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.)


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.

B is for Belén

Belén is the Spanish equivalent of Bethlehem.

If you visit a typical Spanish household at this time of year, you are likely to find a Belén, or a nacimiento (literally, birth). This is mainly a representation of the birth of Jesus and always includes baby Jesus in his manger, Joseph and the Virgin, an ox and and a donkey and sometimes, the Angel. The full version will depict the whole town of Bethlehem, with its shepherds and townspeople, its animals and landscapes. Away from the stable, you will see the Three Wise Men on their camels, on their way to see the Baby Jesus. As the 6th January approaches (Twelfth Night, when the 3 Wise Men finally arrived in Bethlehem), the figures will be moved nearer to the stable.

My uncle used to set up a really big, traditional Belén, but this year they’ve gone for a mega-mix of styles, which you can see below.

If you are visiting Spain this time of year, make sure you look for the town’s Belén or the different Belenes around the city. Some of them are beautiful works of art.

A traditional nacimiento.

A traditional nacimiento.

The traditional version

Another traditional version.


The very small version, made up of typical Spanish figures.

The Three Wise Men arrive.

The Three Wise Men arrive.

Another variation.

Another variation.


Austere times.

Austere times.

An artistic version.

An artistic version.


The multicultural version.

The multicultural version.


All together now.

All together now.


With thanks to Kevin for the pictures and to my Tíos for hosting New Year’s Day once more!


B is for Severiano Ballesteros

I’ve never really followed sports much – well, maybe the odd championship or two. I never had any interest in golf, but I grew up hearing the name Ballesteros over and over again, mainly associated with sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication.

I never had any personal connection with the man. I never had any emotional connection with the game of golf. Yet reading about his death as I researched this post still brings tears to my eyes.

Seve, as he was known, didn’t learn to play golf in the comfort of a golf course, but on the beach, a fact that many think was key to his success. Only every now and then, at night time, when there was a full moon, would he sneak into the golf course next to his house in Pedreña (Cantabria, in the North of Spain).

At 16, he took part in his first professional national championship (Campeonato de España) and came 20th. Two years later, he came second in the British Open, alongside Jack Nicklaus.

Ballesteros rapidly became well known and respected in international circles. Tom Kites said of him:

When he gets going, it’s almost as if Seve is driving a Ferrari and the rest of us are in Chevrolets.

He was the first European player to win the Masters in 1980 at the age of 23 – and the youngest player to win the title at that time.

During his lifetime, Seve won 87 championships but his greatest achievement was to put European golf up there with its American counterpart. It was under his leadership that the European team won the Ryder Cup in 1997. The public’s adoration of the man only grew as, unable to play himself due to his status of home ground captain, he passionately rode alongside the team in a golf cart, encouraging the rest of the team.

In 2008, Ballesteros was diagnosed with a brain tumour, after which he set up the Fundación Seve Ballesteros, dedicated to promoting and financing brain cancer research.

On 7th May 2011, after numerous operations and chemotherapy, Seve died at the age of 54, becoming a legendary figure representing hard work, sportsmanship and decency.

To find out more about Severiano Ballesteros and his foundation, visit his official web.

B is for Bodorrio

“Bodorrio” is one of the colloquial ways for “Boda” – wedding.

It refers to a big wedding – although big in Spain usually means lots of food!!!!! There are not many traditions that take place in Spanish weddings, making the reception more like a big party. First course (primer plato); second course (segundo plato); dessert; cake; coffee etc In addition to all the “aperitivos” you will get before the meal. And then usually, a free bar and lots of dancing until well into the night (4 – 6pm).

The microphone on the right should give you a clue about this wedding's decade. Things have changed (a bit). Above, my parents and respectives. My mother's mum and my father's dad. Another way in which my parents innovated. Curious as to why?

I do like Spanish weddings, although I think they have become something of a “commercial transaction”.  Before I elaborate on this, let me share with you something I read today that prompted me to write this post.

If you are invited to a dinner party, you can bring a gift – flowers, wine, or whatever counts as a friendly gesture. If instead, you leave $100 on the table at the end of the meal, you will destroy the atmosphere because you have turned a social interaction into a commercial exchange.

(Harvard Business Review article “The Unselfish Gene” July/Aug 2011 Fayard & Weeks)

If any of you have ever received a wedding invitation with an account number inside it, you will know what I mean.

Wedding lists are still tradition in Spain, but as couples marry later on in life and already have their 8 piece set of eggholders, their dishwasher and flat TV in place, what use is a Wedding List for them? Much better just to get the cash! So if you are invited to a Spanish wedding, be ready to dish out 100 EURO per head.

Or, if like me, you still prefer to keep this a social occasion, you can choose to ignore all social conventions and give them a personal gift! I haven’t been spat at yet (neither literally nor metaphorically) – at least not to my face.

Do leave your favourite/hated Spanish (or other) wedding traditions here, if you wish. And be ready to shout:


To incite the rest of the guests to shout: