A hanging Johnny in the parque

The last day of my week’s holiday was certainly full of activity, and was topped off with very weird find in a parque.

I actually set my alarm for 7.30am. You see, I’m one of those weird people who like to set their alarm half an hour before they actually have to get up on the Monday after a holiday; just to get myself in the routine. So I did. It was horrible after 10 days of no official alarms (just my son running in), but alas, we did get up at 8am on a Sunday, which meant we could go to Parque Porzuma.

We’d been meaning to go to Parque Porzuma for some time. It’s about a 30 minute walk from where we live, out in Mairena del Aljarafe in Sevilla, and it’s perfect weather now to go and spend the morning there.

As usual, even though we got up early, we didn’t leave the house till 11am. It’s one of those mysteries that I can’t get my head round. During the week, when the kids have to be up and out the house by 8.45am, we manage it. Of course with the usual stress of force feeding our kids and making sure they have the right pair of shoes on and have clean faces, but we’ve never been late (at least I haven’t). But when the weekend comes, no matter where we go in the morning, we never get out before 11am.


By the time we got to Porzuma, the sun was in full swing and the kids were eager to arrive to the parque.
“Donde esta? – Where is it?” asked my son, 15 times in the 30 minute walk. Each time he asked I did actually explain it to him, but as he’s only 3 so he doesn’t understand directions. He was still asking when we got near the entrance.

“Where’s the parque Daddy?”
“Just there, where those people are.” A couple were walking towards us. When they got to us, they’d obviously gone passed the door.
“Now Daddy?”
“No, it’s still up there a bit.”

When we finally got to the parque, my son ran up the steep welcome hill and almost fell over at the top. Then he went barmy when he saw the huge tunnel – slide (it must have been at least 6 times his height so no wonder he got a bit overjoyed). He jumped up and down and shouted that he’d seen a massive tunnel.

My daughter was equally excited, so much so that she started to take off her shoes. She’s only 2 and forgets that she needs shoes to walk, at least she does in the parque. So off we went to the huge tunnel, and I had a great time throwing myself down it, as did my son of course.

If you live in Sevilla, or are ever passing through then I’d recommend exploring Parque Porzuma. You can take a picnic and there are those funny public barbecues that people share. There’s also a great path all the way round and takes you past pretty flowers, and a dog training place, an overgrowing allotment, and two lakes, one which has water, and one which has dried up. This is where we set off next.

It was a struggle getting my son away from the parque, but I felt I had to. For some reason a couple of 6 years old Spanish kids were discussing the benefits of adding the word ‘f$cking’ to the phrase ‘Oh my God’. An interesting conversation, but not one for a 3 year old. So I had to get my son out of there because he’s picking up so much language recently.

So we got to the lake, which was my favourite part because I’m a fisherman at heart. I always wanted to give up my A Levels to become a professional fisherman, but my Dad wouldn’t let me. Or hang on, was that a footballer? Anyway, we got to the lake and saw a few turtles, so, as you do, we chucked in a biscuit. Then the carps started to come out. My son was as fascinated as I was. So I jumped over the protective fence and lifted him over so we could get a closer look.


This was great, but I forgot his sense of spacial awareness isn’t great so got plenty of frights each time he darted for the water. We emptied a good 20 biscuits or so in the lake for the fish and turtles. My daughter was getting annoyed though, she was making the usual moaning noises. So I did a swap to give her a closer look as well, she was just as eager to do a belly-flop in the lake, so we went round the other side in the hunt for some frogs.

It was the perfect end to a great holiday with my kids: being with nature, animal spotting, and just chilling out before going back to work. Luckily I had my new phone with me, so I managed to get some lovely photos too.


Then we saw the hanging Johnny.

We were on our way back to the massive tunnel, my son hoping to throw himself down it again, and I hoping to avoid any ‘Oh my God’ swearing kids, when I noticed a security bloke on a motorbike stop in front of us. My first thought was ‘Oh my Jesus he spotted me jumping over the fence,’ but I wasn’t the guilty one.

“Hi,” said my wife as we got closer.
“Can you believe it?” he said, nodding towards the outdoor gym, specifically to some pull-up rings.
“What’s that?” my wife said.
“It’s a hanging Johnny,” I wanted to say, but neither of them would have known what a hanging Johnny was, plus the security guard wouldn’t have been pleased with my joke.
“Can you believe it,” he said, again.
“But how? Isn’t the parque shut at night?” asked my wife.
“They jump over the fences and do what they need to do.” Literally. “At least I have gloves,” he said, tightening up the straps on his gloves. Rather him than me.

What did you do at the parque today Darling?
Oh, just the usual, stopped some fathers and kids from emptying biscuits into the lake, and tore off a used condom from the pull-up rings.

