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.

Butterfly
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.

Schools Out! – Again

Today was the last day of Dani’s second year of full time school. I expected it would be easier to wake him this morning; but it wasn’t. It took me nearly fifteen minutes. In the end it was the sound of Ben 10 on the iPad that did it. Bleary-eyed and still half asleep he managed to drag himself into the living room to watch one of his favourite TV shows. The long summer holidays begin today. Twelve weeks off school!

Long Hot Summer…

There is a very good reason that Spanish schools have such a long summer break. It is way too hot already. The temperatures soared to 38 degrees today. The poor kids are exhausted. Unlike in the UK – where schools have a week off in the middle of each term (trimester) – the schools here go right through. From September to the Christmas holidays and then January to the Easter holidays. In the final term they work through to whatever date in June the particular school chooses. Saving the weeks for summer.

Just as well. Picking him up in the afternoon heat is difficult enough. The kids in Dani’s class will be both excited and tired today. They had a birthday party yesterday straight after school that lasted to 8pm. Probably another reason he was so dog-tired this morning. And boy; he really was tired. When I picked him up from school he fell asleep before getting home and I had to carry him. Still, he has all that time to recover before his next school run.

A Problem for the Parents…

The problem for parents at this time of the year is what to do with the children. Of course, most people here take the majority of August off work to go on a long summer holiday with their families. But that still leaves July and the end of June. Many parents enrol their kids in some kind of summer camp or leave them with grandparents for part of the long vacation.

This year I hope to be able to spend most if not all of the summer with my boy. Tomorrow, Dani’s nanna and cousin are coming over and we will have a week’s holiday with them. Then the following week I will take him over to the UK for a week.

August Options…

After that however the plans are a little sketchy. He may spend a week in Marbella at the apartment of his Spanish grandmother. Another week or more in a small village in the mountains just south of Ronda where his abuelo (grandfather) grew up. A little place called Benadalid.

Despite being quite remote by modern day standards there is plenty to do in and around Benadalid in August. There are many other villages dotted around the mountain range to explore. There is even a river within a 15 minute drive, deep in the valley, that never runs dry even in the height of summer. You can even swim in the river which is very much needed in order to cool down. I might even introduce him to a spot of fishing in that river. As if that wasn’t enough, the coast is about an hour’s drive away so the odd day at the beach is also an option. Then there is the village Feria which takes place at the end of August. Celebrations and activities last for over a week.

Let the fun begin…

Not bad options for a little boy eh? His dad had to make do with a week in a Welsh seaside resort either in a caravan or camp chalet. Not that we didn’t enjoy those holidays. That is the best thing about being a kid. Any holiday is great. I still have fond memories of the holidays when I was very young.

So, all in all, I am sure we will find plenty to occupy an active and inquisitive boy before he starts his third school year. The fun begins tomorrow.

A Spooky Resemblence

Growing kids changing taste in TV shows.

PJ Masks and similar TV shows have made way for Ben 10. A cartoon which was first on TV from 2005 to 2008. Ten years ago! I never really saw it – I had no reason to – but I had heard of it. I will not go into the story but you can look it up online.

The thing that struck me was how transfixed Dani becomes when he watches an episode (or two). It certainly works on kids his age. He loves it.

Who does that character remind me of?

Now for anyone who knows British TV personalities this may come as a bit of a shock It may even seem funny. One of the recurring villains in Ben 10 is a certain Dr. Animo. When I first saw him I immediately thought I had seen him before. It was that classic déjà vu thing. Now where had I seen him?

Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Dr Animo must have been modelled on Jimmy Savile. A former “star” of the BBC. Probably their highest paid celebrity for decades back in the 1970s and still all the way up to about the 1990s. Since his death in 2011 the truth about Savile came to light. And it was not nice. Worse still his dark past was hidden by certain people at the BBC. I will not go into the horrible details here but for those reading who are not from the UK it should be easy enough to find online. For those in the UK you will already know.

Judge for yourself…

Does anyone else see the resemblance between Dr. Animo and the disgusting animal that was Jimmy Savile?

  

 

Dr. Animo assaulting a child…
Savile doing the same…

My old dad saw through him…

Fair play to Dani’s grandad – my dad – who passed before Dani was born. He always said there was something wrong with “that big-headed weirdo” (he actually called him worse than that). He hated the sight of him and generally refused to watch him on TV – which back in the day was quite difficult because Savile seemed to be on TV all the time. He even made a habit of saying that all Savile’s “charity work” was a smoke-screen. A mask for whatever else he was up to. Well dad: You were right. So right!

