Last Day of School

Another major milestone. Today is Dani’s last day of school for this his first year of full time education.

A soon as I received my start date for returning to work I had to book the flights to be back in Spain for this day. I had taken him to school and collected him almost every day in this, his first year. I definitely did not want to miss his last day. For me it will be equally as emotional as the first day. For him probably exact opposites.

The Time has Flown…

It only seems a few weeks ago that he started and I can still recall the moment that reality set in. When he realised that he was going to be there for a very, very long time. A lot has changed since then. He settled in nicely and has turned into a typical little schoolboy experiencing all the fun and drama of being in a huge prisonlike environment – albeit a day release version of prison. Things like conformity, group activities, playtime and even bullying. Well sort of. I still don’t believe kids of that age are actually capable of bullying. Anyway, more on that one to come in a (near) future post.

Noticing the Difference…

For all its faults, the positives outweigh the negatives and I am proud of how he has taken to school. Last night when I arrived he proudly showed me his workbooks for the year. The school sent them home with their schoolwork yesterday as clearly the kids will be too excited today. There was a noticeable improvement in his pencil skills. Huge in fact. When he started back in September last year he held the pencil like you might carry the Olympic torch or stir something with a big stick. Now he holds it correctly using his fingers to guide it and makes every effort to be precise. OK not every effort but certainly more of an effort.

I will go and collect him later and witness the sheer joy on his face as he says his goodbyes to everyone. Then it will be 12 long weeks before he sees them again.

Long Hot Summers…

Twelve weeks of summer holidays. It’s a long time. Back in the UK the summer hols are much shorter (probably about 6 or 7 weeks?) and do not start until mid-July. They also have week-long “half term” holidays. In Spain they save up all the holidays and use them in the summer.

This year June has been unusually hot in both Spain and the UK. Normally in this part of Spain the temperatures do not go above 40 degrees until July. Already they have surpassed that figure in June. Here in Spain with temperatures over and above 40 degrees being in school is very tough on the kids. It is no wonder they take as much time as possible for school holidays in the summer time. Half terms offer a great break but having to stop in school here until mid-July would be nothing short of torture.

Schools Out… (but not Forever)

I can remember only a few of my primary school final days. One that really sticks in my mind is walking out of the gates with the kids singing that Alice Cooper song “School’s Out, for summer….” Etc… That song was released in 1972 but the year I am referring to is probably more likely to be 1975 – my final year of primary school. A classic old Rock n Roll number; they still play it on the radio occasionally.

Oddly enough I seem to remember all my school summer holidays being warm and sunny. Out playing football or cricket all day. Cycling, skateboarding, fishing and camping out (in the garden). Surely we would not have done that if it was raining all the time? – as it seems to most summers these days in the UK. Maybe that’s what they mean by “climate change”? Nah! Don’t get me going on that one….

Showing my age – again. Hey! I never tried to hide it.

First Bike – Another Landmark

Yesterday we bought Dani his first bike. Things have changed since my day. There is a new type of bike now – called a Training Bike. There are no pedals and no stabilisers. Yes, I know it sounds more like a roller skate than a bike eh? Actually I quite like the idea. You can add pedals later but initially it’s all about the kids getting their balance. The theory being that working pedals is much easier than learning to balance on two wheels. Early indications are good. Dani is getting used to scooting along and lifting his feet. The big first fall is yet to come. Probably just around the next corner so to speak.

The Training Bike

My first bike…

I remember having my first bike. Similar to Dani’s but with pedals and stabilisers. I left it in the front garden one day, not long after mastering riding it without the stabilisers. Back then we lived on the big council estate in the town. It was robbed. My dad took me to the police station where they had a room full of recovered bikes. It seemed back then a lot thieves just nicked a bike to get to their next destination – maybe home – then just ditched them. We reported the bike stolen and they let us look for it in their recovered swag room. It wasn’t there and I remember crying with disappointment. To make me feel better my dad bought me a jigsaw puzzle. Hardly the same as a bike eh? But back then I loved jigsaw puzzles so the buyoff worked well.

I hope I don’t have to do the same with Dani. Although he would easily be bought off. When we were in the shop and he was supposed to be trying out his new bike he kept stopping to check out all the other toys and games they had on offer. Easily distracted? Definitely.

                  

Opportunists….?

Oddly enough while out training on his bike earlier I saw a man get off his motorbike, go into a shop to buy bread while leaving the motorbike running. There were not many people about but it still caught me by surprise. My first reaction was; “I bet he wouldn’t do that with a car”. Then I wondered; how many opportunistic thieves can even ride a motorbike? I wonder what the chance would be if he tried that where I grew up?

