Swim, Judo, Chess – A Modern Triathlon?

This weekend was even busier than normal. Saturday certainly. Sunday was busy again in the streets of Madrid. Yet more elections. This time there were two things to vote for; the local Madrid townhall and of course the European wide EU elections. So many elections yet nothing ever seems to change. Odd that eh? But I digress (as I tend to do) …

Swim, Judo and Chess

We usually start Saturday morning with a swimming lesson. I am sure I have written about this before so thought nothing of it and so took no photos. Anyway the swimming lesson went well. Dani is improving as is his cousin Susana.

In the changing rooms after the swim, instead of changing into his usual daytime attire, I dressed him in his judo outfit. We headed straight off to his school for a judo exhibition. Yes. No need to read that again. Dani took part in a judo exhibition. It was actually to show the parents what their kids were learning and also an excuse for an awards ceremony. It ended when the kids were handed their judo diplomas for the year by the three senseis (‘martial arts teachers’ in Japonese for the uninitiated). Sensei Fran (apparently a 7th Dan),  Sensei Maria and Sensei Cristina.

All the time I was thinking that there was something familiar about that Sensei Fran… Hmm…?  It will come to me.

I have to admit that I was expecting to need a needle and thread to stitch up my sides. The expectation was that it would be hilarious. But as usual these little kids proved me wrong. Ok, there was some funny things. They are only 5 and 6 years old. In the main however it was quite impressive. The photo above shows that there is a disciplined side to judo as well as the physical aspect.

This video shows Dani executing a basic judo throw. Koshi guruma – so Dani tells me.

At the end of the exhibition a proud old dad watched his little boy walk proudly up to collect his diploma.
  Wait a moment. I have seen that man before. Has anyone seen Breaking Bad?

When the kids had all received their diplomas they celebrated with a team photograph shoot. Plus all the usual antics you would expect from a group their age.

Then I realised.. That bloke; the 7th Dan sensei. It is definitely Hank. The DEA agent from Breaking Bad. Dopplegänger if ever there was one.

Chess Tournament

After all this physical effort it was time for some lunch. Then after a short rest we were off again. This time to another school for a chess tournament. It was held at the “sister” school to the one Dani attends, and in a different part of Madrid. The tournament was split up into age (school year). There were only 5 in Dani’s age group but there were plenty just a little older. It was organised by the lady who teaches chess to the children in after-school activities.

As the start of the chess tournament drew near the excitement levels rose. The noise levels rose even more. It all started well but descended into chaos as the kids in Dani’s age group started receiving help from older brothers and sisters. The adults had to remind them it was a competition. Kids being removed from the board area. In one of Dani’s games his opponent was winning but was clearly being helped by his older sister. Dani reacted as his old dad would have. He pushed over his pieces in frustration; effectively conceding the game. Not so much a ‘bad loser’ though. To his credit he had been cheated but even that was not the fault of his opponent. Over-enthusiastic siblings eh… I would have probably thrown the pieces if something similar had happened to me at that age.

Dani won his first and last game but lost the other two. He finished 4th but all five received a medal – as is the way these days. However to be fair they did announce the winners as such and everyone knew them. The winner in Dani’s age was quite an impressive player I have to say. In fact I was amazed how good they all were. I do not recall anyone playing chess at age five and six.

A Modern Triathlon?

Physical exertion against one of Mother Nature’s elements followed by hand to hand combat,  then finally a good dose of cerebral exercise. This could become a modern triathlon. It was certainly a great combination.

At this point I have to make a mental note plus one on this Blog… I must remember to write something for the previous few weekends. I know I still need to write about Roberto’s baptism. Also last weekend Dani came with me on a trip to Torremolinos with my friends. More on both of those to come…

Return to the Tree. San Isidro Weekend

This time of year is the Feria de San Isidro in Madrid. This year there was a slightly different kind of event for the kids. More on that below But first a return to an old post for Dani…

Return to the Tree…

Way back in March 2016 I wrote a post called Plant a Tree, Have a Son, Write a Book. This weekend – over three years later we returned to the Parque Felipe Sexto (the park named after King Philip 6th) where Dani planted his tree.

Amazingly, three years ago we never took note of the exact location of his tree. In these days of GPS coordinates we did nothing. When we planted the tree in 2016 I remember that the weather was awful. Wind and rain. At least that accounts partly for us not making a proper note of the tree’s location.

So it turned out to more of a guess than anything. We found two possible suspects but probably neither was his tree. Still he seemed happy enough to pose beside both. Judge for yourselves below…


The first one seems a little big for three years old while the second seems too small. Not to worry. We decided it was the first one. I am sure he will see the funny side when he is old enough to read this.

