Saturday, November 18, 2017

"I must have done something good", Skangenröra, goodbye swimming pool, discovering Primark, Oli; St. Petersburg and The Maldives, a day trip to Barcelona and other stories of the week.

Sunday 19th November 2017.
Wearing my new Zara dress
Good morning everyone.

For me it has been a great week. I had good professional news in that I will be the new Communications Director for my Swedish fiber operator customer, Adamo, who up till now I had collaborated with on a few projects. I shall continue to be self employed which will give me the best of both worlds. So I shall work from home and also continue to be as free as a bird, managing my time to fit in work and my personal life. And of course I shall carry on with Airbnb and with other freelance projects when they come along.  If someone had told me when I lost my job at Yoigo as their Communications Director back in January that I would be in the position I am in today, I would have never believed it. And here I would like to quote the Mother Superior from The Sound of Music, when she advises Maria, "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window". 
The Mother Superior saying to Maria: When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.
Well he sure has opened a few for me over the years.  I have to consider myself lucky in life as many doors have been shut for me on quite a few occasions and when I was at my lowest suddenly a window or even two would open. I often wonder why. It's as if I have a guardian angel looking down on me. Or maybe it's because I  have done something good to deserve it. Here again I am quoting from the same film, The Sound of Music, when Maria, played by Julie Andrews, says in the beautiful song at the end  "I must have done something good" to deserve the captain's love. So yes, I must have done something good too. I have no other explanation. 

But I am digressing. Let me start from the beginning, from where I left off last Sunday. Last Sunday I made my favourite Swedish dish for dinner.  It's called "skangenröra" and is made of prawns in mayonnaise accompanied by lettuce, avocado and hard boiled egg. You can either have it as a salad or on toast.  This time we had it as a salad.
My "skagenröra"
Basically it is the Swedish national dish. I posted the photo on Instagram of course and on Facebook and got lots of likes from my Swedish friends. But it was Fredrik, who explained its origin to me and which I would like to share with you because I found it very interesting. “Skagenröra is a Swedish dish invented by the founder of the Swedish gastronomic Acadamy Tore Wretman (1916-2003). It was invented during a sailboat regatta in the Danish region of Skagen in 1956 on a Swedish sailing boat with a Swedish crew. The dish, however, was named after the region where it was invented, so it became skagenröra. The mix is used in dishes such as toastskagen or with baked potato for example”. 

Later we watched an interview on television with Nicolas Maduro who needs no introduction. He was interviewed by the famous Spanish journalist, Jordi Evole.  My conclusion is that Venezuela seems to have the same living standards or worse than in Cuba.  

On Monday it was a cold but sunny day and it has been like that all week. We went for our walk, had lunch and I worked quite a bit. It's good to be back at the grindstone, but for me it's not a grindstone hahaha. Eladio worked too but his work was physical. He interrupted mine to help him with the worst task of the year, covering the swimming pool. He needed Lucy too to spread out the huge and heavy tarpaulin. It's a moment in the year I never like as it symbolises the real end of the summer. Besides, the pool looks very unsightly afterwards.
Eladio with the huge tarpaulin about to cover the pool. 
It was hard work I can tell you and once it was finished and the cover was on the pool, our summer terrace looked closed for the winter.  It will not be open again until next May. 

Meanwhile in London, where it gets dark now at 4 in the afternoon, the girls friend, Rocío, an integral part of their "manada group", was in London on a business trip. She is a lawyer for a big production company. The girls met her at school (St. Michael's) and have known her since she was little. Of course, while in London she met up with Suzy and with Chati. The three of them went out to dinner. I got the photo from Suzy after some persuading hahaha. It must have been a lovely reunion.
Suzy, Rocío and Chati in London together this week.
On Tuesday I had a great day. After our walk, I went off to meet an ex colleague, Sonia, who together with her husband and other partners own a successful craft gin distillery called Santamanía  located in Las Rozas. It was nice to get dressed up to go out; something I haven't done for a while. For the occasion I chose to wear a lovely tartan soldier style jacket I had bought last season. 
It was lovely to get dressed to go out for a change. 
I went to see the venue for the Yoigo Christmas party we are organising and I loved it. It's so cool, so New York like and no doubt it will be the perfect venue for our party. Later Sonia and I went for lunch nearby and chose a place called Volapie I had been keen to try out. It's a new tapas type chain of restaurants. I was not very impressed but loved having lunch with a close ex colleague.  Having small children, she had to leave at around 4 to pick them up from school. I, on the other hand, was as free as a bird and decided to enjoy some retail therapy. I was keen to go to the Zara branch at the big shopping centre called Gran Plaza 2 near where we had lunch and also to go in search of jeans, my friend Kathy had recommended, from Primark. First I went to Zara. I did not find the items I was looking for. But, I did find a gorgeous colourful dress. It's the one I am wearing in the photo that illustrates this blog. It looks a lot better on the model but then of course she is skinny and very tall, unlike me.

