Marbella and Back

Another hectic week of school holidays has been and gone. The previous week we went to stay at Dani’s grandmother’s place in Marbella. It’s only a small apartment but a great location close to the beach and with a fantastic communal pool that the kids love. Dani’s cousin was already there having spent the previous few days alone with her grandmother. Naturally, she was pleased to have someone her own age to play with.

There is something about the beach. When kids reach a certain age they just love it. Being covered in sand – and I do mean covered in it – is now the new normal. Thankfully the beaches are well equipped with showers.

Watching Dani play with his cousin is always funny. Dani is like a starved rat compared to Susana. It’s not that she is overweight. Although she definitely eats more than he does. It’s not that he doesn’t eat. He does; even though it takes an age every mealtime. The main thing is that he clearly burns off everything he eats. It reminds me of that old joke that we used to throw at each other way back when I was a teenager. When a skinny kid had his shirt off playing football someone would always shout “Hey. Put your shirt back on. The cruelty officer is coming.”

Marvel meets Paw Patrol

Despite being like chalk and cheese the two of them get along great. But the differences make for some great entertainment. It’s hilarious listening to them playing with Dani’s toys. Amongst his toys he has two sets of characters; one from Paw Patrol and another of Marvel heroes and villains.

She loves anything to do with animals so wants the pups of Paw Patrol (Dani now thinks they are for babies). Dani meanwhile loves all the superheroes and equally the super-villains. While he crashes around making all the special effects noises that boys tend to do she makes conversation between the pups and superheroes. “Hello little Hulk. Are you the son of that big Hulk?” one pup said to Hulk.

Better for Boys…

Ever since he learnt to use the toilet Dani has thought it was great being able to stand up to pee. Today he tried to convince Susana of one of the advantages of being a boy. She wasn’t impressed.

“It’s better being a boy.”
“Because we can piss standing up.”
“Why is that better?”
“It just is. I can do it anywhere without sitting down. You have to sit down to piss.”
“No. That’s nothing. I like sitting down to do it. “

Then effortlessly back to the Marvel characters. As if nothing had been said.

Wile E Coyote Rules.

The calamitous cartoon coyote is now a firm favourite. Coincidentally, tomorrow, we plan to visit the Warner Bros. theme park (Parque Warner) on the outskirts of Madrid. That should be great fun. I hope they have Wile E Coyote toys in stock. If not, there will be tears.

Watching the cartoons again, many years after seeing them as a child, I wondered if that ACME company was the inspiration for one of the relatively new internet companies like Amazon.

Wouldn’t that be great. I looked it up and apparently Amazon was not inspired by the coyote’s constant use of the ACME delivery service. Shame that. But then I thought; what other huge business ideas may be hidden in these old cartoons? As if I don’t have enough reasons to watch them…

Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Nights – Crazier Kids

Yesterday, as a special treat, we visited the Lego Store in Madrid. These shops are great. Dani quite enjoyed it too…

Build your own characters…

The intention was to let him build his own bespoke Lego figures from the array of bodies, legs, heads and headgear. If you have ever been in an official Lego store you will know what that means. For just under 10 Euros they let you build three Lego figures each made up of 5 separate parts: Legs, Body, head, wig/hat, plus a fifth ‘utility’ part – typically something like a weapon or food part.

One of Dani’s favourite games is mixing and making up his own characters from the Lego figures he already has. So, this should have been similar work for him. I expected him to create some mad combination of fighting knights and space (Star Wars-like) characters. I was wrong.

Kiss? Really?

Dani saw some parts that would make him a version of a famous rock star. One Paul Stanley the lead singer of outrageous 70s rock band Kiss. Unbelievably he got it pretty much spot on from the parts available. When we got the Kiss singer home Dani’s mum completed the figure by painting the star over one eye. Just like the real thing…

Incredibly he knows and loves a few Kiss songs. He never got that from his old dad. Personally, I have never owned any Kiss records. I knew of them way back when, but never particularly thought they were any good. Certainly not good enough to buy their records. I was too pre-occupied with Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Ramones and Black Sabbath – to name but a few…

The Power of Radio…

Dani has heard them on the radio stations in the car. He only knew what they looked like when he asked me to show him videos of the band on the internet. He immediately took it all in and had it in mind as soon as he arrived at the Lego store.

Apparently, he is now a red shade short of a set of realistic lips. Of course the Kiss singer will get lonely, so on our next visit to the Lego store we shall be looking to construct a Gene Simmons and the rest of them (whatever the rest of the band are called?!)

Come on Feel the Toyz…

I am sure there are some other old rockers that could be Lego-ised. The little lad also asked me to show him videos of Slade. I feel a Lego Noddy Holder coming on… Watch this space.

