Retirement – Well, Maybe.

Today was my last day at work. I am officially retired. At least that is how I feel. Not exactly that ecstatic lottery winning moment. Nor like it might feel to score the World Cup winning goal. Nevertheless, it feels good.

As for the move to the southern hemisphere: It’s all becoming very real. While a happy go lucky six-year-old can be oblivious to it, his old dad must get real…

Where the F*#k will we live?

The pre-trip plans are taking a back seat now. Yes, of course there will be some things I forget to do or forget to pack but those are now almost unimportant. My focus is now turning to a basic question. “What the f*#k will we do when we get there?”

This is not panic, even anxiety, or anything like that. The main thing on my mind is; where are we going to live? I have been in Sydney once before but only for a short time. And that was years ago. Back then I wouldn’t have paid any attention to the suburbs.

I have been emailing real estate agents so at least I now have some contacts on the ground before we get there. This is always one of the biggest (if not the biggest) hurdle to settling into any new location. Even a few miles (or kilometres) down the road, never mind the other side of the world.

We have a month in one of those ‘aparthotels’ so not much time to find a suitable residence. Especially when all I have heard and read suggests that good properties in good areas are rented out fast. And what exactly is a “good” area in a new country/city that you do not know?

As always, the only answer to this type of question is that you have to get there and suss it out. Do the leg-work.

Location Location Location?

The area will depend on how easy (or not) it is for Dani’s mum to get to work. For a sprawling city like Sydney there are surprisingly few train lines and no underground rail system. Such details limit the availability of “good” places to live even more. It also leads to the inevitable congestion of road traffic.

It’s that work-life balance thing again. When isn’t it? Maybe more of a non-work life balance in my case but we will get to that later.

When my boy is old enough to read all this blog nonsense I wonder how much he will remember about how he was feeling at this time?

T Minus 10 Days…

T Minus10 Days and counting

We fly to Australia in 10 days. It is all starting to get very real. At least for Dani’s parents. He doesn’t seem to care. Why should he? He is only 6. He his more concerned over the watching the next episode of Ninjago on Netflix. Or playing that bloody dreadful Brawl Stars game on the iPad.

Not sure if Dani is excited or not. He is back in school in Madrid but only for a few more days. He just doesn’t seem to want to talk about it. Is that a bad sign I wonder? Hmm… We will know in just over a week.

Personally I have not been looking forward to it. Just the thought of that long flight is enough for me. Not a fan of flying anyway but a 24 hour journey, not getting hardly any sleep (if at all) followed by the jet lag on arrival? Nah. What is there to look forward to? Then all of a sudden Dani’s mum produces business class seats. Don’t even ask why her company hadn’t already bought business class flights. That’s for another post once we have settled in down-under. The point now is that I can now look forward dot the flights rather than dread them. With all the good food and wine on offer plus lots of movies it seems the lack of sleep thing could still be an issue. It seems that all of those flights down-under over the past year or so produced a lot of airmiles for Dani’s mum. Now they are used up.

More TV Garbage…

Oh noooooo….. Meanwhile another TV programme talking about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The young royal couple who have been turned into pseudo celebrities since they got married in 2018.

I am sick of hearing about them. I am not a monarchist, but neither am I anti-monarchy. But these two really get on my nerves. It seems that they want to be part of the royal family but be left alone to live their own lives they way they want it.

Yes, they want their cake and eat it. Well, let them eat cake, I say. Oh, hang on a minute. That didn’t end well for another royal family did it?

Aghhh! Whatever. I can’t stand this crap on TV. Go away!.Going to bed.

Three Kings – yet again

Three Kings – Donut Blackface?

Here is a quick reminder of the three kings and how they are widely depicted. Melchor, white hair and beard. Gaspar, chestnut/red hair and beard. Finally, Baltasar, dark skinned and black beard.

With all the fuss the media makes when a white person puts on dark make-up this one made me laugh. They refer to it as “blackface” now. When I was young it was called “blacking up”. I am sure it is still called that when done in say the army for night-time operations and the like. Anyway, if you are not in the army it is simply just not done these days.

While we were walking to Dani’s abuelo’s house I noticed this poster in the Dunkin’ Donuts shop window. It made me laugh anyway…

Dunkin’ Reyes (kings). “Blackface” donut? What do you think? I am sure there may be some out there who find this “offensive”. Personally, I couldn’t care less.

