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.)

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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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J is for Juan Carlos I

If I’d sat down to write this two years ago, this would have been a very different post. I really feel like the Spanish monarchy has fallen from grace and, pretty much like the other European monarchies, it seems like the time has come to change their role or disappear all together.

During the last years of his life, Franco began to ease prince Juan Carlos gradually into Spanish life as the next ruler in line. Whether out of a particular liking to this future king or just out of dislike for his father, don Juan de Borbón, Franco preferred to leave Spain in the hands of Don Juan Carlos.

In 1975, after Franco’s death, Juan Carlos returned to Spain to become her king, restoring the monarchy to the country and, many hoped, democracy as well. I’m sure many SpaniaJuan Carlos Irds were very grateful to the king for going down the democratic route rather than prolong the dictatorship. I was too young then to have any understanding of this. What I do remember is never hearing anything against the king or his family for most of my life, apart from the common jokes about royal in-breeding. These jokes were affectionately made by playing on the fact that Borbón, the royal name, is extremely close to bobón (from bobo, stupid). You can imagine how the omission of one letter could lead to very popular jokes.

Many sighs of relief were heard when, instead of taking full advantage of his role as head of the army to rule by force, Juan Carlos showed his commitment to change the way Spain was governed by appointing Adolfo Suarez as Spain’s president very soon after he became king.

I grew up being slightly curious about the Royal family. The elegant Queen Sofia, who is Greek, playing to perfection her role of mother and monarch while her three children smiled at the camera – poor things, I always thought, who would want to be stuck in that world? But the royal family always seemed to remain human, with their smiles and sporting lifestyle.

When I was just seven years old, I was skiing with my mother and we were staying in the same hotel as the king. My mother always said the king winked at me. She also told me that a girl had approached the king and asked him, “They say the King is staying at this hotel. He’s the one whose face is on the coins.” I don’t think the king embarrassed her by introducing himself.

As the prince and princesses grew up, they also began to date, bringing the Spaniards into the debate of who should marry whom and whether the next in line (the man of course, in spite of being the youngest) should be allowed to marry someone of non-royal blood. The Royal Family has always filled the pages of magazines such as Hola and their love lives have given the prensa del corazón plenty of stuff to talk about. A divorce, a fraud scandal and the marriage to an ambitious journalist have all been part of the Royal children’s lives.

Unfortunately, the royal family has now become front page news. In 2012, Iñaki Urdangarin (Princess Cristina’s husband and also an ex-olympiad handball player, I told you they were sporty) was accused of siphoning funds from the not-for-profit company he was running with the princess. Allegedly, around 2.3 million euros from the Balearic Islands’ government (that’s Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca) and 3.7 million from Valencia’s government had ended up in Urdangarin’s pockets, after being diverted through the organisation he owned, which was originally set up to run sports conferences and other events. (Source: elmundo.es on 17/4/2012)

At a time when the country was already more than disillusioned with its politicians, to see that corruption extended to the Royal Family (for the role of the princess and king played in all of this is still not completely clear) came as a big, royal blow.

That same year (an Olympic one as we can see, from more than one point of view), Juan Carlos broke his hip… while shooting elephants in Botswana. I could say “enough said” but actually, it isn’t. Not only was the king of a country in social and economic pain out in Africa playing a dubious “sport” but, let’s just say, that the queen wasn’t faithfully by his side. Although the whole episode was once more carried with dignity by the Greek member of the Spanish Royal Family, this incident really highlighted how much of a farce the Royal Family had become. In fact, 2012 was extremely farcical for the Royal Family, as it included someone shooting themselves in the foot – literally!

An apology from the King for the Botswana episode (which was made even worse by the fact that he was honorary president of the WWF at the time) was nowhere as near a poignant TV appearance as the one I will always remember. On the 23rd of February 1982, when the military tried to take over parliament, Juan Carlos calmly appeared on the T.V. screen to reassure the population that we weren’t about to go again down that very dark dictatorial path. In sad contrast, this last Christmas during his annual message to the Spaniards, he urged separatists (of which there are many now, from all regions) to keep Spain united. Completely wasted words from a figure recently fallen from grace.

Photo credit: By Juan_Carlos_I_Rey_de_España_2009.jpg: *Andrus_Ansip,_Juan_Carlos_I.jpg: Estonian Foreign Ministry derivative work: DPC (talk) derivative work: Escarlati (Juan_Carlos_I_Rey_de_España_2009.jpg) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons