Scarface (Not the movie)

Absent Parents = Bad Parents?

Dani had an accident today in school. He fell during gym/physical education class and cut his forehead. It must have been fairly bad as it needed three stiches. As if that wasn’t bad enough both his parents were in other countries. I had just arrived back in Kent while his mum is over in Australia checking on that job again. More on that one to come.

I am not sure what feels worse. The fact that he now has three stitches in his head or the fact that I was not there. If it’s any consolation the school told us that he was very brave when it happened and also in the hospital. Better still he was happy enough when he returned back to school. As if it never happened. Thankfully the school has qualified nurses on hand and the hospital is more or less across the road.

So, does that make us bad parents?

History Repeating Itself…

Well not quite but…

I had stitches in my forehead when I was not much older than Dani is now. Only two though. Messing about throwing bottles with my friend who lived next door. I bent down to pick something up and when I stood up one was already winging its way to me. Crash. Typical accident when young boys do things they probably shouldn’t. And of course not so young boys…

The difference is mine were in the corner of my forehead almost hid by the hair line. Dani has his right smack in the middle of his forehead. I hope they did a neat job otherwise he is going to have a noticeable scar there. See below (photo courtesy of his grandmother).

I am tempted to call him Scarface. Then when I present him to people I can use that famous movie quote; “Say hello to my little friend!” OK. That was a crap attempt at a joke. And yes, he is definitely too young to watch that film with me. However, when he is old enough, he will love it. Classic.

Watch out Al Pacino!

 

Lazy Sunday morning and Women’s Rugby

A quiet Sunday Morning

While mum was away the boys had a lazy Sunday morning. Dani played on the iPad. While it keeps him quiet and seemingly happy, I am well aware of all the recent talk about ‘screen time’ and whether computer games are good or bad for kids. More on that one later – I know I must blog about it and I will. In this case he was playing with a programme called “Star Wars – Studio FX”. It is a kind of short movie maker package where he records a person or scene and superimposes it with intergalactic action using some well-known characters and spacecraft. Basically, it always ends in violent explosions but at least it is semi-constructive. (Well, sort of.)

Majadahonda vs Hortaleza – Women’s Rugby on Live TV.

I decided to have a look what was on TV and found something that first intrigued and then amazed me. The programme is called Un balón para ellas – which literally translates as ‘A ball for them’ [women]. This was the first I had seen it but clearly it intends to give coverage to lesser known female sports. Today it was women’s rugby. I decided to take a look.

My instant reaction was; WTF?!. Women’s rugby doesn’t even qualify as a minority sport in countries that play rugby. It’s simply too small and virtually nobody – apart from the infinitesimally small number of women who actually play it – are in the slightest bit interested in women’s rugby. Really. This is the truth. Despite the media trying to push it down our throats. A little like women’s football – which you can read about in a previous post by clicking the link. Although compared to women’s rugby that one does attracts a relatively huge audience. But this is Spain where even men’s rugby is considered a minority sport.

Surprisingly good…

Then I actually watched it properly – while Dani continued to mess about on the iPad – and I was quite surprised how good they were. For those of you who do not know much (or anything at all) about the game: apologies. But here goes…

They played a running game. That is to say, there was virtually no kicking the ball upfield. It was fast, open rugby. There were no continuously collapsed scrums. All this meant that compared with a lot of men’s games I have seen in the past it was actually quite good to watch.

One of teams (Hortaleza) is quite local to us. I already knew there was a rugby club in the area but never gave any thought to the fact that there might be a women’s team. Why would I? As it turned out they were thrashed 27-0 by Majadahonda. Yet despite the skewed score-line they never stopped trying. Another thing that made it far more watchable than I would have ever expected.

Why do they do it?

