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.