From Museum to Bohemia

A Trip to the Museum…

A few days ago Dani’s mum thought it would be a good idea to take him to a museum. It was not.

When faced between a choice of (say) playing with Lego or visiting an archaeological museum which do you think a four year old boy would prefer? Yes that’s correct. The Lego (or anything similar) wins every time. I have to admit it was a close-run thing for myself. But we both, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to give the museum a try.

Unsurprisingly Dani was soon bored. There is only so much looking at old artefacts that a child of that age can stand. It was too much for him. The (supposed) highlight and reason for the visit was a replica of the famous prehistoric cave paintings at the Caves of Altamira in Cantabria. The museum had built a small section of the caves with a large mirror placed below so you don’t have to strain your neck looking up. All I can say is that it was OK. Dani did not hesitate when asked whether he liked it by the lady at the exit whether he liked it. “It was boring” he replied.

The real caves….

I tried to visit the real caves about 20 years ago. I only found out that they had restrictions on visitors when I arrived. The caves have been closed to the public a couple of times since the 1970s when it was thought that carbon dioxide water vapour exhaled by the large numbers of visitors was causing mould to grow on the paintings. The caves had been reopened in 1982 but with limited access and closed again in 2002. Very few visitors were allowed in per day, resulting in a three-year waiting list. I was only passing through the area so was not prepared to wait that long. It seems they are now of a different opinion and think the conditions are now far more stable. The caves were reopened to the public in 2010.

A final word on the museum: In fairness, I did find the section about the history of money interesting; as did Dani. He also enjoyed the Egyptian mummies.

Marbella via Los Romanes…

This endless summer rolls on. I am beginning to understand why so many parents – especially the stay at home parents – are so glad when the kids have to go back to school.

Then some respite. Holiday time. Dani’s mum is free to relieve me of the full-time child minding. And so off to the little village of Los Romanes for a weekend. As luck would have it this was Feria weekend in the village and there was lots to keep Dani amused. Including a rock concert arranged by a local bar owner named Paco. Four (relatively) local bands played for Paco’s festival which he used to promote his own craft beers (cervezas artesanales) conveniently named Cervezas Romanes.

As always with these things the weekend passed by all too quickly but this was only the beginning. We headed off for Marbella to spend time with Dani’s grandmother (again). It’s hot and he is a full-time job. Fortunately I now get a break.

Scaramouche Scaramouche will you do the fandango…

I used to like some of the songs by Queen. I still do. They are just wearing a bit thin now as Dani can spend hours singing them. He has really taken to their music and I have no real explanation for it. I am not Queen’s biggest fan but obviously have some of their music. A friend told me recently that Queen’s Greatest Hits is the best-selling album of all time. I can believe it. Dani would agree too as he knows every song on it. Not only that. He knows other songs by other groups but Queen is the go to band.

For those interested in Queen songs here is their most famous song. A simple unaccompanied vocal rendition by a four-year-old boy. I think he has the full and correct song here…

Great fun I am sure you will agree but trust me; after the fifth time…

 

A Day Out at Warner Bros. Park

Not the best of starts…

The day did not start too well. When we arrived there were lots of people (as expected) yet the queues at the taquillas (ticket booths) were short. The problem was they were not moving. Not at all. We waited over half an hour and the area is not shaded. It was already very hot. Some people said they had been there almost an hour!

I knew it would be hot and I knew it would be busy. This was July in Madrid for goodness sake; but this kind of inefficiency is not acceptable. Someone at Warner Bros needs to address this issue.

Cartoon Village

Needless to say, by the time we got inside the park Dani’s dad was a little grumpy. Dani too. (I wonder where he gets it from?) He was ready for a relax and suggested we go to a bar!! I would have gone along with that idea – there are plenty of places to eat and drink. Instead we made straight for the cartoon village area. Who doesn’t love the Loony Tunes cartoons?

First attraction we tried was called Daffy Duck Emergencies (Emergencias de Pato Lucas). Dani was unable to shoot the water as the buttons were very stiff. My side was almost broken and there is no way a small child could operate them without adult help. Note to Warner Bros park: Those need fixing!

Things got a lot better….

