G is for Guiri. Happy Guiri.

Who is the Happy Guiri?

He (or she, they can also be a she) is a person currently away from the land they grew up in.

That doesn’t mean they’re not happy. On the contrary. The happy guiris, by their very name and nature, manage to find happiness everywhere they go. Why?

They look around them and wonder at the wanders of human nature. They also wonder at the wanders of nature, full stop.

They take in what’s different, they take in what’s new. They compare, maybe, and then they move on.

The happy guiri is warm, not indifferent.

The smile behind his eyes takes in the whole world.

If he carries a camera, he still takes in life as he breathes and doesn’t just see the world through a rose-tinted lens. He might be “away” for two days, he might be “away” for two years, two decades…

Happy guiris know that there’s no place like home, but they also know that home is where the heart is. (They also speak in clichés every now and then.)

He’ll always feel like a guiri because he knows there’s a different way. But he will always be happy. A happy guiri.

“What is a guiri?” Guiri is the term that the Spanish use for foreigners, mainly for tourists, but not exclusively. I mainly hear it used affectionately now. In Spain, you can still spot a tourist or a foreigner; in London it’s a little bit harder. So a guiri is someone who breaks the mold, if only because their points of reference are different to most people around him/her. I now consider myself a guiri in Spain; I even look like one, especially when I walk around with my Dutch boyfriend who really looks the part. So, I’m a foreigner in the UK and a guiri in Spain. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner…

B is for Batalla de Vecinos

Batalla = Battle. Vecinos = Neighbours

Hello, it’s been a while. Time flies and I only really like to blog when I have something to say. If you’re wondering what made me return to my keyboard, have a look at this, the view from my parents’ kitchen window one quiet Easter afternoon in Madrid. (Click on the image, you’ll enjoy it more.)

carbattle

It probably doesn’t look that dramatic, but it was interesting enough to pick up the binoculars and have a close look. This car park is surrounded by three seven-storey buildings and to enter it, you have to open a gate. (I know this might sound like we’re a bit posh, but this is not the case.)

As I was staring at the car, I saw a man walk nearby, look at it, look at the building in front of it, and look back at the car.

“Surely this hasn’t happened here. This huge dent on the car’s roof is probably the result of it being near a building site or similar,” I thought.

Not quite.

My mother found out what had happened from our portero (concierge).

You might be able to see the blue paint under the car. It shows the space is a disabled parking space. Well, apparently the nice owner of this car keeps parking in one of the three disabled spaces. She has been warned by the chair of the residents’ association a few times, in writing. The nice lady’s reply seems to be that there are 3 parking spaces, but only eight badge holders in this community, so she can’t see the problem with parking in this space. Maybe she doesn’t understand that there are ways of approaching this which are much more civil and better than breaking the law. You would think that, as apparently, she works as a prosecutor.

This neglect of following any rules of civility in the car park is commonplace in this community. There are some areas in the car park where you can only park for 30 minutes maximum. This is so that there’s always a space for the cars to maneuver and to have room for emergencies. Or for ambulances to park – when last summer my father was brought back home in an ambulance, the ambulance had to park on the pavement, cowboy-style.

So eventually, it looks like a neighbour got fed up and decided that the only way to stop this nice (prosecutor) woman was by throwing a rock at the top of her car. They also left her some poetic bits of text on the windscreen, but unfortunately by the time I decided I wanted to write this post, the car had gone so I can’t share them with you here. Apparently the nice (prosecutor) lady has kept the rock and will obviously press charges. Good luck to her and all the other people who think social rules were written for somebody else.

S is for Siesta

The word siesta (that nap people take in the afternoon) is as well known and popular as the word tapas. In the same way that you can’t assume that Spanish people eat tapas all day, you also can’t assume that all Spanish people take siestas. Some do and some don’t, but the time after lunch, from around 3.30 to 5.30 pm is still referred to as la hora de la siesta.

As you can imagine, I never thought about the origin of the word siesta, it’s just a word. But yesterday I was reading Tony Schwartz’s excellent book Be Excellent at Anything when I came across the origin of the word. The book talks about how to structure your work and look after yourself to make the most out of life (a very, very interesting proposition and one which is laid out extremely well). The author dedicates quite a chunky chapter to sleep and mentions the restorative power of naps. It also talks about how useful and productive dividing your day into separate periods can be. The Romans used to do it apparently, as far as the first century B.C. One of these periods was the midday rest, which took place six hours after dawn, so it had the name of “sexta”, sixth. Sexta has eventually involved into siesta, which has come to mean “the nap after lunchtime”.

If you’re like me and begin to feel sleepy just before lunch, around, then you might be related to a bovine animal, as this nap is referred to as “la siesta del carnero”, the ram’s nap.

(For more on Siesta, check out the A to Z of Spanish Culture podcast on iTunes.)

 

E is for Eurovisión 2013

Well, I missed most of it, I’d completely forgotten it was on, so I only caught it half way.

Not sure who’s won, but if Greece don’t win… well, they were the best, life is unfair…

The best act had to be Sweden’s own incredibly witty, well-written, self-mocking song, with lyrics like “seasoned with a hint of horse” (referring to their meatballs, of course). A great act to keep us staring at the TV while the audience voted.

Ironically, while there is so much talk in Britain (or should I say England after what happened in Scotland) of leaving the EU, most of the songs were in English. Plus, the Swedish song at one point could have been about Britain: people loving queues , standing in trains, not really making eye contact…

Are we really that different?

