Archive for November, 2008

How did it happen? How does it ever happen? Somehow the white wizard has subliminally manipulated us again. As I looked down at Whiskas munching away at his blue bowl filled with ‘buey’ flavoured Felix and fishy Brekkies in the corner of the kitchen, I scratched my chin and thought ‘how did we get from feeding you outside to feeding you inside?’

Before -Alfresco Dining

Before -Alfresco Dining

Of course, as usual, it happened via a series of seemingly unrelated incidents, but when I put them altogether I can see a bigger picture emerging. One where Whiskas grasps any opportunity to move one step closer toward total domination over us.

We had reached a situation where there were a lot more cats looking for a bit of territory around the finca which they could call their own. Our house has always proved prime real estate in the cat world, being enclosed from the rest of the finca by a wall and a gate (these are important features – it means our house and garden is a sanctuary from the Disney dog gang). I’m sure they were the main reason why Whiskas adopted us.

Add to this a bowl which is filled with food twice a day and a dog-smell free bowl of water and you’ve pretty much got feline paradise. So every night when Whiskas’ bowl was put down, he found he had an audience of around three other cats watching his every mouthful intently, hoping that he’d leave some morsels. Cats being cats, simply watching wasn’t enough and as the days passed, and they grew a bit braver, they moved closer and closer to get a better view.

Whiskas, being a right fussy bugger, objected to having his meals interrupted. However, instead of chasing the interlopers away, he walked away from his bowl huffily the minute the other cats appeared with an expression which said ‘how do you expect me to eat under these circumstances?’

Of course, we were to blame. The whole ‘you deal with cat politics, mice, rats etc and we feed you in exchange’ deal seems to have been lost on Whiskas. His reaction to the presence of other cats at meal times was to walk away from his bowl, growl at us, turn tail and storm off the premises like a spoilt diva.

Word that Whiskas was abandoning his food bowl at the merest hint of another furry feline clearly spread around the neighbourhood and soon a whole posse of cats were turning up for the chance of some nosh at Casa Montgomery.

We could only see one solution. Move his bowl inside until the other cats got the message that this was no ‘soup kitchen’ for waifs and strays from the cat world.

After - Mishun Accomplished

After - 'Mishun Accomplished'

I suspect in Whiskas’ head there were some self satisfied ‘Mishun accomplished’ thoughts when that blue bowl went down on a piece of newspaper in the corner of the kitchen for the first time. The purring decibels were certainly near deafening levels.

Of course, once a precedent has been set, it’s pretty much irreversible in Whiskas’ world (if it’s one which benefits him). The other cats have long gone, but the blue bowl remains firmly in the kitchen.

It’s illogical and far fetched, but part of me suspects that the whole situation was a well thought out and executed plan on Whiskas’ part and the other cats had been accomplices, recruited to assist him with his dastardly deeds (in return they got some extra food for a few nights).

Funny how it all happened just a couple of weeks before the rainy season was upon us…

Recently our new neighbour, Jesús has joined us for our Friday visit to Al Campo supermarket for the weekly shop. He wanders around getting his stuff; we wander around the aisles getting ours. Then we meet up again at the other side of the tills.
Afterwards I wander into the second hand DVD shop to see if there’s a decent film to pick up for Friday night viewing whilst Andy and Jesús chat outside.
The last time though, Jesús came inside with me.
I know what movies I’m looking for; I’ve got a mental list in my head, compiled from years of reading the Empire movie magazine. The genre doesn’t really matter; if a movie’s been given a 4 star review by Empire, then it’ll usually be worthwhile watching. Jesús had a different, more random approach. As I rifled through the DVD cases, he held one in front of me.
“What about this one?”
I looked at the cover; it had a cheap, cartoony martial arts scene on it. “No, I don’t think so.”
I carried on looking. A few moments later Jesús appeared with another DVD.
“How about this one?”
I saw the name Jackie Chan on the front.
A few moments more and there was another DVD held in front of me; this one had a gargoyle on the cover.
“Errr, not really what I’m after.”
Jesús must have decided that I was being overly fussy (probably a fair assumption) and wandered back outside talk to Andy.
A few moments later, a DVD which was on my mental list caught my eye. It was ‘The Fountain’ with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. I paid for it and rejoined Andy and Jesús.
“Jesús has got all our Friday night viewing sorted out,” Andy told me.
“Really,” I smiled. “What’s that then?”
“Baraka, there’s no dialogue, just a series of images,” Jesús’ eyes were animated as he described it – he does have some neo-hippy characteristics. “It’s really intense.”
I raised my eyebrows and looked at Andy. I could see she was amused and wondering how I would respond.

Jesús is a really lovely guy and I’d never want to offend him and, although I’m open to watching anything if it’s well made, I didn’t really feel in the mood for spending my Friday night watching a series of images. Call me mister conventional if you will.
“Doesn’t really sound like a Friday night movie to me,” I finally replied. “Sounds more like a Tuesday, or a Wednesday night movie.”
“Oh, okay,” I could hear disappointed in his voice and I felt guilty. “Maybe we’ll watch it on a Tuesday, or Wednesday then.”

