Archive for March, 2008

The Whiskas Chronicles: – Day of the Ninja

Last week’s gloomy weather on Tenerife didn’t just depress us, it didn’t do much for Whiskas’ mood either. As a confirmed sun worshipper, his behaviour deteriorates when the rain falls. Most of the cats around here live outdoors, Whiskas included; it’s just that he believes, being ‘the special one’ that he should enjoy all the trappings of a domestic cat, whilst retaining the freedom to come and go when he chooses.
The upshot of this is that as soon as the first raindrop lands, he arrives at the front door demanding to get in, irrespective of the time.

So when the rain started in the middle of last Tuesday night, we had the dreaded ‘NIN’ (noise in the night). To be fair, he only did it the once, but it was enough to rouse me from my slumber and in my experience, if the NIN is allowed to go unpunished, we’d be in for a repeat performance the following night and before we knew it Whiskelus would make his evil return.

So next morning, he received the silent treatment for breakfast. No ‘good morning’ or scratch of the chin. His breakfast was served without a word spoken. You may think, ‘so what?’ but he gets depressed if he feels unloved (don’t we all). He got the message and, even though it chucked it down, there was no NIN on Wednesday night.

What it didn’t do though was stop him trying to sneak in to the house to find a cosy spot to curl up for a few hours; at that he is frighteningly good. Even though this is a small house, that cat can go to ground as expertly as an undercover member of the SAS.

One time when I knew he was definitely inside, I searched the house from top to bottom. Could I find him? Not a sign, until I noticed a slight bulge sticking out from beneath the duvet at the side of the bed. I lifted the duvet up and there he was, standing stock still. I swear he was actually hiding.

This time I clocked a white fluffy blur make a run for it through the front door. I finished what I was typing and then went to see what he was up to, but hey presto…he’d disappeared. A tour of the house showed no sign, even under the duvet, so I reckoned he must have become bored and gone back outside…until I heard the faintest bump come from the bathroom, which I’d already checked out. I opened the door and scanned the place, nothing. And then I noticed, well if you look very closely at the pictures, the evidence is all there.

Seek and ye shall find
The Evidence

Whiskas was escorted from the premises, not for the first, nor I’m sure the last time in his fluffy white life. Five minutes later Andy found him curled up on our pillow. He was escorted out again. Thankfully, the sun appeared, so he buggered off to find a spot to sunbathe and peace was restored, for the time being. This is after all a foul weather friend.

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First it was Elton, now a whole load of other famous names are planning to hold gigs on Tenerife. Okay, that’s a tad misleading; Tenerife has always played host to famous names from the world of music, it’s just that most of then are Spanish, or Latin American and not familiar to British visitors.

The next wave are a bit more contemporary than old Reggie…a bit, seeing as one of them is the group Echo and The Bunnymen who are playing in the La Laguna Festival on 26th April. Their official webpage has posted the news under ‘Echo and the Sunnymen’. Clearly they don’t know La Laguna.

Second up is the big hat himself. Jay Kay and Jamiroquia are introducing some Jazz Funk to Los Cristianos by headlining the Aguaviva festival on the 14th June.

The third is Juliette & the Licks, fronted by Hollywood actress turned rock chick Juliette Lewis, who’s playing the Eólica festival in Granadilla in early July. I’ve been a fan of her acting right from seeing her suck Robert de Niro’s finger in Cape Fear through to the ‘what did she just ask him to do?’ role in From Dusk Till Dawn.

Now this is a bit more up my street.

Juliette and the Licks

The Hypocritical Oaf

Posted: March 25, 2008 in Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel
Tags: , , ,

The Canarios approach to parking never fails to elicit an astounded ‘Oh, my God. Would you just look at that’. The belief that the zebra stripes on a pedestrian crossing represent another place to park is old hat, but this guy really took the biscuit and raised the hypocrisy bar to new heights. This is a ‘Grua’, and guess what one of their jobs can be…towing away cars who park illegally!!!!!!
I was tempted to phone the police and have him towed away, but I haven’t become that sad…yet.

Illegally parked, Moi?

Whiskas is a cat, not a very imaginatively named one admittedly, but that was nothing to do with us. I say he’s a cat; however, I really believe he’s something else completely. He’s too fiendishly clever to be a mere cat. I’m sure he’s had a curse or a spell cast on him. After all stories of shape-changers aren’t uncommon on this island.

