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


Not the Lunar Eclipse

I had the alarm all set.  It seemed quite reasonable – 6am.  Only a half hour earlier than my alarm usually summons me from slumber.  As my mind began to clear and register that the alarm was going off, it also registered how very dark it seemed, and for a moment scenes from last night’s movie, “Tron: Legacy”, swirled around my brain in tandem with visions of the moon and shadows and eclipses.  It was then that my inner sloth surfaced first, told me if I’ve seen one, I’ve seen them all, and my arm fumbled out, hit the alarm, and I turned over.  It was light and sunny when I woke eventually.  I missed the lunar eclipse.

Justifying my laziness during the day, I convinced myself that really it was all a fuss over nothing.  Morning tv camped out with the astronomers on Mt Teide, my Facebook homepage full of grainy pictures of the event, and Twitter, well, twittering about it.  So the earth’s shadow passed between the moon and the sun, this has WHAT impact on our lives?  Changes WHAT in the world’s plight?  It’s a phenomenon that happens now and then.  We aren’t pre-historic people believing it’s the end of the world or anything.  It’s not like a meteor shower that won’t be around again for another forty years.

The last time it happened saw me at the base of Mt Teide with friends and hot chocolate.  It was exactly 0º, and the atmosphere was something like a party, as dozens of people who’d driven up waited with bated breath, and a silence fell as what, indeed, seemed like a supernatural happening began.  The previous time saw me and Guy wrapped in our duvets lying on sunbeds on our terrace.  That was my first, so it was pretty exciting.

As today wore on I had pretty much convinced myself that sitting on my roof terrace at 6am, duvet and sunbed again, was an event worth missing.  That was until I was out Christmas shopping this evening.  I thought I’d snap the Christmas lights and the belen in Los Cristianos, but I got far more than I expected.  I left the church square and all the pretty lights, and turned to the shopping streets.  Halfway down Avendia de Suecia I turned to see how the street lights looked, and instead what drew my attention was the moon, huge and incandescent, its glow reflecting off wisps of cloud, and far outshining man’s paltry attempts at radiance.  The photos don’t do it justice by any stretch of the imagination.  It was majestic, a reminder of this world’s natural beauty, and now I SO wish I’d bothered to get up to watch the eclipse!



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!


Never Be Without a Camera

It’s no secret that I fell in love in January, no, not with Mr Right, and not, even with the Nikon 70D, I was lusting after, (and whose picture was the wallpaper on my computer at work the day I was fired), but with my Canon EOS 500D.  It was, in many ways, an impulse buy and an extravagance, but I haven’t regretted it for one second.  Well, only one or two, seconds that is.  It’s not that I would swap it for all the tea in China, it’s just that I’d like a nice, wee one to slip into a pocket when dog walking, or going out for dinner.  The Canon is almost always with me, but just isn’t practical sometimes……….but far be it from me to whinge, one day it will have a little brother, this I know.

I’ve had a couple of reasons to be happy it was with me this week, outings when I really didn’t expect to use it, but took it anyway, because you never know what will turn up on this remarkable island.  I’m sure it’s the same anywhere.  Carrying a camera makes you look for photo-ops, and look at things in a different way, makes you more aware of the journey.  What you would spot in England or in Tennessee wouldn’t be the same things I spot here, but I guess this is the draw of photography, sharing impressions and how we see them.

The first time was returning from a late afternoon lunch in Adeje.  It really had been late, because the sun was about to set, as I drove along, parallel with the coast.  To be honest, what I’d expected to use the camera for this day was the shoreline (too bright), the food (forgot because it was so delicious!), or the restaurant (light was all wrong), so none of the shots which had been in my head were in the camera, and I was chastising myself a bit even though the wonderful lunch had left a mellow glow.  So I was delighted when I glanced out to sea and saw that we might be due for a really gorgeous sunset, and I looked for somewhere to pull over.  Though it was a busy road, basically a motorway access road, which I knew well, the spot I chose wasn’t familiar, but turned out to be a bonus, because not only did I get the snaps in the previous post, but also these (more about where they are another time):

This morning I decided to take myself to the ER after a restless night with the mother of all toothaches.  Last night we had heavy rains again, and it didn’t seem like a good idea to drive with combination of extreme pain and washed out roads – good call, because the road up to the medical center had some deep puddles, even at 9.30am.  I took the camera because, well, after that kind of rain, and the orange alert we’re under you never know what you might find, plus the center is on a hillside, with always the chance of a good view down to Los Cristianos.  It stuck me afterwards just how much I love this camera, because  I was in so much pain I couldn’t even eat, and had difficulty downing my very necessary morning coffee.  After one of those shots in the bum that seem to go on forever, (but hardly felt a thing …. I am full of praise for the staff in the ER at El Mojon!) and by the time I found a pharmacy open to get my prescriptions filled, I was beginning to chill at last, so when I noticed the surf on the beach at Las Vistas I had to stop.