The same dress but on a model. 
Happy with my dress, I wandered along to Primark. It's a new concept in low cost fashion and I had never really liked it and never actually bought anything there except for an umbrella hahha. However, I discovered its virtues that day; rock bottom prices and lots of basics to choose from which are not bad quality at all. Here I had a field day. I was really looking for some jeans my friend Kathy had recommended. They were cheap I must say but unfortunately didn't look good on me. I was also looking for comfortable and warm slacks to wear on our walks. These I did find and I also got lots of leggings and tights at ridiculously low prices.  One pair of dark blue leggings cost just 3 euros!!!! Their t-shirts are great too and I bought a few. In the end I bought everything you can see in the photo. I liked it so much that soon I shall be going back for more items. So, yeah, on Tuesday, I finally discovered Primark.  I must say that from now on all my tights and leggings will be bought at Primark and no longer at Calzedonia where they cost up to 6 or even 10 times more. I'm sure there is slave labour behind their prices which is the only dark lining on their otherwise silver cloud.
As you can see I went a bit mad at Primark this week hahaha
While I was on my jolly in Primark, Oli was having difficulties in the Maldives where she had gone to shoot her next programme. She had been on a boat where she had to spend the night on the deck during a monsoon. But the worst thing was that their camera broke down and they had to wait for one to be brought personally from Madrid which added an extra day to her stay there.

That night we watched the programme she had shot and edited in St. Petersburg, perhaps the destination that most interested me because of my Russian programme. 
Oli in St. Petersburg at the beginning of the programme. 
It was an emotional trip for her too and very special. In the programme she interviewed 5 Spaniards, a business man married to a Russian woman, a young ballet dancer, an oboe player, a luxury hotel owner and, the most interesting of all, a Catholic priest who is also an exorcist. I had been to St. Petersburg once in 2004  and it was wonderful to see again all the mind blowing palaces and churches there. Really it is the cultural capital of Russia. One day I must take Eladio there. You can see the programme here on You Tube.  The next day we were all delighted to hear that it had exceeded audience expectations and Oli was congratulated at work. Well done darling. 

On Wednesday morning I was astonished to hear that Italy was out of the World Cup. It had been knocked out by Sweden of all countries. So Italy will not be present in 2018 when the football World Cup kicks off in Russia. It's certainly a first for Italy and rather sad too. 

Wednesday was my day trip to Barcelona. I was going to visit the Adamo offices for a kick off meeting and to present them my communications plan which, by the way, I finished while on the train. I was up at 5.30, my taxi came at 7.15 and at 8.10 or so I got to the Atocha train station. I was very aware of not missing either of my trains that day after the last time when I missed the last train of the day to Madrid and had to spend the night at the station hotel. I just had time to buy a take-away coffee to keep me going during the day before I got on the swish and very modern AVE train. By 11.15 I was in Barcelona. It was funny to be there since the independence process to separation, called "el procés" here, had begun and all that has happened since the illegal referendum on 1st October. Being me, I interviewed my taxi driver. His summary was that he couldn't give a damn about "el procés" but that he wanted rid of politicians' corruption. He didn't have a good word for the previously popular and rather radically left wing but supposedly non-separatist Mayoress of the city, Ada Colau either. She is disappointing me too. What I did see was a huge array of flags, mostly separatist one but also many Spanish ones and many original Catalán ones, as well as the usual Barça ones.  I only spoke to my taxi drivers about the situation, not daring to ask anyone else as you never know what people's opinions are and you might make a huge faux pas. 

