No, not that kind of quickie!

This was how our cactus looked on May 13th when we first noticed it was in bud.
I planned to take a photo every day to watch its progress, but it's  been slower than usual this year so these photos are several days apart.

I don't know what happened to the bud on the left. Maybe the community handyman knocked it off. Possibly a cat is to blame, in which case I hope it spent the rest of the day getting the spikes out of its paw! The bud itself may have given up the ghost. We shall never know.

But then, lo and behold, another bud appeared on another head.
This was on a cloudy day, believe it or not - we have had more of those than usual this year, and at the end of May we expect wall to wall sunshine.

                                                                                                                    This morning we finally have some movement! I was hoping they would all come out at once, which would be spectacular, but it seems we shall get them one at a time.
Not everyone will be enthralled by the growth of a cactus flower, so if I'm boring you, may I direct you to some of my other posts that are not entirely on one subject? Thank you for bearing with me.



In other words - HAPPY CANARY ISLANDS DAY. May 30th is the day that the Canary Islands celebrate their existence. Schools and offices are closed and the traffic on the roads is reduced to a trickle. It was so quiet this morning that I overslept, and didn't start my walk until after nine o'clock.
This was the view of a road that is usually busy with cars heading for the motorway. Lovely and peaceful, and full of the scent of blossom from the yellow tree.

I managed to persuade the Other Half to go to Los Cristianos and see what was happening, but there wasn't much to do with Dia de Canarias. We saw a group of people waiting for a coach to take them on some outing or other - one girl had hair as purple as her dress but I wasn't holding my camera at the time.
We had a coffee in the main street, knowing from experience that when we got nearer the sea the prices would shoot up.
After that we ran the gauntlet of waiters trying to tempt us into their establishments. "No thank you," I said to one, "We had coffee ten minutes ago." "Ah, but you are so beautiful that you must come back - I will expect you in ten minutes." Nice to be called beautiful, however insincerely!

The young man in the above photo is an sand-sculptor - with a pail of water, a sharp knife and a brush he puts my upturned-bucket sand-castles to shame.
And we saw a gang of local boys jumping into the sea from the harbour wall - a three- or four-metre drop which didn't faze them in the slightest.

 There were as many different ways to enjoy the holiday as there were people, but I only saw one little girl in national costume. Tonight will be a different story - any town or large village will be holding a dance - in traditional costume. I shall have to see if I can track one down.



 This is the headline story in today's paper Diario de Avisos, and it puts a real perspective on the rescue services' recent announcement that people could be asked to pay for rescue it they get into trouble when they haven't  taken sensible precautions before embarking on a risky enterprise.
Andre, a Russian who has been living on a beach in Tenerife for some months, decided he would go to America. His boat wasn't equipped with flares, or a radio, but he did have a GPS and his mobile phone, so what could go wrong?
Well, if I read the story correctly (my Spanish isn't perfect) he decided not to use the GPS. I guess that was okay, because if he kept going in a straight line west he would reach America eventually, right?
On Saturday he phoned his Mum in Russia.
"My boat's sinking - I'm on the life-raft - get help."
She called the Russian Ambassador in Paris (don't ask me why Paris) who alerted the authorities here.
Rescue boats went out and didn't find him, so the helicopters were called in. They took two days and eight trips to find him. Eight trips at public expense out over the vast Atlantic ocean to find one small inflatable with only his mobile phone signal to locate him by.
If that had been my phone I'd be dead - it only holds a charge for two days.
For the whole story go to www.diariodeavisos.es



On my morning walks at the moment I pass a line of pepper trees that overhang the road to the roundabout. Anyone going to Las Chafiras or heading for the motorway must drive under them, but to see their full glory you should really be walking.
Millions of peppers on each tree create the impression of a pink blush in the morning light, and the ground beneath the trees is littered with fallen seeds, still encased in their papery pink coats.
Not all the trees ripen at the same time, so some are still in flower, some have bunches of immature green seeds, some are already dropping their fruit.
The scent is bitter-sweet - think of the smell of a pepper sauce on your steak, subtract the cream, and you'll get some idea. Even brushing your hand over a twig of the feathery leaves is one of nature's gifts.



