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


Senegal and Surfing

I’m not a surfer.

Would that I was.

When my kids took it up in their early teens I got to kind of enjoy it vicariously through them. Of course they were living one of my fantasies. I was 14 when the Beach Boys formed; I was 15 when I saw Blue Hawaii for the first time, and I’ve envied the lifestyle I perceived ever since.


So I was secretly thrilled when my kids began to surf. By then, we’d transplanted from the hulking, grey, un-surf-able waves of the Irish Sea to the Canary Islands, where surfing perhaps isn’t what it is in California or Hawaii, but, still, it happens. I was transport for a while, until they got their own.

They introduced me to surf videos and the heavy rock music that had taken over from the innocent harmonies of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. It was compelling stuff, speaking to the excitement and the thrill of riding with nature, the zen of being at one with the ocean.

The most memorable video of all was  The Endless Summer*, which, even by then in the 1990s, was vintage. This movie is more than just THE classic surf movie, it embodies a lifestyle many of us dream of, the nomadic search for ……..? Well, in the case of Mike and Bob (if I remember the names correctly) it was endless summer. When the waves drop at home in the US, they chase their dream around the world.


As they begin their journey in West Africa, they are seen running out of a hotel to try their luck in this warmer part of the North Atlantic, surf boards tucked under their arms, and dozens of local kids watching as if they are crazy.

That scene has changed surprisingly little since 1966.  Arriving at the beach in NGor, as I do in June, it’s easy to pick out the hotel. It’s the largest structure there. Sadly, it appears that the staff know nothing about the movie. Two of the guys from our surf camp wander in to look around, and speak with them. But, then, why should they? Endless Summer is an iconic movie, but only in certain circles.


You can see the hotel in the top left in this shot taken from my terrace.

But what the heck is a 71-year-old, non-surfer doing at a surf camp you ask?

The answer is twofold. One: one of my sons, Austin, was volunteering at NGor Surf Camp, and, two: Senegal is a country I have long wanted to visit for personal reasons. So this is why I find myself shuffling off my shoes and (compression) socks on a beach, at the end of which I can see THAT hotel, the one Mike and Bob had so eagerly run out of more than fifty years ago. Hotel NGor Diarama, was built in 1953 and looks as if it has been renovated in fairly recent times. It certainly occupies an idyllic position, overlooking the beach and bay of NGor.

For me the flight to Senegal is only half the time of a trip to my homeland, England, and truth is that the Canary Islands, as I realize during my week, has elements of the two, the laid-back yet the pressured, the vibrant colours yet the polluted highways. Had I travelled from, say, London, where I am now, the difference would have been more intense. But back to the beach …..

I wriggle the warm sand through my toes. I hate wearing shoes, and only wear them when it’s really necessary. My son hefts my not inconsiderable bags (because I am taking equipment for him for a lifeguard course he is teaching) into a an elderly boat with an outboard motor, as I roll up my pants and wade into the warm water to be graciously helped into the boat by our driver. This becomes a daily thing, and I do it with what I consider nonchalance until the day that a traditional pirogue arrives in place of the usual boat, and I end up on my back, feet in the air, and laughing too much to be embarrassed. Folk reassuring told me that they had seen much more ungainly boardings, so dignity only slightly dented.

We chug away from the beach and I turn towards Îsle de NGor, my destination. My journey has been a gradual leaving behind of the cacophony of the world, from the buzz of the small but modern airport in the north of Tenerife, to the relative serenity of the brand-new Blaise Diagne International Airport in Dakar; from a smooth taxi ride along immaculate, new roads accessing the airport, then the chaos of Dakar, to the sandy streets by the beach in the suburb, NGor; and then from the lively beach scene, where kids play soccer, vendors hawk T-shirts and pareos, and the boat-taxis wait for customers, to an even more laid-back beach on the island. Life seems to have been winding down palpably over the three hour trip.


Crossing from the mainland to the island


The main island beach where we landed

First things first: Austin dumps my bags just inside a bar/café shack on the edge of the beach, and orders lunch, as he jokes with the owners. He’s been here long enough to know everyone, and everyone makes me welcome because I am his mother, including the delightful lady who joins us for a while to take the weight off her feet, and rest from selling her trinkets. Without asking me to buy anything at all, she slips a pretty bracelet onto my wrist, and tells me it’s a gift, because my son is always nice to her. I mumble my thanks in schoolgirl French. This is to be repeated by different vendors many times over the week I am here, never pressure or pleading, much smiling and laughing, no intrusion and some charming gifts. It’s a way of life.

