30/06/2012

DECISIONS, DECISIONS!

I have a choice to make this weekend.
I could be a grumpy old woman and scowl every time my neighbour blows that damn vuvuzuela. I could swear each time a banger echoes round the block, and when you live as I do on the inside of a three-sided rectangle of apartments with a pool in the middle, the noise is horrendous. I could walk past the local bars with my head averted from the sight of red and yellow flags being displayed everywhere, and avoid going out so I don't have to witness the general drunkenness that is bound to happen.
On the other hand, even though I am not a football fan, I could simply join in the fun....if you can't beat 'em .....
The Spanish certainly know how to enjoy themselves, and although a fair amount of alcohol will be consumed - all right, a LOT of alcohol - the locals tend to be friendly in their cups. Aggressive drunks are much more likely to be Brits, unfortunately.
So should I go out and buy a Spanish tee-shirt? Quite a few Italians live in Tenerife and the rivalry will be intense. The green, white and red will be flying from two corners of our block, both apartments owned by friends of mine, so whoever wins there will be celebrations. 
Now there's a thought! Perhaps I should buy a bottle of Cava, stick it in the fridge until the game is over, then crash one of the winning parties!

29/06/2012

WAVING GOODBYE and Ripening Bananas

Waved goodbye to my little girl this morning at the airport - seems like only yesterday she arrived. She and her husband had a lovely nine days full of little adventures.
A chimpanzee at the Monkey Zoo wanted a grape so he offered Debs a twig in exchange. She's taken the twig home, of course - it's not everyone who can boast that they traded with a chimp.
We got blown around watching the kites and windsurfers at El Medano, where I took this photograph, and in Masca a gecko ate a bit of chewed fresh almond from Debs' hand. They experienced a calima, so now they will be more sympathetic when I complain. They have eaten a delicious steak at El Candil de Abuela, deep-fried calamari in Las Galletas, and Mongolian grill in Los Cristianos. We've had roof-terrace family barbecues, pizzas from Mercadona, fresh tuna steaks and a few glasses of wine and lots of tea. All in all, a lovely time.


Our guided tour of a banana plantation prompted a few followers to remark that "bananas ain't as good as they were". How true. But as long as the Great British Public continue to demand their bananas big and straight, that's what they'll get, and they will come from America, that land where everything is bigger and therefore must be better (?)
Exporters regulate storage temperature to delay or hasten ripening, and if they get the timing wrong you end up with fruit that's green one day and pulpy the next. We buy ours from the grower, and the flavour is exquisite. Even in tropical heat they last well over a week.
Every banana plant in America came originally from this side of the Atlantic, but all the cross-pollination to increase their size has spoiled the flavour. And not long ago there were the Banana Wars. when the Yanks tried to freeze every other producer out. It's a cut-throat business!

27/06/2012

BANANAS!

Yes, he does look a bit cross, doesn't he? but this is the lovely Kev, our guide for a free trip round a banana plantation yesterday. A coach picked us up, along with about two dozen others, and after a glass of Bucks Fizz and a demonstration/sales pitch about pure Merino wool bedding, we were taken to a HUGE plantation - acres and acres of banana plants under those ubiquitous plastic tents that keep moisture in and the sun out.


We had to be careful walking along the paths because if you hit your head on one of those banana flowers, it hurt! And they leak a sticky residue too, so the path looks as if a car has been garaged there every few yards, leaking oil.

The life cycle of a banana plant - and it is not a tree but a plant of the herb family - runs thus.

A new plant grows from a bud on the parent plant, which is also busily producing it's one flower.
As each petal curls up, dries and drops off, a tiny hand of bananas is revealed pointing downwards, until there is a whole bunch. The bananas slowly curve upwards seeking the sun, and then it's just a matter of waiting for them to soak up enough water to grow until the bunch weighs 60-80 kilos. They are cut green and ripen according to the temperature they are stored at.
The parent stem drains its water content back into the soil, the stem is chopped down to create a mulch, and new year's stem begins to grow a flower. Each plant produces a stem and a flower once every nine months for around six years before it is too weak to continue, but it's offspring survive from generation to generation.
And the Canarian banana is the best and tastiest in the world - small, curved and full of flavour, not huge and straight and tasteless.