Que asco,” said my wife, which my son repeated, even though I’m pretty sure he didn’t know exactly what was disgusting (you see how he’s picking up everything so fast?)
We didn’t stick around (or hang around) to find out how the security guard got off the Johnny. I was desperate to take a photo, but my wife wouldn’t let me. He survived though as we saw him a little further up the road telling someone else about the hanging johnny.

Thinking back, it was pretty sick, but I suppose when young people need to do their thang, then they have nowhere else to go. But it was a bit harsh to tie the used condom up on the ring. Did they not think that someone had to pull it down again?

I’d still recommend going to the park though; it’s a great place for kids, has a massive tunnel, and a lovely spot to feed some fish, turtles, and go frog spotting.


Have you seen my badger book?

Been killing my brain this week about setting up a new blog, but I just can’t face it. Having such a great week with my kids gave me loads of ideas to write about them and start a Daddy blog. I was going to call it, but in the end have decided to keep focused on my dream of becoming a novelist, so that was just a waste of brain power.

After reading this post on Writers Write I’ve decided to take their advice and just go with the flow and keep an author diary. I do actually love writing in diary form; I have ever since I was a kid.

I kept one at Uni and each time I went away on a lad’s holiday I also wrote down funny anecdotes, including catch phrases that we invented. It was so much fun. I’ll have to dig them out one day write up a couple.

Badger book
That is one scary badger. Maybe it ate my book. Photo by janetmck

The first one was called The Badger Book, which was a book with a badger on it. I wrote it with a mate of mine, Tony, who won a trip to Denmark on a booze cruise. We got absolutely wasted for 3 days and kept a diary. It probably just had a load of silly comments, most illegible as we were rather hammered, but I bloody lost it, and we were gutted. If you’ve found it, then let me know and I’ll send you my address.

Not as gutted as we were about the weather though. The last 48 hours of the trip was horrific. We were actually delayed arriving back to England thanks to stormy seas. It was so rocky at one point I was holding on to the bed and retching on the floor. We spent two days puking our guts up in a cabin. When we finally got on dry land it still felt as though we were rocking about; seasickness is an awful feeling. I remember distinctly not being able to taste coke for about a week afterwards because my insides had taken such a battering.

Anyway, so I plan to write this diary when I can or if anything interesting happens to me or not; normally not, but I’ll try and have a bash at making it entertaining or funny somehow.

I managed to get out of cleaning the patio outside today (there you go, now that’s exciting). It’s about 35 degrees here in Seville and thanks to a crazy week watching processions and carrying my two kids about I’ve pulled my lower back, which is a pain, literally, but it does mean I don’t have to clean the patio, one of my pet hate jobs.

One shouldn’t have to clean an outdoor patio darling, well, I’m afraid you do. To be fair, this time it’s exceptionally dirty. A group of birds decided to use our favourite plant/bush as a dumping ground and sprayed it a nice shade of white and brown. This also attracted the bloody ants, which come out every year at this time. So the other afternoon, while the kids were asleep, I got on my hands and knees and cleaned the ants nest festering underneath. I also sprayed some new ants spray (we’ve tried 3 different ones) and the concoction with last years powder has had a positive effect and got rid of the ants. Trouble is the brown and white graffiti is still on the floor, so my poor wife is cleaning it up (sorry Darling, trying to keep this diary as honest as possible). I’ll do the next one.

What is your pet hate around the house?

That’s all for the first diary entry, hope I haven’t scared you off too much.

Semana Santa

Semana Santa, but where’s Santa?

Semana Santa, that mental festival where everyone dresses up in funny cloaks and pointy hats and scares all the non-religious people out of the city, has come round again.

Cristo de Burgos
El Cristo de Burgos leaving the church in San Pedro. I’m in this procession, but not this year! Photo by ErKillo

I’ve got mixed feelings about it this year. I was all up for doing my procession, or penitence, but things haven’t worked out. I’ve participated in the Cristo de Burgos for the last 6 years (yes, I wear a cloak and a funny pointy hat) apart from one year when I flew back to Blighty just after my son was born. So, unfortunately, because I’m quite proud of wearing my cloak and pointy hat, I won’t be participating. My suegro (father-in-law) has had a bad leg for a while and my cuñao (brother-in-law) is working in Malaga and can’t get the time off.

If I had more balls, then I’d do it on my own. For at least 6 hours of it I am, technically, alone, apart from the 500 or so other Nazarenos. But going to the church alone, being inside alone, and leaning against the pillars when we return to the church in San Pedro to relieve the severe back pain on my own, just seems too much.

Being part of a 3 century year old procession is an honour too. I don’t know of any other guiris actually in one, so if you are then get in touch. Most expats and teachers I know are not all that up for it and most try to get away for the week and escape the scariness.

