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.

Can You Dig It?

Following on from my top 3 British gangster movies review this little trip down cinematic memory lane was inspired by the following piece of artwork….

Just two blocks away from where we live this street art came into view again this week. For more than a year the area had been screened off with only a developer’s sign worth looking at. Now the builders have begun prepring the area this work of art is once again on display for any passer-by who wishes to see it…..Or to be more accurate, for anyone who knows what it represents.

They had better hurry because it probably won’t be there much longer.

The Warriors

The film of course is The Warriors. Released in 1979 it remains an all time classic and a movie with a huge cult following. The painting mainly shows two of the Baseball Furies – possibly the most recognisable gang in the film – and only one of the Warriors. I wonder if the person(s) who painted this mural know that it is about to disappear? Would they care?

The inimitable Roger Hill played Cyrus; leader of the biggest gang in the city. Roger passed away in 2014 aged 65. Everyone who has seen the film knows the scene where Cyrus gets shot in the big gang meeting in the Bronx. His rallying speech to the gangs – some of whom were real gang members – is a fantastic piece of acting. It is said that this performance by Roger had the gang members spellbound. Despite being in the film for just this one scene he almost steals the show. Often imitated, never bettered. The line is legendary. “Can you dig it?”     Or even “Caaan you diiig iiit?”

Too Young for the Full Scene

And guess who does his own version of that line? OK. I know what you are thinking. But I do not let him see the way that scene ends and I have not shown him any of the rest of the movie. He will see it all when he is old enough. This clip is the only part of the film he knows at the moment.

The full speech with its violent ending can be seen here….

The other (equally) famous line from that film is “Warriors, come out to play-ee-ay” – the line that is repeatedly screeched out many times each time getting more intimidating and well; more crazy.

Is This Kid Going To Wear Me Out?

Is this kid going to wear me out?

It is a thought I have had a few times. It is the age gap. It doesn’t worry me but I would be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind from time to time. While he is getting faster, stronger and more energetic as he grows, I am obviously slowing down. It will not get any better and over the next few years that age difference will become more apparent.

Last night I hardly had enough energy to take a shower. After bathing Dani I thought it was a good idea to lie down for a few minutes first. Twenty minutes later I woke up.

Had it been such a long and busy day? Or did I just need a little more sleep?

Into Town…

In the morning we took the metro into the city centre to see a traditional Easter parade with lots of drums. Very loud. Dani had to cover his ears at one point. Then we went for a stroll taking in a small tapas route. Only 3 bars; well it’s not all about doing kids things at the weekend. We decided to take a bus home because a bus or car ride works wonders when it comes to making Dani sleep. We still had to walk a fair bit to catch the bus but it stopped close enough to the house so that carrying him would not be an issue.

A Brief Respite…

On the bus he fell asleep as planned. Not much later his mum was also taking a siesta. His old dad rarely needs a siesta and today seemed no different.

After Dani’s siesta we woke him for his snack (merienda). There was just enough time before the start of a puppet show at the local community library/theatre/cultural centre. It was a story about pirate’s treasure. Some of the kids got very animated and noisy. Dani as much as any. I was surrounded by the loudest kids in the theatre. I was tired but there was no chance of dozing off. Not the best kids show we have been to but it was free and it was fun for the little ones.

More Hyperactivity…

The pirate looked uncannily like the big bad wolf with an eye patch. Still, he did the job for the little ones. Then there were the crocodiles. Two. A traditional green one and, oddly, a blue one. Again it worked. The kids – particularly those surrounding me – went nuts whenever the crocs appeared.

On the way home I had to run most of the way. It was a race apparently. Then I had to play superheroes. Super villains in my case to be precise. Then it was bath time. Not a particularly exhausting day I admit but it did for me. That is when I went to relax for a couple of minutes.

The Big Question…

I think I need to get to the gym more often and get as fit as I possibly can. That kind of thing is a double-edged sword. Training to get (and stay) fit tires you out – that’s kind of the idea. Overall however it gives you more energy. I am trying and will continue to make the effort.

The question remains though: How long can I keep up with this growing bundle of energy?

Top 3 Films… Of a Certain Genre

My Top 3 British Gangster Movies…

OK. This is a real old dad’s thing. How many times have you heard people listing their top 10 or top 3 films? It is actually quite difficult to do when you consider all the different genres and eras.

In a future post I intend to explain my top 10 films of all time – and all genres. But for now I just wanted to highlight my top 3 British gangster films. In order to make it easier I have made this short list only from the serious films. For example, I did not take into consideration the two famous Guy Ritchie films (his first two I believe) as I see them more as comedies. I refer of course to Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells and Snatch. Both excellent films in their own right no doubt, but definitely made with a sense of humour and storylines which are intentionally farcical.

Ranking the 3…

If I was asked to rank them in order of preference it would be very difficult but it would probably be the same as their chronological order. So here goes:

  1. Get Carter (1971). Starring Michael Caine, Ian Hendry and John Osborne
  2. The Long Good Friday (1979). Starring Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren and Derek Thompson
  3. Layer Cake (2004). Starring Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney and Michael Gambon

Get Carter

This is a classic tale of revenge and the bad guys getting their comeuppance. That’s not to say the lead character is not himself a bad guy. Far from it.

Jack Carter (Caine) is a brutal enforcer for London’s top gangsters. When his brother dies he returns to Newcastle to arrange the funeral. Convinced that his brother was murdered, Carter tracks down a local villain Eric (Ian Hendry), who leads him to crime boss Cyril Kinnear (Osborne) . From there, Carter plots his revenge while being pursued by his own bosses men who have been sent to take him back to London. It becomes a fast paced cat and mouse game while Carter searches for the truth about his brother’s killer.

There are some great lines in this film; calmly delivered by Caine in his inimitable style. Including this classic movie quote: “You’re a big man but you’re in bad shape. For me this a full time job. Now behave yourself!”. See it here… That scene always makes me laugh.
The Long Good Friday

Made in 1979 but not released till 1980. The film’s main character Harold (Hoskins) returns from a business trip full of optimism. He is an East End gangster trying to strike a deal with an American (mafia) firm to develop the old London docklands. Things do not go to plan as bombs go off and people close to him are killed. Whilst trying to figure out who is behind it all Harold discovers that while he was away on business his associates have been dealing with the IRA and now they want more.

Bob Hoskins was not a tall bloke but he plays the part of the Big Man so well in this film. He reels off some fantastic quotable lines. Most notably when informed that his old friend’s dead body is about to be collected in an ice cream van “to keep it all incognito” he says “There’s a lot of dignity in that aint there? Goin’ out on a raspberry ripple.” Then there is the famous scene at the end of the film which among many other gems contains the line: “The Mafia? I’ve shit ’em!” Class. And did he really say “You don’t crucify people. Not on Good Friday!”? I must watch the film again just to check that one. Brilliant.

Not only did this film make a star out of Helen Mirren, it also gave a young Pierce Brosnan his first break – as an IRA hitman!

Layer Cake – A Man With No Name Film

The film revolves around a London-based criminal whose name we never hear (played by Daniel Craig), working in the cocaine trade but planning on leaving the drug business. Once he has earned enough to retire he thinks he will just walk away from it all. But he does not account for the darker side of his chosen profession. His boss hands him a couple of dodgy tasks to perform which soon threaten to drag him back into the seedy underworld. One is to find the daughter of a former associate – now a powerful businessman. The second is to  find a buyer for boxes full of Ecstasy tablets. The drugs were taken from a Serbian gang who were double crossed and are now understandably very pissed off.

The mix of villains includes “load mouthed wannabe gangsters”, a Serbian neo Nazi gang and a pair of old school, street smart scousers. Needless to say, events rapidly conspire against Mr. Craig’s character and he needs to use his best assets – his wits and intelligence – to escape this murky world.

While Layer Cake does have some funny moments it is not deliberately comical like the aforementioned Ritchie films. It has a clever and intricate plot made all the more believable by its great cast.

Agree? Disagree?

So there you have it. My all-time top 3 British gangster films. I hope to be sitting down to watch these with Dani when he is old enough. For now of course I have to be content with Disney classics and the odd superhero movie.

These kind of lists are always contentious so if you disagree then why not send in your alternative list?

Beards – The Final Word.

A Year On from First Beard…

Reading through some old Blog posts I noticed that it is just over a year ago that I grew my first beard (and moustache). You can read those posts here: Beards Part 1 and Beards Part 2

It was not the last time I grew one. I did it again in the lead-up to last Christmas. A second full set of face fur and even modified it in stages to:
The Lemmy look – although not quite as rough around the edges I hope.
The Wolverine look – with lamb chop sideburns (but minus the claws and muscles).
Then someone said that the lamb chops reminded them more of Amos Brierley from Emmerdale Farm (as was – don’t worry, Google it if you need to). That was the final straw. Regular shaves from now on… Probably. Well, maybe. As the saying goes: Never Say Never.

The late, great Lemmy, plus the lamb (mutton) chops of Wolverine and Amos Brierley.

Hairy history…
For men at least, hairstyles are no longer governed by any fashion rules. It seems any style is now acceptable from fully bald to long hair. This was not always the way of course and certainly not for facial hair. Over the years various trends in facial fur had passed me by. When I was (much) younger moustaches were, believe it or not, very fashionable. Seriously. If you don’t believe me just ask anyone in your family old enough and they will probably be able to show you old photos of family members sporting a dodgy looking hairy upper lip. Incredibly, that Movember look that we all mock really was all the rage.

Then after a period of clean shaven calm came the stubble look. Possibly made fashionable by the late George Michael, I really can’t remember. That in turn was followed by the goatee which has managed to more or less survive in varying guises. And now here we are with the full beard and moustache look in full swing again. Looking around today it is easy to form an opinion that a clean shaven man is now in the follicular minority.

Time to shave fellas…

I thought the fad would pass more quickly than it has but if anything it seems to be more prevalent. You can clearly see that some people have no intention of shaving or even trimming their beards. The wizard look seems to be in for some of those who have been growing their chin hair. Yes; even floating beards are now acceptable.

For those of you with facial hair I have this advice, courtesy of a great quote from my favourite Michael Caine movie: “Listen carefully you hairy-faced git”. Shave it off! It’s not big and it’s not clever. And it most certainly does not compensate for the lack of hair on top.

It’s time to lose the facial fur fellas. In any case like all fashions it will pass. Eventually. Believe me!

Get Carter…

Incidentally, that Michael Caine quote is from Get Carter. A film also famous for featuring ex-Coronation street character Alf Roberts being thrown off a multi-story car park. Not that I watch Coronation street you understand; but clearly I used to. If you haven’t seen it then I suggest you do so when you get the chance. Get Carter that is, not Coronation Street. Definitely in my top 3 British gangster movie list.

The film was made in 1971 and while clearly dated it is still a great movie and one I will advise Dani to watch when he is old enough to appreciate it.

Please do not get this mixed up with the 2000 Sylvester Stallone remake of the same name which is a dreadful USA take on a great British oldie. That film is definitely one to be avoided…. There was also a curious remake called ‘The Hit Man’ – a so called Blaxploitation movie made only a year later in 1972. That one is at least worth a quick look.

Parque Europa – A Day Out

Today was a beautiful sunny day so we visited a park in the town of Torrejón de Ardoz which is only about 15km out of Madrid on the Barcelona road. We took Dani’s cousin Susana with us to give her mum a little break.

Torrejón de Ardoz

I have never actually been to Torrejón and knew little about it. The town lies on one side of the A2 motorway. On the other side of the main road is the NATO (formerly U.S.) Air Force base. The military airbase remains the thing that Torrejón is most famous for.

Another thing the town is noted for is being the home of the European Union Satellite Centre, an agency of the European Union and also the headquarters of the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, the Spanish space agency. Yes. Me neither; but it is supposedly some claim to fame.

The European Park

Much better than all that space nonsense is the Parque Europa.

Entry to the park is free but most of the attractions are charged separately. With small kids however it is possible to have a great time without spending anything. The main attractions – while admittedly of more interest to adults – are the 18 replicas of European landmarks. These include Tower Bridge, the Eifel Tower, the Tower of Bethlehem (Lisbon) and the Brandenburg Gate.

The paid attractions include a 185m zip wire (tirolina), laser maze, trampolines (camas elásticas), boat hire and quadricycle hire.

Park Elephants


The replica of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is actually about twice the size of the real thing – at least as I remember it. But then that statue is probably the most disappointing of man-made landmarks. Sorry Denmark, but it’s the truth.

There are also several good places to eat and drink in the park. We ate in the Mirador de Europa restaurant which does kids meals and some great barbequed dishes. There is even a chill out terrace serving cocktails which you can sip on a chill-out bed (cama balinesa).

Same age but so different…

The day was another great lesson in how, generally, little girls behave better than little boys. Forget all that gender-neutral crap some people spout. It’s just a fact.

While his cousin was the perfectly behaved child Dani’s behaviour ran the usual roller coaster. From well behaved to little rascal in a matter of seconds. While she ate all her dinner almost unaided, he took an age and still left some. Preferring to behave as if some form of airborne plankton exists and that by talking non-stop he might ingest enough to survive. Talking but hardly listening. Please don’t get the wrong impression. I still love him even when he is not doing as he is told but there is no way he is as well behaved as his cousin. And he is not likely to be any time soon. Call me old fashioned by I believe the reason is simple. He is a typical little boy and she is a typical little girl.

Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why would I? If you disagree with this summary of gender differences in 3-year-olds please do not hesitate to contact me. I would love a good laugh.

For park information visit these websites: http://www.parqueeuropa.es/  and http://www.parque-europa.es/