Islandmomma

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


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Senegal and Surfing

I’m not a surfer.

Would that I was.

When my kids took it up in their early teens I got to kind of enjoy it vicariously through them. Of course they were living one of my fantasies. I was 14 when the Beach Boys formed; I was 15 when I saw Blue Hawaii for the first time, and I’ve envied the lifestyle I perceived ever since.

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So I was secretly thrilled when my kids began to surf. By then, we’d transplanted from the hulking, grey, un-surf-able waves of the Irish Sea to the Canary Islands, where surfing perhaps isn’t what it is in California or Hawaii, but, still, it happens. I was transport for a while, until they got their own.

They introduced me to surf videos and the heavy rock music that had taken over from the innocent harmonies of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. It was compelling stuff, speaking to the excitement and the thrill of riding with nature, the zen of being at one with the ocean.

The most memorable video of all was  The Endless Summer*, which, even by then in the 1990s, was vintage. This movie is more than just THE classic surf movie, it embodies a lifestyle many of us dream of, the nomadic search for ……..? Well, in the case of Mike and Bob (if I remember the names correctly) it was endless summer. When the waves drop at home in the US, they chase their dream around the world.

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As they begin their journey in West Africa, they are seen running out of a hotel to try their luck in this warmer part of the North Atlantic, surf boards tucked under their arms, and dozens of local kids watching as if they are crazy.

That scene has changed surprisingly little since 1966.  Arriving at the beach in NGor, as I do in June, it’s easy to pick out the hotel. It’s the largest structure there. Sadly, it appears that the staff know nothing about the movie. Two of the guys from our surf camp wander in to look around, and speak with them. But, then, why should they? Endless Summer is an iconic movie, but only in certain circles.

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You can see the hotel in the top left in this shot taken from my terrace.

But what the heck is a 71-year-old, non-surfer doing at a surf camp you ask?

The answer is twofold. One: one of my sons, Austin, was volunteering at NGor Surf Camp, and, two: Senegal is a country I have long wanted to visit for personal reasons. So this is why I find myself shuffling off my shoes and (compression) socks on a beach, at the end of which I can see THAT hotel, the one Mike and Bob had so eagerly run out of more than fifty years ago. Hotel NGor Diarama, was built in 1953 and looks as if it has been renovated in fairly recent times. It certainly occupies an idyllic position, overlooking the beach and bay of NGor.

For me the flight to Senegal is only half the time of a trip to my homeland, England, and truth is that the Canary Islands, as I realize during my week, has elements of the two, the laid-back yet the pressured, the vibrant colours yet the polluted highways. Had I travelled from, say, London, where I am now, the difference would have been more intense. But back to the beach …..

I wriggle the warm sand through my toes. I hate wearing shoes, and only wear them when it’s really necessary. My son hefts my not inconsiderable bags (because I am taking equipment for him for a lifeguard course he is teaching) into a an elderly boat with an outboard motor, as I roll up my pants and wade into the warm water to be graciously helped into the boat by our driver. This becomes a daily thing, and I do it with what I consider nonchalance until the day that a traditional pirogue arrives in place of the usual boat, and I end up on my back, feet in the air, and laughing too much to be embarrassed. Folk reassuring told me that they had seen much more ungainly boardings, so dignity only slightly dented.

We chug away from the beach and I turn towards Îsle de NGor, my destination. My journey has been a gradual leaving behind of the cacophony of the world, from the buzz of the small but modern airport in the north of Tenerife, to the relative serenity of the brand-new Blaise Diagne International Airport in Dakar; from a smooth taxi ride along immaculate, new roads accessing the airport, then the chaos of Dakar, to the sandy streets by the beach in the suburb, NGor; and then from the lively beach scene, where kids play soccer, vendors hawk T-shirts and pareos, and the boat-taxis wait for customers, to an even more laid-back beach on the island. Life seems to have been winding down palpably over the three hour trip.

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Crossing from the mainland to the island

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The main island beach where we landed

First things first: Austin dumps my bags just inside a bar/café shack on the edge of the beach, and orders lunch, as he jokes with the owners. He’s been here long enough to know everyone, and everyone makes me welcome because I am his mother, including the delightful lady who joins us for a while to take the weight off her feet, and rest from selling her trinkets. Without asking me to buy anything at all, she slips a pretty bracelet onto my wrist, and tells me it’s a gift, because my son is always nice to her. I mumble my thanks in schoolgirl French. This is to be repeated by different vendors many times over the week I am here, never pressure or pleading, much smiling and laughing, no intrusion and some charming gifts. It’s a way of life.

