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The obvious answer is that Spanish dubbing is so bad that ripping out your ear drums with a butcher’s hook is kinder to those weird protrusions on the side of your head than subjecting them to The King’s Speech sounding more like Once Upon a Time in Meheeeco.

But that’s not the main reason.

There used to be two mainstream cinema complexes on Tenerife where you could catch the latest-ish movies in their original language; at La Villa in La Orotava and at Gran Sur in Costa Adeje. Each screened one V.O. (version original) a week. Sometimes the movie was good, sometimes it was bobbins.

The one in La Orotava didn’t last long; there’s just not a big enough audience for English language movies in the north of Tenerife.

The south of Tenerife is a different matter. In some municipalities up to 75% of the population are non-Canarios. Not all of these are English speaking, but there’s a massive percentage who are.

And yet every time I’ve been to the Gran Sur Cinema to watch V.O. There has been less than 10 other people in the cinema with me. Doesn’t matter how good the movie is, even the likes of Inception and The Adventures of Tintin didn’t bring in the English speaking crowds.

I just don’t get it. Andy and I think nothing of the 90 minute journey from Puerto de la Cruz to Costa Adeje if the movie warrants it. DVDs are wonderful, but you can’t beat watching BIG movies on the big screen. So, as most ex-pat residents on Tenerife live significantly closer to the cinema, why aren’t audiences bigger? It’s a mystery to me.

The apparent lack of support for the V.O has had me worried that it might be pulled (I say apparent because for all I know, the place is teeming on the days I’m not there).

Sure enough, for the last two weeks the V.O. movie has been absent from Gran Sur. They say that it might be back, but if they don’t re-introduce it I’ll be gutted.

I’ve been a massive fan of the movies since leafing through my mum’s Photoplays when I was knee high to a popcorn seller. I love movies and I especially get a thrill out of seeing them at the cinema.

And because I feel this way about films, I won’t watch dubbed ones.

You might think that as I live in Spain, I should watch movies in Spanish. I do…but only Spanish movies. I also watch French, Chinese, Brazilian, Swedish movies etc…all in their original language (with English subtitles of course).

Movies aren’t just about the visuals – without the performance of the actor, the movie is nothing. And that’s why dubbing is irritating in the extreme.

Dubbing lessens a movie (well maybe not one with Van Damme, Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris). You can’t tell whether a film is good or bad when you’re listening to some wooden performance from a professional dubber. Where’s the richness of voice? Where’s the emotion? Where’s the intonation or the subtlety in the performance? With dubbing you lose all of that…and subsequently you also lose the soul of the movie.

How can people who watch dubbed movies know how good an actor Leo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt is? The answer is that they can’t.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was on Spanish TV last week. I’d forgotten how delicious Richard Burton’s voice was. Imagine casting those rich vocals aside for some part-timer from Valencia with a voice that grates like nails down a board.

It would simply be a crime.

Bird Spa in Tenerife

Posted: November 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

This morning I was reminded that I’d overlooked an important task by a series of shrill, impatient tweets.

Outside the window, a queue of clearly quite irritated blue tits, finches and canaries hopped, fluttered and twittered loudly, demanding to know why their local spa had run dry; their local spa being a plant tray filled, an ornamental steel bowl and the current favourite choice for an avian jacuzzi, the cat’s water bowl – either a very stupid or very brave spot for a bird to linger.

They all scattered whilst I topped up their baths but it wasn’t long before this little fellow took the opportunity to have a soak and a splash before the ebullient Tenerife blue tits came back, bullied everyone else out of the way and hogged the bowl until it was emptied of water as a result of their frantic splashing around.

I wonder if the cat has any idea about the outrageous behaviour that takes place in his water bowl when he’s not about?

The question always takes us by surprise even though we’ve been asked it on a number of occasions during the years we’ve lived on Tenerife – not ever by Canarios I hasten to add.

“Have You ever thought of living in the South of Tenerife?”

Funnily enough instead of just giving a straight answer, we normally justify why we chose to live in the north of Tenerife. We describe how we hired a car and travelled around Tenerife staying in various towns and resorts (and discarding them as places we’d want to live) before arriving in Puerto de la Cruz and deciding on the spot – más o menos – that this was the place for us.