That said; why on earth would any of these women want to play rugby? Search me! I have no idea. If most of the media, movies and magazines are criticised for promoting some “perfect” image of the female form then this sport could be accused of promoting the acceptance of being a larger or even fat woman. Well at least that’s the way it seems to be in the UK and other so called ‘rugby playing nations’. Not so in this case. These women did not seem any where near as large as the ones I had seen on TV in the UK – albeit only a fleeting glimpse. I really have no idea why they should want to choose rugby over other sports.

Converted?

While I was watching young Spanish women bashing each other over an oval ball Dani continued playing on that iPad game. I think I had the better deal. But does that mean I am a convert to the game of women’s rugby? In a word: No.

A Very Peculiar Spanish Institution

I saw something a few weeks ago that immediately put a smile on my face. Something I hadn’t seen or thought about for over 10 years.

The Frock Coated Debt Collector

Ladies and Gentlemen let me introduce you to El Cobrador del Frac. Basically translating to the frock-coated (or tail coated)  debt collector. This is one of those crazily different and peculiarly Spanish institutions. Like many other forms of debt collection it is a booming business in a time when thousands of businesses are going to the wall.

Since the early 2000s business has been booming. It was back in 2003 that I first heard about this odd operation. I had almost forgotten about them until a few weeks ago while out doing some Christmas shopping. I passed near one of their offices in Madrid and noticed the signs. How could I not break into a broad smile?

It is so simple and demonstrably effective. You may see a man dressed in top hat and tails, carrying a black brief case with “Debt Collector” written on it in large letters. If he is standing outside an office, a house or next to someone’s table in a restaurant, you know that person has not paid their debts. In effect, they are being named and shamed.

These characters are so well known in Spain that they do not have to say anything to succeed at their job. If a creditor owes money they just follow them around. It’s great.

      

They made me smile when I first found out about them and they still do.

What are the rules?

He is not meant to be intimidating but he is meant to stand out and be noticed. That, after all, is the name of the game.

The industry seems barely regulated so I wonder how do they stand legally? What I would like to know is what are the boundaries? Where does following a creditor around become stalking (something which is defined as a crime in most countries). Where can El Cobrador go and where can he not go? Surely the creditor’s workplace will be, in many cases, private property?

It does not seem to matter much in any case as this business is thriving. In fact, its success can be seen to mirror the rise in corruption in the Spanish political and business sectors. And trust me: Corruption in Spain is at an incredibly high level.

Some say that the idea first came from Ecuador where a group of business people tried to shame their creditors into paying by having them followed by a man dressed as a chicken. Now this successful form of debt collection has spawned many imitators who dress in a variety of odd costumes. There is even a story of one similar debt collector playing his bagpipes until the debt is paid. Surely enough to make most people cough up?

It Couldn’t Happen here….

“It Couldn’t Happen here” I hear everyone in the UK saying. They would be right. Such a level of borderline harassment would certainly lead to a rise in assaults and even some savage beatings.

In complete contrast, debt collection in the UK is basically seen as full on intimidation. Not nearly as subtle as these well-dressed actors. What a much better and peaceful way of settling one’s debts. Something many other countries can surely learn from Spain.

Hmm… I have just had an idea…

Another Christmas post

Tonight is 12th night. The twelve days of Christmas over. The night that Christmas decorations and trees are traditionally taken down in the UK. In Spain it is the night that the Three Kings (Los Reyes Magos) visit with presents for the boys and girls.

But first a little aside…

Summer of ‘69

I got my first real six-string
Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played it ‘till my fingers bled
Was the summer of sixty-nine

The opening words to that well-known rock ballad by Bryan Adams. It was also the opening number by a rock band who played at a Christmas party I was at the other week. Everyone sang along (as you do). It was only later, with the tune still in my head, that I thought about the year. In the summer of 1969 I was the exact same age as my son is now. Five years old.