Another sad thing is that in death, Savile escaped justice. No doubt there are still plenty still alive at the BBC who knew all about his evil doing and covered it up. Shouldn’t they be held accountable in some way? I think so; but as far as I know nobody has been.

There have been plenty of Savile jokes – in that typical British sick sense of humour – so I suppose this Dr. Animo resemblance is just another.

Those Bloody Spanish Banks – Again!

Questions:

How on earth did the banking system in Spain survive the supposed global financial crisis of 2008? How the hell does it manage to retain so many branches and staff?

I only wanted to pay the tax for my Spanish car. This is not like the paying of certain other bills as I have written about previously (see here…). This tax could be done any time and any day of the week. I had the paperwork printed off from the internet so what could go wrong?

Let’s see….

The first bank I went into (actually a “Caja” – see below) was my own bank. That is to say; I have an account with them. Sometimes that makes a difference – even in the UK. In this case the paperwork listed 12 banks and Cajas that, in theory, could be used to make the payment. Mine was one of them.

There were four people working in this branch. One dealt with me but seemed to be having problems.

“The bar code does not register.”
“Eh?”
“And manually entering the reference numbers also does not work.”

He tried again. A few times. Or so it seemed. Then he told me I should try another bank. Like the one next door. Ok, I thought. Here we go again.

I went next door. This time there was a queue of one. Me. And it seemed that the person being attended to would be there a long time. Before I knew it there were a few people behind me.

When I finally got the chance to pay in the car tax money the same thing happened. The lady “working” in this bank could hardly be bothered trying a second time before telling me the bad news.

Temperature rising, I left to try another bank.

Fortunately there are loads of these financial institutions along the same stretch of road. Seven within just over 100 metres and all on the same side of the main road. Great eh? The third bank I entered was one of the big two in Spain. This one would work I thought.

I thought wrong. The same result and even less courtesy. I couldn’t get out quick enough.

And another…

Onto the next. Santander no less. They have a large presence in the UK having bought out some old bank or other… They also have a fairly poor reputation in the UK I am told. They are equally as hopeless in Spain. I walked in and straight up to the counter. Then the lady the other side pointed me in the direction of a machine. It was one of those that prints out numbers to wait to be called. What do you call those things?

“Really?? You have got to be kidding!” I said. “There is nobody else here (for feck sake)!”

I looked at the machine then the lady. Then the door, which I moved towards and out. I was not even going to give her the pleasure of telling me the barcode and numbers do not work.

Onto number 5…

I was about to give up and get another paying-in paper or at least check the numbers etc. on line. But as I am now telling my son to keep trying and remembering that old English adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” I thought I would give it one more go. There were three other banks to choose from. I chose the one at the end of the line.

Success

Fifth time lucky. Just like all the other banks there was hardly any activity. Four people visible and only one working. That was the man seeing to my payment. Initially he said the same as all the other but he persisted. He deserves great credit for that. And it paid off. After a few attempts it seemed to all work and he took my money and gave me the official receipt.

The bank? It was none other than Caixa (pronounced Ky-sher – well, more or less). That well-known Catalan bank. Proving, at least in one way, why the Catalans think they can go it alone with independence. At least their banking system would work better than the rest of Spain’s. I have to agree. Fair play to Caixa bank. They deserve a lot of credit for that.

Footnote:
Spanish Cajas are similar to banks but different. I am not exactly sure how or why, but similar to the way Building Societies differ from banks in the UK. Following the ‘global financial crisis’ most Cajas either converted into banks (After which they miraculously carried on as if nothing had happened!?) and only two survived in their original format. Apparently many of the Cajas had been colluding with regional governments and had gotten up to all sorts of unscrupulous financial dealings. Well; T.I.S. (This is Spain!)

Spanish Politics Rocked

Political Merry-go-round.

Almost two years ago the then PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez failed to defeat the useless Rajoy and his Partido (Un)Popular in the Spanish general election. A few months later he resigned. Back in October 2016 I wrote: “The well-groomed Pedro Sanchez – he looks more like a film star than a politician – was forced to resign as more than half of the party’s executive committee had already resigned. So Sanchez, who once seemed destined for stardom, fell on his sword.”

