Islandmomma

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


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Every Day Should be Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day. To my mind every day should be, respecting our environment and leaving it in tact for future generations isn’t something to do today, forget about tomorrow, and do a bit more next week. It’s a way of life. That said, of course, I’m being both picky and prickly there. We need a day to raise awareness, because so many folk, still, don’t get it. So here’s my rant.

I live by the ocean. I’ve lived by the ocean most of my life, both in England and on this island of Tenerife, so perhaps that’s why the state of our seas preoccupy me more than other things. We all have our “pet” interests and causes.

I write a lot about this island and about the town in which I’m living, because I love both of them to death. Things that I don’t often write about:

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Dog crap and discarded booze litter the sidewalksof El Médano. Much of this you won’t see in an amble around the town because we have a great bunch of guys who clean up after those citizens and visitors who seem incapable of doing it for themselves, and by the time most folk are out of bed, it’s been cleared up, but they can’t do it all, despite they’re at it, basically, all day. I see it because I’m out dog walking early. Whilst I would LOVE to be able to walk Trix on the beach and throw her toys for her, as we once did, I totally understand the current ban of dogs on the beaches. If it’s the only way to ensure they’re kept clean and safe, then so be it.

Note: putting the dog poo in a bag and leaving it on a wall, or “hiding” it under a stone is NOT disposing of it in a responsible way! To the folk who left the ballons and cloth in the picnic area, well perhaps this was genuine ignorance and you didn’t realize how much harm plastic can do when it’s ingested by wildlife?

Oh and to the stupid person who did this:

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Er – this was an attempt by the local authority to explain to folk WHY they need to keep their dogs on a lead (not to endanger nesting and migratory birds) and you defacing it so that no-one read it? NOT HELPING! Oh and if you’re going to write for the public to read LEARN TO SPELL!

And  ignorance isn’t confined to the general public. The plastic container washed up on the beach came from rubbish dumped in the ocean by passing boats. Almost impossible to say where, when or how, because the quantity of garbage this day on the beach was heart-breaking. The plastic sheeting which is caught on the prickly shrub almost certainly came from the local plantations, which use an incredible amount of plastic in farming  here. Both these sectors need to be controlled, but to be honest I haven’t a clue how it could be done. The problem is so vast. That plastic sheeting is particularly awful. It blows out to sea, and is mistaken as food by fish, turtles and birds, but once eaten remains in their stomach so that they feel full and eventually die from starvation because they don’t feel hungry……unlike greedy humans they only eat when they need food. The net is from a large, commercial trawler, lost or dumped at sea. A turtle was found, entangled in it, and would probably have died had it not been rescued – more of that very soon.

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You can see what’s going on in these last photos, can’t you. Discarded ice cream tubs and plastic cups being investigated by gulls on the early morning beach in Las Galletas a few weeks back. Not just dangerous to wildlife, but, er, pretty unsightly for the folk who come down to the beach the next morning.

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The thing about ALL of this is that it’s so easy to remedy. When you go to the beach take a bag and keep all your rubbish to dispose of at the end of the day.

Clean up after your dog and put it in a bin…..if you’re so “delicate” you can’t do that, and walk a few yards to a container, then YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE A DOG!

The drinking in the street problem, I know, has ramifications beyond the dumping of rubbish (including the contents of several stomaches often) on our streets. Perhaps stricter laws are needed to control this. Certainly it’s a problem largely confined to the younger elements of the population (we oldies prefer to get drunk in comfort and not in the street!), so it seems that education is also needed.

I don’t mean to single out El Médano or Tenerife in particular. I know that this is a worldwide problem. This happens to be the abuse of the natural world which I see on a day to day basis, so it seems appropriate to write it today. It seems to me it isn’t just the environment we harm but that it’s also an insult to our fellow citizens, who have every right to expect to live in a decently clean society. We all too often criticize less fortunate countries for not understanding these things, but fail to do the simple things ourselves.

In truth, El Médano does very well in this regard. We have recycling facilities on almost every street corner, right by the rubbish dumpsters, so there is no excuse not to recycle. Our street cleaners do an amazing job. Our lifeguards look out not only for humans with problems, but also for the environment we share – they are especially a shining example to the rest of the community….we really need to take notice and emulate them. More soon on that too.

In the meantime – yes, EVERY day should be ENVIRONMENT DAY!

