Saturday, March 11, 2017

Life is good, the Nokia spirit lives on, flowers for Olivia, lessons with Carmen, International Women’s Day, BBC interview "videobombed" and other stories.

Sunday 12th March 2017
A selfie with Pippa, the apple of my eye. I took her with me for moral support to return the Yoigo mini on Friday.
Hi again everyone.

This week has been very quiet compared to last week which was so hectic.  So what have I been up to since last Sunday? Read on and you will find out.

Sunday last was quiet for us.  It wasn’t so for Olivia who went to the very popular “La Latina” area to have tapas for lunch with her former co students from the TVE master she did after leaving University, Giovanna and Paula who are also journalists. One of the bars they went to was the one owned by the famous Lucío in the Cava Baja where the speciality is broken eggs with chips.  No, not your normal English type egg and chips I can assure you. And here they are together:
Oli with her journalist friends Giovanna and Paula.

Monday dawned and it was my first full day at home in quite a while.  I always have the odd errand to carry out from my list of pending things to do.  I have to admit I wouldn't be so organised if it weren't for these lists.  Well one item which was well past its due date was to pick up a repaired watch from a jewelry shop, Yaguë, in Majadahonda at the Centro Oeste shopping centre.  Eladio, tired of preparing for his afternoon classes, joined me. I was happy to get my watch back.  It is gold plated and Eladio bought if for me more than 20 years ago. I have many watches and choose carefully which one to put on according to what I am wearing, but this is one of my overall favourites.  Thankfully it's working again. 

That morning a new project landed on my desk, or rather the request for a communications plan.  Believe it or not it was for a famous international themed restaurant to be opened in Madrid in the summer.  Hahaha, I thought. Well if I can do "mission critical push-to-talk mobile communications" (i.e. walkie talkies) I can surely do PR for a new restaurant.  The most difficult thing will be or would be compiling the media list and I would have to do a lot of research to come up with one.  This was thanks to a lovely lady called Margarita who heads up the press clipping agency I used at Yoigo. She is forever looking out for projects for me. 

I worked on the plan that afternoon. The next morning it was finished and I sent it to the "client". On Friday he rang to say he liked it and now he has to tailor it for the customer and I shall join him in a meeting with them to further fine tune it.  I hope they like it too.

Monday would end very late as that night Telemadrid was broadcasting a programme Oli had made about castles and palaces, mansions and churches where people actually live or that were on sale.
A clip from Oli's programme on Monday night. 
It was on at nearly 11pm which is considered prime time here and far too late for me. I loved the programme but unfortunately fell asleep through bits of it. Thankfully I was able to watch all of it again the next day online.  You can too if you click here

Many things have happened this week that have made me realise just how good life is, or how good life is for me and my family at the moment. We all have our ups and downs and it's important to recognise and appreciate the positive moments. 

I should also mention that it was my Mother-in-law, Ernestina's 95th birthday.  Being a Tuesday, the family in León, celebrated it with her the weekend before when they all went out to a restaurant.
The family in León celebrating my mother-in-law, Ernestina's 95th birthday
We would have loved to join them but it's a 3 hour drive there and Eladio is tied down by his afternoon private lessons. He of course called his Mother that day to wish her a happy birthday.  She is in good health but has mild dementia so I do hope she realised why he was calling.  

On Tuesday I spent quality time with my great friend Fátima. I hope she doesn't mind me telling you here that she is fighting cancer at the moment and it is my objective to give her as much moral support as possible.  She had lunch with us and I made a special dish for her so that she could follow her very strict anti cancer diet prescribed to her so lovingly by Suzy my daughter.

Whilst she was here, I received a phone call from a number beginning with +47 and I just couldn't think which country the person was ringing from. It turned out to be a call from Poland from an ex Nokia colleague, Marcel.  Wow! He wanted some PR advice for the launch of a special new phone and I was happy to provide it.  Later he wrote and thanked me and said that the "Nokia spirit lives on". He's damned right it does.  You see we Nokia colleagues all trust each other and what I said to him made sense and he immediately changed his PR strategy for the product.  Nokia lives true to its tagline; "connecting people". But Nokia too lives on or at the least the mobile phone business has made a comeback and what a comeback it has been. Remember last week when I told you that Nokia had overshadowed all other talk at the recent Mobile World Congress? Well that was just my impression. However I now have evidence. A company called "Brandwatch" did a survey on the most talked about brands at the MWC and Nokia came top.  Next came the organisers themselves, the GSMA and then Huawei with their 6 million euro stand who are shortly to be the Kings of mobile phone manufacturers.  Samsung, watch out.
Nokia was the most talked about brand at this year's Mobile World Congress
Later that day, after my second walk, I had a conference call with my first new client and it was about an upcoming fair they will be attending in Hong Kong.  I had expressed an interest in going there and helping them with the project and the phone call was to discuss this.  It seems now I will be going unless things go wrong.  I was over the moon. I mean Hong Kong is rather an exotic destination for a newly set up freelance communications consultant. I have a friend, ex Nokia again, Keka, who lives there and it will be great to catch up with her if I go.  I have been trying to reach her all week as she seems to have disappeared from the social media map. Thankfully I have her local mobile number.  So that was good news.

