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.

Humour, learning spanish

PEPINO! Learning a foreign language will do nasty things to your brain

It will make you believe you are saying one thing, but are actually saying another. It will force you to realise just how little you know about your native language. It will drive your dream brain when you are asleep, and jolt you awake because you’ll be shouting out random vegetables using foreign words.

A lovely pepino… Photo by Jim


It’s happened to me.

In short, it will mess your head up, but I’d still recommend the challenge.

There are many reasons to put yourself through this painful learning process. If you hadn’t guessed from my blog already, I speak Spanish. My abilities are a total mix though. My listening is probably C1, speaking B2, reading B2, and writing an A1, because all I do with regards to writing is scribble down shopping lists, and send the occasional sweet poem on What’sApp.

When I was doing a CELTA qualification, way back 13 years ago, I had a chat with a bloke who was going to live in Ecuador. It went like this.

“So why have you chosen Ecuador?” I asked.

“To learn Spanish.”

“Why don’t you just go to Spain?”

“I don’t know, I like turtles and I think I’ll have fun chatting with them on the Galapagos Islands.”

“I guess you will.”

“I’m going for five years, you know.”

“I do now. Why’s that?”

“Because that’s how long it will take to really master the language.”

“It will if all you’re going to be doing is chatting with turtles.”

I thought he was insane, but now I know he was right. Now and then I wonder if he’s still there, speaking to turtles, and if he’s got a C1 level now. Continue reading “PEPINO! Learning a foreign language will do nasty things to your brain”

Annoying things in Spain, Humour, Seville

The Nutters of Sevilla

Daisy are you out there? Photo by D0282

I met a fair few nutters on my trip around the world. The scariest was a 6ft transvestite called Daisy, who I met while on a greyhound bus on the way to L.A. She told me she was going to see her Mum because she’d got her a job as a show girl. Also on the greyhound bus were a drugged up couple. One of which was wearing illuminous pink shades. They both got off the bus at every chance to pop another pill. And not forgetting the obese Chinese guy I met in Siem Reap who had a go at me for going to see Angkor Wat because he said I should prefer seeing natural wonders of the world.

Continue reading “The Nutters of Sevilla”


Frustrations of learning Spanish

“Can you pass me some of that nice, juicy cock, please?” was my first ever innocent Spanish mistake. To some people this would have seemed funny, but, unfortunately for her, and me, I was speaking to my mother-in-law.

learning spanish
I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘C’… But which is it? Photo by blue_quartz

“I think you mean chicken,” she said, politely; pointing out that chicken – pollo, was a tad different to cock – polla. I haven’t asked for cock at the dinner table since (or anywhere else for that matter). But, even now if there is chicken on the table, especially a big juicy plate of it, then I get bead of sweat dripping down my forehead as I focus on the correct ending of the word. I also always make sure when my in-laws come for lunch we opt for pork, or fish, but never chicken.

It’s been a long hard battle to get up to my level of Spanish (which is not fluent, nor accurate most of the time), and just recently I’ve begun to wonder whether I should get back to studying it again. I mean, after 10 years of living in Sevilla you would have thought that people would stop saying ‘you’re not from round here, are you?’ after listening to me speak more than a few lines. And I’m not just talking about grammar problems, silly accents, or rude innuendo mistakes.

Continue reading “Frustrations of learning Spanish”

Culture Shock, Great things about Spain, Humour

Is country life all it’s cracked up to be?

life in the country
This is not my house. Photo by Moyan-Brenn

Well, there aren’t pigs trotting about, or cows waking us up in the morning with some noisy mooing, but life out nearer the country is, as we’d hoped, a lot more pleasant. It’s been about three months since we moved out the centre of Sevilla and I miss it less as each day goes by.

If you’re thinking of moving to the outskirts of a city, especially in Spain, then have a look at my latest article for Expat Focus titled You can’t beat a bit of Country Air. I babble on about being close to nature, country air, the lack of noise, and outside space.

For a look at some of my other articles about expat life then look here.


From One to Two, From a Dog to a Zoo

About three weeks back, a good friend of mine asked me how it was going.

“How you coping with two kids? Hair gone grey yet? Do you know the expression from one to two, from a dog to a zoo?”

I’d never heard it before, but after just a week of being a dad of two little monkeys, with only 18 months apart, I knew exactly what he was going on about.

dog to zoo
“How long shall we give them before we start screaming for food?” “Let’s just get on with it.” Photo by Herls Tom

As a dog owner I can safely say that looking after a westie is no comparison to trying to manage two kids. Westies don’t interrupt your sleep, they don’t need burping at 5am after a bottle of milk, and when hungry they don’t scream as if you’ve just dipped their toe in a boiling cup of water.

