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


Day of the Holy Cross in Tenerife ….. or almost.

It’s a sign of neglect – of this blog – that this post refers back to May 5th, and that it’s taken me all this time to get my sh*t together. The neglect comes from happy stuff (my son’s visit) & the springtime urge to clean out and put things in order. Quite why I should feel that urge, when I live in a climate where seasons are hard to define, I cannot say – perhaps too many years of living in England…….but, then, perhaps it is relevant to this post, this refresh and renew compulsion – hold that thought! Early May does seem to be the real kick off of warmer times, however, and this year Tenerife celebrated with a heatwave of record-breaking proportions. Happily that’s over now, and we are basking in warmth rather than heat again.

Cross in Calle de la Iglesia, close to the parish church in Granadilla de Abona.

…..back to May 3rd then, which is the date about which I intended to write……..May 3rd is the Day of the Holy Cross, or Santa Cruz in Spanish. If you are brought up in a country whose main religion is Christianity, and, however loosely, are brought up in that faith, as I was, you tend to take the cross, as its symbol, for granted. I attended, sporadically, Salvation Army Sunday School, where brass crosses  were paraded with pomp, seriousness and much clashing of symbols (my burning ambition was to be allowed to play the symbols, but they never let me, which might explain why, in the last throws of my adolescence  I became a Catholic). My childish mind  associated the cross with fire, brimstone and fear, and its relevance to Christianity seemed obvious. I didn’t question just how it had been chosen as opposed to other possible symbols.

Spanish Conquistadors had the habit of planting a cross on ground  they claimed  for the crown of Spain. Remnants of the cross which Alonso Fernández de Lugo stuck into the soil of Tenerife are stored in the church of La Concepción in the city of Santa Cruz. The full title of this Spanish province (as opposed to this island) is Santa Cruz de Tenerife, or Holy Cross of  Tenerife, so that tells you that there is connection here – stay with me!

Cross outside the church in the little village of Charco del Pino

This is one of those stories where it’s hard to separate fact from fiction, but back in the 4th century AD, when Constantine was jefe of the Roman Empire, he is said to have seen a symbol in the sky, a cross and the words In hoc signo vinces, which translates, roughly, as “With this sign you win.”  This, the day before he was to go into battle. Later Christ appeared to him in a dream to explain the apparition, and Constantine ordered that a symbol of the cross  be constructed and carried into battle in front of his army. Natch he went on to win, otherwise this story would have no point.

That there was an emperor named Constantine is true. That he had learned about Christianity from his mother, who had converted, is true. That he won the battle is true. That, later in life, he too became a convert is true. The rest, of course, is speculation and hearsay, but it makes a nice story, and back in those days they were really into these sorts of stories. Nowadays we seem to recommend therapy for folk who claim to have had visions.

The sequel is that he then dispatched his mother, Helena, to the Holy Land to search for the true and original cross. That is its whole own story, but of course she found it, and it was her dying wish that Christians henceforth would celebrate its finding. Early May, like so many dates, was a handy one for the early Church to pick to honor her wish, because it was the  celebration of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and Springtime. The powers-that-be of the day therefore tacked the Holy Day of the Cross onto the same date, eventually, swamping that “heathen” festival, as they did with others.

What remains, however, of Flora are the flowers which adorn crosses throughout the Hispanic Catholic world on May 3rd, so I’m thinking perhaps she has the last smile. Some of these displays are simply gorgeous. They certainly celebrate the hope and beauty of spring, the sense of renewal. They are, also, very photogenic :=)

A simple cross by a doorway. Granadilla de Abona.

Any town with the world “cruz” in its title in the Spanish-speaking universe celebrates this day by adorning the town with these floral crosses, outside churches and public buildings, and outside private homes and businesses. In many places there are parades, and in the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife it is its annual fiesta, the equivalent of its saint’s day. I couldn’t make it to Santa Cruz or anywhere else on May 3rd, as I had a very important barbecue to attend, so it was May 5th when Maria and I wove our way up to Granadilla de Abona (about ten minutes from El Médano, straight up into the foothills, and where I’d seen the crosses last year) to see if there was anything left to photograph. It turned out that there was, although some of the flowers were droopy and some were already withered, so we did miss them at their best.

