Islandmomma

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


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Travel by Color: London is Red!

Do you ever see places as colors? I do and it struck me as a new way to look at destinations. Perhaps I will turn this into some kind of series of posts, but for now I have to tell you that I went to London just over a week ago expecting it to be golden and brown, the hues of its parks in Autumn but  this year it was red.

Of Poppies and Debts

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Biggest reason for the shades of crimson  was the utterly stunning art work at the Tower of London “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” dedicated to those who fell during WW1 in this 100-year anniversary of its beginning. I’d been yearning to see this, as I’d watched it develop over the internet for weeks and weeks, but didn’t think there was enough in the kitty to go. Happily for me, at the very last-minute there was a bit extra, plus Ryanair flights from Nimes in France, where I was staying, to Luton. So off I went.

My early childhood was peppered with the names “Our Arnie” and “Our Irving,” brothers my grandmother had lost in WW1. Of course, as a baby boomer, stories of WW2 were much more current and plentiful for me, but I used to wonder what nana’s brothers had been like. Forever young, had they borne any resemblance to the crusty, old siblings of hers that I met on my “holidays” to the stern, mill-dominated landscapes around Halifax in Yorkshire? My family, I should, explain, was the old-fashioned sort, who “didn’t talk” about anything which stirred the emotions, so I found out very little.  Still it was moving to know that there were two poppies there in that magnificent display which represented members of my family.

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For anyone who didn’t hear about the project; one ceramic poppy was placed in the moat of the Tower of London for every British and colonial life which was lost in WW1. They spilled from a window, and drained like lifeblood into the moat. The scale was much huger than I had guessed from photos on the internet. Powerful imagery. Powerful reminder of the futility of war, and was there ever a war so futile as that one? Already, today, half of them have been gathered up and have been sold for the benefit of military charities like the marvelous and historic British Legion or the more recent and equally marvelous Hope for Heroes. At 9am on Saturday morning, my son, Guy, and I had hoped to be ahead of the crowds, but we’d underestimated the public desire to see this tribute to the fallen, and although I would like to have gotten closer, taken better photos, it was heartening to know that.

Bought my poppy from the Pearly Kings & Queens in Covent Garden

Bought my poppy from the Pearly Kings & Queens in Covent Garden

Just as warming, was seeing how almost everyone was proudly wearing a red poppy. This custom dates back to 1918, and although it’s not observed in the US for Veterans’ Day, it was, apparently, an American lady named Moira Michael who began it, although the legend of the poppies which grew amidst the horrors of the battlefields in Flanders was recorded in eloquent poetry, most famously by Laurence Binyon, in the lines:

“Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We will remember them.”

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Strolling through the city on Sunday afternoon, after watching the celebration, observing the silence at the 11th minute of the 11th hour, on tv, it was humbling to see proud chests wearing medals amongst the crowds. Of course, there are now no survivors of WW1, but still so many from WW2 and subsequent battles, whatever the rights and wrongs of some of those fights, we owe a debt to these guys which goes way beyond our comprehension as civilians.

And Other Redness

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Red is the color of Paddington Bear’s hat! Well, normally! Right now until the end of December 50 likenesses of our childhood hero are dotted around London, on the Paddington Trail, each “dressed” by a famous personality. Some of them are probably only know to Brits, or at least I should say residents of UK, because I didn’t know them all, but you will recognize names like Ben Wishaw, Sandra Bullock and Liam Gallagher who lent their talents. At the end of the display they will be auctioned off for charity, and in the meantime if you take a snap of yourself or family with one of the bears, you can enter a competition to win a weekend in London 🙂  This was our entry!   Any votes greatly appreciated!!!!

Bright red bow around the Christmas tree at Covent Garden

Bright red bow around the Christmas tree at Covent Garden

Red was also the predominant color in most store windows, as it is close to the holiday season. Looking for a new winter coat (the last one I bought was …..er….around 30 years ago! So little do I need one!) in Marks and Spencer it seemed like a sea of scarlet, and, yes, the one I bought was red. You can just see the collar in the photo Guy snapped of me at the NFL game at Wembley. Where the event featured the British Legion again, and more poppies.

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Poppies at Wembley Stadium

Poppies at Wembley Stadium

The day before I arrived the Oxford Street Christmas lights had been switched on, and whilst they seemed to be mostly white and shimmery from what I saw, red is also the color of Christmas, which we toasted in Starbucks, me with Gingerbread latte (no chestnut nor pumpkin 😦 ) and Guy with hot chocolate – in, of course, a red cup!

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And finally an apology : Most of the photos were taken with my awful little Samsung phone, and not even approaching the quality I would like, even from a mobile phone. Still, there for the memories 🙂

 

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Of Abandoned Plans, Buses, Buskers and at long-last Summer

Holy cough syrup, Batman,  but that was a humdinger, might even have been “man flu” in which case I understand, for once, all the fuss men make about it! Happily today I feel as if my head is finally no longer encased in cotton wool!

