Archive for May, 2008

Our neighbour, Marlene, has just invited us to see a ‘surprise’ guest at her daughter’s birthday bash; this most exquisite chestnut Andalusian horse. It’s undergoing training by its handler, Lorenzo, but despite that it managed some pretty impressive dressage moves (if that’s the right terminology) around the garden. It still seemed a tad on the unpredictable side which added to its wild beauty and my nervousness (I love the idea of riding horses, but they seem so big, fast and damn powerful – and Christopher Reeve always pops into my head the minute I get close to one).

Still, watching the magnificent beast canter around Marlene’s garden was a pleasant little interlude on a Saturday afternoon, but clearly not for Whiskas who has never seen an animal of such immensity before and is still in hiding.

An Andalusian beauty

The moment I knew we were going to win the Champion’s League final was when Ryan Giggs stepped up to take our seventh penalty. It’s clichéd, but football is a funny old game and the footballing gods always delight in providing us with ‘Roy of the Rover’ drama.
50 years after Munich, one Man Utd legend breaking the record of another, wonder boy Ronaldo’s penalty being saved and Chelsea warhorse Terry slipping. The scene was set for a hero’s swansong. And Giggsy, got bless him, didn’t let us down.

I figure that in any penalty shoot out it’s likely that one player will miss, or hit the woodwork, and the goalkeeper will make one save. And of course, Van der Sar saved his ‘save’ for the perfect moment.

Like the 1999 victory, the last few moments were a bit of a blur and a rollercoaster of emotions. I couldn’t even remember who else had taken the penalties. I’d gone from feeling defeat was inevitable, when Ronaldo’s shot was saved, to knowing for certain that we were going to win.

In truth either team would have been worthy winners. We dominated the first half-they were saved by Cech; they dominated the second-we were saved by the woodwork. It was a fitting game for a Champion’s League final and great credit to two teams who have been consistently the best in Europe, but the omens were definitely red. The pre match entertainment was red, even the Russian Army were slipping on United shirts by the end of the game.

When Van der Sar made that save and the whistle went I finally embraced that Spanish custom of kissing everyone in the bar; male, female and anything else that happened to be near. Everyone that is except a saddo Scouse bint who obviously has masochistic tendencies. In the last couple of months she’s cheered on Roma, Barcelona, Wigan and now Chelsea. I don’t know what it is with some Liverpool supporters. At every major game I’ve watched there’s been at least one cheering louder for Man Utd’s opposition than anyone else. Personally I’m not arsed how any other team does, I’m only interested in our performances, so I can only assume, by their obsessive interest in Man U, there’s some sort of closet adoration going on there. Anyway, the reaction on her face as she skulked out of the bar made an already sweet victory that little bit sweeter.

There’s only one final thing to say

“…so keep the faith and never fear, we’ll keep the Red Flag flying here…”

There’s been a lot of chopper activity this morning and that usually means one thing.

Apocalypse Now

One of my favourite scenes in a movie is the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ in Apocalypse now. Since then, the sound of choppers blades drawing close has been synonymous with visions of tropical jungles and surf kissed beaches (okay if I wasn’t so shallow I should probably associate it with the wanton destruction of third world villages, but there you go).

However, after the fires on Tenerife last year and on La Gomera in April, every time I hear a ‘chop, chop, chop’ in the distance my mind doesn’t stray to cinematic images, but to concerns that some DB has thrown a cigarette from their car, or tried to clear some scrubland by setting a fire they can’t control and I head outside to search the skies to check whether there’s an oversized bag swinging below the helicopter. If that’s there, then there’s a fire on Tenerife somewhere. If it isn’t I can head happily back inside the house, happy that for now an act of extreme stupidity hasn’t once again put the environment, and those who inhabit it, at risk.

Today’s choppers thankfully, were bagless.

It was inevitable; had to happen one day – last week I found myself out of gas. Friends may scoff and say ‘highly unlikely’, but no, I’m not talking ‘Blazing Saddles’ here, I’m talking about our source of hot water and hot food.

There’s no piped gas on Tenerife; everyone buys bottles of butano from the gas man, or the local garage, and hooks them up to their boilers and cookers. One bottle provides us with enough hot water and gas for cooking for about three weeks.

Midway through showering, the gas ran out and we didn’t have a back up bottle. I’m amazed that in four years this was the first time that it had happened. We do have a system, but we’ve ridden our luck one too many times. We have two gas bottles; as soon as one runs out we replace it, always leaving one full. Well that’s the theory. Somewhere along the line we took our eye of the ball and left ourselves without a safety net. So when the water turned cold on Andy on Sunday, eliciting cries that would make you think she just jumped into a Finnish lake in mid winter, that was it – finito. No hot water and no gas for cooking dinner.

It looked as though salad was suddenly on the menu that night, but then I remembered that in the depths of the shed were a couple of old, old camping stove and gas canisters from our days under canvas in blighty; good enough to rustle up a one pot wonder. So, thankfully we didn’t have to slum it too much until the following day when we were able to restock.
This time it wasn’t a problem thanks to the camping canisters, but they must be close to empty, so I’m not sure they’ll be able to come to the rescue again. However, I’m not too worried as I now have an alternative system to fall back by satellite dish

A couple of days afterwards, another writer living on the island, Colin Kirby, pointed out an imaginative way of heating up some nosh. Outside the Los Cristianos Cultural Centre (great place, always something interesting going on) a few blokes had set up an exhibition of cooking by solar power. Various satellite dish-like contraptions had been covered with what looked like bog standard aluminium cooking foil and in the centre of these were various pots and casserole dishes filled with stews, coffee and all sorts of goodies which were bubbling away happily; courtesy of nothing more than the sun’s rays.