We strolled back to the car with me blathering on about how interesting Jesús’ movie sounded in an attempt to compensate for my rebuff.

I suppose I should have been more honest with him about the true reason for not wanting to watch his movie. Look at a load of images – or watch the delectable Rachel Weisz…get real.

A seriously undernourished woodpile

A seriously undernourished woodpile

This morning we woke up to find that this dreaded flu bug seemed to be finally in retreat (touch wood – appropriately).  So with rediscovered vigour we held our normal morning business meeting…sitting up in bed with a coffee (much better than the stuffy boardroom business meetings that we were used to in Britain).

With heads full of plans we leapt out of bed ready to get stuck in…but TIT (this is Tenerife), so with typical in ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’ fashion we discovered that, somewhere between making the coffee and getting out of bed, the electricity had been cut-off, stopping us dead in our tracks.

This is the third time this week and I knew why. A bunch of goons are working on a trench near the main road. They finished it at the weekend and filled it in, but in true Tenerife fashion, forgot to put everything back the way it was and hey-ho, had to dig the trench back up again (this happens with frightening regularity).
But even though I knew the reason the ‘Luz’ was off, it doesn’t do any harm to phone up and check with the electricity company.

It took a while to get through, during which time I was treated to a loop of the soundtrack to the musical, ‘Annie’.
This being Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, I know the ‘sun’ll come out tomorrow’ – but what I really wanted to know is will the electricity?

Anyone else thinking - Jack Nocholson and The Shining

Anyone else thinking - Jack Nicholson and 'The Shining'

Eventually I got through and the fact that there was a problem was confirmed, except the reason was a technical issue with the generator (they’re hardly going to admit to the real reason being the utter stupidity of some pipe/cable layers) and that it wouldn’t come back on for around two and a half hours.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining, so unable to do any ‘proper’ work, we decided to tackle a pile of cut branches that had needed clearing for the past few months and start on some wood management. With winter fast approaching, our wood pile was looking decidedly underfed.

Two and a half hours later at midday, the electricity came back on accompanied by the sound of bells from a nearby church (don’t know whether that was a coincidence or the Padre was equally happy to find his ‘power’ restored).  We had cleared a huge pile of crap, I had blisters on my fingers and the wood pile was looking a bit healthier.

Next job is to dig out the chainsaw and start on the big boys…I can feel the testosterone rising already!!!

This is why there’s no word for ‘planning’ in the Canario vocabulary.

I had barely managed to sneak into a ‘non’ space outside the Guagua station in Puerto de la Cruz, opposite the Correos office, so I couldn’t believe what the guy in the Picasso car in front of me was trying to do.
First he stopped it smack bang on the pedestrian crossing (a not uncommon occurrence here) then he made some perfunctory attempts at trying to manoeuvre the car into a less obtrusive position before giving up and abandoning it, not only in the middle of the crossing, but in the middle of the road as well, as he headed off into the Correos

Cars were okay…just; they manage to squeeze by the car with some difficulty, assisted with the occasional shout of “coño” aimed at the Picasso. The big problem came when a bus tried to leave the station and manoeuvre around the car only to become stuck diagonally across the road, unable to move forward or back.

Meanwhile, the Picasso bloke had left his wife in the passenger seat of the car (now why she hadn’t gone to the Correos, leaving him to shift the car if needed is all part and parcel of Canario logic), to fend off the shouts of abuse from the bus driver and barbed remarks from the ubiquitous army of onlookers/advisors. Eventually the sheepish looking driver came running out of the Correos and shifted the car (no doubt he was able to work out that the sound of bus horn being hit almost constantly + his car almost blocking the exit to the bus station probably had something to do with him).

Still, it was a diverting enough way to pass the time whilst Andy waited in the Post Office queue…and another incredible example of the Canarios interpretation of what’s considered acceptable parking.

Jesús, our new neighbour, is an incredibly friendly young man. He’s a wonderful communicator and chats to everybody, unlike me who, and I blame my quasi-Calvinistic West Scotland upbringing for this, tends to treat everyone with dour suspicion until I decide they can be trusted (after maybe 10-15 years of knowing them).

Jesús is a frequent visitor to our house (2-3 times a day), probably because we rarely ‘pop in’ to see him. As he puts it – “I could be dead in my little house and you would never know as you never visit…and it’s only 20 yards away, so I have to come to you.”

He was joking, but he had a point. Being British we’re not comfortable with just popping in on people on the grounds that we might be being bothersome. The first time Andy suggested I should ask Jesús if he wanted to come round for a drink, it took me 30 minutes of humming and hawing before I eventually forced myself to go and ask him.
His house looked in darkness.
“I’m not sure Jesús (pronounced Heysoos) is actually in his hoose (okay, I realise that with a Scottish accent that just sounds silly),” I protested as Andy shoved me out the front door.
He was in and he accepted the invitation and during the evening we got to know each other a lot better.

