30/04/2012

ZYMOLYSIS & ZZZZ!


ZOUNDS! Having reached the end of the A-Z Challenge relatively unscathed, I thought I would post a blog for the OH, who has made mugs of tea but otherwise kept out of my way (most of the time) while I sit at my laptop.

 ZYMOLYSIS is the process of fermentation.
No, I didn’t know that either until I looked it up. Presumably that means fermentation of any sort, from A to Z (sorry - couldn’t resist that) but for today I will concentrate on alcohol.

ZYMERGY is the science of brewing, specifically of beer  In the UK there are any number of beers, and of course the Real Ale aficionados will all have their own favourites, but the most popular beer in Tenerife is Dorada. Anyone who has holidayed here and likes beer will (or should) have tried the local beverage.


Dorada has been brewed by Compañia Cervecera de Canarias for half a century and almost every Canarian bar serves it – CCC practically has a monopoly. There’s the Pilsner type – normal lager - Especial which is stronger, and Dorada Sin which, despite its name, means alcohol-free (sin = without!)
 It’s a really tasty beer – the one I choose when a real thirst hits me – and much better than any of the imported stuff that costs twice as much. Try it next time you’re in Tenerife.
The OH drinks Dorada all the time, so it must be good, although he wouldn't dream of drinking Sin. After a few too many jarras he snores even worse than usual.
ZZZZ !!

ZUG is the name I have given an old woman in the second book of my Living Rock series. She’s a game old bird who loves nosing into the affairs of her clan, and the name suits her. Isn’t it difficult choosing names for our characters?

Z is the end. The end of this challenge at least. Thank you to those who have stuck with me for the whole month, and to those who have joined me along the way. Most of you are writers too, so you will understand when I say it will be nice to get back to normal. I shall still blog, but not every day -
I have a book to edit, another to re-write, and some ideas to get down on paper before they disappear for ever!.

29/04/2012

CAT HEAVEN


CAT HEAVEN

There is a special garden
where cats go when they die,
with vine-wrapped trees for scratching,
soft grass for them to lie -
There's holographic mice to chase
for healthy exercise,
and all the fish and cream they need
to live their thousand lives.

RIP Ollie-cat

28/04/2012

YO, YUCCA & YACHTS

YO means simply “I” which is what I am going to concentrate on next month! 


YUCCA The first time I saw a yucca in flower I was amazed – the yuccas I’d seen in England were pot plants. Then I saw these strange roots for sale and learned they were yucca too – known in some places as manioc or cassava. You can boil it and serve with a mojo (sauce) – it’s rather bland on its own – and it thickens a stew beautifully. It can be fried in slices or made into chips – in fact you can treat it as you would a potato. Apparently you can also put the flower petals in a salad and eat the fruit.














YAMS are another favourite, though yam is what my OH calls them – batatas is the Canarian word, and in England you know then as sweet potatoes. I love them, though it’s difficult to tell whether I’m buying blanca or naranja unless I scratch one – I prefer the nananja. Its orange flesh tastes divine, particularly when roasted like a parsnip, and like the yucca they go beautifully in a stew or curry.




YACHTS are everywhere here – not surprising on an island – and some of them cost more than a house. There was speculation in a local newspaper last week about who owns a luxury yacht in Los Cristianos harbour – if it’s going begging I’ll take it off their hands!






Many little fishing harbours, like this one in Las Galletas, have gone up-market in recent years with marinas, but alongside the luxury yachts you will still find the local fishing boats, and the beaches will still be scattered with battered rowing boats.





A friend of ours is repairing his yacht after sailing it across from America singlehanded. I typed up his personal log of the 40-day journey, and although he makes light of it, I was scared silly by the laconic way in which he wrote of a tanker just missing him, or of losing half his drinking water, or climbing the mast to effect a repair. At least he wasn’t attacked by pirates.


YOUNG As the OH is fond of saying, with such a name we will always be young. Shame it’s not true, and the body lets us down more often, but age is a state of mind too. So as the YEARS pike up inexorably, nil desperandum!   


27/04/2012

XENOPHOBIA & XEROPHYTE

What we have here is the Tenerife flag behind the Spanish one, to illustrate my point that if you dislike foreigners, Tenerife is not the place for you. For one thing, XENOPHOBES would find it hard to accept that they – in fact anyone other than the native Canarians – are the foreigners here, including the mainland Spanish.