Interestingly there were plenty of new trees with names and dates written on the supports, planted last January. It gave me the idea that maybe we should do this again – properly this time – with his cousin Susana.

Speaking of whom….

Susana joined us in the park slightly later. There is an area with large kids slides built into the natural contours of the park and  zipwire (tirolina in Spanish). That part of the park was packed with families as you might expect. The cousins enjoyed the slides and burned a fair bit of energy.

Inner City Agriculture – Huertos Urbanos

The Spanish call them huertos. In the UK they are called allotments and are as British as tea and biscuits. However, they are a relatively new phenomena in Madrid. I had noticed a few some years back but now it seems wherever there is enough space between recently constructed apartment blocks the town hall is allowing these places to spring up. During San Isidro this year the town hall has advertised events for kids at selected huertos. So off we went.

The kids learn to recognise what the plants they eat actually look like. They get to water the plants; or at least are allowed to believe that they are watering them. They even prepare some simple snacks with some of the produce.

The day was hot just like the one in the park. It looks like summer is finally here.

A Load of Bull – Bullfighting: Part Two

In part one of this double bill I summarised some of the basics of bullfighting and made the widespread arguments for those against it. Here I will make the case for the other side of the argument. So stand by your beds. This will be no-holds-barred…

But first another Hemmingway Quote…

“The chances are that the first bullfight any spectator attends may not be a good one artistically; for that to happen there must be good bullfighters and good bulls; artistic bullfighters and poor bulls do not make interesting fights, for the bullfighter who has ability to do extraordinary things with the bull which are capable of producing the intensest degree of emotion in the spectator but will not attempt them with a bull which he cannot depend on to charge…” — Ernest Hemingway, from Death in the Afternoon.

It is more than likely that any bullfights seen by tourists will fall into the “poor” category in Hemmingway’s explanation. On that basis it is no wonder most (if not all) tourists will leave with a negative opinion of the subject. Most foreigners will almost certainly not have experienced what Hemmingway describes as a great spectacle. Of course he was a big fan and there are many who do not like to see blood.

What I do like.

I am not a bullfighting aficionado. I am not even an avid fan and I hardly ever go to a corredor. Therefore, it is hard to say exactly what I like about it. Maybe it’s more accurate to say why I do not object to this ‘sport’. Here goes:

The artistic side of it is one that surely cannot be questioned. The ritualistic ceremony, the wildly over the top suits, the colours, the sounds of the crowd and the bands all combine to create a true spectacle. It is a traditional Spanish event. If we are to celebrate so many cultures and traditions from around the world then why not this one?

Most of us still eat meat; although admittedly that could be a whole other debate. The bulls are killed and are eaten. Overall these bulls live a much better life than almost every other animal that ends up on your plate. A short bloody end could be considered insignificant to its full life. All other animals bred for your plate definitely do not have such a grand life. One could almost sum it up by saying that unless you are a vegetarian (who refuses to wear leather shoes) you are not really in a position to criticise. I can agree – to an extent – with the anti bullfighting arguments of a vegan. Or at least see their point of view.

Perhaps the anti bullfighting brigade should be protesting halal slaughter or slaughter houses in general. All equally as bloody as bullfighting.

Art and Danger Combined

Another pro bullfighting argument is that the whole thing is an artform. Once again Hemmingway summed it up quite well in Death in the Afternoon: “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.”

I challenge any of those who think it is a cowardly spectacle to get in there and do it. I certainly would not.

A quick note is probably needed here: Despite quoting him in these posts I am not at all a fan of Hemmingway’s books. I read one once and did not think much of it. I possibly picked the wrong one; which just happened to be about the running of the bulls in Pamplona.

But here’s the real reason…

The main reason I would not like to see it banned? Quite simple and it has nothing to do with cruelty or eating meat (or not) or even traditions.

Above all I do not like it when people say that it should be banned because they do not agree with it. Despite their arguments (some of which I can agree with) this is where many of them stand.

I cannot stand TV soap operas (telenovelas) and I liken them to giving the masses some kind of lobotomy. But I do not call for them to be banned. I just choose not to watch them. I eat meat but I do not call for vegetarians to be banned from restaurants. It is up to them.

What is certainly true is that you cannot have a fair debate (or indeed any debate at all) when the two sides do not agree on a common end goal. Bullfighting is one such subject.

It is not like war for example. Pacifists and military men alike can agree that war is horrible and possibly crazy but they will disagree on how to make the world safer. A pacifist may say certain weapons should be banned or at least controlled but a soldier will appreciate the classic Tszu Ghun quote: “If you want peace then prepare for war”.

There are those who oppose bullfighting bitterly and those who like it; love it even. There are also a large number who do not care much either way. Of this last group there are probably two camps. Those who would not care if it was banned and those (like me) who think it should not be banned.

