The Fun Goes On and On

 

Extended Christmas

It seems that Christmas time is never ending for kids these days. At least for those that can celebrate Christmas day and the three kings day (Los Reyes Magos) – both days with presents and with a new year’s celebration in between.

One lucky kid I know does just that. This is a classic example of getting best of cultures from two countries.

It was all over so quickly when I was a kid. New year was for adults – and still is of course. I can certainly testify to drinking a few too man on enough New Years Eve parties.

And the party goes on…

Today there was another visit to see the three kings. Basically like a visit to see Santa would be in the UK. The kids sit on the knees of their favourite king and discuss what presents they would like to receive. Not quite how it turned out and I may just write a post about that soon.

Just before Christmas Day there were two concerts. One was a song and dance show the other was advertised as an Opera Infantil with Peter Pan and Captain Hook on the poster. It could have been a Pantomime but was something strangely different.

The kids in the audience were probably expecting a children’s show (I know I was) but the idea was to introduce them to opera songs. Most bizarre. Dani was bored after only a few minutes once his curiosity wore off. Pretty soon after there were enough bored kids to fill a bus. After what seemed an age the characters changed tack.

Peter Pan asked for volunteers. Dani’s cousin Susana immediately raised her hand and moved to the front. Dani followed blindly. Unaware of what was in store. They were both selected. After a few silly moves on stage the kids were asked to stand aside while Captain Hook made his “Panto villain” entrance. I knew what was going to happen next.

Here it comes again…

Sure enough Dani started to get scared and his bottom lip quivered. One little girl – smaller than Dani – openly cried. That didn’t help. He looked towards me and held out his hand to go and help. Cruel dad left him to it. I genuinely thought that he would just hold his cousin’s hand and it would pass. She remained cool and unnerved under the pressure. In any case he needs to get over these kind of fears right?

One of the other cast members close at hand tried to console him and it worked – just enough. Meanwhile the little girl’s mother had come to the stage and called her over. She ran to relative safety. Dani was still uneasy but I wanted him to see it through and thankfully he did.

All part of character building and growing up right? Or should I have rescued him?

While Dani survived I am not sure that I did. I still think the whole thing was a bit weird.

More to Come…

Still to come is the visit by the three kings. Twelfth night or the 12th day of Christmas as it is known in the UK. More presents. More Lego Star Wars? We shall see.

Before all that there is new year. The plan is to take a trip just north of Madrid to a ski area. Hopefully the kids can play in the snow and even try skiing for the first time.

All in all, a long, an extended Christmas period. It’s exhausting. For the parents.

That leaves one important question: What date do they go back to school?…..

 

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time

It’s already been a hectic Christmas schedule for my son. He went to his first “Panto” a week or two ago. He has had one appointment with Santa and has two meetings pencilled in his diary with the Three Kings (Los Reyes).

The other day Dani went to his first circus. It was called Circo Mágico. (Magic Circus) It was also the first circus I had been to in about 40 odd years!

Even His Old Dad Loved it!

I was more than a little sceptical as you can imagine. It turned out that I enjoyed it as much as Dani.

It didn’t start off too well as the people on the entrance to the “big top” made us queue for some time. When we finally got in we made our way to front row seats a there were no seat numbers on the tickets. Perfect view.

The overall theme (as the name of the circus suggests) was magic. Equal billing was given to various acrobatic acts which included a troop of Chinese acrobats. Just as exciting as those I had seen on TV. Excellent in close up.

Quick Change Artists

There was even a man and woman double act performing that quick change routine. Where they change clothes multiple times in a few seconds behind make-shift covers. I first saw that act on a Youtube video. Look up the “Quick Change Artists” and you will understand.

Here is a link to that performance:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7bVdRT20vI

This circus ‘quick change’ act was almost identical and even right next to the action it was impossible to see how it was all done.

Amazing Feats of Power and Dexterity

There were acts of extreme strength and dexterity. Including three young ladies whose strength I found totally baffling. Not the impish, growth stunted little gymnasts we are used to seeing on TV at the Olympic games; these looked like normal young women of at least average height and weight. Despite clearly being athletic looking there was no sign of overly developed muscles. Yet their arm strength would make most men blush. Incredible feats of power and balance.

The more adult performances were interspersed with a little bit of fooling around by two “clowns”. I have to admit that even those two were quite good. Even if they were more for the kids there were elements of balancing and trickery in their stage slots.

You may not hear this type of thing from myself very often, but this dad can definitely recommend the Circo Mágico.

Christmas Eve…

Now it’s Christmas Eve and tonight we will celebrate Noche Beuna at Dani’s grandmother’s house. But the poor boy has vomited twice already and still has a temperature. Let’s hope he recovers later.

It’s a great time of year for most people. It’s even better if you are four years old. Could this be the first Christmas time that Dani will remember? Time will tell…

Some Serious Star Wars Questions

OK so it’s Christmas time and the new Star Wars film is in the cinemas (A new Star Wars movie is now an annual event. I have not seen it yet incidentally). Naturally my son is just nuts about Star Wars already. So, buying presents should be easy this year. Even this old dad has been doing a spot of Christmas shopping.

