Archive for January, 2008

Cowboys, Tenerife styleThe policeman’s expression was the same as a rabbit caught in a car’s headlights. Standing at the centre of a crossroads where four single lane roads converged, he was faced with the prospect of trying to manoeuvre the four cars which had emerged from each road at exactly the same moment; it was impasse.

The driver in each car stared at the policeman, like band members waiting for their conductor to orchestrate their next move.

He turned full circle, seeking a possible solution, then shrugged and raised his arms, palms upwards; a gesture which spoke volumes, it said:

“What do you expect me to do about it?”

No, this wasn’t the amusing, but not unexpected, chaos which faced concert goers trying to get in to the Elton John gig in Costa Adeje (clearly not funny to those stuck in the queue as Reg started belting out his tunes), this was the approach to the small village of San Antonio, home to one of the ‘other’ big events that were taking place on the island last week, the Fiestas of San Antonio Abad, taking place on the slopes of La Matanza, however the principle was the same.

Tinerfeños love fiestas and generally organise them very well, it’s just the small matter of how you get to them and where you park when you do that’s left in the lap of the gods.

Thankfully we’d seen that movie many times and knew that when we spotted the first signs of people leaving their cars and setting off on foot, that it was time to do the same, even though we were still a couple of kilometres from the event.

We left the policemen to his logistics problem and wandered past private garages which had been turned into makeshift restaurants for the day with long trestle tables set with chequered tablecloths. There was no need for a menu; the aromas which mugged our nostrils told us everything we needed to know and by the time we reached the Ermita de San Antonio Abad, where the fiesta was taking place I was drooling like a hungry sheepdog.

Around the small church, paddocks, pens and stalls housed stocky hunting dogs, placid bronze coloured oxen built like the proverbial you-know-what, goats, sheep, mules, donkeys and horses. Caballeros in embroidered waistcoats rode their steeds through vertigo inducing streets. Old guys in felt homburgs, chewing on oversized puros (cigars) sat on walls shooting the breeze.

Goat with a mulletAlthough this fiesta wasn’t as big as the one in Buenavista del Norte, there were still a few thousand people and their animals packing the little streets of the small village. We ambled around the town avoiding the little ‘gifts’ left by the animals, passing a trio of girls pulling two dogs and a kid goat (poor wee thing, he was in for a right shock when the time came for him to change from family pet to family dinner – that’s the sort of thought that makes me consider reverting to  vegetarianism), ferrets, guinea pigs, a couple of snakes and, clinging to one girl’s side like a 3-D tattoo, a three foot iguana with the most beautiful markings (though they only came in green).

After a couple of circuits, we squeezed ourselves into a space at the main refreshments stall where Desperate Dan-sized pans bubbled away with beefy stews (a bit insensitive I thought considering it was placed right next to the oxen stalls – that could have been somebody’s brother in there), and ordered a couple of cervezas and a plate of carne con papas (meat and potatoes).

Dipping my doorstop sized chunk of bread in the seasoned stew, I thought about the other ‘big event’ which had taken place last week on the opposite side of the island.

Having a legendary pop star play a gig on Tenerife is great for tourism, but for me, standing amongst those smiling, simple (in the nicest sense of the word) farmers and their animals on a hill, that was the real deal.


Okay, this particular blog is a rant; a mechanism for bringing my blood down from a boil to a simmer and to release some pent up frustration caused by some anonymous mean spirited persons who would happily put the dampeners on a centuries old tradition just because it didn’t suit their particular sensibilities (see what I mean).

A week or ago I didn’t feel ready for Carnaval in Tenerife; it was hurtling toward us too quickly and I hadn’t recovered from Christmas, New Year and a visit from our Annie Lennox look-alike friend, Sarah. However, walking around the harbour yesterday, there was the slightest hint of a buzz around the square; I could taste the spirit of Carnaval in the air and I felt the first surge of excitement at the prospect of the week long spectacular of flamboyance and revelry.

Then, I happened to pick up one of the Island’s English language newspapers and read a variation of a report which appears nearly every year apparently written on behalf of ‘people who live…’ on one of the streets where the Carnaval street parties take place. People who live? Yeah, right. 

The paper reports that Carnaval has become “a good deal noisier and unruly…” HELLO – it’s Carnaval; the last big blowout before Lent. Of course it’s noisy, Spanish Fiestas generally are. As for unruly. I’ve been going for four years; I’ve taken friends from the UK and we’ve partied until four and five in the morning and they all comment on how good natured the atmosphere is despite thousands of people dancing and drinking in the streets throughout the night.

Carnaval goers on Calle Perdomo, an unruly lot?The criticism is aimed at one street in particular, Calle Perdomo. This is where younger Carnaval goers tend to congregate; where DJ’s play music (which isn’t really that much different from the live bands in the square). The ‘people who live there’ want the music turned down; the Carnaval to stop earlier; the kiosks to be moved etc. Basically they want Carnaval goers to just stop having fun.