Recortes anyone?

Recortes is a form of bloodless bullfighting and increasing in popularity. Basically it is a  style of “fighting” in which the fighter gymnastically dodges the bull’s charges. This is the kind of bullfighting you might see in Portugal and France but it is also widely practiced in the Basque area of Spain. The main difference between recortes and (normal) bullfighting, is the most obvious. The animal lives. There is no blood shed – unless the “bullfighter” is unlucky. After the “fight” the bull goes back to whatever field he was in. Great eh?

However, if you believe that this same bull’s meat does not end up on the plate and its skin does not end up in some market stall as a bag or jacket then you are probably deluding yourself.

Your comments on bullfighting are more than welcome. Tell us what you think.

A Load of Bull – Bullfighting: Part One

You won’t have to look far on an internet search for Bloggers (et al) writing about Spain. Subjects such as Tapas and touristy places abound. What you will not find people so keen to write about are the more contentious subjects. Like bullfighting for example. Regular readers (if there still are any) will know that this old dad does not shy away from such topics. Far from it. I embrace them.


And so to the divisive issue of bullfighting. A subject long overdue being given the Old Dad treatment.

In the previous post about the Spanish elections I noted that there is a party for animal rights which polled almost one third of a million votes! Animal rights is maybe a bit too general a description because their main aim is actually to ban bullfighting. Is this really the most  important issue in Spain at election time? (or any other time for that matter). It does make you wonder eh? But I digress…slightly.

It is often said that any discussion for or against bullfighting would be incomplete without some mention of the opposite view. This is what the famous author Ernest Hemingway understood when he said; “anything capable of arousing passion in its favor will surely raise as much passion against it.”

Naturally this is a tricky subject so I believe I need to deal with it in two parts. Firstly, I shall deal with the arguments against bullfighting. Later, in part two, I will cover the pro-bullfighting stance.


Let’s look at the numbers. How many corredores (bull fighting tournaments) are there per year? Roughly? Well, depending on your sources there are about 400 official bullfights a year in Spain along with up to (at least) 1,500 smaller village events. In each event there are normally six bulls (so 6 actual “fights” per corredor).

It’s estimated that about 10,000 bulls are slaughtered. Some reports say that each year, in Spain, 24,000 bulls are killed in front of an audience of some 30 million peoplered in the ring annually.

Then there are the famous bullfighting events. Examples include the running of the bulls in Pamplona (made famous by Ernest Hemmingway in his book ‘Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises’)  and the bullfights in Valencia to coincide with the month long Las Fallas fiestas in Valencia (again made famous by Hemmingway in ‘Death in the Afternoon’). Hemmingway is being referenced a lot here because he was of course a big fan of bullfighting. He admired the whole ceremony and he was responsible for putting bullfighting on the map (so to speak) for many people from non-Spanish speaking countries. another big example is the San Isidro bullfights this time of year (early May) in Madrid.

In Catalonia the regional government banned bullfighting in 2010. This was almost certainly more of an anti-Spanish action rather than an animal rights-based decision. “Look at us! We are not Spanish!”

The Case Against…

It is bloodthirsty for sure and most people opposed to it plainly see it as cruel. The bull is weakened by the horse-riding picadores who spear the bull’s shoulders. Then by the banderillas  who stick dart like objects in and around the wounds. The bull loses blood and the damage to the neck and shoulder muscles cause its head to drop for the final stage. The third and final stage is when the matador drains the last energy from the bull – the only true “bullfighting” part as such. When it is finally out of breath the matador finishes him off with a thrust of his sword between the shoulders and into its heart. Pretty gory stuff eh?

What I do not like.

Personally I have to make the following points and suggestions…

It’s certainly not a contest as there can be only one ‘winner’. Although bullfighters can and do get killed every year  (and even some spectators – espontáneos – who jump into the ring to try their hand) it is really always the bull that loses.

There is no doubt that the bullfights are too one sided. Give the bulls more of a chance I say. This could be done by just having the matador facing off against the bull. My suggestion would be to remove the first two stages of the “fight” (see above).

I agree that it is blood-thirsty but I cannot say that it is somehow uniquely cruel. After all I am a meat eater. A meat lover in fact! I know that some forms of slaughter (for meat) are just as cruel. I also find it boring after a couple of bulls have been killed. There are usually six in a corredor so the whole thing does get rather repetitive. Even the rejoneos (bullfighting on horseback) fights can be a little tedious after a few, although I do enjoy those a lot more.

What about my son?

Will I take Dani to a bullfight? Maybe. Maybe not. I certainly would not stop one of his family from taking him to see it first hand (not that they are bullfighting enthusiasts). But only when he is older. Old enough to make his own mind up. In other words his first bullfight may be his last. Who can say?