Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Madrid: Parrots in cahoots

Madrid’s been taken over by parrots to an even greater extent since the last time I was there, in 2009.
“Feckin’ parrots, they’re everywhere. Shite on them.”
Apparently they’ve been taking over from the native bird population with their squawking parrot ways, screeching from tree to tree, a flash of bright green gone before your eyes before you hear them squawking in disdain at you from the sanctuary of their high perches.
I don’t mind them actually, feeling they add a bit of colour to the place while giving the noisy madrileños a bit of competition.
My dad reckons two types of parrot have now moved in, from Uruguay and Argentina, though it’s unclear at this point in research if they work together in cahoots or terrorise the local bird populace independently of one another.
I have to say I didn’t see them in cahoots, nor do I know what a cahoot looks like, much less where a fella – or indeed a parrot – would get a cahoot. But you can’t put anything past these Latin American gangs and I suppose if they want cahoots they’ll get them.
We saw loads of parrots in the Casa de Campo in particular, along with rabbits and prostitutes who have little but a healthy sex life in common. If those parrots keep going the way they’re going it won’t long until they move in on that racket too. And hombre, do those parrots like making a racket.
Apart from walks in the Casa de Campo, where we snuck peaks at the lions, tigers and baboons through the fence at the back of the zoo (their prices are outrageous), we got up to little else while in Madrid.
We missed all the hulabaloo when the miners arrived from Asturias to protest against the loss of their livelihoods due to the Spanish government’s idiotic cutbacks. All the excitement happened while we were in Lozoya, which I wrote about already. Apparently the police fired steel bullets coated in rubber at protesters. Protecting their paymasters from voices of dissent. I guess their livelihoods won’t be threatened...
Poor Nipito looked like he had been in a scrap with them. He already had scratches and a huge bump on his forehead from various misadventures before he ran into a corner-edge of a table in Lozoya leaving him with a swollen black eye. He was lucky the corner wasn’t half a centimetre higher – or he half a centimetre shorter – or he might have lost the eye. He looked like he had been through 12 rounds with Vitali Klitschko and was quiet for the rest of the night. The black eye didn’t stop him running for long though, and he was at it again the next day, leaving us with hearts in mouths anytime he went near an evil table edge.
Thankfully there were no more serious injuries and we were able to enjoy the rest of my parents’ hospitality until we had to bid them adieu at Chamartin to board the train to Bilbao. ¡More adventures lay in wait!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Flaming Lips

Alien lands on the planet, wants a good time, wants to party, wants to know what bands to check out, he wants it here and he wants it now. Only one name you can give him – The Flaming Lips!
That lucky alien will return to his spaceship with his huge head fried, giddy after witnessing the show to end all shows, out of this world and all others, with confetti, streamers, puppets, lasers, balloons, dancing girls, naked girls, swooning girls, amazing sounds, rocking beats and lyrics that strike chords.
“Do you realize – that you have the most beautiful face; Do you realize – we're floating in space; Do you realize – that happiness makes you cry; Do you realize – that everyone you know someday will die; And instead of saying all of your goodbyes – let them know; You realize that life goes fast; It’s hard to make the good things last; You realize the sun doesn’t go down; It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round...”
In short, the greatest show on Earth!
That’s if he survives. I barely did. The Lips played the Greenville Festival in the middle of nowhere outside Berlin on Friday night, when there was no way of getting home afterward and sleep proved elusive with rain showers for (instead of) a tent, prompting 17 hours of catch up sleep yesterday after a night of climbing fences before being rudely awakened by security for sleeping in a restaurant.
You have to wonder about the mentality of people who want to be security guards, police etc. These sounded like they were auditioning for the Gestapo. I woke up with strange cuts on my chest, a head like nauseated granite and the feeling I’d been run over by a truck. I’m on my second pot of tea now and only starting to feel human again. Not that the alien will have to worry about feeling human...
I was slapped in the face by a girl at the press stand where I picked up my accreditation. Fucking mosquito got me just the same. Then there was a bizarre conversation at the bar over whether I wanted to pay with money or tokens.
“I don’t have tokens.”
“You can pay with tokens.”
“But I don’t have tokens.”
“Well, the beer’s not free.”
“I normally pay for things with cash. Do you still accept Euros?”
It turned out he did, as a token gesture.
I learned later (at another bar following another bizarre conversation) that you had to pay for beer with tokens and there was a counter where Euros were exchanged for plastic tokens worthless everywhere else. Perhaps a sign of things to come.
The mozzies had a field day, not surprising seeing as we were in a field.
Everything was alright again once the Lips exploded on stage, Wayne Coyle surfing the crowd in his giant transparent plastic ball.
There’s a good write up on Wayne Coyne in The Guardian here.
He told the crowd that the Lips first came to Berlin in 1988 and may have been responsible for changing history.
“Shortly after we came to Berlin, the Wall came down. I don‘t know if that’s connected, but it’s the truth,” he said before the band launched into Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell.
“I was waiting on the moment, but the moment never came. I must have been tripping...”
We all were. Thanks Lips, for another great show. Please come back soon.

