Foreign Invaders Push Out Spanish Natives

Don’t worry this is not a rant about lack of immigration controls. This concerns a cute little pet species of parrot that has gone feral in a big way. It is not only Madrid they are proliferating all over Spain and other parts of Europe.

They are green Quaker Parakeets also known as Monk Parakeets and the offspring of former pets that are thought to have arrived mainly from Argentina. Apparently these birds are great mimics and can repeat what you say when they want to. Not that you will get the chance to find out now that they are free from the cage and flying wild in the city.

Freed Pets…

Identified as pets gone feral as long ago as 2003 they have been thriving. Understandably too. The climate here in Madrid is absolutely perfect for them. The problem is they are a menace in more ways than one.

Not only are these birds a threat to native species – driving them from their nest sites; they are prolific breeders and the numbers seem to be increasing rapidly.

The nests they build are colonial, shared by several breeding pairs. They are the only type of parrot to build stick nests. Other types generally use holes in trees.

In 2013 the Madrid regional government declared “war” on them saying that they were going to be culled and their nests destroyed. Well there goes another political promise worth its weight in parrot shit.!! Apparently a 2013 estimate in the same year claimed that the population was 1768. (odd number to come up with but that is what I read.)

Well here in 2016 I can say for sure that within a mile radius of our house alone there are at least that many.

They now seem to be the dominant force in the parks and many other areas with trees. Basically any tree-lined street.

Noisy Little Creatures…

You hear them all the time but getting a photograph can be quite difficult. As soon as they fly into a tree they vanish into the greenery. The best place to catch them is when they go to ground to feed – but only if you are quick and there are no children in the area to spot them. They are easily startled. Another good place to photograph them is in one of the more sparsely leaved trees that line some streets outside of the parks.

Immediately identifiable, their  distinctive squawks are heard over the chirps and tweets of any native species. After only a few minutes in a park it is easy to see how these birds could annoy anyone living nearby. The noise is quite intense and a lot louder than the sounds of the native birds. The sound can quickly become irritating.

The Irony…

How ironic to think that it was probably pet owners, irritated by the noisy character, who first released these birds. Now that there are so many of them, everyone, not just the pet owners, will be annoyed by their relentless squawking.

Dani loves parrots – when they appear in his books. He does not have the patience to wait for them to come out of the trees in the park. Even when they finally show themselves he soon scares them off by getting over-excited. So it took several visits to the local park before I could take some photos of these birds. You can hear them all the time but actually seeing them can be difficult unless they come out of the trees. Here are some photographs…

parrots-with-pidgeon             almost-invisible-in-tree

They even outnumber the pigeons.           Almost invisible in the trees.

parrot-with-conker                   feeding-on-ground

Easy enough to spot when feeding on the ground – as long as they are not in the grass.

tree-with-communal-nest      nest-zoom

  The colonial nests are almost invisible from a distance…

…but close up we can see how large they build them.

 

Don’t Try This at Home

I have read quite a lot of stuff in other Blogs recently about what games/toys kids should play with and how they should play with them. Gender related nonsense and tales of stereotyping. You know the kind of thing I am talking about.

Well here’s a typical dad and lad game that me and Dani enjoy. It is loosely based on the American wrestling, WWE TV shows. That stands for World Wrestling Entertainment in case you didn’t know.

Smackdown…

If you have seen the WWE Smackdown/Smackdown Live shows on TV then you will know it is a form of acting. Some of the things they come out with before they even get into the ring are worthy of an Oscar nomination. You will probably be either the type of person who immediately turns it off, or a big fan. There would seem to be no in-between… But wait; there is a middle ground right here… We like it; and what’s more we like to play it.

They go to great pains (no pun intended) to point out that the stars of the show are highly trained athletes. And they truly are despite what the critics may say. Of course there is some acting and of course there are plenty of pre-scripted/agreed moves. However only a fool would deny that these guys are fit and highly trained athletes. Imagine you weigh more than 250 pounds and are picked up by someone like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (now better known as a real Hollywood actor), lifted above his head and thrown onto your back. It doesn’t get any more real. That sort of thing f*****g hurts and these wrestlers are injured on a regular basis. Hence the pause for thought during the programming:

The message is clear: “Do Not Try this at Home/School”.

Wise words. Good advice for the kids watching. But that does not stop me and Dani having fun.

