Archive for April, 2008

Goats in the road

I’ve become accustomed to pretty much anything I see on Tenerife’s roads, but today was a new experience for me.

I reached a roundabout between La Orotava and Puerto de la Cruz to find my progress hampered by these fellows. They’d clearly found the grass on the island in the centre of the roundabout irresistible and, as the rest of their herd headed homewards up the hill, these two kept their heads down munching away,  oblivious that they’d brought traffic to a standstill.

After a few moments one of the Billy-come-latelys looked up, spotted they were being left behind and, deciding it was time to rejoin the others, trotted happily across the roundabout and after their mates.

I have to say that by the way they didn’t observe who had right of way and their appalling road positioning, they’d picked up a couple of bad habits from some of the local human road users.

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YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

There’s no escaping the heat, even the shade offers no relief. The cat slinks from one promising shady looking spot to another, seeking respite, but there’s none to be had. He collapses defeated; he could be dead. A lizard runs right past his nose, but he hasn’t the energy to open even an eye. I know how he feels. There’s no noise, it’s too hot for anybody to do anything. The only active creatures are the birds and the lizards who are feeding frantically on the thousands of insects which the heat has brought forth.
The idea of a cool shower isn’t an option; the cold water is hot and the hot water is scalding. Opening doors and windows makes no difference, except to let more hairdryer-hot air into the house.

35° before 09.00 and the temperature rising reaching 41° by midday. Crazy temperatures are being quoted like 55°. Seems impossible, but not beyond the realms. It’s a heat which pervades your brain, making it difficult to think; impossible to do anything physical. Everywhere is a tinderbox, a disaster waiting to happen, which only requires one careless moment. Fires are already raging on La Gomera, fanned by the hot dry air and strong winds which we experienced here yesterday. The calima has spread westward since Thursday, pumping up the heat with a fiery wind which gusted at up to 80 kph, taking our chimney with it. The wind seems to have past us now, leaving a fiercely hot stillness in its wake and the white hot sky is starting to show signs of blue, evidence that the calima has possibly run its course.

It might not be what anyone visiting Tenerife wants to hear, but what we really need now is some rain, just to cool things down again.

In a previous post I mocked the Echo and The Bunnymen website, which announced news of their gig in La Laguna with the headline ‘Echo and the Sunnymen’. La Laguna in April, sunny? Yeah right. And then along came the calima and probably the hottest weekend that La Laguna is likely to see this year.

Echo and The Bunnymen in La Laguna, TenerifeTenerife’s former capital was positively balmy last night as Echo and The Bunnymen took to the stage in front of Central Campus University.
Supported by El Guincho and The Mistake, they played an impressive set to an audience made up of mostly sickeningly stylish Spanish students and a decent number of the ‘baby boomer’ generation who were probably fans the first time around.
I was never a big fan, but after last night I’m a convert. Ian McCulloch´s voice has developed a rougher edge over the years which suits the band’s Doors inspired sounds and lyrics.

It was interesting to watch the mainly Canarian audience lap up a set which included a couple of new numbers (one of which Ian McCulloch sold to us as being ‘probably crap’ cause it was new),The Killing Moon, Seven Seas and Lips Like Sugar. One stage hand seemed to be in complete rapture singing along to that one.
One of the oddest moments came when the band finished their set. As they walked off the stage, there was enthusiastic clapping for sure, but no shouts of ‘more’, or even ‘¡otra!’, even though everyone had clearly enjoyed the performance. It was as if the audience seemed to think, that was it, game over. It was left to a small band of British fans to lead the way and their shouts of ‘Echo, Echo’ were soon taken up by the people around them. So at least the band didn’t have the embarrassing situation of reappearing for the obligatory encore without the audience actually demanding it. I can only put this deviation from the norm down to live gig etiquette being a wee bit ‘lost in translation’.

Still, listening to a good British band, even if they are Liverpool supporters, on a balmy evening in La Laguna was a great way to spend a Saturday night – and the bonus ball was that it was all free.

Be Ruthless

Posted: April 24, 2008 in Plants, Spain, Tenerife, Trees, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Orchid treesIt’s taken a long time for me to realise that on Tenerife, the northern parts anyway, the most effective way of having a beautifully lush garden here is to cut trees and shrubs right back to the bone every so often. The two orchid trees in this picture looked exactly the same three or four months ago, then I pruned the one on the left until there wasn’t a branch left on it, only five bare trunks; a skeleton of a tree. Now look at it, incredible. The speed at which plants grow is frightening. It’s no wonder that Tenerife was a botanists dream.

On Sunday I saw further evidence that Whiskas is a ‘special one’ in the feline world.
I witnessed an internal battle between good and evil, where he reached a fork in the road and had to contemplate which direction to take.

18 months ago the demon would have won, but these days the battle between good and evil has entered an arena where the sand is grey.
As it was Sunday morning, we slept late, as you do. Subsequently this meant that Whiskas’ breakfast was also late; more of a brunch really.
Clearly this didn’t go down well and the usual breakfast preparation small talk of “Would you like some Friskies with your breakfast?”, “Are you hungry?” (stupid question to ask a cat) and “Have you had your first breakfast yet?” (we know he does the rounds of the area) wasn’t met with the customary wide bright blue eyes and the ever so cute “prrrrrrp” chirpy replies. He was miffed.

