Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


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Summertime El Médano

It’s 1976. It’s been a heatwave year. Remarkable in my almost 30 years on this planet. I only remember one other summer, dimly, from my childhood, when it was this hot. It’s the year I learn to water ski. It’s the year I see my first shooting star. It’s a year etched clearly in my memory, because it’s also the year my mom dies. She is only 49 years old. She was my best friend as well as my mom, and the lazy summer which follows her May death is a time for recuperation. All summer I’m not thinking about anything in particular , just drifting. It’s September, early September, and I’m sitting on the end of a jetty on Lake Windermere, (where every, balmy weekend has been spent), with a guy, not a special someone or anything, just a guy who is in the extended group who hang out this summer. It’s dusk, and a light mist is beginning to eke its way across the water.

“Ugh. I hate the end of summer,” he says. He’s tall and blond, something in the surfer-dude mold. He should have been living on a beach. He loves driving his elegant, vintage boat around the Lake. He’s oblivious to the fanasties he stirs in female imaginations.

“Really,” I reply. “I kind of think of Autumn as a new beginning. I don’t mind it, so long as it’s not too wet!”

It was the first time I’d considered mourning the end of summer, but then, there had never been a summer quite like that one, and I guess that’s why the memory of that moment, that conversation sticks in my mind (even though the guy’s name escapes me).

Many summer folk never see the beauty of this place.

Many summer folk never see the beauty of this place.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that seasons don’t exist here. Afterall, this is called “The Land of Eternal Spring,” and there is something in that.  Summer is hotter though. The Canary Islands are in the northern hemisphere, even though they are subtropical. School is out. There are still many folk who take their entire vacation time in August. There are offices which still close early, and it’s difficult to get paperwork done.

When dusk falls, life pretty much moves outdoors. The island is  on almost the same latitude as Orlando, give or take a couple of tenths of a degree, but where summer nights in Florida are hot and humid, summer nights in the Canary Islands are mild and cooled by the breeze – at least outdoors. There is nothing like sitting outside, feeling the breath of evening on your sun-warmed skin, ice clinking in the drink you’re nursing, even feeling a slight shiver as night draws on.

Last night's mojitos set me to musing

Last night’s mojitos set me to musing

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Signs It’s Summer

You may have heard Tenerife called “The Island of Eternal Spring,”  which may make you wonder how we tell the difference between the seasons here.  I’ve mentioned the spring flowers already in the past week.  The foliage does change, though the changes may be more subtle than further north. If you follow the temperatures online or in newspapers you’ll notice a difference, but the winter temperatures will still sound warm, and they are.  I have to admit that there are times when I have to stop to try to remember just what time of year it is.  I can wake in the night worrying about whether I’ve ordered the turkey, and then roll over with a sigh of relief when I realize it’s July, and there is scads of time to deal with that!  Or I can go out in the heat of the winter midday sun dressed in a cotton dress, forgetting that I won’t get home until after dark, and end up shivering, and the temperatures do drop at sunset.

There are some signs that summer is around the corner however:

1.  The duvet is always on the floor when I wake up. Sometime during the month of May I begin to kick off the duvet during the night.  You may wonder that I use one at all, but I guess that’s because I’m acclimatized now!  When this happens every night then I know we haven’t long to go.  Despite global warming or climate change this has happened every year I’ve lived here, and the timing hasn’t changed, and the opposite happens in November.  I begin to wake up cold during the night, and I know winter is about to set in.

2.  Trixy sleeps on the tiled floor and not on her bed or any of the various rugs she also favors.  Trixy is a spoiled dog, no doubt about it.  She lays claims to just about anything comfy around the house.  I have to make sure bedroom doors are closed when I go out, and put magazines on the sofa so she won’t jump up there, but when the temperatures rise she prefers the cold tiles, and the breeze under the window.

3.  I no longer want to cook.  When I do I am drenched in sweat. This last few weeks have been a scurrying of cooking and baking to make sure I have some stuff in the freezer for those odd times I crave a beef stew or onion soup during the summer, but it’s just about impossible to cook in comfort now, so it’s salads and sandwiches when dining chez moi for the next few months.