Why we feel we have to come out with this tale every time I really don’t know. And I don’t know why we just don’t give the single word answer that really wants to escape my mouth and that is a simple, succinct no.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always thought that answer might come across as sounding rude, especially as the people who ask the question invariably live or holiday in the south of Tenerife.
But recently I started to look at it from a different angle. Why do people ask the question in the first place? As far as I can remember we’ve never asked anyone who lives in the south of Tenerife if they’d ever considered living in the north, so why do people keep asking us?

The north and the south of Tenerife, and I know this is a generalisation, are different. I’m not referring to the weather, although that is undeniably a factor, but historically they have always been different, in the looks department they are different and in personality they are different.

We all have various likes, dislikes and preferences and I prefer the north of Tenerife to the south. And if anyone thinks that might be an insult – don’t be silly; of course I do, that’s why I choose to live here.
I’ve always assumed that most people who live in the south do so because it ticks all the right boxes for them; just as I live here because it ticks all the right boxes for me. Therefore it wouldn’t cross my mind to ask the question. But when people hear we live in the north, the reaction is often similar to the reaction I use to get when I told people I didn’t eat meat (past tense BTW).

“Have You ever thought of living in the South of Tenerife?”

To me it feels as though there’s a bit missing from the end of that question. If you follow it to its logical conclusion there is an inference in a question like that. Which is why in future the answer will be a much simpler and significantly shorter one.

I had a little moment last night when I fell in love with Puerto de la Cruz all over again; a woman with a face as wrinkled as a bowl of papas arrugadas who had a submarine-sized cigar protruding from her mouth stared down at me from a poster on the wall; in front of me a girl who clearly modelled herself from head to toe on Shakira swivelled furiously, desperate to show anyone who was watching that her hips didn’t lie; it was 2.30am and the atmosphere was hot, sweaty and electric. My favourite bar in the world had re-opened and we were once again able to take a trip down the rabbit hole to downtown Havana without stepping foot outside of our adopted town.

Despite suffering from a debilitating disease picked up in Lanzarote (i.e. a bit of a sniffy nose but hey, I’m a man so obviously my symptoms are a lot more serious than anyone else’s), I dragged myself from my sick bed (in front of the TV screen – more poetic license) for a night on the tiles.

Friend Roberto (Bob when he’s at home in England) is a swallow; someone who spends part of the winter on Tenerife. He’s been coming to Puerto for 25 years and we got to know him whilst watching Man Utd games at the Beehive. Like many regular visitors to Tenerife, he goes to the same bars and restaurants every trip, so when we heard there was a Michael Jackson tribute band at one of our favourite night spots, Blanco Bar, we decide it was time that Roberto was plucked from his cosily familiar environment and thrust into the nocturnal world that we inhabit.

The Fragata Bar is ideal for making the transition from bars frequented mainly by visitors to bars that are frequented by Canarios, Spanish and South Americans. At 10pm the bar is full of ex-pats and Northern European holidaymakers. At 11.30 there’s a change of shift and the Canarios arrive, boosting the atmosphere with their noisy, bubbly chatter. A couple of cervezas and 20 minutes of being book-ended by two tables of young Canarios and Bob was sufficiently acclimatised.

Blanco Bar is the coolest bar in town, but you can’t tell it from the outside. Walk through the soundproofed glass doors and you enter a world of crisp lilac lighting and sleek and sexy furnishings complimented by the equally sleek and sexy people lounging on them. It’s the sort of place where you might feel that unless you look like Brangelina you’re spoiling the picture. But this is Puerto where nobody gives a damn about age, size or looks; it’s one of the things that we love about the joint.

I’d had the heads up via Twitter that Michael Jackson had been cancelled and replaced with One Love – a tribute to Bob Marley. Even better as far as I was concerned especially as the band, helped by a guitarist who injected a heavy dose of R&B into familiar reggae riffs, were pretty damn good. It sounded like Marley, but with a whole new dimension added and Blanco rocked as just about everyone joined in ‘One Love’ et al with mucho gusto.

