Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Living Beneath the Volcano is Dormant

Posted: December 29, 2012 in Life

It’s been a busy and exciting year. In the depths of this economic abyss we’ve been fortunate enough to find ourselves busier than ever.

Which is why Living Beneath the Volcano has been left to rot on the vine since July. It’s a shame and I miss venting my grumpiness here, but there have been too many other writing distractions, so my therapeutic volcano has allowed to fall into a dormant state.

I say dormant rather than extinct because for the sake of my sanity I need to moan, groan and bitch about all those ridiculous things that get the lava bubbling. Subsequently I plan for the blog to return in some sort of form over the next 12 months. What that form is, I’ve yet to decide.

Until then, thanks to all who have put up with my rants and occasional bad poetry.

After a simply fantastic meal at Bodega de Enfrente on Friday night to celebrate Andy’s birthday I was gutted to discover there seemed to be some sort of technical problems with the photos I’d taken and I couldn’t view any of them. As it turned out I’d inadvertently taken all the pics in RAW.

The lighting was quite low and as usual when it’s shots that I’m going to use on a website, I just ramped up the ISO. I’ve been meaning to try shooting in RAW for years – in fact after every time someone says ‘I can’t believe you don’t take RAW images’ – and was quite impressed with how the pics compared to the usual grainy high ISO images. So I went on a wee walk around the house experimenting taking more RAW shots;  it made me look at some things that I’ve just got used to seeing and don’t really register any more.

The Green Fairy’s Spoon

Absinthe spoon

This is one of my favourite possessions, a bona-fide absinthe spoon with a wormwood design. It has only been used once.

The Library

The Bookshelf

The bookshelf looks great (it was here when we bought the place) but it isn’t practical and to get anything down requires balancing on the table or getting ladders from the shed. Subsequently we don’t read as much as we would like.

Skeleton Keys

Skeleton Keys

Another bizarre touch we inherited, the dried out carcasses of two lizards and a dragonfly. It’s a risky business being a lizard here (their own fault) in the last week one has been squashed in the door (they like to hang about in door frames) and I’ve just found a charcoal lizard head in the water boiler cupboard. It must have climbed in and been napalmed when we turned the hot water tap on.

The Recipe Books

Recipe Books

My favourite recipe book is New Tapas. I don’t think that we have ever used a recipe from it as they are a bit fiddly, but it is absolutely gorgeous. The books around it are from when we didn’t eat meat and are still used massively because the recipes in them are so good.

Raffles

Raffles

Cheesy, but we loved this poster and wanted a memento from one of the most famous hotels in the world.

The Lock

Polish Lock

Yet another inherited item, an 18th century Polish lock. This comes with a key that looks as though it belongs to a castle. It’s a simple mechanism that is so effective that friends can’t open the door from the inside let alone from the outside… and that’s when it’s unlocked.

Chess

Chess Board

I love this old chess set. It was a present from Andy. We use to enjoy playing chess (badly) in front of the roaring fire; all very Thomas Crown. Haven’t had a game in ages; we must rectify that.

Buddha

Buddha

Simply a beautiful little batik bought direct from a little batik factory in Sri Lanka.

The Mossie Net

Bed & Mossie Net

Despite what some think, there are mosquitoes in Tenerife but not many. We live in the middle of a banana plantation and even we don’t get many. August/September is probably the period when there’s most. We just got used to sleeping under a mossie net. It’s very cosy.

The Tiles

Antique Tiles

The previous owner was an antiques dealer and says if we ever feel like ripping these tiles out we should call him first, so I guess they must be worth something. They’re in an odd position, stuck in the middle of one of the living room walls. Can’t say I’m a big fan but they’re useful for blu-tacking Christmas cards to.

There’s a shifty looking group of them hanging around at the dimly lit corner, smoking damn dope and drinking cheap wine. They glower and growl threateningly at anyone who accidentally strays too close. Some even lash out aggressively every now and then.

It would be easy to hate them, to pigeon-hole them as society’s outsiders. But the truth is the blame for their disengagement and disenchantment doesn’t lie at their shuffling feet. They hang around muttering about the purpose of life and wondering ‘what it’s all about’ because they have nowhere else to go. They are redundant and having been brought into this world, they’ve been discarded. Nobody wants them and nobody wants to see them. They are the bad attitude blogs.

Bad attitude blogs

Yesterday one escaped from its holding cell. Actually it didn’t escape so much as slip out a door I left slightly ajar. In my heart I knew it was a bad attitude blog but it persuaded me it wasn’t. It convinced me that it was just wanted to have a bit of mischievous fun; that it was harmless. But it wasn’t. It harboured a grudge and once it was out there it wanted to lash out.

I spotted its true motives (helped by Andy) shortly after it skipped gleefully into the bright light and ran laughing wickedly through the streets of social media. But I was hot on its tail with a lasso that brought it kicking and screaming back into blog-world purgatory.

The truth is there are a lot of bad attitude blogs already in there. They have been born out of frustration, irritation, bemusement and anger at all sorts of things – stupidity, blatant manipulation, ignorance, corruption, things that are unjust, snobbery and elitism, inverted snobbery… the list goes on. I’m Scottish; there’s a volcano that bubbles under constantly at things I perceive to be unjust or just plain wrong.

