TWTYTW (That was the year that was)

This was Mount Teide at the beginning of this year - beautiful isn't it? There's only a sprinkling of snow but enough to top up the aquifers and ensure our water supply for the year.
This was how it looked in July when deliberately-started forest fires raged for days, killing livestock, destroying homes and livelihoods and trees. Unforgivable and incomprehensible.

On a more personal note, the OH and I made several trips off the island - the first one was last year when we actually travelled together to spend  Christmas and new Year with our families - between us we have seven children and seven grandchildren.
We had visitors here too - friends and family - and I flew to Canada to see where my youngest has settled with his Canadian wife. Fall in Canada was one photo opportunity after another.

My hopes for 2013 include a publishing deal (!) and to find a way to return to live in the UK.
For my family and friends, and for those kind souls who follow my blog, I hope your dreams come true, and I wish you contentment, good health and love.



This was my contribution to yesterday's festivities - a chocolate sponge with buttercream filling and Mars Bar and Pipitos topping. It didn't last long.

...but perhaps I should start at the beginning of our Christmas Day in Tenerife, at eleven am ....

Strangely, despite the clement weather, there was no-one in the sea, and the life-guard was the only person getting her feet wet.

We had been told there would be carol singing, but when it hadn't happened after an hour we departed via one of the tiny seafront bars, and exchanged our presents at home.

Next stop was Massimo's apartment.
Massi has been a friend for ten years, his daughter helps to fill the gap left by not living near my grandchildren, and we were invited to share a meal - as long as I brought 'un postre de chocolate'.
Which explains the chocolate cake.

We were given lovely tender lamb Italian style, and then some hallaca made by his Venezuelan partner.
Hallaca is basically meat and vegetables cooked through and then wrapped in pastry made with maize flour, the juice from the meat, and some oil. The parcels are then wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.
Very tasty and filling - a little goes a long way!
A little wine, a little music and dancing, then we went home, fed the cat, had a late siesta and went to the local bar, El Leones, where quite a few people had spent most of the day.
Living abroad has its downside, and lack of family is the main ingredient, so the one English bar in our village is the next best thing to family for a lot of folk. Whether you speak Spanish or not, sometimes you just want to talk in your own language.
Like any UK pub we have our characters - Ron always makes an effort to dress up for special occasions and this coat must be a genuine antique.

We wound up at El Candil de la Abuela - known as "Grandma's" - for a late drink and a plate of salchichas con papas fritas. With the OH flying to UK in the morning, we were in bed by eleven, relatively sober.
Not a slice of turkey, a sprout or a mince pie had passed our lips.
Was the weather 20 degrees warmer than England? Yes.
Was our Christmas Day very different? Yes again.
Would I rather have been eating Christmas dinner with my family? Yes - every time!

And a final photo to leave you wondering if ghosts might exist after all.......



The Three Kings stand on the roundabout to welcome drivers to Parque de la Reina, Tenerife.

Every lamp-post is adorned with three wrapped presents, courtesy of the Cabildo, and our local bar El Leones shines out into the night like a guiding star..

My camera is only a £90 Samsung and my hand might not have been quite steady, but these two pictures show that even in Tenerife we have Christmas lights.




.... isn't just nigh - it's here!
December 21st 2012 - 21.12.12 if you're English, 12.21.12 if you're American. Maybe there was something signinifant in those numbers to the Mayans.
Of course, it is also possible that the 'experts' read the hieroglyphs wrong.
It's a great design though, and has been copied over and over in different forms, from jewellery to stargates, so the Mayans aren't forgotten.

On a cheerier note, and assuming we make it through today, here are two photos io my home-made Christmas tree as an online Christmas card to everyone.
 It's made from two wire coathangers, green garlands, baubles and a string of lights.
The first lot of lights died after a week so I had to unwind them and buy more. When I got them out of the box I discovered they aren't Chinese, they're Russian, and its took a firm hand to make the damn things plug into the extension lead. Still, they're flashing prettily now, and my tree hangs tidily out of the way on the wall.
 I would like to thank my fifty followers for finding my blog interesting enough to add their names, and a special thank you to those of you who leave comments. It is always lovely to get feedback - it reminds me I am not whistling in the dark!




