Archive for September, 2009

Anyone who’s been brave enough (for ‘brave’ read ‘foolhardy’) to read any of my poems on this blog will know that I’m not of the ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud…’ school of poetry.

I tend to mess about with poetry now and again to keep the little room in my brain with the plaque ‘creative writing corner’ on it from becoming all musty and dusty.

Recently I submitted a piece to a poetry website which sometimes sets the theme for poems. This particular one was themed around ‘The Bullfighter’. In the end, because I had two ideas which appealed to me, I wrote two poems on this theme and submitted one of them.

The poem was reviewed by three critics, two Americans and a Brit. The Americans praised it, even though one didn’t like the subject matter, whereas the Brit marked it down saying it was a cold, dark and moody piece which was difficult to read or enjoy.

Fair enough comment I suppose. I do have a predilection towards dark and moody when it comes to creative writing.

I don’t usually submit poetry anywhere, so it was an interesting exercise for me to see how it would be received by others.

Anyway, here’s the poem I didn’t submit – this is the lighter one.

The End of Glory

Glazed bloodshot eyes, a snort and a bellow
He sways unsteadily from side to side
And with difficulty raises his stocky head.
There is still a spark of defiance in the eyes
Of a proud fighter facing the darkness.

Too many jabs and blows have taken their toll.
Give it up, I pray, unwilling to wreak more damage.
But he was bred for the battle and the challenge,
A fading remnant of a waning era
Who knows only death or glory.

He snorts again and steadies himself for his move.
I shift the cloth and wait, poised to react.
The bullfighter holds out his glass, ‘another’ he slurs.
And I pour a generous measure, inflicting
One more piercing blow to his thick old hide.

I nearly had a ‘hummus’ disaster last night. I was at the point of adding the lemon juice to the tahini and chickpea mix and decided to use some beautifully ripe little limes, or Peruvian lemons as a neighbour called them, from the local supermarket.

Its deifinitely a lime... right?

It's deifinitely a lime... right?

I sliced one in half and was about to squeeze when I thought ‘hang on a minute, mate, you’re a fraud. You’re not a lime at all.’

...Wrong, Now its an Orange

...Wrong, Now it's an Orange

The inside of the lime was suspiciously… orange.

An exploratory sniff confirmed that it was definitely not lime smelling, but neither was it orangey. It’s scent lay somewhere in between.

A quick check of Rose Elliot’s cookbook combined with a ‘Google’ soon solved the mystery of the lime with identity issues – it was a Jaffa Sweetie; a fruit whose outside is definitely limey, insides are orangey and which tastes like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit.

At first I thought only the Canarios could produce a fruit which was ‘mas o menos’ an orange/lime/grapefruit, but no they were innocent in this particular instance. It’s an Israeli hybrid of pomelo and grapefruit which is supposed to be really good for lowering cholesterol levels.

I didn’t add it to my hummus (maybe I should have and created a new type of hummus), but it did add a zing to my fruity breakfast this morning.

Anyway, be on the lookout for these fruits masquerading as limes, they could positively ruin a good tequila shot, but then again on the other hand…

We ventured into Santa Cruz on Sunday to do some research for a feature we’re planning for an exciting new Tenerife online magazine coming your way soon.

This kind of concrete is easy on the eye

This kind of concrete is easy on the eye

The city, as always was looking fabulous, the colonial old buildings bathed in the sunshine which seems almost always present in the city. As we wandered around deserted streets (note to self – Sundays are not a good day to visit Santa Cruz for research when part of the research involves lots of other people), we commented a number of times about what an attractive and accessible city it was. I always find it a joy to wander around taking photographs here, there and everywhere. Not everybody feels like this though.

Bamboo Tunnel in the Centre of the City

Bamboo Tunnel in the Centre of the City

A recent review on Tripadvisor described Santa Cruz as a “Horrible concrete city that has very little to offer tourist. It should be full of history and is not.”
At first I thought that the reviewer had hit the city without doing any prior research and had missed the centre and ended up in some seedy barrio somewhere. But no, they had a copy of the Rough Guide to Tenerife, so in theory they were well armed.

A Cool Spot in the City

A Cool Spot in the City

The reviewer obviously just didn’t see any beauty in Santa Cruz which I found difficult to take in.
However, I admit to being guilty of wearing rose tinted specs; I tend to see beauty everywhere, even in old apartment blocks with peeling plaster.
But as we wandered along some of the shady palm lined newer streets, I just wasn’t convinced that the person who wrote the review had actually seen the best of the centre of Santa Cruz (not a great advert for the Rough Guide if that was the case), which is why visitors need a guidebook which does show them the best bits – forgive the shameless plug but, hey, we’ve all got a living to make.

We do all have different opinions and different likes and dislikes, but when people offer their opinions as fact, there needs to be a balance. So here’s my rose-tinted one using some photographs of Santa Cruz so that you can make up your own mind.

See more photos of this ‘horrible concrete city’ here.

