Islandmomma

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


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A Sense of Place ….Or Not

A Sense of Belonging. Travelers often don’t need that, preferring to be the observer, not getting too familiar or too comfortable.

Then again, perhaps we are simply looking for a place which makes us feel that way. Perhaps once we’ve scratched the surface of a place, and find it isn’t what we’d hoped or thought,  we move on, hoping to find it on some far-flung shore. Some travelers need to be in constant motion, skipping over places, perhaps returning, but like a bee at a flower to move on again. And again. I’m nothing like the traveler that some friends or acquiantences are, but I am, and almost always have been, constantly restless, and curious about what’s over the horizon.

The road winds

The road winds

This is to say that I don’t know where I belong.

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Travel and Challenges as Metaphors for Life: Birthday Musings

How come I didn’t write about my afternoon at the climbing wall in Kendal? Can’t for the life of my remember now. Perhaps I was overcome with shyness, perhaps I thought everyone would laugh? Afterall there were ten-year-old girls practically running up the wall I was so stoked to have climbed! I was hugely proud of myself, and even prouder that Austin was proud of me!

It taught me a lot. I know now why climbing books sell so well, why Joe Simpson and Andy Kirkpatrick are so avidly read. It isn’t all about the climbing, it’s because climbing is a metaphor for life. You don’t jump from the bottom of a mountain to the top. You take it painstaking step by painstaking step and it’s scary, and it’s hard work, and it’s an overwhelming buzz when you finally make it. Okay what I did wasn’t probably even the first rung of the ladder, but it was an inspiration!

Me at climbing wall

So is travel:  you have to plan, miss buses, wait for planes, put up with surly people, dirt, loneliness, boredom  but the good stuff makes it all worthwhile, like reaching the top of the mountain (or the climbing wall!) the buzz you get from experiencing new places, trying new foods, meeting new people, learning about different lifestyles, being overawed by the planet’s beauty is beyond words.

It seems to me that modern life just makes us so comfortable that we lose touch with “real” life, with actually living, experiencing life, instead we watch other people’s pathetic lives on reality tv, grab another ready-made meal and get drunk every weekend to forget how boring our lives are – at least a lot of people do that, and I am more than aware that I’m talking about those of us who are lucky enough to have been born into “western” society. Living a “real” life in Mumbai or the middle of the Sahel simply means surviving sometimes. I know that, and not that I mind my share of wine, nor a good movie, but we shouldn’t expect things to come to us easily.

We have to seek, work at/for, plan, and most of all challenge our perceptions (mostly of ourselves) if we want the buzz. We have to do that bit extra, go that bit farther, dream that bit bigger.

This is what I learned from “climbing,” and also from traveling. The traveling thing I was born knowing, but became more of a challenge in doing it on my own. I had to conquer shyness and my own self-doubts.

I’m very lucky to have two sons who encourage me. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be blogging now, and I would never have climbed the wall. I am incredibly grateful to them both for their inspirations.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I had my first surf lesson! I never got off my stomach, lying on the board and spent more time in the water than on the board I think! Unlike the climbing I doubt it’s something I will try again, but it still taught me things – if at first you don’t succeed try, try again for one! Even on my stomach for about a half a minute I finally “got it” – at least I think I did! That rush that comes when you feel as if you are flying over the water. Also, I hadn’t been for more than a gentle swim in quite a while, and I tend to get a bit nervous, unlike my sons, swimming never came naturally to me, so it was good to regain confidence.

Biggest lesson from yesterday, though? It was fun!!! I think with all the worries brought on by the recession and stuff, I’d forgotten what it was like to have pure fun! And it was good! Happy birthday to me!

 


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My Travel ABCs

Thank you, Cathy of www.travelingwithsweeney.com  for nominating me for this meander back to journeys past, and I have to say what a very pleasant experience it’s been.  The older you get, the more memories, obviously, some clouded by time and yet others fresh as the day they happened and the latter are, I guess, the ones I remember:

A.  Age you went on your first International trip:  I was fifteen. It was a school exchange trip to Sölingen in Germany. I had a big, old suitcase like something out of Agatha Christie, with a tennis racket strapped to the outside – how many black & white movies had I seen??? And it was train and ferry – pity the poor teachers in charge of a gaggle of teenage girls! I was thinking about it only the other day, and have a partly written post when I get time to finish it!

B.  Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:  According to knowledgeable friends, my taste in beer is pathetic (I actually like light, lager-type beers), but I do have a good memory of a wet, blustery and boozy afternoon and  “Black Velvet” – Guinness with champagne – in the Isle of Man off the coast off north west England some years ago.

C.  Cuisine:  Default response – Italian, even though I love Thai, French, Indian and sushi  – yep, even after consideration, it’s Italian, especially homemade with really fresh ingredients natch.

D.  Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:  Least favorite, Paris. Maybe expectations were too high, maybe because it was February (dreary month for northernEurope), maybe in wrong company – oh I had a good time, and I did enjoy it, but it simply didn’t “do it” for me the way I expected. Rome, on the other hand, twists itself around my heart more each time I return.