Wow what has just happened? Returning from the political wilderness Sanchez has just become Prime Minister. Capitalising on the chaos surrounding Partido Popular officials. This happened after I wrote the piece below but before I had chance to post it. Here it is anyway…

Spanish politics has been rocked this past two weeks. And we are not talking AC/DC or Led Zeppelin. Not even the Casbah! This past week or two the main news story has been the sentencing of some of the ruling party’s top officials. The main protagonist is one Luis Barcenas who was the treasurer of the Popular Party (PP) from 1990 to 2009. He was accused of having received the usual pots full of money as kickbacks from companies seeking to receive large government contracts.

Qué Cara Tiene  (what cheek this man has)

Incredibly he denied any wrong doing even though he tried to implicate the present PM Rajoy by saying that he gave him numerous payments of cash – i.e. loads of money! So, let’s see. “Not guilty your honour. But I did give the Prime Minister loads of dodgy cash to play with. Of course, I have no idea where that cash came from.” It’s great stuff isn’t it?

Remarkably the prosecution rested on handwritten documents of payments – albeit slightly coded – which dated between 1990 and 2008. Didn’t any of these people ever see the movies about Al Capone and how his handwritten accounts got him jailed for tax evasion? You would think it is a very basic and naive mistake. Right? Wrong! These people get away with it for so long they think they are invincible. They start to believe their own lies.

National newspaper El Pais broke the story back in January and even printed the papers in question. I have been wanting to write about it ever since.

Repeat Offender?

As if all this is not crazy enough, and to prove yet again that life is indeed stranger than fiction, this Barcenas bloke seems to be a repeat offender. He used to be a senator and had to step down from that position in 2009/10 because he was implicated in a separate corruption case. That one involved some 48 million Euros being stashed in a Swiss bank. You really could not make this shit up. Some people never learn do they?

You would like to think that the party leaders who are actually in government (rather than just party officials) are not stupid enough to get wrapped up in such illegal actions. That they had nothing to do with it. Maybe. We may never know for sure. But meantime the other parties are trying to capitalise on the political scandal and oust the Prime Minister. Not that they are squeaky clean. They certainly are not. This kind of thing knows no party boundaries in most countries.

Endemic in Spain…

But this is Spain. Here, it is endemic and almost acceptable at some levels. This is a country where a surprisingly large number of local small-town mayors regularly go to jail for such crimes. Not only that: They come out of jail and get voted back into their cushy positions by the people. Then they probably continue fiddling the figures and taking brown envelopes stuffed with cash from some local property developers. Some have even been found with thousands of Euros stuffed into their mattresses.

Really! I have no fear of any libel action here because this is totally common knowledge in all of Spain. Everyone knows it goes on and for the most part the people don’t give a stuff. Well I suppose they do but they are so used to it and so used to those involved getting away with it (in many cases) that they just don’t care. Are things about to change?

Is the message getting through?

Great message to the children of Spain eh? Basically, it seems to be; do it but just don’t get caught. I guess not keeping records of all the transactions is a good place to start. Eh kids? Well maybe things are changing…. In all 29 officials and businessmen have been found guilty.

This time however the punishments do fit the crimes. Barcenas received a 33 year jail term while one of his main accomplices, businessman Francisco Correa, was sentenced to 51 years in prison. Yes, I know. Odd numbers aren’t they? Don’t ask me because I have no idea.

Is the UK any different? I seriously doubt it. We either do not get to hear about the corruption or – these days at least – they just blame it all on the Russians.

All in all yet another example of how our leaders are setting a great example for the kids. Not!

Korea; Over and Out!

The main point of this post is to raise some serious questions. What do we tell our children to prepare them for the world of work? Is it even something parents should be solely responsible for? I doubt schools can prepare them for the kind of people they will meet in the big bad world. Therefore it has to be mainly down to the parents. While bullying is rightly frowned upon in schools this does not prepare young adults for the real thing.

Persona Non Grata?

I returned from Korea with the job up and running. At least from my side of things.

Oddly, my leaving the job site at this time did not go down well with the company I was working for. It seems getting the job done on time (or sooner as it was in this case) is not what some people want.

They preferred I stayed there – doing little or nothing – while the client was willing to pay for my time. Needless to say; the project “manager” was making more money than I was out of such a deal. Yet nothing more was offered to tempt me to stay longer. It was all assumed that I would just agree.

