Can You Dig It?

Following on from my top 3 British gangster movies review this little trip down cinematic memory lane was inspired by the following piece of artwork….

Just two blocks away from where we live this street art came into view again this week. For more than a year the area had been screened off with only a developer’s sign worth looking at. Now the builders have begun prepring the area this work of art is once again on display for any passer-by who wishes to see it…..Or to be more accurate, for anyone who knows what it represents.

They had better hurry because it probably won’t be there much longer.

The Warriors

The film of course is The Warriors. Released in 1979 it remains an all time classic and a movie with a huge cult following. The painting mainly shows two of the Baseball Furies – possibly the most recognisable gang in the film – and only one of the Warriors. I wonder if the person(s) who painted this mural know that it is about to disappear? Would they care?

The inimitable Roger Hill played Cyrus; leader of the biggest gang in the city. Roger passed away in 2014 aged 65. Everyone who has seen the film knows the scene where Cyrus gets shot in the big gang meeting in the Bronx. His rallying speech to the gangs – some of whom were real gang members – is a fantastic piece of acting. It is said that this performance by Roger had the gang members spellbound. Despite being in the film for just this one scene he almost steals the show. Often imitated, never bettered. The line is legendary. “Can you dig it?”     Or even “Caaan you diiig iiit?”

Too Young for the Full Scene

And guess who does his own version of that line? OK. I know what you are thinking. But I do not let him see the way that scene ends and I have not shown him any of the rest of the movie. He will see it all when he is old enough. This clip is the only part of the film he knows at the moment.

The full speech with its violent ending can be seen here….

The other (equally) famous line from that film is “Warriors, come out to play-ee-ay” – the line that is repeatedly screeched out many times each time getting more intimidating and well; more crazy.

Is This Kid Going To Wear Me Out?

Is this kid going to wear me out?

It is a thought I have had a few times. It is the age gap. It doesn’t worry me but I would be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind from time to time. While he is getting faster, stronger and more energetic as he grows, I am obviously slowing down. It will not get any better and over the next few years that age difference will become more apparent.

Last night I hardly had enough energy to take a shower. After bathing Dani I thought it was a good idea to lie down for a few minutes first. Twenty minutes later I woke up.

Had it been such a long and busy day? Or did I just need a little more sleep?

Into Town…

In the morning we took the metro into the city centre to see a traditional Easter parade with lots of drums. Very loud. Dani had to cover his ears at one point. Then we went for a stroll taking in a small tapas route. Only 3 bars; well it’s not all about doing kids things at the weekend. We decided to take a bus home because a bus or car ride works wonders when it comes to making Dani sleep. We still had to walk a fair bit to catch the bus but it stopped close enough to the house so that carrying him would not be an issue.

A Brief Respite…

On the bus he fell asleep as planned. Not much later his mum was also taking a siesta. His old dad rarely needs a siesta and today seemed no different.

After Dani’s siesta we woke him for his snack (merienda). There was just enough time before the start of a puppet show at the local community library/theatre/cultural centre. It was a story about pirate’s treasure. Some of the kids got very animated and noisy. Dani as much as any. I was surrounded by the loudest kids in the theatre. I was tired but there was no chance of dozing off. Not the best kids show we have been to but it was free and it was fun for the little ones.

More Hyperactivity…

The pirate looked uncannily like the big bad wolf with an eye patch. Still, he did the job for the little ones. Then there were the crocodiles. Two. A traditional green one and, oddly, a blue one. Again it worked. The kids – particularly those surrounding me – went nuts whenever the crocs appeared.

On the way home I had to run most of the way. It was a race apparently. Then I had to play superheroes. Super villains in my case to be precise. Then it was bath time. Not a particularly exhausting day I admit but it did for me. That is when I went to relax for a couple of minutes.

The Big Question…

I think I need to get to the gym more often and get as fit as I possibly can. That kind of thing is a double-edged sword. Training to get (and stay) fit tires you out – that’s kind of the idea. Overall however it gives you more energy. I am trying and will continue to make the effort.

The question remains though: How long can I keep up with this growing bundle of energy?

Top 3 Films… Of a Certain Genre

My Top 3 British Gangster Movies…

OK. This is a real old dad’s thing. How many times have you heard people listing their top 10 or top 3 films? It is actually quite difficult to do when you consider all the different genres and eras.

In a future post I intend to explain my top 10 films of all time – and all genres. But for now I just wanted to highlight my top 3 British gangster films. In order to make it easier I have made this short list only from the serious films. For example, I did not take into consideration the two famous Guy Ritchie films (his first two I believe) as I see them more as comedies. I refer of course to Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells and Snatch. Both excellent films in their own right no doubt, but definitely made with a sense of humour and storylines which are intentionally farcical.

