Queen Concert Weekend

You start a new job and immediately it is hard to go back to it. A young son can do that to you. So too can crap jobs but that is not the point of this post (and besides it’s too early for that one).

The busy weekend started with his swimming lesson. He is getting good now. I am quite a good swimmer. Now. But when I was Dani’s age I was close to petrified of water. It is great to see him improving week by week.

There is what the British call an ‘Indian Summer’ in Madrid. Despite the unusually high temperatures all the outdoor pools are closed. End of season. By date, if not temperature. The end of summer means the start of swimming lessons and Dani is back in the indoor pool every Saturday morning. He is a happy, improving little swimmer and his dad is proud of him. (Did I just refer to myself in the third person?)

Queen

Sunday: Off to see a Queen tribute band in the Rialto Theatre in the city centre. What a great little theatre!

On the way Dani and I had a little conversation.

“I want to go and see Led Zeppelin dad.”

“Oh well we can go and see a Led Zep band soon. I will look into it.”

“But we only know one song”: He means ‘Rock and Roll’ the one he has heard on the radio many times.

“Well you do mate. But I know all of their songs.”

“All of them?”

“Yes. I have all their albums. We can listen to some more songs and then you will know them when we go and see Led Zeppelin in concert. But today we are going to see Queen”.

We sat in the theatre and the band came on stage. A five-piece tribute act. Spanish lads playing bass, guitar, drums and the frontman A keyboard player making it five; allowing “Freddie” to concentrate on the singing and prancing around stage.

The second song was one of the obvious ones. Bohemian Rhapsody. I thought Dani would be totally into it, but the band started the song part way through. Being a long track I understood this. But for one little boy -in the manner of Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) – it just did not compute. I think he expected it to be just like the records he has heard so much. While he wasn’t too keen on singing along, he watched intently. It was all well done and in between songs the singer spoke to the audience – as they do.

About half way through the concert Dani said, partly surprised; “Dad. Freddie Mercury speaks Spanish.”

“It’s not the real Freddie Mercury Dan. This is not the real Queen”

And the instant I had said it I thought ‘oh shit!’. His face changed. Puzzled expression. What had I done? I might as well tell him that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Right now; and get that one over with! Oh, what an idiot!

I regretted it immediately. But that’s how things happen in the blink of an eye. Poor Dani. I don’t think it stopped him enjoying the rest of the show however. He joined in later.

Kent and Australia?

Later in the day Dani’s mum had to leave for the airport. Only a short business trip. To Sydney Australia no less. He knew she would be away until Friday but took it well I thought.

The biggest problem for me was that soon after I had to fly to the UK. This new job in Kent is only a week old but it is so hard leaving the little man. He would be staying with his grandmother but that didn’t make it any easier. I put him to bed and thought he was asleep. But I received a text message form his grandmother that he woke up ten minutes after I had gone and cried. He would be fine. I knew that. But it hurts when things like that happen. Such a great weekend but a tough end.

If it doesn’t get any easier how long will I last in this new job? Time – as always – will tell.

Gaucín and Return to Madrid

Gaucín

Among the thousands of white villages in Andalucia there are a few that stand out from the crowd. Casares was possibly one of the first world famous due to its precarious positioning on  the cliff-faces of the hills and its proximity to the coast. Comares is the undisputed king of the Axarquia region sitting proudly atop a 700m high mountain. Frigiliana is famous for its pristine, colourful streets thanks mainly due to its close proximity to the increasingly popular and growing resort town of Nerja.

Another notable village is Gaucín. Some 10 minute drive from Benadalid on the Algeciras road this village sits high up overlooking the coast. On a clear day you can see Gibraltar and north Africa. At one end of the village is the impressive Eagle’s Castle (Castillo de Águila).

The road down to the coast passes close to Cásares and appears between Estepona and Sotogrande. From that road the village looks both impressive and imposing. Easily the biggest of the white villages of the Serranía de Ronda region, Gaucín has been home to artists from all over the world and there are many small galleries. It is easy to see why artists are so inspired when they arrive.


The kids acting as if they are doing a catalogue shoot…

No more holidays…

A day later and we had to make the long journey back to Madrid. Seven hours with two short pit-stops. Tiring for everyone.

Within a few days Dani was back to school. His third year. Time is flying by…

Meanwhile it was also back to work for dad too. More on that to come.

Return to the Rio Genal

Return to the Rio Genal

That sounds like a western film starring John Wayne doesn’t it?

But if you read the previous post you will know that this is the river we wanted to fish in – properly.

Unfortunately the local shops only had a very minimal collection of fishing tackle. The smallest hooks were, I thought, too big but just might be OK with a little luck.

This time it was a boy’s trip. Dani and myself got up early so we could at least have an hour of peaceful fishing before the noisy tourists turned up. We had no fishing rods so I improvised, attaching hooked lines to a couple of long branches I found. We used sweet corn for bait direct form the tin. The thing with sweetcorn is that it stays on the hook even when the small fish try to nibble it. Only the bigger fish take the whole corn – hook and all! I am sure we could catch lots of the larger fish if we use smaller hooks.

Despite the hooks being a little too large we did manage to catch a couple of decent sized fish. For Dani they were huge as they more than filled his hands. The fish were barbel (barbo). Also in the river is the bordallo (a type of chub local to these parts) and boga (straight mouthed nase). The tiny “minnows” I have since discovered are called pejerrey (sand smelt).

All in all I think it was a great first fishing trip. Dani certainly thought so. Just look at his proud face here with one of his fish.