Even better news came that day and it was for Olivia.  When she went into her newsroom on Tuesday afternoon after a TV shooting session in the morning, it was to find that her production company had sent her a bunch of red roses as well as a buffet lunch for all the staff. Why you may ask?  Well, it was because her programme on Monday had beaten the share record of all times for "Mi Cámara y Yo" and all the bosses and TV people were delighted with her and the programme. It's not often in Spain that success is celebrated in the work place. She was so astonished and at the same time pleased that this is the face the camera caught of her with the lovely roses. Well done my darling. I am so so proud of you.
Oli receiving flowers for the successful programme on Monday night.
I got more good news that day but of a much lesser nature.  You see I recently advertised "afternoon tea and talk" English conversation lessons targeted at people in the area. I already have one pupil, Carmen, who comes every Wednesday afternoon. Well on Tuesday I got another call and now have another pupil, also called Carmen. She will be coming on Thursday afternoons.  It's not that I like giving English conversation lessons, but it's something I need to do at the moment to get a bit of extra income. It's peanuts really but doesn't cost me much effort. Funnily enough the second Carmen turned out to be a huge coincidence.  She just happens to be the Mother of an internee, also called Carmen (there are many Carmens in Spain hahahaha), who worked for me at Nokia years ago. She is the eldest of I think 12 brothers and sisters!!!!   The family went to live in England years back for the children to learn English and now her parents are moving back to Spain to the house they bought in this area some years ago. Isn't it a small world?  Undoubtedly, we shall have lots to talk about in her conversation lessons which I now look forward to. 

So you see, life is good and I realised that this week and can only give thanks for all my blessings. I commented this on Facebook and a friend replied that good things happen to good people. She's probably right and it's not the first time I've heard it but it's not completely true as lots of bad things happen to good people too. But what really made me think recently, was an article about success. I can't find it now but the gist of it was that "success is determined by how you tackle failure" and here I think I am on the right track.  

Wednesday was International Women's Day. I'm not sure if all the women I have mentioned so far in this post celebrated it.  Did the Carmens, my daughters, my mother-in-law, etc?  I don't know but I know I didn't. In fact I had mixed feelings all day.  I kept asking myself why there should be one and what there was to celebrate.  What I wrote to a friend the next day sort of sums up what I think: "while discrimination exists, international women's day is not a bad idea.  I had mixed feelings yesterday but mostly I was cross about the need for it. We've come a long way since how women had it in my mother or grandmother's lives but it is not enough and I fear it never will be. We have too many examples of outright and hidden discrimination that I do not even envisage equal rights for my future granddaughters". While many of my women friends were sending me videos and far too feminine pictures with flowers and hearts, the picture that made most of an impact is the one below which shows where women feel they lack equality and Spain, my friends, comes top of the chart. 

The picture was shared by a wonderful woman friend, Juana, who reads this blog. She is the shining example of how women should be today but she is one of the lucky ones. I wonder how women in Saudi Arabia celebrated International Women's Day or what was going on in the minds of the members of the families of women killed in domestic abuse crimes by their partners or ex partners. Not a pretty picture. 

On the bright side, Wednesday was a lovely sunny day. I spent most of it working but also went on my walks which I enjoy much more in the good weather. 

On Thursday I was up at 5.30 which had me thinking my sleeping pattern is not normal. Plus I have the odd episode of what I think is called "sleep apnea" and the other night I had a terrible one.  The sensation I have is that I am asleep or so I think and suddenly cannot breathe and feel that if I am not shaken to wake up I will die.  Usually Eladio hears me making a whining sort of noise which is the maximum effort I can make to alert him to my "attack" or episode. He then pushes me to wake me up but what I need is a huge shake.  I have had these episodes off and on through the years since I was a child. Well on Thursday I thought it was about time I went to see a "sleep doctor" for this and my bad sleeping patterns.  I didn't even know what the speciality is callled. Well, I found out soon by ringing the hospital. Depending on the type it is either with a "pulmonologist" or a neurologist.  I decided to go for the first and have an appointment on 4th April. 