We eat freshly caught, freshly cooked fish, and drink cold, local beers. Truly, it doesn’t get much better than this, I am already chill. Eventually, still bare-footed, I follow Austin up a narrow, sandy pathway to the surf camp which is to be my home for the week. It’s low season, and the few other guests, surfers, of course, are staying in another building, a minute away. My room is basic, and spotless. Normally it would sleep 3 people. One double bed and one single. Austin explains that the electricity only comes on after 7pm, and the water pressure isn’t what I am used to. Neither of these are a problem. This is a tiny island, and it is Africa.

I open the terrace door of my room, unpack, then tip toe up to the roof terrace, where Austin is leading a yoga class. The Camp is coming to the end of its Surf and Reconnect Month. Body cramped from travel, I sit on a chair, but take part as I can. As we pass some quiet moments in meditation, the evocative call to prayer echoes across from a mosque on the mainland. The beauty and meaning of this moment is not lost on me. It’s a meeting of worlds and beliefs, caught on the breeze.

After, I crawl happily under my mosquito net and nap as the warm breeze wafts in. It was an early start.


Closer view of that vista from my terrace, with the massive and impressive Monument de la Renaissance Africaine dominating the background. The statue was the idea of former president Abdoulaye Wade, and was completed in 2010. It’s still controversial on several counts, but cannot be ignored!


View from my terrace at night. The terrace would normally be shared between two rooms, but I had it all to myself.

That terrace door stays open all week, so safe is this wee island. It’s only 800 metres long, threaded by narrow sandy alleys, lined with colourful gateways, walls draped with bougainvillea, the occasional tree hung with the work of a local artist. Some impressive-looking houses hide behind high walls, because this is also becoming a get-away for Dakar’s upwardly-mobile set. The beaches are small, of vibrant yellow sand, mats laid out under parasols if you have the inclination. The vendors of trinkets and colourful clothing, beads and bracelets, ferries or strong, spicy touba coffee never hassle. There are two, main beaches,  and they are much cleaner than the beach across the bay in NGor, where it cannot be denied, plastic pollution, is a problem. There are a few bars, which serve food. It isn’t cordon bleu, but it is fresh, brought across on the boats from the mainland, and it is all you need. Life here is pared down to essentials, but those essentials are colourful, and closer to the rhythm of life than we have been in the West for a long time.




The island is so small, and so quiet, that there is almost nothing else to say  —  except, of course, that there is surf.

My understanding of surfing is probably more spiritual than practical, but I do understand that this place is iconic, almost sacred, within this world, and I am up early next morning to get some shots of the guys making that early morning swell. The photos in this post aren’t going to do the scene justice, because I am sitting here at the back end of summer in London, and I left my camera and its card in the Canary Islands, so the pics are going to be all from my phone. But I need to write this now, and move on.


NGor Surf Camp was founded nine years ago by Jesper, who came from Denmark, and, romantically, for all practical purposes, never left. He simply fell in love with NGor Island, and lives the surfer’s dream. Would that we could all find our own paradise this way!

When I arrive the camp is almost deserted by high season standards, but the routine is the same. Information about the swells, winds, weather and day’s events is chalked up by the time I get down for breakfast every day. I never hear the bell ring to indicate that there’s a massive swell, but, of course, it’s low season for a reason!


Breakfast is eaten at a long, communal table on the ground floor terrace, overlooking a small and immaculate pool, though when it’s high season, other tables in other areas around the pool area and inside are brought into use. We tear into fresh baguettes, delivered daily from the mainland, an assortment of lush jams (coconut, papaya and mango and more), boiled eggs, and local fruits, so ripe they drip down your chin in sticky pleasure.


Austin after breakfast with Rita, camp mascot and protector



Dinner, sometimes local dishes and sometimes more familiar cuisine, like pasta, is eaten at the same table, when the day’s triumphs, spills and jokes are shared. I can only listen with interest, and imagine what it must be like when the table is full and the waves high. Surfers’ craic.

I learn something about surfers, something I’ve long suspected, many are travellers too. Generally, they travel with purpose, in search of the next wave, of course, but conversation often turns to travels and other related stuff, so I wasn’t always the fly on the wall. No-one else here is near to my age, but surfers are open-minded and non-judgmental. They are all young, tanned, some restless, some contented, but all with that desire to live a life less ordinary, and with that casual self-assurance born of having seen something of the world.