The next place we went to was the Coyote rollercoaster. For some reason children over 105cm tall can be accompanied by adults. I thought he would love the ride because Wile E Coyote was “driving” the train. As it turned out this “moderate” (terror) ride proved a little too much for him. He just about put up with it and thankfully (as is usual with this type of ride) it was over in less than a minute. He was in no hurry to try it again but I think he was fairly pleased he had done it.

We visited several other attractions in the cartoon village including the Scooby Doo Adventure (house) which was an updated version of what we used to call a ghost train ride when I was young. The cars have laser beam guns which you can fire at targets. Your scores are displayed on the cars “dashboard”.

Perfect Timing

Dani’s mum wanted to go on a particular water attraction so we headed into the Wild West zone. We could not believe our luck. En-route we bumped into a certain Wile E Coyote. Walking right toward us. He stopped for a few photos. Dani was incredibly excited. Photos with his favourite character. What more could we ask for? That alone made his day.


Rio Bravo

For some reason small children are allowed on this one. I have been on several of this type of ride in the past. Usually there is the steep climb followed by a slow flowing “river”, finishing with a water slide descent and a big splash where everyone gets soaking wet. I have to admit the finishing chute to this ride was far steeper than anything I had seen before. Dani was showing signs of fear. I was also a little concerned. After 40 minutes of waiting Dani finally decided he did not want to go on it. We did anyway. He cried but we survived.

His fears were justified. The final descent was not even the worst part. Once inside the “mountain” the boat is turned and thrown backwards down an equally steep fall. Both myself and Dani (sat in the back row) physically left the seat. It is no wonder the little fella was scared. The odd thing is that there is another similar water chute ride in the park and it is a lot less severe. Yet it is deemed unsuitable for kids of Dani’s height. Meanwhile Rio Bravo takes kids only 1 metre tall.

Gotham City

Next stop was Gotham City and a chance to meet some D.C. Comics superheroes. We had photographs with Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern as well top Villains The Joker and Cat-woman. Some were less convincing than others I have to say.

 

We went on The Jokers Coches de Choque (bumper cars or dodgems) which meant yet another long wait. The turnaround time on some attractions could definitely be improved. It was worth the wait. Dani loved it.

                        

Then there was a stunt show at Gotham City Hall. The Batman facing his nemesis The Joker. An animated young boy pretended not to be too impressed when it was all over. During the show however he was completely engrossed, narrating every bit of the action for all around to hear. Very funny.

Final Fun….

Before we left the park Dani insisted that we go into Scooby Doo’s “house” again. Another long wait. Over 40 minutes. But he enjoyed it and that is what matters most. I have to admit I also enjoyed it.

By the time we came out the sun was going down and the final parade was about to start. We watched the parade and he loved it. All the characters took part, apart from (curiously) Wile E Coyote. This was duly noted, but the boy did not complain. It was late in the day and we were all tired. We went straight into one of the shops and bought a Coyote and headed for the car. Within minutes he was asleep still clutching the Wile E Coyote.

Suggestions to Warner bros.

An excellent day out. I am seriously considering buying an annual pass. However, I do hope Warner Bros. take note that they can still make some subtle improvements – especially to the chaotic entrance operations.

Marbella and Back

Another hectic week of school holidays has been and gone. The previous week we went to stay at Dani’s grandmother’s place in Marbella. It’s only a small apartment but a great location close to the beach and with a fantastic communal pool that the kids love. Dani’s cousin was already there having spent the previous few days alone with her grandmother. Naturally, she was pleased to have someone her own age to play with.

There is something about the beach. When kids reach a certain age they just love it. Being covered in sand – and I do mean covered in it – is now the new normal. Thankfully the beaches are well equipped with showers.

Watching Dani play with his cousin is always funny. Dani is like a starved rat compared to Susana. It’s not that she is overweight. Although she definitely eats more than he does. It’s not that he doesn’t eat. He does; even though it takes an age every mealtime. The main thing is that he clearly burns off everything he eats. It reminds me of that old joke that we used to throw at each other way back when I was a teenager. When a skinny kid had his shirt off playing football someone would always shout “Hey. Put your shirt back on. The cruelty officer is coming.”