We eat freshly caught, freshly cooked fish, and drink cold, local beers. Truly, it doesn’t get much better than this, I am already chill. Eventually, still bare-footed, I follow Austin up a narrow, sandy pathway to the surf camp which is to be my home for the week. It’s low season, and the few other guests, surfers, of course, are staying in another building, a minute away. My room is basic, and spotless. Normally it would sleep 3 people. One double bed and one single. Austin explains that the electricity only comes on after 7pm, and the water pressure isn’t what I am used to. Neither of these are a problem. This is a tiny island, and it is Africa.

I open the terrace door of my room, unpack, then tip toe up to the roof terrace, where Austin is leading a yoga class. The Camp is coming to the end of its Surf and Reconnect Month. Body cramped from travel, I sit on a chair, but take part as I can. As we pass some quiet moments in meditation, the evocative call to prayer echoes across from a mosque on the mainland. The beauty and meaning of this moment is not lost on me. It’s a meeting of worlds and beliefs, caught on the breeze.

After, I crawl happily under my mosquito net and nap as the warm breeze wafts in. It was an early start.

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Closer view of that vista from my terrace, with the massive and impressive Monument de la Renaissance Africaine dominating the background. The statue was the idea of former president Abdoulaye Wade, and was completed in 2010. It’s still controversial on several counts, but cannot be ignored!

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View from my terrace at night. The terrace would normally be shared between two rooms, but I had it all to myself.

That terrace door stays open all week, so safe is this wee island. It’s only 800 metres long, threaded by narrow sandy alleys, lined with colourful gateways, walls draped with bougainvillea, the occasional tree hung with the work of a local artist. Some impressive-looking houses hide behind high walls, because this is also becoming a get-away for Dakar’s upwardly-mobile set. The beaches are small, of vibrant yellow sand, mats laid out under parasols if you have the inclination. The vendors of trinkets and colourful clothing, beads and bracelets, ferries or strong, spicy touba coffee never hassle. There are two, main beaches,  and they are much cleaner than the beach across the bay in NGor, where it cannot be denied, plastic pollution, is a problem. There are a few bars, which serve food. It isn’t cordon bleu, but it is fresh, brought across on the boats from the mainland, and it is all you need. Life here is pared down to essentials, but those essentials are colourful, and closer to the rhythm of life than we have been in the West for a long time.

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The island is so small, and so quiet, that there is almost nothing else to say  —  except, of course, that there is surf.

My understanding of surfing is probably more spiritual than practical, but I do understand that this place is iconic, almost sacred, within this world, and I am up early next morning to get some shots of the guys making that early morning swell. The photos in this post aren’t going to do the scene justice, because I am sitting here at the back end of summer in London, and I left my camera and its card in the Canary Islands, so the pics are going to be all from my phone. But I need to write this now, and move on.

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NGor Surf Camp was founded nine years ago by Jesper, who came from Denmark, and, romantically, for all practical purposes, never left. He simply fell in love with NGor Island, and lives the surfer’s dream. Would that we could all find our own paradise this way!

When I arrive the camp is almost deserted by high season standards, but the routine is the same. Information about the swells, winds, weather and day’s events is chalked up by the time I get down for breakfast every day. I never hear the bell ring to indicate that there’s a massive swell, but, of course, it’s low season for a reason!

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Breakfast is eaten at a long, communal table on the ground floor terrace, overlooking a small and immaculate pool, though when it’s high season, other tables in other areas around the pool area and inside are brought into use. We tear into fresh baguettes, delivered daily from the mainland, an assortment of lush jams (coconut, papaya and mango and more), boiled eggs, and local fruits, so ripe they drip down your chin in sticky pleasure.

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Austin after breakfast with Rita, camp mascot and protector

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Dinner, sometimes local dishes and sometimes more familiar cuisine, like pasta, is eaten at the same table, when the day’s triumphs, spills and jokes are shared. I can only listen with interest, and imagine what it must be like when the table is full and the waves high. Surfers’ craic.

I learn something about surfers, something I’ve long suspected, many are travellers too. Generally, they travel with purpose, in search of the next wave, of course, but conversation often turns to travels and other related stuff, so I wasn’t always the fly on the wall. No-one else here is near to my age, but surfers are open-minded and non-judgmental. They are all young, tanned, some restless, some contented, but all with that desire to live a life less ordinary, and with that casual self-assurance born of having seen something of the world.