Being an island a long way from Europe we attract more than our share of people evading the law, and that tends to colour our attitudes. A lot of drugs come from Columbia, so we are wary of Columbians. Many muggings are perpetrated by Rumanians, so they all get tarred with the same brush. The area around the Home for young unaccompanied illegal immigrants is plagued with robberies, so any black face up there is suspect.  The Russian crime lords and Italian mafia have toe-holds here, so we mistrust those people, and cheered when we heard that a gang of 30 was flown to the mainland for trial recently..

And yet, at the last count, we had friends and neighbours from – in alphabetical order - Africa, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Venezuela and Wales. We have been to an Italian christening, a Spanish First Communion, a Scottish wedding, an Irish St Patrick’s Day bash, and our Venezuelan friends have invited us to several barbecues, more than one Christmas dinner, and a wedding.
There was a restaurant in our town that has had many tenants, none of whom lasted long. The owner was a crook who doubled the rent as soon as each hopeful began to show a profit. He also pocketed the tenants’ money for electricity while running an illegal wire from the community supply. He was notorious, and he was also from La Gomera. When his wife divorced him and took over the building, no-one was sorry – El Gomeron had got his comeuppance. He’d be just as crooked if he was local, but he gives all Gomerons a bad name, and they're regarded as backward anyway, just because their island is smaller than Tenerife.

We can all be racist in small ways without realizing. The one African watch seller who is too pushy puts you off them all. The table-cloth hawker whose nimble fingers steal cash out of your purse makes all of them robbers. The  Spanish boys who ripped my friend’s handbag off her shoulder in broad daylight have made her wary of all such groups. A Canarian who hates all tourists and makes it obvious can spoil your impression of the entire population.
I was reading in a local paper that El Fraile, a village a few kilometres from us, has seventy different nationalities. Xenophobes there would expire of apoplexy.
And years ago we visited a Ugandan friend who had just had her second baby. “He’s lovely,” we said. “He’s the wrong colour,” she replied. “What do you expect – white babies?” I asked. “No – he’s too black, like his grandfather.”
 It’s not only white people who are prejudiced.

XEROPHYTE refers to any plant that can reduce its water loss during dry periods and/or has a system of water storage – such as cacti and succulents, of which we have thousands in Tenerife.
The prickly pears that you see growing wild used to be cultivated for the cochineal beetle they support and many of them still belong to someone. The fruit is edible but be warned - you need thick gloves to pick it unless you want to be removing tiny spines for days. I find the taste insipid, but they’re full of vitamins and thirst-quenching in an emergency.
Another xerophyte that’s good for you is aloe vera, which the Cabildo often use to decorate the roadsides. The juice is good for the digestion and soothes sunburn instantly. It can be squeezed straight from a leaf – I’ve seen locals picking them from the town gardens. Of course you can save yourself the bother and buy refined aloe vera products – my daughter sells them in several hotels on the island.
The cacti that look like a set of organ pipes are protected in Tenerife – like trees might be in an English town. When our road was due to be up-graded the Cabildo sent a team of specialists to build a protective wall round one. It was a lovely wall – a real work of art. Pity the new road is several metres above it.
Cacti don’t flower very often but when they do they go all out. A twenty foot cactus dotted with huge flowers is quite a sight, and the last time there was a flower on our cactus the community cleaner called her friends to take photos. ¡Que bonita!

26/04/2012

WALKING & WRITING


WALKING
Ten years ago I set off from the top of Adeje town, with my daughter, son-in-law, a friend and a dog, to WALK the Barranco del Infierno = “Hell’s Ravine”. There was a track of sorts, rarely level and very narrow, and there weren’t many places at which we felt safe meeting other WALKERS. Some of the steeper stretches had knee-high steps rough-hewn out of the rock – in other places we were scrambling on hands a knees. Each time we rounded a bulge in the mountainside we could see the track WINDING ahead endlessly, and the sea behind us vanished. Despite the other people on the track, we felt like genuine explorers. There was no shelter from the fierce sun, but WE WERE WEARING hats and sensible shoes and carried WATER. We saw many painfully-pink tourists in flip-flops who hadn’t been that sensible.
Gradually, as we climbed higher and further inland, the reason we had come on this comparatively arduous trek became apparent. A stream trickled over rocks by our feet, ferns and shrubs grew beside the cacti, and trees reminiscent of those in an English WOODLAND shaded us. WITH renewed energy we walked through this WONDERLAND to reach our destination – a small clearing at the foot of a vertical cliff down which a WATERFALL fell into a black pool. This waterfall only flows when there is snow-melt or rain-water from the Adeje mountains, but on an island with no natural springs it was a treat just to sit on the small beach and listen to the splash.
We paddled, of course, and dipped our hands and faces in the icy pool, and then started back. The 90 minute return journey took us from cool woodland to baked goat-track again, and by the time we reached the car I was knackered, but it had been WORTH it.
Six months later I had a hip replacement, and I haven’t done anything like that since, but there are many lovely walks to be had on Tenerife. If you’re fit and WANT to tackle any of them as a change from the beach, look on the relevant WEBSITES -  Try  http://walkingtenerife.blogspot.com.es
The free paper Island Connections reported this week that nine Cabildos (Councils) in the south of Tenerife are planning to open a website in the next few months featuring walks, among other rural tourism options. You will be able to download GPS co-ordinates too – technology goes trecking!