I spend a couple of days taking photos for the lifeguards’ course Austin is presenting on behalf of Proactiva Beach Safety, and I spend another day writing on my terrace. The rest is just chilling. I snorkel one morning from a tiny beach by the other house, but the water is churned up. Waves are rolling in, just not surf-able ones! This is the only day I don’t leave the island, but I would be perfectly happy just to wander the alleyways and sit on the beaches. It is quieter than ever because it is the end of Ramadan, the feast known more commonly as Eid al Fitr, but here in Senegal as Korité. As with Christmas in England, or Thanksgiving in the US, everyone has left to visit family, three days later it is noticeably more lively, and I see faces I haven’t seen in my first days.

I become adept at stepping into the boats (until the day the pirogue turns up, but the less said about that the better!). My long-legged son walks at a phenomenal pace, so I am almost running to keep up, whilst trying to take in everything around me: the beach scene with a few obvious tourists, dozens of kids playing football, the guys waiting for customers to ferry across to the island, or fishing boats coming and going, some athletic, young men running along the shoreline; the dusty road beyond the beach with stalls selling fruit and others selling clothing; the chaos when we emerge onto a busy road lined by shops and cafés; the haggling with taxi drivers; the rubbish piled into a corner of a square (it is collected, but there are no containers meanwhile).

Clearly there is poverty, but there are contrasts too; at the airport a flashy couple who might be mistaken for hip hop performers in the West, on a ferry a young woman with a chihuahua in her handbag, some big cars on the roads, a French-style coffee shop, and of course there is THAT statue and the swanky, new airport.

In addition, in NGor, there is Bayékou a trendy, rooftop bar overlooking the dusty square behind the beach. With its chilled rosé, its western-style food (best fishburger ever and melt-in-the-mouth tapas) and its stylish seating with alcoves along one wall where you can lounge, it would be a class act anywhere in Spain. It’s here that we come to watch a couple of World Cup matches, the most important, of course, being Senegal’s first game. The place fills with an international group of supporters, clad in football shirts or Senegalese colours, and I realize that this place, though not expensive by European standards, is way above the means of the guys down on the street below. I glance down after our team scores its first goal, but the street is almost deserted, presumably everyone is watching at home, or at a friend’s.


Tasting platter for two at Bayékou. As good and as trendy as London

One day we squeeze five of us into a taxi to visit Îsle de Gorée, but this is something which demands its own post. Stay tuned.

Another day, when there is no surf around the island, we go in search of it along the mainland shore. I am surprised to see how well-organized it all is, after all, Senegal is not the first place you think of when you think of surfing ….. though it might well be in the future! We settle on Yoff, a long, white-sand beach, but, with a big plastic-pollution problem. Beach clean ups are beginning to happen here, though, and given that they are only really just taking off in other parts of the world, they are not too far behind.

I get some decent shots, despite the hovering haze, and we lunch on delicious fish and rice. It might be possible to have too much fish and rice, but not if you’re only here for a week!


Freshly grilled fish and shrimp … delicious!


For Austin this is his last surf session here. New opportunities and a different kind of life are waiting for him. I can only guess at how he will miss these acres of golden sand, the simplicity of this lifestyle, and these smiles. The people of Senegal are, as I knew they would be, despite the poverty, the friendliest I have met anywhere.



I know that I will be back. I am more certain of this than about anywhere I have ever been. I know that what I have seen these last, few days has been only a glimpse, only one side of life in here. I didn’t hear any mbalax, Senegal’s musical gift to the world, I didn’t see any of the famous sabar dancing, I didn’t see the forests and wildlife, and I only glimpsed the pandemonium of Dakar which I have heard so much about. I didn’t get to Casamance or St Louis (where there is an annual jazz festival in May)  ….. so I have plenty of reasons to go back ….. but mostly, for the smiles.


Waiting for the boat one last time


Re:  NGor Surf Camp I should confirm that there was always enough electricity to charge my phone, and my notebook and my camera – all I needed! Over the week, the Wifi was intermittent but I’d picked up a local SIM card at the airport with data, and it was more than I needed for a one week stay. You will find a link to their website in the text, but do check out their Instagram account too! I was in no way whatsoever asked to write about it nor will I be recompensed for writing about them. I don’t think that Jesper even knew I had a blog …. well, let’s face it, it’s not been much of one of late anyway! 

