Archive for July, 2010

This is a tip that will save you money.

Two to three times a week we go to the Correos (Post Office) to post guides. We know the exact weight and postage and occasionally have to correct the staff who sometimes don’t seem aware of their own prices.

Being dilligent has saved us paying more than we might have done on loads of occasions, especially on the times that the scales aren’t set to ‘0’.

Real Tenerife Island Drives and envelope weighs around 190 grams; the cost of postage goes up by over €2 at 200 grams, so it’s something we keep an eye on. But I wonder how many people, especially visitors who don’t speak Spanish, simply accept the amount of postage that they’re charged without question.

Yesterday morning at the Correos I noticed that the scales already registered a whopping 11 grams before anything was put on it. It didn’t affect the price of my package, but I felt compelled to take up the cause of the unwitting customers who came after me (it could be described as being a busybody, I prefer to see it as being a consumers’ champion).

“Your machine already has 11 grams on it,” I pointed at the machine.
“Eh?” The girl behind the counter looked everywhere but at her machine.
“Your machine already has 11 grams on it,” I pointed again at the offending numbers glowing in the display.
“Aah,” realisation dawned. “It doesn’t really make a difference.”
“Not to my parcel, no, but maybe it will to the next customer.”
“It’s not a big problem…venga,” she looked at the machine, shrugged and put her head down, dismissing me.

Scales that aren’t set to ‘0’ are commonplace. I don’t think it’s deliberate – maybe even the scales have a mas o menos mentality – and when it’s pointed out, the counter clerk resets them immediately. But she didn’t.

In my book her inaction meant she was deliberately overcharging customers. Whether it’s inefficiency, incompetence, deliberate fraud, or just plain stupidity I don’t know. What I do know is that none of the above are an acceptible reason to cheat people.

So next time you’re in the PO, always, always check the scales before the clerk sticks your letter or parcel on them .


There’s a famous business tool which we used a lot back in Britain when approaching something new to ourselves or the people we worked with; it’s called the four stages of learning.

These stages consist of – unconscious incompetence (not knowing that you don’t know how to do something), conscious incompetence (knowing that you don’t know how to do something), conscious competence (knowing how to do something if you think about it) and finally unconscious competence (doing something naturally without having to think about it). At that point you’ve successfully learned.

You can apply it to business, life and just about everything. My own view is that to get the most out of life, you regularly have to put yourself into situations where you have to go through this process. It can be challenging, but it keeps life interesting.

It’s also an extremely useful tool to know about when dealing with others – it can help sort out who is and who isn’t professional. There’s nothing wrong with being unconsciously incompetent, it’s part of a natural learning process. However, when someone’s trying to tell you they’re something they’re not, that’s a different kettle of fish.

I could quote you a number of situations where people who were unconsciously incompetent  tried to bullshit me on Tenerife.  The thing about meeting an unconsciously incompetent bullshitter is that the language they’re using can actually tell you the opposite of what they want. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Not so long ago someone tried to convince us the printed word on Tenerife had more clout than the internet. Their rationale was that people over the age of 50 didn’t use the internet, so using it to inform people about Tenerife was a waste of time. This was despite a recent survey showing that over half of Brits aged 45+ now use the internet to research where they plan to visit. It was a perfect example of unconscious incompetence. The internet revolution has changed the world and businesses on Tenerife who haven’t woken up to this are putting themselves in danger. But this person didn’t know that and what’s more their language betrayed them as someone who was out of date with the world beyond these shores.

When it comes to power of the internet, there are still plenty on Tenerife who not only haven’t caught the boat, don’t know that the boat came in, docked, took passengers on board and is steaming out of sight beyond the horizon.

Clearly if you’re reading this, you’ve already got your ticket.

That example was simply unconscious incompetence. Where it can also be stupidity is when it’s something like this.

The other week whilst shopping at La Villa in La Orotava, we discovered it was the first day of the school holidays which meant chaos in the supermarket and madness on the roads. When we left the supermarket at around 1.15pm we got stuck in serious queues and patiently we inched towards the roundabout which led to freedom and home. Canarios, generally speaking, aren’t very good at negotiating roundabouts, but they are considerate. So when we reached the roundabout, a driver coming from the left almost immediately waved for me to join it in front of him. I smiled and drove forward to be greeted by the sound of a horn blaring furiously. An old geezer had pulled out from behind the car that had let me in and tried to nip in front, but found his way blocked by me. He pulled into the queue behind me and then, breaking all sorts of laws, cut up the drivers on the inside lane before drawing level with me where he shook his fist and shouted.