I spend a couple of days taking photos for the lifeguards’ course Austin is presenting on behalf of Proactiva Beach Safety, and I spend another day writing on my terrace. The rest is just chilling. I snorkel one morning from a tiny beach by the other house, but the water is churned up. Waves are rolling in, just not surf-able ones! This is the only day I don’t leave the island, but I would be perfectly happy just to wander the alleyways and sit on the beaches. It is quieter than ever because it is the end of Ramadan, the feast known more commonly as Eid al Fitr, but here in Senegal as Korité. As with Christmas in England, or Thanksgiving in the US, everyone has left to visit family, three days later it is noticeably more lively, and I see faces I haven’t seen in my first days.

I become adept at stepping into the boats (until the day the pirogue turns up, but the less said about that the better!). My long-legged son walks at a phenomenal pace, so I am almost running to keep up, whilst trying to take in everything around me: the beach scene with a few obvious tourists, dozens of kids playing football, the guys waiting for customers to ferry across to the island, or fishing boats coming and going, some athletic, young men running along the shoreline; the dusty road beyond the beach with stalls selling fruit and others selling clothing; the chaos when we emerge onto a busy road lined by shops and cafés; the haggling with taxi drivers; the rubbish piled into a corner of a square (it is collected, but there are no containers meanwhile).

Clearly there is poverty, but there are contrasts too; at the airport a flashy couple who might be mistaken for hip hop performers in the West, on a ferry a young woman with a chihuahua in her handbag, some big cars on the roads, a French-style coffee shop, and of course there is THAT statue and the swanky, new airport.

In addition, in NGor, there is Bayékou a trendy, rooftop bar overlooking the dusty square behind the beach. With its chilled rosé, its western-style food (best fishburger ever and melt-in-the-mouth tapas) and its stylish seating with alcoves along one wall where you can lounge, it would be a class act anywhere in Spain. It’s here that we come to watch a couple of World Cup matches, the most important, of course, being Senegal’s first game. The place fills with an international group of supporters, clad in football shirts or Senegalese colours, and I realize that this place, though not expensive by European standards, is way above the means of the guys down on the street below. I glance down after our team scores its first goal, but the street is almost deserted, presumably everyone is watching at home, or at a friend’s.

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Tasting platter for two at Bayékou. As good and as trendy as London

One day we squeeze five of us into a taxi to visit Îsle de Gorée, but this is something which demands its own post. Stay tuned.

Another day, when there is no surf around the island, we go in search of it along the mainland shore. I am surprised to see how well-organized it all is, after all, Senegal is not the first place you think of when you think of surfing ….. though it might well be in the future! We settle on Yoff, a long, white-sand beach, but, with a big plastic-pollution problem. Beach clean ups are beginning to happen here, though, and given that they are only really just taking off in other parts of the world, they are not too far behind.

I get some decent shots, despite the hovering haze, and we lunch on delicious fish and rice. It might be possible to have too much fish and rice, but not if you’re only here for a week!

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Freshly grilled fish and shrimp … delicious!

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For Austin this is his last surf session here. New opportunities and a different kind of life are waiting for him. I can only guess at how he will miss these acres of golden sand, the simplicity of this lifestyle, and these smiles. The people of Senegal are, as I knew they would be, despite the poverty, the friendliest I have met anywhere.

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I know that I will be back. I am more certain of this than about anywhere I have ever been. I know that what I have seen these last, few days has been only a glimpse, only one side of life in here. I didn’t hear any mbalax, Senegal’s musical gift to the world, I didn’t see any of the famous sabar dancing, I didn’t see the forests and wildlife, and I only glimpsed the pandemonium of Dakar which I have heard so much about. I didn’t get to Casamance or St Louis (where there is an annual jazz festival in May)  ….. so I have plenty of reasons to go back ….. but mostly, for the smiles.

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Waiting for the boat one last time

Notes;

Re:  NGor Surf Camp I should confirm that there was always enough electricity to charge my phone, and my notebook and my camera – all I needed! Over the week, the Wifi was intermittent but I’d picked up a local SIM card at the airport with data, and it was more than I needed for a one week stay. You will find a link to their website in the text, but do check out their Instagram account too! I was in no way whatsoever asked to write about it nor will I be recompensed for writing about them. I don’t think that Jesper even knew I had a blog …. well, let’s face it, it’s not been much of one of late anyway! 

