Archive for December, 2007

“Hi,” my neighbour’s daughter smiled at me across the gate. “Just wanted to let you know that we’re about to light a bonfire just in case…” her voice faltered and her eyes flicked briefly, almost imperceptibly, downwards and back again. “…just in case you’ve got any washing out.”
I followed the path of her glance as an icy finger pierced my heart and I heard faint, mocking laughter ringing in my ears.

A couple of years ago friends, Keith and Ruth, who were driving a van back from La Gomera to the UK (not a straightforward feat given the body of water in between), stayed with us for a couple of weeks. On their first morning, Keith emerged from the bedroom in a state of dress not fit for public viewing, i.e. he was wearing a pair of woolly socks underneath his sandals.
Quite simply a crime against fashion“What are you wearing?” I exclaimed, horrified.
“What? What’s the problem?” He was slightly hung-over, confused and had no idea what I was on about.
“You’re wearing socks with sandals,” having to point it out to him made the crime even worse.
“So?”
“It’s just so uncool,” did I really have to explain this. “No-one with any semblance of good taste wears socks with sandals.”
“Look,” he went on the defensive. “I’ve just come from 1000 metres up a hillside in La Gomera. Even inside it was cold (this was July), I wanted warm feet and I wanted comfortable footwear. Surely in those circumstances socks and sandals are okay?”
He was drowning and he knew it.
“Nope,” I was sure of my ground on this one. “There is absolutely no situation in which the wearing of socks with sandals is justifiable, end of story.”

“Anyway, I just thought I’d let you know about the fire,” My neighbour’s daughter said again as she turned and walked away.
But I wasn’t really listening. I was still staring at the thick black socks contrasting against the neon orange design of the open toed sandals on the end of my legs. How could it have come to this?
It was winter, I was in the house, there was a cold draft on my bare feet, I wanted to feel comfortable, I hadn’t intended for anyone else to see me. But whatever I told myself, I knew the truth; there was no excuse.

Call the style police and ask them to slap the cuffs on me right now.

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One of the little things about Christmas on Tenerife that awakens a childlike sense of wonder in me is the wonderfully elaborate beléns, or nativity scenes, that spring up in town halls, plazas and shop windows during December.

These scenes, which represent life in a Middle Eastern village during biblical times, range from intricately detailed miniatures to life-size depictions such as the one in front of La Orotava’s town hall. The best beléns also have working parts; donkeys draw water from wells, men scramble up and down palm trees, blacksmiths forge horses’ hooves and so on.

I can spend ages admiring the craftwork that has gone into bringing these scenes to life. Peering through little windows like a modern day Gulliver, I’ll see a woman making bread, or a pantry filled with strings of chorizos and full Serrano hams.

part of a nativity scene in La OrotavaHowever, every time I happen across a new belén, my first objective is to find one particularly figure. He’s the guy who’s been caught short outdoors and obviously has no option but to relieve himself; usually behind a bush or by the river. I kid you not; he’s always there; I don’t know why; possibly just for mischief; an irreverent touch in a reverent landscape. You can even buy figures of him in different poses in the local supermarket (some of which are distastefully detailed) to add to your own nativity scene.

In the belén in La Villa shopping centre in La Orotava they at least had the decency to provide him with a wooden outside lavatory, but then undid this discreet touch (or made it even more amusing, depending on your tastes) by having the toilet door swing open at regular intervals, exposing him mid-movement much to the delight of young and, let’s be honest here, some not so young onlookers. I love it.

To avoid the hell that is watching badly dubbed films we occasionally swap DVDs with friends, which is a bit like receiving Christmas presents in as much as we don’t always know what we’re going to end up with (sad I know, but Spanish TV does make you very appreciative).

Sometimes the movies are enjoyable, sometimes not, but a recent swap landed us with quite the most inane and possibly the least funny movie I’ve had the misfortune of ever seeing: ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’.
I’d deliberately managed to avoid it when it came out a few years ago, but in a desert of appallingly dubbed films, beggars can’t be choosers. So I watched it with an open mind. Quite clearly that should have been an empty mind.

Okay, if you’re a couple of thirteen year old boys who’ve had a couple of shandy’s and are puffing on an joint made from oregano then it might raise a smirk, but surely not for anyone else?
When I gave my friend some constructive feedback, i.e. I told her that I thought it was a load of old bollocks, she got quite shirty and suggested that maybe I didn’t get it because I wasn’t stoned. Okay…that’s one point of view, but:

  • I got ‘The Last King of Scotland’, but I’m not an insane baby eating dictator.
  • I got ‘Brokeback Mountain’, but I’m not a gay cowboy in denial.
  • I got ‘Sideways’, but I’m not a wine guzzling failed writer (on the other hand).

The reason I didn’t get ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’ wasn’t because I wasn’t stoned; I didn’t get it because it was garbage.

I’ve got a theory that ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’ was actually financed by the anti- cannabis league. If being stoned makes that film funny, then that’s got to be one of the strongest arguments against smoking dope that there is going.

It’s a delicate subject I know, but somebody’s got to raise it for the sake of the comfort of any male planning to move to Spain before it’s too late and they find that they’re destined to walk with a strange gait, or find themselves making unsociable bodily adjustments in public for evermore. STOCK UP ON UNDERPANTS BEFORE YOU MOVE!

It’s not that men’s underpants here are horrendous, or anything like that, in fact like the bulk of Spanish fashion, they’re actually quite stylish. The problem is that, like the ubiquitous Blackpool guest house, there’s no ballroom.

Nada, zilch…no extra little pouch, nothing. They seem to have been designed for men who have the biological build of an action man figure. Now, although I haven’t made a study of this, I don’t believe I’m particularly unusual in the old ‘two boiled eggs in a silk purse’ department. I’m certainly no Nick Nolte (I read that a few years ago he had to have a nip and tuck to stop him from sitting on his…ouch). So I’ve no idea why many underpants in Spain have this design flaw.

A friend had her own theory. “Well Spanish men don’t have much down there, do they,” she said with the confidence of someone who had first hand knowledge; although I didn’t press her for information on how she knew this.

Some underpants are actually better than others and do have a little bit of ‘give’, but I’ve reached the point where I’ve graded mine according to what I plan to do on any particular day.

  • If I’m going to be walking a lot, then it’s got to be a pair bought in the UK; sensible, comfortable and loads of room for manoeuvre.
  • If there’s a limited amount of walking then one of the Spanish pairs with slight give can usually get me through, albeit with the occasional uncomfortable slippage.
  • If I’m working at home then the ballroom-ess pairs can come off the subs bench.

If I mix these basic rules up, it’s a disaster which isn’t pleasant for me or anyone else in the vicinity. There’ll be an almost audible ‘pop’ as ‘the lads’ make their great escape, followed by a descent into the ministry of funny walks as I try to manoeuvre things back into a more comfortable position (under the completely misguided impression that by not using my hands I’m not attracting attention to my predicament), followed by a last resort, hand down the trousers and manual realignment. Like I said not pleasant and akin to a living hell.

These Spanish underpants may look stylish on a model on a billboard when everything’s where it should be, but when there’s a pair of testicles hanging out of one leg looking as though they’re in the grip of the Boston Strangler, it kind of ruins the effect don’t you think?