What a Fortnight

An eventful couple of weeks has come to an end. Now it’s the weekend and a chance to catch my breath.

My days of not working had to come to an end at some point and this is the end of my first week back in the workplace after almost 18 months off.

Before that Dani was over visiting his UK family and we went to a wedding in Norfolk. Our friends Phil and Sarah had a fantastic day and lots of people turned up to celebrate. The groom is a fireman and arrived for the wedding on a fire engine. But this was no ordinary fire engine. It was a beautifully restored 1931 Leyland Cub. It goes without saying that a certain little lad loved it. We all did.

At the wedding party the little lad kept going till almost 1am in the morning. Then he collapsed into a deep sleep before we could even undress him.

On the way back we visited an old friend of mine from my college days. I lost touch with Gavin while he was working in Germany but now he is back in the UK. As it was (more or less) on the way back from the wedding location we called in to see him and his family. It’s at times like this that you realise how old we are getting and it is a time to reflect on a couple of things: Why do we leave it so long to get in touch? How the hell does time go so fast? Time. The great enemy.

Gavin’s kids are grown up now – at least compared to Dani – but they still had a big box of old toys he could play with. Needless to say, Dani really enjoyed himself and even demonstrated his “super gecko muscles”.

 As if all that wasn’t enough the UK just had another general election that surprised just about everyone. Blimey! it’s getting as bad as Spain!

I should probably update the About page. Where am I going to find the time to write now? I will just have to try harder.

Day in the Mountains – Guardarrama

Last weekend we took Dani into the mountains north of Madrid. We headed for Guardarrama some 56 kilometres to the northwest of the city. Guardarrama is a little town but also the name of the mountain range in that area.

Around the Lake…

First we went to a reservoir – Embalse de la Jarosa – a few kilometres from the town. We walked one of the simpler routes around the lake – suitable for a 3 year old. There are plenty more challenging routes as well as mountain bike routes. The cyclists were out in force.

From the lakeside the memorial cross at the Valle de los Caídos (valley of the fallen) is clearly visible. The 150m high cross is part of the monument at San Lorenzo de El Escorial which is in another town/municipality. It is said to be the tallest memorial cross in the world. This is also the place where General Franco was laid to rest in 1975 even though, according to his family, he wanted to be buried in Madrid.

Magnifying Glass for Christmas…

There were plenty of ants and other insects. I showed Dani how to shove a stick into an ant’s nest and watch them all come running out. He loved that. Next year he should be ready for a magnifying glass versus ants challenge. He is still too young for that but he will definitely love it. What little lad doesn’t? I might even buy him a copy of one of those old-fashioned I-Spy Insects books. That way he can tick each species off as he burns them.

This 1955 Edition cost a shilling

There is good fishing to be had at the lake. Again something Dani is not quite old enough for just yet. The low water level must be of concern though as it is not yet summer. Hopefully there will be some rain before the long hot summer kicks in.

There were also plenty of giant pine cones – well giant to Dani. We collected a few as you do. Some remain in the car where I am sure they will be for some time.

Memorial Cross in the distance

         

Into Town…

 After our walk it was the part I was looking forward to. Into the town to find a nice restaurant. The town does not disappoint. There are plenty of places to eat and drink and the food is excellent.

But there is also a nice plaza, town hall and the parque municipal (town park) in front of the church (Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel de Guadarrama) which had an interesting rastro/flea market.

Town Hall

                

      

True to form the little lad was fast asleep before we left the area. Enabling us to stop off en-route to do some shopping in peace.

A Political Story – Can you trust them as far as you can throw them?

I don’t like to get political in this Blog but there are times when something needs telling exactly how it is. Besides we are living in interesting times politically speaking. Even more so for us. My boy is Spanish but half British and Britain has voted to leave the European Union (EU).

Regardless of who you vote for this is a typical tale of political parties failing to deliver. Just one example of promising one thing then doing the opposite. One example of many and typical of the politicians who preach to us on a daily basis. A tale of betrayal in this case because the party in question won the previous two elections and is also set to win the upcoming election in June. In other words they were handed the power to implement what they promised – then did not!

Human Rights anyone?

