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


For World Book Day

My name is Linda and I am a book addict, so this is my day to celebrate!  You can blame my mom if you like, she used to do the traditional mom thing (back then ….. and still should be IMHO), and read to me every night before bed.  Thank god there wasn’t really any television to speak of back then.  Programs considered suitable for kids finished at 6 o’clock (think it was 6), and then there was nothing – IMAGINE IT! – a blank screen until those mysterious adult programs began an hour or so later.  Truth to tell, I wasn’t really interested in what went on then because my mom took me to the wonderful worlds inhabited by “Little Women”, “What Katy Did”, “Anne of Green Gables” and “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” as well, of course, as Enid Blyton’s idyllic worlds.  Back then one graduated from Noddy and Friends to “The Secret Seven” or “The Famous Five.”

Once I was old enough to do the reading myself I travelled to the England of yore with Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte or Charles Dickens, and once I went to senior school, well, it was quite overwhelming.  I just wished that English had been the only subject (well, maybe some French and Geography and History thrown in), and the school library also opened up new worlds with non-fiction books.  Er….um…..confession time – I used to cop out of sports lessons so I could spend the time in the library, granted we weren’t always reading, but a lot of the time we were!  I’d been forbidden to join a library before going to high school (books carry germs apparently), so just wandering around those shelves was like being in church for me.  It was, actually, exciting!

I always owned books.  I still have my copy of “The Wind in the Willows” and the “Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Anderson”.  Oddly, although I read the former to my own kids I never read the fairy tales, and I’m not sure why, but we weren’t short of books anyway.  Every trip to England meant lugging back heavy cases, books layered with clothes mainly.  In those days it was easy to get away with excess luggage, and I rarely paid anything, luckily.

I also still have the paperbacks which fired my imagination in my teens, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Scott Fitzgerald mainly, and, of course, “The Catcher in the Rye”, that was obligatory for my generation, James Baldwin, WH Auden, Wordsworth, Whitman and Tennyson for poetry, Christopher Isherwood,  Somerset Maugham and Leo Tolstoy………and, well, you don’t want a list of authors, do you?  You get the picture.

My little apartment would be a whole lot tidier without them.

There was a period when books took a back seat, but it passed and nowadays there is a lot of non-fiction, mostly travel and biographies, photography and stories of development and international problems, but recent years introduced Barbara Kingsolver, William Boyd, Isabel Allende, and some marvellous African authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just to name a few (as they say).  Someone is going to say to me, “Ah, but you didn’t mention *********”, but there isn’t time or space.  Convinced now that I am an addict?  Books spill out all over the place, they aren’t only restricted to the shelves pictured above!  These are squidged in between my bed and a chair,

           and these are on the stairs, awaiting sorting,

and these have to live in a drawer because there is nowhere else to put them –

I do try to get rid of them.  I am very enthusiastic about which is a wonderful concept in theory – that we should pass on books, once read, either to other members (think of it as an international book club) or by wild releasing, which is fun, leaving your book in an appropriate place for someone else to find.  They then, in theory, register with that they have found it and do the same.  Sometimes books can be tracked through several owners, and internationally and that’s fun.  Trouble is with the books I’ve enjoyed I always think I will read them again, often do, so the ones I release are the ones I haven’t enjoyed that much, or ones that are part of an ongoing exchange through Bookcrossing.  On the odd occasions I’ve released books I liked I’ve regretted it!  Why oh why oh why, didn’t someone journal “The Prodigal Summer” when I left it in the internet shop in the Outer Banks?  Seemed like a good place to me :=(

Living in Spain does nothing whatsoever to curb my passion because books are really celebrated and appreciated here.  In Barcelona, for example, today is a BIG deal.  There are book fairs and stalls (I don’t ever remember being in any other city with so many book stores anyway), and the tv cameras are there to report on St George’s Day.  This day ladies, you should be giving your man a book, and he should be responding with a rose.  You see, books are even romantic here!

I do see a Kindle in my future, and whether that will tame my collecting I have yet to find out.  It will certainly make the travelling easier, which will be the idea – lighter than most books and up to 3,000 of them on just one of those tablets. Win/win, no?  What I have to figure out is if my home, wherever it is, will feel less homely without books.  I simply can’t imagine it.  It’s my books as much as anything which make a place my home.  On the other hand, the travelling and moving around would be a lot easier without the volume.  Other than very personal stuff and a handful of cds it’s books which make up the bulk of my possessions these days.  I’ve sold and given away just about as many as I can to date, so until it’s time to move on again, I’m just going to enjoy them, oh, and excuse me, I’m off to start a new one now!