I flew Binter, the Canary Islands’ small, independent airline, and my totally unsolicited opinion is that it’s the best airline I’ve flown with in a long time. It’s a short flight, only a little over two hours from the island of Tenerife, so the food provided was good for what it was, and the staff were, simply, the best. I have nothing but praise. Austin, having done the trip several times over 8 or 9 months, is a big fan. I appreciate that the longer the flight the more difficult the logistics, but Binter could give bigger airlines a few pointers.

*Endless Summer used to be available on YouTube, but it seems to have been taken down quite recently, so I can’t give you a reliable link, sorry.


Putting down roots

Grafitti El Médano

Beatriz is “my” estate agent. I’ve moved so often within this municipality, gone away, returned, left stuff with her to store, that she knows my tastes and habits better than I do. She knows that when I say “minimum one year” that may run into two or more, or less. What I haven’t said, because she probably wouldn’t believe me, is that I am looking for somewhere truthfully, long-term this time. She opens the door of the apartment. That first glance, absorbing the vibe, is important to me. I am an intuitive renter/purchaser.

If you’d asked the younger me what continents I would have visited by the time I was pushing 70 I would have unhesitatingly answered, “All of them.” I’ve only visited three – so far. Yet for years now, even when I’ve lived in the same place for months on end I haven’t felt settled, nor have I felt the need to feel settled. But something’s changed. After living with most of my stuff in storage or in boxes, for 3 years, I dream of leafing through my books (and not just the ones I keep handy for reference); of experimenting in the kitchen again; of lying down at night in a bed which is actually comfortable, and of enjoying the familiar.

Playa Chica El Médano

I came back to El Médano last July to get the cure for me and for Trixy. She, it turns out, will never really be cured, much of her problems are down, simply to old age. I am more thankful than you can imagine that we took the trip we did last year, shared the greenery of La Gomera, the beaches of Fuerteventura, the ferries rides and everything in between. Trix is without a doubt the best dog of my life, and I owe a placid and happy retirement to her.


For my part, I am improving at long, long last, and no thanks to the medical treatment. I don’t recommend self diagnosis for anyone, but in the end, that’s what’s made the difference for me. A strategic call to a friend who is a doctor (and who has a great blog about health and travel by the way:, years of experience + knowledge acquired from my sports-fanatic sons, and Voilà! I seem, after over a year, to be on the mend. I’d been anticipating an operation, so El Médano made sense. I was still registered with the doctors here, and familiar is best when you’re feeling less than best. It turned out to be a fortuitious move because faced with an emergency last December, treatment was swift and efficient.

Something else. The one thing which made me feel homesick when I was away was remembering my early morning runs along the beaches here. Ironically, there haven’t yet been that any of those on account of the knee. Curiously, I have never, in 28 years, ever really felt homesick for England.

El Cabezo El Médano

Over the last few months in this temporary apartment (arriving here in July I was lucky to find anything at all), between doctor’s consultations, struggling with writer’s block, visits to the vet, not to mention septicemia and respiratory problems, I’ve tried to figure out which road to take next. I unreservedly adore the stimulation of change, but perhaps I need a bolt hole too. Perhaps if I have that, I can concentrate better on the more stimulating stuff! I get more serious and better organized when I am settled. On the road, or being perched for imminent flight, it is far too easy to play my default game – procrastination.

Finally, I have sorted out in my own head the difference between the buzz of travel and that need for a nomadic existence, the urge to keep on moving. I don’t have the latter, at least I only have it up to a certain point, after a few months (usually, it turns out about 8) I become weary. So packing, unpacking, storing, downsizing and then rebuying no longer make sense.

Final word: this has nothing to with “age,” NO WAY do I intend to sit around and vegetate as I see so many folk of my age doing. It’s simply a rethink. I have no idea how it is going to work yet, so it’s a new adventure.

Playa principal El Médano

Next decision is where. La Gomera’s pull has been very strong. I was very happy there last year, and I adored the forests and valleys, the greenness and the magic, but my needs and whims are diverse. England? There is a certain attraction, a happiness in the collective memory, the having no need to explain things at times. There is having entertainment and the telephone company in my native language, but, let’s be honest, I’ve become a wimp when it comes to weather! Other places fulfill different needs. If only there was somewhere which could cater for them all!