Shopping for things for my boy. More specifically Lego shopping. Even more specifically Star Wars Lego shopping. In fact, it’s the only kind of shopping I enjoy.

There are plenty to choose from but you have to be careful otherwise your wallet could find itself much like most politicians’ heads. Glossy on the outside, empty on the inside.

What’s going on?

I am still struggling to come to terms with some of the places and characters in the first three episodes, so these new Star Wars movies have got me totally confused. I cannot honestly say which spaceship or fighter craft is which. I may need to go onto the training course with Dani’s Spanish grandmother (see here for that).

As I was browsing through the plethora of Star Wars Lego sets a few serious questions arose. These questions need answers so please help if you know something.

  1. Where do the rebel alliance have their spacecraft made?

Seriously! In every episode so far they have been driven out from one third world planet to another, sometimes via an uninhabitable ice planet here or there. Each time they are driven out of a base they invariably lose several fighter craft and sometimes one or more of their huge cruiser ships. The base planets the rebels have chosen thus far don’t even have the materiel or technology to do repairs never mind build new ships. The bigger spacecraft would take years to build so it is unlikely any manufacturer would take on such a contract with the likes of Darth Vader breathing slowly and menacingly (as he does) down their necks. Where are they replenishing their fleet? And who is making them? Probably Lego! They seem to make everything these days.

  1. What’s going on with robot technology?

OK let’s think this one through logically. Kylo Ren – he is the new lord of the dark side in case you didn’t know – has a cross guard style light sabre. Far more advanced than the basic model wielded by Mr. Vader: Right? The space ships now are clearly far superior to the earlier models some of which appeared to be made out of sieves and various kitchen based cartons (surely not!?). The weaponry in general has vastly improved; all the way from the humble stormtrooper blasters right up to the dreaded Death Stars (which we clearly saw improving just between episodes 4 and 6 right?). Even the stormtroopers seem to have been kitted out with improved suits! Courtesy of Hugo Boss I wonder  So why are the robots still so crap?

Back when R2 was the main “bot” the other, more human looking, droids were slow and cumbersome – or camp like C3PO. They certainly realised the concept of using robots to do the fighting all the way back to the first episode so what went wrong in the robot labs of that bloody galaxy? Was the robot advancement programme budget slashed? Surely not. Even back in the early episodes they had robots performing delicate bionic micro-surgery – like giving Luke and his dad new hands – so where did it all go wrong? Seriously?

Surely by now there should be some serious terminator style robots doing all the fighting. I don’t mean like those almost cute looking “battle droids” we saw in the first few episodes either. I mean full on Schwartzenegger Terminators. Hell, they could have even cloned Arnie himself with the help of those weird long necked cloners we saw in episode 2. It’s not like they have never cloned an army before is it?.

I am sure you can tell that this one really bothers me.

  1. What the hell is General Grievous supposed to be?

OK, I know he appears to be a four armed robo-villain of sorts, but the last time I saw him he seemed to have developed a serious smoker’s cough. How did that happen? Actually, that was the penultimate time I saw him. The last time was when Obi Wan decided to do the General some Grievous Bodily Harm (or GBH as the police like to call it).

I could go on but until I get answers to these hi-tech problems what’s the point? Answers on a postcard to…No; wait a moment! Just leave any thoughts in a comment on this post. Thanks.

P.S: I have just learned that there is a site full of information which may be a good starting point. It is called Wookiepedia Hahahaa… You’ve got to love that!

Catalans Go To The Polls….Again.

Here We Go Again

The sad saga of Catalonia had gone quiet for a short while. It has been nearly two months since I last wrote about it. No longer.

There is an election in the autonomous region in two days time where the central government are asking the Catalans to vote for a new bunch of idiots to run the region after the debacle of the UDI that never really was back in October.

If the central government think things are going to calm down they are sadly deluding themselves. The only possible outcome I can see is an even more polarised population in the region.

Roll Up, Roll Up. The Circus is in Town

The election campaigns are in full swing and if there is one thing to say about it all then this is it: The whole circus is beyond parody. We now have the bizarre situation where the separatists who have been jailed are being allowed to stand in these elections. They are even broadcasting their political messages from their jail cells on radio and TV. Even the former Catalan parliament leader and self styled leader of the republic, Sr. Carles Puigdemont, is being allowed to stand and is campaigning all the way from the “safety” of Brussels where he has been effectively hiding since the arrest warrant was issued at the end of October. The radio and TV channels have been broadcasting his messages to voters from his Belgian refuge.

It begs the question: How on earth could any self-respecting Catalan vote for such a person? Meanwhile one of the other independence party leaders – a certain Sr. Oriol Junqueras – who is now in a Spanish prison, is telling voters that at least he never ran off into hiding. I suppose if I was inclined to vote for one of those parties I would choose the one who stood his ground and chose to stay and ‘face the music’. But what the f**k do I know?

Even by the freaky standards of Spanish politics you really could not make this shit up!

On a slightly different subject…

I have been reading a book about Spain that I had intended reading for many years. You know the thing. You want to read a book but never quite got around to it? Well that is the way it is for me.