Los Reyes Magos – Local Parade

At the weekend we went to see a local three king’s parade. Just as we have done since Dani could walk. A short walk from his abuelo’s house to the main road to wait for the passing show. It was due to start at 17.30. We were still walking up to the main road that the police had closed off to traffic (as they do) to allow the parade to run smoothly at 17.35. We missed it. It actually started on time. Is this a new policy in Spain for 2020?

At about 17.35 and only 20 metres or so to go we should have realised. All the adults with kids were walking back in the opposite direction. We had to improvise. The parade could be seen in the distance. So we decided to go through the gears. Dani and Susana running along with me. Meanwhile little Roberto – completely oblivious to it all was being pushed at speed in his pushchair.

We did manage to catch up with the parade and the kids got to see all three kings on their respective trucks (or whatever they call them). Not the most exciting of activities but it has become an annual event. Mainly as it is followed by a visit to a café or bar to partake in some hot chocolate and churros. Very Spanish.

Dani has grown

But not much. I measured him the other day and he has grown 5 centimetres in about 6 months. I remarked that it was not a lot (as he is still small amongst his school-mates). His mum retorted “how much have you grown in that time?”. I thought about it for a moment and replied: “About the same. Only around my waist.”

Will the sea air cause a growth spurt when we move down-under? Or will the smoke from the bushfires stunt his growth? Haaa…We shall see. Que será será, what will be will be. And as for those fires…. Do not believe everything you see and hear in the media.

Three King’s Day

This is the first Reyes Magos day I have missed and hopefully it will be the last. This rush to sort things out before moving to the other side of the planet means I needed to get back to work today – to work my notice period. This is not a national holiday in the UK (nor most places outside of the Spanish speaking world). No doubt I will be seeing all the new presents he has received in good time. One good thing about today. He was excited enough to want to talk to me – if only to show/tell me what los Reyes have brought him. He definitely takes after his dad for not wanting to spend time on the phone.

Now with the festivities over for another year it is time to get back to planning for the big move…

Australia – Getting Closer

Yesterday, exactly 4 years ago to the day, I resigned from my job. Yesterday I did the same thing with my current job.

Different Reasons
Back in 2016 the main reason was to take a sabbatical year with my then 2 year old son. This was closely followed by the start of this blog. This time it is in preparation for a move to the other side of the world.
Sad though it is to admit, I am at that stage in life where there hardly needs to be a reason for leaving a job. Often the jobs themselves can be enough of a reason. These two big resignations however were both centred around my son.

English
Anyone who has read the “About” page on this blog (and other blog posts) will know one of the main priorities during that sabbatical was to ensure that Dani improved his command of English. Somewhere close to his mastery of the Spanish language – which he was constantly immersed in. Well that plan more or less worked but Spanish was always going to be his first language.
This latest move however will put him in a totally English speaking environment. This time it is his mum who will have to take extra time to keep him up to speed with her native tongue. At last something made easier for dad! Only joking of course…

New Year Food Binge
Less than a week after eating myself to a stand-still on two consecutive days, I did the same thing. New Year’s Eve night we ate a huge meal at Dani’s Auntie’s house where we welcomed in the new decade. There was so much left over that we did the exact same thing about 18 hours later. I now intend to take it easy on the food. Maybe even try to get up to a relatively high level of fitness before we depart for Oz. “Relatively” being the operative word of course…

Happy New Year
Apologies. I forgot to do this in the previous post so:
Here’s wishing you all a very happy and prosperous New Year…


The kids toast in the new year. With water of course…


With a magician after the New Year’s magic show.

And here is a taste of things to come. The New Year fireworks on the Sydney waterfront. Courtesy of my friend Chris who has lived there for years…

Adios 2019 and Hello 2020

2019 comes to an end…

2020 is fast approaching. But let’s rewind just a little. To just before Christmas in fact. The UK held a general election and I predicted (more or less)  hung parliament or at best a small majority for the Tory party. Well I go that one wrong didn’t I? The scale of the Tory victory took more than a few people by surprise. The result means that the UK now has (potentially) five years of Boris (real first name Alexander) Johnson as Prime Minister. I remain unimpressed but it should mean an end to all this Brexit stalling nonsense that has gone on since the 2016 referendum. That is, if Boris’ promises are to be believed. All that can be said right now is ‘we shall see’.

Meanwhile a politician from an extremely left wing party  is about to be made the vice-president of Spain. One Pablo Iglesias the leader of the (in my opinion) almost communist Podemos party. Seriously this lot think that Venezuela is the model for success. Suffice to say that nobody voted for that but that is the way proportional representation voting works kids! The main left wing party PSOE had to do a deal with other parties as the country has been without a government for the majority of 2019. The mind boggles!