E.  Event you experienced which made you go Wow!: American Football game in London last year – 49ers vs Broncos – I had no idea it would be so exciting, so strategic. I’d had totally wrong idea about it! And the crowd control by the London Police afterwards was superb, and interesting in itself. I’d never been to a game in the US, so, even though I’d seen them on tv, I wasn’t prepared for all the razzle dazzle. Felt more like being in the US than the UK!
F.  Favorite mode of transportation: No contest – trains! I went on the Orient Express when it first re-launched in the 80s, and that may be the travel highlight of my life (I’d really have to give that a lot of thought before I said it for sure), but I love all trains, even the sardine-jammed one I took to Snowdonia in Wales in 2010 – I stood all the way from Chester, but the scenery was so wonderful I didn’t care. On the other hand, I do love road trips because you can stop whenever and wherever you choose, change your itinerary on a whim.
G.  Greatest feeling whilst travelling: Two feelings, and I can’t choose between them. One is the excitement/challenge of new places/experiences and the other is the utter freedom from routine. Sometimes when I’m travelling alone I love that, basically, no-one knows where I am at a precise moment.
H.  Hottest place you’ve travelled to:  Haven’t been anywhere exotic and hot, but experiencing heat in a city is different from being in the country or on the coast. I remember wilting inMadrid one July. It was as if the heat hit the concrete and then bounced back, having heated up some more. It was around 45ºC I think. Although summer in the Canary Islands isn’t as bad as some places (we always have an Atlantic breeze to cool things down in the evenings), I’m getting past enjoying it to be honest. I like sunshine and warmth but not so much the sticky.
I.  Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: This is going to be really corny, but I can’t think of anywhere with better service than Disney World. It’s partly what they’ve built their reputation on, isn’t it, so that’s not surprising. It’s not something most places inTenerife prioritize, which is one thing which lets the island down, I’m afraid.
J.  Journey that took you the longest:  Not a nice story really, but some years back we (as a family) were going fromManchester toMalaga, and very early that morning there was an accident atManchester airport.  As I recall a plane caught fire on takeoff, it wasn’t a crash as such, but the runway was closed and chaos ensued. It took us exactly 24 hours from door to door, which should have been four hours. We were bussed to a different airport, and travelling with two small children it wasn’t easy, but they were so good. I was so proud of them! They were clearly destined to travel!  In one way, it wasn’t a bad experience because everyone was so nice to each other, thinking, I suppose, “That could have been me.”
K.  Keepsakes from your travels:  I don’t have any, specific thing, but I usually like to get something small to remember a place, bookmarks, fridge magnets (yup I know!), books, and I like buying clothes when I travel. I don’t keep them forever, of course, but nice memories each time I wear whatever it is.
L.  Let down site. Where and Why?: You think I’m going to say the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame, because of what I said about Paris before, don’t you? But, no. I’m not sure I’ve ever been hugely let down by anything. Most busy tourist sights are busy and corny for a reason, because there is something amazing about them. However, returning to Rome after a 30 year gap I could have cried to see the hoards of tourists snapping away around the Trevi Fountain, somewhere which had been every bit as romantic as it was in the movies on my first visit.
M.  Moment you fell in love with travel:  I was in love with the idea of travel long before I set foot on foreign soil. As a kid I used to keep scrap books with pictures of other lands I intended to visit.
N.  Nicest hotel you’ve ever stayed in:  Poshest? The Gritti Palace inVenice.  We arrived at a small hotel/guest house which had been recommended by friends, to find it all locked up.  We glimpsed a lovely flower-filled courtyard through iron gates, and it looked absolutely charming, but the rest of my group didn’t want to wait for the owner to return, and one couple was especially “nouveau riche” so the Gritti it was. I wasn’t at all impressed in any way by it, except for the setting of course…..that was to-die-for.
O.  Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?:  I honestly can’t think of one, particular thing. I just like to try to record my impressions.
P.  Passport stamps? How many and where from?: Sad, sad, sad.  Only theUS andCanada outside ofEurope.  It’s not nearly so much fun travelling aroundEurope these days when we don’t get passports stamped.
Q.  Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?   Quirky is the word most often used to describe Gaudí! I’m a great admirer of his work, but it is rather, individual, I guess. No visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing a piece of his architecture.
R.  Recommended sight, event or experience: I think everyone should go to Carnival at least once in their life! Here in Santa Cruz de Tenerife we have the biggest one outside of Rio de Janeiro, and it is, quite simply,  the biggest street party you can imagine – and I’m not really a party-type person! I also went to the one in Nice,  which was quite different and equally as much fun in a totally different way. Still hope to get to Venice and to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, of course.
S.  Splurge – something you have no trouble forking out for when travelling?:  Food and drink, although in the past I’ve been  able to afford to splurge more, not so much these days.  It’s a huge part of the travel experience, even a sandwich in the park tastes different when you’re travelling.
T.  Touristy thing you’ve done: Disney World! I adore it!
U.  Unforgettable travel memory: Standing atop the Empire State building. Somewhere I’d seen so often in movies that it seemed as if I was in a dream, and the first time I saw the Teide National Park inTenerife almost took away my breath.  I’m living inTenerife now, but then it was like going to the moon.
V.  Visas – how many of them and for where: Same as the passport stamps. The current passport is pathetic.
W.  Wine, best glass while travelling and where: I suppose I have to say Dom Pèrignon on the Orient Express, sitting in a piano bar, all polished mahogany, sliding through the French countryside. Never to be forgotten, nor to be repeated!
X.  Excellent view and from where:  Whoa – hard! From top of the Empire State Building? The London Eye? St Peter’s Basilica? La Iglesia de la Concepción in La Laguna? Well, those sprawls of humanity are fascinating, yes, and I’d repeat any of them tomorrow, but the most breathtaking ever was only last year – driving up to the Teide National Park at sunset, my friend and I were simply stunned by this sunset, highlighting the “Mar de Nubes” (Ocean of Clouds), and the island of La Gomera rising on the horizon.
Y.  Years spent travelling:  Well, given that first school trip at 15 that makes a neat 50 years. Never been able to lead “nomadic existence” for more than two or three months, but I think it’s true to say that not many days of my life have passed without me dreaming of going somewhere or other.
Z.  Zealous Sports Fans and Where: I would say the London Marathon. My son, Guy, took part nearly two years ago now, and being there to watch was incredible. Afterwards we went to eat at a favorite place, and people stopped him to ask his time & how he’d done, and everywhere there were folk with T-shirts or medals or goodie bags. It was as if London had become a village for the day and everyone knew each other. Wonderful experience.

Phew – that was fun, drifting down memory lane a while, and now I nominate the folk below to do the same!

Okey, doke, now I’ve looked back at other posts with this theme, and I’m really not sure who began it, so a thanks to whomever it was, and thanks to Cathy for nominating me.  I’m also not sure who’s already done it. Looks like it’s being going around for a while, so here I’m tagging some random folk, and if you’ve already done it, or don’t have time, well just ignore I guess!

Katrina of Tourabsurd.com

Andy and Jack from Buzztrips.co.uk

Barbara from Holeinthedonut.com

Laurel from Expat in Germany

Lily from Sunshine  and Stilettos


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The Penultimate Car Boot Sale

I swing my legs onto the floor, heavy and not ready to leave my cosy bed, but last night I’d sensibly put my alarm out of reach to make sure I would not back out this morning. I potter around the bathroom and whizz Trixy around the block, still trying to clear my head, and rid it of that fizzy, this-really-is-a-dream-not-real-life feeling.

I am amazed by how organized I was last night, leaving everything out and ready for 6am this morning.  I gather my stuff together, head down to the garage and back out my loaded-up car. I always drive with a window open, and the early morning air is cool and welcome. The streets are quiet, but there are lights on here and there in windows around the town. I wonder why.  Are they people on shift work?  This area, of course, has a lot of shift workers. Are they folk going on vacation, returning home on an early flight? Have they partied all night, or is someone ill or in labor perhaps? I pull in for gas before I hit the motorway.  I’m surprised that there are female pump attendants at this dark hour, then I realize that the gas station is right next to the Farmers’ Market, where vehicles are pulling in already, laden with goods. Must be a busy day for this gas station.

My own goods are of another variety.  A part of my life sits in the back of my car, and I’m on my way to sell it off.