4. The sneakers are only for hiking or sport, and not an everyday piece of clothing. Formal footwear doesn’t figure hugely in my lifestyle.  It’s basically sneakers in winter and sandals in summer.  Just bought this year’s supply of Dr Scholls today.

5.  I ditch the jeans – and really this is my favorite item of clothing! I’m definitely most comfortable in jeans, but they are much too thick and tight for summer wear.  Admittedly you will see Canarians, both men and women, wearing them year round.  I am guessing that after 24 years I will never attain that level of acclimatization.

6.  I change from red wine to white. At least I don’t have to choose!  I adore Canarian wines both red and white.  Lucky for me that they are award-winning wines of both types here!

7.  The weekenders are here in my building, splashing in the pool till late (they don’t HAVE swimming pools in the north?), barbecuing and partying at 1 a.m. :=(  In a couple more weeks it won’t be just weekenders.  It will be people here for whole weeks at a time until September when the kids go back to school.  However, I just renewed my lease till the end of the year, so I can’t really think it’s that bad, can I?  **Taking out the earplugs** “Sorry, what was that you said?”

8.  There is no parking around here on the weekend.  It’s a beach town.  Of course the streets are bulging on the weekend.  That’s not a complaint.  It’s normal.  However, the quality of parking leaves much to be desired – except that so far I haven’t actually seen parking on the sidewalks, like they do in the town of Adeje!  I do think, though, that the police could make a load of money by fining the illegal parkers!

9.  I don’t stuff a wrap or a scarf into my bag when I go out during the day. Even in summer nights can feel chill, especially if you’ve been outdoors in the daytime, so I always have one at night.  In winter the weather can change very suddenly as clouds blow in from the Atlantic, so I always have something with me, but for the rest of this year, I won’t need to do that.

Sometime towards the end of November I’ll be pulling up the duvet, cooking pasta, looking for my sneakers and my jeans, trying out the year’s new red wines, and combing the markets for shawls and scarves and cardigans. Trixy will sneak onto the sofa when I’m out, and as I drift off to sleep I will notice how quiet it all is……and then I will know winter is here.


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Mountain Glory

Three months ago it seemed as if the whole island was in motion, heading up into the hills for a glimpse of snow, which was falling heavier and later than usual.  This week it seemed that everyone was talking about the profusion of wildflowers, the colors, the extraordinary numbers this year.  Pictures, like the one below, which I snapped close to the cemetery in Vilaflor on Thursday,  dominate the newspapers, and are on t.v. daily.  The rich colors of Tajinastes and California poppies contrast magnificently with the endless blue of the sky.

Tajinaste grow nowhere else on earth except in the Canary Islands, and some types are native only to specific islands.  They appear on so many postcards, videos and snapshots you probably remember seeing them before.  They’re symbolic of the islands.  I know you don’t want to know all the latin names and explanations, because you would be reading a wildflower blog if you did, and you can look them up elsewhere if you want!  Sufficient to say that when they burst into bloom at this time of year it’s a noteworthy day on the calendar. We enjoy them for a month or more, before the summer heat forces plant life on the peaks to wither or hide.   People will be rushing up there this weekend to see them in the same way they rushed up to see the snow 3 months back.

Maria, Cristina and I, aiming to avoid those weekend crowds headed up into the hills late Thursday afternoon, as soon as Maria had finished work.  Top down on Cristina’s baby we breezed the curves enjoying the flow of warm air and the freedom……..one of the things I miss about living on an island is the potential for road trips!

Note the magnificent white broom on the hillside just where we pulled over.

We hadn’t been driving for very long when we began to notice the colors on the hillsides we were cruising, it really was as if life was bursting out from every turn.  Tajinaste don’t grown below about 2,000 meters, so we were on the look out for our first one, and there was cheering as we spotted  it, although it was a smallish one in the garden of a hamlet we were passing. Still, before too long we were seeing more, and then clumps of them, and then a the stunning group we spotted by the cemetery, pictured above, and below.