Marvel meets Paw Patrol

Despite being like chalk and cheese the two of them get along great. But the differences make for some great entertainment. It’s hilarious listening to them playing with Dani’s toys. Amongst his toys he has two sets of characters; one from Paw Patrol and another of Marvel heroes and villains.

She loves anything to do with animals so wants the pups of Paw Patrol (Dani now thinks they are for babies). Dani meanwhile loves all the superheroes and equally the super-villains. While he crashes around making all the special effects noises that boys tend to do she makes conversation between the pups and superheroes. “Hello little Hulk. Are you the son of that big Hulk?” one pup said to Hulk.

Better for Boys…

Ever since he learnt to use the toilet Dani has thought it was great being able to stand up to pee. Today he tried to convince Susana of one of the advantages of being a boy. She wasn’t impressed.

“It’s better being a boy.”
“Why?”
“Because we can piss standing up.”
“Why is that better?”
“It just is. I can do it anywhere without sitting down. You have to sit down to piss.”
“No. That’s nothing. I like sitting down to do it. “

Then effortlessly back to the Marvel characters. As if nothing had been said.

Wile E Coyote Rules.

The calamitous cartoon coyote is now a firm favourite. Coincidentally, tomorrow, we plan to visit the Warner Bros. theme park (Parque Warner) on the outskirts of Madrid. That should be great fun. I hope they have Wile E Coyote toys in stock. If not, there will be tears.

Watching the cartoons again, many years after seeing them as a child, I wondered if that ACME company was the inspiration for one of the relatively new internet companies like Amazon.

Wouldn’t that be great. I looked it up and apparently Amazon was not inspired by the coyote’s constant use of the ACME delivery service. Shame that. But then I thought; what other huge business ideas may be hidden in these old cartoons? As if I don’t have enough reasons to watch them…

Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Nights – Crazier Kids

Yesterday, as a special treat, we visited the Lego Store in Madrid. These shops are great. Dani quite enjoyed it too…

Build your own characters…

The intention was to let him build his own bespoke Lego figures from the array of bodies, legs, heads and headgear. If you have ever been in an official Lego store you will know what that means. For just under 10 Euros they let you build three Lego figures each made up of 5 separate parts: Legs, Body, head, wig/hat, plus a fifth ‘utility’ part – typically something like a weapon or food part.

One of Dani’s favourite games is mixing and making up his own characters from the Lego figures he already has. So, this should have been similar work for him. I expected him to create some mad combination of fighting knights and space (Star Wars-like) characters. I was wrong.

Kiss? Really?

Dani saw some parts that would make him a version of a famous rock star. One Paul Stanley the lead singer of outrageous 70s rock band Kiss. Unbelievably he got it pretty much spot on from the parts available. When we got the Kiss singer home Dani’s mum completed the figure by painting the star over one eye. Just like the real thing…

Incredibly he knows and loves a few Kiss songs. He never got that from his old dad. Personally, I have never owned any Kiss records. I knew of them way back when, but never particularly thought they were any good. Certainly not good enough to buy their records. I was too pre-occupied with Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Ramones and Black Sabbath – to name but a few…

The Power of Radio…

Dani has heard them on the radio stations in the car. He only knew what they looked like when he asked me to show him videos of the band on the internet. He immediately took it all in and had it in mind as soon as he arrived at the Lego store.

Apparently, he is now a red shade short of a set of realistic lips. Of course the Kiss singer will get lonely, so on our next visit to the Lego store we shall be looking to construct a Gene Simmons and the rest of them (whatever the rest of the band are called?!)

Come on Feel the Toyz…

I am sure there are some other old rockers that could be Lego-ised. The little lad also asked me to show him videos of Slade. I feel a Lego Noddy Holder coming on… Watch this space.

A Day out at Chester Zoo

I have been patiently waiting to take Dani to the zoo. I could have taken him many times but I wanted him to remember his first visit. Not just any zoo. Chester zoo. The first zoo I ever visited. Now I think he is old enough so off we went…

Chester Zoo

Chester zoo was ranked as one of the top fifteen zoos in the world by Forbes. It is arguably the best in the UK and definitely the most visited with over 1.8 million visitors last year. The zoo operates as a charity and takes no money from the government. Any operation that stands on its own is fine by me.