On the motorway there is more life around.  I take it easy so as not to break any of my cargo. I reach the car boot sale site, and tuck, patiently into the cue.  The sky is already beginning to lighten.  Thank goodness for gaining the hour last weekend, even though this is the first time doing this that I’ve ever remembered my torch! I shake my head.  I always think that “next time” I will rouse myself earlier to get a better pitch, but I never do.

It’s been 9 years since I started doing this, and I wonder that it would have been much easier to have got rid of everything at the beginning, when my nest emptied. Nine years ago I didn’t know so much, but I would have gotten better prices, but it’s hard to learn to let go.  These days everyone and their kid brother is selling stuff, either because they have to, or because it’s simply fashionable to downsize. Letting go are buzz words.

What I know now about this process is that it’s easy at the beginning, but now it’s getting hard.  Now I’m offloading stuff I’ve been thinking twice about in the past, it’s not like the early de-cluttering.

Guaza’s rastro is unusually quiet today.  Normally, a very international hoard of traders zoom in as you unload, vying to get the best price first, so that they can fill their own stalls at the beginning of the market with the goods they’ve bought doubly cheaply from those of us too lazy to sleep in our cars to get a prime spot, or rouse ourselves from sleep even earlier than 6am.  Arriving at 7, it’s late, and, as usual, I’m at the back.

Today there are only two or three traders, and then I remember that it’s a Muslim holiday, Tabaski (or the Feast of Abraham or Eid al Adha or any of its other numerous names).  Many of these traders come from the north of Africa, and I muse on life’s curious circumstances, which brought some of these people to the shores of the Canary Islands  in search of prosperity, and which now finds them trading on the downfall of Europeans selling off their possessions to make ends meet. There is a certain poetry there.

I clearly remember the first time I did this, nervous, naive, overwhelmed and not a little embarrassed.  I came from a family where, although we were by no means well-off, it was considered uncouth to talk about money, falling on hard times or any of the things which today make up the better part of our conversations and news coverage.

The moment my nest emptied my house went up for sale, granted, it was partly necessity and partly a desire to begin a new phase in my life.  In the end, in my struggle to create newness, I offered my furniture to a local Lyons Club, which was, apparently, even back in 2002, so inundated with offers that they could only just be bothered to take barely a quarter of it.  I stacked it all in the garage, left the door unlocked  and told them they could return to take whatever they wanted.  If only I’d known then the folk I know now, who could have found homes for my castoffs! I assume that the new owners disposed of the rest.  Since these purchasers messed me about for the 3 months which Spanish law allowed them to complete on their purchase after the due completion date I felt no remorse about shoving that onus on them.

This morning there is no embarrassment, whilst I’m not a regular by standards here, I feel as if I know my way around, and my choice stuff is stowed away, out of sight in the front of my car, to be produced later,  as I pull the rest from the boot.  The sky begins to streak with its morning pinks and turquoises, and for once I have time to open my flask of coffee before the bartering commences.

It’s a slow day, a professional seeker of antique-y bargains, a handful of traders and not much else as day begins to dawn.  As the sun creeps over the hillside opposite people arrive gradually.  The scene reminds me of a scene from “Oliver,” “Who Will Buy This Beautiful Morning”  – folk arrive in dribs and drabs until the passageway is a chatter of humanity, a cross-section of the world, here in this small space allotted for commerce of the common folk.

The seeker of antique-y bargains buys my Spode, Shakespeare plate, and I hope that the research I did on its value was right, that I’m not giving away a fortune here.  It’s not that I’m inordinately fond of the plate, nor that it has any particular memories for me, just that I’d kept it, hoping that it might be of some value.  eBay said it wasn’t, and the bargain-hunter has a profit to turn too.

For a short while the emerging sun dazzles and I curse forgetting to plaster on some sunscreen, but it’s short-lived, and the clouds close in. That’s good for us sellers. A hot day here is like being stranded in the desert, without sunscreen you burn and the dust clogs mouth and eyes.

Back when I first did this, it was well worth it, but now I wonder.  Each time I come it’s evident that times are getting ever harder.  It’s isn’t just the recession, I realize that with cheap Asian goods flooding the market certain second-hand goods have no value at all, and others far less. Even if a scarcely-worn shirt bears the label Lacoste, to the average patron of this event a brand-new one from the Chinese shop is preferable.  I am tempted to snatch back the kaftan that I bought in Busch Gardens six years ago, but never wore, as a fat woman clutches it to her ample bosom.  I was saving it for something, sometime, which never arrived. Tonight the fat woman will enjoy its unconstricted freedom as she slouches in front of her television.

I wonder how come I acquired all this “stuff”, this stuff I never used, didn’t need.  I feel guilty about my materialism. I like nice things.  I like good quality things, but …. things which are surplus to requirements, put away for rainy days which never come? I content myself in thinking that if we stopped buying junk then there would be an awful lot of people out of work, we can’t all lead creative and rewarding lives, but we can create demand, which builds factories and sweat shops in China and the Philippines, and then, in discarding our possessions we provide income for others in the reselling of them.

The day rolls on, the better stuff comes out from hiding, there is joking and bargaining, chatting with fellow sellers and when the snowbirds begin to arrive I sell some books and cds.  The snowbirds have arrived back on the island over the last few weeks.  They aren’t all super-rich people with second homes, some scrape by in order to escape the effects of the damp and cold on their various ailments, and they are regulars here.  They are the only ones who buy books, even in Spanish.  I summer I never sell books.

I close my eyes and listen. …..Spanish, English, French, Wolof, Arabic, German and something East European I can’t name Romanian? Russian? Never Chinese, you never see Chinese people here. I guess they don’t need second-hand stuff. Imagine how cheap pots and pans are at wholesale price, they’re cheap enough at retail in their shops.

Candlesticks, fruit bowls, a tray, glass jars, a set of screwdrivers (how did I ever end up with so many screwdrivers?!), a couple of throws and an unused duvet, a pair of hiking boots and a worn suitcase, a couple of pictures and my IKEA kitchen unit – that’s a relief, didn’t fancy taking that back home, and there is no room for it in my new apartment. My pitch is beginning to look quite empty, and I spread out the books to fill space.  It’s 11.30 and my neighbor has had enough. He packs his stuff away, but can’t move his car yet, so he wanders off.

I pick up my book, and the next, slow hour mostly I pass in reading.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of reading this last week, much of which has been spent trying to get round bureaucracy, or waiting to try to get round bureaucracy at least. It’s normal around here.

An hour passes, dust rises as cars begin to move off.  This is the good thing about being at the back, those at the front must have a long wait to pack up. My pockets bulge with change.  That’s another thing.  Few people these days ask you to change a note, payment comes in coins, which jangle and weigh down my trousers. It’s time to go.