I shot a video of Do You Realize?? but it’s too big to share (1GB or so) and I don’t know how to compress/bring it to sharing size. I even joined Vimeo but to no avail. If anyone has any tips, please share so I can too. ¡Muchas gracias!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gobshites, fuckers and a cock

Oh, how wonderful it is to be back. Please note the sarcasm dripping from each word. Please note that previous note was intended for any German readers and does not apply to non-Germans who are familiar with the notion of sarcasm. Please note the previous note was not sarcastic. Please note this is the last note to be noted or we won’t get anywhere at all with this post.
It was a rude awakening on the first morning back with some fucker mowing the grass at an ungodly hour yesterday. This morning some gobshite or several gobshites (or even the same fucker) were drilling the floor of the apartment above us. For fucking ages. Then, as if in solidarity, the fuckbag builders who are still building across the road started drilling and jackhammering with all the sadistic gusto they could muster. They’re still blocking the whole street and look like they’re there for the long haul. We’ve to keep the balcony doors shut to avoid going crazy altogether. The summer is ruined.
What good is fine weather if you can’t enjoy it? Work means I’ve no time for anything and the fuckers across the road are ensuring I can’t even enjoy it from the balcony. At least the paid work is a relief of sorts from the little beast and the unpaid household work at home. And thankfully there’s not much going on in the world of sports these days...
I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes since I got back, bitten all over. I wasn’t bitten once in Spain. It’s as if the mosquitoes here have been keeping track of all the bites they would have given me and now it’s payback time – with interest. Well, they are German mosquitoes.
As soon as we returned I noticed how German some Germans look. It’s uncanny. I hadn’t noticed it all before but for some reason it’s unmistakeable now. Or maybe it’s just the Pankowites that have a look about them that’s so remarkable.
And I’m running out of tea. I ran out of Tabasco today but moved swiftly to replace it at tremendous cost. €2.89 for a 57ml bottle of Tabasco! Kaisers informed me that’s €5.07 for litre. I’m sure liquid gold is cheaper.
To make matters worse, my shoes are on their last legs too. Usually they’re on my legs, which aren’t my last. At least I hadn’t planned on getting new ones. My legs are my first and only and I hope they stay my last.
Back to my shoes. They really are on their last legs. No other legs will take them. Banjaxed is the only word for them. The trip to Spain was a step, if not several steps too far for them. That was after two years of climbing over walls, under fences, down holes and up to no good.
I was quite fond of them. They were probably the first trendy pair of shoes I ever bought, had them shipped over from France at great expense and all. They’re made by The Sporty Cock, or to give him his proper French title, Le Coq Sportif. Yes, the French title sounds better, but then again, everything sounds better in French.
I’ve been trying to get replacements but shoes made by this Sporty Cock fellow seem to be hard to procure in Berlin. To make matters worse, he’s no longer shipping his shoes – even at great expense – to Germany, which I have to say isn’t very sporting of him, whatever his name.
Maybe he too – a cock for fuck’s sake! – is put off by the locals’ insistence on getting up at such ungodly hours.
If the builders and all the other fuckers allow it, I’ll start posting a few pictures and some more words from the travels. I’ll probably do the words first before they leave my head forever. I’ll let ye know when everything is up to date. Just don’t expect it anytime soon. These are times (and the land) of austerity after all.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gernika