How to Play the Waiting Game in Tenerife

You might have noticed that this blog has been light on places visited and events attended of late.  It’s because I’ve been a bit preoccupied one way or another, but more of that another time. For now, just let me say, that there has been a lot of waiting around in recent weeks, for one reason or another, a lot.  It’s not unusual here.

People from the north of planet earth generally curse or moan about the delays and queues which are, simply,  part of every day life here.  You have to adopt the right attitude, the way of life, the refusual to get stressed, and a belief in tomorrow, usually associated with warm climates to take them in your stride.  It isn’t exactly the same thing as procrastination, but it’s a close relative.  It is the almost-identical twin to the mañana syndrome.  Really you have to know, not so much how to kill time, as how to use it.

Living here has taught me that how you deal with the delays and waiting is key to one’s mental health.  There is no point whatsoever in fighting the syndrome, although I did have a minor skirmish, as you will see in a minute.  There are ways you can handle it, for instance earlier this week, I had to go to the dentist:

A couple of weeks ago I had an extraction, and Wednesday’s appointment was only to check that all was healing as it should, before reconstruction begins in another couple of weeks – a five minute session then.  I was prepared for an hour’s wait because the dentist always runs an hour behind, and I can understand the reasons, my extraction having taken twice as long as expected the other week.  For this, and any other unexpected delays I ALWAYS carry a book, sometimes two, or sometimes a favorite magazine as well.  I have a book in my car too, just in case I forget to put one in my bag.  Reading is one of my passions, so any time to do a bit extra is one of life’s bonuses.  Sure, there are often piles of magazines in waiting rooms, but better to be reading something in which I am interested.  I read half of Hemingway’s “Dangerous Summer” the last time I went to the dentist.  This was when I had the skirmish, though. The first hour passed, and I wasn’t surprised or even midly irritated; an hour quarter and I was beginning to get fidgety; an hour and a half and my posterior was getting numb.  In the end it was an hour and forty minutes.  Wouldn’t it have been better had the receptionist told me that was over an hour and half to wait?  I could have been in the café downstairs enjoying coffee with my book, and have taken a walk when my circulation began to slow up.  The dentist seemed to agree with me when I mentioned it, but hey, imagine here **exaggerated shrugging of shoulders**, next time I’ll take a thicker book, just in case.

The other thing I’ve always carried with me is a camera (yes, I do have BIG bags!), even before I had the canon, my point-and-shoot was always in pocket or bag.  Now it’s even better.  So when I arrived at the real estate office to pay my rent Tuesday, a sign on the door saying “Back in 15 minutes” made me smile…..time to wander over to the harbor and see if the high seas were producing waves worth snapping. You see, 15 minutes here doesn’t mean, exactly, well,  15 minutes, it just means “I won’t be long”, meaning probably something under an hour or so.  Time here is nothing if not elastic and almost fluid.  In this case, ample time to get an ice cream (my latest flavor discovery – papaya, tasting just like creamy, frozen papaya – yum – but no pix, it melts too fast!), stroll over to the harbor and take some snaps.

I’ve passed an enjoyable half hour savoring a new taste and being a bit creative, whilst the sour-faced, elderly couple sitting on the bench outside the real estate office, are still there, letting life pass them by.  Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they were meditating.  The thing is to make the most of unscheduled snatches of free time.

Another day, returning to the same office, same sign, I rang to get an estimate on the time (thank the lord for cellphones), another “15 minutes”, so I repaired to the ice cream parlor next door (yes, AGAIN! – lord, what did I do to deserve this ?!) for hot chocolate……and a revelation – this was the creamiest, richest, most delicious hot chocolate evUH.  Flavored with cinnamon and orange, steaming hot, like silk on the throat and nectar on the tongue.   I wanted to go on drinking forever.  You see, sometimes when we are not rushing from place to place, appointment to appointment, office to supermarket to post office to gas station to home, we have time to experiment a little and discover new stuff  – which is one of life’s greatest pleasures :=)

Taking the guagua (pronounced wow-wa and meaning bus – I just put that in because I like to say it) to Santa Cruz can be a frustrating experience ……  if you allow it to be.  You’re almost certain to just miss a bus, however carefully you time your arrival at the estación de guaguas.  Plus, doing a repeat journey frequently means you know the scenery like the back of your hand, so another good time to bring out the books.  In addition to books, however, I now have a brand new iPod and all the music I could ever want to listen too at the touch of a finger…….. cannot imagine how I survived my teens without one!  I’m learning about playlists, and as soon as I’ve finished “music to walk/run to”, “music to read to” will be next.  Some pleasant, light tunes which don’t distract from the plots I think. I’m not totally technically-challenged, but not far off, and this new addition (Christmas present from my sons) to my collection of gadgets is another new discovery to savour!