Consider the Human Rights Act and its links with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). This was introduced into British law by Tony Blair almost immediately after he won the first of his three general elections. It is not necessary for EU members to employ the Human Rights Act and so it could, in theory, be scrapped at any time regardless of this Brexit thing. As predicted by some at the time it was introduced the Act quickly became a haven for criminals and especially foreign criminals who used the spurious human rights arguments to avoid deportation. This is actually mentioned as a reason for scrapping the Act in the 2015 Conservative party manifesto. It was (and still is) a very unpopular piece of legislation.

2010 Conservative Manifesto

In the 2010 manifest the Conservative party only mention is once: “…we will replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights.” It was however widely spoken about at the time.

Following the election result the Conservatives, who were the biggest party but did not have a clear majority, went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats. This proved very convenient as we all knew that there was no way that the Lib-Dems were going to agree to scrapping the Huma Rights Act.

2015 Conservative Manifesto

In the 2015 election this item became one of the headline pledges. It is mentioned specifically several times, on three separate pages, under three separate sections. Including in bold and even bullet pointed in a pledge list. The words “We will scrap the Human Rights Act…” are repeated several times.

Also in the 2015 manifesto were these words: “We will give you a say over whether we should stay in or leave the EU, with an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.” The promise of a referendum is repeated several times in the document.

The Conservative party went on to win an outright majority. Clearly, they never saw that coming.

Always Expect the Un-expected…

Both the promise to scrap the Human Rights Act was of course a vacuous lie. The Conservatives never thought they would actually win a clear majority. They were banking on another coalition with the Liberal Democrats who would strongly object to any such scrapping of the EU’s human rights act. It would once again be very convenient. Or so they thought.

Once in power David Cameron and his party should have scrapped the Human Rights Act almost immediately. It was a strongly worded and often repeated pledge in the manifesto. Scrapping it was clearly a vote winning policy. Why wouldn’t he?

But the Tories had other plans and it involved what was probably the biggest gamble in the party’s history. They really were going to give us the referendum on EU membership. Clearly, they were convinced that Britain would vote to “Remain” in the EU. In which, case why scrap the EU’s hated human Rights Act when they would no doubt restore it following their referendum success? It all makes sense now.

However, they were not prepared for the unexpected. The plan had backfired spectacularly. The British people had voted overwhelmingly to “Leave” the EU. We wanted our sovereignty back. It was a very simple choice. “Leave” the EU and all its establishments or “Remain”. The people had voted to “Leave”. This was to be Britain’s exit from the EU and it became known as Brexit. Cameron resigned on the day of the result never to be seen or heard from again.

Fast Forward to the present…

There is no way the Conservative party is going to make the same mistakes again (at least for some time). With Brexit now supposedly ongoing their 2017 manifesto clearly states that we will be keeping the EU’s Human Rights Act after all. Or at least until after the Brexit “negotiations”. And a lot can happen in that time…

The big difference between 2017 and 2015 is that they now fully expect to win – and with a big majority. Food for thought eh? Not so much a U-turn as ‘don’t make promises that you may have to deliver’.

As far as you can throw them?

Can these people ever be trusted? Can you trust them even as far as you could throw them? How far is that exactly?

Well actually, I think I could throw them quite a distance. I am thinking from the top of the cliffs at Kalaupapa village on the Hawaiian island of Molokai – the world’s highest sea cliffs according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The cliffs rise to just over 1000 metres.

So; I reckon that I could (and would, given the chance) easily throw them over a kilometre.

But could I trust them that far? Hmm… probably not. A kilometre is quite a long way eh?

New TV Show, New Craze.

 

I go away for a few days and come back to find that there is a new kids TV show on the block.

I went away for a few days on a stag weekend. The trip was OK but this is not the platform to talk about it. In any case, nothing hardly happened and we were all tucked up in bed by midnight every night. Right? Right. So, moving on…

Enter the PJ Masks…

Apparently, PJ Masks is now where it’s at for 3-4 year olds in Madrid.

Basically, it is a British/French cartoon where the kids themselves (only 6 years old) turn into superheroes. When it is night and they are in their pyjamas they turn into their alter-egos. It is not exactly new – it has been running since 2015 – but it is new to Dani and his pals at school.

Greg wears green PJs and becomes the lizard-like Gekko. Amaya wears red PJs and becomes the flying Owlette. Finally, Connor wears blue PJs and becomes Catboy. There are the usual range of accessories like the Cat Car, Owl Glider and Gekko-Mobile. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Another great one for the marketing people.

The list of villains reads like the 60s Batman series. Luna Girl, Firefly, Night Ninja and Mighty Seagull to name a few.