Gernika’s a pretty town, though not the town it once was. We were there on Thursday, me and the young fella, wandering its rebuilt streets looking for a decent Menú del Día. We got one in the end for €10, bottle of wine between us and enough grub to keep us going for another while.
It’s quite a serene town now, with murals everywhere admonishing peace, freedom, tolerance, love and all that carry on.
There was very little of that around on Monday, April 26, 1937, when between 40 and 50 German and Italian planes screamed overhead dropping blast bombs, incendiary bombs and then machine gunning surviving residents as they fled for cover. It began at 4.30pm and continued uninterrupted for three hours leaving hundreds dead and all but one per cent of the village destroyed completely (71%) seriously (7%) or slightly (22%)*.
A map shows what parts of the village were completely destroyed in grey, with unaffected buildings in brown. There ain’t a lot of brown.
The Germans carried out the systematic destruction of the town to test the psychological effects on the retreating population by destroying civilian objectives. The Italians were supposed to take out the bridge to hinder the enemy’s retreat. They missed, the bridge survived.
Of course Hitler and Mussolini were all too keen to put their war toys to test once Franco gave them the invitation.
My poorly translated book on the atrocity revealed the philosophy behind it according to Grundsätze der Wehrpolitik of Hamburg in 1935: “If the cities are destroyed by flames, if women and children are victims of the suffocating poison gases, if the population ... perishes due to the bombs and torpedoes dropped from planes, it would be impossible to continue the war. The people would ask for an immediate end.”
For Germany, it’s another black mark in a short history blackened by them. The country can do no right. I don’t know how Angela can open her mouth.
Picasso furthered his fame with Guernica but little other good came out of it. Franco won the war and tried bullshit the population with propaganda blaming the destruction of Gernika on “the Reds” or the Gernikans themselves.
The village was reconstructed, my book from the tourist office tells me, “built and shaped” by private enterprises, especially “banks and savings banks”.
Bombs, banks, destruction. Plus ça change.

*I’m aware that the maths doesn’t quite add up here, but these are the figures given by my poorly translated guide book, which quotes the “official pro-Franco report” for the 71%, 7% and 22% while saying one per cent survived undamaged. We should assume the village (as they call it) was at 101 per cent before the bombing raid.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Snotshot of madity 5: Three halves!

Three halves! One and a half years old today! Jesus, time flies, though it feels a lifetime ago since he landed on the planet.
We celebrated with a plate of paella for the little fella. It’s one of his favourite dishes and when in Spain... Anyway, he lashed it up. I had to peel the prawns for him, eat the mussels and leave the crabs (neither of us know how to eat them) but he guzzled down the rice and everything else like it was the only meal he’d ever had. He topped it off with sandía (watermelon), one of his weaknesses along with olives, squid, prawns, spuds and milk. He didn’t eat them too (unless they were in the paella), I mean they’re his weaknesses too.
I also drank his wine. Only another three and a half years until he can drink it himself. Wow, his fifth birthday’s gonna be one helluva hooley...
But back to now. He’s only here a week and already speaking Spanish, proving beyond any shadow of doubt that it’s easier to learn than English or German. Neither a surprise, but now there’s proof!
Hola has become his standard greeting, sometimes Kinkified to Lola. Holalola, Lolalola. Added to Hallo, hello, hi, hey, hiya and – best of all – howya, it’s an impressive array of greetings in an ever increasing array of languages. He said Oiche Mhaith in response to my dad the other night, adding Irish to his impressive bow.
“Sure Jaysus, it must be tough for him learning five languages.”
One is bad enough. You know the one I mean.
Common words used irrespective of language or any sort of order include: mama, mana (milk or water in a bottle), wayer (water), Bauch (belly), ball, Ohr (ear), chee (cheese), alle alle (all gone/I’m finished), Gurke (cucumber), nee (honey), ha (hat), wha (what), keesh (keys) and nana (banana). Bye bye and nein get as much use as before. He says bye bye to fellow passengers when he leaves a train, or when they’re leaving before us. Travel would be much better if everyone did that from now on.
He still speaks his own language most of the time, which may or may not be Chinese. It certainly sounds like it but cannot be verified on account of my rusty mandarin. Yet again I’m thwarted by mouldy fruit.
He’s slowly learning my name is Paaaawwwww, spoken in a mid-west American drawl, the longer the better. He’d been calling me Bó up to now, Irish for cow, also not bad. As long as it’s not Papa, Papi, Peepee or any of them...
He can also talk while sneezing, an impressive feat. Mere snot will not halt him in mid sentence. A career in politics beckons. More snot, less speak.
Or maybe in football. He’s a great dribbler. I brought him up to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu earlier. They didn’t sign him straight away but I’m sure they’ll have scouts watching his every move from now on.
“He’s very well behaved generally,” said my dad, consequently implying I was a terror. “Apart from the few fits.”
Yep, he know what he wants and doesn’t like it when he doesn’t get it. The nip that is, not my dad, who is probably the same but has learned in the years since he was a one and a half year old not to show it.
Bring an end to any fun and the world’s about to end. Again, I mean the nip, not my dad.
Gettin’ washed stinks. Stinks worse than stinkin’ stinks.
And brushin’ teeth? Jaysus! The few teeth he does have have caused him so much trouble I’m not really surprised he doesn’t care for them as much as we think he should.
But he’s happy most of the time. He gives himself a round of applause anytime he accomplishes something he feels should be applauded. Anytime he climbs a chair, gets food in his mouth, negotiates stairs, finishes his milk, hears the magic words “good man” or completes a somewhat tricky task. Pretty often then.
Parents who think their kids are fantastic are deluded more often than not. None of them would survive if parents weren’t deluded. But I genuinely feel we’re incredibly lucky with the one we’ve got, thus confirming our delusion.
Once everyone’s happy that’s all that matters. Never mind yer Higgs boson, the bosom of happiness is all that counts.
Happy half birthday little hombre.