We skirted Vilaflor and glided through the Corona Forestal as we climbed continuously, and leaving the forest behind we rounded a bend to see the islands of El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma shimmering on the horizon. In certain conditions the other islands take on a sort of fantasy pose, seeming to hover over the ocean, with their mountain peaks emerging from cloud. It’s one of the most beautiful sights I know. Sadly my lens wasn’t up to capturing what my eye saw, but this is the best I could do. You can clearly see La Gomera, and El Hierro is the smudge of blue on the horizon to the left.  The lens wasn’t wide enough to include La Palma too.

It was whilst we were stopped to snap the islands that we realized how busy the road had become, particularly with wagons and heavy goods traffic.  We’d come across very little traffic until then, travelling late afternoon it was all going in the opposite direction.Then  we realized were coming from the set of the “Clash of the Titans” sequel, which is being filmed in the National Park as well as other points on the island. Have to say, even from what I’d read and heard about film making the sheer volume of this traffic amazed me!

For us it was onward and upwards however.  A few more twists and turns and we were in Valle de Ucanca, which is where I’d taken the great shots in the snow February and March.  No snow this day, though.  The sun was strong and just high enough in the sky to give us plenty of light, but still lend shadow.  The snows had long seeped into the rock to the underground caverns where it is stored, and in their place were splashes of vivid color –  white  and bright yellow  broom,  cheerful margaritas and still some lingering wild lavender, but most stunning, the tajinaste, great clumps of them,  tumbling down the mountainsides, like the pointy red hats of dozens of garden gnomes.

They can grow up to 3 meters tall, and are heaven on earth for bees.  I’ve never seen one which wasn’t emitting a buzz as the bees collected their pollen.

The broom had been perfuming the air since we’d stopped to photography the islands, and around the caldera the scent was heavy in the late afternoon warmth.  I don’t remember fragrance hanging in the air, just like that, since being in Provence, in the heart of perfume country.

After scrambling around and taking snaps for a while we stopped at a mirador, or viewing point with the caldera spread before us, and El Teide rising in all his glory from its midst.  I imagine he looks down and is pretty pleased by what he sees at the moment.  We made time to pause and picnic for a short while, before heading back down.

The obligatory tourist shot – Cristina and Maria with the volcanic landscape in the background!

 We took the route I’d taken back in March, when that white wall of mist had seemed to follow us down the snowy road, but this time the malpais (badlands) were in their accustomed  stark and impressive state, the odd tree bravely hanging on to life here and there, and La Gomera and La Palma visible again over the tops of the forests before we descended through them.

It was interesting, after last week’s hike, to note the difference in the flora on this which was, more or less, the west side of the island, and the east where I was last Saturday.  Even in such a small space, life, as I always keep harping on about, is so very varied.  I’m hoping to get back up there before the flowers fade, but the chances are that the next time I make it summer will have seared the already austere landscape, and I’ll have to wait for next year to see this amazing scene again.  That’s why everyone will be scuttling up there this weekend – everyone except me that is.


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Of Weather Now and Then

It’s 5 in the morning, and I’ve lain, awake for at least a half hour, listening to the wind shake the window blinds in swift, sharp attacks, and the sliding of the furniture on the roof terrace, as the wind tries to rearrange it.  The kite boarders here for the week on the international circuit must be awake and anticipating a good day’s sport, after three days of waiting, of weather so still it seemed like the whole world was on tip toe, waiting for …. something.

There is an orange weather alert  today, even coastal temperatures are expected to reach close to 38ºC, and whilst that’s not unusual in the mountains in August, the coast is usually a bit cooler.  Anything which might provoke a fire in the tinder-dry mountains is banned – well, except for smoking, but then, that would be infringing personal liberty I guess……oops no apologies for the sarcasm.

Weird and wild dreams rode on the back of the winds, disturbing further what was already a fragile sleep.  It reminded me of my childhood, living  in an old farmhouse, so badly in need of repair that the fierce autumn gales which swept in from the Irish Sea invariably kept me awake, fearful of flying roof slates and breaking glass in my grandfather’s greenhouses.