I can see that the iPod will have other advantages too, it will be easier to block out the endless, inane chatter of folks whose way of dealing with a queue is either to take a family member to gossip with at the tops of their voices (the prefered method here), or pester the nearest person (me) with their boring smalltalk…..which usually begins with a moan about the queue……whoa – easy there with your negative energy, go dump it on someone else….and leave me to enjoy Bruce or Eric!

So those are my three ways of dealing with delays.  I really don’t mind them, and it’s because a) I expect them and b) I’m prepared.  I’ve been known to do gentle yoga and exercise techniques too.  In fact, I look on these delays, whether it’s the post office, the bank, the dole queue or a traffic jam as slivers of leisure time, to be enjoyed rather than letting them wind me up.  So whilst everyone else is fretting and whinging tomorrow, when I have to spend a minimum of two and half hours up at the hospital waiting around for X-rays, I will be in my own, private pleasure zone :=)

It goes without saying that a long journey often requires all of these distractions too.  Anyone got any other tips for dealing with waiting or boredom?

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Eat, Pray, Love

I come late to comment on this because it wasn’t released in Spain until the end of September, and yesterday was the first time I had chance to see it.

To be honest, I wrote about it after reading the book some months back, but then, everyone seemed to be talking about it, and I got bored and deleted it.  I bought it because it was recommended to me by a very close friend.  I’d read all the hype, and, as usual, it had put me off buying it rather than making me want to read it, but when Maria enjoyed it, I took that as a recommendation because so often our tastes are the same.  I bought it because it was a journal of an interior journey, but ended up putting it on the shelf with my travel books.  And therein, for me, lies the problem with the book/film, and I understand why it attracts such extreme opinions – where does it belong?

As a spiritual journey, it’s interesting, but neither the book nor the film made me sympathize with Elizabeth Gilbert.  I know it’s a true story, so she can’t pretend to have been/be something she wasn’t, but she isn’t an ” inspiring”  heroine.  She hasn’t overcome incredible odds to achieve anything.  She wasn’t abused.  She had an interesting and rewarding job.  She was comfortably off.  So she made a mistake in her first marriage……big deal.  Ah, maybe that’s the secret to the success of this book?  She’s an ordinary woman, who made a mistake and then took a rather glamorous way of getting over it?  Yep, I know she had the book deal sewn up before she went, but of course she wasn’t to know just how popular it would become.  Her style is almost blog-like, natural, chatty, which makes her more “ordinary” too.  Not only that, but having dissed the book as being uninspiring, I must say I found her quite inspiring in this TED Lecture!

As a travel narrative I don’t feel as if it works too well, either.  Both in the book and the film I enjoyed the first part of her journey most – Rome.  I’ve tried hard to analyze whether that’s because I know Rome a bit, but haven’t yet been to India or Bali, but I don’t think so.  I think it’s because Rome was a character in that part of the book in a way which neither Bali nor India were.

I love Rome.  I love Italian food.  So I can’t even try to be objective, but I don’t think that’s the problem.  I am endlessly curious about other countries and cultures, and both Bali and India are high up on my bucket list, and in my world that curiosity would trump the familiarity of Rome.

When I was reading the book I did begin to warm to her as a person more in the India section.  I began to understand a bit more where she was coming from, but not in the movie, for me that was the worst bit.  Hurried and lacking in the depth of the book……..and – yeah, WHAT was that bit with the elephant all about???

And Bali?  Well, a bit of a glimpse of the richness of the countryside and a love story, but then, that’s the impression I had of her time there from the book, too.  She didn’t engineer the love story.  It happened.  Feminists have criticized the story as breaking down there, because she came to rely on a man, she drew her strength from love, but WTF – it really happened, and she clearly isn’t a wilting violet, so I don’t see that as valid criticism.