Ranking the 3…

If I was asked to rank them in order of preference it would be very difficult but it would probably be the same as their chronological order. So here goes:

  1. Get Carter (1971). Starring Michael Caine, Ian Hendry and John Osborne
  2. The Long Good Friday (1979). Starring Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren and Derek Thompson
  3. Layer Cake (2004). Starring Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney and Michael Gambon

Get Carter

This is a classic tale of revenge and the bad guys getting their comeuppance. That’s not to say the lead character is not himself a bad guy. Far from it.

Jack Carter (Caine) is a brutal enforcer for London’s top gangsters. When his brother dies he returns to Newcastle to arrange the funeral. Convinced that his brother was murdered, Carter tracks down a local villain Eric (Ian Hendry), who leads him to crime boss Cyril Kinnear (Osborne) . From there, Carter plots his revenge while being pursued by his own bosses men who have been sent to take him back to London. It becomes a fast paced cat and mouse game while Carter searches for the truth about his brother’s killer.

There are some great lines in this film; calmly delivered by Caine in his inimitable style. Including this classic movie quote: “You’re a big man but you’re in bad shape. For me this a full time job. Now behave yourself!”. See it here… That scene always makes me laugh.
The Long Good Friday

Made in 1979 but not released till 1980. The film’s main character Harold (Hoskins) returns from a business trip full of optimism. He is an East End gangster trying to strike a deal with an American (mafia) firm to develop the old London docklands. Things do not go to plan as bombs go off and people close to him are killed. Whilst trying to figure out who is behind it all Harold discovers that while he was away on business his associates have been dealing with the IRA and now they want more.

Bob Hoskins was not a tall bloke but he plays the part of the Big Man so well in this film. He reels off some fantastic quotable lines. Most notably when informed that his old friend’s dead body is about to be collected in an ice cream van “to keep it all incognito” he says “There’s a lot of dignity in that aint there? Goin’ out on a raspberry ripple.” Then there is the famous scene at the end of the film which among many other gems contains the line: “The Mafia? I’ve shit ’em!” Class. And did he really say “You don’t crucify people. Not on Good Friday!”? I must watch the film again just to check that one. Brilliant.

Not only did this film make a star out of Helen Mirren, it also gave a young Pierce Brosnan his first break – as an IRA hitman!

Layer Cake – A Man With No Name Film

The film revolves around a London-based criminal whose name we never hear (played by Daniel Craig), working in the cocaine trade but planning on leaving the drug business. Once he has earned enough to retire he thinks he will just walk away from it all. But he does not account for the darker side of his chosen profession. His boss hands him a couple of dodgy tasks to perform which soon threaten to drag him back into the seedy underworld. One is to find the daughter of a former associate – now a powerful businessman. The second is to  find a buyer for boxes full of Ecstasy tablets. The drugs were taken from a Serbian gang who were double crossed and are now understandably very pissed off.

The mix of villains includes “load mouthed wannabe gangsters”, a Serbian neo Nazi gang and a pair of old school, street smart scousers. Needless to say, events rapidly conspire against Mr. Craig’s character and he needs to use his best assets – his wits and intelligence – to escape this murky world.

While Layer Cake does have some funny moments it is not deliberately comical like the aforementioned Ritchie films. It has a clever and intricate plot made all the more believable by its great cast.

Agree? Disagree?

So there you have it. My all-time top 3 British gangster films. I hope to be sitting down to watch these with Dani when he is old enough. For now of course I have to be content with Disney classics and the odd superhero movie.

These kind of lists are always contentious so if you disagree then why not send in your alternative list?

Beards – The Final Word.

A Year On from First Beard…

Reading through some old Blog posts I noticed that it is just over a year ago that I grew my first beard (and moustache). You can read those posts here: Beards Part 1 and Beards Part 2

It was not the last time I grew one. I did it again in the lead-up to last Christmas. A second full set of face fur and even modified it in stages to:
The Lemmy look – although not quite as rough around the edges I hope.
The Wolverine look – with lamb chop sideburns (but minus the claws and muscles).
Then someone said that the lamb chops reminded them more of Amos Brierley from Emmerdale Farm (as was – don’t worry, Google it if you need to). That was the final straw. Regular shaves from now on… Probably. Well, maybe. As the saying goes: Never Say Never.

           
The late, great Lemmy, plus the lamb (mutton) chops of Wolverine and Amos Brierley.