Old enough…

But enough of politics. Dani is now old enough to stay awake well into a new year. He says he will not go to bed until 2am – well into the new year.  He is also wise enough to understand the celebrations. Not that new years day means anything particularly of course it is just another day. The previous day’s (or year’s) issues are not suddenly erased as if they have gone away. Far from it. He will understand that in a few years time. For now I am just happy that he is excited by tonight’s celebrations. This year he will celebrate with his Spanish cousins Susana and, for the first time, Roberto.

Into the Roaring Twenties….

We are about to enter the twenties! We will be spending this new year and start of a new decade in the wonder down-under, a.k.a. Australia. After a lot of whispers, ifs and maybes it has become reality all of a sudden and for me at least, in a bit of a rush. I am not prepared for it. But that will soon have to turn around. Focus man, focus….
At least I will be far way from the Brexit farce that has run and run for over three and a half years now. While 2020 is supposed to be the end of this fiasco I fear it will continue beyond. But then so could Dani’s mum’s new job. These projects are notorious for over-running. I should know. I have worked on enough of them.

It is now 20 years since the big millennium new year celebrations that everyone made such a fuss about.  Wow! Twenty years ago. It seems like only a few years ago. I wonder where we will be in another twenty years. If I am still here I will be 75. Dani will be 26 years old and could even have his own family. But right this second he is reading a wrestling magazine – still very much a child…hahaa…

Great for Dani

My first thoughts when this Australia thing reared its head (many months ago) was ‘what a great experience for Dani’. Great for any young child I would have thought. But as always such things are easy to say and need to be put fully to the test.

My second thoughts were not what you may expect. They were; ‘what about me?’. At which point I was stuck. Really. It may seem odd but it really does not excite me at all. Certainly about 20 years ago I would have jumped at the chance. Not so now however. Maybe I really am too old. Is all this old dad stuff more than I thought? Not just a light hearted name tag after all?

I need to get my head around this move now; and fast. It is real and imminent. But I have to admit that it is difficult. That said, you can be sure that I will keep you informed on how this pans out.

Santa and the Gender Nonsense

Not even Santa is safe

Gender nonsense? Well not quite what you think. As we enter the last days of Christmas 2019 it gives me the chance to discuss a subject I have been meaning to write about for some time…

But this is a tale of political correctness and/or so-called diversity and equality in its most ridiculous form.

Recent news stories suggest some of these self-styled gender harassment groups are saying that Santa should be changed to be gender neutral. Yes; this is the world my boy is growing up in. But then the world is hardly a grown-up place these days is it?

Apparently, it’s just not fair that Santa is a “he/him”. A man no less! Shock, horror.

Spanish Santa

Ironically, in Spanish, “Santa” (saint) would indicate a female saint. The letter “a” on the end being the most obvious indicator that a word is feminine. A male saint would be “San”. Perhaps one of the more famous examples being San Sebastian – also the name of a well-known Spanish northern city.

It brings me nicely onto a subject that that has been bubbling under the surface for a while now in parts of Spain.

Las/Los…os/as…Nothing is off limits

Some local councils and even some national political parties have taken to printing leaflets and booklets in a gender-less manner. Here is a typical example:

They will now often write things like “…a todos/as…” which means ‘to all’ – both masculine and feminine.

In normal (official, grammatically correct) Spanish, if all the people in a group are female then todas is used. If all are male or it is mixed-company then todos is the correct word. It is just the way it is. (Note the use of the letters “a” and “o”.). This is always the case. In other words the masculine form is the one that takes precedent. Clearly some feminists and their allies (many of whom could be male) cannot deal with the evolution of a language. They are trying to redefine language. It begs the question: What will they want next? Will they insist that all nouns are made gender free – or neuter? So, in Spanish the feminine and masculine definite articles “La” and “El” would be replaced by some new neuter format? Do not be surprised if these crazies try to have the whole language changed to suit this agenda. I am unlikely to see it but my son may well have to live through that battle.

Maybe if this is to happen it will happen first to the German language where they already have masculine, feminine and neuter words in “der, die und das”. Will they drop the der and die and use the neuter “das” for everything? We shall see…. They do say that languages are constantly evolving anyway. So why should this matter? I suppose it is not a big deal in that respect, but this is not a natural evolution is it? It is more like an imposed agenda. The point is that these people are spending (wasting?) tax-payer’s money on this stuff.

Calling “it” how it is?

