RUINED buildings have always fascinated me – they leave so much to the imagination. The holes in a castle wall where joists used to be conjure up images of floors and furniture, spiral stairs make me wonder how servants carried trays of food up to their masters. The skeleton of a shed in a French field was so striking that I took several photos and wrote it into a novel.
Until a firm of speculative builders scraped the surface from the former agricultural land around us, I could explore ROUGH-WALLED terraces and imagine the fields filled with potatoes or cabbages. There was a one-room house too – a ROOF-BEAM leaning against one wall and a tangle of herbs that was once a kitchen garden.
Overlooking the nearest banana plantation is a ROW of workers’ cottages, roofs and doors long gone and walls collapsed. Older locals remember when they were occupied by agricultural workers. If someone had bought them before the roofs fell in they could have made a lovely home with a grand view of the sea.
The builder’s ROADS are now as abandoned as those fields were, and are already going back to nature – I wonder what future generations will make of them?
Tenerife has only had roundabouts for a few years. Before that, if you wanted to turn left you turned RIGHT, drove ROUND an island, and ended up having to cross traffic from both directions. The roads weren’t wide enough for feeder lanes.
Then the government discovered roundabouts and put them everywhere. Drivers who had lived on the island all their lives didn’t know what they were or how to use them. Each roundabout was soon strewn with glass, the number of cars with bashed-in doors increased, articles appeared in newspapers, and heated arguments RAGED in every café and bar. The Cabildo sent every household a letter explaining, with diagrams, how to drive round a roundabout. It appeared to have been written by someone who had only READ the theory.
And those striped triangular patches on the approach roads – the cross-hatching that indicates “Do not drive on this bit” – are considered a great place to park if you need to visit a nearby shop.
Things have settled down now, but any sensible driver avoids what the Brits call “The Magic Roundabout” in Los Cristianos. It has two lanes, which are always a RECIPE for disaster here - the local drivers regard the inner circle as an overtaking opportunity for those in a hurry. If you take the inside lane to turn left you could be stuck there all day, and if you opt for the outer circle you can practically guarantee that someone will carve you up by shooting across your bows to turn right.
And mini roundabouts? I saw a van yesterday approaching a mini-roundabout in Guaza from the wrong angle. Sensing danger, I waited. White van man overshot his left turn, slammed on his brakes, REVERSED practically onto my bonnet, and shot off up the road he’d been aiming for. You need to keep your wits about you, driving in Tenerife.
I had never really thought about rocks until we came to Tenerife, and was surprised by the different colours, textures and formations. Simply driving along the motorway, where the rock has been chipped away for cuttings, is a mobile lesson in how the layers of lava overlaid each other when the island was formed. There is rock so porous that bees can build hives in it, and rock so hard that a chipped edge is like a knife. There is blue rock and green rock, black and white rock layered like a cake, brown and red, yellow and orange, terracotta and cream.
No wonder my series of fantasy books is called “Living Rock”.
ROYAL BRITISH LEGION
We transferred our membership to the Tenerife branch of the Royal British Legion soon after we arrived. There were about 25 members then and, due to what is euphemistically called “natural wastage” we now number 17 – the youngsters don’t join, which is a shame.
For the past 5 years we have won the Noel Rogers Trophy for the overseas branch that raises the most Poppy Appeal money per member. Last year we got €11,000 and change – around €500 per member – our nearest rivals raised €44. Big is not always better! The photo was taken at Westhaven Bay in Costa del Silencio, where we hold our service, with (L-R) the British Ambassador to Spain, the OH who is Chairman. Paul our Vice-Chairman and Welfare Officer and his wife, and the previous Canary Islands Consul.
We exist mainly to deal with any welfare cases that come our way, which have ranged from the widow of an RAF pilot not being able to afford a new fridge to a young serviceman and his wife severely injured in a car accident and stuck in hospital for months. We also have a Remembrance Service each year, in the open air overlooking the sea, which is attended by about 350 people, some of whom book their annual holiday around that date. One year the crew of a Royal Navy vessel, in Santa Cruz on its way home from the Antarctic, joined us. That was a particularly emotional morning, the young sailors’ voices loud in the hymns and even louder later at the barbecue with karaoke!