Hairy history…
For men at least, hairstyles are no longer governed by any fashion rules. It seems any style is now acceptable from fully bald to long hair. This was not always the way of course and certainly not for facial hair. Over the years various trends in facial fur had passed me by. When I was (much) younger moustaches were, believe it or not, very fashionable. Seriously. If you don’t believe me just ask anyone in your family old enough and they will probably be able to show you old photos of family members sporting a dodgy looking hairy upper lip. Incredibly, that Movember look that we all mock really was all the rage.

Then after a period of clean shaven calm came the stubble look. Possibly made fashionable by the late George Michael, I really can’t remember. That in turn was followed by the goatee which has managed to more or less survive in varying guises. And now here we are with the full beard and moustache look in full swing again. Looking around today it is easy to form an opinion that a clean shaven man is now in the follicular minority.

Time to shave fellas…

I thought the fad would pass more quickly than it has but if anything it seems to be more prevalent. You can clearly see that some people have no intention of shaving or even trimming their beards. The wizard look seems to be in for some of those who have been growing their chin hair. Yes; even floating beards are now acceptable.

For those of you with facial hair I have this advice, courtesy of a great quote from my favourite Michael Caine movie: “Listen carefully you hairy-faced git”. Shave it off! It’s not big and it’s not clever. And it most certainly does not compensate for the lack of hair on top.

It’s time to lose the facial fur fellas. In any case like all fashions it will pass. Eventually. Believe me!

Get Carter…

Incidentally, that Michael Caine quote is from Get Carter. A film also famous for featuring ex-Coronation street character Alf Roberts being thrown off a multi-story car park. Not that I watch Coronation street you understand; but clearly I used to. If you haven’t seen it then I suggest you do so when you get the chance. Get Carter that is, not Coronation Street. Definitely in my top 3 British gangster movie list.

The film was made in 1971 and while clearly dated it is still a great movie and one I will advise Dani to watch when he is old enough to appreciate it.

Please do not get this mixed up with the 2000 Sylvester Stallone remake of the same name which is a dreadful USA take on a great British oldie. That film is definitely one to be avoided…. There was also a curious remake called ‘The Hit Man’ – a so called Blaxploitation movie made only a year later in 1972. That one is at least worth a quick look.

Parque Europa – A Day Out

Today was a beautiful sunny day so we visited a park in the town of Torrejón de Ardoz which is only about 15km out of Madrid on the Barcelona road. We took Dani’s cousin Susana with us to give her mum a little break.

Torrejón de Ardoz

I have never actually been to Torrejón and knew little about it. The town lies on one side of the A2 motorway. On the other side of the main road is the NATO (formerly U.S.) Air Force base. The military airbase remains the thing that Torrejón is most famous for.

Another thing the town is noted for is being the home of the European Union Satellite Centre, an agency of the European Union and also the headquarters of the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, the Spanish space agency. Yes. Me neither; but it is supposedly some claim to fame.

The European Park

Much better than all that space nonsense is the Parque Europa.

Entry to the park is free but most of the attractions are charged separately. With small kids however it is possible to have a great time without spending anything. The main attractions – while admittedly of more interest to adults – are the 18 replicas of European landmarks. These include Tower Bridge, the Eifel Tower, the Tower of Bethlehem (Lisbon) and the Brandenburg Gate.

The paid attractions include a 185m zip wire (tirolina), laser maze, trampolines (camas elásticas), boat hire and quadricycle hire.

Park Elephants

                         

The replica of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is actually about twice the size of the real thing – at least as I remember it. But then that statue is probably the most disappointing of man-made landmarks. Sorry Denmark, but it’s the truth.

There are also several good places to eat and drink in the park. We ate in the Mirador de Europa restaurant which does kids meals and some great barbequed dishes. There is even a chill out terrace serving cocktails which you can sip on a chill-out bed (cama balinesa).

Same age but so different…

The day was another great lesson in how, generally, little girls behave better than little boys. Forget all that gender-neutral crap some people spout. It’s just a fact.

While his cousin was the perfectly behaved child Dani’s behaviour ran the usual roller coaster. From well behaved to little rascal in a matter of seconds. While she ate all her dinner almost unaided, he took an age and still left some. Preferring to behave as if some form of airborne plankton exists and that by talking non-stop he might ingest enough to survive. Talking but hardly listening. Please don’t get the wrong impression. I still love him even when he is not doing as he is told but there is no way he is as well behaved as his cousin. And he is not likely to be any time soon. Call me old fashioned by I believe the reason is simple. He is a typical little boy and she is a typical little girl.

Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why would I? If you disagree with this summary of gender differences in 3-year-olds please do not hesitate to contact me. I would love a good laugh.