UPDATE (after photos have been added yonks later): All the photos here are from the period when he was 1¼ to 1½, except one, which was taken the day after he was 1½ (to the left). But there’s no need to be pedantic about it. They’re photos and that’s the main thing. The delay is scandalous I know, and I apologise with the utmost of profuseness for it. Of course, he looks completely different now, one month later.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Good while in Lozoya

Lozoya’s a very pleasant place to while away a few days, or even longer. We whiled away there, in the mountains to the north of Madrid, for the last few days and I wouldn’t complain if we’d more time to be whiling a little while longer.
It’s a small place, beside a great reservoir which quenches Madrid’s thirst – no small feat seeing as it hasn’t rained here for months – and surrounded by peaks, valleys, ravines, streams, rocks, trees, parched grass and dust.
Yes, it’s dry. Water is plentiful though, with people coming to fill their bottles from continuously flowing taps with the most delicious drinking water, but it comes only from the higher peaks where snow melts in the summer to fill the streams and rivers, and the poor trees away from the bubbling brooks are left high, dry and thirsty. It did rain once, but probably a freak occurrence, and everything was as dry again the next day.
Apparently they shot films here because the terrain is like Bolivia’s. Or because it’s closer than Bolivia and its terrain is exactly like Bolivia’s in films.
We stayed with Paulino, a kindly fat man with a very loud voice. Poor Nip didn’t know what to make of him. There’s no point saying nice things in a language the other doesn’t yet understand if you ROAR at them. It took a while for Paulino to coax a smile but he managed in the end. The rest of the staff loved the little fella too and seemed sorry to see him leave.
Menú del día was had every day, washed down with wine, after hikes in the unforgiving midday sun to local landmarks and beauty spots. Jaysus, our tongues were hanging out by the time dinnertime came. My parents were already looking forward to the next day’s menú del día a couple of hours after the last one.
We crossed Puente del Perdones on the first day, a bridge which was “the men’s last chance to be avoid being hanged”. It was too hot to ask which men, what the poor buggers were accused of, and who was doing the hanging. But sure, it doesn’t matter.
The main thing is that we crossed it and proceeded to the pools, where swimmers were frolicking and splashing about in the ice-cold water, still several degrees warmer than the Baltic. Nip jumped in, in the nip, and enjoyed it to the point of silliness. Splashing, slapping sticks in the water, throwing stones, it doesn’t get any better.
We made friends with a donkey, un pobre burrito, who we cheered up with fistfuls of dried grass and a paraguayo peach. I’d say he never had a peach before; he lashed it into him. So we gave him another, much to the nip’s annoyance when he got a taste for peaches only to be told: “The donkey et ‘em.”
We had to go then once we realised he was hungry. Still, he was happy to feed the donkey dried grass and with the rest of the animals he saw: horses, chickens, roosters, ants, young bulls, cats on the Plaza Mayor, fish in the lake. There were also butterflies and dragonflies a-plenty, with eagley-type birds soaring high overhead.
Only two bars were open last night, literally beside themselves, and it seemed the whole town was there too. Every table was taken with people greeting each other as they ambled past, while kids ran riot around one of the fountains beside them.
The little fella tried stealing some other kid’s bike, was mightily put out when he was told to let the frantic owner keep it. There was a daredevil little girl there too among others. The mother of one or all of them gave us a big goodbye when we were leaving. It seems once kids make friends (or enemies) their parents assume friendship too. Weird.
But that’s Lozoya. It’s a while away but a good while and it sure is closer than Bolivia.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

