30/07/2012

CACTUS WALK


You really have to look from a distance to appreciate the size of this cactus - and the height at which it displays its flowers. 
Then you get a bit closer and look up - really crane your neck - and there they are.

Like the other cactus flower I photographed last month - one day of beauty and they're gone.

27/07/2012

PLASTERED!

Sub-titled: What not to do if you're a writer!


A few weeks ago I bought a pair of sandals, and I haven't worn them yet because I need to build up the right-hand sole.
This is because when I had my left hip replaced nine years ago, the surgeon made my leg longer.
My Spanish was minimal at the time, although I had worked hard to learn such words as "ouch" and "bedpan" while I was on the waiting list. Even so, sitting up in bed the morning after the op and seeing my left knee further away than it should be, I demanded to see the surgeon.
It's amazing how much Foreign you can speak when you're angry. I asked him how he had managed to get it so badly wrong - after all, he had the other leg right beside it to match it up.
The arrogant bugger said, "Don't worry, you can build up the other shoe and we'll level them off when you have the other hip done." Un-f**king-believable!
Especially as the specialist I saw last year said I could manage without another operation - their waiting lists are huge and funds are low, and I'm not actually walking with a stick again - yet.
Well, the local cobbler charges 10 euros per shoe, and I'm a bit broke till pension day, and I wanted to wear them this weekend. So I set out to do it myself, not for the first time.
Piece of thick leather in one hand, VERY sharp knife in the other. As I started I thought, "I should be doing this on the terrace table".
I should have listened to myself. I bleed like a stuck pig from the tiniest wound, so by the time I had opened the first aid box and cut a strip of plaster, the bathroom looked like a crime scene.
And typing without mistakes is imp[[ossibbblke.

26/07/2012

FINGERS CROSSED

I have emailed two submissions today.
A Strange Adoption - the book a professional critic said is "an extremely readable novel" - has gone in one direction, and A Volcanic Race - the first of my fantasy series - has gone in another.

Now all I can do is wait.

Or maybe not. I am halfway through re-writing Helter-Skelter in the hope that the agent who expressed an interest will give it another chance.

And then there is this blog, which seems to have lost all but a couple of followers.
Is there anyone there???

In case anyone is still following my ramblings, here is a photo of a wild flower I saw this morning. I have no idea what it is - it has some mean-looking spiky seed-cases for such a delicate flower.

Don't you agree?


24/07/2012

THE GUAZA STRIP

THE CABILDO have been up-grading the road through Guaza for over a year, taking the opportunity to put in better drains at the same time.
They did have the sense to finish the bypass first. This is unusual in Tenerife, where it is not unknown for roads to have their directionality changed overnight. If someone gets it wrong - also a not infrequent occurrence - all the traffic ends up in a bottleneck from which there is no legal escape, and the Policia have to sort it out.


There are palm trees and palm type shrubs, most of which survived being planted weeks before the watering system was installed under alternating stretches of brown and white rocks. The rocks are very pretty, and although they will make a superb home for cockroaches they should discourage dogs from using the area as a toilet and stick to the pavements they are accustomed to using.
Then after a few weeks of nothing, this week we see Cabildo workmen rolling the last, wider bit flat, hosing the edges clean, putting down a layer of black plastic and then....
installing artificial grass! Metres and metres of the stuff, held in place by more white rocks. How much does that cost? Aren't we in the middle of a financial crisis? No wonder people are asking which Councillor had a surplus of Astroturf. ....And bets are being taken on how long before it disappears one night.

21/07/2012

CHILLIS

The OH has always liked vodka.
It was his regular drink of choice when I met him, though he usually drinks beer now.

When we lived in England we had a damson tree, so at Christmas we would have Damson Vodka as well and Sloe Vodka.

Now we live in a climate where chillis flourish. The plant on the left is a second generation from one we found growing wild locally - it's quite hot but not searingly so.

Tthe abundance of chillis has given the OH a new game. Poke half a dozen hot chillis into a bottle of vodka and put the bottle in the freezer for at least a month.