It’s funny how these people can quickly drop the nice guy act as soon as you do not conform to their way of thinking. What are we to teach our kids about such people? Because you can be sure they are everywhere. Permeating every walk of life and involved somehow wherever you may work. All I can suggest is to make my boy aware that these fools are out there. It is a sad fact of life and, as in this particular case, it can leave a bitter taste in the mouth when you are somehow made out to be the villain.

I have seen this kind of thing too many times, so in some ways it is like water off a duck’s back to an old dad like me. It is quite another matter for a recent school leaver or someone with far less experience than myself. Sadly, such people are targets for this kind of workplace bully.

Here’s an interesting fact…

Unfortunately (if that is even the correct word), I am old enough to remember when many projects were done on time and on budget. That no longer happens and I defy anyone to prove otherwise. The interesting thing is that those were the days before personal computers, emails and mobile phones. So much for the modern world of communication eh?

Long Haul…

I flew back via Hong Kong with a 5 hour wait for my next flight. I was in two minds whether or not to go not the city. Partly put off by the seething mass of humanity that awaited I decided to take the train into the centre of Hong Kong.  I was pleasantly surprised. It was far less crowded than I imagined and things were far worse when I returned to the airport. It was manic.

It’s odd how things turn out isn’t it? I twice had the chance of working on big projects in Hong Kong way back in the 1990s spanning the handover of the former British colony to China. One was on the then new (Chek Lap Kok) airport and the other on the expansion of the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system. For various reasons I turned down both opportunities. I was now suddenly experiencing both.

Only having a short time, I maximised it by going up the tallest building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon. The building offers the best views of the town. The city was big but not as big as I had thought. Still, nothing to get me too excited and no obvious reason for me to want to go back there for an extended stay. It was however far more interesting than stopping at the airport.

In summary…

So: A short visit to Hong Kong aside what can I tell my son about my work in Korea. Sure, I can explain the immense scale of the ship-building operations there. But what about work in general? And more specifically the typical people who “boss” the jobs? Would I work for these people again?

I have always maintained that the jobs are always very simple. Really! The problems are always the politics and the people running the projects. Then I recall that well known saying: “Never say never”. Time will tell…

School Experience Days

Korea, Over and Out!

Last week I returned from Korea with the job up and running. At least from my side of things. Despite this I have become persona non grata with the company that employed me. My “crime”? Getting the job done ahead of schedule it seems. More on this later however…

One reason I wanted to get back to the UK is that I had (kind of) planned to spend the week in a local school. It was, dare I say it; educational.

Career Changer

I have been looking at the possibility of a complete career change and the chosen path could not be more different from what I have been used to for the past 30 odd years. Teaching.

I can still recall how certain topics of my ‘O’ Level Physics course had inspired me to go into engineering. Surely, I thought, I could inspire kids to follow a similar path after their schooling?

There are also selfish reasons of course – aren’t there always? If I become a teacher it means that I can have the same holidays as Dani. It means I could even try for a job in one of the so called “international schools” in Madrid which all teach through the medium of English. (Apparently, they prefer someone with a British teaching qualification – Post Graduate Certificate of Education or PGCE. That remains to be seen.)

The long path to Teaching begins here…

It is a complicated process and there are many hurdles to cross. For me the first one was completing the “school experience days”. You need to complete 10 days in school(s) observing – and when possible assisting – the science classes. Finding out if this is something you genuinely believe you can do. It is compulsory and the colleges will not allow you to apply for the one year teacher training course (PGCE) unless you have completed these experience days. The theory being (I guess) that if this is really not for you then after two or three such days you will probably know it. You will probably not bother completing the rest of the required days. On the other hand, if you still think it is the right career for you then you will happily complete the rest of your experience days and move on with your application.

This works both ways. First of all, it should tell a person who is honest with themselves whether or not this is something that they really want. It also means that the colleges are not wasting valuable time and resource (i.e. money) on a person who is not 100% sure they can or even want to do it.  After that first week of school I can tell you that I saw nothing to put me off. I still think I can do it and I still want to do it.

What’s in a Name?

I often hear it said how children today grow up or mature faster than when we were in school. How much more aware they are at an earlier age etc… Well; if ever there was an example of how kids today are definitely slower than when I was in school it is this little tale…

I soon discovered that within the school database each child is registered not only with their given name but also with their preferred name. This means they can be called whatever they want. Incredible right? Even more incredible is that the school (i.e. the teachers) are obliged to call them by that name. Seriously! They have to use that ‘preferred’ name.