Now in English – unlike most other languages -we don’t really have that masculine/feminine word thing. It always came as a bit of a shock when we started trying to learn foreign languages in school. (Usually French and German back in my day.)

But the English language does have something that the Spanish language doesn’t really have (or at least not directly) we do have a neutral form of addressing things – usually objects but also animals – as “it”.

Insult or not?

It used to be an insult – sexist even – to refer to a girl or woman as an “it”. Yet now, surely, you couldn’t possibly be accused of being sexist for calling a woman “it” rather than “she” or “her”. Totally crazy when you think how in recent years it has been so easy to brand men as “sexist” for (at times) saying the slightest thing against or about a woman. How things can change so quickly. The next time a woman has a go at me I will simply tell it to go away!

Christmas 2019

Christmas 2019 has come and gone and now we look forward to the new year…

Happy and easily pleased

It has been a busy Christmas period. Dani certainly seemed to enjoy it and was more than happy with what Santa brought him. Basically, what he asked for in his letter to the man in red and white. He certainly delivered on the Lego front. He was even pleased with a new pair of shoes. That surprised the adults in the room. Usually kids are not too impressed with clothing as presents. Good for him.

There was also a retro surprise in his stocking. An apple and mandarin. Just like his old dad used to get. Ok; I also received some “proper” presents back in the day… He was happy with all of it.

And yet on Christmas Eve  I could hardly get a smile out of him when he planted his “Santa please stop here” sign. He can change moods at the flick of a switch. I wonder where he gets it from?

Dani is now quite excited by the new year’s celebrations. Now that he is old enough to stay awake and witness the final seconds of the old year making way or the start of the new. 

Dinner and Over-indulgence

It is odd just how many of Santa’s little helpers there are these days. Even more odd is that most of them seem to be found in pubs.

Dani managed to spend a fair amount of time with his little cousin this Christmas. A pair of elves at times but both looked smart when it came to dressing for dinner.

 

While the young boys ate well, this old dad really over indulged. This is the first time I have ever eaten myself to a standstill. Quite literally. I have heard people talk about eating too much over Christmas but never done it myself. Naturally I always eat my fair share – and then some. But this was a first. I could not eat or drink another thing by early evening It felt like I would never be able to eat ever again. Then lo and behold; Boxing Day *was more-or-less a repeat. How on earth did I manage that? I still don’t know…

Back to Madrid

So now is the time to regroup and take it (slightly?) easier for a few days. Now it is back to Madrid for the new year and another big feast on its eve – Noche Vieja.

Good food and good wine. Plus a few beers maybe. It is what the Christmas celebrations are all about for me. For my son this year has been mostly about Lego. And on that note he is happy; and with the three kings still to come…We are not even half way through the twelve days of Christmas.

*Footnote:
For those who do not know… Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day. The 26th of December, known in many countries as Saint Stephen’s Day. The term “Boxing day” is, I believe, a mainly British thing. It comes from the days when the servants to the rich traditionally worked on Christmas Day and were given boxed gifts to take back to their families the following day. Hence Boxing Day!  Well, that’s one school of thought and as far as I intend to take it. But if you know a better quick explanation of the meaning of “Boxing Day” please let us know.

Christmas is coming…

This year, just like the last, Dani will spend Christmas at his nana’s. As you can probably guess Dani still believes in Santa. Why wouldn’t he? He is only six years old. 

Letter to Santa

Fortunately he is easily pleased. Long may that last (fingers crossed). And just to emphasise that point here is his letter to Santa Claus.

What a great kid! If not completely honest. He has not been particularly naughty though. He is just “normal” – whatever that means… Simplicity is everything. What a great little letter. Making Santa’s life so easy too. Not only that he is making mine easy in the bargain. Maybe even making other relatives lives that little bit easier? Who can say?

All I can say is that I have a feeling that Santa will leave him some Lego.  Under the tree and in his stocking at the foot of his bed. At least I hope so. I think he deserves it, don’t you?

A Toast to the Coast

A couple of week ago Dani was down in Torre del Mar. A typical – non too glamorous seaside town built in the 1970s. It is not the best or most famous resort in the south of Spain and it definitely does not have one of the best beaches.  But the local council have made a real effort in recent years. They have updated the main shopping streets and made the beach very kid friendly.

While the beach is hardly going to attract many tourists for the quality of its sand it is a very long playa. They have managed to create compacted path the full length of the beach. It is suitable for walking, running and even cycling. There are plenty of places to stop off and let the kids play. Climbing frames, assault courses and other attractions keep the little ones interesting

They have even designed beach showers based on the town’s lighthouse (faro).  As modelled below by Dani…

So it’s hats off to Torre del Mar for making the most of what they have.

