Thieving Scumbags of Sevilla

We thought we were safe, we thought we were very safe. But it turns out that living in a reasonably quiet residential area on the outskirts of Sevilla is on par with the level of safety in the Latin Kings district in Madrid.

Bike stolen

Where is the other wheel? Photo by Nella2010

The only sign of violence or bad feeling in our first year here has been the sparrows fighting in the nispero tree. So I’m still a bit miffed about what happened last weekend in the early hours of Saturday morning.

So there I was, dribbling on my pillow with one leg hanging out the duvet thanks to the sudden rise in temperature, when I heard my wife shouting.

“Babe, babe, tu bici.

It took me far longer than it should have done to register what bici meant. Then when I realised my wife was talking about my bike, while holding our daughter in her arms, I freaked out.

“What do you mean? My bici.

“Your bike, it’s gone.”

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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.

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Send my kid to nursery in Spain? I must be mad!

I’d like to think that no parent in the world actually wants to send their child to nursery. I don’t mean that no parent thinks it’s a good idea for their kid to interact with other kids, learn how to paint using their finger, and pick up useful fighting techniques before they start the big school, but actually would chose playing with their own kids rather than having to send them into a class of snotty, uncontrollable, and future martial art masters.

Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly, but even though my son started nursery last week and he’s slowly getting used to it, I’d still rather have him at home making noise, picking my flowers out their pot, and trying to find every dangerous object in the house to see what he can do with it. Trouble is, I’m all for a good education and I know I have to let go.

Luckily my wife is off work so we’ve been able to put off sending our son to nursery for a couple of years. That dreaded moment came last week when we finally handed him over to a woman he’d never seen before (bad organisation) into a class of screaming, freaked out, petrified kids who were all wondering where their Mamas and Papas had gone.

Cars

Does everyone have a car like this? Photo by Valerie Everett

Of course I had to hold back the tears and show a brave face and all that for my wife. It was only an hour anyway. He went in crying, holding on to us, and reaching back, but when we picked him up he was happily playing on a giant plastic car. Happy days, I thought.

But as the week went on and the hours increased he began to realise he hadn’t just been sent off randomly to play for an hour. For the first three mornings he didn’t want to go in. Leaving him became worse, especially as I knew where I was taking him, but he still hadn’t cottoned on he’d be going back there, not until we got to the door anyway.

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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.

What to Watch Out for with Dodgy Del Boy Estate Agents in Spain

Dodgy estate agents

Dodgy dodgy estate agents… Photo by MsSarakKelly

We all know that most estate agents would sell their own grandmother’s ancient ballerina jewellery box to buy themselves a crusty bacon roll, so just imagine the sort of dodgy tricks the ones in Spain are trying to pull.

If you’re thinking of buying a place in Spain via an estate agent then there are a few traps you need to be aware of which could save you thousands.

Check out my latest article for Expat Focus titled Be Careful of Dodgy Estate Agents in Spain to get an insight into the types of sneaky scams these conniving money suckers are trying to bring off, including hidden fees, illegal tax evasion techniques and plain daylight robbery.

Cheers

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.

There are certainly moments in the day when I think back to when we decided to have another baby so quickly after the first, and wonder whether we actually thought it through. Did we consider the fact that our first would still need a lot of time and attention? Did we expect him to miraculously turn into a perfectly walking, talking obedient lad, who only needs help with his homework? Did we think about the logistical nightmare of bathing and feeding a toddler while having a new born baby screaming in the background? Definitely not.

All we wanted was that our son could have a brother or sister to play with. We are both from a family of three siblings, so we knew how important it was for him to have a play mate, and a lifelong best buddy.

The first couple of days seemed relatively easy and we picked up from where we left off with our son. It was no sweat to prepare a bottle of milk, we knew winding tricks, and we were aware of some glorious drops which ease babies burping process. Our nappy changing abilities were far more advance than with the first as well. We didn’t even have to buy much extra stuff; we had the bottles, the steriliser, and the essential handy hot water flask. But there were a couple things to suggest we have indeed gone from a dog to a zoo.