End of the day I decide it’s El Médano. Here I can indulge most whims with very little disruption. Forests? An hour away. City? 40 minutes away. Beaches? On my doorstep. Good food? On my doorstep. Friends? Within easy reach. Where my sons feel at home? Here. Airport for emergencies? 10 minutes. Roads to connect to the rest of the island? 5 minutes. Ferries to the other islands? 15 minutes or 40 minutes. Places to run and walk, a doggie beach down the road. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Then there is the instinct. I like El Médano instinctively, without burdening my brain with the logic of it. So, as Beatriz turns the key I wait for the instinct to kick in – or not. Stay tuned!

Ice cream El Médano


When Home Isn’t Quite the Right Word: The Seeds of my Wanderlust

The pilot warns us to buckle up because we are on final approach, and I glance out of the window. This view, this is why I bagged a window seat. Ascending from the ripples of the Atlantic, swathed around its midriff by a drift of white clouds is Tenerife. My island. My home. From its core rises El Teide, darkly against ocean and clouds, guarding its terrain, chiding me for my absence.

I have to wonder sometimes why I roam. This island fulfils so many of my needs, not all, but then, I’ve come to the conclusion that nowhere ever can; or at least that my chances of finding my personal Shangri-La are diminishing with time. Yet the need to roam is in my blood, because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel this way. Another month and my feet will itch again. I know it.

Wanderlust fulfilled in the 70s in the South of France

Wanderlust fulfilled in the 70s in the South of France

I’ve tried to trace my longing back. Is it something I acquired or something with which I was born? I’m inclined to think the latter. There was a time when I blamed television. We got our first television set in 1953 for two reasons. One: Blackpool Football Club was playing in the FA Cup Final and Two: Queen Elizabeth ll’s Coronation was in June. That June I was six and a half years old, and long after the fun of dressing up as a princess, pretending to ride in a golden carriage had worn off, another image was still imprinted on my brain, a picture of a huge, snow-covered mountain towering into the blue heavens, and I wanted to see it in real life. The Coronation coincided with the first summit of Everest, and my imagination was on fire.

Over the next few years television fuelled the fire, Cisco Kid galloping free across the US west, David Attenborough in search of dragons, Flipper apparently happily surfing the warm waters of Florida, the team from Sea Quest exploring the ocean, Armand and Michaela Dennis getting up close with the exotic animals of Africa. I acted out scenes and invented more amongst the long grasses of the half of my granddad’s market garden that he didn’t cultivate. I think I ran just a little bit wild.

First coin in the fountain in 1967

First coin in the fountain in 1967

Third coin tossed to the gods of Trevi in 2004

Third coin tossed to the gods of Trevi in 2004

Not only TV but books egged me on Anne of Green Gables called me to Canada, the Swiss Family Robinson to live on a desert island in a tree house (still a dream that one!), Little Women hinted at life in the US (and left me with an undying curiosity about the American Civil War). At one point I decided to become a missionary, and have no doubt that had more to do with wanting to see Africa than any deep religious convictions; at another time, by contrast and inspired by our annual visit to Blackpool Tower Circus, I decided to run away and join a travelling show –the gypsy lifestyle had lots of appeal.

Dream come true carriage ride in Rome in 1967

Dream come true carriage ride in Rome in 1967

Into my teen years I watched TV and movies as much for the locations as for the plots or stars. In my mind I traveled to Paris and Rome with Audrey Hepburn, to the mountains of Austria with Julie Andrews, to Russia with Omar Sharif and to just about every state in the US. When my first chance to step onto foreign soil came I was ready.

Me and my several petticoats on the left

Me and my several petticoats on the left

That opportunity came by way of a school exchange to Solingen in the north of Germany. My parents must have scrimped and saved to let me go, and there was no money for a new suitcase, so I traveled with a heavy, old, brown leather one, which had been my dad’s. Strapped to the outside was my tennis racket. This girl was going to seize every opportunity that presented itself on this trip, and wasn’t going to miss a game of tennis because she didn’t have a racket! A little under an hour into the journey I realized my folly as I struggled over the bridge which connected platforms on Preston station, but happily this was back in the day when gentlemen still came to the rescue of a girl in distress, and it happened again as I plodded along the platform of a Tube station to change stations for the Dover train and the exotic. The time in Germany passed in a swirl of new tastes, scents, customs and sights. Travel was everything I dreamed it would be, despite turning green apparently (I have that on good authority and I certainly felt it!) on the Ostend ferry, and feeling gauche in my layered petticoats (all the rage in England, but not so much in Germany).

