The Friday Smile (220712) …. La Sonrisa del Viernes

Hola amigos y amigas,

Its Friday – and here is The Smile. Incredible. Well, actually I am cheating a little as I started it last Saturday in England and have not had the chance to finish it until now … so read from the beginning.

Wow it really has been a long time without The Smile. And comments  have moved from the “where’s The Smile¨to “are you still alive” – and so I must no longer procrastinate and just get down to it. Much water under the bridge including marathons completed and many air.miles. It is a little easier today (Sunday) to get down to writing The Smile, as I am in the UK for the weekend and I have some time between The Tour de France (well done Wiggins, Cavendish, the whole Team Sky team and England) and an outing with the English Giffords to see The Dark Knight. You will note as I mention various sporting events that have happened my nationality will subtly change to match the winning nation – the advantages of being a citizen of the world! However, I am going to have to be changing nationalities quicker than a chameleon changes colors from next Friday once the Olympics begin! Although Zuma seems to be able to change his spots depending on his audience, so I have some role models (not)!

The reason for the long silence have been two-fold: firstly, we have been facing some tough economic times in Europe that have kept me nose to the grindstone – long hours, long days and long weeks. However, no complaints. Anyone who knows me knows that I love a challenge – and what I may lack in brain power, I make up in perseverance. The good news is that, as they always do, things have already turned and I am looking to face a period of more work than time – admittedly the type of challenge I prefer to deal with!

A second “excuse” is that I was knocked by the sudden death of a close friend of mine: Alan Wallace who I have known since the late 70’s. One of the greatest human beings I have had the pleasure to know. I could write pages about how incredible he was in so many ways; and at times he has been been a mentor to me, a source of inspiration, a role model – but always a true friend. He leaves an amazing family: Heather and the girls, Coll, Stella, Marlene, Greg … ; friends all around the world and a footprint of kindness and goodness that is indescribable. Hamba kahle Al, and rest in peace. I know you are still watching over all of us.

Then, (the gorgeous) Vivi and I also went through a house move – always an event that can test patience and relationships – although we managed to stay in good humour for 98% of it all. Moving from a larger place to a smaller home did not make it easier. Compounded with the fact that both of us in our enthusiasm for the new place, did not notice that there were no wardrobes or hardly any cupboard space. If any one even breathes the phrase “improving lives through better decisions” – I’m gonna kill you!!!!! 🙂
Anyway it is in the heart of old Madrid (Barrio de las Letras) if anyone knows it. WikiP describes it:
“A neighborhood west of Paseo del Prado, north of Calle Atocha. Famous for being the “literary” neighborhood of Madrid where many famous writers lived or spent their free time. One of the prominent landmarks is the house of Cervantes where he died in 1616. In the last years, it became a nightlife mecca with thousands of Madrileños and tourists walking around and bar-hopping along Calle de las Huertas and Plaza Santa Ana”
So, as the writer of The Friday Smile, you can see I am in good company.

It really is a great area to live. Weekends see us popping down to one of the local bakeries to buy croissants or breakfasting in one of the (many) Spanish coffee shops or bars (the majority of which double as restaurants). Then often wandering around looking at the many interesting little shops (arts, antiques) in the area. We are still only about half a kilometer from my favourite running park (El Retiro), I simply have to pass through the Museo del Prado to reach it. And as for restaurants and drinking holes, we are really spoiled for choice – there are literally hundreds within 5 minutes walk from our front door. We can both walk to our Spanish workplaces in less than 15 minutes (10 for me) and it is close to the airport shuttle bus too. Admittedly, living in the hear of a city was the brain-child of Vivi who used to live in a similar area, but I am gradually adapting my South African need-for-open-space living to the idea and thriving on all the benefits.

Weather patterns have been crazy, Really hot in Madrid from early June (upper 30’s) while England, up until a few days ago has had the worst Summer in recorded history. Rain. Rain. More rain. You can see in every third back garden, the owners building some large, wooden boat-like structures – and even the animals all seem to be moving about in groups of two! But, despite all this, a really strong national spirit and the majority of people really getting behind the forthcoming Olympics and waving their soggy flags left over from the Jubilee! OK, there are always going to be a bunch of gripers and whingers moaning about traffic jams, transport in general, queues, etc – but this is England and even the English have got tired of talking abut the bad weather of the last 2 months – so the Olympics are an easy target. But me, I am really excited by it all and it is going to be a wonderful time to be here – which I will be in the weeks at least, although returning home for the weekends when I cannot convince the G Vivi to make the reverse weekend trip!