No, not that interminable German film, but our friends' yacht.
Yesterday afternoon we followed their detailed directions to San Miguel Harbour and parked facing a peaceful scene of about 100 boats of all kinds moving gently in the swell.
Apart from a couple sitting on high stools at the outside bar, there was no-one around - just the smack of club on golf ball from Amarillo Golf Course beyond the low cliff that backs the peaceful harbour.
We found our friends and were welcomed aboard, then after a drink and a chat we had the ten-cent tour. In a forty-odd-foot boat there are two double cabins, a decent-sized galley, a head with a shower, a living area that can sleep two or three more, a navigation corner, a workroom and a pantry!
Mind you, one would have to be very good friends with one's partner to live there long-term. Here they are, Davey and Nora, who lived (fairly amicably) on this boat for over a year, though they have some hair-raising tales to tell, especially as Nora can't swim.

                                                                                                          When Davey sailed the Atlantic single-handed last year, he stored his tins of food in a locker which flooded halfway across. After that, as he describes in the personal log I am persuading him to publish, every meal was an adventure.
But as you can see, he managed to find the beers yesterday.

THE BIRD   I was coming back from my walk this morning and a couple of minutes from home I spotted this little bird catching insects in a garden next to a cafe called El Buho, which means The Owl. This, of course, is not an owl but a hoopoe, and isn't it pretty?



   Not actually fishing, because our friends haven't got their yacht sea-worthy yet, but a drink on board to have a look round is way overdue, so we're off this afternoon to the marina.
(Note the subtle way I drop a yacht into the conversation?)
Davey and Nora actually lived on their boat for some years, trolling round the coast of America, but their on-land home is an apartment near us. We met them in the local bar when they'd just bought it and were moving in with no electricity turned on, so we invited them to breakfast. We've been friends ever since, and last year I held Nora's hand when Davey was sailing single-handed across the Atlantic. Forty days without knowing if he was alive or dead culminated in a triumphant arrival, and when he showed me his personal log of the voyage I typed it up and told him he should at least publish it for his grandchildren.
He demurred. I persisted. He asked me to edit it. I was proud to be asked. He added an explanation of one or two technical terms and inserted photos. He hasn't chosen a printing firm yet, but he has joined our Writers' Square. Baby steps.
Requests to see the boat were met with "She needs a lot of TLC first," but finally they've succumbed. I shall take photos and maybe, if you're very good, post them on my blog.
Oh yes - and another follower very kindly gave me his own personal award when he commented on my blog yesterday - thank you, Maurice.



 WOW! Two of my followers gave me an award on the same day. No big deal, you may think - they give them away like party bags - but I am well chuffed.
There were several questions I had to answer so I've opened a page called - wait for it - AWARDS. Check it out.



Our small writers' circle has become a square!
When I joined the writers' circle it was only six people, and one of those was away travelling. Then she came back and another one disappeared. One more joined and hogged the meeting. The member who had brought him had a quiet word which he obviously took badly because we never saw him again.
Then another member returned to England for major surgery, and though we are in touch with her by email, it looks as if she might not come back, and another long-standing member has gone to her homeland for the summer - her husband doesn't like the heat here.
The social life on Tenerife is like this - it is common for people to spend a few months or years here and then vanish. It can be disconcerting or exciting, depending on your outlook, but it makes folk reluctant to invest too much in friendships, knowing they may not last.
Anyway, now we are down to five. One writes books on how to deal with various chronic health conditions with diet and life-style changes, one is writing a diary of her travels in India, another has written a log of his lone Atlantic crossing and is now experimenting with short stories, I write novels, and another writes poems for children. She is off on her travels soon, which will reduce our circle to a square. We may have to advertise!



