Beards – An Update…

For those of you out there who have been wondering what has happened to all the facial hair here is a quick update. The big shave-off challenge has been postponed until my next visit to the UK. This will be the 2nd week in April just over a week’s time.

The reason is because Gillette have sent their blades to my UK address/contact. Dani’s nanna’s house. My fault for not coordinating things very well. However, very soon I should then be in a position to do an evenly matched shaving challenge as Gillette have also supplied their 5 bladed weapon.

I definitely need to shave off this facial hair. Dani is calling me “Chewbacca face”. Yes, he is already into Star Wars and Chewie is his favourite character. He clearly doesn’t understand it though as he seems to think Darth Vader is also “nice”. More on that one at a later date.

The hair under my chin is spreading like something out of Planet of the Apes. Far thicker growth than I had expected. Incidentally, Dani has also watched Planet of the Apes and liked it! The real one with Charlton Heston of course.

I feel a movie post coming on….

Mind Your Language

Minding your Ps and Qs is something all parents need to be aware of especially when the toddler is like a parrot…

I admit that I can swear with the best of them. Having worked in various industries for so many years I certainly use “industrial language” far more often than I should.

The problem now of course is that Dani will repeat everything he hears. Just because he has not immediately repeated something you have said does not mean he has not heard it. He is now remembering everything. He will throw a word or phrase in randomly and when you least expect it. He is somehow managing to do that in two languages as well. What remarkable ability kids have at that age!

It the English words and phrases I am most concerned about. Or should I say “to blame for”?

Example…

The other day while I was driving Dani was sat in the back with his grandmother. He hardly stopped jabbering and singing along (in his own way) to songs on the radio. Then suddenly he switched to repeatedly saying Eff Off! Fortunately his grandmother’s English is not that good. What shocked me most however was that I honestly think I have not used that exact phrase around him. Hardly, if at all. I do freely admit to using derivations of that well known phrase. One of which I was obviously using too much. He started saying it in context at exactly the right time – just before I was about to say it. So I have been making a conscious effort not to say that particular expression of exclamation or despair (i.e. Effin hell).

Clearly he had picked up on one of my odd uses of the FO phrase and had remembered it. But why would he suddenly start shouting it repeatedly? I know they say that the best way to learn language is to repeat what you hear and as we all know “practice makes perfect”. Even so that was a bit extreme.

I definitely need to be more careful from now on. The thing is all these words – and more no doubt – are already in Dani’s memory bank. I have no idea when he might suddenly decide that their use is appropriate. It is not like I can simply delete them like some contact in a mobile phone address book.

Solutions?

So what do you do?

The best way with Dani seems simple enough. Immediately throwing back another word or phrase repeatedly. In the case of the car incident that word was “hotdog” for some unknown reason.

It worked though. “Eff Off” became “Hotdog”!

Amazing. Now where’s the effing mustard?

That could backfire spectacularly however. I now have an image of us in a park passing a hotdog stall. The seller shouts out “Hey kid. Do you want a hotdog?”. Dani replies “F*** off!”. Best avoid hotdog stands if possible.

Of course the only real solution to this problem is to mind your language. I am trying. Honestly.

Cultural differences….

Now; for a little cultural diversion please read on…

Swearing in Spanish is noticeably different. It is just as common but what we consider to be really bad words are not necessarily so in Spanish. A good example is the “C” word. In the English speaking world this is the one that regularly tops of the “most offensive” list. In Spain the equivalent word is coño (pronounced conyo) and while it is not exactly a normal word it’s use is considered far less offensive. You might easily hear grandmothers saying it to their little grandkids – as in “Come on! Hurry up coño”. Although not in the case of Dani’s grandparents I hasten to add.

In complete contrast hostia, the white communion bread used in church, is also considered a strong swear word in Spain. I suppose it must be the blasphemous use of a holy word.

Blimey! Who’d have thought?

Happy Birthday to Dani’s Oldest Relative

This weekend is Easter weekend. Semana Santa in Spain.