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Living a Quiet Island Life

My days have been very quiet of late, some gentle meanderings around the island: a visit to a couple of pretty parks in El Sauzal on the north coast.

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Atlantic winds and heavy rain on the south coast always mean snow in the mountains. A drive through the caldera and down again through spring meadows of wildflowers in La Laguna, and a stop for cake on a lazy, seaside promenade in Punta Larga on the way home.

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2011: A Mixed Bag: Posts-That-Never-Were

York, England

My visit to York was very personal, too personal to write about any time soon, but I did make time in the mornings for a walk in the chill.  There was a serious cold snap whilst I was there, unprecedented they said…..coming from some quite balmy weather in London, and a heatwave on mainland Spain I really felt it – to my bones!  Still, I loved the walking and managed just a few snaps.

Said if before and I’ll say it again, the thing I love about cities is the energy, and despite the cold there were people out running along the riverbank, and even people learning to kayak (goodness knows what would have happened had they overturned and fallen in!), and it was motivating to see.  York is a gentle city compared to many, but still has that buzz.

Romeria Vilaflor, Tenerife, Canary Islands

There is no doubt that, as a foreigner at least, you can get romeria/fiesta burnout, which is probably why I wrote about an abandoned house by the roadside and not about the Romeria in Vilaflor the day I went there. It was a charming fiesta, more casual than the huge event I’d been to in La Laguna a few weeks before, but still with all the traditional ingredients – oxen pulling carts laden with children or folk in traditional dress….and the whole village seemed to be in traditional dress….the plaster saint, to whom homage was paid with folk dances and songs, strolling minstrel groups, goats and horses, toiling along dusty roads in the afternoon heat.  Vilaflor is Spain’s highest village, and steep, it trails down a hillside, so he was carried from the church at the bottom to the church at the top, followed by, well, everyone, plus some tourists like us.  It was very mellow, marred for me  by some young drunks, which is surprisingly unusual at these events.


Fiesta in Amparo, Tenerife, Canary Islands

This is likely the best fiesta I didn’t go to! 20,000 artificial flowers were made by residents of this barrio of Icod de los Vinos to celebrate their saint’s day. I passed through twice during the time of their celebrations, but never at a time when there was anything happening!  Still  the decorations were stunning, quite the most elaborate I’d seen on the island, and in this rich arable area many contained real fruits and vegetables, so rather like a harvest festival in England. Tradition has the women out collecting poleo (so far as I can make out this is pennyroyal, not a herb with which I’m familiar) which is also used prominently in the decorations.

Katrina’s Visit, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Making new friends is always something nice to look back on at the end of a year, and getting to know blogger Katrina Stovold of TourAbsurd.com was a great pleasure in early Fall. Her posts about the island can be found here.  Katrina is a witty and inquisitive person and I’m sure we would have gotten along in any event, but I was secretly delighted that the places she chose to visit were not the usual tourist haunts. Sure, it’s hard to get away from tourism on Tenerife if you only have a week to spend here, but there were a few places on her agenda which most don’t bother to see. We went to  Garachico, Icod de los Vinos, Santa Cruz’s Museum of Man and Nature, and the Pyramids at Güimar, for instance….where Katrina displayed her amazing affinity with cats! As luck would have it, the one day we decided to chill on the beach at Los Cristianos fierce winds blew in from the Atlantic and sent us scurrying!

La Caleta, Tenerife, Canary Islands

I mention La Caleta because I had several seriously good meals there during the course of the year, most at Restaurante La Caleta or at 88, and one over the other side of the bay at Celso. Some of it was in the course of research for this wee post for Tenerife.co.uk but truthfully I didn’t need the excuse, this what-was-once-a-small village really is the gourmet capital of South Tenerife so far as I am concerned, and it’s also very pretty at night and has terrific ocean views by day.


Guildford, England

Guildford has become a staple on my English itineraries since my son moved there, but I was so glad to have discovered it! This is why:

Waiting for him to finish work on the day I arrived, I grabbed a sandwich and coffee from Starbucks and sat on a bench by the river. It was warm, but refreshingly so after the heat of Sevilla and Barcelona. It felt very…..English!