An angelic face masks a fiendish mind

He’s not our cat, he simply chooses to spend most of his time here, and we do feed him, but that only came about after a long, dirty and particularly well executed campaign on his part.

Over the past four years we’ve had good moments and bad ones. I’ve tried to outsmart him many times, with little success. He has the brains of a criminal mastermind and the stealth of a ninja. However at this moment in time we’ve reached a good point in our relationship. Although I’m well aware that this is always a fragile situation and one wrong move can see the re-emergence of his evil alter ego, Whiskelus.

The latest situation which threatens peace is related to his dinner times. Whiskas is given his dinner only after we’ve finished eating. Even as I write this, I realise how disciplinarian it sounds. Thank god we didn’t have kids; we’d have done a right Philip Larkin on them by now.  In my defence, you don’t know what we’re dealing with here. There can be no ambiguity with this cat.

As soon as we finish eating, he gets his dinner. Normally, this happens between 8 and 9pm and he’s pretty cool with that. It’s a good system. He eats, then toddles off to have a nap, or do whatever he does at night and we don’t see him again until breakfast.

The problem we’re facing is what to do when we have to go out at night? Feed him before we go, or after we come back?

The first time this happened, we fed him before we went out, at around 6-ish; a couple of hours before his usual time. It seemed unfair to make him wait. Big mistake. When we arrived home at about 10pm, Whiskas was waiting for us, clearly expecting his dinner. The early meal had been long forgotten, or viewed as an early evening snack. He was given short shrift and shown the door.
Unfortunately, the cat felt that this was an unjust course of action and protested loudly outside our bedroom window all night.

Feeding him early was obviously the wrong option, so next time we went out for the evening we decided not to feed him until we returned. This worked much better, or so it seemed. Waiting for us was a humble, white cat (probably not hungry though. Our neighbour has a cat sanctuary, so there’s food on tap all of the time). He gratefully ate his dinner and toddled away, quiet as a mouse.

But this cat is a complex character; it’s never that easy. Last Friday we went to La Laguna to see the Semana Santa Silent Procession. As it didn’t start until 9.30pm it didn’t interfere with our, or more importantly, Whiskas’ dinner. However, when we arrived back home at about 11pm, there he was waiting for us. Apparently by feeding him the previous time after we’d been out, we’d established a pattern (funny thing that with cats. If it benefits them, they learn quickly. If it doesn’t they’re as dumb as an ass), he expected another meal.

I told him not to be so stupid and ignored him. Cue another night of unrelenting protests – I’m sure he must have French blood in him.

This cat is his own worst enemy, because now the only solution I can see is that if we’re going out, he’ll have to wait till we get home before he gets fed, even if that happens to be a three in the morning. It seems harsh, but it’s the only way we’ll get any sleep…unless anybody else has any suggestions.

Anyone who tells you they’ve done/seen it all probably stopped learning about the world they live in years ago. There’s always something new to discover…something that may change long held perceptions and cause you to view your world in a different light.
All of which is just a long winded and roundabout way of admitting that, for the last four years, I’ve completely been wrong about Tenerife cheese, which I’ve always considered bland and tasteless.

In my defence I blame a restaurant in Los Gigantes for this. It was British owned, but was one of the few places that actually served any Spanish cuisine and they had tapas on the menu, so Andy and I sat at  table and asked if we could order some racions, prompting the waiter to announce, bizarrely:
“Ah, you’re the people who won the radio competition.”
This clearly confused the hell out of us.
“Errr, no…not that I’m aware of,” Andy replied.
 “It’s just that you’ve ordered tapas and we’ve been expecting a couple who won a tapas meal in a radio competition.”
Now he was confused.

We had to insist a couple of times that we definitely weren’t that couple before he believed us and took our order. Looking back, it seems quite dim. He was trying to give us a free meal and we talked him out of it.

What I found strange about the whole exchange was that the restaurant was pretty full. Surely it couldn’t have been that unusual for someone to order tapas. I mean to say, ordering Spanish food in a Spanish province…how radical is that? I looked around at what the other clientele were eating. Burgers and chips, toasties and chips with an extra serving of chips, baguettes with ham and cheese…hmmm.