There were only a few examples of this that I came across. A few preferring to be called what seemed more like a nickname or alternative (real?) name. There was also one gender identity related name change – something like a boy called Robert preferring to be known as Natasha (not the real names).

I will not name the school but it hardly matters. It is my understanding that this is now official policy in all state run schools in the UK. I could not believe how this system has not been totally abused by the kids. Where were these smart-arse street-wise kids? Where are the jokers? The class clowns? Have they really become so dumbed down?

Oh what fun WE would have had….

If you are of a certain age then this will be easy to understand. Cast your mind back to school. Imagine the headmaster announcing in morning assembly (the usual start to every day back then) that pupils can now be referred to by their chosen and preferred names.

Myself and everyone I hung out with would have looked at each other with eyes widening. Grins growing into huge smiles until we could barely stifle the laughter. And then, after assembly, the fun would really begin….

“Right. I am going to be Ozzy Osborne”
“I will be Floyd. Pink Floyd”
“OK. I will be Johnny Rotten.”

“I ‘m Batman and you can be Robin.”

“I can’t decide if I want to be Bruce Lee or Jimi Hendrix.”
“Steve is already gonna be Hendrix so you will have to be Bruce Lee.”
“OK.”

“You can be Cassius Clay. But if you want to change your name again later to something like Muhammad Ali then that’s fine. And there will be nothing to stop you doing that cos it’s already been done.”

“Excuse me Sir. I am Darth Vader and this is my friend Chewbacca.” (Laughter)

The possibilities are endless. The scope for schoolboy pranks enormous. A school kid’s dream. We would have got it immediately. And yet, right here, right now, they just don’t seem to be able to see it. It’s right there in front of their noses. An ideal opportunity to completely take the piss and they are not doing it. “Why?” you may ask. Are they really that well behaved now? Clearly this is not the case from some of the other things I heard last week.

No: I honestly believe it is because they are so used to being pandered to like this. It is all part of the ‘new normal’ for these kids. They have come to expect this sort of thing too easily and in so doing they now more or less ignore it. It is as if they have been so over indulged that it has killed part of their sense of fun. That mischievous gene – once present in most school kids – is on the verge of extinction. That is only my take on it; but whatever the reason, it isn’t good.

A Typical Day in Class?

“Ziggy Stardust! What are you doing?”
“Sir. Bob Marley and Tina Turner are throwing things at me.”

Then – and this has to be the best one – a blonde girl (probably Marilyn Monroe) enters class with a message from the Head.

“Sir. The Headmaster wants to see Spartacus.”

Then, right on cue…

“I’m Spartacus.”
“I’m Spartacus.”
“No. I’m Spartacus.”

And so on…

That little social experiment would not have lasted a single day.

Candaleda

First Proper Bike

The weekend before flying out to Korea we stayed at the house owned by Dani’s abuelos (grandparents). On the way we stopped at one of those large supermarket sports stores Decathlon to buy his first proper bike. Not long after arriving he was keen to get pedalling. We found a quiet area for him to try out his new mode of transport where the road was just like a small circuit. Perfect. He took to it immediately.

Candaleda is not very famous in Spain. In the UK most people will not have heard of it. Despite this there is one reason that some in the UK will know about the town.

British Connection…

Its biggest claim to fame in the UK is that one of the main roads leading in to the town is named after a former Prime Minister of Great Britain. A certain John Major. Yes there is street called Avenida de John Major!

At the time he was arguably the worst elected Prime Minister ever. He has since dropped to 4th worst ever due to the three subsequent PMs since his time in Government. How on earth did this come about you may be wondering?

Well it is because of a man called Tristan Garel-Jones. A close friend and former colleague of Major who owns a house near the town. Major made regular visits to the town and the mayor obviously thought this was great publicity for the relatively little known place. Amazingly in his (or her) wisdom the town council decided to name a street after the former PM.

Starman and another Major…

Lately Dani can be heard singing to himself. It happened the weekend in Candaleda.

“There’s a Starman waiting in the sky,
He’d like to come and meet us…bla bla bla… ”

Cleary he doesn’t know the words yet. Then a little later:

“Ground control to Major Tom.
Ground control to Major Tom.”

How many four year olds sing David Bowie I wonder? He did not get it from me although once I hear him singing such songs I naturally join in. Encouraging him and teaching him the lyrics. If I know them.

I think it will be a while still before I can introduce him to the likes of Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin ….

Meanwhile…

I am packing my bags to leave Korea. More anon…