The novel thing about this site, on an island of surfers, is that this beach doesn’t normally have waves at all.  The main surf breaks end on rock or pebble, as you would expect from a volcanic island, so to be able to ride a wave right onto the sand of this man-made beach must have been cool I imagine.  I have seen it in this state before, but not too often, so this is kind a historic little collection of snaps here.

The day was warm and very humid, and mist from atop the waves drifted across the beach.  Even then there were a few vacationers stretched out on sunbeds, and a goodly crowd watching the surfers.

I was tempted to take a look at the ocean from the El Médano side as I drove home, but the meds were kicking in, and I was beginning to feel a bit drowsy, so I headed straight home, but later, I decided to break one of my own rules and take a camera when walking Trixy.  I have to be very careful, she’s a great subject, but not a very patient assistant, so I took the car down to Montaña Pelada to see how that was looking:

Not so much surf here, although there are some guys waiting in the water.  Still a bit drowsy, I wasn’t in a mood to clamber down there, so we turned tail, but not before I had chance to catch this incoming plane and its vapor trail.  In a blue sky you barely see that, and right now they are approaching from the opposite direction to normal.  I’ll know when the weather is on the turn when I begin to hear to roar of takeoff again.

So, when you’re remembering that Life’s a Journey, Not a Destination – remember to take your camera!


And We Have Sunsets Too

I’ve notice sometimes with sunrises and sunsets, that whilst we’re focused on the scarlet ball on the horizon, sometimes amazing reflections happen elsewhere, like the grass the other week.  Thursday morning it was the mountains which were basking in the early glow.  I have no doubt I missed the best, and didn’t have a good enough lens to get a nice snap, but just to give you an idea of the environment.  Yep – know the “little boxes” spoil it…..that said, how about living there??? ………..did skip home with Pete Seeger ringing in my ears, though!

And just to prove that this isn’t paradise, these cute little birds (which I think are sanderlings, but I’m hopeless at identifying birds, so would be grateful for a proper id if anyone knows, please?) were breakfasting along the shoreline, and I crept slowly and silently as close as I could, when some great, clod-hopping iggit clumping along scattered them.  No thought for the birds, or for me who was clearly trying to photograph them…….see we have our share of numbskulls here too!

One of the reasons I love El Médano is  that people watching (numbskulls apart) is so much more fun than it is in the resorts.  Here people are, actually, doing something, and not just shuffling along the promenade, or letting it all hang out on a sunbed.  Even early there were quite a few runners and joggers around, as well as the usual variety of dog walkers, and I sat for several minutes watching a skin diver as he backed himself into the waves, and then disappeared, long fins waving in his wake.  Every morning I see a guy I call Tai Chi guy,  gracefully greeting the new day from the rocky outcrop overlooking the beach, and I pass cyclists, and several elderly couples who do their own version of power walking.

Out there, on the ocean, and only specks on the photos there was a tall ship to stir the imagination and dream about, and a small fishing skiff, hauling up cages to check if they’d caught any pulpo overnight, as well as one or two yachts.

Full of good humor (despite the clod-hopper) I scooted down to Los Cristianos to collect my mail before all the parking spaces within reasonable walking distance of the Post Office were taken.  At the back of my mind was a breakfast of croissant and coffee at the French Bakery to prolong my mellow mood, and, indeed, I sat and ordered as I gleefully tore open packages  (a jiffy bag of Kendal Mint Cake from my dad, and a book from a friend :=)).  Then the choking, acrid smell of cigarettes wafted across. Even outdoors it was revolting, so I changed my order to to go, and trotted across to the little park place where I used to eat my lunch when I worked in Los Cristianos.  There I was greeted by the yucky smell of dog poo, so I carried on back to my car.  It’s a tribute to the bakery, that even sulking, not-that-comfortable, and glowering in my car,  the croissant, which melted in my mouth all buttery and light, brightened my mood again.  Paradise lost.  Paradise regained – kind of.

I was out on the roof terrace again around 5 pm when it occurred to me that maybe the sunset might equal the sunrise, and how nice it would be to bookend my day that way, so I took myself down to Los Cristianos again, to where I remembered my great sunsets from last year, and settled down amongst the pebbles to wait.  In coastal areas we were on yellow alert (and on high ground on orange) as a huge weather system was closing in on us.  You can see the storm clouds hugging the horizon and spiralling over the harbor of Los Cristianos as dusk fell in the last picture.