On Good Friday we took Dani to visit his oldest relative. Dolores is 98 years old today, Easter Sunday. Affectionately known as “Lalala” by Dani and his cousin Susana (who is only 3 months older than Dani and also made the visit). The name comes from Dani’s grandmother who could not pronounce her auntie’s name when she was the age Dani is now. She called her “Lalala” and the name stuck.

Dolores is Dani’s mother’s great aunt. That makes her his great-great aunt. Dani’s Spanish grandmother has an older sister who herself is 80 years old. She has a grand-daughter called Fernanda (Dani’s Godmother) who is due to give birth to a daughter this summer. That will make Dolores the new-born baby’s great-great-great aunt.

How great is that?

That is some age. She was born in 1918 and is one of the few Spaniards who can remember the Spanish Civil War. At the time that war started she was almost 18.

I can’t recall any of my relatives living anywhere near as long. Come to think of it I don’t know anyone who has a relative as old.

Dolores is a nun and has been since 1940. She has worked in south America and Africa serving the poor communities. She now lives in an old people’s residence run by the same order of nuns.

Just for the record, I am not particularly religious. However, like everyone else from my generation I was brought up in what could generally be considered a Christian based society. We had morning assembly in school with hymn singing etc. There was no Sunday opening and my home town was “dry” on Sundays up until 1968 (way before I was old enough to drink).

Some of the first-hand accounts of what happened during the 1930s in Spain are very interesting.

History…

The republican coalition was a rag tag bunch as anyone who has read George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” will already know. During and before the civil war some of the leftist groups decided to persecute the church, rightly or wrongly blaming them for all sorts of things. Anyone linked to the church quite rightly feared for their safety. In 1936 Dolores left the convent school she was attending to go and live with her family in Madrid and later Valencia. This was mainly for her safety as it was not safe to stay with the nuns at that time. She returned to the convent shortly after the war and became a nun.

Before the civil war members of the clergy were regularly being attacked. The nationalists while generally secular were against attacks on the church. Things only got worse when the war started as the republicans generally believed that the catholic church leaned more toward the right. In fact the opposition groups thought that they were merely protecting the clergy. None of that really mattered, as once such lines were drawn there was no going back.

Dolores does not like to talk about the civil war very much and I suppose that is hardly surprising.

Although she is now more or less wheel-chair bound her mind is still very sharp and her sense of humour is still very much in evidence. She was overjoyed to see the two little ones. Of course they are too young to appreciate the fact that they have such an old relative who has experienced so much but I think they enjoyed the visit. Especially being made a fuss of by all the people working in the care home.

Father’s Day – Día del Padre

Last Saturday was Father’s Day in Spain (día del padre). It falls on 19th March which is also known as St. Joseph’s day – the father of Jesus – hence Father’s day.

In the UK father’s day is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of June so the date is not fixed. It is easy to see the link behind the Spanish Father’s day date but less so for the UK.  Apparently the origins can be traced to an American lady called Sonora Smart Dodd who thought as many others did that fathers should be recognised as equally as mothers and so have their own special day. Like many other celebrations that came from the USA we followed the tradition in the UK soon after.

Well actually not that soon. I can always recall Mother’s day but in my early years there was no such thing as Father’s day. I am guessing that it must have crept in around the mid 70s.

Does anyone know for sure?

It’s hard enough remembering one such event in a year but now we have to remember two. It is the same for Mother’s day of course.

In Spain Día de la Madre (Mother’s day) is always on the first Sunday in May. In the UK Mother’s day is celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent, or 3 weeks before Easter Sunday so maybe another Christian link there. I am told that May is the month of the virgin in Spain and hence the virgin Mary (mother of Jesus). There would seem to be a Christian link similar to father’s day for the Spanish. I think the Sunday thing is  – just like in the UK  – because most people do not work on Sundays.

Dani made me a key ring. He is very clever but I am sure he had help.

Wait a minute. Is that supposed to be me in the car? He missed the beard… now two months old and soon to come off in the big shave off challenge. Stay tuned.

fathers day gift

 

LEGO. Simply the Best.

Lego. Simply the greatest toy ever made. Fact.

I do not think there is anyone out there who would argue with that.