Solo to Germany at 18 and rocking the Jackie Kennedy look

Solo to Germany at 18 and rocking the Jackie Kennedy look

When it came to my first solo trip at 18 I was more than ready, I’d already lived it in my head over and over again. I was just on the cusp of when we used to “dress” to travel, so I bought a Jackie Kennedy hat and a neat suit, and thought I was the bee’s knees. I also missed my first opportunity to get bumped to first class because the flight was overbooked, and I was offered a flight to Cologne instead of Düsseldorf to where I was booked. What was I thinking???’

Emigrating came naturally to me. I read blogs about the pitfalls and the angsting and I don’t get it. It was simply long, long-term travel. Something I’ve learned about myself of late though it this. I am not a nomad. I can travel for months without feeling homesick, but there comes a point when I crave the familiar. I’m not sure that homesick is the right word, it’s a need for tranquillity and for people, rather than for place, but one has to store ones possession somewhere, and so I come back to the Canary Islands, and when I see the mountain rising from the seas it feels something like home.

The ultimate dream come true, riding the Orient Express which remains one of my best travel memories

The ultimate dream come true, riding the Orient Express which remains one of my best travel memories

Travel has changed one heck of a lot in the intervening years, even in the years since I became an “expat.” Now we dress for comfort, travel like sardines, at least on short haul and if we can’t afford better. I’ve stayed in five star hotels and grotty hostels. I’ve traveled light and I’ve traveled with the “kitchen sink.” I have yet to do a long boat trip, but I’ve done a couple in small Cessna. I’ve traveled with my family, with friends and solo. I’ve seen so much more of the world than my mom ever did, but already my sons have been to places I still yearn to see. Eating lunch in a sunny square in France the other day with a dear friend, one with whom I’d shared that first trip years ago, we mused about how we’d seen ourselves evolving back then. Would we have predicted how this moment in time would find us – both expats, and her journey having been even more exotic than mine? I realized then that the journey will never be done. There are so very many places still to see, experiences to share, tales to tell. I still haven’t seen Everest for a start.

The Orient Express took us to Venice. A never-to-be-forgotten trip.

The Orient Express took us to Venice. A never-to-be-forgotten trip 


A Sense of Place ….Or Not

A Sense of Belonging. Travelers often don’t need that, preferring to be the observer, not getting too familiar or too comfortable.

Then again, perhaps we are simply looking for a place which makes us feel that way. Perhaps once we’ve scratched the surface of a place, and find it isn’t what we’d hoped or thought,  we move on, hoping to find it on some far-flung shore. Some travelers need to be in constant motion, skipping over places, perhaps returning, but like a bee at a flower to move on again. And again. I’m nothing like the traveler that some friends or acquiantences are, but I am, and almost always have been, constantly restless, and curious about what’s over the horizon.

The road winds

The road winds

This is to say that I don’t know where I belong.

Continue reading


Travel and Challenges as Metaphors for Life: Birthday Musings

How come I didn’t write about my afternoon at the climbing wall in Kendal? Can’t for the life of my remember now. Perhaps I was overcome with shyness, perhaps I thought everyone would laugh? Afterall there were ten-year-old girls practically running up the wall I was so stoked to have climbed! I was hugely proud of myself, and even prouder that Austin was proud of me!

It taught me a lot. I know now why climbing books sell so well, why Joe Simpson and Andy Kirkpatrick are so avidly read. It isn’t all about the climbing, it’s because climbing is a metaphor for life. You don’t jump from the bottom of a mountain to the top. You take it painstaking step by painstaking step and it’s scary, and it’s hard work, and it’s an overwhelming buzz when you finally make it. Okay what I did wasn’t probably even the first rung of the ladder, but it was an inspiration!

Me at climbing wall

So is travel:  you have to plan, miss buses, wait for planes, put up with surly people, dirt, loneliness, boredom  but the good stuff makes it all worthwhile, like reaching the top of the mountain (or the climbing wall!) the buzz you get from experiencing new places, trying new foods, meeting new people, learning about different lifestyles, being overawed by the planet’s beauty is beyond words.