I flew Binter, the Canary Islands’ small, independent airline, and my totally unsolicited opinion is that it’s the best airline I’ve flown with in a long time. It’s a short flight, only a little over two hours from the island of Tenerife, so the food provided was good for what it was, and the staff were, simply, the best. I have nothing but praise. Austin, having done the trip several times over 8 or 9 months, is a big fan. I appreciate that the longer the flight the more difficult the logistics, but Binter could give bigger airlines a few pointers.

*Endless Summer used to be available on YouTube, but it seems to have been taken down quite recently, so I can’t give you a reliable link, sorry.

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Exploring the Surprising History of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

“Rule, Britannia,

Britannia rule the waves.

Britons never, never, never

Shall be slaves!”

The stirring words echo tunelessly around the walls of Tenerife’s Military Museum, and I glance around in embarrassment. I can’t help but wonder if someone is going to come thundering out of an office to whisk me away as an enemy collaborator or some such. (The chorus is pretty tame … check out the full lyrics for the arrogance of the time!)

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The captured British flag from the Battle of Santa Cruz in 1797

Our group has had a brief tour of the museum as a final stop in the inaugural Living Tenerife Tours excursion around island capital, Santa Cruz, and I have been cajoled into my rendering by our host Jorge Ballesteros, creator of this excellent outing.

Jorge is a fascinating and gracious guide. Insights into those points where Tenerife’s history intersects with that of Great Britain flow like Canarian wine. These links have long-fascinated him, and now, retired from full-time work, he is realizing his dream of creating this excursion, aimed directly at this common history.

But I am already “ahead of myself.” Let’s begin at the beginning. We met with Jorge in the city’s remodelled Plaza de España. Early morning here is my favorite time of day. If I were you, I would arrive early, grab a coffee, watch city life begin to unfold, as the waters of the pool reflect the skyline. If you arrive by car there is ample parking in the car park under the plaza.

Living Tfe Tours luxury travel

When our transport arrived, it was a good indication of how the day was to go. A sleek, Mercedes mini bus drew up, and we clambered happily into the air conditioned comfort, as the day began to warm up. I am a great fan of city walking tours, but to combine the best of both worlds, some walking with retreats into this kind of luxury, complete with a fridge and coffee, was perfect.

The car purred through busy city streets to our first destination. Recent visits to Santa Cruz have revived my curiosity about the period of history this tour covers, so I had been delighted to accept this invitation from Living Tenerife Tours. The city boasts some beautiful, colonial-era architecture, and I’ve been wondering about the people who built and lived in these grand houses, and the gap between what was clearly enormous wealth and the agricultural life, whose history is more familiar to me. I was about to learn the history of one such house, built by an “expat,” one Henry Wolfson.

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Wolfson arrived in Tenerife in 1886 on a stopover on his way to South Africa, where, at the age of 29, he was intending to make his fortune. The stopover proved to be his destiny. He stayed, and he made an enormous fortune, investing in the cultivation of tomatoes and potatoes, purchasing land in the south of Tenerife, and establishing The Tenerife Gas & Coke Company. He was a shining example of the type of entrepreneur today associated with tech, and he built a magnificent house on a hillside overlooking the city capital. The impressive building, now almost hidden, unless you are quite close, resembles a castle, with turrets, and an ornate façade. Over time, the house became a hotel, and popular stopover spot for world travellers and visiting merchants. Now it is a private school, and as such we were able to visit the exterior, where Jorge, an old-boy, pointed out features, including the expansive view over the modern city, and regaled us with other interesting facts about the original owner.

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Jorge kept up the flow of information and pointed out other points of interest as our car glided to our next stop, the pretty Church of St George in the “Plaza de los Patos.” Originally built in the late 19th century as an Anglican church, it was sold to the Catholic Church a little less than 100 years later, as numbers of Anglican faithful declined. Jorge’s description of its history and that of its surroundings was comprehensive, but I am not going to tell you more ….. you will need to take the tour to discover all of that.

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After a brief stop at Calatrava’s magnificent Auditorium on the seafront, we arrived at the Military Museum and my pitiful rendition of Rule Britannia …. bleeding-heart liberal that I am, yet those words still send a little shiver down my spine. They take me back to a childhood steeped in the sort of chauvinistic version of history that the British education system taught in the 1950s. Horatio Nelson has been a hero of mine from that time, so some years back when I learned that there was an important connection between the Admiral and my chosen home, the island of Tenerife, there was that little thrill again. Sadly for my English teachers the Battle of Santa Cruz was the only defeat in his glorious career. The museum has an extensive exhibit about the battle, including captured, British flags and a model with audio describing how the battle unfolded. We concentrated on this aspect of the museum’s collection, because this was the theme of our jaunt, but I noted that there are plenty of other interesting exhibits. This was the only museum on the island I hadn’t visited before, and I will be returning to explore it fully.