The zoo was first opened in 1931 by George Mottershead. He designed his zoo to house the animals in open areas surrounded by moats unlike the iron-barred cages used in classic Victorian zoos. This is now a typical design feature of course as it makes for a more natural habitat.

Kids love the zoo, and this one never disappoints.

Fighting Lions?

First stop was the elephant house which is right next to the entrance. Unfortunately, the elephants never ventured outside but we did see them inside eating.

One of the first animals Dani wanted to see was the lions. There were two females and one male out in the open. “Look they are fighting!” said Dani. Trust me; they were not fighting. Judge for yourself from the photo.

A quick check on the animal information board told us that the gestation period for lions is 105 days. So hopefully, in a little over 3 months’ time we could return and see some lion cubs. That would be great.

A close encounter with a close relative…

The story goes that when they built the chimp islands in the 1950s nobody knew whether the chimps would be able to swim across the moat. It turns out that chimpanzees, like humans, are not natural swimmers.

This huge beast would not give us a clear photograph. Chester Zoo has a successful rhino breeding programme. This is very important because rhinos are amongst the most endangered of the large land mammals.

We were even lucky enough to see the jaguar up close. I have spoken to people who have been to the zoo several times in recent years and never managed to see one. It really is a beautiful animal.

From first seeing the map of the zoo Dani had spotted the Butterfly House. He insisted all day that we go there. A little odd I thought with all the larger creatures to see but towards the end of a long hot day I asked where he wanted to go before we left. Sure enough, his reply was the butterfly house. While he was very excited I was, not surprisingly, a little sceptical. However, I was quite surprised. It was very interesting and well worth the time. One even landed on his hand and that really made his day.

Butterfly
And there’s always more…

One visit was never going to be enough. We did not even cover all the enclosures. But that’s the great thing about a place like Chester Zoo. You can look forward to and plan your next visit from the moment you exit. There are even some new attractions under construction as I type…

Now he knows what a fantastic place Chester Zoo is Dani cannot wait for his next visit.

This Summer of 2018

We have just returned from our visit to the UK where everyone has been enjoying the best summer since (I think) 2006. Dani had a great time. I took him to the zoo for the first time. It was a long hot day and we walked miles. But he managed to remain in high spirits and enjoyed it immensely. It was Chester Zoo, arguably the best zoo in the country. There will be a separate post on that one very soon…

From UK to Marbs? – via Madrid

And so, the summer roles on. If Dani is not singing Queen songs he is asking to listen to them on my ipod. He has also discovered Wile E Coyote. Who can blame him Great sounds and great cartoons.

The next trip is being planned.

‘Dani. Shall we go to Marbella this weekend with Aita?’ (shorter version of Abuelita – grandmother – used by Dani and his cousin)

‘Yes’ (excited).

‘But mummy can’t come because she is going to be working.’

He covers his mouth and giggles. Then says, ‘But she will be thinking of us, won’t she?’

World Cup blues…

Meanwhile another world cup draws to an end and both Spain and England are out. Spain fell early having played their usual possession football but failing to get anywhere near the goal.

England meanwhile surprised everyone with a young fresh team by reaching the semi-finals. Only to be beaten by the unfancied Croatia. Despite all the fans and TV pundits getting completely carried away with England’s relative success – even I thought they might go all the way – it has to be said that they are a team of average players who generally worked hard for each other. A semi final place was actually quite an achievement. Still it is a team game, and the lack of big egos in the squad (starting at the top with the humble manager) was also a huge benefit.

Spain on the other hand remain a talented bunch of players who seem to have a phobia about shooting at goal or even getting he ball into the penalty area. That is something which surely could be coached into them (or is it out of them?). Even Dani was shouting “tira!” (shoot) at the TV screen. Time will tell.

A word about Croatia.

Well done to such a small country reaching the world cup final. Amazingly Dani has tipped Croatia all along. Not for any expert football knowledge it has to be said. Only because their star player is one Luka Modrić who just happens to play for Real Madrid. As if that wasn’t enough he also picked France to beat Argentina in the 2nd round match and said they would go all the way to the final. The reason? Because he has a French teacher in school – who he clearly likes. Seriously. I only wish I had listened to him now and wagered some money on a France-Croatia final.