For me it’s a slow, hard road, this de-junking.  I mourn a little for the pretty, white porcelain fruit bowl I let go.  Shaped like a daisy, its companion cake stand broken years back, it never “went” in any of the several homes I’ve had since 1997 when I bought it, but I always thought that one day there would be the right place.  And maybe that’s what this is about, about not waiting for that time in the future when something will fit, but chucking out what doesn’t fit now, to live more comfortably in the moment.  Like Jack Nicholson said, “Maybe this is as good as it gets.”

My quest, long before I’d ever heard of a travel blog, fueled by books like Rolf Potts’ brilliant “Vagabonding”  (which Amazon confirms I bought in 2003, not long after it was published) was to whittle my possessions down to free me up to travel.  When my time came though, I’d procrastinated about so much stuff that in 2004 I had to put my gear in storage, and get away. Finally, 7 years on, after returning to the island I thought I was leaving behind, dead-end jobs, unemployment, several car boot sales and some life-changing experiences later I’m finally there.  What is left now is either needed or I simply won’t let go. The Christmas cards my kids made when they were little, presents they gave me, and, of course, box upon box of photos, and my books.  At last I realize that I am no less an aficionada of travel for being the owner of a certain amount of possessions, not everyone is able to fit their entire world into a backpack, and that travel takes many different forms.   In fact, I could say that yesterday the world came to me.


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Why Travel?

I’ve been home now for around 20 hours, and this is my suitcase.  It’s still where I plonked it yesterday, before I rushed off to collect Trixy when I arrived back from a three-week trip.  Am I, I wonder, reluctant to unpack it because it means the trip is over, and I need to get real again, or am I just lazy?

I’m opting for the former because I rushed around this morning paying bills and doing banking and shopping, I set the alarm and I walked along the beach with Trix, so I don’t think it’s laziness.  I’m inclined to think that I don’t want to get back into a routine.

I know this question – why travel? – is one which is constantly on our minds, and I know that probably there are at least as many opinions as there are travel bloggers (and let’s not forget that not all travellers blog!).  It’s a question which has been on my mind throughout this short trip, possibly because on the one hand I’ve had very little opportunity to travel in recent years, and on the other because when I realized that was going to be the case, towards the end of 2009, I made up my mind to take my travel attitude and apply it to the life around me.  That was a good move.  It brought me opportunities, contacts, and experiences I might have otherwise missed.

The river Guadalquivir in Sevilla, Spain

Travel brings us contrasts and comparisons, which wake up our senses and bring us out of any inertia into which the daily grind might have sunk us. In three, short weeks I took in so many different vibes; from the charm and elegance of Sevilla (in a heat wave!) to the sturdy and handsome history of York (in a finger-freezing cold snap!).

Lendal Bridge, York, England

I went from the chaos of cities like London and Barcelona to the peace of the English Lake District.

Parque Güell, Barcelona, Spain

My trip wasn’t just about seeing and doing, but also catching up with family. I’m lucky that my family lives in interesting places I guess, but one thing which occurred to me over the days I was in York and the Lake District was how little I know of places I’ve visited so often, which just re-enforces my idea that our minds should always be open to new ideas and experiences wherever we are, and however long we may have known a place.

“Interesting places” said, I truly believe that there are things of interest everywhere you go, it’s just that there are times when you have to scratch the surface of a place to find what’s underneath.

London’s marvelous Kew Gardens – my “new discovery” on this visit to the city.

Travel isn’t just about seeing something and ticking it off a list, but equally you can gain something from even a short trip. A weekend away or a day trip can qualify as travel if you approach it with an open mind; if you don’t try to do it all.For me it’s better to concentrate on one aspect or one theme, and acquire some in-depth feeling for the place.  It might turn out to be that you don’t like whatever theme you chose, or that you don’t like the place, but you will have experienced and learned.

Grasmere, English Lake District

I learned that even in the Lake District, a place I’ve known (and, of course, loved) since I was 11 years old, there is still so much I haven’t seen or known. I was unexpectedly stuck there for four or five weeks a couple of years back, in a post-Christmas January blighted by freezing rain and the darkest midday skies you can imagine – definitely not sight-seeing weather, not even for gentle drives – unless there is a purpose!  I found mine in the local bookstore (now a Waterstones) in Kendal center.  Dripping my way along the shelves in search of books to pass away the time I came across a biography of William Wordsworth, one of my favorite poets since my school days.  It was a nice, chunky book to fill my time, but it proved to be a gateway to new experience too.  Feet up on my dad’s sofa, I found myself in a world so much more interesting than I remembered from school.  It lead me to re-visit Grasmere and Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived and wrote some memorable masterpieces.  I knew Grasmere quite well, as a point from which to end or begin a hike, and I’d been to Dove Cottage twice previously, but I found myself looking at it all with new eyes in light of what I read. The other thing was that I remember a lot of what I read much more clearly because I visited places which re-enforced my reading, and visiting those places meant so much more because I could fit my newly-acquired knowledge to them. Even now, almost six years on, it stands out as a memory of a great visit, which could have been so much different given the weather!

Personally,  it’s exhilarating not to be in a routine too.  I know that isn’t for everyone, but I love to wake up in the morning and take a minute to figure out where I am.  I avoid routine wherever possible, but a certain amount is forced on us by circumstance, even if we aren’t slaving away at the 9 to 5.  By the same token I find myself missing somethings about my routine. I missed Trixy and our walks enormously this time, and since I started to exercise seriously (yep ….kept that one quiet, didn’t I?!) I missed the daily challenge too. Fact is it’s kind of nice to miss things.  It’s nice to have something to miss.  Would I adapt to a life of constant travel? Not sure, but I doubt it, though I certainly don’t need to feel secure in one place all the time either.

Weeping willows in Guildford – last year’s new discovery.

At the end of the day, I go back to one of my first remarks – there are as many reasons as there are travellers, and probably our reason this trip may be different from the reason we have next trip, for those of us who are not in constant motion. Whatever the “excuse” I can say that the end result is what I seek. Sitting at my desk now I feel as if my brain has taken a cold shower and emerged fresh and stimulated for whatever lies ahead. What I want is for this feeling to last (forever if possible).  You know how daredevils say that they never feel more alive than in a moment when they face death?  Well, that’s how travel makes me feel, more alive.


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Musings on a Movie, a Book, Travel and Being Judgmental

I did two things yesterday which are rattling around in my head still today.

One: I finally caught up with the movie “Summer of Sam,” which I definitely would have seen before now had I understood what it was about. As it was, I still wasn’t good enough at speaking Spanish to see it at the cinema when it was released in 1999, but that said,  I thought it was more to do with the mind of Dave Berkowitz than being a moral tale about the dangers of judging others by their appearance. The message was clear, not veiled, although the tale was woven so that we weren’t sure until the end just what connected the characters to that summer of fear and murder in 1977.