For park information visit these websites: http://www.parqueeuropa.es/  and http://www.parque-europa.es/

Pride and Parenting

All parents are proud of their kids. Every parent thinks their kid is the best, the cutest, the funniest. We all like to think our children are that bit more special – unique even – in some way (or many ways). Of course we know that most of the time it is not really true but it doesn’t hurt to think that way.

Well here is a genuine tale of parental pride and a child’s uniqueness. What’s more it happens most days.

It goes like this…

One of the best times of the day for me is picking Dani up from school. It’s a happy time for the kids. It’s not just my little lad; it’s the joy on the faces of all the little ones as they are released from the building and spot their mums, dads or grandparents waiting for them.

It is a chaotic time. The door sits atop eight steps. Not a particularly steep set of stairs but for a gang of excited 3, 4 and 5 year olds trying to escape it can get pretty scary. When the door bursts open at 5pm the kids are first ushered out by three of the “ladies in white” (aka assistants). They then form a chain to pass the kids one by one down the steps to the awaiting parents. Usually there are also two or three teachers at the top of stairs acting as crowd control and passing the kids down from the top step. The first link in the chain effectively. As I am sure you can imagine it is often manic.

Time for a Lovely Gesture…

Naturally all the kids are looking for their parents or grandparents and the last thing on their minds is saying anything to the teachers and helpers. Not so Dani. He stops at the top of the stairs scanning around until he sees me. Then makes his way down saying his goodbyes as he is passed down the chain. He makes a determined point of saying “Adios” to each one of them and even adds their names: Adios Julieta. Adios Maria etc…He refuses to budge until they acknowledge him and reply back “Adios Dani”.

He is the only one that bothers to do this. The only one. Not even the kids a year or two older do it. I have observed for some time now and he really is the only one who does this.

I think it is so sweet. It always makes me smile. It also makes the teachers and helpers smile. They still get taken aback slightly when he does it. Maybe it makes them feel appreciated but more probably because none of the other kids do it.  I definitely feel very proud of him when he puts that broad smile on my face.

Why so unique?

I am not sure why he does it though. It is not as if he has been taught specifically to do that. Maybe it’s just a natural reaction from a naturally friendly and chatty little boy. It is just very odd that none of the other kids do it. Surely Dani cannot be the only naturally friendly child in a group of over 100? So why only him?

I am not complaining nor am I concerned. I am however genuinely puzzled why he should be the only one. Is he really that unique? Well, yes! Every other parent seems to think so for their little ones, so why not?

Have your kids ever been the only one to do something like this? If so, why do you think that is? I would love to know.

Crazy Animal Creations

The other day while Dani was playing with some of his animal toys I saw him putting finger puppets over the head of a Playmobil giraffe.

He had two finger puppets; a frog and a pig. He covered both of his Playmobil (Noah’s ark) giraffes. I thought they looked great. The creative mind of a child. Who else but a child would cross animals to make their own hybrid creatures in this way?

Well actually….

It made me think of an old story by H.G. Wells called the “Island of Dr. Moreau.” The book has been made into a film on more than one occasion. I can recall going to the cinema to see the movie starring But Lancaster and Michael York back in 1977. Like all good stories it has since been remade – as in 1996 starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer.

Back in the 70s the cinemas used to show a double bill. There would be the main feature plus a support film (B-movie). I can even remember the B-movie that was showing. It was called Clones (made in 1973). Another moral dilemma that was often discussed at that time – some 20 years before Dolly the sheep.

Dolly – The Result of Animal Experiments

The book…

The novel is about one Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat and left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, The doctor creates human like creatures from animals by performing various surgical procedures. It’s a tale with a number of disturbing issues including pain, suffering and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and humans interfering with nature. All in a day’s work for some no doubt.

What a great science fiction writer H.G. Wells was. That book wasn’t even written last century. It was the end of the century before that; way back in 1896!

I must start collecting some of his books for Dani to read when he is old enough.

Dani’s Beastly Creations

Dani’s ideas for hybrid beasts were quite clever because the last letter and first letter of the two animals coincides. So, we have two new species; a Frogiraffe and a Pigiraffe. He thought it was funny anyway.

The Frogiraffe and Pigiraffe – the results of Dani’s experiments

Wonder Woman – There Can Be Only One

With all this talk about male superheroes lately I think it is only fair to bring some kind of balance to the subject. This morning while having breakfast Dani asked me if we could watch Wonder Woman on my computer. We had seen a few short clips in the recent past while searching for Batman and other superheroes so he knew the character.

The Dilemma…

I could have said: “Well the storylines are a bit weak in those 70s TV shows”. That would have been an understatement.