Living Beneath the Volcano is an air vent for those things and subsequently many blogs on here tend to have a bit of an attitude and occasionally a gallas, provocative swagger. They are written for no other purpose than to satisfy me. If anyone else enjoys them or agrees with their sentiments, that’s a bonus.
But the bad attitude blogs cross a line. These are often written immediately after something ridiculous has happened or someone has done, said or written something that winds me up. They are an antidote. But as they generally are dripping with what I view as sadistic humour (Mike Leigh’s anti-hero in Naked is a role model) they’re not always suitable for general consumption and so are immediately consigned to bad attitude blog purgatory.

When it comes to bad attitude blogs I’ve realised it pays to take heed of wise words from Oasis…

Don’t blog back in anger.

But those bad attitude blogs are slippery characters so I can’t guarantee there won’t be future breakouts.

Often it’s the little things that can seem the most different. Take the shot below. There are a number of things in it that speak of foreign lands and different cultures; the palm trees in the background, the wooden ‘home-made by Robinson Crusoe’ tables and stools, the similarly desert island-esque thatched straw roof. But most of all it’s the sign.

You might think that given the design of this terrace this occupied a prime location overlooking a dreamy beach. But if you fancy popping out for a quick dip from here, the beach is a three hour trek through a ravine. This is at Masca on Tenerife; quite a bit inland.

So by the time you’ve popped out for your swim and made your way back, you’ve worked up a serious thirst. What better to quench it than with some cactus lemonade?

The prickly plants are abundant in these parts and apart from adding a touch of sub-tropical exoticism to the landscape, you can eat their ‘pears’ and, as the sign says, make lemonade from them.

I tried it once – you’ve got to really – and it didn’t really have any distinctive flavours. It certainly wasn’t unpleasant. But these days I tend to be boringly conventional and go for the seductively icy friendship of a cerveza after a strenuous hike.

Sadly the bar no longer looks like this… but the cactus lemonade is still there.

I’m sure everywhere must have anticrisis products. Due to various circumstances, this week I had to buy anticrisis bread. This was mainly because it was the only decent looking bread in the nearest supermercado to where I live.

I’m pretty sure that the precio anticrisis is meant to make me feel all warm and fuzzy that the producer is so concerned about the effect of the economic crisis on the consumer that they have created this wallet friendly bread priced at only €1.09.

Nice idea, except for one thing; it’s half a loaf. It might be an anticrisis price but it’s also an anticrisis size. In fact, when I work it out it has cost me more than my normal full sized loaf.

Exactly whose precio anticrisis is it?

It looks like a squeeze bottle, it’s got a nozzle like one and it smells like washing up liquid but it sure as hell doesn’t act like one.

Even being throttled into a deformed shape such as this results in a piddling, good for nothing, little drip of washing liquid. You could argue that it’s environmentally friendly as it’s impossible to get a decent amount of liquid out of the damn bottle.

When we forgot to buy our favourite brand of coffee during the weekly shop we picked up this replacement from our nearest supermarket. I don’t really have to say anything else…

When I was about 18 I had a thing; a weird notion that there was a 15 minute window on Friday and Saturday nights when I became suave, witty and irresistibly charming (or thought I did).

This 15 minute window was my best chance of copping off at the local disco. This 15 minute window lay in a sort of the eye of an alcohol fuelled storm in between the seven or so pints that was the prelim to the disco and the subsequent double vodkas whose ‘sharpness’ I foolishly felt might sober me up a bit after the lager fest.  It was a wonderful little period between being an awkward, self-conscious human lad and a bumbling, incoherent drunken ape.

Waiting to feel grown up has been a bit like that. For years I wondered when I’d feel the same as colleagues at conferences and work related dinners etc. who could easily enter into an adult conversation with another adult who was a stranger. I always felt like a young lad standing on the fringes never really knowing what to say. The bottom line was I could rabbit on about the silly things that interested me but the corporate blather always sounded like ‘blah, blah, blah’.

‘Never mind, when you grow up you’ll be able to talk like that too and fit in,’ I would reassure myself even though by the time my 30s started to run behind me with an outstretched hand pleading ‘don’t leave’ it still hadn’t happened.

A couple of weeks ago Andy asked me. “How do you feel being 50?”

It was a question that had me pulling on the metaphorical hand-break and screeching to a stop. Fifty? Fifty? How the hell did that happen? We’d been in Porto for my birthday. It was part of the reason we were in Porto. But when we travel, the actual celebration/acknowledgement of events like birthdays tends to get lost in being wide-eyed and dazzled at exploring somewhere new, shiny and interesting.

So I didn’t really think much about reaching a half century. It’s a bit of a sell out really as at 20 I’d vowed to go out in a blaze of glory by the time I was 36 (don’t ask me why 36 was a cut-off point).

Anyway, I pondered it for a second… and dismissed it. A number’s a number and a word’s a word.

I don’t know what being 50 means any more than I did being 40, 30 or 21. they’re all just train stations on life’s journey that I half registered as they passed by. It is what’s going on inside the carriage that is important. That and the journey the train takes.