Las Galletas, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Las Galletas I mention mainly because it’s an illustration of my mantra “Always have your camera with you”.  It’s somewhere I go reasonably frequently.  I had breakfast there just a couple of days before Christmas.  Driving back from Santa Cruz a few weeks ago I could see the sunset shaping up to be memorable, and even though I put my foot down I knew I wouldn’t make the best part of the coast to photograph it there,  so I dodged off  the autopista and headed for Las Galletas.  It turned out to be not quite as spectacular as I’d expected, but it was worth the detour :=)

Pinolere, Tenerife, Canary Islands

The annual craft fair at Pinolere was delightful, as always, though very frustrating this year on account of being broke!  There were wonderful jewelry, musical instruments, scarves and shawls, woven baskets and more on which I could have spent fortunes.  I contented myself with edible goodies on the basis that at least they were fodder, and came away with delicious cheeses, honey and some coffee liqueur for my dad. The highlights were this ecological carousel, which knocked me out, and performances of medieval-style plays by a local group, both of which proved that yesterday’s entertainments are quite as valid today.

Of course,  I can think of dozens of other things I didn’t record here, but, yes, I think I am done with 2011 now, in more ways than one. Not sad to see the back of it, bring it on 2012!

 


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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.


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Opting for Some Color in my Life

I had a grey day today, even though it was bright and sunny outdoors it was grey inside.  Grey because today they washed down the exterior of the building in which I live with high pressure hoses, and we were told to close the exterior blinds as a precaution.  I wasn’t able to go out, and so I sat all morning and half the afternoon in the gloom, as the machine clonked and hissed outside.  It reminded way too much of English winter days, when I never saw daylight and the house lights were on all day, especially as the water began to beat against the blinds, the sounds zinged along my neural pathways, and I could feel a kind of depression setting in.

It struck me, not for the first time, that living in a sub-tropical climate is living in technicolor, which is cheery and positive.  I suppose it’s possible to overdose on it, but after 40 years of mainly monochrome UK living I doubt that I’ll do that!  Take the other morning, all I did was go to meet someone for coffee, earlyish, around 9.30, and I had a blue day, not in the “having the blues” sense, but in the  cystal-clear sky and sapphire ocean blue sense.  I had what promised to be a pleasant but long day ahead, and that just set me up for it, sitting with my milky café con leche, drinking in the blue by the harbor in Las Galletas.

Someone recently in a comment accused me of dissing England, but I don’t.  I love England, I love the countryside, especially the mountains and riverbanks.  I love London and Guildford, and Torquay and Keswick and lots of places in between. I love Shakespeare and Wordsworth and Tennyson, The Rolling Stones, Hugh Grant and Marks & Sparks and a zillion other things, just not those long, dark winter days.  It’s not even the cold or the rain or the wind, it’s the dark.

Here, I feel more alive.  I know it isn’t for everyone.  I don’t even care too much for the heat in July and August, but I like the freedom the warmth and light give me.  I like that continuing on to Santa Cruz after this meeting I only had to stuff a light shawl into my bag, not don a coat or even a jacket.  I like that when a friend says, “Let’s barbeque Sunday,” we know that it’s 99.9% certain we can do that in April.  I like that when I realize I forgot to buy milk I can just grab my keys and purse and shuffle around to the supermarket without having to muffle up, even in January.  I like that I can walk my dog almost every day without it being a chore because it’s cold or wet.  I like that I don’t have to buy tights or gloves or coats.  Any that I own I owned back in 1987 or bought on winter vacations.  I like that I can have that coffee or almost any meal I want outdoors.  And I like that my day can be any color I want it to be;

Yellow

or pink,


or green,

or red,

or white,

or even multi-colored



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Even a Quiet Week Has its Highlights

I’ve been pretty out of it for a few days now with a chronic tooth infection which has limited my diet, and given me more pain than I could have believed, so I’ve not caught up with a lot of what’s been happening, and I’ve missed quite a bit of fun (**stamping foot and pouting**), but yesterday, pepped up by antibiotics and painkillers I popped down to Las Galletas, a still fairly small fishing village roughly half way between Los Cristianos and El Médano.  The occasion was a Crafts Fair, and after the mega-fair in Pinolere in the Summer I was expecting to be disappointed, but quite to the contrary came away very happy.  It wasn’t billed as a Christmas Fair, but had that kind of feel about it, or maybe it was just the general mood as the festive season approaches.