A Day out at Chester Zoo

I have been patiently waiting to take Dani to the zoo. I could have taken him many times but I wanted him to remember his first visit. Not just any zoo. Chester zoo. The first zoo I ever visited. Now I think he is old enough so off we went…

Chester Zoo

Chester zoo was ranked as one of the top fifteen zoos in the world by Forbes. It is arguably the best in the UK and definitely the most visited with over 1.8 million visitors last year. The zoo operates as a charity and takes no money from the government. Any operation that stands on its own is fine by me.

The zoo was first opened in 1931 by George Mottershead. He designed his zoo to house the animals in open areas surrounded by moats unlike the iron-barred cages used in classic Victorian zoos. This is now a typical design feature of course as it makes for a more natural habitat.

Kids love the zoo, and this one never disappoints.

Fighting Lions?

First stop was the elephant house which is right next to the entrance. Unfortunately, the elephants never ventured outside but we did see them inside eating.

One of the first animals Dani wanted to see was the lions. There were two females and one male out in the open. “Look they are fighting!” said Dani. Trust me; they were not fighting. Judge for yourself from the photo.

A quick check on the animal information board told us that the gestation period for lions is 105 days. So hopefully, in a little over 3 months’ time we could return and see some lion cubs. That would be great.

A close encounter with a close relative…

The story goes that when they built the chimp islands in the 1950s nobody knew whether the chimps would be able to swim across the moat. It turns out that chimpanzees, like humans, are not natural swimmers.

This huge beast would not give us a clear photograph. Chester Zoo has a successful rhino breeding programme. This is very important because rhinos are amongst the most endangered of the large land mammals.

We were even lucky enough to see the jaguar up close. I have spoken to people who have been to the zoo several times in recent years and never managed to see one. It really is a beautiful animal.

From first seeing the map of the zoo Dani had spotted the Butterfly House. He insisted all day that we go there. A little odd I thought with all the larger creatures to see but towards the end of a long hot day I asked where he wanted to go before we left. Sure enough, his reply was the butterfly house. While he was very excited I was, not surprisingly, a little sceptical. However, I was quite surprised. It was very interesting and well worth the time. One even landed on his hand and that really made his day.

And there’s always more…

One visit was never going to be enough. We did not even cover all the enclosures. But that’s the great thing about a place like Chester Zoo. You can look forward to and plan your next visit from the moment you exit. There are even some new attractions under construction as I type…

Now he knows what a fantastic place Chester Zoo is Dani cannot wait for his next visit.

This Summer of 2018

We have just returned from our visit to the UK where everyone has been enjoying the best summer since (I think) 2006. Dani had a great time. I took him to the zoo for the first time. It was a long hot day and we walked miles. But he managed to remain in high spirits and enjoyed it immensely. It was Chester Zoo, arguably the best zoo in the country. There will be a separate post on that one very soon…

From UK to Marbs? – via Madrid

And so, the summer roles on. If Dani is not singing Queen songs he is asking to listen to them on my ipod. He has also discovered Wile E Coyote. Who can blame him Great sounds and great cartoons.

The next trip is being planned.

‘Dani. Shall we go to Marbella this weekend with Aita?’ (shorter version of Abuelita – grandmother – used by Dani and his cousin)

‘Yes’ (excited).

‘But mummy can’t come because she is going to be working.’

He covers his mouth and giggles. Then says, ‘But she will be thinking of us, won’t she?’

World Cup blues…

Meanwhile another world cup draws to an end and both Spain and England are out. Spain fell early having played their usual possession football but failing to get anywhere near the goal.

England meanwhile surprised everyone with a young fresh team by reaching the semi-finals. Only to be beaten by the unfancied Croatia. Despite all the fans and TV pundits getting completely carried away with England’s relative success – even I thought they might go all the way – it has to be said that they are a team of average players who generally worked hard for each other. A semi final place was actually quite an achievement. Still it is a team game, and the lack of big egos in the squad (starting at the top with the humble manager) was also a huge benefit.

Spain on the other hand remain a talented bunch of players who seem to have a phobia about shooting at goal or even getting he ball into the penalty area. That is something which surely could be coached into them (or is it out of them?). Even Dani was shouting “tira!” (shoot) at the TV screen. Time will tell.

A word about Croatia.

Well done to such a small country reaching the world cup final. Amazingly Dani has tipped Croatia all along. Not for any expert football knowledge it has to be said. Only because their star player is one Luka Modrić who just happens to play for Real Madrid. As if that wasn’t enough he also picked France to beat Argentina in the 2nd round match and said they would go all the way to the final. The reason? Because he has a French teacher in school – who he clearly likes. Seriously. I only wish I had listened to him now and wagered some money on a France-Croatia final.

Apologies to any French readers of this blog (if there are any) but I really can’t see anyone outside of France not wanting Croatia to win it. The same goes for myself and Dani…

Good luck Croatia.