Those winds kept us shivering by the hearth, the winds here and now keep me indoors with blinds drawn but windows open, so that the heat is rejected, but a breeze blows through the apartment.  Last year, living in Los Cristianos I had air conditioning, and was grateful (there is less cooling breeze there), except that it proved to be a handy hiding place for cockroaches, and put a nice dent in the bank account.  It isn’t the necessity here that it is in Florida, for instance.  The Atlantic breezes are almost constant on this coast, you open windows, roof terrace doors and those drafts flow through your home, and bring relief on all but the hottest days.

One of things which seems odd, when you migrate  from north to south in Europe, is how the old buildings have thick walls and small windows, often no windows on the side of the house which faces the sun.  It seems as if this wonderful climate is being rejected.  One of the reasons we northerners migrate is not only for the warmth, but for the light.  English winters make me blue not because of the cold, which I can bundle myself up against, even enjoy, it’s the lack of light, those endless times when it’s necessary to have indoor lighting during the day.  So we come south, we buy or rent facing the sun, we throw open our doors and windows in celebration of the luminescence and the warmth.  Even now in chosing a new abode I look for light, and I do those things.  Forty northern winters have left their indelible impression on me, but I am a bit wiser now.  I look for blinds which can be drawn against the summer glare, and I consider that the sun’s path across the sky, and thus its appearance at my windows, changes with the seasons.  Now I understand why the old houses were built that way.  They keep out the worst of the summer heat and they retain the winter warmth.  Walking onto one today it seems as if it has some sort of delicate air conditioning, but it’s all done by observing nature, by going along with it, not by defying it.  We all know how bad for the environment air conditioning is, not to mention the health problems it encourages.

So far, in the south, the heat is dry, although that might well change.  The other day the cap of calima which hovered over us trapped the escaping condensation from the manmade golf courses and gardens which have been planted in recent years, and humidity soared.

I remember hot, childhood summers, hiding under hedges and trees from the heat, lying on our backs watching the sunlight filter through branches.  I remember summer Sundays waiting for the tinkle of the ice cream van, or all piling into clunky, old cars and heading inland for a picnic by a river.  I remember one, particular hill which our ancient cars couldn’t climb unless everyone got out to push.  Thirty years on,  my kids jumped into the pool when it got too hot, and ice cream was no longer  the big treat, there was no waiting, no anticipation ……….  but there were a lot more flavors.  The hills here are much higher and steeper than those of Lancashire, and present no problems to today’s cars or buses, but in Summer people throng to the coast, where it is a bit cooler.

It surprises me to realize that I don’t much like summer here, or at least August.  When the boys were young we used to visit family and friends in England, and so missed the intense heat of high summer.  It isn’t just the heat, it’s the crowds who descend from the north and inland, so there is no weekend parking; the inconveniences, like early closing of the Post Office; the fact that lawyers take the entire month as vacation; the fact that the teenage offspring of these people from the north are in the community pool shouting and screaming until after dark, sometimes until the wee, small hours, not being part of the fulltime community here, they don’t give a damn about disturbing neighbours.

Next year I plan to spend the summer somewhere cooler and quieter.


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Recalling Boozy Summers

There is a very old and worn joke, which visiting British comedians drag out, about Tenerife being 20,000 alcoholics clinging to a rock – they are talking about ex-pats, by the way, not the locals,  and they make the same joke about Ibiza,  Gibraltar and other appropriately geographic places.  So what I am going to say next might come off sounding like a lush, but the other day I was thinking about how certain drinks remind me of certain years.

I was brought up in an almost teetotal household.  That might have had more to do with lack of money than an abhorrence of alcohol, but my grandmother was a regular worshipper at the local Salvation Army Citadel, and I do remember an incident in my late teens when she allowed me a small glass of sherry one Christmas.  I was kind of chuffed that she considered me old enough to handle it, and I waited in anticipation as she poured her annual glass of advocate for herself, so we could clink glasses and toast the Season.  I had the glass halfway to my lips when the doorbell rang, and I found the glass disappearing from my fingers quicker than you could say “Hallelujah” (who knew Nana could move so quickly?!).  By the time I blinked, she was hiding our glasses  behind the Westminster Chimes clock on the sideboard, to be restored to me as soon as she discovered that the visitor was not a Salvation Army friend, but a neighbour come with Christmas greetings.