I responded with something like ‘Ay, tonto…hay colas…dumbass’ before noticing that the guy in the car behind was a policeman – thankfully he just shook his head and laughed,

I’ve read that there are a lot of older guys on Tenerife who have never taken a driving test and therefore don’t actually know the laws of the road. Subsequently they can do things we don’t expect and then get annoyed if someone driving properly gets in their way.

This is also unconscious incompetence, but it’s also annoyingly stupid.

This week, for the first time ever, I nearly walked out of a concert. It wasn’t because the performer was bad; quite the opposite. The singer, Angélique Kidjo, was sensational…it was the audience who were appalling, or some of them anyway.

A few weeks ago another Tenerife blogger, Islandmomma, commented on the incessant and disrespectful chatting by some Canarios at the Santa Blues Festival and whilst I’d been vaguely aware of it there, it had only just entered my radar. At the Heineken Jazz & Más concert in Puerto de la Cruz on Wednesday night, the noise of people talking not only entered my radar it blew it to smithereens in a cacophony of noise.

The set up for the Jazz & Más concert is a bit strange to start with. For most of the concerts in the town they set up a stage and that’s it – the audience are free to mingle and dance wherever they like. But for the jazz they put out a whole load of chairs which makes it feel a bit more formal. I don’t know if they think that jazz is enjoyed by a more mature age group and, bless them, they need somewhere to park their bums or they’ll fall over.

Actually, it’s probably not far from the truth because by the time we arrived nearly every chair had been taken by a good majority of what was clearly a mix of mature Canarios and visitors. Not that we would have sat down – that would be an acceptance of growing old and I’m in complete denial about that one whatever my creaky back and bitchin’ legs tell me.

However, the chairs being set out are like Field of Dreams’ ‘build it and they will come’. In this case it’s ‘put out seats in front of a stage and any old bugger will sit on them’. A case proven when modern jazz guitarist, Yul Ballesteros started his set. Once they realised he was actually playing and not still tuning up there was a bit of an exodus by some of the older Canarios in the audience who clearly didn’t realise they were at a jazz concert despite the banners everywhere.

By the time Angélique Kidjo was due to appear a sizeable crowd filled Plaza Europa and the place buzzed with lively chatter. Unfortunately when she started her set the lively chatter didn’t stop. If anything it got louder and louder.

Being an international artist, she spoke to the crowd in English. I don’t know if this made a difference to how the crowd behaved, but when she told stories of her childhood in Africa and then spoke of her father who had died only a couple of years ago, the trendy Canarios standing around us simply spoke louder and louder. When she dedicated a semi-acoustic song to her father it was a toss up to who I could hear the most; the non-stop, inane chatter or her beautiful voice. It was a disgrace and was completely disrespectful. I was embarrassed to be part of such an ignorant crowd.

It couldn’t have just been the language…I mean the visitors in the audience who didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t all start talking loudly when Gran Canaria’s Yul Ballesteros was doing his thing so I’m not having that.  So what is it? I’ve never really noticed it before, but then most concerts involve thumping Latino bands and I wouldn’t hear anyone screaming in my ear at any of them.

The loud talking was so bad and I was getting so pissed off with the disrespectful behaviour that I was on the verge of suggesting to Andy that we should leave. Then Angélique did something which changed everything. She gave a little speech about the importance of respect in life (I don’t know if it was coincidence or she was aware of the noise) and then she made the audience part of the performance. She came down amongst us and into the heart of the chatterers, singing all the way and encouraging everyone to chant African lyrics. Suddenly the talking stopped and everyone started singing and dancing along with Angélique. It was magical and from then on it was party time in Puerto.

It turned out to be one of the best concerts I’ve been to in years…despite the dumb ass behaviour of some of the crowd.

I know the Spanish and Canarios like to talk. Most of the time I love the vibrancy and life that their animated conversations add to plazas and restaurants etc. But sometimes, just sometimes BASTA YA is the order of the day.

You see hombres, if you never occasionally shut your mouths and listen, you never learn…and that in itself can speak volumes.

There are two days in the year that I could tell you what the weather is going to be like in Puerto de la Cruz way in advance. The first is Midsummer’s Eve (always cloudy) and the second is embarkation Tuesday.

For every year we’ve been here, the day that the Virgen del Carmen is taken on her annual sea cruise during the July fiestas has always been a sizzler. In fact a sizzler is an understatement.