This wall is not, as you might think from its appearance, suffering from a strange kind of mould - it is undergoing renovation. In the UK a similar wall would be rendered with cement and painted. Not so here in Tenerife. They use a kind of plaster known as Panda everywhere. It covers a multitude of sins committed by the, for want of a better word that wouldn't be slanderous, builders.
A man and his boy have been chipping off the old Panda for weeks, presumably to make the job last as long as possible, and when they have a relatively level surface, covering it with blue plastic netting. This will form the base for a new coat of Panda which dries rather like interior plaster.
For the sake of the inhabitants of the complex who are paying for it, I hope they do a better job than we had on our building. When it was being re-painted the team repairing the cracks found all kinds of things stuffed into large cracks and plastered over, including bits of broken building blocks and crumpled cement sacks. One wall round a fourth floor terrace was totally lacking in metal bars and could have been toppled with a good push. The mind boggles!

This fruit is so pretty that I had to buy one (only one at 5.20 a kilo!) and try it on your behalf - purely in the interest of science, naturally.
The girl in the shop tells me it is a pitaya. It's the size of an average apple, and looks like a cross between a pineapple and a globe artichoke.
Inside it is like neither. The juice ran like blood when I cut into it today. The centre is a magnificent purplish red dotted with tiny black seeds, with a thin outer layer of pink.The bland flavour didn't live up to my expectations, but it would make a startling addition to a fruit salad.



I have been given an award! How cool is that?
are two online friends who have both nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award – thanks guys, I think! (These awards come at a price )-
The rules for the Very Inspiring Blog Award are:
1. Display the award logo on your blog - (Will try) (Yay! Done it!)
2. Link back to the person(s) who nominated you - check.
3. State 7 things about yourself – (ah, will have to think about this one).
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them – (all I can hope is that my tenuous grasp on technology works.)

5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements - okay.
SEVEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME.(That might interest you - or not.)
1.   1.   I was born in Victor Harbour, South Australia, far longer ago than I care to admit.
2.   2.   My first boyfriend was called Bunny – we were nine – and I swapped him for Robert when Jennifer said she preferred Bunny. Robert was a gypsy’s son and much more exciting  - maybe that's why I have a penchant for swarthy men even now?
3.   3.  My first big purchase was a bicycle that cost me £12. In today’s money that would be several hundred pounds, but you can still buy a girl’s bike for the same price, which goes to prove that someone ripped me off all those years ago. Do I hold grudges? Of course not.
4.    4.  I think Christmas would be vastly improved if over-cooked sprouts were banned,
5.  5.    I have one leg longer than the other – or shorter, depending on your point of view. Don’t most things depend on your point of view?
6.  6.    I gave up smoking nine months ago. The last time I did this was when I was pregnant, so I’m hoping nine months isn’t significant.
7.   7.   My favourite poets are Rupert Brooke and Rod McKuen, both of whom write poetry that resonates on my wavelength.
Bloggers to whom I am passing on this award because I enjoy their blogs - do check them out!
Liz -    http://lizbrownleepoet.com   



I read in the local paper Diario de Avisos this morning that "The Hobbit" is coming to cinemas in Spain.
It is, apparently, the story of Bilbo Bolson.
Bolsa is Spanish for bag, so they've translated Baggins into Spanish! Why?
Will the French call him Bilbo Sac?
Will he be Bilbo Borsa in Italy and Bilbo Tasche in Germany?
They've already put a female in to be politically correct. Don't you just wonder sometimes what makes the film industry tick?



I opened up My Documents today to look for something in my Oddments folder and found all my short stories on there as well.
They were all nicely slotted in alphabetically as if they belonged there. They didn't.
Up until yesterday - or maybe the day before - I had a Short Stories folder, which had vanished. It wasn't even in the Recycle Bin. That's scary.