One of the things which hadn’t changed in the newspaper that prompted me to write the last blog was their letter’s page.

I love Tenerife newspapers letter’s pages… or to be more accurate I hate them, which is why I love them if that makes sense. They’re almost always full of people moaning, usually about things I completely disagree with. I can guarantee that nearly every time I read a local letters page, I become ‘outraged of Puerto de la Cruz’ and am a half inch away from writing a snotty reply.

The ones in the paper the other night included a guy complaining about the state of the road works in Puerto and how they were a disgrace. He was right; the roads leading into town are in a mess, and I bitch about them every time I enter the maze formerly know as ‘the way to the post office’. But when they’re finished I’m sure they’ll be much better than they were before (okay maybe I’m wearing rose tinted specs here). And, as everyone knows, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

The one which really had me doing a cartoon like gnashing of the teeth was a letter, the type of which appears with monotonous regularity, complaining about local fiestas. You get the impression that there are some ex-pats who really, really feel aggrieved and perhaps cheated when local culture intrudes into their lives. It always astounds me. I suppose it’s a glass half full, half empty sort of scenario.

We were completely wowed by the fact that Tinerfeños had such a strong and vibrant identity and culture. The fiestas were a different and exciting part of an island we had previously pigeon-holed wrongly. They still are – I get a buzz out of every loud, over the top, colourful and fun-filled one of them.

The Percy Sugdens, on the other hand, hate them. Maybe the ‘Percys’ were the same as us before we discovered otherwise and thought that Tenerife wasn’t actually like living abroad at all. Where we were wowed by the revelation that we were wrong, perhaps the Percys were horrified to discover the same and have resented ‘Johnny Foreigner’ (aka Tinerfeños) ever since for continually insisting on shoving his culture down their throats instead of sitting deferentially in a corner.

This particular Percy was advised by a neighbour to just join in the ‘one night only’ fiesta. But he didn’t like the music because it was the usual ‘Caribbean’ stuff that they play at all the fiestas. Hello? Caribbean music? Now this is a guy who has lived here a long, long time, yet doesn’t know what music they play at fiestas.

Yeah, he’s really made an effort to integrate.

See, this is what the letters page does to me.

You might argue that the ‘comments’ section of online sites are just the same as letters pages in newspapers, but they’re different to me. I used the term ‘Percy Sugden’ because that’s the sort of image that comes into my head when I read some reader’s letter in newspapers. Images of fussy little men with pinched, angry faces constantly annoyed at the world when it doesn’t conform to their ideal model. I don’t get that same picture when I read online comments

Ultimately I suppose a good letter’s page should provoke some sort of reaction, so well done to that newspaper; it was definitely successful in that department.

Social media gurus are predicting that printed newspapers may be in danger of becoming obsolete. After reading through one of Tenerife’s English language newspapers in a local bar, at half time during the Man Utd V Wolves game last night, I was persuaded to come round to their point of view.

I used to think that it was a half decent paper, but just about everything in it nowadays seems to be almost a straight regurgitation of official press releases. Even most of the photos were press releases. There wasn’t much originality and there was certainly nothing experiential. In other words, there was very little to give the person who represents a significant part of their target group, i.e. the visitor to Tenerife, the sort of information that could help them really get the most out of the island.

There are two factors which occurred to me whilst perusing the newspaper. The first was that, as it only came out every two weeks, much of the news was already old hat – so it failed in that department. But then it’s always been the same, so why does it stand out more as ‘yesterday’s news’ now?

The answer is basically this. Up until a couple of years ago if you didn’t read the Spanish press, the fortnightly English language papers were really the only means of keeping up to date with what was going on around the island. Nowadays, the rise of online info sites have changed all that. Anyone who regularly uses a computer already knows Tenerife’s news almost as it happens. So if you don’t have something different, something original to say – how can you continue to compete?

The second factor that occurred to me was about advertising. More people than ever are turning to the website to find out about their holiday destination – where to stay, what car hire companies to use, where the best bars are, what to do, where to eat… the list goes on and on.

Essentially what that means is that by the time a lot of people arrive on this island, they already have a good idea of where they’re going to hand over their hard earned holiday spends. The core of people who are going to be influenced by what they read in a paper is going to get smaller and smaller, whereas those who are influenced by what they read before they step foot on the silver bird bringing them to paradise is increasing all the time.

If I had a business on Tenerife that relied almost entirely on getting visitors through the door, I reckon I’d be rethinking my advertising strategy.

But hey this is Tenerife where many businesses still barely know the internet exists, let alone the incredible influence it has in modern society – the important thing that escapes them however, is this:

Millions of their potential clients from beyond the Island’s shores do.

Another cat has taken to hanging around finishing off Whiskas’ meals; not a state of affairs that he’s comfortable with. He’s such a precious creature that he’d reached the point where he wouldn’t eat at all if there was another cat in the vicinity (obviously not that hungry then). The result of this was that his bowl was moved back into the kitchen so that he could eat undisturbed (thank goodness we’ve never had children; they would be right spoiled brats).