Still feeling as though I’m waiting to grow up, it intrigues and fascinates when I read questions on travel forums from people who say really odd things like ‘We’re in our 50s but we still like to go somewhere lively.’

Why the hell wouldn’t they? In the last year I’ve jumped out of a plane and dived beneath the deep blue for the first time in my life. The opportunities occurred and I jumped at the chance to do both (well with the plane it was more a case of being cajoled). Thought of age just wasn’t/isn’t a factor. It’s meaningless. I am who I am. That’s it. I don’t define myself or feel defined by a number – I’m not The Prisoner.

But by the number of ‘we are a couple in our 50s but…’ comments, there are plenty who do feel the shackles of numbers which must be terribly restricting.

George Clooney is 50. Tom Cruise is 49. Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp are both 48.

Can you honestly imagine any of them ever saying ‘I’m a man in my late 40s/early 50s but I still like somewhere with a bit of life. Nothing too lively though…’

Dump the numbers and live. Growing up is overrated and will only make you old.

On Saturday our friend Bob carried out what was a most unscientific study… but one which yielded results which are probably representative.

Whilst we booed and hissed at dastardly, unsporting behaviour and cheered as sweet revenge was delivered in the shape of two goals from Wayne Rooney, Bob counted the number of men who washed their hands after a visit to the toilets.

Okay it might sound like an odd thing to do, but if  you’re sitting at the bar in the Beehive Pub in Puerto de la Cruz you are also sitting in a direct line with the corridor leading to the loos and the sink directly outside the gents. It is almost impossible to not notice those guys who leave the loo and body swerve the sink.

So as we cheered our lads and jeered our old neighbours on the Mersey, Bob carried out his meticulous research. By half time he presented us with results that were positively shocking.

Eight out of the ten men who had visited the toilet during the first half clearly either had rabies or suffered from hydrophobia because they didn’t go near that sink. Eight out of Ten!
Basically that equates to a stonking (or should that be stinking?) 80% of men don’t wash their hands after a visit to the toilet.

“Some of these guys come back and paw their girlfriends afterwards,” Bob pointed out somewhat unnecessarily. We got the picture. There was a plague of pissy-handed blokes around us.

In a day and age when we all know how disease can be easily transmitted, this figure was a shock. I know it was only a mock survey, but who out there really believes that the figures would be much different anywhere else? A lot of blokes simply don’t wash their hands after a visit to the loo. Is it just Brits? I really don’t know. I’m sure it isn’t exclusive to Brit blokes. On the other hand recently I remarked to Andy about having to queue up to wash my hands at the toilets in our local shopping centre. I don’t remember ever having to queue to wash my hands in the UK.

Coincidentally, the same day I’d been reading hotel reviews from early 2011 in Los Gigantes when many people’s holidays had been affected by sickness and diarrhoea. Norvirus had swept through the resort. There has been much written about it and we’ll never know the truth for certain about what caused it but the virus appeared to only affect resort areas predominantly visited by British tourists.

I mention this because the first piece of advice on some health websites regarding the best way to prevent the spread of norovirus is:- ‘wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet’.

You don’t need to be Benedict Cumberbatch to work this little mystery out.

Guys, wash your hands after visiting the loo… for all our sakes.

Here’s a question that had me reeling, aghast and plain amazed – Why would an English language magazine publish something that was a Spanish tradition?

December 28th is Dia de los Inocentes in Spain. It’s the equivalent of April Fool’s Day in Britain and the tradition is that the media publishes or broadcasts hoax stories.

One of the main Spanish TV channels had a whole night of screening pranks, one involved fooling a man into believing he was witnessing a murder.

For the last two years I’ve published a hoax story on Tenerife Magazine to commemorate the date…and for the past two years it’s caused a bit of a stir amongst some people who aren’t aware of the tradition (even though this time the piece was clearly tagged with Dia de los Inocentes).

A few savvy people clocked it was a Dia de los Inocentes story right away, leaving comments on Facebook, Twitter and on the article itself. And most others, once wise to Dia de los Inocentes, got the joke. But the comment about why would an English language magazine print a Dia de los Inocentes story that had me reeling wasn’t left on any of the magazine’s social media channels, it was left by an ex-pat resident on an English language forum.

I’m not a judgemental sort of person (what bollocks – I’m terribly judgemental) so if someone living on Tenerife doesn’t know about or isn’t interested in the island’s traditions then that’s up to them. Live and let live and all that jazz. But if someone living on Tenerife who doesn’t know about the traditions has the audacity to criticise me for following one then that’s a very different story.

The question was so utterly ridiculous that I’d have thought it was a hoax itself, except I knew it wasn’t.

Why would an English language magazine write about a Spanish tradition?

Why would we write about carnaval…or the flower carpets at Corpus Christi…or the goat bathing at midsummer? And why do we write about eating cabra and conejo? Because I don’t see the difference between any of those and observing Dia de los Inocentes.

Why would an English language magazine write about a Spanish tradition?

Why? Why? Because we happen to live in Tenerife, Spain and not Weston-super-Mare that’s why.