I was at the offices well on time and soon set up my PC and presentation, with the help of some IT guys. They have very modern equipment and my PC is a little old hahaha. But it worked.
Ready for my presentation
It was a good meeting and my presentation seemed well received. We also had a working lunch. My colleagues took me to an Indian curry house which I much appreciated as I love curry.
Lunch at an Indian curry house in Barcelona on Wednesday
Our meetings carried out until about 15.45. I was to catch the 16.25 train back to Madrid and believe it or not I only caught it by the skin of my teeth as I hadn't factored in the damned traffic. I was much relieved to be on it as it started moving just a moment or two after I got on. The train I caught is the one that goes direct to Madrid with no stops and it had me at Atocha station in the Spanish capital by 18.55. 

During the journey I was accompanied mostly by Olivia on whatsapp. After the boat and monsoon adventure she was more relaxed. The new camera was arriving the next day from Madrid and she and her cameraman were staying at an amazing 5 star resort hotel in The Maldives called The Four Seasons Kuda Huraa. The luxury hotels there on the different islands all seem to be made up of private thatched beach bungalows. No wonder it's one of the top honeymoon destinations.
Oli at the luxury Four Seasons hotel in The Maldives.
I ought to mention here that it was thanks to the brother of one of her life long friends, Laura from the Scouts, Gerardo, a marine biologist, who lives in The Maldives and works at this hotel, that the whole idea of the programme in The Maldives started. I can't wait to see him in the programme. What a great job he has and what a great job Oli has too, jaunting off all over the world and even getting paid for it. 

I was home on time for dinner with Eladio, a moment I always treasure in the day.

On Thursday I was busy. I made bread again. Eladio seems to like it more now hahaha. Meanwhile, I set up my iPad for my 98 year old Father to watch Oli's programme about St. Petersburg. Of course he had a vested interest in it, not only because it was made by his granddaughter but because his wife, my Mother, was Russian and he, of course, had been a teacher of Russian and has visited St. Petersburg quite often but many years ago.  And here he is watching his granddaughter's programme. It's a very touching picture and a very emotional moment don't you think?
My Father watching Oli's programme about St. Petersburg
While he was watching the programme, the postman called. He had brought my new Adamo business cards. It was nice to see them and sort of made the new post of Commuicationss Director more official. I posted the photo, as I post nearly every photo I take, hahahah, on Instagram and Facebook and got some very nice comments and praise from friends and colleagues. Thanks guys. It's great to be back in the business.
My new business cards
I was able to celebrate the moment as that day I had lunch with Cris, Bea and Gloria, the 3 sisters who are my friends and who run my events company, QuintaEsencia. It was great to see them, catch up, share my news. In a way, it felt like old times and I look forward to working with them again soon.

From the lovely lunch at La Sabina in Aravaca I left at just after 5pm (yep we sat around talking after lunch until then hahhaha) by car to go to my dental appointment. That was not the best way to end the day but of course it's good to look after one's teeth, something that was instilled in me as a child by my Father who  took us frequently to see our dentist, Mr. Car, usually to Manchester.  

Friday was Oli's last day in The Maldives and she took the time to meet some locals. And here she is, in her element, with some of them; children and women who are, of course, Muslim. I'm sure that was one of her favourite moments. 
Oli in her element in The Maldives with some local people. 
It was on Friday that Puigdemont and his 4 aides faced court in Brussels to decide whether they would be extradited or not. It's amazing how the Belgian prosecutor sent a long list of questions to the Spanish judge on the conditions of the prison they would face in Spain. Especially if you take into account that Puigdemont himself managed the prisons in Catalonia. You see, his defense is based on what he calls a lack of human rights in Spain!! How can he say that and how can anyone doubt either the conditions of prisons here or human rights if Spain, like Belgium belong to the EU where these are a given? Doesn't the prosecutor realise they should be the same as in the rest of the EU? In fact a recent study on conditions in prisons show that Spanish prisons are better than the crowded Belgian ones. The problem here is the image of Spain from Franco's times when 50 odd years ago human rights were lacking and prisons were awful. Things have changed enormously but Spain still has that fascist connotation which international journalists still love to push. No decision was taken on Friday and the next appearance in court will be in early December. 