After a month, or longer if possible, your Chilli Vodka should be ready - the colour will have leached out of the chillis. When guests arrive, put a few shot glasses in the freezer and  after dinner, when everyone is mellow and either game to try anything or unsuspecting, produce the bottle. I like the taste and the clean chilli heat, but it has proved too much for some of our friends.





The rest of the plants on this blog are growing from a packet of mixed seeds - the long ones are Pencil Cayenne and when ripe will be fairly hot.
They have a heat measure of 
26,000 SHU.  
The small mauve ones below are NuMex Twilight, which will ripen to purple, yellow, orange and then red, when they will have an SHU of 30,000.
Next on the list we present Turtle Claw at 100,000 SHU which is just showing buds.And finally the shy little plant hiding its light under a bushel at the back. Some brave caterpillar took a nibble out of one leaf and then gave up - or possibly dropped dead. For this is the Dorset Naga, reportedly the hottest chilli in the world at ONE MILLION SHU and developed, as its name proudly shows, in Dorset, England. Whether we will have the courage even to try these is debatable but the stepson and his lady are due to arrive in September for a holiday - the chillis should just about be ripe by then. *laughs evilly*

I like a taste of heat in my stir fries, but we also have two that can be used in a salad, and they are nearly ready.  The beautiful purple one is called Tequila and will apparently ripen to red, and the other is Lipstick, recommended either for salads or for frying and eating whole.



So perhaps we should have a dinner party - Chilli con Carne and salad followed by strong black coffee and Chilli Vodka.
Applications for invitations can be left on my comments page!

20/07/2012

MORNINGS AND ANORAKS


Usually my morning walk is a time to put my thoughts in order for the day’s writing. I drag my wandering mind away from last night’s gossip, or what I dreamed about, or the shopping list, and deliberately tell myself, “Right – let’s  sort out this bit of dialogue,” or, “How would a twelve-year-old boy react in that situation?” The mere act of putting one foot in front of the other seems to untangle knots.


The eight-forty bus waits outside the ruined bull-ring.


The old house still stands stubbornly by the huge hump in the road that its owner’s refusal to move forced on the road-builders.

But for the past few days it has been impossible to think about anything other than the forest fire.








On Monday morning there was a towering cumulus of smoke obscuring Mount Teide. On Tuesday one couldn’t breathe without inhaling specks of burning forest, and we learned that the beautiful Barranco del Infierno had succumbed. 




By Wednesday we knew the inhabitants of Villaflor had been evacuated, the volunteer firemen were battling the blaze on several fronts, and hydroplanes flew over our home at regular intervals, collecting water from the sea to drop on the flames. 



17/07/2012

FIRE ON TENERIFE


I make no apology for returning to yesterday's subject, and I am about to make a politically incorrect statement, so don't read this is you're likely to be offended.

Arsonists should have to live with the consequences of their crimes.

I live in Tenerife where at least 2000 hectares of beautiful forest are on fire because some blithering idiot set it on fire. Some selfish, thrill-seeking bastards decided it would be fun to watch other people's homes and livelihoods go up in smoke. And make no mistake about it - lives will be lost. Just this afternoon a fire engine crashed on the motorway - one can't help wondering if its driver had been up all night.
The bomberos and military are doing their best while millions of trees explode and die, thousands of birds fall screaming as their feathers burn, thousands of rabbits, lizards and insects bake in a coating of red-hot pine needles.
There are goats that people will not be able to rescue, dogs and cats - some with owners, some feral, all un-deserving of the fate that is racing to overtake them.
I saw the desolation of Masca after fire swept through there five years ago. I shall never forget the weeping shopkeeper who sent me up the stairs to look at his apartment. "I won't come with you, it upsets me too much" he said and I could see why. Televisions melted, his bath like a Dali painting, precious photographs ruined in twisted frames, clothing and furniture just piles of water-soaked ash, and the stink of burned dreams everywhere. It's happening again, now, as I type this.

If you don't read my Facebook page, look at these sites to see the awful pictures and get the latest updates.
www.facebook.com/cav.tenerife
www.facebook.com/prensa.laorotava
www.facebook.com/canarianweekly

16/07/2012

FUEGO!