My gorgeous grandson is at Cub Camp this weekend at Ardingly Showground, West Sussex, and it looks as if the weather is dry - at least today. Let's hope that miracle lasts all weekend because the camp is for the whole county and there are 1000 cubs there.  Can you imagine all those young voices raised in song around the campfire? It should be a blast whatever the weather.
Mind you, that sleeping bag looks warm enough to keep out an Arctic blizzard!

In honour of this momentous occasion, I have posted a poem about Camping which draws on various camping memories from my children's childhoods.  Go to my poems page to read it.



ALFIE DOG is a new website from which you can download short stories cheaply. There are all kinds from romance to horror, and you could even download a story to read to your children at bedtime.
You can also submit short stories to the site, which is on my own "to do" list. And they pay royalties!
Several of my fellow writers from the Talkback forum on Writers Online have already contributed and the site is easy to follow. Check it out on;   http://alfiedog.com/



In a recent issue of Writing Magazine I read that one way to make money from writing is by writing letters - in particular, letters to magazines. Well, recently I was given a pile of old magazines and, purely in the interest of research, I read some of them.
Even in the women's magazines that I used to buy, the letters were all about reality shows and the love lives of TV personalities. There were photos of hen parties and/or animals in silly costumes, and not one letter worth reading, so I won't be making my fortune that way.

But in a sixty-year-old cook-book I found a newspaper cutting of a letter sent to the Times that did make me chuckle.

I can't decide if it was written tongue-in-cheek or not - what do you think?

The old flat-iron
I sympathise with your correspondent who wrote about the flat-iron cure (this page last week).  In case he gets a return of his lumbar pains, he may like to know that a really hot iron is not necessary.
  What is needed is an iron that feels comfortably warming through a blanket, and for the operator to wriggle the point of the iron well into the muscles.
  This, if done for about 10 minutes, will be found to produce a most comforting and lasting cure.
From Lord Sandhurst, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk



I set off this morning to post a birthday card to my elder son. As I left the garage I had to put my sunglasses on, which made a change from the murk of yesterday.

Ten minutes later I was approaching Las Galletas and I honestly thought for a moment that something was on fire and sending great swirls of smoke through the village. A glance in the mirror told me that back up the hill the sky was clear, but when I drove past the roundabout the harbour had all but disappeared. I removed my sunglasses and got out the camera - this is what I saw (or rather, didn't). The OH, when I showed him the photos, called it "sea wrack".
The second photo is what it usually looks like.

  The view towards Costa del Silencio was equally spooky - it simply wasn't there. As if aliens had descended and just wiped the whole place out.     After buying a dress - retail therapy for shock - I had a restorative coffee with my daughter, We had both taken photos to show our other halves, on the basis that they wouldn't believe us otherwise. Then I returned to my car,.  See that notice-board on the left?  Costa del Silencio had reappeared, the sea mist had blown or burned away, and things were back to normal.



You see that island shaped like a leg of lamb, just to the left of the roundish one in the middle of this picture?
That is Tenerife, almost hidden under the cloud of sand that is sweeping in from Africa. Another calima. The temperature has shot up to 40C, everyone is coughing and sweating, and it's impossible to sleep without a fan going full-blast.
The Canary islands used to get two or three calimas a year - now we get about twenty. Why?
Because the fragile surface of the Sahara Desert is being destroyed. Camels' feet don't break through the crust but the heavy-duty tyres of lorries do. Tourists in 4x4 vehicles add to the damage, as do cross-desert races in off-road vehicles and on powerful motorbikes. Then there is over-cultivation and unauthorized open-cast mining, all of wich are doing irreparable harm.
Does anyone care? I doubt it - profit always comes well before the environment, doesn't it?



We have another calima - fine dust that blows in from Africa. It reduces visiiblity, sometimes to such an extent that Mt Teide disappears, it clogs up the sinuses, makes the eyes smart, and sends the temperature soaring. On our terrace at ten this morning it was already 36F.
It's not only people that droop in that kind of heat, especially when it descends so suddenly. My morning walk took me past this beautiful jacaranda tree, the blossom from which is already dropping in the heat, creating a mauve carpet.