Banning the Superheroes…

I knew that the kids had been banned from playing (traditional) superheroes by the school. Clearly there were too many falls and minor injuries. It was only a matter of time before there was a serious injury. So now they have started playing PJ Masks. Only now, that too has also been banned.

How long was I away for? I know I am still not 100% but I don’t recall going through some time shifting worm-hole.

I watched a couple of episodes this morning and I have to say that I was bored after the first. However, the kids seem to like it and I can see why. I will be watching more over the coming days and weeks so it may just grow on me.

Dani’s First motoGP

Like most little boys he loves anything with wheels. It is not what some people might try to tell you about stereotyping the sexes. Before he could walk he just fell in love with anything – toy or otherwise – that had wheels.

So whenever they show the motoGP (think Formula One, only much more exciting) on the TV he watches it and has gotten more curious about it this season. The season is only a few races old but last weekend was the Spanish motoGP in Jerez. So off we set. His first live motor racing.

Little Samurai…

One of the top riders is also called Dani (Pedrosa) – a very small fella whose nickname is the Little Samurai. He  rides for the Repsol Honda team – one of the top two teams -.and is one of my favourites. I thought if we could find a T-shirt that simply said “DANI” and “26” (Pedrosa’s number) then our Dani could wear it. Sure enough we found exactly that and Pedrosa went on to win the race. Dani Pedrosa led from start to finish in a brilliant display of high speed two wheel racing.

Surprisingly our little samurai was not at all phased by the noise. He quite enjoyed it all. That was up until about lap 6 or 7. then he had a minor meltdown and cried. The reason? Rossi, the popular Italian rider was not having a very good race by his own high standards. He was languishing back in 7th or 8th place. Meanwhile Dani was leading the race and our little Dani had his shirt on. What could be wrong?

Dad’s Fault…

It turns out that his daft old dad had said that Rossi was his favourite rider. So, naturally,  my little samurai wanted to copy his dad. He could recognise Rossi speeding around the track from the action photos in the official programme. When he saw that he was not leading it was all over bar the tears.

Finally we calmed him down telling him that he should just clap each time the riders passed us and especially so for Rossi. We told him that all the other Rossi fans were not crying and that nobody can win every race.

At the end it still hadn’t dawned on him that the rider whose T-shirt he was wearing had won the race. He was more upset than his dad at Rossi’s poor showing. Then finally it sunk in and he was happy with the result..It was a long, hot, tiring day for the little lad but he enjoyed it and will be back for more in the future.

    

OK. These shirts cost enough so we bought the next size up.
As the saying goes “he will grow into it”.

 A little history…

It’s not just bravery. It takes a certain type of craziness to win these high powered bike races. Not surprisingly, of the 23 riders competing in the motoGP over half are from Spain and Italy. This has been the case for years. It seems that the craziness of the nation as a whole on the roads reflects well in the competition. In that case I wonder why there are no Greek riders? Hmmm…

Trip to Spain – TV Show Review

At last. Something to moan about. I am filing this one under Grumpy Old Dad. But wait. There is a point to this. This is a review of a TV show called “Trip to Spain” starring Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden. It seems that the duo made a similar series loosely based on being in Italy and people liked it. Or so we are told. Personally I think the TV company got suckered into a deal to make at least one more series and can’t wait to get out of it. That really is the impression this show gives. Like nobody really cares or is in charge of production. Ah!   let these two just get on with it, keep them fed and watered, film bits up and down the country and we can stick them together later and call it a TV show.

It annoyed the hell out of me and I would advise against watching it. Of course, if you are reading this you will now want to see what all the fuss is about. Shit! Not my intention at all….

What is it supposed to be?

I can see why people might want to watch the show. Both are popular comedians in their own right. But this TV show doesn’t seem to know what is it supposed to be. It is neither travel show, comedy, food show?. It pretends to be all of these but fails to deliver on any.

It seems to be part scripted on the one hand and part ad-lib on the other. There seems to be an attempt at a (very weak) storyline. The jokes seem to be mainly between the two characters (if that) and little detail is shown of the places they are passing through or staying. It quickly becomes totally pointless fly on the wall crap.

Where’s the real info?

People are interested in road trips as well as in Spain and its history. Somehow tis TV series manages to avoid showing some of the more interesting aspects of the places they are supposedly visiting. Apart from the odd token historical factoids generally spouted by Coogan – there is nothing of interest. In fact, it is hard to tell if they are meant to be genuine history or part of some experimental form of comedy. Like some hidden joke that only the select few can understand.

