Archive for August, 2007

Okay, that might be a bit sensationalist, but it did feel a bit like that’s what happened. Anyone else who lives in a subtropical climate and has an orchid tree with psychotic tendencies might know what I’m talking about.
When summer heats up, the tree’s long, bean-like seed pods turn brown and then explode like a firework, firing their button sized seeds in all directions like a madman with a machine gun. If you happen to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, one could easily have your eye out.

On hot sultry days at the moment it’s positively dangerous to step outside the front door without body armour. It’s not even safe inside as the tree manages to spray its ammunition through the open front door. I’ve even been hit on the head whilst sitting minding my own business on the sofa.

This assault doesn’t let up at night either. Pods explode like champagne corks sending a rat-tat-tat-tat against the bedroom window. It really freaks you out the first time it happens (what do I mean first time? – it freaks me out every time).

It seems an incredibly effective way of the tree to spread its seeds, if completely nerve wracking for anyone in the immediate vicinity.
You might think I’m exaggerating about the ferocity and velocity of this phenomenon; however, don’t be too surprised if, at some point in the future, you happening to be perusing the Darwin awards and read about a tragic tale of a man gunned down by his orchid tree.

“What’s Ferguson thinking about?” The man across the bar from me moaned. “Tevez is only Rooney mark 2, Nani is Ronaldo mark 2 and Hargreaves is Carrick mark two. This is rubbish…”
Almost as the words left his mouth a bullet of a shot flew from Nani’s foot which would have decapitated a supporter at the Stretford end had it not been for a well made goal net. The bar erupted as seven of us cheered and one Tottenham fan (or ABU) groaned.
“Bloody brilliant,” my compadre across the bar grinned. “Ferguson is a genius. He can always spot the talent.”

Ironically, it was probably our worse performance so far, but that came as no surprise given the situation. It was always going to be a nervy affair between two teams who couldn’t afford to lose. Or even draw.
Spurs started the brightest; Robbie Keane almost piling on the gloom and doom with a flash of inconsistent brilliance. It was good to see a team come to Old T and try to take us on, but when nothing happened for them in the first twenty minutes they resorted in part to similar tactics as the other teams we’ve played so far. After that we settled down a bit, without actually taking control, but it didn’t look as though we were in danger of being beaten, even if Berbatov looked as though he might be the difference between the sides.
Nervousness showed throughout. Personally, I expect more from the senior players, but on this occasion Scholes was guilty of some sloppy passes and Giggsy was doing his headless chicken bit. If Giggsy had a footballing brain like Teddy Sheringham, he’d be a true legend instead of simply being a great talent.
Once again we didn’t look as though we were going to score, then the game erupted into life. Goal line clearances, penalty claims and then Nani showing that you don’t need 100 passes to get the ball in the net.
Of course Tottenham will say they were robbed again. Obviously I’m biased, but after watching numerous replays, I’m still not sure. It looked to me as though the ball came off Wes Brown’s chest and not his arm, then I would say that. The point is though, that if, even with the benefit of replays, it isn’t clear, then the referee shouldn’t award a penalty. I like Spurs and Martin Jol, but on this occasion he can ‘jog on’.

At last the teeniest glimpse of light; I trust that’ll be the last we’ll see of the relegation zone. I just hope Fergie has a wee word with Nani about his post goal celebrations. They were very impressive and would probably have won him gold at the Olympics, but we really don’t need someone else who can score goals injured right now.

In my closet

Posted: August 23, 2007 in Poetry, Shocking Poetry, Writing


I used to be gay, but then the world changed,
And as I look crap in a skin tight vest,
I can’t be gay, so now I’m depressed.

There’s a rather strange creature that inhabits some parts of Tenerife; the ex-pat who looks down their noses at tourists. Now, I don’t mean those tourists who just want to come to a version of their own country, except with sunshine; are ignorant, rude to locals, disrespectful of local customs etc, etc. We all look down our noses at them. I mean tourists in general. It’s an odd condition as every one of us who wasn’t born here probably first came as a tourist, so I don’t really understand it.