There was one lone man in the pool at nine o'clock, but by eleven it was full of shrieking children making the most of their fathers' one day off work. This afternoon will probably be the turn of the learners. The locals teach their children to swim before they can walk and ignore their screams. At first I was horrified, but after years of witnessing this method I have seen that it works. Before the season is over they will be diving in without armbands, but the first few weeks are heart-rending to listen to.

And in our garden a cactus is beginning to flower. Last year it managed three flowers at once, but this morning there were six buds. At the moment they are only marble-sized, but I shall take a photo every day to show how they grow. As they say - watch this space!.



I was shopping in Las Galletas this morning and I could have made half a dozen new friends (or possibly half a dozen pick-ups) because I couldn't get the smile off my face. Even when my mouth was in serious mode, I could feel my eyes were still smiling, and I got a good few smiles back. Maybe I should do it more often.
The reason for my happy mood? I have booked a flight to Canada! My younger son married a Canadian girl two years ago, and after jumping through all the hoops the Canadian Government required, they moved over there last year. Permanently. Which means that to visit them I must get from Tenerife to Toronto.

I could go either via the UK or mainland Spain. Have you ever spent a few hours waiting for a connecting flight in Madrid airport? Not an experience I wish to repeat. So in September I shall go to England to stay with No1 son and get some grandson cuddles, then to Canada to spend a fortnight with No2 son. I have been promised spectacular fall scenery, a visit to Niagara Falls, and a Thanksgiving party in the north. My son's in-laws are a delightful couple who live round the corner, so I shall have company of my own age too. And on top of all that, both of my daughters-in-law have said they are looking forward to seeing me!

It might be 4 months before I go but I am already wondering how to organize my writing. I'll be away for a whole month and I can't imagine not writing for that length of time. What was that I said on my profile? Oh yes - I'm a compulsive writer. The OH accuses me of being addicted to it - he's right.



I was on my way into a cafeteria yesterday clutching a file with the next chapter to edit, and who should walk by but my friend Lol.
"Just been to a Health and Safety lecture," she said, "Riveting, it was, absolutely riveting." Her face said differently.
"Tell me all," I said, tucking the file away - a friend in need is more important.
Lol works in an English supermarket, and has done for years. She's so experienced that they sent her to a new store to train the staff. But these courses are compulsory.
"Hours," she said, "Hours of stuff I could do in my sleep, and then .." she took a slurp of coffee and sighed deeply, "... and then we had to have it all over again translated into Spanish."
"How many of the staff speak Spanish?" I asked, knowing Lol doesn't.
"Two - and they speak English as well."
Well, we DO live abroad.



There we were in Las Galletas, buying the OH a pair of trousers. He tried on red ones, then the man produced a royal blue pair and one in bottle green. OH chose the blue, with a bit of a shove from me. The man said they would turn them up "gratis"and we could collect them on Thursday. Maybe tomorrow but "Seguro, seguro el Jueves." Sixty euros! Thank gods it was pension day. The OH is notoriously hard to buy for so I buttoned my lip and nodded. I'd expect three pair of trousers for that. Still, I handed over the credit card, doing a mental rehash of the month's budget, and then my phone rang.
Massimiliano, "Hola Liz, Roby esta inferma y tengo que trabajar." Can I babysit while he goes to work?
Well, Roby is seven and the nearest thing to a grandchild I have here - we've known her since she was a bump - so that was my day filled up. There was a bonus, though. Massi is a chef, and he had made a kind of chicken stew that smelled wonderful. "Put these tortellini in for 10 minutes before you want to eat," he told me. Dee-licious! The fact that I didn't get much writing done didn't matter quite so much after lunch.