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24/06/2012

TENERIFE WEEKEND

This might not be the way an average tourist spends a weekend in Tenerife, but I take my visitors to different places. My younger daughter and her husband are staying for nine days, so we started off at the Hermitage of Hermano Pedro which, despite being situated in a ravine at the end of the airport runway, is a wonderfully peaceful spot - except when a plane takes off.


Then we moved on to El Medano  where, having moved a couple of wheelie bins to secure a parking space (naughty!) we walked along the seafront for a coffee and exfoliation - being sand-blasted by the constant wind is part of the fun as you watch the wind-surfers and kite-flyers and intrepid swimmers braving the crashing waves.


 


Then it was supper at home with my other daughter - a real treat to see the girls doing their giggly sister routine!









Sunday morning we were in full tourist mode at Los Cristianos market, haggled for a leather belt, and then had a coffee and a toasted sandwich under the shade of the palm trees.








And finally - this afternoon I made an Apricot Upside-down Cake with Caramel Topping as my contribution to this evening's barbecue on my elder daughter's roof terrace.
If you want the recipe it's on my new Cooking and Recipes page. 
And this is the only writing I have done all day!

22/06/2012

OLD PHOTOS

I have always taken photographs - mostly of family - and I still stick them in an album. Sitting down with an album and leafing through the pages is so much more satisfying than trying to find the right file on a memory stick.This one must have been taken on better quality film than the next - and it's a rare picture of me as the "hippy mum" I was in 1974. Flared khaki jeans, grey denim jacket, long hair and bare feet. And of course a quiver-full of children!








Four years later we unexpectedly had one more, and it is only now that I have decided to scan every one of my old photos and make each of my children a memory-stick copy of the lot.

Sadly, I have left it too late to rescue some of my photos, as this one proves. If you're thinking of following my example, do it now!

20/06/2012

HEDGEHOGS

This is so weird!
I checked traffic sources on my blog for the first time ever, and saw one Google site that had me puzzled. "Hedgehog eating" it said, so I clicked on it. Someone must have entered "Hedgehog eating worm" into Google Images and  been referred to my blog because I wrote a poem about Harris the Hedgehog and posted it on my Little Poems for Toys page, with a drawing.
Well bless my old boots! It just goes to show that, when writing a blog post, you should never forget that anyone might read it.






I might not blog quite so often over the next nine days - my younger daughter and her husband arrive later today for a much-needed holiday. The bed is made up, the apartment is sparkling, the terrace is swept, and I'm about to go shopping to fill the fridge.
We are looking forward to walks on the beach, drives up the mountain, a coach trip or two, and of course a few meals out.
Roll on this evening!

19/06/2012

WATCH THE BIRDIE!

There I was, sitting in one of my favourite cafes with a cafe con leche and a notebook, when who should fly past my face but this little sparrow.
I have seen him outside many times - Bar Haway is his bar and if you have food he will shout at you till you drop him a crumb, preferably of ham - but I have never before been inside when he has flown in.




He looked up at me and chirped.
"Sorry mate," I said, "I haven't got anything for you."
He flew up to the chair-back to check I was telling the truth,
I didn't realize I had captured a photo with his wings spread till I got home, but I am especially pleased with this one.













Then he hopped down to a chair seat and peered through the table legs at the floor by the counter.

Yes, Julia the waitress hadn't forgotten him - there was his usual chunk of bread.

He helped himself to a beak full, quite unconcerned by the comings and goings, and then took off out of the other door.

He's there every year - the same one, presumably nesting in the same place. I asked Julia if he ever brings his family but she said no, it's just him.

One little gorrion with his personal food source.


