Please, Please, Please

James Brown - The Godfather of Soul

James Brown – The Godfather of Soul (Lammyman)

When I first came to Brazil the English school that I worked at had a cafe at the back  that sold things like little pies, sandwiches, drinks and sweets.  They did a roaring trade during the breaks and made a pretty penny off me as I was in the school the whole day and the cafe was just behind the teachers’ room.

With my very poor Portuguese I would go and ask for a sandwich or a juice or a bar of chocolate and always say ‘por favor‘ at the end of my request.  There were often smiles and sniggers from the lady serving, but I just assumed that was because of my bad pronunciation until one day she couldn’t help herself and started openly laughing in front of me.  I was of course mortally embarrassed but I wanted to know what I was doing wrong.  One of the Brazilian teachers translated for me and told me that the woman in the cafe thought I was just so cute because I always said ‘por favor‘ when practically nobody else ever did this.

I was stunned.  For me saying ‘por favor’ or ‘please’ is just a natural part of making a request.  I don’t even think about it, it just comes out on its own.  And it is true.  Unless you are really trying to be over-polite or are almost begging for something, Brazilians do not generally use ‘por favor’.  They usually say ‘obrigado,’ or some other equivalent, but not ‘por favor.’


Please! (eliazar)

Many of my Brazilian friends think that the English are so much more polite that they are, partly because of this need to say ‘please’ after everything.  I tell them that it isn’t true, that just because we say a few words doesnt mean we actually mean it, it is just something that we are trained to do.  They look at me with a knowing grin as if to say, ‘you are such a polite person for not wanting to seem superior in your good manners and politeness.’  What can I do?

In bringing up Thomas I am trying to make sure that he says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  At the moment he hasn’t got the hang of saying ‘thank you’ or ‘ta’ or ‘obrigado‘ or anything.  But he is starting to get the idea of saying ‘please’.  Except, when Thomas says it is more like ‘daddy, pee’.  I’m not worried about the pronunciation, though, more the fact that he has started to use it.

English: Amazing veggie burger at Herbivore. F...

Amazing veggie burger at Herbivore. (Wikipedia)

Usually I have to remind him to say ‘please’.  He’ll ask me to open the pot of play dough and I’ll look at him and ask ‘What do you say?’ and he’ll nod his head and say ‘daddy, pee.’  Last night he did actually say it without being prompted.  I had a burger and chips and he wanted some of my chips.  The first couple of times he needed to be reminded, but then he said ‘daddy, more, pee’.  I was chuffed to bits.

And of course now I have a reason to have more burgers and chips.

What about you?  Is it important in your culture to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you?’  Are you bringing up your kids to be polite like this and how are you going about it?

Now here is a man who knew how to say please.  James Brown – Please, Please, Please.

Amazing Machines

Amazing books about Amazing Machines

Amazing books about Amazing Machines

When we arrived in the UK for our recent holiday Nana had been out shopping to get her favourite (and only) grandchild some presents to make him feel at home.  One of the things she bought was a collection of 10 books called Amazing Machines by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker.

She knew that Thomas has a thing about cars and busses and lorries and stuff, so she was fairly certain she was on to a winner.  She could not have possibly known how popular the books have become, though, to the extent that they are now among the favourite books in our house.

There isn’t a story in the books, instead the writer tries to explain what the different machines do as well as showing the differences between for examples a diesel train and a steam engine.  And all of this s done through rhymes which have a great, catchy but simple rhythm.  Occasionally the rhymes are a bit forced, but that is probably to be expected when you are limiting yourself to this extent.  At the moment I am reading them aloud, but there is enough in these books that I can see them being read by a kid of 5 or 6 on their own.

All of the books are illustrated with bold pictures and vivid colours.  There is a collection of animals that drive the trucks, put out the fires and fly the rockets.  There is enough going on in each of the pictures to be able to ask questions about them, for example ‘who’s driving the red tractor?’ or ‘where’s the sheep?’  but they aren’t too busy to be a distraction.