What annoys me is this – the buildings on Calle Perdomo must be… maybe twenty years old. Carnaval has been celebrated for a lot longer than that, which means one of two things:

a) The people who are complaining bought apartments there knowing that they were right in the heart of most of the fiestas which take place in the town.
b) Or, whoever is complaining is an incomer who, ignorant of the culture, didn’t realise that they were buying an apartment which, some might say, was in such a prime spot for fiestas.

Either way, they don’t have my sympathy, especially if they fall into the latter category. If they don’t like the culture, they shouldn’t have moved here ergo, in the words of Simon Pegg, they can “JOG ON”.

Vive La Carnaval!!!!

Last night I was subjected to a vision that I was totally unprepared for, and one that will stay with me for some time; the sight of Yoda from Star Wars déshabillé.

Whilst the south of Tenerife had ‘Rocket Man’ Elton John flying in by private jet, performing for a couple of hours and flying straight back out again, the north is gradually being infected by its annual bout of Carnaval fever.

Puerto de la Cruz, Carnaval poster 2008In Puerto de la Cruz, street lights with cat’s faces and harlequin masks are being erected around the harbour; music stages and chorizo and beer stalls are springing around Plaza del Charco and on TV, at least five stations have begun screening Murga contests.
Murgas are village-sized groups of men and women in clown-like costumes with painted faces who sing satirical songs that seem to last for hours. The first time I saw them I thought they were great and then, after about three minutes, the novelty wore off.
But last night one Murga group broke with tradition; each member of the ensemble was dressed like a character from Star Wars. There were stormtroopers, wookies, ewoks, a particularly butch Princess Leia and then there was Yoda.
Bizarrely, Yoda, clearly carried away the razzmatazz of the occasion, kept flashing the audience. Worse was to come. Not content with just flashing, he whipped off his cloak completely and proceeded to prance about the stage with the Yoda ‘crown jewels’ on full display for all to see (thank goodness that Yoda’s assertion  ‘always two there are’ wasn’t accurate on this occasion).

It was the funniest Murga performance I’ve witnessed in my four years here, but Star Wars will never be the same again.

It’s been a beautifully sunny day in Puerto de la Cruz, well it would have been had it not been for the thickest ‘calima’ I’ve seen since moving here four years ago.
A sunny day in Puerto - honestHot winds from the Sahara bring massive sand clouds which shroud the islands in a cloak of ruddy dust. The south and east coasts experience the worst of the calima where the air can be thick enough with sand to cause respiratory problems. On the north coast we usually escape the worst (possibly because of the mountains and the volcano between us and the east). By the time the calima reaches us it usually manifests itself as a kind of haze; leaving a fine layer of sand over everything, but today it’s been more like a hot fog, so dense that I couldn’t see any of the surrounding valley.

I took this photograph at Parque Taoro above Puerto. It’s a favourite spot for joggers and even with the air thick with the Sahara’s finest, there were still some diehards trotting around the dusty tracks, ironically filling their lungs with sand in their quest to stay fit – not the most sensible of activities during calima.

Whilst watching Man Utd’s demolition of Newcastle (if that had been Keegan’s first game, it would probably have been his last as well) a Swedish bloke I know came into the bar and asked me if Larsson was playing. I laughed assuming, he was referring to last year, but he was serious.

He went on to tell me that he had bumped into some young players he knew from Helsinberg and had asked them to ask Henrik to sign a Celtic shirt for him, but they told him that they couldn’t as Henrik Larsson was in Manchester and had signed to play for another three months just like last year.

Now this might be a lot of nonsense, but he insisted it was 100% true. Being in Tenerife, I’m probably well out of the loop and this might be common knowledge, but none of my UK based Man Utd supporting friends have mentioned this. Has anybody else heard anything?

Tower of the Iglesia de la Concepción Every so often, like many people, I can be guilty of taking photographs which for no apparent reason seem to be slightly askew.  Recently I took some shots of the Iglesia de la Concepción in La Laguna. When I uploaded them I thought my whole vertical perspective must have been shot, because on every one the church’s tower had a most definite list to the right. I couldn’t believe that my judgement could have been so bad, but on the other hand I had been leaning out on to the road to try to avoid getting some workmen in the shot, so I put it down to that.
Then yesterday, I came across some photos I’d taken a couple of years ago and guess what? Exactly the same; a tilt to the right. I looked at the more recent photos more closely and noticed that whilst the tower is tilting, the buildings on the right of the picture are perfectly straight. So the good news is my vertical perspective is fine, but the tower of the Iglesia de la Concepción is doing a very passable impersonation of a certain tower in Pisa. Still, if word gets round it might attract more visitors to the city’s lovely old quarter to see Tenerife’s latest attraction; the ‘Leaning Tower of La Laguna’.

“What’s the weather like? What’s the weather like?”
That’s all they want to know.
“Will it be sunny? Will it be hot?
Please tell me before I go.”

They don’t care that if it always stays dry,
It’ll soon be a desert and the crops will all die.
Livelihoods lost; no food, water, or grain.
“What’s the weather like? What’s the weather like?
Please don’t tell me it’ll rain.”