As I am almost 52 years old I can remember the days long before all the detailed Star Wars Lego sets etc…

My experience with Lego even predates the popular minifigures; or Lego people as we used to call them. I remember those Lego people coming out (no, not in that way; being released onto the market) back in the late 70s.

An old interest revived…

My love of Lego has been re-ignited by two things. One of course is my son Dani who already enjoys playing with construction type toys. The other reason I am back into Lego in a big way is because of the wonderful and inspiring film The LEGO Movie.

I first saw the film on an aeroplane when Dani was less than a year old and I realised that I would soon be enjoying all that fun of playing with Lego all over again. After years of not particularly bothering with the toy my renewed interest went into overdrive.

Since then I have been slowly building up a collection of Lego for when Dani is old enough to play with it. He is going to love it and so am I.

It’s good to see that there are fellow dad bloggers out there who are into Lego in a big way. Although generally (almost totally in fact) much younger than me their interest in the toy would have probably come from the more modern sets. However, they would have all gone through the same process of learning to build simple things with the basic bricks. The perfect learning platform for children.

Of course all parents already know that Lego is the best thing that ever happened to kids toys. They don’t all rave about as much as some of us but hey; they know.

Back to the earlier days…

My earliest memories of Lego date back to when I was about 5 years old. My siblings and I had uncles working in the Lego factory in our home town. Long closed down now of course. We had huge boxes full of the different bricks that had apparently fallen off the conveyor lines during production and packing. These were simply swept up and of course ended up in the hands of children related to the workers. I didn’t realise at the time how lucky we were.

It was a totally random selection of course but we didn’t care. In those days there were not that many types of brick available anyway so we pretty much had everything we could have wanted or needed to build with. Real Lego, real play.

Those old bricks came in only a few colours. White, black, blue, yellow and red. I seem to recall that some (but not many) were grey or green. The blue, yellow and red colours were very bold and referred to as “bright red/yellow/blue” by Lego. These days there are lots of colours and in varying shades too. Almost like an artist’s palette.

It really didn’t matter to us how many different brick colours there were. What mattered was that we had plenty of them. With so many we could build whatever we wanted. Or so we thought. If we had seen one of today’s intricate Star Wars sets back then we would have flipped out.

Looking at the new bricks I do wonder if they are the same quality as those originals. They do not quite look the same to me. Or am I just being too nostalgic?

But who am I to stand in the way of Lego brick development? The basic bricks are more or less the same as I first remember and the new sets with all those special pieces really do make anything possible.

For sure more Lego posts will follow…

20160327_154117

Two trees and Cranky the crane.

Plant a Tree, Have a Son, Write a Book

A famous quote tells us the three things every man should do during his time on earth: Plant a tree, have a son and write a book. The reason behind this quote is generally believed to be that we are only here for a short time and these three things will live on long after we have passed. It’s like leaving a legacy and in a sense achieving a kind of immortality.

I first heard this quote in a Spanish class when I first worked in Spain back in 1998. My Spanish teacher was the wonderful Carmen Lopez Blanco. Being keen on literature she knew all about the famous writers from the Spanish speaking world.

I can still recall her telling me about the quote but cannot remember who had supposedly written it. Only that it was some Latin American writer. At that time I had done none of the three things.

Now I have my son Dani, I have planted a couple of trees and I am in the process of writing a book. A few days ago Dani planted his first tree.

Holding treeSource of the Quote…

Bear with me while I digress slightly.

It is possible that the phrase is derived from the Talmud (sotah 44) which states: “…a man should build a house, plant a vineyard and then marry a wife”.

Other sources suggest it is a Buddhist saying. Yet another that it is an old Russian proverb.

Of course recently the quote has lost its male dominated meaning and is widely quoted as “Plant a tree, have a child and write a book”. It is also quoted as something every person should do rather than just a man.

A quick internet search also reveals that the quote is widely attributed to Jose Martí (1853-1895) a Cuban poet, journalist and political philosopher. He is a national hero in Cuba.

Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba’s bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the “Apostle of Cuban Independence.”