Presuming that it was something that I did inadvertently, how on earth did I take the entire contents of one folder and add them to another, then send the Short Stories folder to oblivion?
Answers in my comments section, please, not on a postcard!
Knowing what I did might, just might, prevent me from doing it again.

What a good thing I copy any changes onto a memory stick each night.



One thing the local government has got right in Tenerife is rubbish collection.
In a hot climate the last thing we need is stuff hanging around to rot and smell, so there are communal basura bins within reach of every home, and they're emptied every day including Sundays.
We also have separate recycling bins for glass, paper and "envases", which translates as milk and fruit juice cartons, drinks cans and the like.
And in our village the Cabildo also delivers this structure on Tuesday mornings - it's there till midday. Round the other side are several ramps up which you walk to deposit, in separate containers, batteries, electrical goods, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, and the cooking oil that, if poured down the drain, can clog a sewage system in no time.
And there's one more container for household linen and clothing. This week I asked the supervisor what happens to the clothes etc, thinking perhaps they were chewed up to make newsprint.
"They go to people who need them," he told me. I went home and had a sort out.



I've been asleep for an hour, cosily snuggled under sheet and blanket, and then BAM! I'm awake.
I have learned there is no point in tossing and turning or punching the pillow. My brain has slipped into over-drive and I must ride out the storm.
First thing is to make a cup of tea. This may sound strange - caffeine and all that - but it works for me. Then I tackle a cryptic crossword - preferably the Telegraph Toughie - until my eyelids droop.

But sometimes it is the creative urge that won't let me sleep.
Last night I lay in the dark for half an hour with a story going round in my head. It was a fantastic story, a sure-fire prize-winner, so good that I was afraid to wake up properly and break the thread.
Eventually I reached for the light switch and my glasses, grabbed my notebook and pen and wrote with frantic speed to grab my dream story before it faded.

 This morning I read what I had written - here it comes - dah-daahh!
Write a 300 word story in 350 words, then cut off the last 50 so that MC's confession at the end is chopped off. This will add tension.

Yeah - right - glad I woke up to write that.



It's here!
It's unavoidable.
We went to buy plant-pot dishes to go underneath the two ficus that survived being ripped out by the incompetent gardeners the community employed, and we were surrounded by polar bears.
So we bought a poinsettia to display on our terrace table. I shall have to get out the rope lights as well now, to show we're joining in the spirit of Christmas.

When we got home there were three Christmas cards in the letter-box. 'Oh bother!' I cried. Once again I've been caught with my pants down - I haven't sent even one card yet.

Bah! Humbug!



This is the first time I have been published so you will forgive me for being excited and blowing my own trumpet! A new online magazine called Running Out Of Ink publishes eight short stories a month, and in December's issue is one of mine.
Here is the link - I hope it works!




Following my blog about a flour-free sponge cake, here is another one - this time a Chocolate Swiss Roll that doesn't use flour either.

See my recipe page for details of this and a few other favourites from my kitchen.



Yes, it's a slice of cake. A sponge cake, to be exact. Not much to look at, I grant you, but in its own small way a triumph.

My son-in-law has discovered he has a gluten allergy, which means no bread, no biscuits, and definitely no cake. He was fed up - or not, depending on how you define the words "fed up".

Then I found this recipe for an Italian Rice Cake, which is basically a thick boiled rice pudding to which you add eggs, citrus zest, raisins and some Cointreau and then bake.
Alan was ecstatic.

And it has just occurred to me that somewhere in my notes I have a recipe for Chocolate Swiss Roll that only uses egss, sugar, cocoa powder and cream. I shall have to try that next week.



Long-term residents of Tenerife know they must be extra careful not to violate any traffic laws in the weeks before Christmas. Even the slightest infringement can get you pulled over, whereas at other times of year we see the most appalling drivers getting off scot free. We have always joked that the Traffic Police are after their Christmas bonuses from November onwards.