The A-Z Challenge was just that – a challenge – and I was drawn into it for three reasons. Firstly, I hoped it would take my mind off the fact that I was waiting to hear if an agent would take my book. Secondly, I was new to blogging and enthusiastic enough to blog every day. And thirdly I was tempted by the promise of more followers.
It was almost too successful - the challenge took so much of my time that my other writing went by the board. I made an alphabetical list of topics in March, but I was still caught out occasionally with nothing written on that day’s letter. Sticking to my theme of living abroad - specifically in Tenerife - became a challenge in itself, but it was only in the last week that I wondered if I would last the course.
Trawling through the list of entrants was the hardest part. The sheer number was daunting, but although I didn’t find a like-minded blogger living near Toronto (my youngest moved there last year) I did find others I enjoyed. And my own list of followers increased from 10 to 34, which pleased me inordinately. Two have dropped out this week, which I am trying not to take personally.
So, in the best traditions of the English essay, I end with my conclusions. The challenge was addictive, partly a chore but mostly enjoyable, and I have already thought of how to approach it next year.


This was the sight today outside the local church after morning Mass for Dia de las Madres.
Along the seafront, on the beach, and in every cafe I saw more family groups, with mothers the centre of attention on Spanish Mothers' Day.
The florist was open and doing a roaring trade in huge showy bouquets, young men were buying bottles of wine and chocolates, and I saw a grey-haired man sitting with his even greyer-haired mother on a bench under a tree.

From our terrace at two-thirty there is an all-pervading smell of barbecues, and the sound of music behind the clatter of dishes and chatter of voices, as families convene for a lengthy lunch.

The mothers probably run round after their families for the other 364 days of the year - they might even have prepared most of today's food - but having them all gathered together must be lovely.

Feliz Dia de Madre a todos!



As we've been praying for rain in Tenerife for a year, I tried to write a poem about it. Couldn't. Brain dead after the A-Z challenge! So instead I have posted a poem about snow onto my Toy Poems page.
A few years ago I wrote a poem about each of the teddies / dolls that I and my children loved, giving some of them adventures from our family history. Among those poems lurk one or two that are not about toys - "Snow" is one of those. I hope you like it.



Well, I've had my month off so now it's back to the novels. The A-Z challenge gave my mind a break from thinking about plots, and I can return to my books refreshed. At least, I hope so.
I have one character to make more of a hero - he's a bit wimpish at the moment and we can't have that. Also the book itself was the first one I wrote years ago and, after reading lots of advice, I can see other glaring errors that need fixing.
Another book needs tightening up after which an agent has said she will look at it again, which is more positive a response than I have had for a long time.
So if whether you started following my blog in April or earlier, please keep looking in but don't expect a post every day!


LUNCH in Los Cristianos

Had lunch yesterday with my daughter and a friend at a favourite restaurant of ours in Los Cristianos. It's called El Cine, and it is tucked away just off the seafront. Those in the know will queue for ages, sitting on a wall in a steeply-sloping alley with a drink while they wait to eat at its crowded tables.

It hasn't even got a roof - just canvas blinds - and it's been in the same family for 30 years.
The only meat they serve is chicken, so don't go there unless you like fish. Sardines, cuttlefish, octopus, shark - whatever was caught that day.
We had grilled fresh mackerel - more than we could eat - Canarian potatoes with mojo, tomato and onion salad, two small beers, one bottle of very nice wine and two special coffees. 40 euros including the tip. Beat that!



Here in Tenerife, Labour Day is celebrated on the first of May whatever day of the week it falls on, so today is quiet. There is less traffic noise from the motorway and no sound of children going to school. Which is a pleasant change from last night, when some neighbours had a party till two in the morning. In a block of apartments with a central pool, every sound carries.
So with the A-Z Challenge over we have time to sip a cup of tea, eat an iced bun, and reflect on our next move. Today I am going to pick up my next sewing job and have lunch with a friend in Los Cristianos. Editing my 80,000 word novel begins this afternoon.
If you hear me shout "May Day!" you will all, naturally, rush to help!