It’s a moral so clear and obvious that I can only wonder that it still needs to be told in the 21st century.

Then I logged onto Facebook when I got home, to find a friend of a friend referring to Los Indignados as “hippies” in a tone which was clearly critical and carried the message that hippies were inferior in any event, and this person considered themselves to be above that type of person.

Firstly, Los Indignados are not “hippies.” Sure, there may some amongst their number who have long hair and a fondness for gypsy skirts or baggy pants, but they are, and it is a well-known fact, a very broad cross-section of the Spanish public, many of whom are suffering as a result of the current recession, and who are protesting the lethargy with which their government addressed the situation. Like most people in the “civilized” world they feel betrayed by those in power, the bankers and politicians, who have left them helpless in the pursuit of their own greed. This movement has been notable for the lack of violence or other such problems on their marches and camps throughout Spain since the spring.

Secondly, hippies – judging the book by its cover again? I have friends who might be called “hippy.” I’ve been with some of them when they worked 24 hour shifts to help those in need, and I know someone who is giving away everything he has to live a “hippy” lifestyle and help others instead of sit on a terrace drinking gin all day, which he might well have chosen to do in this climate. I also have friends who are comfortably off. They have worked hard for what they have, and deserve to enjoy it. The fact that they don’t give their all to others doesn’t make them bad people. They give in their own way. They aren’t greedy or flash with their wealth, or judgemental or inconsiderate of others. Neither of these “types” should be judged by their outward appearance.

Let’s face it, if Warren Buffet or Bill Gates hadn’t stored up wealth in their younger days, they wouldn’t be able to do the great work for those in need they now do.

The second thing I did was to finish Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.” Half way through the book my attention had wandered a bit, and I wondered why I was reading it, but by the end the message had come together, just as the film did, and the messages are not unconnected, even the same in some ways.

Christopher McCandless, the subject of the book, was derided after Krakauer’s article about him and his death in the wilds of Alaska appeared in “Outside” magazine in 1992, derided for being a dreamer and for wandering unprepared into the wilderness. I see “Into the Wild” as Krakauer’s way of putting the record straight. He investigated further and in-depth, and had full co-operation from McCandless’s family, which must have been a very painful process for them, and what emerged was a portrait of, yes, a dreamer, but also a kid with a true spirit of adventure, who probably had a far better grip on real life than most of the rest of us. The passage below is taken from a letter McCandless wrote to a friend, which is quoted in full in the book:

“…….I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, ….you must lose your inclination of monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. An so,…..get out of ….. and hit the Road. I guarantee you will be very glad you did. ……………………Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time……and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.”

I know that passage will ring lots of bells with those of you who read my blog, but let’s also be clear that it isn’t the only way to live, either. Some people just aren’t cut out for this kind of life. The important thing for them is not to get so bogged down by the limits of their actual world that they cannot understand others. That’s not hard these days with books, tv, movies and the internet to keep us up to date with other lives the world over. I’ve known folk who haven’t travelled that much, but who know more about countries/people/places/traditions/religions/whatever than other folk I’ve known who scuttle around the world, “protected” from new/stimulating/exciting/educational experiences by their own shells, which they hump round with them, retreating like the tortoise if anything threatens the security of that comfort zone.

For me, I agree with almost every quote I’ve ever read about travel broadening the mind, stimulating the soul and teaching us to live in harmony with others, but we should remember that there are more ways than one to achieve those things.


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My 7 Links

I’m always taken by surprise when I get recognition of any kind whatsoever for this blog, so when Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut invited me to participate in the 7 Links exercise initiated by Tripbase  my first reaction, after seeing the list of other participants, was sheer panic.  Some of these names are legendary in travel blogging circles, and I know I’m just an amateur in comparison!  However, either I’m a blogger or I’m not, and I do keep harping on about taking this blog to the next level, so maybe this will give me a push!  The aim, after all, to quote Tripbase, is  “To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.”  So here is my two centsworth:

1.  My Most Beautiful Post

This was by far the easiest.  My favorite time of year on Tenerife is almond blossom time.  I think, even in the last 6 months since I posted this, I have learned more about photography and presenting photos, but this was this year’s almond blossom post.

2.  My Most Popular Post

This one was easy too, that’s because I was lucky enough to be Freshly Pressed by WordPress, so I didn’t have to go count stats to find out!  I wrote Subtropical Snow after a visit to the mountains in March.

3. My Most Controversial Post

This one took most researching back on, and I found that I haven’t really had any negative feedback when I’ve said critical things, although I know that some Canarian people read my blog.  In one way it’s a shame.  The thing I am most critical of is the accumulation of rubbish in various places around the this beautiful island.  In this post about a tour of historical sites, including the place where Horatio Nelson lost his arm,  I deliberately courted a reaction, but got none, so I can only say that I attempted to be controversial!

4.  My Most Helpful Post

I’ve yet to finish a series of posts about my steps in becoming an expat, this one was the first, about things you should consider before upping and leaving, and although there are only two comments on the post itself I got lots of feedback from Facebook and Twitter.

5. The Post Whose Success Surprised Me Most…..

…..was this one.  It’s quite personal.  At this stage I was really still writing at people I knew, albeit they were spread throughout the world, and in another sense it is my first “real” blog post.  It was “…the fork stuck in the road,” and re-reading it makes me realize how far I have come in life’s proper journey.

6.  The Most Which Didn’t Get the Attention I Thought it Deserved

A post I did for World Environment Day.  About rubbish – again.  Why does nobody care about how we are messing up the planet?  You know, just for the sake of having something nice to look at instead of a beach full of cans and plastic bags?

7.  The Post of which I am Most Proud

I chose this one because for once I was happy with my writing and because it’s about my sons as well as about the island.

A big thank you to Barbara and to Tripbase because it was interesting going back over posts, and realizing how I and my life has changed over the time I began blogging.

Now to figure out who to nominate because so many blogs I follow are already on the list!

Cathy of Travelling with Sweeney                                                                                             Zoe of The Quirky Traveller                                                                                                       Andy and Jack of Buzztrips                                                                                                       Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid


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Of Press Headlines, Possessions and Perspective

Things happened over the past few weeks which have made me muse on, what shall I say, the meaning of life or something deep-sounding like that?

The first was a particularly grisly murder about twenty minutes drive from here in Los Cristianos, a town in which I used to work, in fact, it took place in the adjacent building to where I worked.  A woman was stabbed and beheaded by a madman.  It goes without saying that one’s first thought is to express deep sympathy for her family.  Untimely death of a loved one is bad enough to endure without it being so horrific, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it will take for them to recover from the news.

