My long-term resident friends complain about the locals and their cruelty to animals, but in my neighbourhood at least, people mostly seem to treat their dogs very well - some even to the point of paying others to walk them.
When I lived in Hong Kong I noticed with some dismay that almost everybody paid others to walk them, and almost nowhere welcomed dogs. Children were brought up to fear them, with parents and grandmothers shouting "Dangerous! It will bite!" when the tiniest puppy hove into view. I know, because I brought up my first dog Piles (a pain in the arse) from he was one month old and could fit into the palm of my hand. Grown girlfriends shrieked and hid behind their masculine protectors when they saw Piles' little head stick out of my waist pouch. "Oh no! Dog! I'm afraid!"
Here in Mallorca it's almost too much the other way. Children are completely fearless and rush up to touch my Koldbrann, astutely commenting that he looks like a bear and wolf. Yes, I deeply regret calling him Koldbrann ("gangrene") now, but when I got him he was just called Wong Wong (woof woof in Cantonese, or possibly Yellow Yellow) and I had to come up with a new name. After Piles I thought it would be good to stay in the realm of afflictions, telling people that Koldbrann was a Viking name.
How could I have known that one day I would be living in Little Stockholm? Everybody knows Norwegian here! I should have called him Bjørnulf - Bear Wolf.
Anyway, not only children but adults too are interested in Koldbrann, and too right! He is a true elder statesman of fur. However - here are some tips on how to meet a strange dog. Or any dog.
1. Don't rush up and put your hand on its head. Imagine if an elephant did that to you. Dogs don't like having their heads pushed down, and they don't like big shapes bearing down in them from above. Who does?
2. Let the dog come to you. Crouch down and let it come and sniff you. Now you're friends!
3. If approaching the dog, do it slightly from the side with your turning eyes away, not head-on.
4. Always ask the owner first if your child can touch the dog. If yes, let the dog sniff the child, and tell him to touch only the back, sides and chest, stroking toward the tail. Don't touch the head, tail and paws.
5. Always ask the owner first if it's okay to give the dog a treat. If the child is doing it, make sure the dog is sitting down and in a calm state. Let the dog take the treat out of an open palm, not the fingertips.
6. Learn Cantonese! The self confidence this gives you, will make you better suited to take on a leadership role when you get your own dog! Mastering or even being able to say 20 words in a new language makes you stand up straighter!
Yaoooo! Culture on a high level right here in El Terreno!
Yes, fabled Swedish hotel, Feliz, has had the excellent idea of providing live music on its terrace every Saturday night. Not only that, the performance starts at a normal hour: 7:30pm instead of 9, 10 or even 11 like others crazily think I'll stay awake for. Big applause.
Last night it was cheerful Irishman Adrian Flatley (possible brother or son of the Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley himself)
who entertained us with his incredible voice and guitar skills and great musical versatility. And, you know, being Irish!
I have always had a special affinity for the Irish. When I lived in Hong Kong, I joined the St. Patrick's Society as a life member, just so I could go to their quiz nights and what not and listen to Irish being spoken. I mean English with an Irish accent. And the island itself - can anywhere get more beautiful and Tolkienesque?
Another thing I did in Hong Kong was to get a banjo. The banjo is my favourite instrument because it's happy-making. It's quite simply impossible to sit still when I hear bluegrass or any other music where the banjo features prominently. As with everything I do, I had an linguistic ulterior motive: I wanted to make music videos in Cantonese.
Having myself learnt Mandarin largely through karaoke; learning songs by heart and going to what used to be public karaoke rooms to perform them, I thought my Cantonese students would leap on the chance to have songs written in real Cantonese, not pseudo Mandarin with Cantonese pronunciation which is the rule in Canto pop.
This strangely failed.
Since I came here, my banjos have been largely sitting there gathering dust, because, lame excuse, I couldn't find a teacher. In Hong Kong I had the multi talented brothers Petrashune who both worked as musicians at Disneyland to help me with the banjo - we did Cantonese lessons in exchange for banjo lessons.
But guess what! Mr. Flatley also plays the banjo! Right here in Mallorca! Is it possible that...? It's probably too much to expect that he will want to have Cantonese lessons in exchange for banjo, but then again, why not? According to his YouTube channel he likes cool things, and nothing can be cooler than Cantonese. But if all else fails, yes, I will pay.
As they say in the bluegrass world: Learn Cantonese the Natural Way, from a Norwegian!
Today's Cantonese: 彈班卓琴 tan ban jeuk kam - pluck banjo zither (play the banjo)
Although I had and still have little interest in the Spanish language per se because after Cantonese, any other language is bound to seem too normal, I enjoyed writing the book. Not only because I like drawing and it gave me a chance to poke fun at the covid restrictions that were just kicking in, but because I had a deadline every week - my editor Heather was using the book to teach a new group on Zoom! Unfortunately (for me) they were super intelligent and fast learners, and every week they kept clamouring for more, ever more course material.
It was a relief to be able to write The End after 131 pages of intense working in a language I don't speak and which isn't Cantonese, but then came the kick in the teeth: Heather wanted me to, not unreasonably I have to say, 1. Edit the book so we could be sure everything was correct (damn accents) 2. put numbers on the questions in the exercises and 3. Give, yes ADD, the correct answer to the questions in the exercises.
What? Revision? Nooooooo! So boring. In Cantonese of course, I was the teacher and would correct my students live, in the same room. That was fun!
This was turning into la plume de ma tante, but in Spanish. But with a higher incidence of plonkerism, that is true.
However, yesterday something great happened which is forcing me to crawl up the last bit of this seemingly insurmountable hindrance that the normally affable Heather threw in my path and which has been weighing on me like an old murder case: My friend is coming to visit me with her son, and her son is learning Spanish, and he is going to use my book as a prop!
Yabba doooo this is the deadline I needed. Now I leap to the task with a renewed, nay, new joy.
So that will be published soon on a website near you! Cheap as chips and twice as crunchy.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong and the Cantonese language are struggling a bit these days. So if you want to learn something really fun and happening - and easy! while making a huge political statement and sticking a finger in the eye of the dour and humourless Mandohooligans, do yourself a favour and
Today's Cantonese: 肥佬 Fei lou - fat geezer