The following advice comes from Maurice, an online Tenerife friend who is miles fitter than I am!
 I suppose you could say, "walks are what you do daily but serious walks are actually Treks.” 
If you look at 
www.webtenerife.co.uk/activities/amongst-nature/footpaths/ you will find a list of good treks & descriptions etc.
Not too many people know that the Teide National Parks Authority do 'guided' walks - mostly in Spanish - and they also have easy walking maps (graded walks) for the National Park. They are written in Spanish, German & English and are available from The Park information centres at El Portillo, the Parador & Boca de Tauce.
 There are quite a few walking groups based in Puerto de la Cruz, Los Gigantes, Los Cristianos, Teno & Anaga. Some are 'private' and some are small businesses (usually self employed guides). Various nationalities are involved but German, Spanish & English prevail.

WATER . Regular followers of my blog will have noticed how often I mention water – or rather, the lack of it. We manage remarkably well for an island with no rivers, and this is due mainly to geology but also to hard work. Rainwater and snow-melt from the mountain filter down through the permeable volcanic rock to 1000 underground galleries and 500 WELLS. The pine trees in the forest contribute by condensing moisture from the clouds – the needles on Canarian pines point the ‘WRONG WAY’ to ensure the water doesn’t evaporate. 50% of the water collected goes on agriculture and the rest must supply the needs of 2 million residents and 10 million annual visitors. So please don’t WASTE IT! (The photo below is one of the water galleries, which can be full of toxic gas, so don't walk into any!)

WRITING It wasn’t until I had lived here for a few years that I considered writing a novel. I have always loved WORDS, so perhaps it was bound to happen sooner or later, and retirement gave me the leisure to try. Also when I told my younger son I was bored, he told me to write a book!
I find Spanish cafeterias strangely restful places to write, because although I can speak Spanish it isn’t my native tongue, and it’s easy to filter out the background noise. When I am finally published I shall have to get my book translated into Spanish for the cafeteria owners who bring me coffee and turn the light on so that I can write.
I belong to a tiny writers’ circle here, but I am too far away to attend many writing events in the UK. I took out a subscription to the Writing Magazine last year, and its online forum Talkback helps to lift the feeling of isolation from the English literary WORLD – I WISH I had started reading it years ago!

25/04/2012

VOLCANOES


VOLCANOES There are 411 volcanic mountains on Tenerife, all of which are inactive – for now. Some of them are so small you can climb them in an hour, others would take more than a day, and some you would be wise not to attempt at all. Some have been quarried for massive lumps of hard grey rock that is used for decorative finishes on walls, or the creamy white rock to make building blocks - all kinds of rock right down to the pebble-like white, brown or black picon that decorates gardens,