I saw an example of this type of snobbery the other day in a small resort on the west of the island. I was standing behind an English woman in a queue outside a council office, waiting to pay some bills for a friend. She was chatting on her mobile to a friend, telling her that the day before she’d had to “mingle with the tourists in Playa las Americas”. Nothing particularly wrong with that, but it was the way that she pronounced ‘tourists’ that riled me. She said it the way you’d say ‘I’ve got dog dirt on my shoe’.

The odd thing about this comment was that the office we were standing outside was smack bang in the centre of what is pure and simply a tourist resort, albeit a very pleasant one. Most of it didn’t even exist twenty years ago and the voices which could be predominantly heard on the streets around me were English. Not exactly your typical Canarian town then.

The icing on the cake happened when it was her turn to go to the counter. She made no attempt to talk to the clerk in Spanish, instead spoke to her a though she was in a council office in blighty!

So she lived in a resort and couldn’t, or wouldn’t, attempt to speak in Spanish. I’m still trying to figure out what she thought made her superior to people who were simply here enjoying their vacations.

After the Fire

Posted: August 21, 2007 in News, Travel

Last week I returned from a trip to the south coast via the Valley of Santiago del Teide; the place where the Tenerife fires at the beginning of August, finally burnt out. It was frightening to see how close the fire actually came to the town; the earth around its outskirts charred and burnt. Worse was the small town of Valle de Arriba, which looked as though it had been completely encircled by the fire. It was quite amazing to see green oases completely surrounded by evidence of the fire, testament to the random course the fire took.
The area isn’t a stranger to the threat of being engulfed by the force of nature. A hundred years ago lava from the Chinyero volcano eruption lapped at the doors of Las Manchas and Valle de Arriba, and the villages were only saved by the intervention of a procession carrying a statue of Santa Ana to the edge of the lava flowed which duly slowed and stopped. My guess, looking at how close the fire came to some of the villages in the valley, that the saint is going to be credited with another miracle.

Despite the villages escaping relatively unscathed, the surrounding forests didn’t fare quite as well; some of the hills look as though they’ve received nature’s version of chemotherapy, the few remaining trees looking sparse and weak. However, there is hope; on many of the pines at the top of the valley I could see fresh green growth amongst the bare brown branches. They’re resilient these Canarian pines.

The worst area that I saw was the area around the Erjos pools, a favourite with walkers, which has been devastated by the fire, even though the countryside a couple of hundred yards farther on was completely untouched by the blaze. In fact any visitors travelling between Erjos and Icod de los Vinos wouldn’t be able to tell that there had been a fire.

Above Icod, I could see the path the fire took. A broad band of copper coloured pines stretches across the hillside back towards the source of the fire at Los Realejos. To anyone who didn’t know better, it might look like a forest with its autumn colours on display, but of course, we don’t have autumnal colours here.
I couldn’t tell from the road, but my hope is that these pines will be like the ones near Santiago; that there’s still life in the trees.

Man City 1 Man Utd 0

This is becoming a joke. Three times we’ve been the better team and yet we’ve only 2 points to show for all our endeavours. People can moan that we need a striker, well as far as I’m aware we’ve already got 4 world class ones. If only they could stay fit.

The football gods are obviously not with us at the moment. Let’s face it we played City off the park. Possibly a lack of selfishness in the forward players, Paul Scholes not hitting the ball with his usual accuracy and the intervention, time after time, of Richards stopped it being a relatively easy win for us.

When the blue half of Manchester snap out of their temporary euphoria in a few days, even the most blinkered of them will realise that they still lack ambition. When it came to going forward they were pretty woeful.

The Liverpool Chelsea result will help, but losing 7 points in your first three matches makes it all uphill for the time being. For me there’s enough evidence in the way the team are playing to convince me that this is just a glitch, the final piece will fall into place any day now and somebody is going to be on the end of a drubbing.

Deep South Part 2; Hotel or Army Camp?

Posted: August 15, 2007 in Travel

Whilst I was down south, I thought I’d take a look at the newer, upmarket side of Costa Adeje, where the last few years has seen the arrival of a new batch of stylish five star hotels which are more imaginative architecturally than their neighbours at the other end of Playa Fañabe. One, the Gran Hotel Bahia Del Duque, even has a small shopping centre, built in the style of a typical Canarian village complete with mock church tower, attached. It’s all very nice, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea that visitors might feel that they’ve seen an authentic slice of Tenerife without leaving their hotel. Theme parks are okay, but you can’t beat the real thing.