The cross outside the parish church, Granadilla de Abona.

This, and the next two photos, of crosses outside private houses, on walls or balconies.

This gorgeous display was sited between the town’s museum and a rural hotel.

It struck me that, regardless of one’s views about religion, these festivals do both maintain cultural traditions, and a sense of community, neither of which is any bad thing in this day and age. And so the skeptic in me is stilled because, you see, at the end of the day I think that is what “religion” is – that sense of community and connection, and I’m not sure how much it matters how you arrive at that, so long as you do.

This lovely display was on the wall of a refurbished, old building which turned out to be a hairdressers.

Calle de la Iglesia and the cross in one of the previous photos, from a different perspective.

We were leaving the village when we spotted this cross outside of a shrine.

………oh, and they are good for the sort of tourism this island needs – those who are interested in its past and its culture.



The Music of the Island

My friend, Jack, from remarked not so long ago that in Tenerife anything other than salsa was considered to be alternative music.  It definitely was that the only music I heard in Tenerife’s south 20+ years ago other than the cover bands/groups/performers of the bars in the tourist areas, but happily the times they are a-changing, and the other day I was thinking about the mixed-bag of music I’ve heard so far this summer, and also what’s to come in the near future.  As with so much here, the first word which springs to mind is, again, diversity. I’m partial to many types of music, but know more about some than others.  That said, I’m not sure it’s necessary to understand the technicalities of music to feel it in your soul.  Some touches my soul.  Some doesn’t.

The full moon shimmered over the Auditorio as we left in June – the eclipse was the following day I think.  Not an especially good photo, taken with my Blackberry, but maybe gives you an idea of the atmosphere.

The day before the lunar eclipse my soul was most definitely touched.  My musical summer began in Tenerife’s stunning Auditorio Adán Martin.  I’m privileged to know a young man called Patricio Gutiérrez Pérez, who is also a volunteer with Cruz Roja.  He’s professor of violin at the Conservatory of Salamanca, but he was born in Tenerife, and returned to perform in the Auditorio in June for their celebration of Spanish classics….a wonderful, emotional performance which included work by Joaquín Rodrigo.  I’m woefully ignorant about classical music, not because I don’t enjoy it, but because the whole genre has always seemed so huge and complicated to me, but I am a little familiar with Rodrigo, and this night was very special.

Just a few days later, a complete contrast – Santa Blues, the capital’s annual bluesfest. Last year I managed to get there all three nights of the festival, but this year only once. It was, as it always is, a thrill to know that artists of this calibre come to Tenerife.  End of the day, compared to other stuff, it really isn’t that well attended, other than on the Saturday night, when the drunks turn out for free stuff, so it really is a credit to the Town Hall that they continue.  If I were a cynic (who? me?) I would guess it profits the nearby bars and restaurants, and maybe brings people into the area (i.e. blues fans from other parts of the island) who might not otherwise know about it.  The Calle Noria district of Santa Cruz is a popular nightlife venue, with great eating and late night entertainment, and it’s a bit magical to stand there, under the branches of a flamboyant tree, swaying to music touching your soul, fanned by a cool breeze from the sea.

The Auditorio swathed in green light in honor of the Festival’s sponsors. 

July brought the annual Heineken Jazz Festival to Santa Cruz, and whilst most of the events were out of my price range the one I most wanted to see, in any event, was free – Yay!  A memorable and utterly spellbinding night of Afro-Jazz which utterly surpassed all my expectations. In truth I wasn’t sure about such a fusion, probably that’s because I don’t understand the technicalities, again.

I’ll risk wrath here, and say that jazz doesn’t always move me, when it gets too complicated I kind of tune out, but, like the fictitious art aficionada, “I know what I like”, and the energy which Naya Band brought to stage to open the concert was, simply,  infectious.  They fused more than just jazz and music from their native Senegal, they touched on blues and reggae too, but, then afterall, didn’t it all begin in Africa? At the end of the day, isn’t all – just – music?