It turned out to be not so bad.  Clearly some rain had fallen here overnight, and the wind rattled my blinds and woke me once, but nothing major, neither did the tv, nor reports from friends on other parts of the island, indicate anything much overnight.  Worse is predicted for Sunday, so we may see a white Christmas on the mountain peaks.  Living near the airport, even if you don’t listen to weather reports, you know when bad weather is on its way.  First, you get the clear views of Gran Canaria, like yesterday morning; then you notice the planes as they glide effortlessly in to land instead of roaring up and away on take off, that means the prevalent winds have changed;  if you have a dog like Trixy you notice her sniffing the air when you go out in the morning, sensing a change in the wind-bourne scents only she can smell.  Few people really mind the storms here in the south, so long as no major damage or fatalities occur, as they bring a respite from heat and dust.  A good downpour and the hillsides which are now desert scrub after a long summer’s heat, spring to green life, as dormant seeds and roots are nourished.  So, we wait to see what the weekend brings.


Yesterday’s Sunset

There are days which are just a mess of rage and frustration and fear.  Such a day was mine yesterday (more about that another time), but then, again, there are times when it was all worthwhile because fate brought you, however briefly, to just the right place at the right time, as you can see.  This was the sun setting on a hopeless kind of day, and somehow making it all right.

Dusk falls over Los Cristianos.  Taken from outside El Mojon Health Center

I love that reflection of clouds on the ocean.

The sun begins to emerge from the first layer of clouds, before slipping behind the lower layer.

As the sun returns, briefly, the grass at my feet is caught in its final glow.

The island of La Gomera shimmers on the horizon.

And if you look closely, you can see that the setting sun brings the island of El Hierro into focus too.


Strange Weather

This was how it began.  I have no view from this apartment, but I took this from the roof terrace a few evenings back.  The clouds are beginning to pile up, and they reflect the setting sun – just a hint of what was to come, which is:

This was Las Vistas Beach when I passed this evening around 7.30.  Thunder-grey, storm clouds pass thickly over neighboring island, La Gomera, and yachts sit it out just outside the bay.  This time of year you see yachts in all the bays on this coast.  Most are waiting.  Soon the hurricane season will be over, and they will be heading out, across the Atlantic on their adventures…..

Usually, when we have heavy clouds and storm warnings the weather roars in from the Atlantic.  Here, in El Médano, where we are almost always buffetted by north east winds we are becalmed, and the sunniest, west coast takes the brunt of the elements.  At the moment, though, there is apparently a mysterious calm everywhere in the south.  I went into Los Cristianos tonight to eat, expecting wind and maybe rain, but I found the same conditions I’d left behind.  Like the yachts we wait.

Clearly it was nice enough earlier in the day for kids to play on the beach :=)


Tidbits from an Ordinary Week

It’s Saturday night, well, it’s actually Sunday morning, a long afternoon siesta has left me wide-awake this madrugada, even though my apartment is just sufficiently far enough away from the hum of fiesta, which is in full swing in the town square, and all is tranquil.   So I was wondering on what about my very pleasant week I want to muse.

Should I write about the lovely morning I whiled away in interesting conversation, overlooking little harbour, whilst the tenders to the fishing boats, which were out working, waited and bobbed on the swell that was rushing in from the Atlantic and breaking dramatically on the rocks further down the coast?

Should I write about the casual stroll around Los Cristianos I enjoyed with a good friend one balmy evening, sampling some great chocolate cake, and joking with a couple of the Senegalese street sellers, and that one of them gave me a pretty bracelet?

Should I write about the way the brilliant white waves creamed in from the gunmetal grey seas, while the sun shot pale, imitation rays into the murky sky from its hiding place behind the blackest cloud of all one morning walk?

Should I write about the afternoon I spent with a good friend chatting, teaching her a bit of English whilst she taught me Spanish, over mellow lattes in the pretty and tranquil courtyard of a small rural hotel, about ten minutes up into the hills?

Should I write about how one, chained-to-desk day emails, and Facebook notes, and Tweets and other peoples’ blogs kept me laughing away?  How great is this thing called internet, that even in my solitude it brings me jokes and smiles and funnies from friends and strangers alike?

Should I write about how good Trix was when I took her to the vet for her annual check up and vaccinations?  How she’s put on 5 kilos since her last weigh-in — ouch, and needs some expensive dentistry, but otherwise seems to be still the puppy in body that she is in spirit!   What a nice, new vet we have too.  I generally find that vets are nice people, actually, come to think of it, but that’s not always true of doctors – hmmm.  Food for thought there!

Should I write about Friday evening, about following la Ruta de Tapas in Los Cristianos?   Another balmy evening mixing good food and wine, mellow weather and great company. Yes, maybe I’ll write about that.

Should I write about the fiesta in my home town?  The fireworks?  The street performers?  The food? Yeah, maybe that’s worth a word or two as well, but you know what?   This has been a perfectly ordinary week……..and the sad thing is, I’ve been feeling a bit jaded, so I needed to remind myself just how good it’s been in its own quiet way……..and  **yawn** I think this glass of smooth, rich El Lomo might be just what the sandman ordered.