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,

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