Archive for September, 2008

The white wizard’s name is once again well and truly in the bad books. At this moment in time the jury is still out as to whether he will be fed dinner or not.

It only took a second’s lapse of concentration, but a second might as well be an eternity when you’re dealing with a master criminal who has a pouch load of devious plans at hand (paw).

We’d just prepare lunch when Jesús with the healing hands (no joke), our new neighbour, appeared at our gate. As we had the usual conversation where we understood maybe 70% of what Jesús was telling us (a: we may all be going to see a film about Che Guevara at the weekend. b: Jesús may be visiting mainland Spain at the weekend. c: Maybe neither, or both of these things are happening.) and we went abstract with verb tenses in reply, we left the kitchen unattended.
At that point, Whiskas was upside down in the garden pushing out the Zs, so no apparent threat….HA!

The slightest tinkle of cutlery against crockery set off the alarm bells and I legged it back inside the house pronto to find you-know-who with his face in the tuna salad, munching for all he was worth. He managed to gulp down another mouthful before I reached him and he made a hasty retreat, outpacing my badly aimed sandal. Lunch ruined.

Its always the same...depression follows bad behaviour

It's always the same...depression follows bad behaviour

Now he’s lying on the terrace looking dejected. Maybe this is because Andy and I aren’t speaking to him, or he’s regretting his ‘eat for the moment’ assault on the kitchen. Personally I reckon the penny’s dropped that a couple of mouthfuls of tuna salad aren’t going to compensate for no bowl of cat food tonight.

Back to rehab for him!

Around 210,000 people go missing in the UK every year. I don’t know how many of these disappear after ‘popping out to the shops’ to get some fags, milk, lager etc, but something occurred to me as we finally rescued a tiny lizard who’d been trapped in our bathroom for the last few weeks.

We’d assumed that he (it might have been a she – I don’t know how to tell) had fallen through the skylight and hadn’t been able to find their way out and, for the last few weeks, was living off the occasional spider underneath the towel chest.

We’d never been able to get close; every time the lizard emerged and we tried to ‘help’ it make its escape, it legged it back under the chest before we could catch it…until yesterday. This time, instead of heading for the chest, it ran into a corner and I was able to drop a sieve over it and take it to a better place; i.e. the garden.

However, as I released the lizard into its bright new world some doubts entered my head. Supposing he liked living in our bathroom? Suppose there was a Mrs lizard and two baby lizards waiting for him underneath the chest and he’d just popped out to ‘pick up’ a spider to for dinner? His disappearance would remain a mystery for ever to his family.

Maybe it’s no different with us humans. There could be invisible superior life forms looking down on poor souls living in poverty in inner city ghettos and one day, when some poor little sod pops out to the shops, the beings decide to rescue them and before said poor soul knows it, hey ho, they’ve been whisked off to a nicer place; Maybe Hay-on-Wye.

Who knows?

It was a little thing; one short moment in time, but it revealed volumes about the Canarian character.

We were in Tegueste a couple of days before the ‘Librea’ celebrations, which only take place once every three years. The plaza in the town centre was in the final stages of having a makeover to make it look as though the town had time travelled back to the 18th century. The town hall had disappeared and in its place was a full size castle with three small galleons parked in front of it. I know that should read moored, but as Tegueste is situated some miles inland, these galleons were parked.

As we nosied around, the bells of the plaza’s church starting tolling solemnly and a funeral procession made its way up the street towards the church, passing a group of chav lads (gold chains, shell suits, shaven heads and tattoos) who seem to be hanging around the plaza every time we visit.

As the coffin drew level with them, another chav arrived in a souped up Seat Ibiza. Its windows were rolled down and it was blasting out music; the sound of Daddee Yankee shattered the silence in the plaza. And this is when one of the chavs did something completely unexpected. He span around to the new arrival in the car, put a finger to his lips, then made a downward motion with his hands, signalling for his mate to cut the music immediately, which he duly did. Then all of them stood quietly as the procession passed them and entered the church.

Like I said, it was nothing; a simple mark of respect. I tried to imagine the same scenario involving a group of British chavs; somehow I’m not sure it would play out the same way.

Many people either forget, or don’t realise that the tourist areas in Tenerife cover only a small part of the island. Much of rural Tenerife is steeped in a culture and tradition which hasn’t changed much in centuries and visitors don’t have to travel far to see a world which is a million miles from that of the modern resorts.

You need guts for this job - fisherman cleaning moray eels

You need 'guts' for this job - fisherman cleaning moray eels

Boat building

Boat building - small scale

Its hard work, but somebodies got to do it

It's hard work, but somebody's got to do it

It’s a good time of year to order conejo en salmorejo (rabbit in sauce) in Tenerife.

It’s hunting season at the moment and every weekend the forests are full of hairy arsed hunters (Clearly I don’t know if they actually are hairy-arsed, it’s just a phrase that seems to fit when you spot a gathering of them amongst the pines e.g. ‘Oh, look, there’s a group of hairy arsed hunters’) and their Canarian hunting dogs. Known as podencos, these wiry looking dogs with long snouts (perfect for rooting about in holes) have the appearance of Egyptian hounds. They generally seem to be good natured creatures; a bit on the silly side, which personally I like in a dog. Their hunting methods seem to involve a certain amount of chaotic running around in circles which appear to lack any sort of organisation, but as rabbit’s a mainstay of just about every traditional Canarian restaurant, they’re obviously successful at what they do.