Apologies to any French readers of this blog (if there are any) but I really can’t see anyone outside of France not wanting Croatia to win it. The same goes for myself and Dani…

Good luck Croatia.

Schools Out! – Again

Today was the last day of Dani’s second year of full time school. I expected it would be easier to wake him this morning; but it wasn’t. It took me nearly fifteen minutes. In the end it was the sound of Ben 10 on the iPad that did it. Bleary-eyed and still half asleep he managed to drag himself into the living room to watch one of his favourite TV shows. The long summer holidays begin today. Twelve weeks off school!

Long Hot Summer…

There is a very good reason that Spanish schools have such a long summer break. It is way too hot already. The temperatures soared to 38 degrees today. The poor kids are exhausted. Unlike in the UK – where schools have a week off in the middle of each term (trimester) – the schools here go right through. From September to the Christmas holidays and then January to the Easter holidays. In the final term they work through to whatever date in June the particular school chooses. Saving the weeks for summer.

Just as well. Picking him up in the afternoon heat is difficult enough. The kids in Dani’s class will be both excited and tired today. They had a birthday party yesterday straight after school that lasted to 8pm. Probably another reason he was so dog-tired this morning. And boy; he really was tired. When I picked him up from school he fell asleep before getting home and I had to carry him. Still, he has all that time to recover before his next school run.

A Problem for the Parents…

The problem for parents at this time of the year is what to do with the children. Of course, most people here take the majority of August off work to go on a long summer holiday with their families. But that still leaves July and the end of June. Many parents enrol their kids in some kind of summer camp or leave them with grandparents for part of the long vacation.

This year I hope to be able to spend most if not all of the summer with my boy. Tomorrow, Dani’s nanna and cousin are coming over and we will have a week’s holiday with them. Then the following week I will take him over to the UK for a week.

August Options…

After that however the plans are a little sketchy. He may spend a week in Marbella at the apartment of his Spanish grandmother. Another week or more in a small village in the mountains just south of Ronda where his abuelo (grandfather) grew up. A little place called Benadalid.

Despite being quite remote by modern day standards there is plenty to do in and around Benadalid in August. There are many other villages dotted around the mountain range to explore. There is even a river within a 15 minute drive, deep in the valley, that never runs dry even in the height of summer. You can even swim in the river which is very much needed in order to cool down. I might even introduce him to a spot of fishing in that river. As if that wasn’t enough, the coast is about an hour’s drive away so the odd day at the beach is also an option. Then there is the village Feria which takes place at the end of August. Celebrations and activities last for over a week.

Let the fun begin…

Not bad options for a little boy eh? His dad had to make do with a week in a Welsh seaside resort either in a caravan or camp chalet. Not that we didn’t enjoy those holidays. That is the best thing about being a kid. Any holiday is great. I still have fond memories of the holidays when I was very young.

So, all in all, I am sure we will find plenty to occupy an active and inquisitive boy before he starts his third school year. The fun begins tomorrow.

A Spooky Resemblence

Growing kids changing taste in TV shows.

PJ Masks and similar TV shows have made way for Ben 10. A cartoon which was first on TV from 2005 to 2008. Ten years ago! I never really saw it – I had no reason to – but I had heard of it. I will not go into the story but you can look it up online.

The thing that struck me was how transfixed Dani becomes when he watches an episode (or two). It certainly works on kids his age. He loves it.

Who does that character remind me of?

Now for anyone who knows British TV personalities this may come as a bit of a shock It may even seem funny. One of the recurring villains in Ben 10 is a certain Dr. Animo. When I first saw him I immediately thought I had seen him before. It was that classic déjà vu thing. Now where had I seen him?

Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Dr Animo must have been modelled on Jimmy Savile. A former “star” of the BBC. Probably their highest paid celebrity for decades back in the 1970s and still all the way up to about the 1990s. Since his death in 2011 the truth about Savile came to light. And it was not nice. Worse still his dark past was hidden by certain people at the BBC. I will not go into the horrible details here but for those reading who are not from the UK it should be easy enough to find online. For those in the UK you will already know.