Now we learn that it isn't a joke - it's official. The Guardia Civil bosses have told all their officers that they have been falling behind in their duties, and that if they don't fine more drivers they will not get their 240 euro annual bonuses. That's scary.

It is difficult to get the better of the police, but the other day I heard about one man who foiled their plans. He was stopped for having his fog lights on unnecessarily and told he could pay a 100 euro fine on the spot.
"No thanks, I'll go to court," he said.
"But that will cost you more."
"It will take years to get to court in this country, and I'll be dead by then - I've got terminal cancer. Will there be anything else or can I go now?"



Driving back from Las Galletas this morning, we saw a cyclist wearing a helmet with a flashing red light on top. What a good idea, we thought - especially at night on our unlit roads.

Now England has re-introduced bicycles for policemen, will we see coppers with flashing BLUE lights on their cycle helmets?
I do hope so.



We think our shower may be haunted - or at the very least there was some sort of strange psychic energy in there this morning.
As we were drinking a coffee in Las Galletas today I said to the Other Half, "I had this weird sensation in the shower this morning." (All those people with dirty minds go to the back of the class.)
"What was that?" he asked, which proved he had actually heard me - a miracle in itself.
"A moment of deja vu ," I told him, "But the main thing is that it gave me an idea for a story." I described my idea - an off-the-wall one as most of my story ideas are - and it will get written when it's stewed for a while. In the meantime the OH had his own experience to add.
"There must be something peculiar in the shower today," he said, "Because I was about to get out when I realized I hadn't washed my hair."
Now that IS spooky. The OH takes great pride in the fact that he still has hair at 77, and he uses an inordinate amount of 2 in 1 shampoo. For him to forget to wash the locks is strange indeed.



The headline says it all - CHO VITO FALLS.

I blogged about this Tenerife hamlet a few days ago, when nine residents of Cho Vito - an area of Candelaria in Tenerife - were still holding out against the might of the Spanish authorities, some of them on hunger strike.

They were evicted yesterday by Guardia Civil and their homes demolished. The hunger strikers are in hospital. The residents claim that the Guardia "acted like a brutal gang of gorillas."

Now, instead of a fishing village, we can have another beach.

The residents have been offered money - enough to pay two years' rent on an apartment. They say they will camp on the steps of the Town Hall until they are offered the equal of what they had - their own freehold homes in Candelaria.

Further words fail me.

You can look it up online - www.diariodeavisos.es


NIAGARA - and Silver Service for Dogs!

On my recent trip to Canada, of course the family took me to Niagara Falls, and it was as stunning as you'd expect. Of all the photos I took I think this one gives the best impression of its power .

This photo is the first one I took, showing the cloud of spray which is visible from quite a distance.

Surprisingly it was very quiet - I had been expecting thunder - but all that falling water made me glad I had my son to hang onto.

  There were so many different languages being spoken that I couldn't count them, but I heard German, French, Russian and English voices, and there were an enormous number of Japanese tourists.

The Canadians are a little scathing about the American Falls, which aren't nearly as spectacular, and fall onto a pile of rocks rather than straight down. The Americans can only see their Falls from a platform built out over one side. Their view of the Canadian Falls is obscured, but apparently one needs a visa to cross over the bridge from one country to another.

Further downstream is a strange place where the river swirls into a whirlpool before making a complete right turn.
Daniel and a friend hiked down through the forest earlier in the year and picnicked on the beach there. One wouldn't want to swim, though - that whirlpool is fierce.

And of course there has to be a commercial side to all this scenery - we drove through the "Entertainment" section just to have a look!

Loud Muzak from slot-machine galleries, burgers and chips, fish and chips, candy floss and bubble gum.
 "Buy your Falls T-shirt here!"
"Everything for the Kiddies!"

We moved on to Niagara on the Lake, which was much prettier, though still completely devoted to tourism.

Outside one shop Julia and I saw a silver tray with two serving dishes sitting on the pavement. Moving closer, we discovered they contained food and water for passing dogs. There was even a vase with a flower in it.

There's posh.