couldn't have taken us to a better place than One Ocean Club in the Port Vell and literally on top of the sea. It is apparently the most fashionable place to be seen in Barcelona these days and it was new to me.  The sun was shining and lunch was to be wonderful.  Thanks Miquel for taking us there.
At One Ocean club in Barcelona where we had lunch on my birthday
Through the delicious food (I had a thai beef salad followed by scallops and coconut ice cream for dessert!) we talked non stop. I told the story of how I came to live in Spain and met my husband Eladio and Miquel told us his story of how he went to live in Finland, married a Finn and worked for Nokia and his return to Spain.  We talked so much, it was suddenly 4.15 and our train was at 4.30 so we had to rush but thankfully caught it by the skin of our teeth.
Once on board, I started seeing all the online press coverage from the event. Wow that was a thrill.  I spent most of the 2.5h non stop journey trying to send photos from the photo shoot to newspapers.  It was very frustrating as the mobile phone coverage on the train is extremely poor. I would have loved to read and answer all the birthday messages, more than 190 on Facebook and nearly 70 whatsapps but that would have to wait.
We arrived at the Atocha train station at around 7pm and I ordered another efficient Cabify taxi and was home just before 8pm. That day I was wearing the lovely Custo designer dress I had bought after copying Olivia.  Well, guess what?  When I got home I found her wearing hers. It was such a funny moment.  Here we are mother and daughter wearing the same dress on the same day. What a laugh.
Oli and I wearing the same dress on my birthday hahaha
I couldn't believe the amount of presents waiting for me on the sofa in our study/office.  Then Eladio arrived and it was time to open them.  In the middle, my darling Danish princess, Pernille, once our au pair, called me to wish me a happy birthday.  That was the most important call of the day. Thank you my darling. I love you and hope you and Thomas will come to my official 60th birthday party at home in June.
Normally we open our birthday presents at a breakfast birthday together but that was not to be.  There was a very big one I was told came from my events agency QuintaEsencia and oh how lovely it was; a box with the number 60 on it and all the kit they thought a communications consultant would need including a personalised note book and visiting cards, along with a photo of us together, a mug, a big smile sign, an apron and last but not least, an invitation to have lunch on Monday at De María in Majadahonda. I was literally bowled over.  This is what it looked like. They are so creative.  Thank you girls so so so much. I loved the box and all the content.
The beautiful 60th birthday kit from QuintaEsencia
Then I opened Oli's presents, a lovely dress, a belt and a dressing gown.  Of course I knew what Eladio's presents would be as I had bought them myself haha; two mini skirts, a very British red soldier like jacket and 2 jumpers from Zara. I immediately put on the black mini skirt and black jumper with pearls on it for dinner. We would be going to El Buey in Boadilla to celebrate.
Meanwhile however, our very first Airbnb guests arrived, Camilla and Julia from Italy.  This is my Airbnb advert by the way. They were here to do a course on sports physiotherapy as part of their degree at the nearby UEM University where Olivia studied. They were lost, as is not surprising in this maze like neighbourhood, so I grabbed the Yoigo mini and went to find them.
Dinner was good and quiet and it was nice to be alone with Eladio and Oli finally on my 60th birthday. Just Suzy and my Father were missing. That night I was literally exhausted and fell asleep soon although, as usual, the next day, Thursday, I was awake at 6 a.m.

I woke up to more press coverage including the international press which made me so happy.  I couldn't believe just how much there was for such a small company.  Yes, I had achieved my objective of beginning to build their public image. And I hope I can do even more for them.
Just some of the media coverage garnered for Genaker from the press conference
I had loads to do that day, including going to Yoigo for the first time since before I was fired. I had to take in my pc which they had let me keep and it needed being cleared of the Yoigo profile but keeping all the other content which I had. Dear Marius from the IT department did it for me.  It was strange going there again.  A few weeks ago I didn't want to go as I felt so down after being axed but Thursday was different.  I was a new woman with my life on a new path and things looking good. It was just so wonderful to see and greet my favourite colleagues, Dragutin, Antonio, Belén, Tony, Pedro, María, María Luisa, Gonzalo, Ana Isabel, Juan and many more.  In fact I stayed there most of the morning and agreed with many of them that in a couple of weeks time I shall host a goodbye dinner with all of them.  You see Yoigo is still in my heart, the good parts that is, after 10 exciting years.  The first 6 while my ex CEO Johan was there were the very best and I shall always remember them.
I came to have a quick lunch then had to spend time restoring a lot of things on my pc, the centre of my work of course.  I had to install an antivirus and many other things. Thankfully Juana was there on the other end of the phone to help with a problem with opening some of my files.  I also talked to my fiscal advisor and was horrified to hear that as a freelance I would be having to pay 1000 euros per month for social security.  To become one I would have to capitlise the dole but would be a lot worse off for doing so. Being an "autónomo" - self employed - here has few advantages.  So my future is not looking so rosy after all.
On Friday morning it snowed. Amazing right? It was so cold and wet but the snow didn't settle as it never really does in Madrid. At 10 a.m. I had a meeting with Robert, the policeman from Gibraltar.  He had seen me on TV and wanted to sound me out on an idea he has to relocate British companies to Spain after Brexit.  I'm not sure how I can help him apart from offering my communications services which I told him about.  When he left I stayed behind at the lovely Alverán cake shop and ordered my birthday cake for the family celebrations on Saturday. I also bought a tray full of croissants, etc for breakfast the next day.
Then we did something exciting.  Eladio and I went to the BMW showroom in Madrid, the biggest in Spain, to see Luis Felipe, the guy who sells all the cars to Yoigo and from whom we got my now ex BMWX6.  He was so welcoming. I wanted a mini but was also interested in seeing what other cars were on offer; the kilometre 0 types or even second hand ones. He wanted me to buy a BMW Series 1 but I wasn't for it. We went for a basic Mini One but with all the extras; automatic drive, sat nav, rear parking camera, etc.  There were various models and it was Eladio who insisted I get a superior one with all my extras, the Mini One Clubman. It was more expensive than what we had budgeted for but Eladio said I deserved it hahaha. How sweet of him. There and then I gave him a huge hug in the show room in front of all the sales guys. I saw it there in pepper white (sort of ivory) and fell for it. And there and then we ordered it.  It will take 2 months to be delivered. I was delighted. Later I realised that this car would be the first brand new car I had ever bought for myself, as all the others have either been second hand or company cars.  The Mini, still made in Oxford, although by BMW, is such a British car and I think suits me to the tee.  Don't you. This is what it looks like.