Smackdown-Tickledown

Not the square ring on the TV but the square bed in the bedroom. That is where it is safe for us to smack each other down. When I smack Dani down I follow it up with lots of tickles. He laughs so much he can hardly beg me to stop.

“Smackdown-Tickledown Dani?” I say. And off he runs to the bed, taking his shoes/slippers off.

Smackdown – Tickledown – Horsey Ride

Kids are great at changing things. The game has evolved. A bit of smackdown followed by a lot of tickling was what Dani got. What he wanted was to smack me down then jump on my back and tell me (not ask mind) to get up like a horse. Now it ends in horse rides and the “horse” throwing Dani onto the bed. Rodeo style. Yeehaaaa!! He laughs as much as if he was being tickled. Of course the inevitable has happened. Dani has been thrown from the wrong side of the horse where there was less bed and more floor. Only once though. And like a true warrior he got up and did it all again – after a few tears, naturally.

Not Only for Boys…

Before anyone starts going on about how play fighting is such a stereotypical male form of fun, think again. I am sure any parent and daughter would enjoy a game of Smackdown-Tickledown-Horseyride. Who wouldn’t?

And by the way: The women are even better to watch on the Smackdown TV shows. Well at least this old dad thinks so. I certainly would not like to argue with them.

Is My Three Year Old Son a Stalker?

Last Sunday we took Dani to a joint birthday party for three of his classmates. One of them was 3 years old last December making him the youngest in the class. School in fact. The other two kids were 4 years old making them the two oldest in the class and 10 months older than Dani. A lot at that young age.

We arrived at the same time as one of the boys Dani mentions from time to time. The two ran off into the kid’s labyrinth of slides, ball pits and padded stairs. They played together for a while and then in walked Clara M*. Dani noticed her. The stalking began…

Of Course it’s only a Crush…

I know it is just a toddler’s crush. His first real crush, although Daniela DR* possibly qualifies. That was over a year ago in nursery however and neither of the two nippers could hold anything remotely resembling a conversation.

Back to the present, and both Dani and Clara can chatter away without hardly pausing for breath. OK, probably not always saying much with any coherence but you get the point. I already know that Dani is a good talker for his age but she seemed to match him word for word. Probably mostly instructions though if little girls are still the same as when I was a kid. I will have to assume as much because Dani would never divulge.

One of the three joint birthday kids was Paula. Dani often mentions her too on the rare occasion he talks about school and classmates. A huge honour indeed; to get a mention in the same sentence as Clara.

Watching them play it all became clear. Paula is always there because she is Clara’s friend. She was definitely trying to get Dani out of the way. Has Dani been rumbled as a stalker by Clara’s best friend? Not only was she clearly telling him to go away and play elsewhere but at times she tried to push him away. Fair play to the lad, he is not easily put off. Paula gave up long before Dani showed any signs of quitting.

Previous

While it is funny to joke about him being a stalker the lad does have previous.

One of his mum’s friends has a daughter Irene (pronounced Ee-ray-nay in Spanish) and Dani is besotted with her. Whenever they have met at some party get-together he follows her everywhere like a little lap dog. Irene being almost three years older than Dani is old enough to see the funny side. Actually she seems to love having Dani under her spell. She has him fetching and carrying and basically running around like her own…well, lap dog.

All parents like to think of their kids as being the cutest, the most attractive etc… That said I can’t help thinking that in 16 years’ time or so all these girls are going to be lining up to go out with my little boy.

* Note that the surnames are deliberately concealed.

A Year Has Flown…

Today is an anniversary. Exactly one year ago today was the first day of my sabbatical. On the 19th of January last year I finished work so that I could spend more time with my son.

It is not quite a year since I started this Blog however. Thinking about it, I should probably update the ”About” page on this blog. Maybe that can wait a few days.

Now Dani is settled in school and I realise the clock is ticking. Where the hell did that year go?

I try to keep myself busy but some days I quite enjoy doing absolutely nothing. Today, being a kind of anniversary, is one such day.

When I was working I would finish early on a Friday. Usually about 1pm. I would go and treat myself to a menu del día at a local restaurant and wash it down with vino casera – a mix of red wine and a drink called Gaseosa; a very Spanish refreshment, something between soda and 7Up/lemonade. Thinking about it, gaseosa is probably uniquely Spanish. I have never seen it or tasted it’s like anywhere else. “La Casera” is a particular brand of gaseoa but by far the most well-known (and best) so when you want red wine with gaseosa in Spain you simply say “vino casera”.