Fatoumata Diawara strolled casually onto the open-air stage alongside the Auditorio. Slight but colorfully dressed, her entrance was almost shy.  For me she had a lot to live up to because I’d been watching her on YouTube, and it wouldn’t have been the first time a live performance disappointed me, but what she did was totally, totally blow my mind.  I go back to “feeling” the music because she sang in languages I couldn’t follow, most movingly in Bambara – specifically a song about female circumcision – not a topic for a song you may think, but then our western music has been dominated for so long by songs about unrequited love that we forget music as a message, as communication, as a release from pain or a celebration of happiness.  I couldn’t, of course, understand a word, but the music, and the voice as instrument, were laden with anguish and pleading.  They didn’t really need a translation.  Not that it was all anguish by any means, you can see the joy of music in the photos below.  In West African countries it’s a tradition that dancers from the audience join in, making events into a party.  This audience was mostly jazz lovers, sadly, there weren’t as many Africans in the audience as I expected from previous events, but a couple,including a friend, jumped onto the stage to groove with the tradition, and both would have brought down the house –  had it not been outdoors!

Problem for me is that so many of these great events are in Santa Cruz.  It isn’t that far, just under an hour, but it restricts the possibilities of a night’s enjoyment – only one beer for instance, when watching outdoor concerts, and having to leave early in the case of this concert.

Sunday afternoon jazz in Finca del Arte in Chayofa

However, there have been occasions closer to home.  Lavabar has had some great nights, most of which I couldn’t get to, but memorably a night of haunting folk and laid-back jazz numbers by  El Mar Origenes.  The only description I can think of is Eva Cassidy – and no exaggeration, this girl has the same purity of voice and the same gentle intensity.

Summer is also when the new Carmen Mota show opens in Las Americas.  Like last year, the show was much more concentrated on dance than on spectacle.   I much prefer it this way.  If it isn’t pure flamenco enough for some, then they are missing out on the sheer enjoyment.  It’s aimed at the general public, including foreigners, for one thing.  It’s beautifully presented and the dancing is breathtaking.  Think Spanish/flamenco “Riverdance”, and you’d be close.  The in the early years the shows were more of a combination of dance and carnival, but carnival is not something we are short on here!

 One warm Sunday afternoon I went to Finca del Arte to listen to the jazz.  I have mixed feelings about this venue, but certainly not about the music.  It’s just a shame that most people go to chatter and not listen, but I suppose that performers in eateries get used to that?  The other problem is that the tables closer to the band are in full sun, and obviously it’s much nicer to sit under the shade of trees.  Maybe the place depends on the day.  I’ve had some very pleasant afternoons there in the past, but I’m not in a hurry to go again after this day, but not the fault of the music!

Another phone photo, sorry about the quality.  More than an air of a young Joan Baez about El Mar Origenes.

Folk music takes many forms, of course, having grown up with English/US folk music I sometimes forget that the incredible music/dance I saw a couple of weeks ago is folk music in its own country.  The longer I live in Tenerife, the more I come to love the traditional music here.  Many of the old traditions have been revived in recent years.  In the groups parading at romerias there is, for instance,  almost always someone playing bones, like this guy.

Last, but no way least, one of the most memorable days of this summer for me ended with this impromptu performance by a local parranda (musical group/minstrels) which I’d lost when I first posted about them.  We were on the tram, returning to Santa Cruz, after they’d already sung all the way on the outward journey, and then sashayed the streets of La Laguna.  An unforgettable bunch of ladies!

Autumn is poking its way into our lives, not so far as weather goes here, but certainly life is changing.  Autumn means less outdoor events, more formal ones, the brief opera season in Santa Cruz, and the music of Christmas.  Lots to look forward to in Winter too, though for me a big plus in these summer events has been that the majority have been free, the price of a drink or very affordable. These are just my personal experiences this summer, there has been an awful lot more going on for those who could afford it. The island certainly has come a long way in the last 20 years.


Santa Blues 2011

Don’t you wonder why it is that life is always feast or famine?  There’s nothing going on for a month, and then you have 3 events from which to choose the following weekend?