There are two mountains we see as we drive up through Guaza that have the profiles of a man and a woman, another has one almost VERTICAL face, but the mountain everyone associates with Tenerife is Mount Teide. We drive up there sometimes, to show VISITORS round, or for a barbecue picnic with friends, or just for a change of scenery.
We’re used to the road now, and in recent years they have put metal crash barriers along the steeper edges which give one a greater sense of security. Even so it’s a character-forming drive.
I love the way the cloud lies in the VALLEYS like a pile of candy floss, and you can see the top of it as if you were in an aeroplane – I don’t recall ever seeing the top of a cloud in England. There are strange cloud formations that loom overhead too, in smoothed-off shapes that could be flying saucers. Sometimes we are in the forest when cloud sweeps in, and tendrils of cloud stroke your face with damp fingers – that’s quite eerie, and the temperature drops 10 degrees in as many minutes.
There are designated picnic areas scattered all over the island, and the favourite ones are high up on the mountain. The terrain is a bit rough, but the Cabildos have built stone barbecues where you can light a fire safely, there are piles of logs left by the teams who manage the forest, and a few pine-cones make wonderful fire-lighters. The favoured spots go quickly at weekends, so if we’ve arranged for a large group barbecue, an advance party will drive up to occupy one of the picnic tables and get the fire started.
Canarian families bring saucepans of potatoes and VAST slabs of ribs, but a few chops and sausages are all we need to go with salad, bread and beer. None of us drink much – there’s the long drive down to be considered, and at a mile above sea level the air is thin. A gentle walk to a spot from which I once saw four other islands is the most exercise I want to take up there, and just watching kids kick a football about is exhausting, but I know of at least one couple who joined the “Mile High Club” without leaving the ground.
There’s a thought – the actual peak is over two miles high. Would an adventurous couple get double points?
Our nearest active volcano is on El Hierro, the smallest Canary Island and a mere 150 kilometres away. If you take the ferry past La Gomera you can be there in less than 3 hours.
Last October, after months of small earthquakes, a volcano began erupting under the sea off the south coast. The brown stain on the sea was VISIBLE from La Restinga, a small VILLAGE whose only industry is fishing and dive tourism. The eruption sent huge lumps of fiercely hot lava shooting skywards, all the fish died or fled, and the air was so full of sulphur that La Restinga’s inhabitants were evacuated.
The experts say the eruption has stopped now, and the cone is still fathoms deep. El Hierro is trying to return to normal, but there were two more earthquakes last week.

VENOMOUS creatures. There are no venomous snakes on Tenerife, and the only insects that bite are mosquitoes and small jumping spiders. The lizards won’t harm you and they eat the insects – I’m all in favour of that – and you get used to the sound of the cicadas after a while.
Venomous animals – now that’s a different matter. There are all kinds of predators about, especially in the sleazier tourist bars in the small hours.
And I discovered to my dismay recently that those beautiful strelitzia (Bird of Paradise plants) are poisonous. 

24/04/2012

U for UK - UNFORTUNATELY


UK. There are many advantages to living in Tenerife. The climate is kinder on arthritic joints, for one thing – we know of one man who arrived here on crutches and within months was teaching badminton again. The cost of living is lower, as long as you go native and don’t do all your shopping in stores that import everything from the UK. We have fleeces but no winter coats, we don’t even possess wellies, and the beer and wine is cheap.
The downside is that we left friends and family behind – it is ironic that the first long word we learned from out flash cards was desgraciademente = UNFORTUNATELY. The space we left in the UK has filled up now, of course. Friends are pleased to see us when we go over, but we don’t have the minutӕ of daily life in common any more, and those friendships are fading.
We left six children there too, and four grandchildren. Since then three more grandchildren have been born and are growing up without us. So when people ask, “Do you regret moving?” obviously expecting the answer to be “No”, we tell them that.
This photo is of my four children, their other halves and my two grandsons. The OH's family is more scattered but still UK based.

UNSOLD. The old bull-ring I featured yesterday was full of unsold cars for a couple of years. In hindsight it was definite proof of the coming crisis. They were parked in sad rows, their varied colours rapidly fading UNDER a layer of orange dust. Then one day there was a procession of gruas (tow-trucks) and they all disappeared. Did someone buy the lot or was the rent, even of an UNUSED bull-ring, too much for the company that owned them?
There is also a veritable rash of unsold apartments everywhere we go. “¡Oportunidad!” the posters scream from the balconies. We know it means another family has lost the battle to pay their mortgage.
UNEMPLOYMENT in Spain is around 26% - in Tenerife it’s worse, and el paro (dole) doesn’t cover the mortgage for long. No wonder the camp-sites and caves are filling up. One of our Columbian neighbours comes round regularly to fill some water bottles – his has been cut off – and the poor man is so embarrassed. He asked me last week if I could give him a euro to visit his child – he hadn’t even got one euro for the bus. Out by the basura at night, it’s not just tramps you see dumpster-diving for food, or clothes, or anything that might raise a euro or two at the Sunday flea-market.

UNDERTAKER. Not a cheerful subject, but moving abroad sharpened our minds. So we paid for our funerals in advance – you can do it in instalments if you like – and it was at 2001 prices. The kids were shocked when we told them – “Oh Mum, you’re not ill are you?” – but now we can all relax in the knowledge that arrangements have been made. The cheapest funeral these days costs about £2500 – could your family afford that?