Fuego means fire, but the word is also used to mean fuegos artificiales - fireworks.
Last weekend was a big fiesta weekend here in Tenerife, to celebrate the Fiesta del Carmen, and there were dozens of beautiful firework demonstrations all over the island.
Las Galletas, our nearest coastal village, was packed to bursting with cars and camper-vans. Tents were erected on the outskirts, the beach was full, the life-guard was on his perch and the sea heaved with bathers.
We have been to the firework display several times - to sit on the beach and experience it close-up is amazing. Yesterday I merely saw them from afar and heard the thud-thud of the huge bangers, and waited like a local for Las Tres Palmeras - three fireworks that resemble Three Palm-trees - which signified the end of the show.

Meanwhile in the mountains, what we have been dreading for the past year has finally happened - a forest fire. We have had no significant rain for a whole year and everything is tinder-dry. Fire could have burst out by itself, but the usual explanation for such disasters is human. Sometimes it is a dropped cigarette-end - it is illegal to throw one out of ones car window here, and quite right too. Sometimes an irresponsible farmer will let a bonfire get out of control, or sparks from a barbecue will fly further than expected. But often it is arson. Acres and acres of trees burn because some stupid idiot wants to watch the fire, or has a grudge against society. People's homes and livelihoods are destroyed, lives are lost. 
The bomberos do their best, but much of the forest in Tenerife is inaccessible to vehicles. Pines packed with explosive resin cling to precipitous slopes. The layer of pine needles is metres thick since the peasants no longer gather it. The roads are bad enough without thick smoke obscuring the bends.
The firemen climb up the slopes in danger of their lives, dragging their hoses - helicopters drop buckets of seawater - trees are felled to create fire-breaks. Eventually they always put out the fire, but at tremendous cost, as the remote village of Masca learned a few years ago. 
Wish them and the residents of Tenerife the best of luck - we need it! This link is to the local newspaper.
http://www.diariodeavisos.com/

13/07/2012

FRIDAY 13th

Were you among the superstitious who stayed in bed all day today? Or do you subscribe to the view that superstition is silly?

Either way, it is difficult to avoid knowing when Friday 13th comes round, because someone is bound to mention it.

Like the OH did this morning when we were told the cam-belt needed changing - an expensive job that we can ill afford after paying our property tax a week ago.



A cam-belt should apparently be changed every 75,000 kilometers or 4 years, whichever comes first, or dire and terminal things happen to your car's insides.

Our little Hyundai Atos has 110,000 on the clock and is 9 years old. I asked the garage about a squeak and a low thrum-thrum sound and they said they need to look inside.

On the other hand, it did pass the ITV today - that's the Spanish equivalent of the MOT, so maybe we were lucky.

So we awarded it its brand new ITV sticker and then booked it in for Thursday. Fingers crossed.

To put things into perspective, one of my good friends has been allowed out of hospital for the weekend. She's just heard she has a tumour on her liver, she's bright yellow, and next week they're going to go in and grab a bit so they can decide what chemo to give her.

What's a dodgy car compared with that?

12/07/2012

BLOG LIST SURGERY

 Just to cheer you up - this is one of the many flame trees I see on my morning walks. It's amazing how putting one foot in front of the other clears the mind, and today, as well as untangling a bit of plot, I made the decision to indulge in a spot of surgery.
  When the A-Z Challenge came along I was fairly new to blogging, and I was enthusiastic enough to sign up for it. Great fun it was too, most of the time, though there were moments when I thought otherwise!
One of its attractions - and let's be brutally honest here - was the promise of more followers. I started out with 10 and ended up with 40, so they were right about that.
 I also found some blogs I wanted to follow, and have checked on them regularly ever since, but half of them seem to have ground to a halt. 
So today, with surgical precision, I cut the list of blogs I follow in half. Two of those who only post occasionally I have kept because when they write it's always worth reading - the others have gone. I doubt they will even notice my absence.
Now I shall concentrate on proper writing for a while, and maybe, when I've got this damn book sorted out, I shall find the time to look for other blogs to follow.

09/07/2012

DOES MY TUM LOOK BIG IN THIS?

Okay - this is the only full-length photo of me I could find in a hurry - taken in England last year by my grandson. My hair is now longer, though still with its natural grey highlights, but I look much the same. Except that I have put on a kilo and a half since I gave up smoking.