The last page of each book has a mini picture dictionary with some of the items introduced in the book and a brief description of what they are used for.  The books also come with a CD with the stories read aloud, but I haven’t used this yet.

The 10 titles are Terrific Trains, Dazzling Diggers, Cool Cars, Tremendous Tractors, Tough Trucks, Super Submarines, Roaring Rockets, Brilliant Boats, Flashing Fire Engines and Amazing Aeroplanes.  At the moment our favourites are the ones about the fire engines, the trains and the tractors.

If you have a kid who is interested in machines and cars I cannot think of a better set of books to get them.

Age 2-6

Amazing Machines by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker.  Published by MacMillan Books.

Related Articles

Amazing Machines Box Set:

Tony Mitton:

Learning to Fly Solo

Plane taking off

Here we go (Wikipedia)

The thing I was least looking forward to from our recent trip to the UK was coming home again.  The problem was that my wife had to come home a week early because of work commitments, which meant I was going to be doing a 24-hour journey with our 22-month old.  This journey included 2 flights, one of 11 hours and the other a measly 1 hour.  Both of the flights would consist of Thomas (now about 13 kilos) sitting on my lap for the duration.  What was I thinking? Here are some of the things I learned.

1. Don’t do it

Is there any way you can avoid flying with your little one on your lap?  Could you drive?  Pay for somebody else to accompany you?  Stay at home?  Believe me, even if everything goes well, you are not going to have a good time.  Everything went as well as it possible could for me, but I swear I would never do it again.  If you can find any alternative, grasp it with both hands.

2. Leg space

When I was booking my flight I decided to pay a bit more and get the front row so that I had a bit more leg space.  i think I paid $50 for it (about 15% of the total) and it was worth every penny.  It meant I could leave some stuff in front of me instead of having to get it from the overhead baggage space.  It gave me a bit of freedom and I could even pop Thomas on the floor for a few minutes to let him stretch his legs while I prepared some food or had a mini-breakdown.

3. Be very, very nice at check-in

English: Dublin International Airport, Ireland...

Find a real person to talk to (Wikipedia)

When I got to the airport I was asked to check in via one of the computerised stands that many companies have.  I made it look like a hassle to juggle my son and find the papers and everything so I was directed to a real person behind the desk.  This is what I wanted all along because I wanted to see if it was possible to get a free seat next to me.  I was all smiles and very polite to the man who was doing the check in.  Towards the end I asked if the flight was busy, which it was, and then I wondered if it might be possible to leave the seat next to me vacant so I could use it for Thomas.  The man smiled back and said it wasn’t possible, but he would see what he could do (this type of answer is very common in Brazil).  It turned out that there were half a dozen empty seats on the plane, and one of them was next to me.  I don’t know what the name of the man was who did my check in, but I would like to thank him from the bottom of my heart as this was a lifesaver.

4. Be prepared

If you aren’t sure whether you’ll need it or not, put it in your hand luggage.  I had a fully charged tablet with games and videos on it.  Lots of nappies.  Plenty of food and snacks and drinks (I had 8 different drinks cartons but I still had to stock up again in Sao Paulo).  Some favourite toys.  A thermometer.  Two drinks bottles. Spare clothes.  A blanket.  Crayons and paper.  A Peppa Pig Sticker book.  And probably lots of other stuff as well.  It means you won’t have any space for your own books or anything, but then this isn’t about you.

5. Aisle or window?

Plane Flight to Singapore

The same view for 11 hours (Amy Dianna)

Aisle.  A thousand times.  You may get a view which will keep your child happy for the few moments during take off and landing, but the rest of the flight will be a nightmare as you look at the never-changing sky or the wing of the plane.  If you have an aisle seat you have just that little be extra leg room and you can put your kid there for a minute while you find his favourite toy.  It also makes it easier to get to the toilet quickly in case of emergencies.