I suppose the answer is yes, but then, aren’t we constantly being bombarded here about the benefits of Diversity? Or has that agenda just gone out the window now? I suppose not, considering most of the countries sent singers to launch their careers, whereas the UK decided the festival would be a great full stop to the career of a legend.

E is for Extras on the Letter K

As promised, here are the other suggestions I was sent through when I asked for Spanish personalities to feature in a post on the letter K.

Karina
60’s pop singer.

Kiko Veneno
Spanish artist still going strong.

Kaka de Luxe
A punk-rock group formed in the late 70’s, headed by Alaska. Olvido Gara, who has always been known as Alaska, has managed to reinvent herself through the decades and still remains in the public spotlight.

Kiko (from Verano azul)
Most probably spelt Quico, but what a great excuse to talk about Verano azul in this blog.

Verano Azul (Blue Summer) made its mark on Spanish teenagers who watched TV in the 80’s. I remember the gang, on their bicycles, happily riding around the town where they spent their summer holidays. And the tune, oh the tune. If you’ve got two minutes, have a look:

K is for Karlos Arguiñano

In February I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to help me come up with the subject for a post on Spanish personalities, as I was pretty stuck on the letter K. I got some very interesting suggestions, some of which I had already thought of, some of which I would never have come up with, like the one heading this post (thanks @grahunt!).

It’s taken me a while to write this post – especially as I realised that in my angst to  talk about Juan Carlos I, the king who has fallen from grace, I missed out the post on “I”. So, before I tackle that one, here is my post on Karlos Arguiñano. It will be followed by an extra post on K, to include all the other interesting suggestions that were posted (or sent) my way.

Karlos Arguiñano

Karlos_Arguiñano

As is often the case, until I started writing this post, I knew very little about Arguiñano. as he shot to fame in 1991, just a year after I left Spain. He’s not just a celebrity chef, but a very charistmatic entrepreneur who owns a restaurant (which he set up way before he hit the spotlight), one of the co-founders of the Basque Culinary Centre, film producer and he even runs a moto-racing team. Oh, and he’s the father of eight children, two of whom are adopted.

Arguiñano grew up as the eldest of four children whose mother had become disabled. That was probably the reason why he had to start cooking at an early age and, by the time he was 17, he had decided he wanted to become a professional cook.

In 1978, he opened a hotel/restaurant in the town of Zarautz, in Gipuzkoa (native spelling). For 199 Euros, you can have a double room, a “taster” menu and breakfast in the KA, Karlos Arguiñano hotel.

In 1991, after hosting his own cooking programme on Basque television, he began to present “El menú de cada día” on TVE1, the main channel of Televisión Española. The programme got people talking about cooking, even if most of the audience rarely put any of the chef’s tips into practice and was just happy to watch this funny, charismatic man.

A man increasing the ratings of a TV cooking programme. That is why I thought it would be worth dedicating a post to him. I’m willing to be proved wrong, but the average family still favours women being the ones who cook and it was great to remind men that spending time in the kitchen was ok. Things are definitely changing and women my generation might still land someone to share the culinary chores with them.

Back to Arguiñano, having conquered the small screen, Karlos now has turned to another one of his passions: motorcycle racing. In 2011, he introduced the Arguiñano Racing Team when it took part in the Moto 2 competition. I watched an interview with him on YouTube and loved his relaxed manner as he talked about what is no doubt, the realisation of a dream. A dream which probably (my guess, not his words) began to look possible when he cooked for Carlos Sainz during the racer’s stay at the hotel where Arguiñano worked. I leave you with the interview, which I much prefer to the many clips there are of him telling jokes. I wish him the best of luck with this parallel career!


 

Image by By Ana Sánchez Cruzat [CC-BY-SA-2.1-es (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/es/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

C is for Consejo

In addition to The A to Z of Spanish Culture, I’ve written a few other books: all short and sharp. I seem to write best in short bursts and it also looks like I have a limited amount of things to say about each subject!

I first noticed this when I realised the best work I was doing with Forbidden Theatre Company was in the Freestyle Performances. These were short (20 mins or less) work in progress pieces where members of the Ensemble used to try out ideas for new plays and new styles. Some of my best writing and directing took place at this event. That, together with the fact that none of my books seem to be more than 100 print pages long has led me to believe that for me, short is best. (For those of you who’ve met me, you will probably see the double meaning in that last phrase.)

So having self-published some books, I think I have a little bit of advice (consejo) to give to anyone who is thinking of making money with non-fiction e-books. My first pearl of wisdom is: you won’t make that much money but it might just pay the bills.

If you are looking for more advice on this, head of to http://www.paidto.co.uk, where I have written a post titled Make Money Writing E-books. I hope it’s of help. (While you’re there, you might also want to read another of my posts: Networking and Learning through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.)

While I’m on promotion mode, here are some of my other books. They are all available through the Kindle store and Smashwords, where you can purchase any type of e-book, including a PDF version. The A to Z of Spanish Culture and Your Handy Companion to Devising and Physical Theatre are also available as paperbacks from Amazon and Lulu. (I am to make the other two also available in paper, but it just takes a bit more time to get them ready.) Click on the photos for more information.

leadership-in-your-pocket-cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Thriving through Change at work cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

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