My plan was to meet a friend, take a turn around the fair, have a coffee, spend an hour or half hour with some other friends who were coming later, and home to an early night, assuming my tooth would demand it, but I ended up both arriving earlier than intended, and staying later….which obviously indicates that it was very enjoyable.

The first plus was the seascape which greeted me on the short promenade. Some clouds were still hanging around yesterday, after two weeks of stormy weather, but they were making their exit with a grace which put me in mind of Swan Lake, beginning as startling white wisps and banks, they shifted and drifted to leave the sky eventually for a classic sunset.

On to the fair, then. The richness of the island’s traditions and the quality of craftmanship are a testament to the originality and endurance of its people.  There were leather workers, and lace makers, crafted candles, carpentry, glassware, jewellery and weavers who made straw into hats and baskets, and barely an item which stank of commercialization of any sort.  This fair was “the real thing”, from the replicas of toys of yore to my new friends from the apiary in Aldea Blanca it was all genuinely crafted with skill and love.  I asked a man displaying those beautiful knives I mentioned seeing in Pinolere how long it took him to make just the small one, and the answer was two weeks, so carefully and painstakingly are they created.

It was probably a good thing that this Christmas finds me stoney, because I would otherwise have spent a fortune!  As it was, I settled for an amazing cinnamon scented candle for my Christmas table, plus some cinnamon crystals to store away with the decorations, so that they smell of Christmas when I take out the box in a year’s time; and I loaded up on cured goats’ cheeses and fennel honey, and a bottle of coffee liquor from the ladies below, which, it seems to be, will be the perfect way to top off the Christmas feast.

I was disappointed that there was only piped music when I arrived around 3 o’clock, which made me glad I stayed later, because the folk singing and dancing in the evening had a lovely community feel to it, especially for the last dance when the group pulled very willing people from the audience for the last waltz. Canarian folk music, like many forms of traditional music is probably an acquired taste, with solos by rich tenor voices, the same sort of sound you get from a Welsh Male Voice Choir in a way, but I never fail to be impressed by the enjoyment of the performers, their commitment to what they do, and the fact there are so many young people, both male and female who are happy to carry on these traditions.

Backpack clinking pleasantly as bottles of honey jostled with the coffee liquor, I made my way back to the car, full of local cheese and homemade bread, as the Christmas lights twinkled around and about,  with a little of the bonhomie rubbed off too.

Today, by contrast was a modern tradition, and one which, it has to be said, we wish there was no need for, and that would be the annual Carrera por la Vida, the annual walk from Playa de las Americas to Los Cristianos to raise awareness for breast cancer research.

It wasn’t a day for dwelling on the necessity for the walk, as much as to celebrate having had in our lives those we’ve loved and lost to cancer, and to hope that maybe just one person seeing the parade pass by might learn something which might save their or someone else’s life one day.

It’s a “glamorous” cause compared to some. Women worldwide have labored long and with much imagination to raise awareness, so that it’s hard to believe that there are still women (especially, but it can happen to men too) who don’t know about self-examination or the necessity for mammograms or the urgency of getting to the doctor if they find an abnormality, but it seems that there are. You could hear the comments as we passed by, some people just don’t want to know until it happens to them.

On this island it was also nice to see a thoroughly integrated affair, despite some stumbles from the English anchor, the spirit of co-operation was nice to see, and it would be nice to think that it might extend to other areas, and that more ex-pats might genuinely care for and become involved in the community in which they live.

The Triatlon Team from Adeje who swam the route in an hour and a half in a rough sea. Austin on the left (no apologies for motherly pride!)

Sorry about the quality of these photos, I’ve been having some camera problems over the weekend!

Last but by no means least, (yessss it’s food again!), let me tell you about cinnamon ice cream with dark chocolate sauce, which, you see, requires no chewing so I could indulge on Friday lunchtime. The ice cream rich and solid and so laden with cinnamon I christened it “Christmas on a spoon”, and the sauce so perfectly dark and yet sweet that it made me dream of Inca kings!   This is where my week turned on its heel and dismissed the pains and inconveniences,  the ice cream having been preceeded by a salad so fresh and with flavors so perfectly blended that we wondered if it even had dressing on it, and a sweet potato stuffed with cod and topped with grated cheese.  Such a way to break an unintended fast!  Anyone wanting to know where this was will need to submit requests in writing for my approval, because I SO do not want this place to be over-run! Just one clue, which will not surprise many, it ain’t in the south!