6. Make friends

I let Thomas charm as many people as possible when we first got on the plane.  My thinking was that if they like him at the start they will be more forgiving later when he wakes them with his piercing scream at 3 in the morning because he can’t sleep properly.  I needn’t have worried as this never happened, but it did provide a certain amount of entertainment later in the trip when he was able to play peekaboo with the other passengers.

7. How small is that changing tray?

The changing tray for babies in the toilets was designed for the smallest baby ever to be born.  It was just impossible to get a slightly-above-average-height two-year-old onto it and change his nappy without doing some serious damage either to the plane or Thomas.  My wife told me about this before so I had pull-up nappies instead of the more conventional ones.  it still wasn’t exactly easy, but a lot less hassle than it could have been.

8. Food and drink


Your two-year-old will love it (Scoobyfoo)

It isn’t exactly news to tell you that the food you get on a place is crap.  Utter filth, usually.  Don’t rely on the food they serve to satisfy your child.  Bring lots of snacks and easy to prepare food that you know your kid will enjoy.

9. Take your time

Everything takes longer with a two-year old in tow.  This is true in life generally, but especially true when trying to get through customs, do security, find your seat on the plane, etc.  Give yourself plenty of time because you don’t want to be rushing to the gate in order to board.

10. Plan the other end

Make sure you have a plan for when you finally arrive at your destination.  My wife was coming to pick us up so we had decided beforehand exactly where she would be standing outside the door so that I could quickly slip out, hand Thomas over to her and then go back in for the bags.  This was one of the best things I did as my suitcase was the last to appear.

To be honest, the flights couldn’t have gone any better.  Thomas was as good as gold and slept, if fitfully, for most of the first flight.  The TAM staff were courteous and helpful, although there are never tested that much.  It was, however, a long and exhausting journey and while I would do it again I would definitely pay to get an extra seat for Thomas and not even contemplate having him on my lap again.

Should You Come to the World Cup?

World Cup in Brazil means lots of cash for somebody. (Photo:

World Cup in Brazil means lots of cash for somebody. (Photo:

There has been a bit of talk recently about how people shouldn’t come to the World Cup this time next year in Brazil.  The basic idea for this is that by not coming you will support the people of Brazil in their struggle for a better society.  It is best summed up by this video by Carla Dauden, a Brazilian living in the USA.

On the other hand, there is Mauricio Savarese who savages Carla and her like for negative and naive ‘vulture politics.’  So, what should you do?  Assuming your country qualifies for the World Cup, and being English with an Irish background this is far from given, should you come to see the beautiful game in this beautiful setting?

Reasons To Come

Money: The argument that you shouldn’t come because some Brazilians are protesting about the state of their country is, to my mind, a spurious one.  The money has been spent.  The stadiums will have been built.  The roads will be half completed and the scaffolding will still be up at some of the airports.  If everybody refused to come to the World Cup there would be two main effects: Lots of Brazilians, for example taxi drivers, hotel companies and the taxman, will lose a lot of money.  Second, the government of the day will be embarrassed but would probably blame it on the selfish protesters.

And boycotting the tournament won’t harm FIFA’s balance sheet one bit.  All of their money comes from TV deals and sponsorship rights that have been signed and sealed a long time ago.  The next two tournaments have already been designated to Russia and Qatar, hardly two beacons of democratic light that will give FIFA any nightmares about there being a repeat performance of widespread protest.

It’s football in Brazil: I hardly need to say that Brazilians (in general) love football.  There may well be some protests during the World Cup, but anybody who makes it here will see how much feeling the locals have for the game.  It won’t matter if you don’t speak a word of Portuguese, you will be able to communicate in the language of football.  There can be no better place to watch football than here in Brazil.

Igazu falls - Brazil

Igazu falls (@Doug88888)

You’ll see Brazil: Brazil is a beautiful country with a huge variety of things to see.  There is the natural phenomena such as the Pantanal, Foz do Iguaçu and The Amazon.  Rio, the wonderful city (a cidade maravilhosa) really lives up to its sobriquet.  The beaches and beach life all down the coast are amazing.  Even the sprawling city of Sao Paulo is something you should experience at least once in your life.