Meanwhile on Friday, I got  a clearer picture about how the silent majority in Catalonia really think when a Catalan journalist I know well wrote me a private tweet that afternoon to tell me: Masha I can’t stand it anymore, they are really tiresome (referring to the separatists); they have gone mad, they are like a sect …. Oh how well we lived in Barcelona before all this”. He went on to say: “You can’t imagine what it’s like. My sister hardly talks to me, my son is indoctrinated at school, they have gone mad. Now I realise how for example fascism came about under the Nazis or under Mussolini. I’m a socialist and they call me a fascist. I’m really afraid”. The thing is he can’t say this openly in Catalonia. When I posted a copy of his tweet on Facebook, without revealing who he was, I got comments from other people saying they had been told many similar tales.  These are the tales the Belgian prosecutor and judge should read. How sad the whole situation is. 

Friday was sad as in the early evening I attended the funeral for Aitor Urraca, the journalist I wrote about last week who died unexpectedly, aged just 52, from a heart attack. The church was literally packed. There were many people from the sector and it was a strange feeling to be with them all at a funeral, of all places, when we normally see each other in much more positive circumstances. RIP Aitor. We shall miss you. 

The day ended with dinner out with Eladio. We went to La Txitxarerria where I feasted on their star dish, grilled fillet steak, possibly one of the best in the area. It was an enormous portion and even I couldn't finish it.
Delicious fillet steak at La Txitxarrería on Friday night. 
I know red meat is supposed to be bad for you but I'm afraid I love it. What we enjoyed most I think though was the Asturian cider. Thankfully, and unlike wine, cider doesn't give me a headache. We came home to watch the exciting film Patriot Games starring Harrison Ford, one of my favourite actors. 

Saturday dawned and the first whatsapp message of the day came from Olivia. I knew she was leaving on Saturday but thought she was arriving on Sunday. But no, she was already in Dubai and it being a few hours ahead there from Madrid, meant she would be home for lunch that day. Whoopee, I got into action, started writing this blog ahead of time and making lunch. I felt like speedy gonzalez or a competitor in Master Chef while I made vegetable soup, baked salmon, potato puré and lots of vegetables to accompany the lunch. I was finished by 12.45 and managed a lovely sunny walk with Eladio and the dogs. Shortly after we got back and the table was laid, Oli arrived with Miguel who had picked her up from the airport. She was obviously a bit jet lagged poor girl but happy with her work in The Maldives. We had a lovely family lunch which I'm sure my Father enjoyed immensely. She was in dire need of  a siesta afterwards. 

I went to bed but not to sleep but to start on season 2 of Victoria which I had ordered recently on Amazon. Before I began it I decided to watch the last episode of season 1 to remember where it had left off.  I binged watched 4 episodes in total and am totally in love with the series.
Just loving season 2 of Victoria
I am a sucker for British period dramas. I must admit I am not in love with Albert but heavily in love, as Victoria is portrayed possibly to be, with Lord Melbourne. Oh my God that guy is just "drop dead gorgeous". I do like the portrayal of Lord Wellington as well as Robert Peel. The names in the series take me right back to my history lessons at St. Joseph's school by my beloved history teacher, Miss Scorer. You see, history was always my favourite subject at school. I was only interrupted by Suzy calling from London for a chat. I do miss her.

Oli invited us all out for dinner to celebrate her return. Miguel, who is good at finding suitable restaurants, booked a table at a place called El Acebo very near home. The food was superb and I think we will be going back. While we were there the Madrid derby between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid was being played. It ended up in a 0-0 draw. We were shocked to find out during dinner too, that Spain's attorney general,  José Manuel Maza, aged 66, had died suddenly after a kidney infection in Buenos Aires. He was heavily involved in the Catalan crisis so his name, at least for me, became very well known. RIP. 

And today is Sunday and I am in a rush again as this morning after breakfast, Eladio and I, with Pippa of course, will be setting off for Montrondo where we are going to spend a week. 

You will be hearing all about our stay there in next Sunday's post. Meanwhile, my friends and readers, I wish you all a great week ahead.

Cheers till next time,

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