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.

We are always, always late putting up our Christmas decorations. This year was no different except that this year we toddled off to Portugal shortly after Christmas Day to return on the night when the decs were due to come down again. So we didn’t really have a lot of time to enjoy them.

Instead of leaving them up in the house for 12 months and risking bad luck, I thought I’d post some pics on here, so I can enjoy the house dressed for Christmas for just a little bit longer.

Instead of a Christmas Tree we have a Sprayed Branch, Lights and Old CDs.

Our Only Tree.

By the Light of the Stars.

Bucks Fizz on Christmas Morn.

The Door Handle that Requires a Strong Wrist.

Symbols of Good Luck.

Stars and Discs.

On the Outside Looking In.

It seems mighty bizarre to book into a hotel we can see from our bedroom window. But this week we checked into the Hotel Las Águilas, a hotel you really can’t miss in Puerto de la Cruz as it sits atop one of two volcanic cones left in the La Orotava Valley.

A week’s half board at the hotel is the latest prize in our Tenerife Magazine holiday competition and if we’re going to recommend a hotel then we stay in it first so we can give first hand experience of what it’s like. This first hand experience is important to us…no that’s wrong, it’s essential.

Andy and I have long felt that the Achilles heel in Puerto relating to tourism is the hotels in the town, many of whom are in need of being dragged into the 21st century. Historic is quaint and you might even get away with old fashioned charm, but many of Puerto’s hotels don’t tick these boxes. They’re simply dated. I recently read a sharp piece of copywriting which cleverly described a hotel’s décor as being authentic 1960s. Well some of Puerto’s hotels have authentic 1980s décor.

Not so the Hotel Las Aguilas. It bucks the trend by revealing an individualistic style that mixes pop art and ethnic designs with what is simply an aesthetically pleasing style. It’s vibrant and a breath of fresh air and showed us that not all of Puerto’s hotels are doing the timewarp again.

The other myth the Hotel Las Águilas helps dispel is the one that I’d almost come to believe myself. In winter only ‘mature’ Northern Europeans holiday in Puerto de la Cruz.

The other guests in the hotel ranged from couples in their 20s upwards, with the average age being around 40-ish. Not exactly fitting the picture that is often painted. Of course, with each passing year ‘mature’ takes on a different meaning for me.

I was going to say that maybe the ‘mature’ tag might be related to British visitors as the majority of the hotel’s guests were not English speaking (mainly Spanish, German and Scandinavian). But as the bar I watched Man Utd see off Fulham (to the obvious chagrin of the Man Utd hating bar manager) was packed with Brits a lot younger than me, it seems as though that doesn’t apply there either.

In Puerto, and no doubt other places on Tenerife, if you go to bars that are popular with more mature visitors then guess what you’re going to find? On the other hand, if you go to different bars you find a totally different scene.

I hadn’t realised the same applied to hotels until the Hotel Las Águilas opened my eyes.

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.

Puerto de la Cruz? Who the hell would want to take a holiday here? It’s cold all year – I have an igloo in my back garden; It never, ever stops raining – whereas folks in the south of Tenerife wear flip flops, I’ve got wellie boots. As for the people, what a weird language they speak and don’t get me started on the food; things with tentacles and all sorts of rubbish like that.

Honestly, trust me on this – I live there – stay away from Puerto de la Cruz.

After years of trying to convince people what it’s really like to live in or visit Puerto de la Cruz, I’ve decided to do a complete U-turn. There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first is more irritating than anything else. I can preach about Puerto de la Cruz until the cows come home, bed down for the night and start to dream of grassy meadows. But somebody visits the place on an excursion for 5 minutes and suddenly they know better – if they say it’s always cold, wet and cloudy, then it must be. What the hell do I know?

But the main reason is that, after witnessing an unusual situation involving pissed up young Brits making an ass of themselves a few weeks ago and then reading a couple of reviews on Tripadvisor this week, I really don’t want a certain type of Brit holidaymaker to believe that Puerto is warm and sunny all the year round – or for any part of the year. Simple as that.

Some people just aren’t suited to the north of Tenerife just as some people wouldn’t enjoy staying in the purpose built resorts in the south. The north is never going to ring their bells and these comments taken from a Tripadvisor review illustrate exactly why.

A seriously disappointed holidaymaker moaned about their hotel that –‘The staff at hotel were bad mannered,rude,hardly understood English language’ and even worse, the ‘entertainment that was on every night was Spanish and all the locals came in for a night out,nothing aimed at British people’.

Puerto itself fared little better as the reviewer continued their moan – ‘No British entertainment on in area either,just Spanish singers with Spanish locals sitting in all the seats’.

Their final piece of advice was ‘I would seriously urge anyone from the UK not to go to Puerto de la Cruz…as it will be the worst holiday you’l ever have.’

Absolutely…if the idea of being full of Spanish and having no Brit bars has you penning an ‘outraged’ letter to Puerto’s tourist board for not turning the place into Britain in the sun then please, please, please follow the reviewer’s advice.

It’s not just Puerto who has to suffer these Philistines. On the same day I read hotel reviews for La Gomera; an island ‘more discerning’ holidaymakers head for (or so some of them would like to have you believe) and came across a scathing review from a holidaymaker who, clearly having been seduced by a tour brochure description, had opted to stay in the hill town of Vallehermoso – which is a ‘real’ Gomeran town.

First they complained that their receptionist didn’t carry their bags (it’s a small rural hotel in the country, not a 4 star All Inclusive) then they bitched about breakfast (coming face to face with the continental variety was clearly a shock to the system). They commented that there were a few pubs but nothing special (PUBS? PUBS? Where did they think they were – the Lake District). But the most inconvenient aspect of the place was that families filled the local plaza at night, music was played and everyone had the nerve to have a noisy good time (obviously no-one had told them they would have to come into contact with any foreigners).

The best line of the review was their conclusion that ‘Vallehermoso is a total DUMP’ to be avoided at all costs.

Vallehermoso means beautiful valley in English – it is aptly named…but not if you’re a total moron. It has not, however, been built for tourists. It is the real deal. These plebs apparently couldn’t even find the hotel’s sun terrace they were that clueless.

Finally they were moved to the Hotel Tecina – ‘a lovely place’ where they decided that La Gomera was indeed beautiful…that would be the La Gomera found inside the biggest hotel complex on the island then.

So here’s a tip for everyone out there of similar mind to these two, Puerto de la Cruz and anywhere remotely Canario should definitely be avoided at all costs. You really won’t like it.