Recently he’s been treating us as little more than a fast food joint. Whiskas turns up at food times, Whiskas eats and then Whiskas disappears to who knows where until it’s feeding time again. Cats – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – are such mercenary little bastards.

However, we’ve been out all day quite a bit of late so haven’t always been ‘en casa’ when Whiskas turns up for his chow. This is good for Whiskas as it makes him reassess his ‘taking things for granted’ attitude, so when we got home on Saturday night Whiskas obviously felt the need to rebuild some bridges.

At around 23.00, as we sat with a glass of wine on the candlelit back porch the still night was broken by a rustling in the bushes before Whiskas emerged triumphantly with some poor creature fixed firmly in his gob – a present.

“Aw, he’s brought us a gecko,” Andy announced.

But as he trotted closer, we saw that it was too big for a gecko, it was a mouse and this is where things went pear shaped.

Whiskas completely ignored us and, before I could stop him, trotted straight past me and into the house heading for the kitchen with the intention to drop the mouse there in exchange for some brekkies (why he thinks this is a good deal for us, god only knows). This would have been disaster. Had the mouse managed to get under the washing machine, fridge, or tumble dryer we would probably never have seen it again… not until a little mouse family emerged anyway.

I managed to cut him off at the front door, still with mouse in gob, and opened the door to shoo him out. But this didn’t go down well. In Whiskas’ eyes he was being punished for bringing us a present and that was simply unfair. Unfortunately he felt the need to protest this point by opening his mouth at which the mouse fell to the ground and immediately shot into the bedroom and under the bed with Whiskas in hot pursuit followed by me cursing the cat for being such an eejit.

The space under our bed is used for storage for all sorts of rubbish and is the perfect place for a mouse to go to ground. Whiskas must have spent all of 30 seconds trying to track it down before he got bored and sauntered off with an ‘I’ve delivered the present, it’s up to you what you do with it now’ expression on his face, leaving us to sort out the problem he had created.

For the best part of an hour we pushed and prodded boxes with a plastic Carnaval sword before we eventually manoeuvred the mouse behind a corner cupboard. Then we built an elaborate tunnel out of games and shoe boxes which connected the cupboard with the back door (Andy’s inspirational idea) and, with some gentle prodding with the sword, we finally persuaded the mouse to try out its new mouse-sized walkway and it  scurried happily along it back to the garden and freedom.

We were relieved the mouse was out of the house and the mouse was presumably overjoyed that his Saturday night hadn’t been ruined by being eaten by a cat. The only dissatisfied party was Whiskas who had not only not received a reward for his present, didn’t even get to eat the animal as compensation.

No doubt we will pay the price for this outcome at some point.

Are we the most unsociable people on Tenerife? Very Possibly.

Jesús used to always say we hid ourselves away in our ‘cave’. Of course, the concept that we were actually working in our cave was an alien one to him, even though we did try to explain the whole ‘man works, man earns money, man can afford to eat, man doesn’t die’ radical approach to life on a number of occasions.

Anyway the weekend after Jesús left, new people moved into his ‘casita’. From the brief glimpse we got of them, we saw that they were a young couple. They’ve now been here for three weeks, we pass their house every day… and we haven’t even said ‘hola’ yet.

Jesús no doubt would blame us for being reserved Brits, which isn’t a completely unfounded allegation, but the truth is that they never leave the house, well not during the hours of daylight anyway. How can you introduce yourself to someone who never leaves the house?

Not only do they never leave the house, they very, very rarely make any sort of appearance at all. The door remains firmly closed all day long. I mean it’s summer, the temps rarely drop much below 27 degrees at this time of year. Our front door, back door, skylights and windows are all open nearly 24/7.

Jesús would say, ‘just go down and introduce yourselves, man’. He’d probably be right, but the aura that’s coming up from the casita is one of ‘we want to be left alone’.

Our kitchen window faces seaward and the casita is in full view when we’re throwing together culinary masterpieces of an evening, so it’s impossible not to be aware that the casita looks as though it’s uninhabited, except every so often the door opens briefly and shuts again as though a ghost has emerged.

We’re that intrigued as to how a young couple can live in a tiny house in a wonderful rural location in summer and never take advantage of the outside areas that we’re behaving as though we’re James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window and have formulated all sorts of theories.

Andy, especially has come up with all sorts of explanations, some of which are too outrageous to repeat (although she has planted a seed in my mind). One though was that they were shy naturists. This was based on the fact that she insists she saw the bloke from the back briefly dusting the outside of the casita in his birthday suit.

The only other signs of life are when the lights come on after dark and stay on all night (Andy has noticed this when she’s had to visit the bathroom in the middle of the night).

So based on the evidence – never leave the house during the day, but lights on and evidence of life after dark, combined with the bare butt sighting, the obvious conclusion is that they’re naturist vampires.