The summer solstice here really does herald the beginning of summertime and all sorts of al fresco events and concerts, and, before you ask, yes, there are outdoor events all year round, but I suppose the planners want to be totally sure of good enough weather, and, of course, lots of the events and festivals are down to traditions too.

The Santa Blues Festival is a new tradition.  I think it’s in its 7th year now, and I look forward to it all year, although getting to listen to live Blues gets a bit easier as time goes by. As I mentioned last year, when we first came to live in the Canary Islands I didn’t hear a Blues riff, other than my own tapes, for years and years. And the feast or famine thing? In addition to Santa Blues, last night there was a Blues night in a bar about twenty minutes drive from here too.  Had I been able to go up to Santa Cruz either Thursday or Friday I might have been tempted to find out what that was all about, but a migraine plus a reaction to some antibiotics I taken for the final part of my dental treatment had me in bed most of the day Thursday, and not feeling too bright on Friday either.  Plus I had to be up extra early yesterday morning, but that’s a whole other story.

I’d already missed Thursday night’s bonfires for fiesta de San Juan, one of my favorite celebrations here, so despite the super early start to the day I didn’t think twice about zooming up to Santa Cruz after a bit of a siesta yesterday.  I love crisp and bright early mornings, and I love balmy summer nights and yesterday I was able to enjoy both – obviously I was born in the wrong country, this afternoon siesta lark is me down to a T! Jumping ahead to Santa Blues (I’ll come back to the reason for that early morning tomorrow.  It’s a longer post, and I’m still a bit tired from the late night!) – I’m always surprised when I arrive that there aren’t more people, though a part of me is secretly happy because I can be grumpy in crowd situations.

Local band Three Bones were halfway into their act when we got there a bit late.  I say local band, because they were billed as being from Tenerife, but if I’m not mistaken the singer said that it was their first time playing here, though when I checked, I see they played in Fuerteventura recently, so perhaps they are Canarian rather than from this, particular island.  Whatever, they were very good, and  popular with the audience, singing in French and English as well as Spanish, and with huge enthusiasm in all three.

By the time Zac Harmon and his band appeared, dusk had given way to  dark, but the crowd had swelled, so that the breeze which occasionally wafted the banners behind the band had no effect on us, but if it was warm in the audience, it was HOT on stage.

They launched full tilt into consecutive instrumental numbers which had the crowd with them from the first beat. The set was all about upbeat, raunchy numbers, with lyrics very much in second place, and packed with classic numbers like Mannish Boy and I Got My Mojo Workin’.   I realized that, of course, this was the way to play this kind of gathering.  It dawned on me when I heard people trying to sing back the words “I got my mojo workin’,” it came out nothing like that at all.  People were there for the music, not the words. It also worked when they introduced a reggae number Bob Marley’s “No woman, no cry”, everyone knew the chorus.

Zac Harmon is not only a terrific bluesman, but he knows how to work an audience too, remembering to play to the folk at the side of the stage as well as those of us out front.  We shuffled our way from a couple of places back to right in front of the stage.  It’s always an exciting place to be if your ears can take it, but Harmon made it especially so, as Maria said afterwards, there were plenty of times when you felt as if he was singing just for you.  Definitely a far cry from last year, when I was standing towards the back where, on Saturday night, all the young bucks out to get drunk gathered.  Last night they were not so obvious until the last couple of numbers.

Con-summate professionals that the band were, they covered for Harmon when he broke a guitar string and disappeared backstage for quite a while to try to fix it, and at the end they pretended to leave the stage, but turned  for an encore without stirring up the audience too much.  The second time they pretended to leave a bit harder, but returned for a second encore, and promised two songs.  The second one turned out to be a Spanish popular song I didn’t know, though everyone else clearly did.  It was clever.  It left the crowd happy that they’d done a Spanish number, but it lacked the intensity of Blues, and it took the atmosphere down a notch.  It was a signal it was over, and most people realized that.

The only thing which slightly puts a damper on going to anything in Santa Cruz is the drive back.  I know in the States and in Australia people are used to driving hundreds of miles and back on the night for a concert, and I don’t complain about the driving itself.  It’s just that standing in the warm summer air listening to a throbbing blues beat is so much nicer with a cold beer in your hand, but after so many years without Blues, how could I possibly complain about that!