That book is “Spain is Different” and when it was first issued in 1992 it quickly became a go to read for anyone who was considering living or working in Spain.

The reason I mention it now is because the book was written by Helen Wattley-Ames, mostly about the time she spent living and working in Barcelona in the early 90s. In 1992 was a special year for Spain and Barcelona in particular. It marked the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus sailing to the Americas – from Barcelona. It was the year that the world fair was held in Sevilla. Above all that it was the year of the Barcelona Olympics and foreigners – particularly Americans – were flocking there.

I intend writing a review of the book when I have finished it but for now, because it is very relevant to this week’s events, I want to point out a few of the things the author had to say about regionalism; way back in 1992. She expresses concerns about “the degree to which local governments overdo regional nationalism.” She explains how this had led to cases of people from other Spanish regions not being hired, even if that meant hiring foreigners. She goes on to state how language has become a politicized issue in bilingual regions – namely Catalonia – and how that can lead to trouble. Wise and prophetic writing from a quarter of a century ago.

Back to the Election…

Well; by early Friday we will know if the Catalan farce is to continue. There can be no doubt can there? What will happen in the aftermath? Another attempt at UDI? Or will there be a new prison built to house the politicians? Above all, will Sr. Puigdemont return from his self-imposed exile in Belgium if he is re-elected?

Are we about to see a regional parliament being run from behind bars?

Whatever happens I want to wish everyone in Catalonia a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. They all deserve a break from the turmoil.

Dani’s First Panto…

“Panto”

It’s that time of year. The Christmas and new year period is also referred to as the Pantomime season in the UK. The Pantomime (or “panto” as it is mostly referred to) is as much part of the British Christmas as Turkey and cranberry sauce. In its modern form I would go as far as saying that it is uniquely British; but as with all things theatrical pantomime has its roots in ancient Greece. The word comes from the Latin pantomimus, which itself is derived from the Greek word παντόμιμος (pronounced pantomimos), consisting of παντο- (panto-) which means “all”, and μῖμος (mimos), meaning a dancer who acted all the roles or all the story.

Pantomima is also a Spanish word meaning mimed theatre or farce. Not too different from the British interpretation of old fairy stories

Despite all of the roots and definition similarities in other languages the modern pantomime  remains a uniquely British institution. Part of the Christmas celebrations performed everywhere from school Christmas productions & concerts to local amateur and community theatres, to large West End productions featuring well known TV and Film actors. (Also – it has to be said – some not so well known “celebrities” and assorted “Z-listers”.)

Fun for all the family…

We took Dani to see his first pantomime at a local amateur dramatics theatre with his nana. The theatre was small enough to be close to the action. The panto was “Dick Whittington and his Cat”. A story I can barely remember from my own childhood but that is not the point. This being panto the theatrical licence meant that the story switched seamlessly (well almost) from the streets of London to a desert island via a ‘Pirates of the Carribbean’ style act which included a rendition of The Village People’s “In the Navy”.

That is the essence of panto. Complete mayhem and slapstick which can twist and turn any way the director wants to take it. All with a basic storyline that all ages are familiar with. There are few rules, if any.

From Laughter to Tears…

It was all very well done and quite funny in parts. To keep the parents and grandparents interested they make sure there is as much adult humour in the production as things for the kids. Even Dani’s miserable old dad had a good laugh.

Dani was enjoying the whole thing until near the end when he went from laughing to crying in the space of a moment. When the inevitable confrontation came between the heroes and the pantomime’s villain – one King Rat – the ensuing commotion and audience screaming scared the little boy out of his wits. But it was what went on below the rows of seats that sent the action out into the audience.

Excellent production…

I will admit to adding to his shock and surprise because it caught me by surprise. A nice touch by the producers; blasting air through the plastic tubes they had laid out beneath the rows of seats causing tails to flutter like rats scurrying around your feet. When the older kids screamed – mostly in surprise and delight – Dani started to freeze up. Then when the line of “rats” shot under our feet and his own dad jumped it proved too much. He lost touch with reality and believed the “rats” under the seats were real. He was crying and very afraid. All I could do was keep hold of him and reassure him that it as not real and that the goodies were now beating the baddies in the on-stage “fight”.

The power of live panto on a 4-year-old child eh…Amazing.  When it all calmed down he still managed to walk up to the cast members for them to sign his panto programme. Even the King Rat himself, who as it turned out was a really nice guy. Dani left the theatre slightly bemused but still talking about the slapstick and action he had just witnessed. His first experience of the magic of Panto.

Curious photos

A couple of curious photos…

Here are a couple of photos taken around the little town where I worked in Korea. One is from a seafood market and one of a restaurant.

Apparently they call them penis fish and it is not difficult to see why. A few people had told me about these fish but I really thought they were taking the piss! I have even been told that some people eat these while they are still live. For some reason they do not look very appetising to me. Definitely not for me.

 

This place is an institution in this area. Especially for expats. Barbeque restaurants are very popular in Korea and even if this one is not the best, at least the owners are not afraid to make a bold claim.

Personally I thought is was F****ng  OK; but that wouldn’t work very well as a name for the place.