The food was fine, but the only tapas dish I remember from that day was the local goat’s cheese. It was Mr Bland of 62 Bland Avenue, Blandsville. It was the Orlando Bloom of cheeses and since then I’ve avoided Tinerfeño cheeses like the proverbial plague. Even in my local supermarket when an assistant stuck a platter of cheese under my nose and asked me if I wanted to try some. I dismissed her with a snooty ‘I prefer to eat cheese with stronger flavours’.
It was insensitive and a mistake on so many levels. I’d rejected her and dissed her homeland’s cheeses. She was understandably miffed and has never forgotten it. Since then whilst other customers are offered free brandies, albóndigas, cakes, choccy donuts etc, I get diddly squat, but I know the shape of her back pretty well. All thanks to that place in Los Gigantes.

Arico cheese, the perfect accompaniment to Serrano hamRecently, I was carrying out research for a short article about Tenerife’s cheeses and figured if I was going to write about it, I’d better remind myself what it tasted like. I bought a wheel of smoked goat’s cheese from Arico and, expecting another trip into Blandtown, hoped that my poetic licence was up to date.

What a dolt. For four years I’ve been denying myself some of the best goat’s cheese that I’ve ever tasted. It was smooth and smoky with a flavour that was fresh, yet full of subtle flavours. Its aroma transported me to a small clearing in a tropical forest where there was a wood-smoke fire liberally sprinkled with herbs.
I’ve seen the wheel off in less than a week. I’ve put it in salads, drizzled honey over it, wrapped it in Serrano ham and simply just nibbled on it like a mouse who’s just discovered nirvana.  All accompanied with a sigh and a: “Wow; that is good…this is great cheese.”

It’s probably just as well that this revelation has eluded me for the last four years, my cholesterol levels would probably be through the roof by now (even if goat’s cheese has less cholesterol than cow’s). And I’ve learned a valuable lesson. One bad experience doesn’t make something fact.

Now I know how the Guanche felt.

First, a brief history lesson. In 1494, Fernández de Lugo and his army of well armed mercenaries got their asses well and truly kicked by the primitive Guanche warriors armed with sticks and stones. It’s said that de Lugo only escaped the battlefield because he gave his distinctive red cloak to an expendable minion.
The place that this happened, on the hillside of northern Tenerife is now a town with the wonderfully macabre and evocative monicker of ‘The Massacre’ (La Matanza).

Mural celebrating Guanche victory outside La MatanzaThe story didn’t end there of course. The underdog might occasionally have his, or her, day but in the long run you can’t beat the big boys. De Lugo returned a year later to wreak vengeance upon the people who’d humiliated him.

One story is that de Lugo didn’t win because of superior tactics, or even firepower, but that he prevailed because by the time he returned, the Guanche were basically buggered. They’d succumbed to a mysterious illness (i.e. they’d done a ‘War of the Worlds’). They couldn’t have repelled a flock of mildly irritated bunnies by that time. And so they were conquered.

But what’s all this got to do with the price of butter? Well, the point is that the after four years of living in this wonderful climate with its clean air and generally bug free environment, my immune system has gone Guanche.

I sail through the year cold and flu free…until that is I mix with someone who’s brought a disease from a far off land…or at least cold germs from the UK.
Last week I headed to The Beehive to watch Man Utd play Portsmouth in the FA cup. A couple of stools behind me some bloke had obviously brought more than his holiday togs in his suitcase as he sneezed continuously throughout the match, sending legions of malicious germs in my direction.

Clearly, my defence system isn’t at its optimum levels. Whereas once it would have batted the germs aside with a disdainful ‘Ha’, it has now developed a mañana culture attitude to protecting my health, and was obviously overpowered without a murmur of protest.

Sunday morning I woke with a fuzzy head and a ‘blocked dose’. A double whammy as Man Utd had been dumped out of the FA cup, by bad luck, good defending and some shite refereeing.

However the difference between the Guanche and me is that they didn’t know about ‘Hot Toddies’. A generous glass of whisky, hot water, honey and lemon juice before bed gave my defence system a kick up the rear. Whilst I slept soundly, this Willie Wallace of germ fighters rallied the troops and after two days of battling, my body was pure again – relatively speaking of course.

 A Hot Toddy, the Willie Wallace of germ fighters

I don’t have skeletons in my closet
I have skeletons on my closet.
Two of them and they won’t leave
Keeping me awake at night
Calling me names
I’ve thrown sticks and stones at them
But oddly that didn’t work.
“What do you want? I cry.
“We want our pound of flesh,” they answer.

I bet they do