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.


Glimpses of the Future – Bleak or Hopeful?

Last week was European Union Sustainable Energy Week.  Certainly one of the three events I went to was an intentional part of that initiative, but I’m not sure if the other two were just co-incidental timing. The Caja Canarias is running another of its social projects, making me wish again that I lived in Santa Cruz, or at least closer, to be able to go to all the events!  This one is entitled Enciende la Tierra (I think this would best translate as Spotlight Planet Earth), this follows the season of photojournalism-related events connected to the Robert Capa retrospective, and the award-winning Enciende Africa in 2008 (plus loads more which I couldn’t attend, or weren’t specifically of interest to me).  Sustainable energy is just one of the subjects which will be discussed, and portrayed on film and in photographs, in recognizing man as a part of the planet, and not apart from it, and how we are destroying ourselves as we destroy it.

The first event was the opening of the exhibition of photos by National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting.  I missed the opening night because………I didn’t know about it……….I suppose the onus is on me to find out in one way.  I know that Caja Canarias mount these marvellous events, and I should have been checking their website to see what was coming up.  It’s necessary here because publicizing and promoting events is sadly lacking.  Sometimes there is clever and well-designed publicity, but it invariably arrives in one’s inbox or Twitter or FB feed too late (like a day or two before), when you’ve already got commitments for the date in question.  It’s very frustrating, and must be even worse for press professionals.  I think it would drive me up the wall.

Still, I caught up with it a week late, and it was still all there.  The exhibition represents Lanting’s work Life: A Journey through Time, and is nothing short of stunning.  When I walked in and saw the effect of all the colors there was a sharp intake of breath, and when I understood the concept of the work, evolution and our connection to the earth, it took on even more meaning.  Just one thing, and I hate to be critical of such an impressive enterprise, I liked the photos better on his website than on the walls of the gallery.  The colors are better, and I am a bit fanatical about reality in photos!  Even so, anyone local reading this do go and check it out.  It’s on until June 30th.

Second event was a drama/doc, The Age of Stupid, featuring the late and wonderful Peter Postlethwaite, as curator of a facility where the world’s art treasures have been taken for storage to protect them from the effects of global warming which is destroying the world.  It’s ostensibly set in 2055, with Postlethwaite’s character looking back to try to understand why something wasn’t done to prevent the tragedy which has overtaken the earth.  All the rest of the movie, directed by Fanny Armstrong, is news coverage and interviews with real people and featuring real events.  My take is that movies like this often tend to be too preachy and one-sided, but this movie was sympathetic to other points of view.  The guy who lost everything in New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina also worked for an oil company, he could see both sides of the debate.  The guy who was starting a low-cost airline in India wasn’t unaware of environmental issues, and who is to deny emerging nations the same lifestyles we enjoy in the west?………. which is all the girl in Kenya wanted – what we would consider an ordinary life.  It’s a very, very complex issue, often over-simplified, and whilst the movie didn’t deal with every point it might have (how could it? Then it would have been five hours long!), it brought up was effective, although nothing new for me.  I had to laugh, though, at the supercilious bitch you will see in the trailer, who purports to be concerned about the environment… long as she doesn’t have to do her bit.  Her face is a picture, it really does say it all.

So – a celebration of life, a warning that we may destroy it, and now some hope for the future –

the village of bioclimatic houses situated on the ITER site in Granadilla de Abona.  They had open days last week in conjunction with the EUSEW. The initials stand for Instituto Tecnológico y de Energías Renovables, which doesn’t really need a translation, does it?  It is an initiative of and largely funded by the island’s government, although its aims and ambitions are much more wide-reaching.  It has to be remembered that this island, like others, has energy needs which make sourcing alternatives to fossil fuels perhaps more urgent than elsewhere – the fact that fuels have to be imported by sea, and that space for power stations and oil refineries is limited. It’s an interesting place to visit at any time, as well as the experimental wind farm there, a guided tour will take you through the world of alternative energies, show you how those windmills work and there is also a small cinema.  The first time I saw “An Inconvenient Truth” was there. The last time I did it we had a marvellously passionate guide, who had endless patience with all the questions fired at him.