For a brief chill-out we swapped venues and made the short trip to Limbo. The band there had finished playing but we were met with a bit of Free which was nice. Limbo’s most popular area is its outside terrace and whilst it was busy-ish, the cool 14C temps meant that it wasn’t its usual sardine can packed. As we downed another cerveza and Bob surveyed the old red tiled rooftops opposite, the Havana Rum billboard looming above us and the huge palm tree silhouetted against a clear sky and a sea of stars, he said something strange.

‘Wow, I really feel I’m in Spain,” he shouted above the music.

Twenty five years of visiting and those two bars inspired him to say that. It spoke volumes about the Puerto that some British visitors see and the ‘real’ Puerto that we know and love.

If he thought the first two bars were foreign, Azucar was about to blow him away. The atmospheric Cuban bar in a former gentlemen’s smoking club has been occupying its lower floors for over a year, but at last its upper floors have re-opened and we entered to the usual maelstrom of whirling, twirling and suggestive thrusting that can make you feel slightly voyeuristic. Of all the gin joints in all the towns I’ve toasted salud, slangever’d and bottoms up’d in, Azucar is my favourite. Azucar’s get down and dirty personality and thumping Cuban vibes make me want to clamp a cigar between my teeth and down a mojito in one thirsty gulp…without removing the cigar of course.

Andy and I threw in the towel at around 3am, leaving Bob, who had been completely seduced by the bar (and relaxed by cervezas), watching chicas and chicos make love fully clothed on the dance floor i.e. any free floor space in the bar.

We left Azucar happy in the knowledge that as well as enjoying a top night we’d given another friend the keys to a magical kingdom. The bars he’d frequented before will just never seem the same again. Bienvenido to the real Puerto de la Cruz, Roberto.

The third incident of the day was one of those infuriating and bewildering TIT (this is Tenerife) experiences.

At the end of a long day in the south we just wanted to get back home as quickly as possible. At that time of night, when the motorway is quiet, around fifty minutes normally does the trick.

We were going great guns until we passed the airport. If you’ve driven on the TF1 motorway at night you’ll know that a lot of it isn’t lit. Good for light pollution, but not for spotting a row of cones which suddenly appeared out of the blackness forcing me into one lane and then off the motorway altogether. I spotted them almost as I hit them and followed the slip road onto a road running parallel with the TF1 and an unmoving line of traffic stretching into the distance.

“WTF” I exclaimed. It was 10.30pm and we were gridlocked in the darkness.

Eventually we moved forward at a snail’s pace. Up ahead I could see JCB’s and a load of workmen, but there was no work actually taking place on the motorway itself. It seemed to take us forever to crawl forward, which seemed odd as there couldn’t have been much other traffic from anywhere else interfering with our progress.

As we reached the workmen’s lights the two causes of the traffic queue were revealed.

Workmen were working on a bridge over the TF1 and there was a large rig on the motorway itself under the bridge. Fair enough if you have to carry out work, night-time, when traffic is light, is the sensible time to do it.

However, the actual cause of the queue had me wishing I had a machine gun to hand. I’m surprised that unemployment is so high in Spain because, despite the fact that there was no traffic coming in any other direction, they had not one, not two, but three idiots directing our queue of traffic…or more accurately making a right old balls up of trying to keep the traffic moving.

One of them had one of those ‘stop’ and ‘go’ signs with which he was waving traffic forward. His two colleagues were stood in the middle of the road waving their arms about willy nilly.

This was causing all sorts of consternation as the road back on to the motorway lay straight ahead and the road the guys seemed to be gesticulating towards headed bizarrely to El Médano.

I say bizarrely, cause if you know this road you’ll know that you can’t get back to the TF1 from it. Well, actually you can if you head south – in the direction we’d just come. But then you’d end up hitting the roadworks again, being directed to El Médano again…and so on forever and ever.

We made a snap decision, ignored the goons on the road and took what seemed to be the logical route – straight across and back on to the motorway. Ominously nobody followed us; the whole line of traffic turned right towards El Médano as directed.

As we drove into the darkness I kept one eye on my rear view mirror hoping that some lights would enter it, and that if they did they weren’t blue flashing ones, but none came. It was completely unnerving and we expected at any moment to turn a corner and plough into a load of workmen even though we knew that the workmen’s apparent detour didn’t make any sense. There was simply no way to get back on to the motorway other than the route we had taken. After about five minutes I saw red up ahead and we caught up with one car, then another and another and relief swept over us. We’d made the right decision.