So you can see, I might have had a confusing view of alcohol, not aided by taking the pledge at the Salvation Army Sunday School at the age of 10, so that feelings of guilt accompanied every sip for years and years.  Eventually, I think it was curiosity that put me on the slippery road, plus reading the entire works of Ernest Hemingway one summer…..no need to tell you about him……

Is it my imagination that things always happened in the Summertime?  Looking back, there were several Summers I remember by what I was drinking.

In the early 70s I discovered cuba libres one warm Summer of houseboats and wending our lazy way  down canals, with nothing more in mind than chilling out and watching the sunlight play between the branches of the willows as we drifted underneath.   That came to an abrupt end in November of the year, when a party of us visited Mallorca, and I got very, very, very drunk one night. In fact, I think it might have been the first time I’d ever been drunk – so drunk I couldn’t bear the smell of Bacardi for more than thirty years afterwards!

Bacardi takes me to another summer though , those thirty years on, when I broke the non-white-rum habit, that was the year Bacardi Breezers were introduced.  By then, of course, I was living here, and I have pleasant memories of watching sunsets, friendly banter and trying to figure out which flavor I liked best…..it turned out to be watermelon.  There used to be a fabulous series of concerts and events in Los Cristianos called Son Latinos, a week of music and music-related events.  It was held the last weekend of August, so it seemed to mark the end of Summer.  Over the years Jose Feliciano, Manu Chao, Chayanne, members of the Buena Vista Social Club, the Vargas Blues Band, headlined, and the Summer I am thinking of – Maná.  A huge stage was erected on Las Vistas beach, and we sat crossed legged to watch the smaller concerts.  Came the big night, we picnicked on the warm sand  as we watched the concert, and tried to conduct our own survey on which flavour was best. Strangely, I’ve never drunk them since that year.  Winter is red wine for me, so as the season changed so did my habits, and the next summer there was something else.

It might have been the margarita summer, the next one.  That summer I was living where I am living again now, in El Médano, and right on the corner two steps from the beach there was a Mexican restaurant which made the best margaritas you can imagine….. and can you imagine just how delicious and refreshing an ice-cold lemon margarita is when you have been messing about on a hot beach all afternoon?  The next year I moved away, and although I have the odd margarita when I go to a Mexican restaurant, the drink/driving thing kind of curtails the enjoyment, and they seem so messy to make at home.  Anyway, I like to keep the memories of lazing on the beach, cooling down with those frosty drinks and then shuffling, slowly, home.

I passed  two summers in total abstinence, 2006 and 2007, when I was working with the Cruz Roja humanitarian aid emergency response team, and call outs would come at all and any hour of the night or day, as the boats arrived from Africa, and we had to be ready to up and go on two minutes’ notice.  That I found it so easy to refuse a drink,  kind of reassures me that, despite this post, I am not an addict!

Addiction is, in my perception, far more common than statistics prove.  Most people don’t consider themselves addicted.  I once saw an interview with Betty Ford, where she gave her own guideline as being that you are addicted if you need just one drink a day i.e. you don’t need to be stumbling around blind drunk all the time, which is how many of us perceive alcoholics to be.  Truth is alcoholics can quietly pack them away and build up a kind of tolerance, or a way of being which hides their problem.  Anyway, few of us would be giving out many signals of addiction on one drink a day.

When you are young it’s hard to resist peer pressure when so much social life revolves around the pub, in England at least, which is where I was when I was young.  I wasted one entire summer trying to fit in with “the group” by drinking Boddingtons Beer on the lawns of Lake District pubs or the streetside tables of our local.  I never, ever developed a liking for it, and the next summer I’d moved on to gin and tonics – when friends complained about my expensive taste I simply cut down, and tried to stick to ordering it only when it was our round.