This weekend’s tour was specifically to view the houses, which are not a part of the normal tour.  After seeing the first couple, trying to make notes, take snaps and keep up with the language, as well as sidestep other people in the fairly large group, I gave up.  It was clearly going to be too much in the circumstances, and our guide was already urging us to hurry if we wanted to see everything.  She was extremely pleasant, but it seemed as if we had deadlines to meet, which was a shame because it was an interested group, as you might expect on a tour like this.   If I try to sum it up:  there are 25 houses all designed by different architects, or teams of architects.  They are all very different, and they are situated on a stretch of coast which is pretty windy (not far from El Médano), and which would be pretty desolate were it not for this initiative and the power station nearby, in fact a desert landscape.  My first reaction was that I was reminded of those houses in the deserts of Arizona or Colorado and New Mexico which you see in glossy magazines.  It would be fair to say that every one we saw might qualify as glamorous.  Others reminded me of the sort of beach homes you see in those same magazines, but without the picket fence on the beachside.

Each house is totally self-sufficient energy-wise, and if excess is produced it is fed back into the system.  Every architect achieved energy efficiency in different ways, using air and water flows, careful siting of the windows and walls to take advantage of sun or lack of it (living rooms always faced the sun and bedrooms were on the opposite sides for instance).  There were some unusual window arrangements, as you can see;

The requirements in this climate would, needless to say, be quite different from a colder one, where heating is needed.  Here it’s the opposite, our interiors on the coastal areas need to be kept cool, and even higher up, summer is a much longer season than in northern Europe.  The aim is to NOT have air conditioning, which requires a lot of energy.  Given that, I expected that the houses might be on the dark side, but on the contrary every one we saw was light and airy, like the one below, which incorporated an interior patio, with these gallery landings.  This one might have been my favorite, except for a suspicious siting of the loo!

My favorite bathroom was this one:

For some reason I like the idea of a sunken bath, although I would probably have like a bigger one!  It was notable that all the bathrooms were fairly small, so I am presuming this was intentional in each case.  You might think you wouldn’t want to bathe next to the window like that, but that wall keeps out prying eyes as well as protecting the house from the elements.

The one above was the most futurist from the external view, but we didn’t get to see inside.  Our guide was anxious to point out that Canarians had this keeping cool business nailed hundreds of years ago.  Traditional cottages here are built with thick walls, which keep winter warmth in, and summer heat out, they also have very small windows, which means that they are invariably dark.  When Europeans come to live here, and I am definitely no exception to this, we like light.  We come and fling open all the doors and windows to let in the light and the breezes.  We’ve spent too long in the dark, northern winters, whereas Canarians will close shutters and curtains to keep out the sun and the heat.

All the houses are available to rent, and you can see details of photos of all of them on the website if you click on the link at the beginning of this section.

This water feature isn’t just to look pretty.  It is also a part of the cooling system of the property.  It runs from outside to in and underneath, but it does look pretty effective too.

One of them had its own vegetable garden. Gardens here often look parched but are producing perfectly healthy crops, as this seems to be doing.

All the interiors were cool and modern IKEA-ish sort of, stylish but practical and I could have moved into almost any of them tomorrow!  There was a worrying lack of wardrobe space in some, which I never did get to the bottom of, except that these were designed to rent rather than as permanent homes.

If you fancy trying one out, they don’t come cheap compared to the tourist traps.  They vary between €200 and €280 per day according to their website, and you have to remember that they are situated a fair way from conveniences.  That said I’d love to try one out.  Lack of buses or supermarkets wouldn’t bother me at all, and lack of bars would be an advantage, so long as I had my own supply of course!  Fact is, heck, yes, I could live there.  Question is could I afford to?

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Addendum to Last Post :=))

I was feeling a bit bad about not snapping on Saturday night, so taken was I with Kenny Neal’s performance, but Pablo sent me loads of super pix  yesterday.  He was much more focused about taking photos, and also remembered to take a zoom lens!  So here is the unforgettable Kenny Neal.  I chose this pic of all the ones which Pablo sent, because the man is just enjoying himself so much.  He has one of the most infectious smiles I’ve ever seen in real life.  His entire performance was so full of good energy as well as incredible talent!