I will go there today and enjoy the freedom of not being tied to a job. I know it will not last and I know that I will have to go back to work soon. But for now I will enjoy this little anniversary lunch.

Working for the Tooth Fairy?

As I am currently looking for work something daft occurred to me. In a little over a year from now I could be working for the tooth fairy. I am not sure what the going rate is these days but I am sure I will know when the time comes. It has to be a single coin. Fifty cents seems a little too cheap so I am guessing €1. Of course, it could be €2 – two euros!! Wow. That makes a full set of kid’s teeth worth €40 which is approximately forty six quid at today’s exchange rates. Then there is post Brexit currency fluctuation to consider… Blimey! It doesn’t seem five minutes since he cut his first tooth. Even so it is good to be prepared for what is to come.

Milk Teeth…

The reason this is all is on my mind is quite odd. The other day Dani’s mum lost a tooth. It just kind of fell out while she was eating. It turns out that it was a milk tooth. An X-ray revealed the adult tooth is still stuck up above in the gum (presumably now wanting to finally come out). Only a few weeks from her 42nd birthday she still had a milk tooth. How amazing is that?

I knew that there are twenty milk teeth and these fall out to be replaced by thirty two adult teeth but apart from that I never really gave it much thought. I assumed all adults would have lost theirs during the teenage years at the very latest. Not so. A quick search on the good old internet and there were a few in their 40s claiming to still have milk teeth. Several in their 30s and more in their 20s. While not exactly common it is not as rare as I would have thought. Incidentally the oldest one I could find was a 51 year old

No Early Visit from the Tooth Fairy

Dani’s mum threw the tooth away almost immediately. So, there will be no visit from the tooth fairy for her. In a year or (probably) two that fairy will be busy enough in these parts.

By the way, it was an upper canine tooth in case you are interested. Barking eh?

Recipe: Quick & Easy Trifle

Unfortunately your kids might just love this…

I say this in all honesty. Making this trifle will make you selfish and greedy in equal measure. If your kids love this recipe – as I suspect they will – then you are going to have to snaffle large portions when they have gone to bed and lie when it’s all gone! Big time!

Fortunately I think it will appeal more to the taste-buds of older kids and Dani is not quite old enough to like this one. Just as well. More for me.

This recipe comes from a book we found in a second hand charity sale. It is in English and called “Cookbook for Boys”. At only 50 cents and it is the bargain of the year so far. OK it’s only January but I think this one will be a contender come December.

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3

It can be broken down in to three layers and three very easy steps…

Step 1: The sponge (or cake) layer. Any basic sponge-like cake will do, the more sugar-free the better. This time I used typical trifle sponge fingers (big ones). Soaked in as many tablespoons of apple juice as you like.

step-1Step 2: Add a layer of fruit. Any fruit you like or any mix. Feel free to experiment. It is so hard to get this wrong but you may find your exact perfect formula. I tend to use peaches.

step-2Step 3: The piéce de résistance (for this old dad anyway). Mix 250g of Mascarpone with a carton of Greek yogurt and spread on top. Et voilá! A perfect, delicious and best of all incredibly simple to make trifle.

step-3

Now pop it in the fridge for at least half an hour to cool and allow the sponge layer to soak up the juices. Perfection! (It actually tastes even better when left overnight.)

Options… Have fun and Experiment

It really is so simple and best of all it is probably as healthy as this type of dessert can be. The use of fruit and yogurt is always a great combination. Even the use of apple juice is easy and relatively healthy. It doesn’t have to be apple juice it could be any favourite fruit juice you like but apple seems to be the best. It always goes well with whatever fruit you add in layer number 2.

It does not have to be peaches in layer number 2. They are just so good in Spain – even the tinned variety. It can be any fruit within reason. One of my favourite options is to blend strawberries and raspberries into a smoothy and pour them over the sponge layer. Then continue as above.

Mascarpone?

I have no idea if it is supposed to be healthy or not. In fact the original recipe gave the option of either cream cheese or mascarpone. Both work well – quark also – but for me it has to be mascarpone.

The possibilities are endless really. It all depends on what fruits and flavours you and your kids prefer. Who am I kidding? Once you have tried this the kids preferences will not get a look in.