The hunters hit the forests from early morning, somewhere about 6am (this is deduced from the fact that a pair of them were hollering at their dogs just outside our tent last weekend – cheers guys).  By 10.00am most of the hunting seems to be over; dogs are squeezed into cages on the backs of Toyota Pickups (far too many to a cage) and the HAHs lounge around the forest floor, drinking wine and no doubt chomping on their prize catches before laying down on the pine strewn floor for a snooze.
That’s usually when we stumble across them when walking in the forest around the La Caldera area. Although, you don’t have to wander far into the forest to spot them, the road to Mount Teide from Puerto is packed with hunters on a Sunday.

Last year our mate Bryan was with us when we emerged from a pine lined forest path to be faced by a posse of intimidating looking, unshaven HAHs all wearing the standard uniform – camouflaged fatigues.

“God, this could be a ‘Deliverance’ moment,” I mumbled out of the corner of my mouth. Bryan rubbed his hands together.
“Do you really think so?” He replied a bit too perkily.

As it happened, they were as nice as ninepence; the demented hunter look is obviously something that’s de rigueur for these guys.

Funnily enough Bryan’s due back for another visit tomorrow; smack bang in the middle of hunting season. I’m thinking that this is no coincidence.

Thank god that’s over; my quarterly visit to the peluquería that is. I’ve always viewed visits to the hairdresser on a parallel with visits to the doctor and the dentist; although at least at the dentist you’re not expected to make small talk as they’re usually doing a ‘Marathon Man’ on your mouth for most of the visit.
I’m just not comfortable with that level of intimacy with strangers that visits to the above three force upon you.

I can chart my mini phobia (it’s not full blown; more like a general unease for about 24 hours beforehand) back to puberty and my first visit to a unisex hairdresser which coincided with the first time a member of the opposite sex actually pressed their groin and breasts against me. I’d been used to Bobby Peddar’s no nonsense barber shop; scissors which hacked at your hair; the smell of Old Spice aftershave and – thank god – no bodily contact whatsoever, save for the attack of the blunt scissors.

But having a seventeen year old trainee press her nubile body against me when I was an awkward thirteen year old was more intimacy than I had expected, or could handle, and it’s left scars as deep as a bottomless pit.
The real problem was that nobody ever told me the etiquette of what to do when the hairdresser reached up to cut the hair on the top of my head and her abdomen pressed into my arm lying innocently on the armrest.

The first time it happened I almost jumped. My mind raced; instinctively, and having been well brought up, I was going to move it, but then I thought:
‘If I shift it, then she’ll know I did it because her groin was pressing against it…then she’ll know I’m aware of her groin…then she’ll be aware of her groin and things will be awkward between us and I’ll never be able to get my hair cut here again.’ (as it was the mid 70s this wouldn’t have been too much of a problem). But then I thought – ‘If I don’t move it, she might be thinking – why didn’t he do the gentlemanly thing and move his arm…god, the creep’s trying to cop a feel through his elbow!’

And so for thirty minutes or so, four times a year I’d live a silent nightmare of uncertain angst and cringing awkwardness until she’d bring out the mirror, show me the back of my head and I’d mumble “Yeah, great…thanks” whatever it looked like and leg it out of there pronto, glad that it was all over for another three months.

Mind you between the age of sixteen and nineteen, the visit to the hairdresser was about as close to a physical relationship with a woman as I was likely to get.

In the end, clasping my hands together and tucking my arms in close to avoid the armrests altogether seemed to be the best way of avoiding any potential embarrassment. Except that doing this created a suspicious looking bulge in that nylon sheet they wrap you in and then I was wracked with worries that she might think…well, I don’t have to spell it out.

And so it went on and my aversion to having my hair cut continues. Nowadays it’s just a persistent feeling of subconscious unease; however, the girls here are incredibly well endowed, so even if they’re stood two feet away, when they lean forward there can still be contact with body parts and every time it happens I’m reminded of that awkward thirteen year old boy and I cringe.

I don’t know why I don’t just buy a set of clippers and be done with it once and for all.



Whiskas has a nice little entrance at the side of our gate where I’ve cut the wooden fence into different sizes, so that some are shorter than the rest, which means he can use them as stepping stones to get on to the wall and into the garden. It’s the preferred means of access by any number of cats and also (and this is the really annoying thing) the route he uses to leave the premises. But does he use it to come in? Oh No! He used to, but ever since I made ‘improvements’ (necessary ones as having his not insubstantial weight pressing on it a zillion times a day had loosened the slat), he obviously believes that it’s not to be trusted.

Instead he prefers to employ a commando style operation which involves climbing up the gate’s metal grill and hauling himself onto its top. It’s a pretty impressive technique, but one that’s quite unnecessary.

Ultimately, whatever method Whiskas uses to come into the garden is up to him, but unfortunately he suffers from ‘trailing claw’



syndrome. Every so often one gets caught in the grill which he tells us about by screaming the neighbourhood down (completely ruining the macho commando image) and we have to rescue him without laughing. I know it shouldn’t be funny, but when we open the gate to rescue him and he swings inwards with it, it’s difficult not to crease up. Anyway, as with most bad things that happen to Whiskas, he brings it on himself. If he’d only use the purpose built ‘step’ he wouldn’t risk ripping his claws out.