I’ve been to a few zoos around the world, but I’ve never been drawn to the idea of feeding penguins for a living, running after giraffes in the evening to get them back in their tall houses, or having to clean out monkey cages. I guess it’s hard to compare my new life to one of a zoo keeper, but I reckon a zoo keeper probably has it quite easy. Continue reading “From One to Two, From a Dog to a Zoo”


Surely flying by plane should get easier…

You would have thought that the wiser you get, the less jittery you become while flying. I used to think you were supposed to get calmer in your old age, take things with a pinch of salt, and worry less about flying at 51,000 feet and getting attacked by kamikaze eagles. It seems that in my silly case, the opposite stands.

fear of flying2
Must…see…wing… Photo by Reji

When I was a kid I never had a problem getting on a plane and flying abroad. I thought those rumbling take offs and bumpy landings were hilarious. As a young lad I travelled the world and never got phased out by flying (apart from two dodgy landings: one in Quito, where the runway was neatly positioned in the middle of the Andes, and another in Laos, where we had to do an emergency stop for fuel right next to the Mekong river. When I woke up, I thought we were heading straight for the murky water). I wasn’t that affected though. I even did a bloody parachute jump in Australia, and loved the buzz of free fall. Continue reading “Surely flying by plane should get easier…”

Annoying things in Spain, Humour

Who, who, who, who, who don’t clean their dog crap?

Not to be read if you are about to have lunch, especially if you’re thinking of serving up sausages, mini chipolatas, or chocolate flakes.

Expat dog poo
Wouldn’t mind a bit of that over here. Photo by Big Richard C

A couple of weeks back, on a chilly morning as I took out my dog Pepa to do her daily necessities, I had an uplifting chat with an elderly Spanish lady. Pepa was scrunched up in a ball, squeezing out her chocolate tum tums, when I caught a glimpse of a seventy-odd year old couple waddling towards me.

Damn, she’s bound to say one of the following, I thought.

“Take her to the dog park.” (What the one about 3kms away?)

“How can something so little make something so big?” (I ask myself that everyday)


“That’s disgusting, can’t she do that in your toilet.” (I’d like to see you try train her, luv). Continue reading “Who, who, who, who, who don’t clean their dog crap?”

Annoying things in Spain, Humour

Neighbours from Hell: Bike Hobbits contd…, plus the Boxer.

By the time Tim came back, I was in bed asleep, but luckily he managed to get in the house without getting his face ripped off. The next morning I found out what had happened.

“Tim, Tim,” I said, whispering in his ear as he lay sweating on a li-lo.

“Eh? What? Jennifer?”

“No mate, it’s not Jennifer. What the hell happened last night?”

“Not much, I couldn’t find any old ladies to chat up, so I just got drunk in Merchants again.”

“No, I mean with the door.”

“What door?”

“The door that you left open, the one that was stopping thieving gypsies stealing the hobbit’s bikes.”

“What? Oh my god, the door,” said Tim, rubbing the sweat away from his eyes. “I’m sure I…” I could see the clogs working in Tim’s mind as he realised he had left the door open. I filled him in on the night’s pleasant chat with the Son hobbit. The fact that he was after the culprit, and was demanding five-hundred euros from us.

“But why didn’t he have the bikes locked up?” he said.

“That’s what I thought, but you try telling him that.”

“He can’t get the money off us. He can’t prove anything.”

“I know, but he could beat it out of us.”


Umpa Lumpas. Always gets a giggle. Photo by kapchurus

As we sat on the sofa, both startling now and then as noises came from next door, I suddenly had a brainwave.

“Let’s go see Joaquin.”

“Who’s Joaquin?”

“My landlord.”

Luckily Joaquin also had problems getting out of doorways unless he was sideways on, but he wasn’t a hobbit, rather a giant. We nipped up the road to his Tanning Shop, where people often came out as orange Umpa Lumpas. After I told Joaquin what had happened he just laughed. Continue reading “Neighbours from Hell: Bike Hobbits contd…, plus the Boxer.”

Annoying things in Spain, Humour

Neighbours from Hell: The Bike Hobbits – Part 1

We’ve only bloody well done it again. Why do we pick those flats, which at the start seem so perfect, so pleasant, such a step up from the previous one, only to find that once we are settled, with books on the shelves, photos on the wall, and all the light switches found, the neighbours begin to chisel away like an annoying wassup message tone.

Following on from my two blogs about Why housemates are so weird, I thought I’d expand the theme onto the rowdy, boisterous, and even aggressive neighbours we’ve had to put up with over the years. These anecdotes are in chronological, and possibly hate, order.

Bike Hobbits
A Hobbit cave, and a bike, what a coincidence. Photo by I_am_Allan

The Bike Hobbits

First up were the Bike Hobbits. They weren’t your ordinary, friendly, welcoming hobbits, but a family of bike obsessed hobbits. At least I think they were a family, I never saw the mother; it was just the son and father who I had to deal with, or to put better, hide from.

The Bike Hobbits were my neighbours while I lived at the end of the Alameda, back in the day when botellones– street booze parties, were merely frowned upon by the police. Now they are supposedly banned, but I think they must still go on, not that I ever get out to join in on them now. Anyway, the Alameda is known for its mixed range of habitants: students, hippies, families, dog-lovers, and even transvestites. Unfortunately, I chose the only flat with two aggressive, psychopathic hobbits as neighbours. Continue reading “Neighbours from Hell: The Bike Hobbits – Part 1”