I tried to have a look inside the hotel, but found it impossible as, so the doorman informed me, the only people allowed into the hotel itself were those staying there, or people with a prior appointment; even these had to sign in.
The Bahia Del Duque is obviously suffering from an identity crisis at the moment and believes that it’s the Pentagon and not a hotel in a tourist resort.
I’ve visited many hotels around the world and can’t remember any of them not welcoming ‘non-resident guests’ to their bars or restaurants.  Maybe there was another reason-famous guest, low season and short staffed. Who knows?

The Deep South

Posted: August 15, 2007 in Travel

Had to venture to the southern resorts yesterday on business. It’s funny, the area around Playa las Americas is probably the place that I know least on the island. Reason being that much of it has been developed purely for tourism and, unless you’re on vacation and want a sun, sea and sand holiday, or are working in that sector and live there, it doesn’t really hold much interest.

However, despite constantly trying to promote the Tenerife that exists outside the resorts, I really don’t have a problem with their existence, quite the opposite. Thirty years ago, the area where the main resorts have been developed was pretty much a desert and good for nothing. The truth is that tourism brings in a fantastic amount of revenue to the island. It’s the mainstay of the economy, without it the lives of many of the islanders would be much more difficult, such as it was before some visionary businessmen transformed arid stretches of coastal badlands into moneymaking tourist resorts.

Recently I read some comments on the Times online website from a man who had a go at the British for buying up all the houses on Tenerife. Interesting point-he clearly knew nothing about the island. It’s true that a lot of British have moved to Tenerife (just as they have done since its conquest alongwith the Spanish, Portuguese, Flemish, Italians etc, etc), but these days many buy houses in the south and southwest, near the main resorts. The fact is that for 500 years the only people that lived in these areas were a few fishermen.

Most Tinerfeños lived, as they do now, in the greener and more fertile north of the island.

Starry, starry night

Posted: August 15, 2007 in Travel

Last night we were sitting on our patio, enjoying a bottle of vino and a firework display from a fiesta across the valley when two shooting stars joined the party by blazing their way across the clear night sky. It was a real ‘Disney’ moment.

Learning to Love the Olive

Posted: August 13, 2007 in Food, Recipes, Travel

Supermarkets here have aisles full of olives of different flavours, pitted and unpitted; we can choose from plain black or green to olives flavoured and, or, filled with apples, peppers, anchovies…etc.

Olives seem to be one of those foods that people either love or detest. My wife, Andy can’t eat an olive without it leaving her feeling queasy for hours and hasn’t attempted to eat one since  a disasterous attempt during a Greek holiday in 1995.

However, a wise old woman once told me a technique for eating olives which she guaranteed would convert those who tried it out from hating its bitter flavour  to positively loving it. It’s simple, but it takes a bit of faith.

The Technique for Learning to Love the Olive

To begin the convertee needs five olives. Pitted would be best, it would be unfair to expect a convertee to deal with a stone as well.

1: Okay, this is the hardest step, pop the first olive in your mouth and get it down your throat as quickly as possible-yes it will make you want to heave and will leave a disgusting taste in your mouth (good things don’t come without a price).

2: It’ll go against all your instincts (especially after step 1), but pop number two in and do the same. Yes it will still taste digusting, but the urge to heave won’t be as strong (you’ve passed the hardest part).

3: Number three; you still won’t like it, but it won’t leave you feeling that your taste buds have been ruined for life.

4: You’re coming out of the woods. By the time this one goes down you’ll be thinking, ‘Hmmm, not bad. I don’t know why I’ve always made a fuss about these little fellows.’

5: Simple, as you’re munching on number five your hand will be instinctively reaching out for olive number 6…7…8…9… (well done, you’ve learned to love the olive).

Does this work? I haven’t a clue. I’ve always liked them anyway and I’ve never met anybody (including Andy) who can’t stomach the taste of olives, who would trust me enough to try it out!!