The victim was around my age, and for a day afterwards my Facebook profile and my phone’s  message inbox were receiving  messages asking me to check in as the news spread around the world.  I think it shook up most everyone in the area because it was so random and unpredictable.  It’s like, no matter how carefully you drive, the accident you can’t avoid is the idiot who steams up behind you whilst text messaging and slams on his brakes too late.  There’s not a lot you can do.  I could happen to anyone. As it happened, I went to see off a friend at the airport that morning, and then drove into Los Cristianos  to go to my accountant’s office, which is in that adjacent building.  Had I not gone to the airport I would have been there at the time the murder happened and not a half hour later, (seeing the crowds and lack of parking I decided to leave my business until Monday, and turned for home) which made me realize that we, simply, never know when something might happen.

Holding that thought tight, because it confirms the knowledge that we should live each day, each moment, as if it might be our last.  Me, I procrastinate too much, far too much, but what if there is no tomorrow to do the things I put off?

The second news story has been this bizarre prediction about the “Rapture.” I didn’t for even one second believe that the world would come to an end May 21st, but you have to admit that this year has been a very newsworthy one so far, and most of it not good stuff, sad to say.  Earthquakes from Japan to Turkey to Spain; tsunami; riots in Tunisia and Egypt, countries with a healthy tourist trade up until then – I’m talking here about things which might happen to those of us living “ordinary” lives, not reporting from hotspots; floods and tornadoes in the US of unprecedented magnitude.  The list is already heavy and we aren’t even half way through 2011 yet, and these are events in which any of us or our friends or families might have easily been caught up in.

For those of us with wanderlust the most difficult thing to weigh is being thousands of miles away from people we love when something bad happens, whether it’s to us or our loved ones.  What was your first reaction on 9/11 once you’d taken in the breadth of what happened?  Mine was to contact my son who wasn’t home (the other one was) and other people close to me.  It wasn’t that I thought that they were likely to have been there in New York (though some had been just a week before), it was a need to let them know I cared and make sure they were ok – you know, just in case, because you don’t know what might happen tomorrow.

I was in the Florida Keys in the summer of 1996, driving back from Key West to Key Largo with the boys.  We’d had enough of driving and thought it might be fun to stop, buy some handheld line and hooks, and fish and picnic for a while, so we pulled into the parking of a small tackle shop.  The owner was really kind and helpful and we got to chatting.  Hurricane Bertha was approaching, and it was the main topic of conversation wherever you went.  I asked him how worried he was, and he told me that some years before he and his family lived in South Carolina, and had lost everything when  Hugo had hit.  It taught him a lesson.  They learned about what was really important in their lives.  They relocated, but still on the hurricane path, and now they kept a chest, which contained all the things they considered really valuable in their lives, and if Bertha continued on the track she was then on, threatening the Keys, they would simply load that chest into their truck and head to a shelter.

I talked about my own “moment of truth” before, here.  It was as we were on the cusp of emigrating, and everything we were bringing with us was en route, stored at the moment in a warehouse on Preston docks.  The weather had been filthy all summer, a justification (as if we needed one!) for our impending move.  Sleep was eluding me as I fretted about those possessions no longer under our control.  That was when things came into focus, and I began to understand the value of things.  Everything I really cared about, basically, my children, was under the same roof, sleeping peacefully and happily, and anything else was just “stuff.”

Makes you think, doesn’t it – about what’s really important in our lives? There’s an awful lot of talk about minimalism these days, about living with 100 things or ten things or whatever, ridding yourself of possessions, living for the moment, but to be truthful, I find a lot of it irritating.  I did “downsize” (and continue to do so from time to time) when my nest emptied.  Now it’s about what I feel comfortable with.  If someone has worked and saved to buy the car of their dreams, then why should they be made to doubt the legitimacy of their enjoyment? If I want to splurge on a designer handbag (assuming I had the money, of course!) then why should I feel guilty?  If we stop buying then manufacturing jobs are lost, whether it’s in a state-of-the-art car factory in Germany or a housewife stringing beads in her home in South Africa. As it happens I’d choose a ticket to just about anywhere over a designer whatever, but that’s not my point. Almost anything we do, or don’t do, has an effect on someone else these days.  Travellers keep airlines, hostels, hotels, train lines etc in business, people who are into fashion ensure employment in countries thousands of miles away – OK, yes I know working conditions in some of those countries are deplorable, but that’s for another day, today is about keeping stuff in perspective.

The problem is not with the possessions themselves, it’s with our attitude to them. After that stormy night prior to emigrating I had a much better sense of priorities, and that insight has been invaluable in the years in between.  So many things are just not worth angsting over, but people almost always are, their real happiness, welfare, education, freedom, respect.  It’s been a revelation and puzzlement to me that people I’ve met in recent years who have, literally, nothing are the ones with the broadest smiles.  It has to be all about attitude, the glass half full syndrome.  When we have a truckload of possessions those possessions can become a barrier between us and the world, or between us and happiness.  If we are worrying about losing them or damaging them all the time, then we don’t have the pleasure of enjoying them.  Everything passes.  We should enjoy our possessions if we have worked hard for them, but we should never lose sight of what is truly important.  We should keep them in perspective, and enjoy them today so long as we aren’t hurting anyone in doing so, because, well, you never know what tomorrow may bring.



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Love at First Sight for a Small Welsh Village

To say that Wales surprised me would be an understatement.  To say that my brief weekend in the North West Welsh village of Llanberis dispelled some misconceptions I’d harbored for a long time would be true.

My revelation was long overdue, but wasn’t immediately obvious as the train crossed the border from England to Wales.  The trains had all been running late.  I had two changes from Oxenholme to Bangor, one in Warrington and one in Chester, and although because each one was late, it meant that I made all the connections, there was still the angsting in between about the potential for missing one, so I was on the grumpy side.

The scenery was green and pleasant, dotted with trees and hedgerows turning yellow and gold, but it was familiar, like the landscape of the South Lake District.  Crows rose from the fields of stubble as the train passed, and bales of straw were neatly lined up in the fields, waiting for Winter.

I was lucky, though, that my seat was oceanside, because when we did reach the seashore, where the train seemed as if it was running right along the beach, the views were breathtaking.  Near Colwyn Bay the ocean spread,  glassy and translucent-silver,  until it collided with the horizon, where dark, thunder grey clouds threatened.  Against that backdrop the turbines of a small windfarm were framed, vivid white.  I was aching to leap out and snap away.  On the return journey the turbines were barely discernible in the mist, and I realized what great light I’d seen the first time.  I think it was at this point that the grumps were trumped by awe, and I began to fall a bit in love with Wales.

Shortly after this, I had to change trains, and since it was Friday, and the train I caught was heading for the ferry to Ireland at Holyhead it was standing room only.  Describing us as being squashed like sardines doesn’t come anywhere near conveying the crush, which for me wasn’t for too far, but my views were now very limited.  I could make out craggy bays, boats moored in a picturesque harbor and rocky, little peninsulars, as we travelled deeper West. Making the return journey I know I missed castles and churches and mysterious and mystical Welsh mists tumbling from hills into the valleys below, more like a set from Lord of the Rings than real life.