Although he never lived to see Cuba’s independence from Spain his face is on the Cuban One Peso note. An honour no less. Rather like the reverence given to George Washington who appears on the US One Dollar note.

planting tree

Latin American heroes…

I wondered why any reference to Latin American history always mentions poets and writers as heroes. This is a fact. If you look into the history of Latin American politics you will see what I mean. Basically these were so called “intellectuals” who would have also been critical of the political system or even revolutionary.

In Europe we would have gone through a similar phase in our history. We just no longer seem to quote them. In a similar way our so called “intellectuals” would have been well educated in comparison to the masses. They had something to say and (better still) knew how to express it. Even more importantly they knew how to get it published. Those types are hardly revered anymore in our countries but they still seem to be a large part of the historical and political fabric that makes up Latin America.

It was suggested to me that perhaps Latin America is somehow living in the past and behind Europe in this respect. As if they have not outgrown these old intellectuals. In a way that may be true.

Oops! Cue comments from Latin Americans – I do hope so, even if it only means that my blog is being read by Latin Americans. However please read on…

In actual fact it could mean they are in a better, more advanced state than we are in Europe. Nowadays in Europe so many people hang on every word of a footballer (for example) as if they have anything worth saying!! Another example: In the English speaking world it certainly seems that Hollywood actors have filled a void to become (or at least pretend to be) the new intellectuals. Unfortunately, these relatively talentless individuals do have a big influence on the way people think and what they say.

I think I know which I prefer. Give me the likes of Jose Martí any day.

After thought…

There are many websites that claim Jose Marti made this quote but oddly it does not appear on any site listing his famous quotes. At least that I could find.

Can anyone help me with this? Does anyone have any real evidence linking Jose Martí with this quote?

Martí is considered one of the great turn-of-the-century (19th century that is) Latin American intellectuals. If he really did write that famous quote then it is good enough for me.

Beards – Part 2.

The facial hair has grown well and Dani now has some photographs to look back on with his furry faced old dad. It was time to think about shaving it all off. I had this second part of the Beard Blog already written in draft and my trusty Gillette razor at the ready. The best multi blade razors on the market. Or so I thought…

An unexpected turn…

While reviewing the draft blog post I spent some time reading the news websites. By a bizarre coincidence I spotted an advert offering quality razors at a fair price. Basically their website claims that men are caught between two problems. On the one hand there are the over-priced razors made by the well-known companies (like Gillette of course; not mentioned by name but obviously implied). On the other hand there are cheaper razors that to be honest, more or less rip your face off. Let’s just say that a good example of the latter are the razors made by a company better known for making ball point pens – I will say no more.

I am sure that all you men out there can agree that this is indeed the situation we are in. Well maybe not for much longer.

I wrote to the company and told them what I was doing with my blog and facial hair and suggested that if they send me a sample of their blades then I was willing to put it to the test in a direct challenge to my trusty Gillette razor. A shave-off no less.

That company kindly obliged and so I now have their full 5 bladed razor kit ready for action. The problem is that my trusty old Gillette was a mere 3 blade version of their extensive range. So in an effort to make this a fair fight I wrote to Gillette explaining what I was doing and offering them the chance to supply me with one of their 5 bladed weapons. As you may or may not know Gillette is part of the much larger Procter & Gamble organisation. A huge behemoth of a company. They kindly gave me the name of a contact at their PR/advertising agency and so I emailed him the same information. I have only just received a reply. It seems the contact I was given does not handle the Gillette account but has now passed on my enquiry to the correct person.

Delayed shave…

Therefore, in order to make this a fair fight I have decided to leave my bearded mush a little longer than expected and give Gillette’s agents the chance to provide me with the best 5 bladed weapon in their armoury. I mean, I should not have to fork out for their best razors just so that I can defend their honour. Should I?

I do not expect a favourable response but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. My little Blog is hardly as important as having the Real Madrid football team (amongst others) on board is it?

Meanwhile, ironically, all this facial fuzz is not bothering me anywhere near as much as I thought it would. I am in danger of getting used to it so the sooner I can do this shave-off challenge the better…