17/06/2012

POOR PUSSY

Bit of a panic here this morning.
I open the terrace door and Kika creeps in looking sorry for herself. Normally she shoots through to the kitchen to consume crunchies as if she has been starved for a week. Today she doesn't even go in there, but just jumps onto the back of the sofa for me to make a fuss of her - she has worked out that bending down to stroke her is difficult for me so she gets up where I can reach her.
"What's your problem?" I ask, feeling her chest to see if she's got a temperature. No reply - not even her usual miew (that's more feeble than a miaow). Could it be that she's missing the OH? She's been wandering round like a lost soul for the past two days looking for him.
Then I go outside and there's a patch of blood on her cushion. She's done it again - come through the railing too fast and banged her face.
The triangular spaces are quite big enough for her to get through but if she does it at speed there can be a clang!
A few months ago she actually knocked a tooth out doing this. I managed to persuade her to let me syringe water into the side of her mouth - dehydration can come on rapidly in this climate - and then I cooked a chicken breast and made a paste which also went in via syringe. Three days later she worked out how to eat sideways and all was well again.

On my morning constitutional I have a think - where the hell did I put that syringe? - but when I get back she meets me on the path, saying, "Where have you been? I'm starving." And the crunchies vanish in minutes. The little madam's been putting it on because the OH has abandoned her to my care. Now I think about it, she was two hours late demanding her tea yesterday - her food doesn't taste right if I put it down.


16/06/2012

PRESCRIPTIONS & THE BOYS

Those of us who live in Tenerife must bow to the inevitable, along with mainland Spain. The euro countries are toppling one by one, and sacrifices have to be made if we are not to follow suit.
We are going to have to pay for our prescriptions, even if we have been exempt until now. There's a sliding scale - six different levels, apparently - on which the charge will be levied. Contributory pension retirees will pay 10% of the cost of the medicine up to a maximum of 8 euros a month.
According to the President of the Tenerife College of Pharmacists, William Schwartz (good Spanish name there!) their computers are all primed with info from the Dept. of Soc. Sec. and ready to roll. He is quoted thus in our local paper:
"There will be few problems if all goes as planned."
Oh goody - so that's all right, then.

Meanwhile, if my minuscule pension  doesn't last the course and I have too much month left at the end of my money, I shall be sending "The Boys" round to see Senor Schwartz. (Aren't they just gorgeous?)
This is the only warning he will get.

15/06/2012

NIGHT WRITER

My first day alone, and did I get any writing done? Huh! Did I heck! I thought about it, but I failed.
As I was walking round the shops I deliberately set my mind on my novel. Told myself not to be side-tracked but to think constructively. I have been accused of solving my characters' dilemmas too quickly, so now one of the problems my protagonist faces is going to last longer. While I waited for my turn at the hole in the wall, I ignored the sun burning my back and thought of another thread to weave through my story. On my drive home I nearly forgot to get petrol, so engrossed was I in saying a conversation out loud to see if it sounded right.
And when I got home, what did I do? I made a mosquito net for the spare room - can't have my daughter being bitten next week, can I? Then I watered the OH's lime tree and chilli plants, as per instructions. Something has eaten my strawberry plant - not just the leaves, the whole damn plant - but I couldn't discover what. The washing had to be brought in, the cat fed, the bathroom walls washed, a chicken picked off the bones and made into a curry, and then it was time for a drink.
Hang on a minute - I almost forgot. This is what I wrote in the small hours of this morning, in the dark without my glasses on, because I woke up with the whole sentence in my head. It has absolutely nothing to do with anything I am writing at the moment or have written in the past.
The arrow pierced the T of my shoulder blade with a blow that knocked me over, and drew a line of fierce pain through my body until the point came out of my chest below the collar-bone. The shaft itself prevented my lung from collapsing but every breath was agony.
Now where the hell did that come from? If you can make any sense of it, please let me know!

14/06/2012

WAVES

video

Well - I did it - I took a video and downloaded it onto my blog - but I can't make it move when I go into preview. Never mind - this is the same view of Las Galletas I photographed in the sea-mist in April, but this time we have clear skies, a high tide and a strong wind - result - waves crashing on the rocks.
My OH went fishing here once with a friend - two elderly gentlemen perched precariously on rough rocks with a rod each - and a waves just like this one soaked them to the skin. They climbed down laughing to dry off in the sun outside the nearby cafe with a beer - and no, they didn't catch anything.