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Just An Average Saturday night in South Tenerife

It’s an odd thing.  I go to an Indian festival last weekend an end up with photos of a Canarian folk group, and this week I go to a local village for their folklore festival and end up with snaps of a troupe from Costa Rica.  That is, most definitely, typical of life here in the south of the island.  It’s a cultural melting pot.

And what a melting pot!  Saturday night offered three cultual experiences any one of which would have been worth writing up here.

I’m going to kind of work backwards for mysterious reasons of my own, and the pictures here won’t be great because we were sitting quite a long way back for this one, and it wasn’t really prudent to spoil people’s enjoyment of the performance by moving around.

Event Three, then,  was the annual folklore festival in Las Galletas, a small village, a cultural melting pots in its own way, but still at heart the fishing village it was until very recently.  In the last few years it’s had a makeover and now sports a very attractive, new harbor, and many more leisure boats than of yore as a consequence.  Still, on my own, personal rating it scores much higher than most.  It’s attractive and doesn’t detract from its former incarnation.

We arrived a little late, having been delayed a bit by the previous event, and as we passed the fairground melodic Canarian folk music wafted down the street on the back of an excellent sound system (if that’s the right expression).  A male group of singers and musicians occupied the stage, dressed in traditional Canarian costume, above, Los Amigos de Punta Rasca.  The nearest comparison I could make from personal experience is a Welsh male choir, which British friends will “get” but I don’t know if anyone else will.  Although local music often features female soloists, the musical group is generally made up of men, all of whom seem to be in possession of fine tenor voices.  They didn’t stick just to Canarian music, though, they presented us with music from South American countries too.  It was typical of what I had expected to hear.  There has been a great revival of interest in traditional music in recent years, and like the young men in Chirche last weekend, it was great to see that the traditions are in safe hands.

Next up was a small band and dance troupe from Costa Rica, Turichiqui,  who were wonderfully colorful and flamboyant.  I could have watched them all night as the girls swirled their enormously full skirts, like peacocks strutting the stage and showing off for the men (yep I do know that peacocks are male, but nature doesn’t provide many, if any, similies which spring readily to mind, where the females are the more glamorous!)  Not, mind you, that the men were any slouches in the glam department either, with their bright, silky shirts and white stetsons, but my goodness those swirly skirts were what little girls’ dreams are made of, and they looked like so much fun!

By the time they had finished,  it was close to midnight, and a group of local folk dancers took to the stage.  We were plum tuckered out by then though.  We had a small child in our party who had been bopping away with the dancing to an amazing beat of his own, but by then had fallen asleep, and so we wound our ways home.  It would have been nice to see the night out, but I still had 20 minutes or so to drive, and didn’t trust myself not to fall asleep!

It’s not an easy thing to get used to this nightlife, and I’m not talking about wild nightlife and discos, just the simple sitting in street cafés, especially at this time of year, including children of all ages, at that time of night.  OK the fair was in town, but still, at this time on an average summer Saturday there would have been lots of people on the street.  To live this way, to eat at 9 or 10, and then go out for a stroll and a drink, to meet up with neighbors and friends makes a siesta a necessity, and although I do it at times I’ve never been able to make it a habit.  It’s the most wonderfully friendly and relaxed way to live, though.  It’s part of what makes summer what it is here.  It’s all lived outdoors.

Second treat of the night was entirely different (and, yes,  I admit that contrast and diversity turn me on).  Every summer for (if I remember correctly) the last 18 years, the University of La Laguna has held a Summer School which takes place in Adeje.  Adeje is the municipality probably most-visited in Tenerife – the majority of Playa de las Americas lies within it boundaries, and the newer, posher resort areas of Costa Adeje and Playa de Fañabe, but its heart is in the village of Adeje about 10 minutes into the hills, and one of the original Guanche menceys, or kingdoms.