God knows what happened with everyone else in that queue – they’d have reached El Médano and then what? I imagine that there would have been some pretty pissed-off drivers when they realised that the idiots at the bridge had sent them to what amounted to a dead end. Hundreds of cars had followed their bizarre detour.

Sometimes, some might say a little bit too often, we encounter behaviour on Tenerife that is difficult to rationalise. It can be amusing, bewildering or annoying as hell. But as long as you know to expect the unexpected and to follow your instincts rather than cerebrally challenged morons in yellow jackets, then it might just be possible for an intelligent and logically minded person to survive living here with their sanity intact.

Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that as I get older, I’m becoming slightly nutty (If I had money, I could claim to be eccentric).

It’s a quite upsetting revelation as I’ve always considered myself to have a solid and mentally stable disposition; pretty much what you would expect from someone whose genes are made up from a Presbyterian mix of Glaswegian Iron foundrymen and highland ploughmen. You know where you are with stoic and dour.

Until now, I’ve left the fruit cake behaviour to a couple of mates (who are progressively becoming more nutty as they get older – so maybe it’s an age thing and my deteriorating mental health symptoms are just relative), but I think I’m catching them up.

I’ve always suffered from a touch of OCD (check the cooker’s turned off 5 times, and that the front door is locked 3 times before being able to walk away from the house etc), but who doesn’t?

That’s not what I’m talking about here. This is much worse. All week I’ve been on edge. I’ve been unable to completely relax; been that little bit grumpier and found fault with all sorts of things…all because of an impending visit to the hairdresser.

I hate it. For me it’s akin to a visit to the dentists and I’ll put it off for all sorts of reasons (they’re too busy, we’re too late and I’ve got other things to do, there’s a Y in the day). However when I get to the point when I look like Crusty the Clown from The Simpsons when I get out of bed in the morning and the look doesn’t get much better as the day progresses, I know deep down that it’s time to bite the bullet.

I managed to put it off for just over a week this time, with much sighing and rolling of the eyes from Andy every time I came up with a new excuse. But today my excuse bank was empty. So I had to put up with the trauma of the quarterly visit.

It’s not as though they’re not friendly, quite the opposite, but it’s the closest thing to a phobia I’ve got and having to conduct it all in Spanish doesn’t help the stress levels. At one point today when the girl had shaved the back and sides but left a thick moppy bit on top, I looked like an extra from The Name of the Rose.

But 15 minutes and a lot of ‘si,si, si, si, si’ s later the deed was done and I felt like the Old English Sheepdog I had when I was a lad after he’d been forcibly bathed – he would tear around the house, over the top of the sofa and along the walls like a ‘wall of death motorcycle rider’, wrecking everything in his path at the relief it was all over.

As I walked out of the hairdressers, Mr Grumpy Git was left on the floor with my increasingly more salt, less pepper hair and I felt at one with the world again.

As phobias go I don’t think it’s a particularly bad one but, as Andy has pointed out to me on numerous occasions over the last week, it is a stupid one.

The devastation took us by complete surprise; it was if a nuclear wind had ripped through the forest. Where there had once been a dense wall of pines, there were bare totem poles; the naked trees had been stripped of their branches.

At first we thought there must have been a fire, but the trunks weren’t blackened. Many of them looked as though they’d simply been snapped in two as though some immense force had broken them in half as easy as if they’d been matchsticks.

And then realization dawned. This was the aftermath of cyclone Xynthia hitting Tenerife; this shredded forest was her doing.

We hadn’t driven on the road from Puerto de la Cruz to Mount Teide since the storms in February, but time was long overdue for us to complete the research for the last walk for our Teide National Park walking routes. Although we’d known that the road had been shut because of the damage, we were unprepared for the extent of the destruction. An area of forest between Aguamansa and Teide National Park looked like a post apocalyptic landscape. The misty cloud drifting between the bare trees only added to a dramatic scene which had the impact of a fist to the solar plexus.

Further evidence of Xynthia’s malevolent attack was provided by the metal crash barrier bordering the road. Every few feet it was buckled and squashed where huge trees had fallen, or been thrown against it.