Nowadays he wanders up to the house to tell us his latest plans and ideas on life; these can change with each visit. He reminds me of a butterfly in the wind on a seemingly random course, changing direction with the breeze.
The other day he talked about becoming a troglodyte in the Anaga Mountains and living off the land. This was after he’d started to create a small vegetable patch and felt he had a talent for this sort of thing. A couple of hours later, he was talking about moving to Miami to make some dosh. The phrase spectrum and opposite ends of comes to mind.

Earlier in the week he decided to give up eating meat and just eat raw vegetables and fruit (you get the picture here; one extreme to the other). He tried being a vegetarian previously and lasted a grand total of 16 hours. This time he’d gone 5 days without meat.
This morning Jesús appeared at the door drinking a concoction of ginger, lemon grass, water and a few other ‘healthy’ ingredients.

“Are you going to the supermarket on Friday?” he asked.
“Yup, you want to come?” Andy answered.
“Yes, I need to buy some meat.”
“I thought you’d given up,” I spun round in my chair to face him.
“I know, I know,” he looked and sounded apologetic. “But, I was feeling like I had no energy and,” he smiled. “Sorraya (the receptionist at the small golf course next door) brought me a chicken curry last night and I couldn’t resist.”

The fact that he was at our door early morning was evidence of another change of heart since yesterday when Jesús had decided that he was going to sleep all day and stay awake during the night because he felt there was ‘a different energy’ to  be experienced in the wee small hours.

So now we look forward on a daily basis to hearing Jesús’ new lifestyle plan. It’s fun having a ‘butterfly in the wind’ as your neighbour.

Hardly have the aisles of turrón sprung up in the local supermarket, alerting us to the fact that the festive season is rushing towards us like a runaway train, when a primeval noise broke the still evening air last night sending the first small shiver of anticipation down our spines (although that might have been the flu – Andy now also has the dreaded bug and last night we snuffled and coughed our way through the movie Fargo – not a pretty sight).

It was the loud and steady, rhythmic drum beat drifting up from Puerto de la Cruz three kilometres away. It could have been a warning that some Kong like creature had emerged from Mount Teide (obviously this flu bug has hallucinatory qualities), but it’s more likely that the Murga bands have started practicing early for next years Carnaval despite it being more than three months away.

Oh no, not Carnaval again - what a bummer

Oh no, not Carnaval again - what a bummer

This was pretty much confirmed by a press notice from Puerto Ayuntamiento announcing the theme of Carnaval 2009 – África, tierra de tribus (Africa, Land of Tribes).

I’d better start thinking of costumes now.

We’ve just spent the last three months completing a draft of a new guide to Tenerife for the ‘Going Native’ series of travel books. However, there’s one part we haven’t quite managed yet. For us it’s probably the most difficult part – the profile photo for the back cover of the book.

Clearly having your ‘boat’ plastered for all to see on the cover of a book is something that needs serious consideration. Timing is everything to get this just right, but so far our planets haven’t been perfectly aligned so to speak.

  • Andy thinks her hair’s too long, mine is too Quentin Crisp.
  • We both look tired and pale having been staring at a screen for nigh on three months.
  • We’ve had a spate of visitors (that means eating more than usual), so Andy thinks she’s got too many bulges in the wrong places.
  • The weather’s not been great, so the light’s not been right.

And now we’ve both got the flu, so the ‘less colour than your average Zombie’ look might work for sultry super models, but for us the effect comes across as just being ‘haggard’.

Then there’s the question of which pose do you adopt. This can be a minefield.
Saddo that I am, I’ve studied other people’s pictures to see if I could find any that I could copy (I think it would be difficult to prove I’d plagiarised a pose). Some people are blessed; they just seem to smile at the camera and immediately look fantastic and natural. But there are others who get it terribly wrong.
I spotted one of these in a local English language paper here the other day. I reckon the guy must have been aiming for a serious, studious look which added gravitas to his column. In reality it made him look a like a supercilious eejit and the fact that he’s never changed the photo would suggest that maybe that’s not far off the mark. So staring over the rim of glasses is out (unless it’s beer glasses – that might work) as is the resting of the chin on a fist.

Another consideration is the setting of the photograph. We thought a background of banana plantations might be quite nice and as we were passing through one the other day when my mother was here, I recruited her to be photographer. Trouble was that she’s a point and click person with a reputation for cutting off heads, legs and any other body part you might wish to name. She actually did alright; it was us that were wrong for:

  1. The reasons listed previously and
  2. Because I was frowning at the camera trying to see if my mum was pressing the right button. This is a habit I have when Andy’s taking pictures as well; the result being that I invariably look like a right scowling ‘git’ in photos. In my defence, in Andy’s case she usually asks “How do I focus this?” or something, just as she’s about to take the photo resulting in me frowning just as the camera goes ‘CLICK’.

The upshot of all this is that most of the above are just excuses, it’s time we just bit the bullet and took the photograph…although looking shocking because of having the flu is actually a pretty valid reason. Maybe we’ll wait a couple of more days.