His entire band is family, and he shared the spotlight with his nephew for two marvellous, foot-stomping numbers, which harked right back to pre-electric blues even.  And do you see that smile too?  Must run in the family!

And this was Colleen and I yelling for more!


Santa Blues too good for Santa Cruz?

I remember the first time I walked into a Blues club, and the butterflies which began to rise and flutter in my stomach, as one of those rich, spine-chilling riffs bounced off the walls of the room as I entered. I was 16 or 17, had come to Blues via the beatnik atmosphere of a folk club which used to meet over a local pub in Blackpool. This Blues club was, I think, short-lived, even though I am talking about the mid 60s, when Eric Burdon and the Animals, Eric Clapton in his many incarnations, the Stones, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and other bands were beginning to acquaint us, of the North West wasteland, with the music born of the anguish of Africa, of the misery and hope of slavery, and the failed promises of Reconstruction in the US.

It was apt. It was the time of the freedom marches and the eloquence and inspiration of Martin Luther King, and the music spoke of the pain and the injustice, as well as of broken hearts and sexual innuendo. Maybe it’s because, to the majority of the audience at Santa Blues, that’s all just a part of history now, that there lacks the atmosphere and intensity of audience reaction one finds in other places. I noted that it takes the consumption of a certain amount of alcohol on the part of the crowd before it starts to move or dance with the rhythms. It also has to be noted that these concerts are totally free, so a certain amount of people are there for that reason only, and aren’t familiar with the music, let alone its history.

Blues, clearly, has a small but very loyal following in Tenerife. After my arrival in 1987 the only Blues I heard was recorded, until a friend and I stumbled, almost accidentally, on a concert sponsored by the local authority in 2003 in El Fraile, Arona. El Fraile is an immigrant neighorhood, which, I presume, is why that setting was chosen by some weird logic, but the majority of the immigrants, at that time were South American, and the music was as strange to them as to locals. My friend and I sat, spellbound by the music of a local band called Cotton Blues, who were seriously good, and who allowed other musicians to jam with them, which added to the richness of the music, and the atmosphere, despite the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the small crowd. I remember a duelling-banjos-style number in which it took two guitarists to produce a sound which gave more than a nod to the memory of Stevie Ray Vaughan, but produce it they did! After that the venue moved to the next village, only a ten minute walk away, but with a more appreciative audience. To be best of my knowledge it didn’t happen this year, presumably a victim of La Crisis. If it did my bad luck that I missed it.

The setting in the church square of the parish church of Santa Cruz

The Santa Blues festival in the capital is in its 6th year now. It began as a month-long celebration, with concerts on various nights throughout the month, but has changed format for at least the last 3 years, and now occupies 3 nights at the end of June in the plaza de la iglesia de la Concepcción, the parish church of Santa Cruz, which sits at the beginning of the wonderful Calle Noria. The stage used to face down to the street, but now faces outwards to the main road.

On Thursday, Colleen, Mari and I arrived a little early, being unsure about parking, I knew that there were road works close by, but in the end we parked on the harbour front with ease, and had a short stroll around the district, before heading back to the plaza.

Colleen and Maria resting on the bank of the barranco

The audience was sparse as a local group, Rojas Blues Band and Esther Ovejero, opened the night, and the festival, with a curious lack of fanfare or introduction. What they lacked in polish and style this group more than made up for in enthusiasm, and they kept us well entertained until the festival’s first treat, Larry McCray and his band. McCray was a new name to me, although he is clearly very well known in his sphere. His Blues is of the Hendrix legacy, and whilst I do enjoy it, it’s the older stuff which really gets me going. Still, it was a great night, the audience eventually warming up, and the moon arising from the ocean into a clear sky adding to the ambience, as we bopped. Colleen and I had no doubts about wanting to return the next night, Maria, sadly, was off to Barcelona the next day. It’s around an hour’s drive for Colleen, a bit less for me, so it’s a consideration.