And so we returned to the Plaza de España where Jorge fed us more fascinating, historical tidbits, and we posed for the now-obligatory photo op next to the newest piece of street art next to the pool. Here I have to confess that a sloppy wave of huge affection for my adopted island almost overcame me, but in true stiff upper-lip fashion I took a deep breath and posed for the photo.

I love Santa Cruz

Thanks to Canary PR for allowing me to use their photo, because, of course, I am not in the ones I took!

I loved this tour. History has always been a passion for me, and moving to the Canary Islands, and discovering the things which unite us, rather than things which divide us, has been a delight over the years. Living Tenerife Tours taught me new things, and confirmed my passion ….. and it was about to cater to another – the island’s food and wine.

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Santa Cruz skyline and harbor

Jorge steered us in the direction of the prestigious Real Casino de Tenerife, which occupies an appropriate position overlooking the Plaza de España on one side, and the Plaza de Candelaria on another. Built in the early 19th century, it isn’t actually a casino, but the type of gentlemen’s club where you might expect to find the likes of James Bond, except that it is very much now for both men and women. Entering, you are immediately struck by two imposing murals by Canarian artists Néstor Martin Fernández and José Aguiar, and I gather that other gems of local art are housed here. We were able to have a brief look around, including a spectacular view over the Plaza de España, where Jorge revealed a little-known fact about the pool below us (No, not going to tell you …. you need to take the tour!).

Plaza de Espana Santa Cruz

Plaza de España

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Detail from one of the beautiful murals at the entrance to the Real Casino de Tenerife

Afterwards we were ushered to the library where Jorge outlined his plans and hopes for his new venture, before having lunch in the exclusive restaurant.

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Jorge fills us in on all the details of his plans for this new venture

This was a great privilege, being open only to members and their guests, and it showcased the very best of modern and traditional Canarian cuisine, presented in beautiful style. We feasted on award-winning goat cheese from neighboring Fuerteventura, gofio mixed with honey and almonds, the famous black potatoes with a texture like satin, a fusion dish combining local tuna with seaweed in Japanese style, and, a special treat, cochinillo negro, a breed of pig which dates back to pre-Hispanic times on the islands, but which was in danger of dying out until a big effort was made to revive it in recent years. Other delights were too many to name, and all washed down with perfect Canarian wines. My love for Canarian wines is, I believe, well documented on my social media, so I will just say that I sampled both white and red and both lived up to my high expectations!

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First course – delicious tasters of Canarian Cuisine

Lunch Real Casino Tfe

Another thanks to Canary PR for the photo … I was much too busy enjoying the food and wine to take as many photos as I should have!

So – now for the full disclosure. As you will have gathered already, I was invited on this excellent excursion by Living Tenerife Tours but I promise you, hand on heart, that I was asked only to write my personal impressions – which you have here. I’ve always loved history, and since immigrating these links which bind UK and Tenerife have fascinated me. It’s partly the history of trade, and how it binds us …. hmmm, topical.

The tour I did was designed for six of us, although the bus would have seated more quite comfortably. Jorge’s idea is to tailor-make tours to fit clients, so a party of two, for instance, would have a smaller vehicle. Clients with specific dietary needs will be catered for. That will also be a part of the booking process. There are also tours to La Laguna, Puerto de la Cruz and Orotava planned, all with the same attention to details and respect for personal tastes. Take a look at the Website or Facebook Page for full details, or follow them on Instagram. I am very grateful to both Living Tenerife Tours and Canary PR for inviting me on this trip, which revealed much I didn’t already know about Anglo-Tinerfenian history, and which I will long remember.


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On Being Honest and Transparent

Well, you’re definitely by now sick to death of all the emails and messages you’ve been getting about the new EU rules which came into effect today. As someone said, “It’s been a good opportunity to clean out our inboxes.” I was joking about this with a pal, when I realized that I don’t have a clue as to whether ever so humble blogs like this are supposed to stand up and be counted too, so I guess that I should say something … just in case!

I have absolutely no idea whether any of you receive my posts by email. This blog is certainly not big enough now to run its own mailing list. Perhaps WordPress sends them out. I have no idea. I type out random thoughts and stick in some photos, and press go. I probably need to learn more about cyber-stuff. What I can promise you is that, if in future I do begin a mailing list (and everyone tells me I should), any info I have as a result will be only for the purpose of sending you information about the blog, and no way would it ever be shared with anyone else. I hate that when it happens to me, so why would I do it to anyone else?