easyForUsNotYouJet

The “easy” in easyJet is evidently meant for the staff and the airline itself, as they do as little as humanly possible.
The passenger does all the work. You check in yourself, bring your bags onboard, or practically load them onto the plane. I suppose it won’t be long before they expect us to fly the damn things too.
“Speedy boarding” means you get onto the bus first, where a sign tells speedy boarders they should stand at the front of it so they can speed onto the plane before anyone else does. In other words, run! We only saw the sign as we were leaving after everyone else, having stood at the back of the bus we were among the first onto.
When you’re on the plane they then try squeezing some more easy money out of you, with a “free” chocolate bar for anyone gullible enough to buy a sandwich and soft drink for €8. Eight fucking yo-yos!
Of course it’s never easy travelling with an independent minded young being testing the boundaries of tolerance, and though we can hardly blame the airline for that, they didn’t make it any easier. So ‘twasn’t the easiest all in all, but we got here. That’s the main thing.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Tóg go bog é

So I bid adieu to Dáire tonight, over a hurried pint (or two) in between all the other distractions in each of our lives. I don’t like losing friends, much less great friends, but he’s moving back to Ireland after 14 or 15 years in this country and my selfish desire for him to stay in Berlin cannot be an impediment.
Of course I’m not really losing him. But Dáire’s been a harbour from rough Berlin seas, one of the greatest friends anywhere. He’ll remain one even if I can no longer access him as often as I should have when we were both living here. Tóg go bog é mo chara, your women too. You’re doing the right thing and deserve it working out for you.
Jesus, I’m getting all sentimental. There’s a thunderstorm roaring with lightning blitzing for attention outside just to make it more dramatic, rain crashing down, the wind still.
They’re not going for a few days yet, but we’re flying to Madrid in the morning, so I’d to meet him tonight or not at all. In between work, babysitting and packing. Just as it was for him too.
So tomorrow we’ll be in Madrid, my third home. The flight’s at six in the feckin’ morning, six! So we’ve to get up... well, now.
I’m not sure it’s going to happen, the getting up I mean. By the time these words pass before your eyes we’ll either by there, like zombies, or cursing a flight that proved too early to catch.
My parents would be cursing too. They’re due to meet us at the airport. Really they’re only coming to meet the little fella, who still has no inkling he’s going on his second holiday. I’m not sure he’s even packed yet. I’d better letter tell him to get a move on... ¡Vámanos!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Lullaby Luke

My inability to sing is dwarfed only by my dearth of knowledge of lyrics to songs. If indeed a dearth can dwarf anything. I can’t sing, shouldn’t sing, and couldn’t sing even if I could, if you catch my drift. When I was a kid, I was booted off the school choir for contaminating the angelic voices, being quickly identified as the culprit for my out of tune warbling and growling.
Not the ideal situation when you’re bringing your son to bed hoping he’ll fall asleep as soon as humanly possible so you can finally enjoy the one hour of your day he doesn’t consume.
Nevertheless, the inability to sing doesn’t stop Shane MacGowan or Bono, so I’d been persevering with the only songs I know the words to – U2’s MLK (sleeeeeeeep, sleep tonight), Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak, Seven Drunken Nights by The Dubliners, Whiskey in the Jar from Thin Lizzy again (complete with guitar solos), Patience from Guns N’ Roses (well, just the whistling in the beginning), Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead (I just kinda hum that ‘cause it’s such a fucking great song, I don’t know the words), the theme tune to Skippy (Skippy, Skippy, Skippy the bush kangaroo...), Dirty Old Town by The Pogues – and I’ve somehow croaked out enough for him to fall asleep eventually. (Probably to escape my croaking.)
Then I discovered my phone has YouTube and can play videos over the wifi connection. Bingo! The world’s biggest jukebox! I remembered when he was very young (still a nipper, nippin’) that he liked Luke Kelly, the man with voice of gold, and so I’ve been able to soothe his ears with one of Ireland’s greatest singers (if not the greatest) instead of assaulting them with my guttural tongue.
Consequently I’ve developed a new-found love for Luke Kelly – Jaysus he was brilliant! – through Raglan Road, Scorn Not His Simplicity, The Foggy Dew... There’s no end to them.
So now he hears Luke Kelly every night I bring him to bed. It either works a treat or backfires (more often than not) when he stays awake for hours so he can hear more of the great man. So he’s not long asleep, and now it’s time for me to join him...

Addendum; Later, after trying to link to YouTube videos – GEMA must be destroyed.

I’ve updated this with pictures of the man himself, taken with screengrabs from YouTube, so ye can see what he looked like. Like meself, he’d a fine head of hair.