So breakfast preparation was no nonsense. Food in bowl, bowl placed outside. Unfortunately it began to rain as he was eating. This didn’t help his mood. If we’d fed him at the normal time, he’d have had a dry breakfast. He left his bowl and his half eaten breakfast and legged it back inside the house. I knew immediately where this was going. In his head, breakfast was declared null and void and a couple of hours further along the day, he’d expect a replacement in full. I rescued his bowl, placed it just inside the door and pointed his nose in its direction. It seemed to do the trick and he wolfed the rest down.

Unfortunately, this also signalled that as his bowl was inside the house, he had a right to find somewhere inside to curl up away from the rain. I could see his eyes scanning the room looking for the perfect spot, before settling on the Windsor chair. He casually walked over to it and stuck an exploratory paw on the cushion.
“WHISKAS,” I tried to put some authority into my voice. The paw was withdrawn from the cushion and he did a circuit of the room, stopping at the chair again. The paw went up again.
“WHISKAS,” another warning. This time there was a delay before the paw was withdrawn. He was in distraction mode, so I thought ´third time and he’s out’. I didn’t have to wait too long. This time I got out of my chair; a sign that I meant business. After a moments defiance, he withdrew his paw from the chair and sauntered casually over to me, rubbing his body against my leg, but I could see that his half-tail was flicking furiously. The internal struggle had begun.

He looked at my ankle, then rubbed his body against my leg, then looked at my ankle again, then another rub. I knew exactly what was going on. He wanted to wrap his front paws around my leg and sink his teeth into my shin. This was his modus operandi, or at least it used to be.
It looked as though he’d beaten his demons, the attack never came and then I made the mistake of laughing at him. Whatever good qualities cats have, being able to laugh at themselves isn’t one of them. In a flash, his legs were wrapped around my lower leg and his mouth clamped firmly on my shin bone.
But…and this is the difference from 18 moths ago when my leg would have felt as though it had been caught I a steel bear trap, his claws remained retracted and his bite had all the force of a toothless man.
He held the position. I could almost hear the internal struggle. “Bite the bastard, bite the bastard.” “No, don’t. Let go, there’ll be no more food if you bite him.”
The pressure on my leg increased slightly and I decided to take the decision away from him by flicking him with a sheet of A4. It was enough. He released his grip and I ejected him from the house (this happens a lot with Whiskas).

This cat is never going to be an angel, but at least he seems to be dealing with his anger management better these days.

Had an interesting week, last week. Walking beside the volcanic stream which destroyed Garachico in 1706, trying not to squash the inhabitants of the Mariposario (butterfly) Gardens in Icod de los Vinos, photographing Pat Cash and Björn Borg at the Abama Hotel in Playa San Juan prior to the Tenerife Senior Cup tennis tournament, watching Man Utd make things difficult for themselves in the race for the premiership. It was a typical week here in that it was completely untypical. Mostly ups; however, there always has to be something which causes us grief.

This time it came courtesy of the Guardia Civil. Almost immediately after leaving the TF5 motorway (more of a dual carriageway) we were waved over by the boys in green at the San Pedro Mirador.

At first I thought they’d made a mistake and didn’t mean us as, for a couple of minutes, the officer didn’t even look in our direction. We were almost about to drive off, but then he sauntered over to the car and asked to see our papers.

I don’t know about you, but the very idea of being questioned by a policeman has me behaving as though I’m in Oceans 11/12/13… etc. Actually that’s rubbish; they’re all pretty cool in those movies, and I was being quite the opposite.

As he looked through our papers, of which I carry an encyclopaedic amount – just in case, he asked for a document which it hasn’t been necessary to possess for about three years.

“You don’t need to have that now,” Andy told him.
Yes you do,” he replied.
“No you don’t,” Andy insisted. “Not since 2004, it’s European legislation.”

One of the problems that we sometimes encounter here is that European legislation is often ignored or, to be more accurate not known, even amongst those who really should be aware of changes in legislation. It can be hellishly frustrating and if you threaten, “Right that’s it, I’m taking you to Brussels, they think you’re offering a free holiday.”

The policeman didn’t reply to Andy this time, instead he continued to look at our paperwork.
“You’ve got a lot of papers here,” he’d clearly become bored with looking through them and handed them back.
“You were speeding,” he wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to Andy. “It’s not significant, just sign this and pay the fine at the bank within a month.”
He hit us with an on-the-spot fine of €100 for doing 94kph when the speed limit was 80kph.

Andy didn’t think that she’d been driving that fast, so I asked the policeman if I could see the evidence.
“If you go to Santa Cruz, you can ask to see the photographs, but wait a few days first.”
Luckily my Spanish is still on a bit of a satellite delay, so by the time I’d translated what he said, thought of a reply, translated that into Spanish, my:
“Is that to give you time to Photoshop the picture,” was said to his retreating back.

We’re still contemplating going to Santa Cruz to see the evidence, especially as we had to pass the same way the following day and noticed that within a space of a few hundred yards the speed limit goes from 120kph to 90kph to 70kph and then back up to 80kph. It is pure loco, almost impossible to adhere to and potentially dangerous, but then this is Tenerife. Logic doesn’t always figure highly.