Its been a great sports few weeks for all my nationalities: Eurocup football (main and U19) (Yo soy español); Tour de France (Rule Britannia); recent cricket (Shosholoza Proteas – best cricket team EVER!) – Wimbledon …. hmmm (damn Scotsmen have no staying power 🙂  ).

Both of us working through the Summer holiday months (July & August), but we are going to take a weeks break in the UK in September (no fixed plans yet – either back to my roots n Exeter or perhaps going to opposite end of the Isles and spend some time in Scotland (Helloooooo Freda! Helllooooo Rob!). Then taking a week and a bit and walking part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (Google it). It’s a well-known pilgrimage which thousands of people do every year – for a variety of reasons from spiritual to just plain exercise (made popularly famous by Coehlo’s book: The Pilgrimage). I am really looking forward to it and other than taking the right stuff in our knapsack and having a start and end point, we will do very little more planning than that (note to me: no lists Simon!) other than a rough plan of distance per day but we are even flexible on that.

Ok. Not to bore you too much, lets get on with a few smiles (below).

Abrazos a todos,


We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body.”  

“When in doubt, just take the next small step”
Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage


Mother Superior was on her way to late morning prayers when she passed two novices just leaving early morning prayers on their way to classes.
As she passed the young ladies, Mother Superior said, “Good morning ladies.”

The novices replied, “Good morning, Mother Superior, may God be with you.” But after they had passed, Mother Superior heard one say to the other, “I think she got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.”

This startled Mother Superior, but she chose not to pursue the issue.

A little further down the hall, Mother Superior passed two of the sisters who had been teaching at the convent for several years. She greeted them with “Good morning Sister Martha, Sister Jessica, may God give you the wisdom for our students today.”

“Good morning, Mother Superior. Thank you and may God be with you.” But again after passing, Mother Superior overheard, “She got up on the wrong side of the bed today.”

Baffled, she started to wonder if she had spoken harshly or with an irritated look on her face. She vowed to be more pleasant.
Looking down the hall, Mother Superior saw retired Sister Mary approaching, step by step, with her walker. As Sister Mary was Rather deaf, Mother Superior had plenty of time to arrange a pleasant smile on her face before greeting Sister Mary.

“Good morning, Sister Mary, I’m so happy to see you up and about. I pray God watches over you today, and grants you a wonderful day.”

“Ah, good morning, Mother Superior. I see you got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.”

Mother Superior was floored! “Sister Mary, what have I done wrong?” I have tried to be pleasant but three times already today people have said that about me.”
Sister Mary stopped her walker and looked Mother Superior in the face.

“Oh, don’t take it personally, Mother Superior. It’s just that you’re wearing Father Murphy’s slippers..”


OK, it has improved iin last few days, but this was really funny last week:


Here are some good caricatures and a few amazing ones. See who you recognise:



Quickies (non PC)
When I was a kid people used to cover me in chocolate and cream and put a cherry on my head. Yeah, life was tough in the gateau.

The local deli ran out of milk again due to the freezing weather, fortunately, my elderly neighbour Ethel has plenty stacked up on her doorstep.

If you get an email telling you that you can catch Swine Flu from tins of ham then delete it. It’s Spam.

Such an unfair world. When a man talks dirty to a woman its considered s€xual harassment. When a woman talks dirty to a man its £2.50/min (charges may vary).

Just booked a table for Valentine’s Day for me and the wife. Bound to end in tears though – she’s cr@p at snooker

With my ailing memory, I’m thinking of changing my password to “incorrect”. That way when I log in with the wrong password, the computer will tell me… “Your password is incorrect”





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One Response to The Friday Smile (220712) …. La Sonrisa del Viernes

  1. Hi Simon,
    Thank you for your constantly ‘newsy’ blogs. Like you, I am always frantic, so do not get the time to always reply but I do read them.
    I have finally got my website active and now have a very smart young lady to do the SEO work. Constant extra work I can do without, so I pay her to do it.
    I am over in Barcelona the week of 23rd ~ 29th September (Festa de la Mercé) after staying with relatives and friends in both Køln and England for 3 weeks. I am staying in El Born so I am so excited, I was last in Barcelona about 20 years ago!! I do have a new friend of a friend here to meet up with there so that will be great.
    I saw that film ‘The Way’ about the Camino de Santiago, it was fabulous.
    Anyhow, everything sounds great with you Simon, and thanks for the blogs.


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