It’s usually hallucination levels hot and yesterday was no exception. Ironically the hot weather alert had been lifted yesterday, but nobody told the sun which battered us with searing rays as we plunged into the madness a.k.a embarkation Tuesday during the July fiestas in Puerto de la Cruz.

The smart thing to do at the July fiestas is to travel light, wear as little as possible and cool down in the harbour water as often as possible – early on though; the water which is turquoise in the morning is dishwater brown by 5pm.

We’re suckers for good natured mayhem and embarkation Tuesday is a perfect example of this. It is wet, wild and frantic fun and to get a real feel of what the day is all about it’s essential to embark on a fiesta circuit – from the harbour to Plaza Charco to the water pistol killing fields of Calle Perdomo and then to the open air rave and then harbourside where people are thrown into the water with little disregard for what they are wearing (only the younger people luckily – one thing I’m glad I’m too old for). A loud thumping soundtrack accompanies the route with Latino changing to dance changing to traditional Canarian.

If you’ve ever been to India, it’s akin to the assault on the senses that you experience in cities such as Mumbai, except in Puerto you can add the sensation of touch as nobody, but nobody escapes the attention of the water pistol gunslingers (note: – they have to hang up their guns to use the public loos)

For eight hours Andy and I completed circuits to soak up literally everything that was happening and stopping off for refreshments (beer, beer and more beer) when the heat demanded it. Sit too long in one place at the fiesta and someone with a WPMD (water pistol of mass destruction) will notice that you’re too dry and rectify the situation, so street food taken on the move is the only way to eat.  At various times, whilst we watched each other’s backs for water bandits we stopped for  best pinchos I’ve tasted in Puerto served at one of the kiosks beside the harbour; pumped up the sugar levels with some fresh and crispy churros and carbed up with cheeseburger and chips.

By the time the Virgen del Carmen was due to make an appearance, the town resembled a battlefield and being in the heat for hours was taking its toll on some.

Every year by this time I’m so hot, sweaty and exhausted that I think ‘stuff it, I’ve got enough photos of the Virgen, I don’t have the energy to stand and battle with tiny Canarian grannies for a good position’. And then, just when she’s due, mas o menos (that means an hour beforehand) we spot a space with our name on it. From then on we re-enact our annual battle with Canarian families who magically grow in numbers magically seconds before the San Telmo and the Virgen appears and are bundled onto their waiting boats as the townspeople sing, clap and cheer with heartfelt emotion.

It’s an exhausting day, but it’s an experience which tells you all you need to know about the sense of community that exists in the traditional towns on Tenerife. It might be boisterous and loud and overwhelming (and not everyone’s scene), but it is compelling fun.

As Spain is my adopted homeland, I suppose it’s only right that I should support them in the World Cup – with the talented team they’ve got it’s also a lot less stress inducing than supporting England.

This week my eye was caught by these.

So in one fell swoop, I made my first summer rebajas (sales) purchase (€2.00) and made a statement to show my allegiance to España at the same time.

You could say I’m supporting Spain, whilst Spain supports me.

They could also come in useful if I ever have a jacuzzi built. Whilst I’m in it I could swap the sandals around and leave them at the front gate to let people know where I was.

At this time of year we normally go all Tom and Barbara Good and get in amongst the spiders to harvest whatever has  appeared on the peach and nectarine trees.

We tend to have a good year followed by a bad year in terms of yield and last year was a cracker, resulting in a cupboard full of jams and chutney.

The chutney has all but gone, but we still have a few jars of jam left which is just as well as the crop this year could hardly fill one of those little conserve sachets you get in hotel restaurants.

It wasn’t that there weren’t many peaches, just that the dry winter on Tenerife (seems crazy considering the torrential rain in parts, but they were short-lived) resulted in the fruit being on the small side. As soon as they got to any decent size some were nicked by tree rats and others were got at by various insects. That’s the price we pay for not using insecticides, but at least the remaining peaches are truly organic.

I can’t blame everything on the dry winter. The best week on Tenerife’s calender coincided with the peaches being ready for picking, but as we were out and about gallivanting peach harvesting was left later than it should have been. Anyway we managed to collect a fridge crisper box full and, using a variation of our friend Ushi on La Gomera’s wonderful chutney recipe, spent Friday afternoon making spicy peach chutney in between trying to keep up with the World Cup.

In the end we managed five jars; just about enough to keep the Manchego company till next year and hopefully a better yield.