It’s a technique which I’ve bookmarked in my head for the next time our ‘system’ fails and we’re left gas-less – we’ve always got loads of cooking foil; although as the gas usually runs out during evening showering, when the sun’s all but buggered off, maybe it’ll be easier just to make sure I’ve always got a spare bottle of butano.

It’s very possible we’ve wronged the cat. He’s certainly behaving as though he’s the victim of a frame up.
The long and the short of it is that, the other day, whilst we were engrossed in some piece of nonsense on facebook whilst the spaghetti Bolognese was cooking (see note), we failed to spot him rise from his comatose slumber on the terrace outside (where he’d been all day), enter the kitchen unseen (this is at least a yellow card offence) and…well that’s where there’s a problem. The evidence against him is circumstantial:

  1. What alerted us to the fact that something was amiss was a thump from the vicinity of the kitchen. A noise that sounded remarkably similar to a cat jumping from the kitchen counter to the floor.
  2. The spoon dish, which should have had traces of Bolognese sauce, seemed cleaner than it should have done.
  3. It seemed to me there was substantially less Bolognese sauce in the pan than when I’d last looked (I don’t even like to think about that one).
  4. When ejected from the house (reluctantly), he sat outside licking his chops the way a cat does when it’s just eaten something particularly scrumptious.

It seemed clear cut, but for two things: When caught doing something he shouldn’t have been, Whiskas takes it on the chin. He’ll leg it out the house pronto before I get the chance to eject him. This time he didn’t want to go and resisted defiantly. He was also visibly annoyed at his verbal telling off…as though he’d been wrongly accused. This is a cat which has a strong sense of right and wrong. May not be one that quite matches ours, but I can generally see where he’s coming from.

It was enough to plant a seed of doubt; we didn’t actually see him licking anything he shouldn’t have been. And that I feel might be the problem. The frantic licking of his face after he’d been shown the door is just too much to ignore; he had eaten something, but I reckon that, in his warped little head, the fact that he wasn’t actually caught in the act was paramount to being innocent of the deed.

That’s my theory anyway. He can sulk all he likes, but in the end he can’t work a can opener and I can.

(NOTE: I always thought of Spaghetti Bolognese as a sort of magnolia type of food until we recently tried what’s supposed to be an authentic Italian recipe: finely chopped carrot, celery, onion, bacon, sausage meat, ground beef, bay leaves, red wine, stock, salt, pepper, olive oil and butter cooked gently for an hour – delicioso)

The unofficial house flycatcherAt this moment we have two lizards resident in the house. The first is a gecko which appears from god-knows-where at night, runs along the top of the bamboo blinds and takes up position at the top of the window. Presumably it’s a good spot to catch insects and, as that’s what he does best, I’m quite happy to share house space with him. Every home in sub tropical climes should have at least one. My friend Sarah in Sri Lanka with the VSO has recently discovered this.
The other one, a true Tinerfeño lizard, unique to the island is here more by accident. We have skylights in the bathroom and the kitchen. Both are covered by a screen. Initially we thought that these were to keep insects out, but we were wrong. Lizards come careening across the roof cartoon style on a frighteningly regular basis and overshoot the open skylight. The screen acts as a safety net; if it weren’t there I swear we’d be knee deep in reptiles.
Lagarto tizón, indigenious to TenerifeThe screen is pretty effective on the whole, but two days ago one decent sized fellow managed to fall straight through the only hole in the screen (necessary for opening and closing the skylight) and land with a loud ‘plop’ on the bathroom floor.
He immediately sought sanctuary under a large chest and, as far as I know, is still there. If I try to move it to get him out, I’ll probably squash him so I’ll have to wait until hunger forces his hand (or his scaly claw) which could be some time as there’s probably a couple of spiders and a tropical house centipede under there with him to help suppress his munchies.

It’s not easy trying to save lizards from self imposed incarceration. Such are the problems of living in a sub tropical climate.

A lone fort, still ready for pirate attackWe’ve just added a brief history of Pirates on Tenerife page to our Real Tenerife Island Drives website. It shouldn’t have been, but it was surprising to discover that some ‘big names’ in pirate folklore were frequent visitors to these shores. I say that it shouldn’t have come as a surprise because at the time the New World was attracting blackguards and scurvy sea dogs, the Canary Islands were the last stop before merchant ships headed across the Atlantic, subsequently returning ships put into port here, so there were treasures galore waiting to be plundered. It makes sense that some ‘A’ list pirates would turn up.

There were some great stories about these miscreants; I particularly like the one about Francis Drake’s nephew, John Lovell who was seriously lacking in tact and diplomacy, or Amaro Pagaro, who sounds as though he came from the Johnny Depp school of piracy and was mischievous right to the end.

The other thing that occurred to me was that most of these guys didn’t simply appear on the horizon, cannons blazing. They seemed to have business partners on the islands, so the line between piracy and business dealings seems to have been a rather murky one. Take the case of Sir Francis Drake. To the British, a naval hero; to the Spanish, a wheeling and dealing privateer.

But I suppose it’s that grey area between good guys and bad which makes pirates so fascinating, even if many of us do view them through romantically nostalgic rose tinted spectacles.