Many people like to see the culinary delights of countries like Spain but this show only shows quick flashes of the dishes being served up, in restaurants which remain nameless. We are not even sure in which towns the restaurants are. We can only make an educated guess. The truth is the way this programme is put together they could be anywhere.

Spain has many great restaurants and judging by the look of some of the dishes they are served these eateries appear to be high end. It is a real shame they do not get a mention.

This show is all about them – the two “comedians”. Trying to outdo each other like a couple of 5 year olds. Apart from one odd moment they fail miserably.

Coogan of old…

I used to think Steve Coogan was OK. Way back, before he started doing cocaine, whoring and thinking he had something useful to say in the political arena. I even paid to see him doing a stand-up show in Stockport (his “manor” – more or less). And he was quite funny.

But this show is best summed up by the famous line from one of his early characters – a certain student hating Paul Calf:

Bag o’ shite!

For proof that Coogan was quite funny back in the early 90s click here.

I Think I’m Turning Japanese, I Really Think So…

A funny thing happened on the way to school today. Something made Dani laugh hysterically and it really wasn’t that funny. Hardly at all. I am sure there are some lunatics out there who would say what I did was ‘racist’. Well it was neither ‘racist’ nor funny but it definitely made him laugh uncontrollably. It was me, pretending to speak Japanese. Just me being a daft dad.

Obviously, I cannot speak Japanese but I did manage to throw a few real words in there. You know, the ones everyone knows like; sake, karate, samurai and – for good measure – the odd Fukushima. Not the funniest thing in the world granted, but it tickled the little fella this morning.

Impressing Clara

Then, just as we neared the school, he said “I am going to talk in Japanese to Clara and she will laugh”.

You could say that this was a great opportunity to give some basic fatherly advice. Or then again just the chance to sit back and let him learn.

“Well, she might laugh mate. But she will probably just think you are being silly.”

In case you didn’t know and haven’t read all the previous posts Clara M is a very popular girl in his class. His three-year old (almost four) dream-girl. His first crush.

Real Advice? Nah. Just go for it.

What I really meant to say was: “Please don’t build your hopes up and end up being disappointed.” But why shouldn’t he play the clown in front of a girl? He should not be afraid of making a fool of himself. In any case who knows? It may just work.

And here’s another thing for sure mate. If you do something as silly in about 15 years’ time you are guaranteed to have an audience of (seemingly) impressed girls. Don’t ask me why but that’s how it goes. When they want to be seen with you they will giggle at even the slightest daftest thing that you say. You’ll see when you are older.

But for now, go in there and try out your new-found language skills. Be sure to tell me about it later so I can have a good laugh.

Then, on my way home, I just couldn’t get that 1980 tune by The Vapors out of my head. Turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so….

The Snowman. But not as we know it.

The Snowman made in 1982 is a great animated film for kids and adults alike. At about 25 minutes long it is just right for watching with Dani while he eats supper just before going to bed.

Naturally he loves it. When they enjoy something so much it is hard to show them something a little different. After watching something several times they know every little detail as they study it so intensely. Even the slightest difference will be noticed. It has to be that exact film/book/song (whatever). Also at that age it is difficult to know what will upset them. You can never be sure whether showing them something slightly different will trip their hyper sensitive in-built mercury tilt switch. Do you cut the red wire or the blue wire? It often comes down to that kind of choice.

So when I remembered an old take on the snowman film from what I thought was a comedy sketch show in the mid-80s. I turns out that it was part of a Spitting Image Christmas special from 1987. Thirty years ago! Once again, a big thank you to Youtube. What did we do without it?

I wasn’t sure if Dani would laugh or cry but I played the short clip for him anyway. Fortunately, he has a great sense of humour for a child his age. When he laughs he really laughs. He instantly took to it and all we did for a while was replay the video clip, laugh out loud (LOL in today’s language) then he’d say “again!”. Repeat. And so we did, again and again…

And here it is, all 10 seconds; still one of the funniest piss takes I can remember…

The real Snowman film is probably most famous for the song – and only words in the production – Walking in the Air. The version of the song that most people are familiar with is the cover version made by choirboy Aled Jones released in 1985. However, the film version of the song was sung by Peter Auty (another choirboy). Why they didn’t re-release the original version is anybody’s guess. Aled Jones went on to international fame both as a boy and adult singer. Auty too went on to be successful as an opera singer. Apparently Auty was also famous for singing on British Rail (This is the Age of the Train) adverts as child. Those adverts were presented by a certain Mr. James Savile so the least said about those the better.