What I came to realize is that there will be as many different perceptions of the story as there are different life experiences.  As a European I’ve been crossing borders since I was 15 (and today we do that from birth), whilst I adore travelling there is a sense in which it isn’t that big a deal. Gilbert, of course, was American (and was accustomed to travel too), but there are millions of American women for whom this journey would be a much bigger deal than it would be for a European.  Typically, Americans don’t cross borders that much in their travel.  Given the stunning variety of landscape they have at home I can understand why, but travel is about more than changing the landscape, it’s about experiencing other cultures too, more than we can do in a two-week vacation, in the first week of which it is necessary just to take time to wind down from the stress of work, commuting etc  However, the idea of travelling, especially alone, and especially long-term is really beginning to capture the imagination of Americans (not only women, of course!).  The thing which made me realize this was this movement, Meet, Plan, Go, which was created by a group of well-known travel bloggers.  Americans, typically, work longer hours and take less vacations than Europeans, and maybe taking some time out like this would not only aid understanding of other cultures and points of view, but would also reduce reliance on artificial ways of keeping down stress levels.  At the end of the day, that’s all Gilbert suffered from at the beginning, stress, just fairly ordinary stress.  She was very lucky to be able to turn her gap year into a small fortune, but there are countless benefits for everyone in claiming back oneself.

Back to the movie.  I thought Julia Roberts was a good choice, especially after seeing Gilbert talk and move about in that TED video.  Javier Bardem – drooling!  Like all movies, if you compare it to the book it doesn’t match up.  So much has to be left out of a movie, characters amalgamated or changed, and that’s always disappointing.  You’re waiting for something to happen or someone to make an appearance and it doesn’t/they don’t.  Everything seems to be in quick time, hurried.  So if you haven’t seen this yet, and enjoyed the book, you might prefer to skip the movie. I honestly can’t imagine how it seems to anyone who hasn’t read the book.  Of the group with whom I went, 3 of us had read it and 2 hadn’t, and they weren’t raving about it.  I think it comes across as “just another girly film”. …….  not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the book does have more depth.

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Él Hierro and La Gomera from Ilfonche

Él Hierro and La Gomera from Ilfonche

Originally uploaded by islandmommacanarias

The year is beginning nicely. The picture is one I took on the brief hike New Year’s Day. I love it when the air is as clear as this. The sky was incredibly blue, and the air was as still as a lazy Summer day in England, apart from scattered birdsong. It’s not often you can see the other islands so clearly. The closer one, to the right of the hill in the foreground is La Gomera, a wonderful quiet island with a slightly magical air to its forrests and mountains. To the left, further away, is Él Hierro, the smallest island, which I still haven’t visited, which is said to be the most peaceful, with wonderful marine life to be seen. Shame there wasn’t time that day to take a drive around our island and glimpse the others. La Palma and Gran Canaria can both be seen quite clearly on a day such as that.

Since working the 6th I am taking a short break. I need to take a breath, smell the roses and catch up on several things. I am taking the catching up easy. I made time to read, which I haven’t been doing for a while. I always fit in books in dribs and drabs, it’s a rare day I don’t read at all, but as for specifically making time for it? Well, I can’t remember the last time. To my delight, the book I chose had me hooked from the start, and I rediscovered that wonderful release of being totally lost in it, unaware of passing time, thirst or hunger. How marvellous to feel that way again!

And I promised to tell you about Baraka………it’s so hard to describe. In fact, the best explanation comes from the director in the extras at the end, when he calls it “A guided meditation”. When I heard that I gave a sharp intake of breath, because it did have on me the effect I expected mediation to have. I can’t meditate. I have tried and tried, but mostly I fall asleep, or my mind wanders and I can’t pull it back. The movie must have been around for a long time. I don’t want to say more than that there is an event in it which places it in time, a news story you will remember. Reason I don’t want to say more than that is because it would lose its impact if you see it. It is a documentary which lets the pictures tell the story. There is amazing music, and there are natural sounds, but no dialogue, no voiceover, no explanations of the stunningly beautiful scenes from nature, of the shattering pictures of the destruction man is causing to the planet, or of the telling scenes from everyday life in different parts of the globe. It is a photographic symphony, a record of the late 20th century, and a work of art. It takes your breath away one moment, and plunges you into the depths of despair the next. It sets your senses tingling, and soothes them at the same time. You might guess – I would highly recommend it to anyone.