Six Christmases…

His sixth Christmas has been and gone. Not that he would remember the first few. In December of ’69 I can honestly say that I do not remember anything. I can remember lots of bits and pieces from various Christmases when I was young but I could not pin any specific memories to the one when I was five years old. That’s odd because Dani seems so alert. If you were to ask me whether he will remember specific details about this year’s Christmas I would say “yes”. Also, this was his first real Christmas Day. I mean the morning when kids receive their presents in the UK (and many other countries). As I have mentioned in past posts in Spain it is the three Kings Day on January 6th. We have always tried to give Dani the best of both cultures but this was his first real Christmas morning.

Double Celebration

Dani’s ‘best of both worlds’ Christmases will soon be enjoyed by his friends. It is now more or less official in Spain. The kids will almost certainly have two days of presents around the Christmas holidays.

While we were in the El Corte Inglés department store recently I picked up their Juguettes (Toys) catalogue. Near the back  of the book there are two letter templates. One for Papa Noel (aka Santa Claus, aka Father Christmas) and one for the three Kings (aka Los Reyes Magos). Clearly it suits large toy (and other gift) sellers like  El Corte Inglés  but this is a new phenomena. Dani was always going to experience the Christmas Day that kids in the UK are used to, plus the Three Kings day (January 6th) that has always been the big day for gifts in Spain. Now it seems all Spanish children are set to benefit from a double set of presents. One day either side of new year’s day.

I know it’s all commercial but they are kids… More Lego anyone?

And so; here we go again. Another Three Kings day is upon us. What will they bring?

Oh What a Christmas…

I have been relaxing and not writing for the Christmas and New Year period. But what an eventful time it was… Let’s start with that “drone incident”.

Well I spoke too soon when I gave Gatwick airport the big thumbs up (see Hats off to Gatwick). What a f**king fiasco! Bloody circus!

Let’s get this into perspective…

It was the classic kiss of death I know. I spoke too soon. However, to put it all into context, I was really only referring to the security company operating at Gatwick that checks your baggage (and person) before you enter the departures area. Usually the biggest pain in the arse for a regular traveller like myself. They are indeed the best I have encountered in my many and varied airport experiences.

I would have been directly affected by that collective incompetence had I been flying back to Madrid for Christmas. Fortunately, as Dani and his mum came over to the UK, I was spared all that hassle.

What a bunch of pr***s!

From the Sussex police chiefs to the airport management and even possibly the army. Pathetic! Below par performances all round. How can a toy helicopter (for that it what is was – supposedly!) bring the country’s second airport to a halt?

Sussex Police later said that the drone that was spotted could have been one of their own. Apparently, they use them to look for rogue drones!!?? WTF?! This, after they were trying to blame it on some poor guy (some might say a patsy) only to find that the man had a perfect alibi. He was in work! Sadly, I believe that the police force in the UK is no longer fit for purpose. But where do you go with that?

How long before someone drives down the airport runway in a multi-coloured car and all the doors fall off….?

Send in the clowns.

Dani’s First Real Christmas Day

Well, not exactly. But as I have explained before the giving of presents on Christmas day has traditionally not been the norm in Spain. We have tried to replicate the British Christmas over in Madrid but this time there were more presents and more people involved. He loved it. And he got a lot of presents. Including more Lego. A lot more Lego. Great!

We did the whole ritual. Mince pie, milk and biscuits for Santa. Carrots for the reindeer. Stocking hung up next to his bed for a few small gifts and the bigger presents under the tree. It is such a great age because he is still a genuine believer in Santa Claus. We even watched a great Christmas film called The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix which reinforced his belief in Santa. If you haven’t seen it then I can highly recommend this movie. It is as much for parents as kids.

Then of course Dani had his first Christmas Day Christmas dinner – traditionally eaten in Spain on the evening of Christmas Eve (Noche Buena). Not that he ate much. This kid seems to survive on fresh air most of the time. Where does he get all that energy from? What are his lungs filtering out of the air that mine are not?

Which reminds me. I need to make more of an effort to get fit in 2019. Last year flew by so quickly (I am sure it was only 6 months long!?) I never really got into any fitness regime. More on that to follow….