There was my kind of “Great Gatsby summer” back in those years too, when we discovered the delights, as well as the snob value, of Pimms.  I learned to make them properly, what’s more, none of the readymade stuff, if you don’t mind.  It seemed like a summer when everyone was elegant and the days were hazy and mellow, we went to York Races on Ladies’ Day, and point to points and country race meets, and played at being toffs……at least that’s the way I saw it.  I am sure that no-one else did.  Probably no-one else in that group had read “The Great Gatsby”.

There came the summer here I discovered bourbon and cola.  There was to be a firework display in town and we gathered with some friends on the beach in eager anticipation.  These days, being more safety conscious, they rope off the beach, but then you could go drag a couple of sunbeds together to watch, and someone plied back and forth to the nearest bar on the promenade to keep the supply of drinks going.  It’s not unusual for firework displays to be late in starting, but for some reason that summer it was exceptionally late……which meant that we drank more than our fair share whilst waiting.  It was the year I’d begun to drink this made-in-heaven combination, and that night I discovered that it didn’t seem to make me drunk.  Of course it did, it couldn’t not have done, but it left me feeling happy and not in the least hungover the next day, and so after much searching I found “my” drink.

Maybe alcohol does feature too much in our daily lives these days.  One of my sons doesn’t drink at all, and the other rarely.  They both prefer the rush they get from fitness to the one they get from booze.  It’s probably wrong that I classify my memories by what I was drinking that year, and my generation, we baby boomers, being the first to be exposed to just so much choice, probably were the beginning of today’s youngsters’ binge drinking.  My social life changed, my status changed, and drink driving laws got tougher (quite rightly, of course), so drink is no longer as “normal”  a part of my daily life.  That’s good for me, but I kind of feel sorry for kids today.  While they are getting blotto every weekend, they are losing their memories too, all that remains from being that sloshed is the hangover, so I’m kind of glad I have the cool memories I do.


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Summer Now and Then

It might be cloudy and more humid than usual, but there is no doubt that summer is upon us.  The schools have only days of term time left, but already the complex pool here is chocka in the afternoons, childish hoots and hollers echo and parental bodies tan themselves alongside.  It would take an actual rain storm to shift them now that summer’s here.  Despite warm weather since I moved here in February, the pool was hardly used until a few weeks ago.

It might seem odd to anyone who hasn’t lived in, what is described as, ‘a year-round, good climate’, that we do note a difference between summer and winter.  In fact, winter temperatures can soar too, but with shorter days the heat soon disperses, even before the sun sinks into the ocean.  In summer on the night-time coast or early morning, it’s cool outdoors, but buildings retain the heat, and sleep can be elusive.  It will be a few weeks before we get to that stage, but summer is beginning to stake its claim.

The past couple of weekends it’s been difficult to park outside my building, thank goodness for my garage parking, not only for this reason, but to keep the car cool too.  In addition to vacationers with hire cars, there are Canarian- registered cars.  For years now well-off people from the north of the island have been investing in property in the south.  Some are, simply, investments, but others have bought as second homes, so that the comparative quiet of weekdays is now punctuated by weekend noise.  This isn’t brilliant construction, and I have a background of running water, a hum from television and conversation and the throb of the elevator rising and descending at all hours.

It’s not that bad, and it’s what you get for living in a resort like El Médano, even though it isn’t a “tourist” resort in the same sense as its flashier neighbours.  It seems natural to me, having been brought up in an English seaside town, to think in terms of things being seasonal.

In Blackpool we used to avoid the town on a Saturday if we could, because that was “changeover” day and the streets bustled with laden cars struggling to get out of town, whilst newcomers circled, with glazed expressions, looking for parking spaces, and laundry services and other deliveries parked ad lib, wherever they could. The season there was short – from the schools breaking up early July to the reopening of their doors the first week of September, basically, with odd flurries in between, at Easter and Whitsuntide (as was).  Blackpool had the original extended holiday time for the Illuminations, but that’s another story entirely, and was a weekend thing.