I poked my nose outdoors Saturday and ventured up to Santa Cruz to have lunch with Austin. Having had no-one but myself with whom to commune for almost a week, what I hadn’t realized was that the cold had left me slightly deaf, and since it was Saturday lunchtime in the Mall, in a typical Canarian restaurant, all tiled floors and wooden furniture, there was a lot of “excuse mes” and “can you say that again, please”. Still it’s always good to see my first-born, and “proper” food was something of a novelty too.

In sad need of some intellectual stimulation after the girly flicks and the Facebook marathons with which I tried to lift my befuddled spirits all week, I planned to go to a book fair in the delightful Parque Sanábria García afterwards, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. Unusually (or why would they schedule a book fair in a park?) for here, the weather scuppered my intention. I emerged from the Mall onto its roof terrace, and into brilliant sunshine, planning to take a quick look at what they billed as a language fair,  but I’d clearly just missed a heavy squall. The occupants of the stalls were either scampering around chasing their paperwork, or mopping out the stands. None of them, if they were there at all, seemed very interested in answering any questions, so I pottered off in the direction of the park.

It wasn’t long before another wave of chilly rain set in though, and I decided that even if the participants in the book fair were in a better state than those in the language fair, it wasn’t going to be over-jolly with the weather as it was. I abandoned plans and headed back to the bus station. I’d come on the bus just in case I’d felt woozy and unable to drive safely.

The local bus service luxuriates in the title of Transportes Interurbanos de Tenerife S.A.U.……. or TITSA for short……..and now that you’ve stopped giggling may I continue, those of us who live here are totally bored by the merriment that acronym causes? They offer a great service, in fact, which surprises many people. They seem to usually be, more or less, on time, and I don’t ever remember an English bus service offering more than that. They are clean and air-conditioned (which is another reason for choosing the service over driving, because my car isn’t), the cost of the journey to Santa Cruz is slightly less than the cost of petrol in my wee Clio, so must be way cheaper than a bigger car, and you arrive at a fairly modern bus station which is quite central to the city, so no parking problems. They also have this nifty service where you can text them the number of the bus stop at which you’re waiting, and they text you back the times of the next 2 or 3 buses due to arrive there. So if there is a long wait you can slope off for a coffee.

I also discovered that they have a very efficient breakdown service!  We were only five minutes out of town, we’d just entered the autopista, when the driver pulled over.  Seemed like the cargo door had opened and couldn’t be closed.  He immediately called in, and it took less than fifteen minutes for a replacement to arrive.  Impressive, eh?  Mind you, would have been a bit more impressive had he bothered to explain to everyone what the problem was, granted there were several nationalities amongst the passengers, but I’m sure we could have managed.  Still, I didn’t say they were perfect, did I – I even “fanned” them on Facebook this morning.  And would you believe that after sitting under iffy skies for fifteen minutes, they decided to dump their load at the precise moment we scurried from one bus to another.  Talk about Sod’s law!

Happily it didn’t bring about a recurrence of the shivers I’d had during the week, and a good old “cuppa” and an early night put the world to rights…..well, nearly.

I awoke Sunday with no ill effects, happily, because friends had arrived overnight and were staying just along the coast, and I was looking forward to catching up with them.  Had my mind been completely clear I would have noticed that El Médano was curiously calm and wind-free that morning – but it wasn’t (my mind, clear, that is)  – and I didn’t, and I took my friends to lunch in Las Galletas.  Why? because El Médano can often be windy and a bit off-putting for lunching.  But, see, it wasn’t – which meant that around the coast it was!  The wind had changed direction, something I really should have known given the rain the day before!  This meant that instead of basking in the unaccustomed (for them) sunshine we sat indoors, though it was bright and sunny outside.  However, the food was as you would  expect fresh, grilled sea bass to be in a restaurant overlooking the ocean, and the papas arrugadas were perfect.  I also introduced my friends to café leche leche, and maybe it was the coffee which cleared my mind enough to suggest returning to El Médano for dessert, where we found the ice cream as delicious as always and the day much calmer, as we sat by the harbor to enjoy it.

It was after a stroll along the boardwalk, and back along the sand that we settled down in a bar by the beach to people watch and enjoy cold beers.  This busker came by, sussed out the situation, and then set up his act.  He juggled a bit and he did a bit of magic, he enthralled a small band of kids who settled down right on the pavement to watch and he communicated only in whistles……and it was then that I realized that summer is here.  Oh its arrival is much more subtle than farther north, but there is definitely a change in the air.  Life has returned to the streets.