In reality the damage seemed to be constrained to one particular area. Like the fire a couple of years ago, the winds had chosen a very clearly defined path through the forest; so much of the beautiful carpet of trees in the La Orotava Valley remains intact. But that one area…wow.


It was an incredible scene and all credit to the authorities for clearing the roads as fast as they did.

Oh and by the way if anyone needs firewood…

It was a friend on La Gomera’s birthday last weekend and we’d promised her we’d hop across from Tenerife to celebrate.

Normally we drive everywhere, but now and again we ditch the car and use the public transport system. I could tell you that doing so helps with our continuing mission to experience all elements of life on Tenerife first hand, which it does, but the real reason is that after a weekend on La Gomera we’re usually too buggered to drive back from Los Cristianos to Puerto de la Cruz.

Stage 1 – Our House to Puerto Bus Station
Calima had rolled in big time on Friday and the temperatures were into the 30s. So tooled out with two rucksacks, a notebook, camera bag and a sheepskin rug (don’t ask) we sweated our way through the banana plantation and up the hill to the main road to catch the bus into Puerto. About fifteen minutes later we pulled into Puerto bus station with about a minute to spare before the ‘sin parada’ (no stops) bus to Santa Cruz left. Cost €1.20 each.

Stage 2 – Puerto de la Cruz to Santa Cruz
Despite there being three buses to Santa Cruz every half hour, the 10am 103 bus was absolutely jam packed full. Whilst we were queuing to get on, I clocked Tenerife’s version of a chav hanging around the entrance to the bus, taking a last swig from a bottle of beer before he got on the bus. We grabbed two of the last available seats and he squeezed into what must have been the last just across the aisle from us. Even though all the seats had gone, people, mostly mature locals, continued to stream on, filling up the aisle. Then the young ‘chav’ did the most unexpected thing – he got up from his seat and offered it to an old lady. It was one of these little moments that completely confounded expectations.

Despite the heat, it was a pleasant 40 minute journey into Santa Cruz, apart from the fact that someone had a fart attack just as we arrived in the capital. In a confined area like that bus it was potentially lethal. Cost €2.75 each (we used a bono).

Stage 3 – Santa Cruz to Los Cristianos Port
Even though we’d booked tickets online for the Fred Olsen Express (€60 for the return trip for the two of us), we still had to pick up boarding cards at the Fred Olsen office in the bus station. This involved photocopying residencia papers and passports. Good to see that online booking has streamlined the process – Tinerfeños still have something of an obsession with paperwork.
One of the great things about travelling from Santa Cruz to catch a ferry in Los Cristianos is that all the ferry companies lay on a free bus to the port. It’s a wonderful service which takes a lot of the pain out of travelling. You pick up your tickets, jump on the free bus and an hour or so later, you’re stepping off the bus and onto the ferry in Los Cristianos. Cost – a big fat zero.

Stage 4 – Los Cristianos to San Sebastian de La Gomera
I like the Fred Olsen ferries; they’re clean, nicely laid out with lots of room and have a bar/café area in each zone. They also have free WiFi. It’s not the greatest signal, but it did mean that we were able to answer a few emails during the forty minute crossing to La Gomera.

Having left our house at 9.30am, we stepped onto the harbour in sunny San Sebastian, La Gomera just over four hours, three buses and a ferry later at 1.40pm. We were relaxed and ready to allow ourselves to be embraced by La Gomera’s charms.

The Harbour at San Sebastian, La Gomera

10.30pm
I’m sitting on the bedroom steps watching Andy try on various potential carnaval outfits – her cowgirl look is a disaster. She’s put on about three layers to ensure she stays warm in the cool February night and looks like a cowgirl in the early stages of pregnancy. There’s an orange weather alert for high winds and rain and the trailer for ER (it’s on Spanish TV and we’re watching it for the first time) looked as though loads of stuff is going to happen on tonight’s episode. I don’t feel in the slightest bit carnaval-y
“You know I’m tempted to give carnaval a miss tonight, Andy.”