On Friday we ordered a brand new Mini One Clubman for me with all the accessories

We were home really late for lunch but happy with our morning.  In the afternoon Eladio went off to his classes and I went on my walk with Pippa.  At about 7.30pm just as I was getting into my pyjamas, Oli rang to ask if I would accompany her to the Centro Oeste shopping centre where she had to buy a black handbag for Copi's birthday from her and Elena and Elena's boyfriend Antuan.  Centro Oeste is a dangerous place to be as there are so many temptations.  We looked for bags but before Oli bought one, we bought clothes at a lovely little boutique called La Provenza. There I fell in love with a pair of skinny jeans covered in pearls. I couldn't believe I could get into them. Oli would be wearing them for Copi's birthday, along with my new watch and several other things of mine too hahaha.  We also got some food for dinner and for my birthday lunch at Carrefour and came home to have a great meal with Eladio. Before we watched Netflix we had a long chat with Suzy thanks to whatsapp and we were so pleased to hear how happy she is with her new job. You deserve it darling. She told me that her new boss called "Pavita" (little turkey in Spanish hahahha) who may be Indian, is very happy with her having said she, Suzy, is very enthusiastic and that they need enthusiastic people in her team of dietitians. She even got her NHS email. Well done my sweetie.
The family birthday breakfast on Saturday morning was as good as it gets. I stuffed my face on croissants, donut, toast with butter and "napolitanas" (a chocolate pastry).  And here I am doing so hahaha.
Saturday morning birthday breakfast
The day was busy. I had to do the food shopping in the morning, pick up my cake and make the lunch.  Lunch was Oli's choice as I just couldn't think what I wanted. It's funny after so much dieting I should have cravings but I don't. In the end we had home made mini hamburgers with chips. Very naughty but very nice. It was accompanied by a vintage bottle of Rioja Ramón Bilbao 2011, all very wow and fitting for the occasion.
Birthday lunch on Saturday
The pièce de résistance was not the wonderful fresh fruit, fresh cream and white chocolate birthday cake from Arvelán but the candles Oli got for it.  Oh my they were fun. Oli took a video of me lighting them which you can see here. It really was a hilarious moment and I love her video of me getting as excited as a child. You see I've always loved fireworks.
The hilarious birthday cake moment yesterday
I hadn't eaten so much in ages and all I wanted afterwards was a long siesta which I got.  I didn't wake up until 5.30.  I worked for while until Oli came back from the hairdresser when we went on a much needed walk together with Pippa.
Last night we started watching Season 2 of Happy Valley on Netflix, the detective series set in my beloved Yorkshire and starring Sarah Lancashire. I think we watched 2 episodes and then fell asleep.
I was up early again this morning, although slightly later than usual, at 6.25.  The Italian girls were leaving and I offered to drive them to the University as it was raining and they needed to be on time for an exam that morning.  By car it's a 5 to 10 minute drive but by bus it is a lot longer. They told me they would be back as they loved the room, our house, the dogs and said I was very kind. Well that was nice and it's good to know I shall have them again as guests. They were my first airbnb guests and just the sort I would like to host.
And today is 12th February, a significant date in my mind. It was my brother George's birthday or would have been as he sadly passed away of melanoma in 2001.  Poor George, I just wish he had been as lucky as me but he wasn't. He lives on in my heart as he does in my Father's. I will be remembering him all day.
I don't want to leave on a sad note, so let me tell you that today we shall be having lunch with Benito and Loli, our friends from the days we first came to live in Madrid.  We look forward to it.
And I am looking forward to another busy week which will start with a lunch with QuintaEsencia on Monday. Of course you will hear all about it in next week's post.
So, cheers till next Sunday everyone,
All the best/Masha