Bangor, where I met up with Guy, looked very close to Llanberis on the map, but it took us 45 minutes  to get there, on a bus which took us through story-book, stone villages, hillsides where the predictible sheep grazed and into the Snowden National Park.

Our hotel, the Legacy Royal Victoria, perched in a superb setting, on the edge of town.  It was less than five minutes on foot from where the bus deposited us, and turned out to be the kind of hotel I think of as “a good old-fashioned” one, all dark woodwork, red carpet, keys and not cards for the rooms, a slightly formal dining room, and a bar which resembled a country pub.  The staff were friendly and the food was good, and at 55 pounds for a single room it wasn’t too bad.  These older hotels actually do have single rooms.  That said, a short walk after dumping our bags proved that there was a plethora of small, interesting-looking B & Bs around, which on a different occasion might be fountains of local information as well as somewhere to lay one’s head.  On this occasion the hotel was perfect, as lots of runners were staying there, adding to the race atmosphere.

View from the hotel window as the mist descends over the hills.  I know you can see my reflection, but I wanted to remember this view!

First priority was to register at the race HQ before the crowds arrived later, and then some carb loading for Guy. Registration completed, we headed for the nearest café only to find that at 2.10 they had stopped serving hot food ten minutes before.  We tried a couple more establishments before finding somewhere to eat, and this is one of the problems of  being used to bars, cafés and restaurants which are open all day.  You need to adjust to the small-town way of doing things – not unlike Tenerife outside of the tourist resorts, in fact.  When we found Pete’s Eats, an “old-fashioned” style diner with chipper and colorful, plastic tablecloths, they were, of course, doing a roaring trade, being the only place open, and we were starving.  Bright decoration and good, basic food, it was all we needed, and we also noted a sign behind the bar offering rooms, including a bunk room at only 13 pounds per night, and wifi…..noted for the future….check out this link – you don’t get much more glowing reviews than that!

The rain had set in by the time we left, so we trudged back, heads down, and it wasn’t until the next morning that I took in the full beauty of the place.  The village itself, not so much, though it’s Fall, and the last weekend of the season, so probably not at its best, but it nestles in the most magnificent setting, guarded by sentinel and rugged peaks, which ease into mountain passes, and glide down to the shores of Llyn Padarn, a lake formed as the last Ice Age retreated North, and that sense of something pre-historic is what sets this scenery apart.  Somehow you feel the presence of history.

It was the Romans who began mining slate in Wales, but I can’t find any indication that the history of Llanberis goes back that far.  Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but as it’s now a well-established tourist destination I imagine they would be making the most of that were it true.  What is fact is that slate mining “made” the town.  In the 19th century production was in its heyday, and the hills all around testify to man’s rape, but even with the deep incisions man made into their flanks, he altered, but didn’t tame their wild beauty.

Our visit was purely for the Snowdonia Marathon, so both time and weather were against us so far as getting to know more about the area.  If you follow the Llanberis link above, you can can see just how much there is to do there.  I am guessing that high season it gets pretty crowded, and maybe slightly off season is the best time to visit.  I know a dozen places in the English Lake District I wouldn’t visit in full Summer, but which I adore at other times of year, and I’m sure it must be the same in Snowdonia.

The last census places the population at just under 2,000, and according to Wikipedia 81% of those speak Welsh, which I am sure in true, or maybe even an underestimate.  All around us folk young and old spoke the language amongst themselves, switching to English with ease when necessary.  It was so great to know that the language has not been allowed to die, which was feared some years ago, and I got that little thrill that I get when in a “foreign” country, even though it felt comfortably familiar at the same time.

It wasn’t just the stunning countryside which was a revelation for me, that sense of comfort was also a lovely surprise.  I had based my previous feelings on one, fleeting visit to North Wales more than 30 years ago.  With two friends I’d entered a country pub, in the middle of nowhere, to experience one of those moments you see in the old cowboy movies, where the bar falls silent when you walk in, and you feel as if all eyes are boring through you.  Maybe it was like that, maybe it was just my imagination at the time, but we felt as if we were intruding.  The barman was surly, food was provided grudgingly, and we left as soon as we finished our meal.  Silly, so silly, to let that color my impression of an entire region.  My experience this time was so opposite.  The people of Llanberis are amongst the most helpful, friendly and cheery I’ve ever met.  I can’t wait, I just can’t wait to go back and explore the area properly!


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Of Car Boot Sales, New Beginnings and Beginnings of Endings

You know it is, you have only just snuggled into Morpheus’ unwilling embrace than the #&**%¿  alarm is going off, and you know you set if early for a reason, even if you can’t remember right off what it was!

Serves me right for drinking cappuccino at 9pm last night.  What was I thinking?  I never drink coffee at night, but I couldn’t think of anything else to have with ice cream, and I was sitting in an ice cream parlor!  I’d tootled down to the town center with a friend, to watch a promised display of line dancing.  It turned out that they were touring various establishments and performing outside in the street.  A troupe of sensational-looking girls, dressed in cowboy hats, boots, very short denim shorts and white vests, what they lacked in expertise (and they did!) they made up for in good looks, good humor and a sense of fun.  We caught up with them in 3 places over the evening as we strolled and chatted, and they seemed to be enjoying it more as the evening progressed.  Finally, the police shut them down.  I can only assume that some misanthrope had complained about the noise.  They really weren’t that loud, and were only doing four or five numbers at each stop, and it wasn’t late, around 10.30……get a life, someone!

Still and all, I should have been in bed, because my car was all packed with accumulated rubbish to take to the car boot sale in Guaza early, if not bright, this morning…………  2am, and my alarm is set for 5,  and I am still wide awake – the coffee!  When sleep does come it’s the sort where I am carrying on conversations with people in my dreams, and can remember them verbatim when I finally haul myself out of bed.  Cold shower and more coffee, this time strong and black, and two flasksful to take with me.

There is, however, a lot to be said for dog walking at 6am on a balmy Autumn day.  We are going through one of those rare times without the normally constant wind which cools our shores, and there is a gentle lapping of waves, which I can barely discern out there, and my skin feels, unusually, neutral, not sticky, nor chill.  I  avoid the beach because, well, no street lights, and too many shadows in the shallow dunes,  so I hold up my arm to cut out some of the glare, and  the sky is inky and deep with stars.  Makes me think about doing this more often.

As I speed along the autopista afterwards, berating myself for leaving one of the flasks behind, I’m surprised, as I almost always am, at the quantity of traffic on the road.  Of course, with tourist resorts dotted all along this coast, there is a lot of shift work, so I shouldn’t be  surprised at all, you’re rarely alone whatever time of night.  I’ve travelled up and down this stretch of road at all sorts of wee small hours, and there is always traffic.