Will Greta go after the Great British Cuppa?

That’s cup of tea to the uninitiated. Also referred to as a brew, cup o’ cha, or simply cuppa.
Now unless you have been living on Mars this past week or so you will know that Greta Thunderbirds – or is it Thing-bug?  Thongbird? Well whatever… She has been awarded the honour of being Time magazine person of the 2019.
Does she know about the teabags?
Will Greta go after  the Great British cuppa? Does she not know that most teabags are made with plastic? More to the point how many of us mere mortals realise that most teabags contain plastic? Think about it. How else do they stay intact? If it was just made of some paper surely they would simply disintegrate under the pressure of boiling water.
I never knew…
To be more accurate I had never even thought about it. Then, by accident I found myself questioning the humble teabag. While watchng an ad for those ubiquitous coffee capsules I noticed a short message on screen. It said ‘NOT for use in garden compost’ – or something like that. So I wondered about tea bags. Then Dani’s nana mentioned that she had heard that teabags are not fully biodegradable. So naturally I looked it up and this is what I found…
Most do contain plastic. Including many of the top best-selling brands. Also the plastic is in such minute particles that it would surely be getting into the body every time we make a cup of tea. Doesn’t sound good des it? But fear not. The old dad has some top advice below…
Back to Greta…
This girl certainly divides opinion. Almost everyone I know cannot stand her lecturing and posturing. Her wires are probably being pulled by others so maybe it isn’t all her fault. Not that I am in awe of her. I am one of those who thinks she is being used and wish she would just shut up. She is what is known as a ‘useful idiot’ (see below).
The only people who seem to really like her are impressionable school kids and dopey politicians and celebs who think it gives them some kind of street cred. (Michael Gove an obvious example of such dopey politicians).
I think it would seriously damage her already overrated credibility if she attacked the Great British teabag. Tea making and drinking is like a ceremony in the UK. And in other countries too. So my advice to Greta would be; keep your mouth shut and your hands off our teabags.
What can you do?
There are of course 2 simple solutions.
  1. Make bags with no plastic. Some already do; Co-op 99 tea for example – in the UK. There are others examples too – search online for more.
  2. Everyone can go back in time when tea was made from loose leaf in a tea-pot.
Option 2 is easy and anybody can do it. Simply sieve the brewed tea through a tea strainer.
There. Simple.
Anyone fancy a cuppa?
Footnote:
In political jargon, a useful idiot is a derogatory term for a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending the cause’s goals, and who is cynically used by the cause’s leaders.
The term was originally used during the Cold War to describe non-communists regarded as susceptible to communist propaganda and manipulation. The term has often been attributed to Vladimir Lenin, but this is unsubstantiated.

Bullshit burger feedback

So; some regular readers did respond to my bullshit burger rant the other day. And there were some very good points too. Here is a snapshot of some of it. Well all of it actually…

Top criticism

Several people actually pointed this one out:

If the big fast food chains really want to show how great they are and how much they care for the planet then why don’t they close all of those drive-through restaurants?

What is the point of having veggie burgers (see previous post also of course) if half the clients are going to sit in a queue of cars burning fuel while they wait to place their veggie order?

Why don’t they park up and stand in the building like other people? Forget standing. They can sit  in the bloody places if they want to….the lazy f**kers!

Where are the veggie bars?

Another reader pointed out that if these veggie burgers were so popular, or were going to change things at all, then the big fast foodies would have set up separate veggie/vegan (totally meat-free) restaurants. Then let’s see how well those do. But of course, we know that is never going to happen. The reason is simple and was touched upon in the previous post. Most people simply do not want to eat this crap on a regular basis. Veggie kebab anyone? After a night out drinking… No, I didn’t think so.

Summary

So it is clear that the big burger makers (and others of course) don’t really care that much about the environment. They are indeed just virtue signalling. What a surprise eh?

I don’t want kids to miss out on their burgers. The opposite in fact. Kids definitely seem to love these places. While I definitely do not. But I will still take Dani there occasionally – well as little as I can get away with to be honest. But that’s hardly the point here. Especially when his mum already takes him from time to time.

Finally…

As for burgers in general; I love them as much as my son. I just prefer to go to a smaller, independent restaurants where you can – if you want – watch them make the burgers from a slab of meat. Rather than the mass produced variety.