Júzcar – The Blue Village

Another day and another trip. This time to a village two valleys away. Júzcar. In an area dotted with the famous pueblos blancos (white villages) there is one that stands out. The reason is that they have painted the town blue. Literally. All houses and buildings were painted blue back in 2011 when the first Smurfs movie (Pitufos in Spanish) was released. The village was chosen by Sony Pictures for the world premiere of the movie.

Not only that but they built large mushroom (Smurf houses) and adorned the village with large paintings of the characters, souvenir shops and Smurf related play areas. They did a good job too. As a result the village gained some level of fame and became a bit of a tourist trap and the place was marketed as the world’s first Smurf village. Life-size at least.



Then just as tourism was rapidly rising the film company decided to pull the official plug and told the townhall that they could not use the Smurf images. All quite odd as this place is out of the way to say the least and if anything the village should be charging the copyright/trademark holders for using the whole village as one huge advert for their product. It was clearly a win-win situation but the film company decided otherwise. The world really is one odd place. And this village is definitely part of that.

Despite Sony offering to cover the cost of repainting the town white the villagers voted to keep the buildings blue (mainly due to the huge increase in tourists) and all that remains of those halcyon days of Hollywood collaboration is the plaque on the wall of the church (also painted blue of course) plus a couple of large Smurf statues. They still prefer to stand out from the crowd and call themselves the Pueblo Azul (Blue Village). Not quite as good as ‘the Smurf Village’ but still a curious place to visit.

A New Image…

Fortunately, the village is now gaining some attention for its local winemaking. It has recently attracted more attention from Hollywood in the shape of Antonio Banderas and a few of his film industry pals who visited the wine making factory (bodega) which now advertises itself as a Wine, Bed & Breakfast establishment. The site was the former Fábrica de Hojalata (tin factory); the first factory in Spain.

Back to School

Tomorrow is the first day back to school. Dani’s third year of full time school. I have not quite finished writing about his summer holidays. How time flies…

Fiestas and Fishing

Bajo La Luna

We arrived in Benadalid almost a week before the annual feria began. The week leading up to the feria is usually busy enough in any village. There will usually be some entertaining events lined up by the town hall or the locals. The week before the week leading up to the feria should be just like any other week; right?

Not so in Benadalid. That week the town – in reality a very small village – puts on a week of shows (espectáculos). It is called Bajo la Luna – literally under the moon – a street festival of cultural events (Festival de cultura en la calle).

The Bajo la Luna week culminates in a full-blown stage production by the townspeople. Last year it was The Lion King, this year it was Sister Act. The village square (plaza) is packed full of people for these events. They have become so well known that people come from other villages right across the area.

This year the Bajo la Luna poster was designed by Candela, a 2nd cousin to Dani. (One of his mum’s cousins.)

First fishing experience….

In the valley below the village there is a small river. The Rio Genal. I wanted to take Dani fishing. At least some form of fishing.

“Not a net! That’s for babies”. Well, that said it was also a little early for a full fishing rod and tackle. I decided to try one of my first fishing methods. The old fashioned but well proven minnow trap. (Minnows are a breed of fish which do not grow more than 2 or 3 inches but the word ‘minnow’ is often used to describe any tiny river fish.)

I first went fishing at the age of 5 with my grandad – also called Daniel. He showed me how to catch little minnows using a ‘minnow trap’ made from and old whisky bottle. The type with a big dimple in the bottom. For those who do not know about these devices here’s a quick and simple explanation:

The trick is (was) to knock a hole in the dimple. The dimple creates a cone down which the little fish swim into the bottle. Once inside they can’t get back out. All you need inside is some bread or similar bait to attract the fish and submerge the bottle until all the air is gone and leave well alone. Several fish will enter every time. To remove them simply unscrew the bottle top and pour out.

Today however it is much more difficult to find a suitable glass bottle, so I made our ‘minnow trap’ out of plastic bottles. Of course, way back then there was no such thing as a plastic bottle. Seriously; I am struggling to recall when I first saw plastic bottles but it was much later than my early fishing expeditions. Certainly a good use for all those empty plastic bottles; I suppose it is a form of recycling… Not that I am one for shouting out their ‘green credentials’ – I most definitely am not!

We only had the small half litre bottles available on the day we went down to the river. So we made do and set off with a new minnow trap in hand.

The Rio Genal

The Genal river flows continuously – even in long hot summers – in the valley below Benadalid. It manages to avoid the fate of many a dry river in the south of Spain thanks to a natural spring that is fed from water collected whenever it rains. It happens to rain quite frequently in one part of the region so the Genal (and another river not too far away) remain relatively full of fresh crystal-clear water. And there are plenty of fish. You see them everywhere. Mostly tiny young fish but there are also enough larger ones visible from both the river banks and when you wade through or swim in the water. Naturally there are all sizes in between.

Success. We caught more than our fair share of tiddlers and even a few the size of Dani’s hand. For our next trip I planned to make a trap from 2 litre plastic bottles – the hope being that we catch more of the bigger ones.

Here you can clearly see some small fish already trapped while others check it from the outside.

Small Tourist Trap

It’s a great spot. There is even a small tourist industry based around the river with camp sites and a couple of restaurants. Unfortunately (if it is fair to use that word) this means that there are more than enough people; tourists and holiday-makers to spoil the tranquillity. And, being Spanish, that they certainly do! Not long after midday gangs of noisy families some with dogs appear. All jumping in the water (whether on two or four legs) right where you think you would like to fish. If we want to try some proper fishing here we will need to come early.