Or, I could have said: ”You know what? The action scenes are a little bit unrealistic” – which of course they were but I didn’t want to disappoint the lad.

Alternatively, I could have said: “Well, she is more for girls” – which would have been an out and out lie! She was definitely and primarily for dads.

Instead I just said “Well. OK then. If you really want to watch Wonder Woman…” I then did a quick search on Youtube for Wonder Woman. Not forgetting to add the “TV show” bit so as not to get confused with the modern WW films. In other words, we wanted to watch the real Wonder Woman. The one and only Lynda Carter.

Does my bum look big in this?

As expected there were plenty to choose from but I picked a 7-minute montage of so called “best bits”. It included several swimsuit scenes and enough slow motion jogging scenes to keep any old dad interested. It was more Baywatch than superheroes. But still I soldiered on for Dani’s sake. He seemed to be enjoying it.

“I like the part where she turns and changes into Wonder Woman” he said.

“Funnily enough I do too” I replied.

Interestingly those blue hot-pants she wore seemed to accentuate her already curvy shape. It begs the question that became famous some 10 or 15 years later thanks to the Fast Show: “Does my bum look big in this?”. Well yes actually Wonder Woman, it does (a bit). But don’t worry. It’s really not that bad either.

There are so many superheroes to watch and Dani likes them all. It can all get more than a little confusing. Fortunately, there is something simple about this 70s show that makes it so easy to watch.

In Case You Didn’t Know….

Lynda Carter played Wonder Woman in the TV series from 1975 to 1979. She was a former Miss USA and this role brought her international fame and fortune – quite rightly so in my opinion. I am sure there will be other old dads out there who agree.

As usual I did a little research on the subject and was surprised to discover that there was a spin-off character in a few episodes of the series called Wonder Girl (aka Wonder Woman’s little sister, Drusilla) in which Debra Winger made her acting breakthrough. I certainly don’t recall that character. The producers wanted her to appear in more shows but she declined fearing that it might hurt her budding career and that she may be stereotyped in that role. I suppose that is the difference between a good looking ex-Miss USA and a rather more ordinary looking aspiring actress. Lynda Carter knew that the show has forever cast her as Wonder Woman and has admitted as much in interviews. She has said many times that she does not mind. It has given her the chance to further her singer-songwriter career. She actually started off singing in a band years before the beauty contests and she still tours with several shows planned for 2017.

The real Wonder Woman

 

Father’s Day – In Spain

Last year I wrote a little piece about Father’s Day in Spain (read it again here – Día del Padre). How time flies. Father’s day arrived again at the weekend.

This year Dani got his dad a collection of Iron Man comics in the form of a little book. Excellent – and thoughtful eh? We can read the stories together. ‘Wow. It doesn’t get much better than that’ I told him. Actually kids, it really doesn’t get much better than reading Marvel comics. One of life’s great pleasures. Genuine escapism.

He also made me a fridge magnet in school. Exactly what I needed. At least that is what I told him. Like most kids his age he genuinely loves fridge magnets. Why do kids of that age have such a fascination for them? I have to admit I have no idea what are they for?

Two Great Father’s Day Presents

Carnival Time – Again!

Yesterday was carnival time at school. OK, it was a little later this year. Normally the day is celebrated at the start of Lent. This year the school decided to do it on the 16th of March because today is a holiday. I have no idea why, but in the Madrid autonomous region the 17th March – which happens to be Saint Patrick’s day – is a bank holiday for schools.

Super Heroes all the way…

For the past two years Dani has been dressed as Superman and Clark Kent (allegedly one and the same person not that you would ever know with such a great disguise.) This year, continuing the super hero theme, it could only be Iron Man.

Sure enough the rest of the crew were also there; Batman, Spiderman, Captain America. Even a Batgirl. I felt weak and powerless in the presence of such heroes; yet strangely very safe. Definitely one of those days where you want to be a fly on the school wall.

Iron Man meets Batman – In The Playground

A bit like Toy Story….

It really is a great age to be dressing up and playing as superheroes. My own memories of such times are extremely vague. Hardly helped by the onset of some 50 years. I wonder if Dani will remember this day or if it will become just a blur of excitement?

With so many heroes in so many shows it must be difficult to remember them all. Despite the hi-tech films such as Ironman Dani still loves his other heroes like Thomas the tank engine just as much. That is why I love having a son this age. It reminds me of Toy Story where the young boy Andy plays with his new hi-tech Buzz Lightyear but also plays with the baby toys like Slinky Dog and Mr. Potato Head. Dani is at that stage now and I hope it lasts for a few more years to come.