Reasons Not To Come

Cost: Getting here from Europe will cost quite a bit.  And then once you are here the cost of living is pretty high (one of the things that some people are protesting about).  You’ll probable need internal flights because the country is so big and the schedule has been designed with the fans at the bottom of the list of priorities.  And then, because it is the World Cup and you are a gringo, everything will be even more expensive than usual.

Getting around: One of the main reasons for protests has been the lack of expenditure on infrastructure in the country.  This is mainly aimed at hospitals and education, but also at roads, ports and airports.  Inflation is starting to rise again in Brazil, and one of the reasons is that the country is at its limit in terms of getting people and products from one place to another.  The roads are abysmal.  The airports are a joke.  The international airport in Sao Paulo (Garulhos) is one of the place I most hate to be in the world.

Crime: Crime, and security in general, is a big motivator for people to get out on the streets and protest.  At past World Cups and European Championships most of my friends have ended up sleeping in tents in order to save money.  If you do that in Brazil don’t leave anything valuable like your iPad in your tent because I can see lots of stories of them being nicked.

One of the reasons crime is such an issue is the fact that the police are next to useless.  The only thing they are good at is whipping out their guns when there is any hint of trouble.  I can easily envisage European supporters having one too many drinks and getting a bit rowdy.  The police will have no idea about how to handle this situation and it could all end up a bit messy.

English: Flag icon of Spain


Spain are going to win: If it isn’t Spain it will be Germany.  Spain are the reigning World and European champions and I think their tikki takki  style of play is boring.  Not like England who play beautiful, free-flowing, direct and attacking football but always get bad decisions from the ref.  Oh, and FIFA hates us.  At least that is my story for all the years of hurt I have had to endure.

So, if you can afford it, I would say come to the World Cup.  You’ll have a wonderful time, even though there will be some problems around the tournament.  But then again, that is pretty much what life is always like in Brazil.

Are you planning to come to Brazil?  Have your plans changed because of the protests?  Are you a Brazilian who thinks people shouldn’t come?  Why/why not?  I would love to hear your thoughts inthe comments section below.

Related Articles

It’s the Double Standard, Stupid: – This is a great blog about Brazil written by a foreing journalist living here.

Yes, I Am Going to the World Cup: – This is the article I mentioned in my post above.

I supported the World Cup bid, but even I am against it now: – The great Romario is now a surprisingly good congressman.

Cancel the Cup?: – The comments section here has some lively debate about whether Brazil should anticipate any boycott and just cancel the whole shebang.

Round and Round the Garden


Shaking  Hands Black and White

Shaking hands (Zeevveez)

While on holiday my folks taught Thomas, and reminded me, of two nursery rhymes that I had completely forgotten.  He loves both of them because they are accompanied by physical movements.  This means that not only do they meet a need for physical touch and action, but he can ask other people to say them to him very easily by miming the actions.

Round and Round the Garden

The first one goes like this:

Round and round the garden

Like a teddy bear

One step, two step

And tickle him under there.

As you say the first two lines you hold the child’s hand palm up and trace circles around his palm with your index finger.  During this part Thomas invented his own step which was to close his hand so that we couldn’t continue with the rhyme.  We had to ask him to open it before we could go on.  For the third line you touch the inside of the child’s wrist when you say ‘one step’ and then the crook of the arm for ‘two step’.  Finally, on ‘tickle him under there’ you tickle him under the armpit.

The problem with this nursery rhyme is that Thomas doesn’t seem to get bored of it.  If you do it once you have to do it a hundred times.  He decides which hand he wants you to do it on and holds it out for you. Alternatively, he will take your hand and, while you say the rhyme, he will do the actions.

Shake Hands Brother

The second rhyme is a bit more sinister.  It comes from Ireland and goes a bit like this.

Shake hands brother

(You’re a rogue and I’m another)

You stole a cow and I stole another.