To date, this blog has been a labor of love. It’s served as a business card, but it hasn’t made me a cent directly. That might change, who knows, but I will never promote any product which I don’t believe in. I’ve written gratis about products I’ve enjoyed and used, and I will continue to do that too.

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Dolphins Should Be Free

Much as I love the mountains, I choose to live by the ocean. I was born close to the coast of North West of England, and wherever I have lived in the Canary Islands, I’ve never been more than ten minutes away from the sea, much of the time I’ve been able to watch it from my window. So, I suppose you can say that I am drawn to it. At one time, I had a twenty minute walk to work right along a coastal pathway, where I often saw dolphins passing, framed against the light of the rising sun, as they rose and dove with the waves. It was a bleak-ish period of my life, and that sight would put everything bad about my day into perspective. Perhaps that’s one reason I feel so passionately about them. One thing you take away from sighting dolphins in the wild is the sense of freedom. They can travel up to 100 miles in a day. There is, quite simply, NO WAY that they belong in concrete tanks, being treated like slaves or toy poodles for human amusement.

I am incredibly lucky to have landed up close to a part of the ocean with an amazing biodiversity. I’ve also been incredibly lucky to have spent many hours on this strip of the Atlantic, on whale watching trips, on yachts and private boats, even watching as dolphins played in the wake of the ferries on my trip around the islands four years back. For a period, I went out most weekends, almost always seeing dolphins.

Lying on my stomach on the prow of the boat, feeling as if I was swimming with them as they played alongside is as near to zen as I have ever been.

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Why Tenerife?

In a country renown for its crazy festivals, on an island known for its love of fiestas, Las Tablas de San Andres is surely one of the wackiest. Don’t let the name fool you – it might take place on St Andrew’s Day, but it’s not at all religious, unlike many of Tenerife’s celebrations, which are based loosely on Catholic philosophy………

That was how I began this post,  back in December. The trouble with being “away” for so long is that you forget “how to do it,” write that is. Oh, not the tapping of keys or the putting together of words, but the train of thought, the remembrance of things said before, even the enthusiasm for a place or an event. I wrote a couple of paragraphs back in December, and then it occurred to me to check what I had written the last time, because I knew I’d written about this festival a few years back, and I didn’t want to repeat myself. When I looked, I realized that I had nothing new to say. I knew that I could say it better now (note to self: tidy up that post!), but the information, my feelings, my reactions were pretty much the same.

The beginning of my blogging hiatus perhaps began with this one in 2015. I was already out of love with the perennial round of fiestas which punctuates island life. My relationship with Tenerife, like a stale marriage, lacked sparkle and curiosity, and even love. Predictably, festivals come around, and I enjoy them, but they have all fudged together in my mind. They follow the traditional paths they have taken for decades, and  I needed variety. I was finding it difficult to raise enough enthusiasm to go, let alone write about them, which is not to say that you shouldn’t go to them, especially if you are here on vacation. The island does fiestas superbly, they are colourful, friendly, fun and a tribute to island heritage.

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Days on Tenerife don’t always end up the way you expect

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In Defense of Hating to Shiver

My friend, Mike Sowden, wrote this marvellous piece in his blog, Fevered Mutterings, last week. A few years back I might have agreed, but, sitting here, blanket wrapped around my shoulders, sneakers and thick socks on my feet, reading it, I can’t help but take issue with him!

Dear Mike,

I’m sorry. I love your writing. I don’t think I have ever disagreed with anything you’ve written before. But … you see, I hate to shiver.

In 40 years of North-of-England weather, and 30 years of sub-tropical living, I have never felt as teeth-chatteringly chilly as I have over the last five weeks or so.

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Island Autumn

I probably wouldn’t be living where I am right now if I was as hooked on Autumn as I think I am. I could choose to live up in the mountains, where chestnuts grow, mists swirl, and the season looks more …… familiar. But I don’t. I live on the coast, not the warmest part, but warm enough to remind me each day that these islands are nicknamed “The Islands of Eternal Spring.”

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Even sand dunes are parched in October, as early-morning swimmers paddle into the ocean.

Autumn here is often marked by a return to greenery, rather than the loss of it in a fiery display of gold and orange. Some time in Autumn the rains come, and days afterwards, as the sun warms the earth again, even the most barren-looking tracts of land turn grassy. Within days, tiny, green shoots flourish like triffids, and the landscape is much  ……..kinder than before.

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