U is a bit of an orphan letter – USUALLY the least USED vowel – which I bear in mind when I do a codeword puzzle to relax before sleep. It starts so many negative words, as in UNATTRACTIVE or UNWRITTEN, but where would Q be without it?

UGH! Cucurachas – I hate them. In England, if something scuttles across the floor just on the edge of your sight, it’s likely to be a spider. Here it’s a cockroach. We put stuff down that they are supposed to take back to the nest to kill themselves, their babies and the eggs, but still they come. We double-wrap our rubbish, but if we put the kitchen light on in the middle of the night, there’s always one of the UGLY buggers. They are UNINVITED guests at any evening meal on the terrace, and we never leave a drink UNCOVERED outside – a mouthful of cockroach is decidedly UNPLEASANT.
They say cockroaches can survive a nuclear blast. Maybe so, but they don’t last long after a direct hit with a flip-flop.

UP is the only positive word I can think of today that begins with U. Bottoms up. Chin up. Fill ‘er up. Gee up. Hurry up. Looking up. Mix up. Pop up. Stir up. Wake up. The only way is up.
Even the word ‘up’ looks odd when you use it too many times, doesn’t it? Cheer up!

23/04/2012

TANGO & TAPAS


TANGO in TENERIFE means the dance, not an orange drink, and last weekend you could have learned how to do it. Well, you might not have become proficient in just two days, but the course was only called Tango Encuentro – Meeting the Tango. It was in Adeje, our neighbouring Principality in which you will find Las Americas, and although I didn't go - my days of such energetic dancing are over - it is good to know it's still going strong.

Then, having worked up an appetite with the Tango, you and your dancing partner could have taken yourselves to a TAPAS BAR. One bar-restaurant in our town, El Candil de Abuela (Grandma’s Kitchen) serves tapas. In fact, every time you buy a drink, Pepe brings out a little dish with a TASTY TIDBIT – bread with TOMATO and jamon, or spicy sausage on a stick, or my favourite bocarrones (anchovies in olive oil and garlic).Don't eat too many if you're planning a meal there - the steaks Maria cooks are out of this world.
If you don’t want a full meal you can buy a tapa – that just means a small plate – which with a glass of wine and some bread makes a decent meal in itself. The delicacies on offer might include  albondigas (meatballs), pollo (chicken), pulpo (octopus), ensaladilla (like Russian salad with tuna), or carne con papas (Canarian stew with potatoes).  The range of tapas on the island is only limited by the imagination of the restauranteurs. Several towns run an annual Fiesta de Copas y Tapas, where you do the rounds of the participating bars and, for a ridiculously cheap set price, you have a glass of wine and a tapa of their latest invention.

TIGAIGA, TENEGUIA, TIMANFAYA. When this small TOWN was originally TAGGED onto the few houses that constituted the hamlet of Cho, the architect must have been drunk. He gave the blocks of apartments such similar names that it is difficult to tell them apart. There are 4 Tigaiga blocks, 2 Teneguia, and the Timanfaya ones have letters A to P. We’ve been here for twelve years - we live in Tigaiga 1 - and we still get it wrong – no wonder the mail goes astray.

TORO = BULL. Fortunately bull-fighting became illegal in the Canary Islands decades ago, but by the road from the motorway into our town there stands an old bull-ring. Before it was fenced off I explored the ruin. There were two bull-rings – tiny compared with the huge arenas one sees on Spanish TV – surrounded by concrete tables and benches covered with mosaic tiles. I found bars, and what was probably a kitchen, and toilets. Round the exterior of the building were the animal pens – dark cells with battered walls that still echoed with terrified bellows and stank of sweat and fear.

21/04/2012

SUN.SEA & S.....?


SUN, SEA (and another S that I can’t remember at my age) are why the average tourist comes to Tenerife. The sun can be relied upon to shine almost every day, and even a winter holiday can result in a tan to cause envy among those left at home. In high SUMMER it’s too damned hot, which the Tourist Board won’t tell you, and out electricity bill shoots up because we’ve got the ceiling fans on day and night. Especially at night, when even naked you’re too hot to SLEEP.
Our apartment block SHARES a pool with the next block – 160 apartments in all – and in the two and a half months of SCHOOL holidays the noise level is such that it seems every child is in the pool. When the temperatures reach 40+ there will also be groups of women chatting in the SHALLOW end, up to their SHOULDERS in water, and I have seen mothers holding tiny babies in the pool for a while to cool them down before putting them to bed.
My theory is that if the air temp is greater than 37◦F then your body overheats enough to make you SICK – mine does, anyway. If I was rich I would SPEND July, August and September in England, rain and all.
This of course is what SWALLOWS do – they fly SOUTH for the winter. I’m not talking about the birds, but the people. Some own apartments or villas, but many more rent for a few months at long-term rates, like we did when we first arrived here. 
            