11.30pm
Andy’s a sort of Folies Bergères showgirl and I’m Willie Wallace. The cool February night seems to really be a balmy February night as we work up a sweat on the thirty minute walk through the banana plantations, La Paz and finally the centre of Puerto de la Cruz. The streets are near empty as we walk through La Paz. You’d never know that there was a carnaval taking place and the few German tourists that we pass look at us as though we’ve just stepped out of a spaceship. I’m tempted to lop off their heads with my axe.

The Party's just Starting

12.30am
Latino music is blasting out and the smell of candy floss mingles with sizzling chorizos and fried squid. All around are painted faces, retina damaging luminous costumes, busty girls with cleavages you could park tandem bikes in and ladyboys grabbing at their crotches to adjust too-tight thongs. I’m home. All tiredness and apathy towards carnaval is a distant memory. We grab a cerveza from a chiringuito (beer stall) and dive into the madness.

1.30am
The streets are really starting to fill up as revellers in fancy dress stream into the town. There are some wonderfully imaginative costumes around this year. Some N’avi from Avatar are particularly good, but Shrek, a Marilyn Monroe who insists on flashing her pants which seem to have a large cucumber stuffed down them, and a couple of Marge Simpsons also stand out. A Cap’n Jack Sparrow comes over to us and takes my photo. I’m flattered – having your photo taken at a carnaval street party is recognition that your outfit looks pretty good. We get another beer to celebrate.

Now it's Getting into its Stride

2.30am
We go off on another circuit of the various street parties. A live band energetically keeps the crowd salsa-ing to Latino music in Plaza del Charco whilst DJs blast out a sort of Spanish pop-rock with a distinctly Latino beat at the little plaza beside the harbour. There are lots of fairies, Chicago gangsters, sexy nuns, policewomen in fishnets and people in fat costumes. I point out one particularly enormous derriere to Andy. Andy points out that it’s not a costume. The best spot is a new dance area beside the customs house. There are lots of flamboyantly dressed trannies there and the music has a more techno beat, albeit with a Latino influence.

3.30am
It seems like five minutes since I told Andy it was 2.30am – we’ve entered the carnaval time-warp. A man in lederhosen tells Andy if she kisses his friend he’ll kiss me. I don’t view this as a particularly attractive offer…and I’m not sure they’re in fancy dress; I think they’re German tourists. Andy gets dragged into a group photo and has her beer spilled over her. A man in an Incredibles costume taps me on the shoulder then plonks a rat into his mouth. We’re well into carnaval’s surrealistic grip.

Andy is Kidnapped by Austrians and Dowsed in Beer

4.30am
The high winds which have been completely missing start to make an appearance, except they’re more strong gusts than high winds and are accompanied by an impromptu mass “WOOOOO” from the crowds. Everyone wants their photo taken and a group of teenage girl’s and boys wearing not-a-lot jump in front of my camera and strike up a fantastic pose. It’s the shot of the night, but the beers have taken their toll and I end up doing what the girls in the picture were doing – outrageously over exposing. The wind is really whipping up and we decide to head home, making friends with a ‘blacked up’ trio on the way.

5.30am
Removing my blue and white ‘Braveheart’ face paint seems to be taking forever and I’m left with a vaguely ill looking bluish white pallor. The temperature on the way home didn’t drop below 20 and the sweat mixed with the face paint and ran into my eyes stinging them. The living room looks as though a carnaval bomb has hit it – a battle axe here, red fishnet stockings there, a scarlet boa draped across a sofa…
We collapse into bed as the sound of Latino music from the plaza makes its way the three kilometres to our house telling us that the party is still going strong.

5.31am
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

It catches your eye doesn’t it? I’m talking about her name. The new carnaval queen for Santa Cruz is called Alicia San Juan Mc-Nulty.

Alicia San Juan McNulty – it’s great, like the statue of the priest in Santa Cruz called Father José Murphy.

Alicia hails from La Laguna, but at least one Spanish paper commented that she had a foreign appearance – no surprise as she has Irish blood in her veins, like  quite a few Canarios. A lot of Irish settled around the north of Tenerife from the mid 16th century onwards and every so often you hear a name that is half Spanish and half Irish.

One Victorian explorer attributed the exceptional good looks of the Canario people around La Orotava to the mix of Spanish, Irish and even Guanche blood.