Friday night we realized that we could leave a bit later, which gave me time for a necessry siesta before leaving. Since I’d been up early to take Austin to the airport, there hadn’t been an awful lot of sleep, but as driver Thursday night I hadn’t had a drink, so a siesta neatly compensated, and I was raring to go by 8pm. Despite the fact that Spain were playing Chile for a place in the next round of the World Cup we found the roads surprisingly not that quiet, but the plaza almost deserted when we arrived in Santa Cruz, and we parked even closer to the venue. Despite the marketing for this event hugely lacking on many fronts, someone had had the wit to channel the match to the screen which usually displays advertising during the performances, so we were able to watch the final moments.

Ann and Colleen watching the end of the game

Seemed, however, that there few soccer fans around, as this guy was the only one who seemed to be celebrating the win!

Events beginning late is more or less expected here, so add the soccer to that and we began at 9.30 eventually with the Johnny Pérez Band from Cataluña, who were absolutely excellent, and deserved so much more than the scattered applause they received.

I do wonder about audiences here. A Canarian friend once explained to me that there is no history of showing appreciation or enthusiasm, and it isn’t unusual for nothing more than polite applause at the end of a performance. That friend is very well travelled, and we were at a classical concert at the time, and it was some years ago, but it disappoints me that things haven’t changed much. Friday night there were lots of people who simply stood and watched, never moved, never applauded. They might as well have been watching a politician pontificating, or a demonstration of the latest implement to chop carrots.

Happily for Sandra Hall, who headlined Friday, by the time she concluded her stunning performance, drink had raised the enthusiasm bar a bit, and there was a fair amount of whistling, and ululating as well as clapping and shouting, which is not to detract from her rapport with her audience, despite not speaking Spanish. She draws her performance from the rich reservoir of blues and soul, and warmed the crowd up considerably when she dragged a random guy up onto the stage to dance a very suggestive dance with her, in the real tradition of juke joints and music and sex as escapes from a hard life. She did one encore, and I am guessing that because of the late start the hours of a noise abatement type law were already exceeded. Always leave an audience panting for more I guess. I certainly was!

Sandra Hall and random guy

The Empress of the Blues

Saturday we left even later, and yet still had a wait before the music began. This time The Tina Rioro Quartet warmed up the audience, and indeed the welcome was warm. Tina informed us that it was her first professional performance, and she clearly had friends and fans in the crowd, which called her back for an encore, the first time over the weekend this happened for the opening band. She clearly has potential, and struggled valiantly with both a tight dress which kept riding up a bit too far (someone get the girl a stylist!), and a spectacular excess of dry ice, which, actually, hide the group from view at times. Her girlish enthusiasm spilled over with each number, but the band lacked both warmth and energy. As, presumably, amateurs they will, hopefully, learn as they get more gigs, and perhaps relax into their music.

It doesn’t always happen that the best is saved until last, but this year Santa Blues did just that. It’s a measure of my huge enjoyment of Kenny Neal and his band that I don’t have a single photo to show from the event. I was as rooted to the spot as it was possible to be in that sort of crowd. His spellbinding style was matched only by his own clear enjoyment of playing. One look at his wide smile and you couldn’t help but smile yourself …. if you weren’t already of course! His music is modern Blues at its best, with huge respect to the traditional and just a hint of bluegrass. His band, in the best griot tradition, comprises only family members, and his nephew also treated us to a couple of pieces, which were pure Blues of the very best pedigree. Their fast-paced numbers had almost all of us tapping and bobbing, and when they slowed down the tempo you could feel your soul leap. I could have listened all night and then some.

The only spoiler on this last night was the audience, or some of it at least. Although it was, overall, more receptive and appreciative than on earlier nights, there was a large element of Saturday-night-out-on-the-towners there who chatted, argued and generally displayed a total lack of respect both for the music and other people who were trying to listen. During the upbeat, loud sessions they were drowned out, but when the pace slowed they really were an embarrassment, when Kenny Neal announced that the band would be signing autographs after the show I felt like going to apologise. In the event I didn’t, we had a long drive for the third night running, though happily for us, Colleen’s husband, Pablo, was doing the honors this night, and so we wound our weary way home listening to Blues on the car stereo, and wishing we could hear more of it live.