There was a local saying, “Blackpool sleeps while Oldham Wakes”, “while” in this context meaning “until”.  For decades, starting in the early 19th Century, Blackpool was the Torremolinos of its day to the hundreds of workers from the cotton mills of industrial Lancashire, and wool mills of Yorkshire, and later from industrial Scottish cities, like Glasgow.

The Wakes Weeks were probably originally religious holidays, but changed to become workers’ holidays as the country industrialized and life changed.  Each town had its allotted weeks, and Oldham, near Manchester kicked the season off in mid June.  I remember between Easter and Oldham Wakes there would be false starts, if there was good weather.  A quick heatwave in May would have traders and landladies rubbing their hands in glee, but it would fall off again as the weather cooled, which always set off a round of moans and whinges – la plus ça change!

From the time I became aware of the Wakes Weeks in the 1950s I also became aware that that was the time to avoid going into town.  In those days, as they had done for a century or so, people came by train, and humped their luggage from the impressive, main Central Station to the boarding houses nearby.  Local lads would earn their pocket money with homemade carts, pulling the newcomers’ luggage from the station to their destination.

I lived on the very edge of the town, more or less in the country, my granddad had a market garden, around two or three acres from memory, so summers were spent outdoors, with only occasional trips to the seaside.  I suppose I saw far less of the famous golden sands than the average kid from Blackburn or Burnley in fact.  There was long grass to hide in; a tree to climb; dried-up ditches which followed the line of the hedgerows in which to make dens, and smell the sweet elder and hawthorn flowers; there were the most pungent, fresh tomatoes to pick from the vine, and in the Fall gooseberries and blackberries.  Our neighbour grew peas, and sometimes we were allowed to go pick some.  There is nothing like the taste of freshly popped peas, and on the odd occasions in recent years I’ve tasted them I’ve been instantly transported back to happy times.

It seems to me now that it never rained in summer back then.  I don’t know if it did or not.  The one thing I do know is that we had a lot of freedom.  We could disappear “down the field” (our family way of saying somewhere on the land, away from the house) after breakfast and not return until our stomachs began to growl at lunchtime, and nothing was said, and no-one worried.  It seems to me too that we had overactive imaginations by the standards of today’s kids.  We invented games, we were inspired by tv once it arrived in 1953, not enslaved to it, or we would act out scenes from books.  We didn’t have an awful lot in the way of toys, I don’t think, it was post WW2, and the menfolk were all getting back into the swing of normal work, making up for lost time and eking out their wages, but we had boxes and wood, grass and flowers which transformed by our imaginations became swords or dens, stages or cars.  I don’t have a doubt, looking back, that we were the richer for it.

This was the kind of childhood I dreamed of for my kids, and moving to Tenerife gave them this in part.  It was much safer back then, and although we did have a pool, they spent hours and hours across the road on the “desert” hiking, exploring and fighting their wars, and when we went to the beach, we mostly avoided the main ones and sought out little bays with rock pools and scope for the imagination.

I have much more nostalgia for my childhood than I expected I would have, but I know that life evolves and changes, I just hope that when my children look back they will have the same feeling.


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Why I Live Here

The day starts out badly, the rude awakening to a dark morning I am not ready for, the coffee lukewarm, the sense of my soul being elsewhere. The day an average toil; ups and downs, frustrations and humor, contempt and appreciation. Nothing out of the ordinary. Ennui.

In the afternoon the mood turns; a swim in the ocean to wash away the angst; moments sitting in the sun, unwinding, chatting; a platter of sardines and octupus; a glass, two, of cold, white wine; good conversation; a stroll home along the sea front; stopping to chat with a friendly street vendor from Senegal; watching boats coming, going or just bobbing about; a sand sculpture to celebrate the local fiesta; stopping to buy the best ice cream on the island; sharing the ice cream at home with family and a friend; more good conversation.

Ennui turns to pleasure.

Island are strange places. They entrap you, then they smother you, and just when you think you are ready to breathe free, they snare you again.

September 09 Los Cristianos 2

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