Judge for yourself…

Does anyone else see the resemblance between Dr. Animo and the disgusting animal that was Jimmy Savile?

  

 

Dr. Animo assaulting a child…
Savile doing the same…

My old dad saw through him…

Fair play to Dani’s grandad – my dad – who passed before Dani was born. He always said there was something wrong with “that big-headed weirdo” (he actually called him worse than that). He hated the sight of him and generally refused to watch him on TV – which back in the day was quite difficult because Savile seemed to be on TV all the time. He even made a habit of saying that all Savile’s “charity work” was a smoke-screen. A mask for whatever else he was up to. Well dad: You were right. So right!

Another sad thing is that in death, Savile escaped justice. No doubt there are still plenty still alive at the BBC who knew all about his evil doing and covered it up. Shouldn’t they be held accountable in some way? I think so; but as far as I know nobody has been.

There have been plenty of Savile jokes – in that typical British sick sense of humour – so I suppose this Dr. Animo resemblance is just another.

Those Bloody Spanish Banks – Again!

Questions:

How on earth did the banking system in Spain survive the supposed global financial crisis of 2008? How the hell does it manage to retain so many branches and staff?

I only wanted to pay the tax for my Spanish car. This is not like the paying of certain other bills as I have written about previously (see here…). This tax could be done any time and any day of the week. I had the paperwork printed off from the internet so what could go wrong?

Let’s see….

The first bank I went into (actually a “Caja” – see below) was my own bank. That is to say; I have an account with them. Sometimes that makes a difference – even in the UK. In this case the paperwork listed 12 banks and Cajas that, in theory, could be used to make the payment. Mine was one of them.

There were four people working in this branch. One dealt with me but seemed to be having problems.

“The bar code does not register.”
“Eh?”
“And manually entering the reference numbers also does not work.”

He tried again. A few times. Or so it seemed. Then he told me I should try another bank. Like the one next door. Ok, I thought. Here we go again.

I went next door. This time there was a queue of one. Me. And it seemed that the person being attended to would be there a long time. Before I knew it there were a few people behind me.

When I finally got the chance to pay in the car tax money the same thing happened. The lady “working” in this bank could hardly be bothered trying a second time before telling me the bad news.

Temperature rising, I left to try another bank.

Fortunately there are loads of these financial institutions along the same stretch of road. Seven within just over 100 metres and all on the same side of the main road. Great eh? The third bank I entered was one of the big two in Spain. This one would work I thought.

I thought wrong. The same result and even less courtesy. I couldn’t get out quick enough.

And another…

Onto the next. Santander no less. They have a large presence in the UK having bought out some old bank or other… They also have a fairly poor reputation in the UK I am told. They are equally as hopeless in Spain. I walked in and straight up to the counter. Then the lady the other side pointed me in the direction of a machine. It was one of those that prints out numbers to wait to be called. What do you call those things?

“Really?? You have got to be kidding!” I said. “There is nobody else here (for feck sake)!”

I looked at the machine then the lady. Then the door, which I moved towards and out. I was not even going to give her the pleasure of telling me the barcode and numbers do not work.

Onto number 5…

I was about to give up and get another paying-in paper or at least check the numbers etc. on line. But as I am now telling my son to keep trying and remembering that old English adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” I thought I would give it one more go. There were three other banks to choose from. I chose the one at the end of the line.

Success

Fifth time lucky. Just like all the other banks there was hardly any activity. Four people visible and only one working. That was the man seeing to my payment. Initially he said the same as all the other but he persisted. He deserves great credit for that. And it paid off. After a few attempts it seemed to all work and he took my money and gave me the official receipt.

The bank? It was none other than Caixa (pronounced Ky-sher – well, more or less). That well-known Catalan bank. Proving, at least in one way, why the Catalans think they can go it alone with independence. At least their banking system would work better than the rest of Spain’s. I have to agree. Fair play to Caixa bank. They deserve a lot of credit for that.

Footnote:
Spanish Cajas are similar to banks but different. I am not exactly sure how or why, but similar to the way Building Societies differ from banks in the UK. Following the ‘global financial crisis’ most Cajas either converted into banks (After which they miraculously carried on as if nothing had happened!?) and only two survived in their original format. Apparently many of the Cajas had been colluding with regional governments and had gotten up to all sorts of unscrupulous financial dealings. Well; T.I.S. (This is Spain!)