They bring their social life with them, meeting the same friends every year, playing bridge, eating out, line-dancing. Local groups such as the Lions actually time their dinner dances and other social events to coincide with the Swallows.
                           
SEA For more than half the year the sea is packed with people SWIMMING. Local children are taught to swim before they’re out of nappies – very sensible on an island – and by the end of summer every child is a healthy brown. On Las Galletas beach I have seen grandparents being helped into the sea, where the waves take the weight off STIFF hips and bodies remember their younger days. There are also boys (oddly enough, never girls) on SURF-BOARDS riding the breakers – locals who know where the rocks are – this is not a forgiving coast for the uninitiated.       
You can take boat trips to see the whales and dolphins or go fishing in the deep waters that surround the islands. There are ferries to other islands – it’s less than an hour to La Gomera, our nearest neighbour. And the SUNSETS over the sea are SPECTACULAR when you can SIT on a terrace or promenade, SIPPING a SUN-DOWNER.
Some people would choose SANGRIA, a refreshing drink and very pretty with its fruit and mint leaves in a frosted jug clinking with ice cubes. It’s not to my taste and, like punch, you never know what’s in it. If I get drunk I think it should be my fault, not a waiter’s.

SCULPTURE or STATUE? Is it a sculpture if it’s been poured into a mould? Can it be a statue if it’s not a person? I don’t know, but this creation has appeared in the fancy new park that’s being built in our village. No doubt as SOON as the gates are officially opened it will be SPRAYED with graffiti. Cynical? Moi? Perish the thought!

20/04/2012

ROCKS, RUINS & RBL


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?


ROUNDABOUTS
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.

ROCKS
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!

19/04/2012

QUEUES & QUESO


QUEUES. The British have a reputation – left over from WW2, I believe – for orderly queuing, but the way they manage a queue in Tenerife is with numbered tickets. In the butchers’, the chemist or the Post Office you take a ticket when you go in and wait your turn. If there’s a long wait you can have a coffee across the road, nipping back every so often in case the numbers have shot by unexpectedly quickly. It beats the old system of arguments and pushing.
Even so, there are always people who consider their time is more precious than yours. One woman actually asked me in the Post Office if I would say we were together. I was so flabbergasted that I didn’t say "No" strongly enough, and when my turn came she tagged along. “I’m with her,” she said to the clerk, and pushed her enormous parcel across the counter in front of me. “No you’re not,” the clerk responded, raising her eyebrows at me, “Get a ticket,” and she shoved the parcel back. The woman went off in a huff – I think she might have tried claiming she was my daughter, but she was black and I’m not.

When we need a blood test we go to El Fraile which has a bigger medical centre than ours. Before they built the new Centre we used to queue in the gardens, trying to hear our names called over the sound of a dozen full-volume conversations and shrieking children. It was a struggle - the Spanish come up with many variations on our names – Young is not an easy word for them to pronounce, and they use either of my two Christian names, so it can be confusing. Also the OH is extremely deaf. 
In the new Centre there’s a Security guard who keeps the noise level within limits and stops queue-jumping. Besides, we’re old hands now, and if shove comes to push, we’re not backward in coming forward.
Here's a picture of my eldest, learning to queue at an early age.

QUESO – LO QUIERO = cheese – I love it! A simple sandwich of tasty Cheddar and home-made chutney. Macaroni cheese with crispy bacon bits on top. Fresh French chȇvres rolled in charcoal. Brie so runny you need a spoon. Saint Agur on crusty bread. Freshly-grated Parmesan on pasta. That cheese with the black rind that costs a fortune from the deli. The goats’ milk and sheeps’ milk cheese in Tenerife. I’d rather give up meat than cheese!

QUALITY STREET. And while we’re on the subject of edible heaven, how about QS? Those purple ovals that everyone dives for, the gold-wrapped discs of toffee, strawberry creams, little baby milk choc bars – what a pity I’m diabetic.

QUITTING I smoked my last cigarette on my birthday - March 24th. Three and a half weeks gone – a lifetime to come.