If I wasn’t living out in the sticks I’d probably just do it. But it’s the whole journey of going from here (Mairena, about 10km away) on the metro with all my gear (I carry the cloak and pointy hat, even though I thought I was going to wear it last year, until I realised no other Nazareno was dressed up on the metro). Plus I have to get a cab home after too, so I won’t arrive until about 3am. And knowing that my son has a habit of running in with whatever his latest favourite toy is and smashing me on the conker with it, has swayed my decision to give it a miss this year.

Deep down I’m pretty gutted, but I can still enjoy the festival. I love Semana Santa though: the atmosphere, the music, the jamón, beers, smell of incense, bumping into my students and feeling popular, the goosebumps, and the special memories I have.

While watching processions I spend most of my time reminiscing. I think back to when I first got to know my wife properly during my first Holy Week, and starting to know her family too. Also one year my Dad was over for it, and another year my mum too when my daughter was born, so each procession that I’ve seen always holds special memories.

At least I’ll be in form for the Madrugada though. I’m often knackered after doing the procession on the Wednesday, but this year I’ve been given permission to go and watch the most spectacular part on Thursday night through to Friday morning. Once the kids are wrapped up in bed I’ll be out and about, probably to see El Silencio, El Gran Poder, and if I can Los Gitanos, which are my 3 favourites. My plan is to come home, have a kip, and then go back again; this time with my wife and kids, to catch one or two in the morning, but as most things in life now, it’s not as easy with kids.

Take yesterday for example. Domingo Ramos. Every year that we lived in the centre, it was a doddle. We met up with family for lunch, then went out and saw a few processions, but now it’s a whole different ball game. Firstly it took us 2 hours to get ready. Then we had to get the metro in, with our packed lunches, bags, and the pram. On the metro we had to fold up the pram to make room for the thousand other prams (when I was kid free I always used to curse the people with prams, but now I totally get it; you try carrying a 18kg son about all day).

It was actually less busy than I thought it would be. I was expecting to get mobbed, squashed into the corner with my kids screaming, but we had a seat and getting off wasn’t too bad, just a minute extra in the queue at the other side.

Seeing the processions for the first real time with my son was special. It was tricky to explain the concept of Semana Santa to him though. There’s no way a 3 year old would understand the concept of a weekly procession to remember what Jesus did. In fact, when I first watched processions on the tele, he came up with a tricky question.

“This is Semana Santa,” I said as a Virgen came out the church hiding behind some candles.
“Papi,” he said (a name which I hate him calling me).
“Daddy, yeah?”
“But where’s Santa?”
He stumped me. It was a great question and one that had never even crossed my mind before. All I could come up with was.
“He’s sleeping.”
“Because that night in Christmas took it right out of him, so he’s still tired.”

Photo by glezserna

Pure innocence. He was fascinated by the drums though, and spent the next 2 days asking when we were going to see the drums.

When we finally turned up to watch La Paz, round by the Parque Maria Luisa, he was blown away by the bands. The look on his face of pure joy as the drums went passed did clog up my throat a little. In my first Semana Santa the music had moved me rather than the actual pasos. Seeing his little face lit up was a dream.

That was at about 2pm, and it was heating up, so after a break back at the in-laws gaff, we set off again to see La Estrella.

Stupidly we picked one of the longest processions of the day, and arrived just as the Cruz de Guia (the first main cross) got over the bridge. So we had to watch the whole thing. Well, we didn’t have to, but my son was then all set on getting as many sweets as possible from the Nazarenos, and my daughter was hell bent on organising them in her own special way in the pram. So we stayed, on the bridge, hot, sweaty, tired, for about an hour.

It was worth the wait though. Just as the Christ got to the end of the bridge it stopped, then the band played some lovely music as it continued down towards the city. I must have had about 5 or 6 sets of goosebumps as it went along, mainly because I was there now with my son on my shoulders and my wife holding our daughter. It was a lovely moment, and one that I knew we wouldn’t beat today, which is why we didn’t bother to go into the centre and just chilled at home and went to the park up the road (a massive bonus of living out of the centre during Semana Santa; you can chose when you see it, not the other way round).

The worst part of the day was getting back. Walking from el Puente de Triana and up to Plaza Cuba carrying my daughter in the 30 degree was a penitence in itself, the only consolation was that she did give me several kisses- without me asking. For the trip home on the metro my son began to question about Semana Santa though.

“Daddy, yeah?”
“Where was Santa?”
“He was tired mate.”
“Because he probably spent the afternoon watching pasos, and that just wears you out.”
“Okay. Can we see the drums again tomorrow?”

“If you’re a good boy.”

“Thanks, Daddy.”