Spanish Politics Rocked

Political Merry-go-round.

Almost two years ago the then PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez failed to defeat the useless Rajoy and his Partido (Un)Popular in the Spanish general election. A few months later he resigned. Back in October 2016 I wrote: “The well-groomed Pedro Sanchez – he looks more like a film star than a politician – was forced to resign as more than half of the party’s executive committee had already resigned. So Sanchez, who once seemed destined for stardom, fell on his sword.”

Wow what has just happened? Returning from the political wilderness Sanchez has just become Prime Minister. Capitalising on the chaos surrounding Partido Popular officials. This happened after I wrote the piece below but before I had chance to post it. Here it is anyway…

Spanish politics has been rocked this past two weeks. And we are not talking AC/DC or Led Zeppelin. Not even the Casbah! This past week or two the main news story has been the sentencing of some of the ruling party’s top officials. The main protagonist is one Luis Barcenas who was the treasurer of the Popular Party (PP) from 1990 to 2009. He was accused of having received the usual pots full of money as kickbacks from companies seeking to receive large government contracts.

Qué Cara Tiene  (what cheek this man has)

Incredibly he denied any wrong doing even though he tried to implicate the present PM Rajoy by saying that he gave him numerous payments of cash – i.e. loads of money! So, let’s see. “Not guilty your honour. But I did give the Prime Minister loads of dodgy cash to play with. Of course, I have no idea where that cash came from.” It’s great stuff isn’t it?

Remarkably the prosecution rested on handwritten documents of payments – albeit slightly coded – which dated between 1990 and 2008. Didn’t any of these people ever see the movies about Al Capone and how his handwritten accounts got him jailed for tax evasion? You would think it is a very basic and naive mistake. Right? Wrong! These people get away with it for so long they think they are invincible. They start to believe their own lies.

National newspaper El Pais broke the story back in January and even printed the papers in question. I have been wanting to write about it ever since.

Repeat Offender?

As if all this is not crazy enough, and to prove yet again that life is indeed stranger than fiction, this Barcenas bloke seems to be a repeat offender. He used to be a senator and had to step down from that position in 2009/10 because he was implicated in a separate corruption case. That one involved some 48 million Euros being stashed in a Swiss bank. You really could not make this shit up. Some people never learn do they?

You would like to think that the party leaders who are actually in government (rather than just party officials) are not stupid enough to get wrapped up in such illegal actions. That they had nothing to do with it. Maybe. We may never know for sure. But meantime the other parties are trying to capitalise on the political scandal and oust the Prime Minister. Not that they are squeaky clean. They certainly are not. This kind of thing knows no party boundaries in most countries.

Endemic in Spain…

But this is Spain. Here, it is endemic and almost acceptable at some levels. This is a country where a surprisingly large number of local small-town mayors regularly go to jail for such crimes. Not only that: They come out of jail and get voted back into their cushy positions by the people. Then they probably continue fiddling the figures and taking brown envelopes stuffed with cash from some local property developers. Some have even been found with thousands of Euros stuffed into their mattresses.

Really! I have no fear of any libel action here because this is totally common knowledge in all of Spain. Everyone knows it goes on and for the most part the people don’t give a stuff. Well I suppose they do but they are so used to it and so used to those involved getting away with it (in many cases) that they just don’t care. Are things about to change?

Is the message getting through?

Great message to the children of Spain eh? Basically, it seems to be; do it but just don’t get caught. I guess not keeping records of all the transactions is a good place to start. Eh kids? Well maybe things are changing…. In all 29 officials and businessmen have been found guilty.

This time however the punishments do fit the crimes. Barcenas received a 33 year jail term while one of his main accomplices, businessman Francisco Correa, was sentenced to 51 years in prison. Yes, I know. Odd numbers aren’t they? Don’t ask me because I have no idea.

Is the UK any different? I seriously doubt it. We either do not get to hear about the corruption or – these days at least – they just blame it all on the Russians.

All in all yet another example of how our leaders are setting a great example for the kids. Not!