So, Friday lunchtime I got a text message from Cristina to say that the keynote speaker at the inauguration of the summer school was to be Baltasar Garzón (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltasar_Garzón).  To anyone who doesn’t recognize the name, the English press often refers to him as “Spain’s crusading judge” (although the word crusade might be inadvisable these days!).  He it was who almost succeeded in getting Pinochet extradicted to Spain to answer for his crimes.  He has also had no fear in issuing warrants for drug barons, terrorists (famously Bin Laden), and politicians of both right and left, all of which has made him a very controvesial figure, with both friends and enemies on both sides of the political fence.  Currently he is suspended pending investigations into his attempts to discover the truth about  burial sites from Spain’s bitter civil war.  It wasn’t that long ago, of course, certainly within my parents’ lifetimes, and feelings still run high, partly because there are so many unanswered questions, but I don’t mean to get embroiled in that very complex subject here.  Garzón is a fighter for justice, regardless of politics.  He had a brief foray into the profession, but it didn’t last long.  Everything he said, and the way he said it, Saturday night confirmed to me my own impression which was that he was disappointed that politics didn’t give him a platform to fight injustice, which is clearly his passion.

He spoke for over an hour without notes or teleprompter, partly because no-one had informed him what the theme of the summer school was!  So he used his experiences and beliefs to link to the theme of biodiversity (an irony given the recataloguing of species the autonomous government has set in place in order to be able to build a huge, industrial port in an area where there were protected species).  That in itself was a feat to be admired.

I don’t know about you, but every now and then I am awed to be in the presence of some great person, be it a musician, a politican (rarely but has happened), an author, or a crusader, like Garzón.  I felt like this when a watched a debate which involved Federico Mayor Zaragoza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federico_Mayor_Zaragoza) and Sami Nair ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sami_Nair) a couple of years back, I felt the same when I saw Eric Clapton and when I saw Youssou N’Dour, and there have been a couple of authors I was positively shaking when I met.  It kind of reaffirms your faith in the world when you have been wallowing in a sea of mediocrity for a while!  It might be their talent or their ethics, as in this case, which knocks you sideways, but it’s a reminder that there is hope and decency, and something above the average if only we seek it out.  For m,e the added delight was that he came across as thoroughly nice too.   I hadn’t been expecting that.  On tv he always seems quite austere, but he was friendly and afterwards signed books for people and happily posed for photos.  That would have made me happy for the night even without the rest of it!

The first of the treats was entirely unexpected, and every bit as awe-inspiring in its own way.  We arrived a little early at the cultural center in Adeje to find out just where it was and whether we could go, and we intended to then go and have a drink in one of the atmospheric street cafés which line the village’s main street.  However, we were just bowled over by what we saw when we arrived, which was an exhibition of “street art” by local sculptor Julio Nieto (http://www.julionieto.com/).  These pieces, most of which are shown below, are made entirely from metal, and I understand that each one took a year to complete.  There are seven in the series so seven years’ work adorning the streets of Adeje. Previously they have appeared in Santa Cruz and Los Realejos.

This was my favorite – Icarus, as we  know from Greek legend, flew too close to the sun, causing his wings to melt and his fall to earth.  As you can see, depicted with almost all of the feathers gone from his wings, and about to tumble to his fate.

It was hard to choose a favorite between Icarus and this one, though, which is entitled La Llamada, which translates, really as The Call, which doesn’t impart nearly so much longing into the title as it does in Spanish.  No wonder sailors fell for the charms of sirens if they looked like this.  And, can anyone tell me, just how it is possible to make pieces of metal resemble the charms and the muscles of an elegant human body this way?!

This island is dotted with several striking and beautiful sculptures of various styles, and at first glance the one above seemed to represent a typical villager, on closer inspection, however, we could see that the figure depicted was comprised entirely of “fish”, even up to the squid “hat”.  Very, very clever, and lots of fun…….. look at the sculptor’s website if you want to see the detail.

The remaining two are entitled The Voyager and And Alice?  Despite being very modern works of art, they are not at all obscure, and I didn’t need to think over much to work out the meanings.  One of the negatives about street art is that the background doesn’t always lend itself to a decent photo, so I deleted the rest.  If you like them, really, take a look on the website, because photographed in good light and background they look even more impressive.

I think I ran out of words now.  Three really different events on one, ordinary July night…………it isn’t always true, but there have been times when I wouldn’t be anywhere else on earth!  What I didn’t mention was the balmy air on my skin, the sharp smell of good coffee as we passed the street cafés in Adeje, or the hum of excitment around the travelling fair in Las Galletas, even without the events taking place, any of those things would have stirred the imagination and the heart.