NAVIDAD = Christmas. We spent our last two Christmases in England and they were the best we’ve had in the past twelve years. Christmas isn’t the same without family, especially our grandchildren.
The Tenerife shops display decorations, gifts, and cards - the usual commercial glitz that you see in England - and we've got used to seeing them against the background of sunshine. Wearing thin summer clothes, we push our trolley between aisles loaded with festive food.
Some families buy a leg of Jamon which sits in the kitchen for weeks covered only by a tea-cloth, to have slivers cut off for tapas or sandwiches. You can buy a leg for 30 euros but the best ones (with black hooves) can set you back 130 euros.
Then there's Turron = a sweet sold in slabs mainly at Christmas. Most varieties contain almonds, and it can be hard like crunchy toffee or soft like nougat. If you want traditional English food there are shops and restaurants that cater for that too, and people book early to have their Christmas dinner with entertainment in the sun.
The locals have their traditional family meal late on NOCHE BUENA – literally, GOOD NIGHT – which is Christmas Eve, and we’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a few homes. We have had Italian – strange to be eating pasta on Christmas Eve! – and twice we joined a family of good friends for their dinner of traditional Venezuelan food.
One year my mother was here, and she and I went to the nearest church for Midnight Mass.
The churches here are lovely. Some are centuries old and dark, with the scent of candles, flowers, fabric and ancient prayers. Others, particularly in the south of Tenerife, are newer and brighter.
The doors of the church we attended were left open to the air of Noche Buena, and children ran in and out. Their mothers and grandmothers were inside the church, praying on behalf of the whole family, one assumes, but the fathers stayed in the square drinking beer - except when the Nativity Play was performed, when they buzzed around the church like paparazzi. One memory I treasure is of a girl who played the Virgin Mary. Her portrayal of a heavily pregnant woman was so realistic that the entire congregation was in hysterics.
Last December, just before we flew off to England, we were attracted to our village Cultural Centre by the sound of music. We found open-sided marquees full of Nigerians celebrating a national festival. Every single person was dressed in their best, in every imaginable colour and pattern, and the women in the most elaborate head-gear. I stopped a toddler from straying onto the road and found his mother – she bowed low several times with clasped hands to thank me. We wanted to stay and asked one man where we could buy a beer – he gave us four cans from his table and said, “It’s all free.” We had a wonderful time and the dancing was great. The next morning there was no sign that anything had happened – no marquees, not a scrap of litter – only our aching feet told us it hadn’t all been a dream.
NOVEL An agent asked for the whole manuscript of one of my novels a month ago. If she doesn’t get back to me soon with a decision I shall have NIBBLED my NAILS to NOTHING.