Quick feeding

Our son wasn’t a screamer. I can only remember once being in a real rush to get a bottle ready for him. We were Christmas shopping and had been out all day and ran out of clean bottles. He put up with his hunger pains for a bit, but soon he was howling like a desperate wolf cub lost in the wilderness. I bombed it through the busy streets of Sevilla while he screamed his head off and soon he was knocking back the sleepy juice.

But this little lady has a right pair of lungs on her, and no amount of cooing, bouncing round, or making funny faces will calm her down. She wants to eat and wants to eat now. I can handle it in the day, well, to a point, but it’s at night when it’s a worry; in case she wakes up our son. So now when we hear the slightest sign that she’s awake, we leg it downstairs and prepare a bottle before the screams start ricocheting off the walls, and we both have to get up.

Play time

Play time with our first is more restrictive now, especially when we are on our own and feeding the madam. It’s frustrating because I can’t roll about on the floor, pretend I’m a tiger, or have car races any more (at least not with a baby in my arms, but I’m working on it. I have learnt to feed a bottle with one arm though, which took bloody ages). Luckily he seems to have realised that when baby needs a bottle, baby needs a bottle, and even he would prefer to play on his own for a bit than have to listen to his sister wailing.

Pram

If I felt self-conscious while walking about on my own in those early months with my son in Sevilla, then bumbling up the road with a pram’s equivalent of a limousine definitely draws attention. It’s not just the stares but the comments: ‘Wow, nice bus,’ ‘Does that thing weigh a lot?’ ‘Look at that trailer’ ‘Oh my god, there are two in there.’ And this is what people say, so imagine what they must be thinking. Most people we pass either give us a look of sympathy, especially when she’s screaming, or one of shock, which I’m not sure is because of the pram, or the fact that we had kids so close to each other. I have to say though that local Sevillanos are quite understanding, especially on the metro and they normally shuffle about so we can squeeze in the beast.

Ganging up

As brother and sister they are already ganging up on us. At least two or three times a day they both kick off and start crying, moaning, or having a rant. It’s funny, but it’s always around lunch time, in the evenings, or when we need to leave the house. They both want our attention, and now. Several times we’ve both been sitting on the sofa giving a bottle in the mornings, passing nappies to each other while we change them both on the bed, and slowly lifting them each to bed. Sure there’s plenty more adventures to come.

Danger

It’s tricky communicating to an eighteen-month old and warning him how fragile a baby is. He doesn’t know yet that squeezing her nose might hurt, or that her eyes aren’t actually able to come out, or that it might hurt if he throws a car at her head (it did miss, luckily). He is naturally quite gentle with her though, when he doesn’t have anything lethal in his hands, although, admittedly he did throw a cuddly owl on her head last night.

We’ve had so many beautiful moments with the two already that being a zoo keeper is well worth it. Watching our eldest point and mumble ‘baby’, having the two next to each other in the cot in their pyjamas, and watching him give her a gentle kiss on the head. These are all reasons why at the end of the day, when we are both knackered, falling asleep on the sofa on a Saturday night at 11.30pm after a glass of wine, or when I get to work on Monday and realise I’ve only actually had about eight hours sleep over the weekend, that I just laugh it off and hope that the animals in the zoo will gradually become independent enough for us to sit back, watch, and have some fun.

Just how much better is NHS in Spain compared to private healthcare?

Finally A Novel Spain is back. After a crazy month of having a second child and moving house I’ve finally had a bit of time to write. This article on Expat Focus talks about the differences between having a baby via private healthcare, in our case Sanitas, to the Spanish NHS system.

Virgen de rocio

Not a bad place to have a baby…Virgen de Rocio, Sevilla. Photo by Tom Raftery

If you’d asked me before having kids which one I thought would be better, I’d have said private by a long shot, which was why we chose that route. But we were pleasantly surprised our second time round. The article is titled Hat’s off to Spain’s baby popping out team.

I’ll only be posting every two weeks for the foreseeable future. Life with two kids is pretty mental, which you’ll hear more about in my next blog.

Cheers.