You’ll be hung in Ballinalime

And I’ll be hung in Ballinatother.

As you say this rhyme you have to shake the child’s hand to the beat.  The second line (in brackets) is optional; my mother uses it but my dad doesn’t.  The two place names are approximations because I was never actually sure of what was being said.  ‘Ballin’ is a common prefix for towns in Ireland and can either mean ‘town’ or ‘mouth of a river’ depending on the original gaelic meaning.

Thomas loves both of these rhymes and I do to.  I remember hearing them as a kid so I am determined to keep them alive with Thomas now.  Not only do they help with language learning but they also provide a link to my childhood as well.

Related Articles

Hey Diddle, Diddle and other favourite nursery rhymes –

Importance of Nursery Rhymes –

Brazil Protests: My 20 cents’ worth

Guy Fawkes is Brazilian

Guy Fawkes is Brazilian (

I got back to Brazil last Wednesday (12th) and in the car on the way home my wife asked me if I had seen anything about the protests in Sao Paulo.  I hadn’t heard a thing and to be honest I wasn’t that interested.  There are always small protests going on in Brazil that never get anywhere due to aggressive policing, apathy and a general distrust of protesters.

Obviously I was wrong because these protests have continued and mushroomed so that there is barely a city in the country that hasn’t been affected.  Why?  What was so different about these protests?

It isn’t about 20 cents

The protests started because of a proposed raise in the bus fare of 20 centavos.  While this might be a lot to somebody on minimum wage it doesn’t account for why the whole country has suddenly erupted.

Social Media

portuguese: logo da Rede Globo.

Rede Globo has been widely criticised for their coverage of theprotests (Wikipedia)

It has been claimed that Facebook and Twitter have been responsible for a number of uprisings around the world.  Other people have poured scorn on these claims and I wasn’t absolutely convinced.  I am now totally convinced at the potential power of social media.

Brazil is a very connected society.  There is a huge Brazilian population on Facebook and Twitter and whatever else you care to mention.  With rising incomes we are also seeing more and more smartphones around the country.  They are still nowhere near ubiquitous, but it is no longer unusual to see an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy on the bus. Social media outlets were flooded with videos shot on phones of the behaviour of the police.  The media, police and authorities were no longer controlling the message.

Everybody knew that the police could not be trusted, but now we had first hand evidence.


One of the things that galls Brazilians is the amount of money that has been spent on the FIFA World Cup.  Depending on who you talk to the cost is anything between R$59 billion and R$80 billion (about $25 billion and $35 billion).  This is apparently more than the last three World Cups put together.  What ever way you look at it, it’s a lot of money.  The authorities say that a lot of this money has also been spent on infrastructure projects like airports, roads and hotels.  There have been some projects but from where I am sitting it doesn’t feel like it has been worth the money.  And we still have crap schools and hospitals.

At the same time, it can be no coincidence that the demonstrations started just before the Confederations Cup.  This is a dress rehearsal for the World Cup next year and has meant that a lot of the world’s media are focussed on Brazil and looking for background stories.  What makes a better story than a lot of riots and protests going on?

I hate this man (

I hate this man (

Enough is Enough

Corruption is endemic in Brazil.  One of the first words I learned when I came here was jeitinho, which basically means ‘a way to get around things’.  The things that you want to get around are usually rules, laws and obstinate/incompetent officials.  You want to get your bank account sorted out today without that extra document you didn’t know you needed?  Talk nicely, plead or offer a little sweetener and it might be possible.

This idea runs from the bottom to the top of society.  Some Brazilians are even proud of it as they think it shows an ability to think outside the box and overcome obstacles.  This may be true, but it also leads to huge corruption at the top of society.  For as long as I have been in Brazil there has been scandal after scandal as politicians and businessmen are shown to bo on the take.  And nothing ever happens to them.  And now Brazilians are finally fed up with it.  They have had enough and they want something to change.

The politicians had the idea of changing things.  There is a bill being debated at the moment called PEC 37 that will make it harder for them to be prosecuted.  This isn’t the kind of change that most Brazilians had envisaged.