If I was worried that morning, Barcelona football fans around the world were rejoicing.  They had beaten PSG (Paris St. Germain) in the second round of the last 16 in the Champions League by none less than 6 goals to 1, 3 of them being in the final minutes. They had lost 0-4 in the first leg and no one in their wildest of dreams could have predicted such a comeback, one of the biggest in the history of football.  Now, I am not a Barça fan but merit is due when its due. It was a fantastic victory and I am proud of Spanish football.  They will, of course, have to meet my favourite team, Real Madrid, in the next phase.  But for the moment they are true champions.
Barcelona's amazing victory against PSG on Wednesday night

I was amused to hear later on the news that the noise level emitted from the stadium after the goals was equivalent to a low level earthquake hahaha. 

That morning at breakfast I checked my blog statistics.  They never cease to amaze me.  So many people read it from all over the world.  I mean, it really is only a very humble blog and I can understand people who know me wanting to read it but what puzzles me is what interest it has for those who don't.  The dots on the map of the world of where my readers come from reveal that I have readers the world over and from some of the remotest places you can imagine. If you are one of those readers far away from Europe or the US and don't know me, I would love you to leave a comment on this post about why you read my blog. In any case, thank you all for reading my weekly stories.  
My blog reader statistics always amaze me. 
My morning continued with a walk on a beautiful sunny day. Later I went to the hairdressers to get my roots seen to (you ladies will understand hahaha).  It was lovely to hear the girls who work at the salon say that I looked so slim. I seem to forget that I do as I have got used to my new weight.  After the hairdressers, it was such lovely weather, I decided on a nice cup of coffee in the sun.  Before lunch, I went on my second walk with Eladio and all 3 dogs. It was so warm, I had to take my jumper off. Out of interest I glanced at the temperature for Madrid at that moment and it was 24ºc!!!
Great weather this week.
After a diet lunch I tried to sleep a short siesta as I had been up at 5.30 a.m.  But I just couldn't sleep so I got up and sat at my desk most of the afternoon working on various things from my famous "pending list".  I am always glad when I can cross my "to do" things off the list! 

Eladio was home for dinner at around 8.30pm after his private lessons and we enjoyed a chicken salad together.  That night we finished watching an Israeli TV series, a thriller called "Hostages" which I can highly recommend.
Hostages, a pretty entertaining Israeli TV series available on Netflix.
Friday was another glorious day.  It felt like spring and yes spring is in the air with fragrant blossom on so many trees.  After my first morning walk, Eladio and I went food shopping. Before going home we went to have a coffee at a new bar in our neighbourhood. We sat in the sun and there and then I had a conference call with an English "chap" called Tom who works for a specialised walkie talkie online magazine which organises this year's Critical Communications World exhibition, an event in which one of my customers is involved and which I will be helping them with.  It's always nice to talk to fellow Brits when you live in another country as there is immediate chemistry. 

Then it was time to drive the Yoigo branded Mini car the firm had lent me until 10th March for the last time, as Friday was the due date for returning it.  That means we will only have one car between us from now until my new Mini is delivered at the end of the month or the beginning of April.  I took Pippa with me for moral support.  Funnily enough I got Pippa through Yoigo but I was not returning her; no way hahahah.  There is still a flutter in my heart just at the sheer mention of the company that bought Yoigo after having been made redundant.  But, funnily enough, I have a good relationship with the guy who replaced me, Fernando (thanks for reading my blog Fernando) and the head of HR, Roberto, who fired me. It wasn't their fault.

Eladio brought me home in the old Volvo which is actually the car I had at Nokia and which we bought when I left.  It'll have to serve us well for quite a few years now. On the way back home, Suzy called.  We don't speak to her often and we should really. I'm a bit lazy about phone calls. She had just come back from a dietetic community home visit where she had had to assess a severely mentally, deformed and physically handicapped 19 year old who could not communicate and can only be fed via his stomach!  She said that the visit had had a huge impact on her and that how could she complain about the silly things in life compared to the boy and his family she had just visited.  How right she is. 

After lunch I had another conference call, this time with my Catalan customer. He was, of course, delighted with the Barcelona Football Club 6-1 score against PSG and I congratulated him on the win. 

Eladio joined me on my second walk at around 5pm and "golly" my phone registered 26ºc!!! We had to get out shorts and summer t-shirts and Eladio even donned his panama hat. The weather is amazing at the moment but unfortunately will not last past today.