12/06/2012

WRITING AND A BUS

A few days off writing, organizing my desk and filling the recycling bin with paper, has resulted in a refreshed mind. I have completed a 1700 word story for a competition and will send it off once I have run it past my daughter's eagle eyes, and I have the germ of an idea for another competition entry.
The OH goes away on Thursday, after which I plan to tackle the much tougher task of re-writing a novel to re-submit to an agent who showed an interest. Unfortunately the temperature has gone up and my fingers are too sticky to be comfortable for long on the keyboard. Out comes the fan!
ON THE BUSES!
Driving into Guaza the other day I was held up by a green Titsa bus. No problem - I wasn't in a hurry - I assumed there was a van parked in the bis stop, as often happens. When the bus began moving I thought, "Here we go", but it wasn't going far.
Recently the Cabildo have been re-doing the road through Guaza. It has taken them more than a year, and goodness knows how many businesses closed due to the fact that customers literally had to jump ditches to reach them, but finally it was finished.
Except that they had forgotten one pipe, so this day the road was dug up again, and the Guardia had only just arrived to direct traffic. A bendy-bus, me and half-a-dozen other cars, a very narrow road and a junction with a mini-roundabout.
   Give the bus driver his due - when the police had moved a few cars from the road on our right, he backed his articulated bus down there and managed to execute a brilliant 40-point turn. He didn't even run over the roundabout.

CACTUS
Those of you who followed the growth of my cactus flower will be pleased to learn that, far from being slung in the bin by the gardeners, the cactus has been relocated and given its own water supply. Alfredo even took some cuttings from my huge lemon geranium to surround it. So we may even yet see the other flowers emerge from their hard black buds.

10/06/2012

TIDY MIND?

I have had such a productive day you wouldn't believe!
This isn't my actual desk but it bears a strong resemblance to how it has looked for weeks.
I spent this afternoon getting it sorted. First I went through nine months-worth of Writing Magazines and cut out all the articles I wanted to keep. Then I realized I didn't have enough file space, so I re-organized my souvenir files. This left me with two plastic-sleeve-page folders for said articles and a fat folder of souvenirs sorted into envelopes marked with such enticing titles as "Old school reports" and "One-act plays" - don't ask!
Now my "office" is pristine - well, apart from the articles I want to read now rather than keep for posterity, and the high-lighted torn-out bits about agents who might be worth approaching, and the list of Rod McKuen books I want to look up on Amazon, and the snippets that might put some life into my Writers' Circle.

I did try to get some writing done this morning, honest injun!
I went down to Los Abrigos and sat in a cafe with a short story that needs a lot of work, but I picked an English cafe, and there were English people there, talking in English. Far too distracting. And their coffee machine had broken so I paid 1.50 for a cup of tea I could have made at home. So I drove back, and on the way I took a side road I have been meaning to investigate for years. To a place called Atogo.
It was a good job I was driving carefully - any faster than 30K and I'd have been off the edge of that bend and 50 metres down in a barranco! After that the road wound like an un-ravelled jumper, and there was no sign of civilisation - I could have been anywhere. I thought Atogo would be small, sandwiched as it must be between Los Abrigos and the motorway, but when I eventually found it there was even a football ground. Maybe 20 houses in all, but they still had a football ground - trust the Canarians to get their priorities right!

08/06/2012

ON-LINE BANKING

A couple of years ago my bank statements began going missing, presumed lost in the post, so when my bank suggested I move to "paper-less statements" I agreed. They promoted the system as simple to use. HAH!
Setting it up in the first place was a challenge in itself, with passwords and "memorable words" and mother's maiden name etc. I'm surprised they didn't ask for my Grandfather's inside leg measurement.
I wish I had stuck with the paper statements, though I suspect they weren't lost in the post at all - it was just a ploy to save the bank money. If I forget to log in each month I can't check on every movement, and do you know why? Because this modern technology apparently can't cope with storing my statement details for longer than four weeks. What a load of cobblers! When I worked in a bank fifty years ago, the ledgers went back decades.
Yesterday I wanted to check my statement and transfer some cash to the OH's account for his UK trip next week. A red note appeared on the screen - "Error", a code number and a phone number. So today I called them. After fifteen minutes of listening to sales talk and pressing relevant buttons and listening to music, eventually I spoke to a real person - a nice lady with an Indian accent. Log in, use Pin Sentry, supply my DOB and mother's maiden name - same old same old - and then.....
"While we wait for your details to come up on my computer, madam - how has your day been so far?"
Words almost failed me!