A New Generation

English: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989. Th...

Berlin Wall falls and Brazil elects new President in the same month. (Wikipedia)

Brazil is a relatively young democracy.  The military government slowly relaxed its stranglehold over the country from 1980 with the first elections for state governor and senators.  It wasn’t until 1989 that Brazil held its first direct elections for President.

This means that the current generation of 20-somethings is the first to be born in a democratic country (whatever that might mean) and the 30-somethings will have no real memory of living under a dictatorship.  This, to my mind, is important as they have grown up thinking they have the right to be heard and represented by their politicians, unlike, perhaps, their parents’ generation.

Anything Else?

These seem to me be important reasons why these protests have been successful when others haven’t.  There might well be others and if you know of any I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

What next?

I don’t know what is going to happen next.  I don’t think anybody does, really.  This will be the topic of my next post once I have had a bit more time to think about it.

Further Reading/Viewing

Brazil Awakened: It’s not about 20 cents: – This thoughtful piece is written by an American living in Rio.

Brazilian Protests Explained: It’s not the economy, Stupid: – This detailed piece is written by a Brazilian journalist living in London.  It contains a lot of links to other videos and is well worth a read.

The Salad Uprising: – A great collection of photos and videos documenting the protests since they started.

#changebrazil: – This 5-minute video gives some brilliant context to the protests.

Revolta da Salada com Bee Gees (The Salad Revolt with the Bee Gees): – My favourite video so far.  it is funny but also gives a brief insight into how out of control the police are (No words, just a Bee Gees song.)

Sepp Blatter urges Brazil protesters not to link grievances to football: – I hated Sepp Blatter even before he came out with such vacuous comments.  Grrrrrrrr!

Language learning on holiday


You wanna be where everybody knows your name (Wikipedia)

Just before we went on holiday to the UK and Ireland for the best part of 4 weeks I wrote about how I thought Thomas was on the verge of stepping up his language skills.  I wasn’t sure how the trip would affect this because it would be throwing him into a whole new language environment.

Before we left he was saying mais  whenever he wanted more of something.  After a couple of weeks’ holiday this had morphed into a combination of the English word and the Portuguese word and he would say ‘mais more’.  Lots of people, including this hardened cynic, thought this was one of the cutest things ever.  In the last week, when my wife came back to Brazil and we stayed on in Birmingham, he seemed to drop the ‘mais‘ and started to only say ‘more’.

He created a new name for my dad.  The last time we were there he never called him anything and we tried to get him to say ‘gog gog’ as this was the word that I used for my granddad when I was the same age, but it never really caught on.  This time around he started calling him ‘doe doe’ and we have absolutely no idea why.  This caused a problem for a while as Thomas would be shouting ‘doe doe’ but my dad was totally unaware that he was being shouted at.  After a few days of his one and only grandson yelling at him he soon learned.


Raising a glass (Auburn Skies)

Whenever we had a meal together we raised our classes and said ‘cheers’ to each other.  Thomas thought this was a brilliant game and insisted on doing the same with his bottle.  The only problem was that he forgot to take a drink from it afterwards.

One new word that he seems to be experimenting with is ‘nice’.  I am not sure he knows exactly what it means yet as it is almost as if it slips out without him realising it when he is excited about something.  I will be looking out for how this word progresses in the future.

Other than that, he didn’t really pick up any new words.  There was the hint of him saying my brother’s girlfriend’s name, but this was never confirmed.  Most people also thought that his pronunciation became clearer over the course of the three weeks.  This might be true but it might also be the fact that everyone else got more used to his language and he got more comfortable around them.  It is true, though, that he had no problems understanding what people wanted him to do by the end so that his passive understanding was probably on a par with that of Portuguese.

So all in all, the trip didn’t see the surge in Thomas’ language ability that I might have been hoping for.  However, I am convinced that it did he bilingual skills the world of good and that, sooner or later, it is going to start paying off in both languages.

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