This month I have been wearing dresses because it's summer, but my black handbag doesn't look good with summer dresses, so today I was browsing for another. I reckoned I could treat myself as my trip to the dentist cost me nothing!
I looked at the price ticket - 27 euros - and shook my head. The trader pounced. I explained that I was a writer and needed a bag large enough to take my A5 notebook. He took the bag I admired inside the shop and extracted the paper stuffing. We tried the notebook, which fitted. 
I said "Not enough pockets." The price dropped by three euros. I said I would think about it, The price dropped another three euros. I walked to the door. "Give me eighteen euros," he said. At least he hadn't mentioned a wife and six starving children. "All right," I agreed - it's a pretty bag.
As I was getting my purse out we got chatting and this young man - well, 40ish anyway - patted my tummy gently and asked, "Baby?" I fell about laughing. He frowned. "I'm a grandmother," I said. He smiled and changed the subject.
As I was walking back to my car I wondered whether to be flattered or hurt. He'd already made the sale, so presumably it wasn't flattery, yet did I really look young enough to be pregnant? It would be nice to think so.
But it was probably the dress, which falls in tiers from the waist - nice and cool in Tenerife heat.
Hence the question - does my tum look big in this?

04/07/2012

DEATHS HEAD MOTH

For the nature-lovers among you - this is one of the caterpillars chomping its merry way through my daughter's rooftop garden at the moment.
Credit for the photographs goes to my daughter.
These caterpillars can strip every leaf from a large tropical climbing plant in a day, which my daughter is happy about in view of my son-in-law's reluctance to prune anything as severely as he should..
They grow fast - this one will double in size before it pupates - and any sensible cat leaves it well alone. They exude an unpleasant irritant and they probably taste disgusting.
Looked at dispassionately, they are attractive creatures, but surprisingly difficult to find despite their size, and the lemon ripening in the background of the picture above is the same colour as this caterpillar.
They also come in a brown pattern. A friend saw one on a bar terrace and thought it was a dog turd until it moved!


My son-in-law showed me my first two - he had caught them in a plastic box and was taking them to the park.
 "Listen to this," he said, and flicked the box with his fingernail.
The damn things reared up and hissed at him!

Their cat caught one of the moths once and brought it downstairs to show them. It was the size of two spread hands and it was screaming.
They caught the cat and released the moth, which immediately flew back upstairs, out of the door and carried on laying its eggs on their plants.

02/07/2012

CAMPEONES & Earthquakes.

As you can imagine, last night was not a quiet one here in Tenerife.

It started in the afternoon with children chanting “España!” in the pool. Then one of our neighbours moved his television onto his terrace, lit his barbecue and invited all his friends round. 



 Every bar was bedecked with flags, and the football shirt manufacturers  had obviously done a roaring trade.





A few practice bangers exploded and my cat cowered. She won't allow me to comfort her at times like these - Canarian or not, she hates fireworks - so I built her a tent in her favourite corner and went to my daughter's apartment to watch the match in comfort.
Then there were shouts, screams, fireworks and general rejoicing. Four-nil! I am not a football fan, but the excitement was infectious.

Even the children were dressed up, and this man, his wife and his family were all decked out in Spanish colours.




I did feel sorry for Simone, owner of the lone Italian flag on our block. I found him sharing a drink with a Spaniard, and patted his back in sympathy. “No importa,” he said, but his expression was sad.

And there have been more earthquakes on the island of El Hierro - see its dedicated page on the right..

01/07/2012

POOH BEAR and a Poem


My daughter came to stay for a holiday and, knowing she would be missing her cats, I put a soft Pooh Bear toy on her pillow. She loved him and cuddled him every night. 
On Friday she went home, and half an hour after I left her at the airport I got a plaintive little text – “I forgot Pooh!” I offered to return to the airport with him. “No time – but make sure he gets lots of love.”
So he is being fostered by Betty and Squidgy Ted until I can take him to England in September. Anyone who thinks one can be too old for toys, take note - Betty is 68.
On my LITTLE POEMS FOR TOYS page I have posted a poem about another left-behind bear - Daniel's Blue Ted.