Make it up as you go along. Providing you follow the basic idea you really cannot go wrong. Go ahead. Pimp my Trifle !         finished-profile

Still on the Jobs Market

Well, I did it.

If you read the previous post you will know what I mean. I turned down a high paying job because I could not bear the thought of being away from Dani for so long. I called the agent involved just before going to pick the little fella up from school. Sure enough when he came out muttering “papi, papi” and scanning around trying to spot me it all made perfect sense. You simply can’t buy that stuff.

As I carried him off the premises I asked him for a hug and a kiss. “No” he replied without hesitation and a cheeky grin. The little chimp! If he knew what I had just done because of him would he hug me tight? Probably not. He does things like that only when he feels like.

I told him anyway but it seemed to go in one ear and out of the other. At some point Dani will be old enough to realise what I just did. But that’s a few years a away still.

Will I get any thanks for it? Probably not – at least no until he is a  lot older..

Do I care? No.

I did it for myself as much as Dani. A couple of months working away on a short-term contract I could probably handle but this would have been a commitment of two to three years.

Regrets? You must be joking. Even though he was a pain in the butt for the rest of the evening I think it’s great. He is just a real fun little character and I love him.

Back to Work Soon? Maybe…

Today I am going to turn down a very high paying job. The reason? That’s simple: My son.

It only takes the slightest doubt…

I have had two telephone interviews and they have made it clear that they want me to start working for them. I asked for a couple of more days to decide and discuss with my family as it will mean working away and only seeing Dani at the weekends – flights allowing etc… The job is (or would be) outside of Spain. Not the UK but in another European country where I would not know anyone. In the past that would not have bothered me as I would simply do the work during the week then go home at weekends – just as many people do. Now however my outlook is different.

Everything about the job seems fine to me. It is only because it is in another country. Thinking about it makes me feel like I am already missing Dani. The fact that I have these nagging little doubts surely means that I am right not to take the job; yes? At least that is what I am telling myself.

Returning to work at some point…

When I started on this sabbatical year I always knew that I would need to return to work. That year is more or less over – in a week’s time in fact! I always said that I would not take just any old job and that I would be a little more selective than I might normally be. Fussy even.

So, what does that mean exactly? Well, ideally local and well paid. Failing that, local and reasonably well paid. In either case I would still be able to see Dani every day. Failing that probably something in the UK; close enough to be able to visit friends and family while I am unable to see my little boy. I always thought that I would probably need to take a job in the UK as there are far fewer options for me in Spain.

Trying to spend time in two countries is hard enough; but three!? Apart from the money I see little or no attraction in that.

No Regrets…Ever.

Am I making a mistake? Jobs like this do not come around that often. Will something more suitable come my way in the near future? Only time will tell.

Whatever happens I will not regret this decision. Life is too short for regrets. An old acquaintance once told me: “Never regret anything. You cannot live in the past.” Wise words.

Twelfth Night – Or, The Case of the Invisible Gloves

Christmas over…

The Christmas festivities are over for another year. The main event in Spain, as far as the kids are concerned, is the visit of the three kings on twelfth night (January 5th). He is still new to all this so thankfully Dani woke up at a reasonable time on January 6th. He had a few presents to open in the morning but most of them were in his grandmother’s house. Everyone agreed it was a good idea that Dani and his cousin Susana open their presents together. We all met up at their grandmother’s house in the afternoon.

There were two equal piles of presents for the two cousins. Susana is only 3 months older than Dani and although they are very different individually, when they are together they both want the same things. To be more precise, they both want what the other one has. For that reason, the presents had been carefully selected so that both kids had more or less the same. The main gift was a kitchen set which included a plastic sink and tap for washing the dishes.

The Invisible Gloves

Everything was going well until Susana’s mum decided to give a non-existent, invisible, pretend pair of washing up gloves to her daughter. Dani noticed the transaction.

“I want some” he said, as he moved in to try and take a piece of what wasn’t even there.

“No!” shouted Susana; turning away empty handed and yet clutching the pretend gloves as if they really existed. Cue the start of a dramatic meltdown by Dani.