However, less traffic than daytime, so Guaza is around fifteen minutes away, and now I am feeling excited, this is the first step in the latest round of easing stuff out of my life to make space for more important things, like travel and doing the things I love, so it feels like a new beginning, which it is.  It’s also the beginning of the end of a road in life.  Maybe that had something to do with the inability to sleep too.

By now it’s 7 am, but still dark, and the site is already two thirds to three quarters full.  I fret that I should have set the alarm earlier, but I’m reluctant to sleep here in my car, as many people do, to get the better pitches.  If I can’t sleep in my own bed, how would I ever catch some shuteye here?

I have time to get everything, including Guy’s old desk, out of the car before the hoards descend.  At least, everything I want to be out of the car first thing – I’ve learned to keep some stuff back, for various reasons – I am irritated by ridiculous offers for things which are not tat, and for which I know I will get a decent price when the mature, ex-pat community show up later, and there are things, like cds which are just too easy to pilfer.  They come out once day has dawned.  Right now, as I set up, day is just a faint suggestion which outlines the hillside opposite with a trace of backlight.

It’s a while before I get to my coffee, these traders, who come early are persistant, and whilst some bargain to the manner born (which many are) others reject prices which I think are obviously a bit on the top side to allow for the bargaining, and – duh! – do you really think I have a computer in that bag, or a camera in that other one???  Why would I bring them to sell here, where I’d get the worst possible price, risk theft and at best get them jammed up with dust?? No, my friends, they are just bags.   By the time the sun makes an appearance, I’ve already sold quite a bit of stuff.  Good start to the day.  I’m not expecting a fortune.  This is the first round, the shedding of my first skin of possessions, and most of what I have to offer  isn’t that big a deal.  The next round will be more profitable, hopefully, as some of the bigger stuff will be on the list.

It’s light.  Time to breathe and look around.  As always, it’s like the UN here.  There are women from Western Sahara in light  garments,  which wind around the head and look like a cocoon,  and some, younger women in djellabas. There are Senegalese youngsters who dress like hip hop stars in pants and T-shirts which look three sizes too big, and older Africans in vibrantly-colorful, cotton, print suits which look loose and cool as the sun begins to dazzle, now that it has eased its way over the top of the hill.  There are hippies who are refugees from colder, northern climates, the women with baggy pants or flowing skirts, and the guys with dreads.  If I close my eyes I can hear Spanish, Wolof, English, Arbabic,  German and other languages which I can’t identify.  Soon, when the day is a bit warmer and they have breakfasted,  local families will come, scolding tiny tots for playing in the dust, or trying to maneuver buggies over the rough ground, and ex-pats from Britain and other European countries, on the lookout for bargains “for their gardens or garages”.

Today, there turns out to be less expat Brits than normal, which is a shame for me because I have quite a hoard of books I want to unload.  Percentage-wise I end up selling more Spanish books than English.  First time in my experience a couple of English dealers pass by, and buy the couple of items I have which might be considered “antiquey”.  I overhear them rejecting a couple of bronze figures I’ve brought half-heartedly, having no idea of their value, which puts my mind at rest.  In any event, one broke in transit, so I sell them quite happily later in the morning.  I discuss my grandmother’s Westminster Chimes clock with them.  Lately, I’ve been wondering about letting it go.  The boys aren’t interested, and although my memories of my grandmother are interesting, there isn’t a lot of fondness, for various reasons.  It’s a link with my childhood though, and that I do remember with much fondness.  I ask them to ring me in a couple of weeks when I have given it some thought.

Time to bring out the “reserved” stuff.  The cds always sell well.  Most are rock ‘n’ roll and Blues, which I’ve now copied onto the computer, and there is always a market for those, usually young, male, Spanish, lovers of what is here “alternative” music as local fellow-blogger, Jack Montgomery,  described it recently.  My timing is good.  The surplus crockery goes for the price I’d earmarked, the juicer for just a bit less, but it puzzles me that the Moroccan tea glasses stick for a while – I think they are gorgeous, but then I realize that probably only North Africans will buy them, so I bargain, and they go too.

The sun is almost overhead now, and it’s merciless, out comes my straw hat.  There is no shade here in this open space, other than that which you bring yourself.  My neighbor, a delightful Argentinian guy, struggles to keep his tiny baby cool but protected from the rays too. It’s remarkable how the mountain clouds descend to such a precise point and then stop, as if afraid to come down further, warned off by the ocean.  It’s a feature of the weather at this time of year.  Last night in El Médano Ann couldn’t believe how warm it was, where she lives at around 500ft above sea level, the evenings are already much cooler, as the cloud filters down the hillsides in the late afternoon.

People take to all manner of ways of protecting their heads from the sun.  There are a couple of guys wandering around in those silly umbrella-hats (which suddenly don’t look so silly), all ashy, northern-europe legs, baggy shorts and Hawaiian shirts – recently returned snowbirds.  The Senegalese women have it all taken care of in their traditional headwraps, and are protected with glamor.  European women?  Straw hats of every type – the floppy, Mariane Faithful, 1960s kind (whoa but that shows their age, and just thinking that shows mine!), the now-ubiquitos panamas (making note to find something more original! but I still think Graham Greene when I see them in the shops!), teens in cowboy hats (okay maybe that wasn’t such a terrific purchase on my part the other week!). Of course, there are those flowerpot-men creations favored by certain cultures, loads of baseball caps,  and a few using umbrellas as parasols – and I thought the poking out of eyes was only when it rained!  My favorite of the day goes to a very flamboyant African guy in a triangular, Chinese hat.  It looks stylish, and I’m thinking that lots of cooler air must circulate in the pointy bit.

Acquaintances pass by, and it’s nice to spend time chatting.  One is a teacher from the school the boys used to attend, so it’s nice to catch up with what’s happening there, and……talk about books!   One is just back from Barcelona, another was recently in Nepal and India, destinations I’ve been craving to see recently.  He gives me web sites to check out.  Something to occupy me when I get home, although it’s hard by now to imagine anything other than drinking gallons of water, a cool shower and sleep, lots of sleep!

Finally, 11th hour, the desk sells  – to my delight!  If there is one thing I did not want to have to reload and bring back that is it!  Now my pitch looks much more empty, mostly, I have books left, a few items of clothing, an expensive wetsuit ( which I never had high hopes of selling here) and really not much else.  It’s been a pretty good morning, really.  Some of the stuff I’ve sold belonged to the boys, so I’ve netted only around €50.00.  Still, it’s the beginning.   This is to be put aside for next year, and it’s going to be fun watching it grow….now for that shower!

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