07/06/2012

FLOWER WIDE OPEN


JUNE 7TH 2012 - TAKEN AT 9.30am





This is as good as it gets, and thank you to all who have followed the flower's progress and commented thereon.  We're having a vote now - do you want to see the rest of its life-cycle or shall I stop now?

...and of course, Kika had to come and see what I was doing!


06/06/2012

FLOWER!



HERE IT IS AT LAST!


FIRST PHOTO TAKEN AT 6PM, SECOND AT 7PM. THIRD AT 8PM


IT MIGHT LAST TILL TOMORROW -
WATCH THIS SPACE.








FINISHED! (well, kinda)

After a long month of re-writing my first ever book, I have reached the final page!
It has quite a history, this book. I first wrote it at least six years ago – a 180,000 word fantasy. Far too long, of course, but I was carried away with writing. I sent off some submissions and one agent actually asked to see the whole book. With great rejoicing I told family and friends - my kids even baked a cake - and I parcelled it up and had it hand-delivered. After a few weeks it was refused, and it was hugely embarrassing having to tell everyone after the initial euphoria. Back to the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.
   Then I fell for a scam. I paid £350 “expenses” to another agent who said my book was fantastic and he wished he’d found something similar to read when he was young. I waited six months for him to find the promised publisher, and I had written a 190,000 word sequel before I realized he was a crook. He is still around playing the same tricks, so don’t fall for it!
   But he’d done me a favour in a way because, when I started re-reading my books after a six-month break, I could see a whole raft of things I had done wrong. I did a complete re-write and split the two books into a series of five. Each one is self-contained but there is a theme running through the series, and I sent the first book out to every agent who would consider fantasy. All I got was rejections. Again.
   Now, some years later, having read lots of advice to writers, I have written three other novels and am giving my fantasy series another major overhaul! I have already cut 10,000 words from the first book, re-named it and the whole series. It’s very different now, but last time round I approached most of the possible agents. I am afraid that even now some of them might remember my original submission and reject me without a second glance.
   The moral of my tale? Don’t submit too soon.

 I was so sure the cactus would flower today! I went out armed with my camera and brimming with confidence, but look at it! Still hiding its light under a ficus bush(~el).
The pollinators are sitting on the nearby aloe vera plant with their arms crossed, tapping their feet with impatience. 
Three days ago the bud was as long as my thumb - now it's bigger than my hand.
Imagine what the flower is going to be like!

05/06/2012

EYESIGHT and a POEM


A couple of years after this photo was taken I was wearing glasses and have worn them ever since. I spent my teenage years bemoaning the fact that I had to spoil any outfit with my National Health glasses - my parents couldn't afford private ones. Each time I had new glasses I had to choose frames without being able to see them, and each new pair reduced me to tears when I realized once again that they hadn't transformed me into a beauty! After an unsuccessful flirtation with lenses it is only now, in my later years, that I have learned to accept them.
Eyesight is something most of us take for granted, but if, like me, you had to take early retirement due to eyestrain, you tend to be a tad paranoid. Every new floater might be Retinal Detachment and each blurred moment Macular Degeneration. Other people enthuse about laser surgery – me, I’m terrified I’d be one of the failures. How could I write or read if I couldn’t see? I couldn't admire the photo of my grandsons playing with the neighbours' dogs in an English meadow, or see the growth of a cactus flower.
This is this morning's photo - it won't be long before the flower is fully open.

The flame trees in our complex are just bursting into leaf, though they still have last year's seed pods. In a few weeks they will be aflame with orange blossom - what a shame not to be able to see that.

The reason for all this introspection is the book I am reading - Nicholas Evans' The Smoke Jumper - in which a young man is blinded by an accident, and I wondered how I would cope.

Some years ago I worked for the RNIB and wrote a poem about being blind. I shall put it on My Writing page if you want to read it.

Oh yes - and Happy Diamond Jubilee to you all, Congratulations to Her Majesty, and I wish I was in England to join in the festivities, rain and all!