I continued working that afternoon until I got an email from Oli with the news of what is now a viral video from the BBC.  Professor Robert Kelly, an expert on South Korea, had been interviewed that morning live on the BBC on skype from his home about the political crisis there.  What happened in the interview will make him famous forever, but not for his expertise on South Korea. His interview was "videobombed" by his children and I am sure you have already seen it.  As he is talking, his little daughter dances in and he tries to push her aside. Then in comes his baby on a baby walker strolling in. The interviewer alerts the professor to the fact but there's not much he can do.  He gets stuck for words and then in comes the Mother to remove the children unceremoniously from the view of the public and ends up trying to pull the door shut whilst lying on the floor hahahaha. These are the perils of live television and working from home. If you haven't seen it,  here it is and enjoy it because it will make you laugh so much. I commented on Twitter that Robert Kelly's little daughter and baby on its baby walker videobombing the interview had made many people laugh that day.  Unsurprisingly it was the talk of the day. 
Professor Robert Kelly on the BBC videobombed live interview

If you are English and living in England, there are 2 words from the above 2 paragraphs which you will not have noticed but are interesting to point out.  One is "videobombing", a completely new word which means barging into a video being taken.  The other word is "golly" which is not used any more but that was much in use before I left England in the early 80s. I read today in an article in The Times that "golly", "tara", "gosh", etc are going out of use.  New words have crept into the English language and most of them are to do with technology. "Golly" has been replaced by the Americanism "awesome" which I hate. But there are others like "video or photo bombing" which are new, as is the word "24" which now means 24 hours a day, or one I learned the other day "mansplaining".  All I can say is that "golly" or "gosh" my English vocab is getting rapidly out of date hahaha. 

On Friday evening our Airbnb guests arrived from Avignon in France.  They are a married couple, Camille and Jeanine, whose son is studying physiotherapy at the UEM University nearby, where Oli studied too.  They arrived in a hired car at around 7pm and seem a lovely couple.  Jeanine, the wife, speaks some Spanish but her husband doesn't know a word nor do either of them speak English. So both Oli and I had to bring our rusty French out of the closet. They had booked the new "green" room but when I offered them Suzy's large "pink" room they chose the latter.  

Being Friday night it was time to break my maintenance diet and go out for a well deserved meal.  Oli and Miguel would join us and we chose to go to a restaurant advertised on "The Fork" (El Tenedor here) called La Sarten por el Mango. It had good reviews and we were keen to try somewhere new. 
Dessert at La Sarten por el Mango on Friday night
The food was really good but I ate too much. I felt so damned full afterwards I regretted having gorged myself too much on the food and wine and slept badly on Friday night. Of course I woke up with a headache.

After the big meal the night before I didn't have much of an appetite for breakfast on Saturday morning. I worked off some of the calories I had consumed on my first walk that day.  It was yet another wonderful walk in the sun. I came home to make the family lunch; "bitki" (Russian hamburgers) with potato and carrot puré.  It was 11th March and I had nearly forgotten it was the anniversary of Europe's worst terrorist attack ever, the train bombings at 4 stations in Madrid. It happened in 2004 killing 193 people and injuring more than 1.900. How could I forget that?  Certainly the families of the victims didn't and memorial events were held around the capital yesterday. 
The 11th March  train bombings in 2004 never to be forgotten. 
After lunch and the shortest of siestas, Eladio went off to his private lessons.  Oli left too. She had to work yesterday.  The subject of her TV shooting was the Spanish rock group called La Voz del Desierto (The Voice of the Dessert) made up by 3 Catholic priests and 4 laymen.  Their songs are about love but love for Jesus! This is one of the stories she will be telling in a programme about the Church or rather stories of modern day nuns, monks and priests.  This last week she has spent most of her time researching for the programme and finding people and stories to film.  I was very amused when she showed me an email from a cloistered nun which at the end of it had the words "sent from my iPhone".  Wow they are modern today. She also told me how the nuns greeted her when she rang them with the Latin words "Ave María Purísima" hahahah. It sounds like an interesting topic and I look forward to seeing the programme when it is aired. Let's hope it beats audience records too. 
The Spanish priest rock group, La Voz del Desierto, who Oli filmed yesterday
My afternoon was very boring compared.  Well, actually it wasn't. I spent a lot of it sitting on the sofa in the freshly spring cleaned swimming pool terrace.  My latest book is called "Freedom at Midnight, Viceroy's House" and was recommended to me by my great friend Sandra who was born in Bombay. It is the story behind the independence and partition of India.  Apparently the Director of "Gandhi", one of my all time favourites, was inspired by it when making the film.  It was written in 1975 and has been updated and now a new film has been made called The Viceroy's House where of course the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, lived.  Well, I am loving the book as Gandhi is my hero and the story is so compelling. Written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, neither of them British, they taped Lord Mountbatten for more than 30 hours as the main ingredients of their book. It's a pity they couldn't have taped Gandhi too who of course was dead by then. 
My latest book, the story behind the independence and partition of India. 
Today is Sunday, the last day of the week and the day to publish this blog post which I hope you will enjoy.

We shall be having guests for lunch, Toño and Dolores, and I have already begun making it; "cocido madrileño" (Madrid meat, chickpea and vegetable stew).  

I shall tell you all about the rest of the day in next week''s post. Meanwhile, I wish you all a happy Sunday and a great week ahead.

Cheers till next time,

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