In an attempt to head this off, Dani’s mum quickly conjured up a 2nd pair of invisible washing up gloves. “Here” she said to Dani, “now you have a pair”. As if it was going to be that easy. Dani had other ideas. He wanted the gloves that Susana had been given. “No, I want them” he said reaching for Susana’s invisible gloves. She was having none of it. “No!” she protested. Call it quick thinking or complete panic  but Dani’s mum immediately intervened. She pretended to take one glove from Susana and passed it to Dani. “Here” she said, “now you have one each”.

Now why she decided it was a good idea to split the phantom pair of gloves remains a mystery. Getting kids to share real things can be hard enough. Where do you start trying to share out what isn’t even there? It was too late now. Susana had been robbed of one of her gloves and she wasn’t going to give it up lightly. It was her turn to cry and protest. What fun!

Goldfish…

Thankfully kids of this age have the attention span of a goldfish – well probably a little more. Just as quickly as it had erupted the situation was calmed by the slightest of distractions. Someone suggested that they need to cook some food before there are any dishes to wash. Sure enough the two cousins immediately went to their respective kitchens to play with the real pots and pans. Disaster averted.

Next year’s presents?

On the bright side, it seems we no longer need to buy real presents. Invisible, phantom gifts seem to work just as well. They are easier to tidy up, impossible to lose and they do not break. Best of all they cost nothing. I am already planning some great presents for next year. There is however one potential problem. Will the mind of a four-year old be as crazy as the mind of a three-year old? We shall see.

A Three Kings Recession?

Another Three Kings Event

In between Christmas and New Year Dani went to another Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings) event. This time organised by Repsol the Spanish oil company. Everyone working for this global energy giant can invite their own kids, naturally. If the employee does not have children they are allowed to invite a close relative. Dani’s auntie is one such employee and she kindly invites him to the Repsol children’s party every Christmas.

Repsol are the biggest contributors to the Spanish treasury paying just under 9 billion euros in taxes to the Spanish government in 2015. That’s a lot of money. Imagine that! Paying all that money into a system that did not even have a government – see previous posts on the Spanish political merry-go-round. OK, I know. The world still turns. Similarly, the basic system still operates whether or not politicians can agree on the forming of a government. But it is still quite a thought eh?

“Presents” for the Kids

Each year all of the kids receive the same gift regardless of age. A little odd granted but with so many kids attending it simplifies things. In previous years Dani has come away with decent Christmas presents – popular family films on DVD. Disney’s Frozen was the gift one year for example. This year all the kids got was a packet of sweets. Worse than that. A Haribo “Sweet Party” no less. A selection box containing 4 packets of sugary chews and a long strip of marshmallow-like stickiness. Nice to see the company values the health of their employee’s children so highly.

So much money and so many employees. Yet they still can’t organise a Christmas party for the kids – or more to the point, get the kids what they really want at this time of year; a decent present…

The Usual Excuses…

Apparently the company is going through a belt tightening exercise and people are being made redundant. Instead of having volunteers playing the three kings (and their helpers) and bulk buying some good DVDs, this year they chose to outsource the whole event. Hired “kings” made only a fleeting, general appearance so there was no one-to-one interaction with the kids. There was some kind of puppet show and the presents were crap! Why they would do this is not really clear – to me anyway. Maybe outsourcing the Three Kings event is seen as a cost saving gesture. That would appear to be the perception the company is trying to give its employees.

Perception? More like deception. Cheapskate bastards I say. Why not just cancel it altogether? Couldn’t they find a spare €20k* or so? Couldn’t they write off that relatively small amount against their enormous tax bill?

The Grinch. Scrooge. Grumpy. Oscar the Grouch. I get it. Yes; I too can be all of those things and more. My right as an (moaning) old dad surely! But just like the rest of you I cannot stand some big corporation hypocritically pretending to be frugal when they are firing people. Undoubtedly, contracting out the kids’ Christmas party will have saved nothing. I would love to see the real figures. Meanwhile, like all huge companies, they will have top executives. Some of them will have salaries of more than a million euros. Funny how these characters never seem to be able to make a genuine statement – like putting their hands in their pockets for a kids Christmas party.

Bah humbug!

*Cost based on the following:    Repsol HQ houses some 4000 employees. Cost of DVD and a few sweets bought in bulk, approx. €5 per child. Total cost would be approximately; 4000 x 5 = €20,000. Clearly a very rough calculation without knowing the exact figures. However even doubling this would only come to €40k. Still a paltry amount for a company advertising itself as “leaders in the energy sector” (amongst other claims).