It seems to me that modern life just makes us so comfortable that we lose touch with “real” life, with actually living, experiencing life, instead we watch other people’s pathetic lives on reality tv, grab another ready-made meal and get drunk every weekend to forget how boring our lives are – at least a lot of people do that, and I am more than aware that I’m talking about those of us who are lucky enough to have been born into “western” society. Living a “real” life in Mumbai or the middle of the Sahel simply means surviving sometimes. I know that, and not that I mind my share of wine, nor a good movie, but we shouldn’t expect things to come to us easily.

We have to seek, work at/for, plan, and most of all challenge our perceptions (mostly of ourselves) if we want the buzz. We have to do that bit extra, go that bit farther, dream that bit bigger.

This is what I learned from “climbing,” and also from traveling. The traveling thing I was born knowing, but became more of a challenge in doing it on my own. I had to conquer shyness and my own self-doubts.

I’m very lucky to have two sons who encourage me. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be blogging now, and I would never have climbed the wall. I am incredibly grateful to them both for their inspirations.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I had my first surf lesson! I never got off my stomach, lying on the board and spent more time in the water than on the board I think! Unlike the climbing I doubt it’s something I will try again, but it still taught me things – if at first you don’t succeed try, try again for one! Even on my stomach for about a half a minute I finally “got it” – at least I think I did! That rush that comes when you feel as if you are flying over the water. Also, I hadn’t been for more than a gentle swim in quite a while, and I tend to get a bit nervous, unlike my sons, swimming never came naturally to me, so it was good to regain confidence.

Biggest lesson from yesterday, though? It was fun!!! I think with all the worries brought on by the recession and stuff, I’d forgotten what it was like to have pure fun! And it was good! Happy birthday to me!



My Travel ABCs

Thank you, Cathy of  for nominating me for this meander back to journeys past, and I have to say what a very pleasant experience it’s been.  The older you get, the more memories, obviously, some clouded by time and yet others fresh as the day they happened and the latter are, I guess, the ones I remember:

A.  Age you went on your first International trip:  I was fifteen. It was a school exchange trip to Sölingen in Germany. I had a big, old suitcase like something out of Agatha Christie, with a tennis racket strapped to the outside – how many black & white movies had I seen??? And it was train and ferry – pity the poor teachers in charge of a gaggle of teenage girls! I was thinking about it only the other day, and have a partly written post when I get time to finish it!

B.  Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:  According to knowledgeable friends, my taste in beer is pathetic (I actually like light, lager-type beers), but I do have a good memory of a wet, blustery and boozy afternoon and  “Black Velvet” – Guinness with champagne – in the Isle of Man off the coast off north west England some years ago.

C.  Cuisine:  Default response – Italian, even though I love Thai, French, Indian and sushi  – yep, even after consideration, it’s Italian, especially homemade with really fresh ingredients natch.

D.  Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:  Least favorite, Paris. Maybe expectations were too high, maybe because it was February (dreary month for northernEurope), maybe in wrong company – oh I had a good time, and I did enjoy it, but it simply didn’t “do it” for me the way I expected. Rome, on the other hand, twists itself around my heart more each time I return.

E.  Event you experienced which made you go Wow!: American Football game in London last year – 49ers vs Broncos – I had no idea it would be so exciting, so strategic. I’d had totally wrong idea about it! And the crowd control by the London Police afterwards was superb, and interesting in itself. I’d never been to a game in the US, so, even though I’d seen them on tv, I wasn’t prepared for all the razzle dazzle. Felt more like being in the US than the UK!
F.  Favorite mode of transportation: No contest – trains! I went on the Orient Express when it first re-launched in the 80s, and that may be the travel highlight of my life (I’d really have to give that a lot of thought before I said it for sure), but I love all trains, even the sardine-jammed one I took to Snowdonia in Wales in 2010 – I stood all the way from Chester, but the scenery was so wonderful I didn’t care. On the other hand, I do love road trips because you can stop whenever and wherever you choose, change your itinerary on a whim.
G.  Greatest feeling whilst travelling: Two feelings, and I can’t choose between them. One is the excitement/challenge of new places/experiences and the other is the utter freedom from routine. Sometimes when I’m travelling alone I love that, basically, no-one knows where I am at a precise moment.
H.  Hottest place you’ve travelled to:  Haven’t been anywhere exotic and hot, but experiencing heat in a city is different from being in the country or on the coast. I remember wilting inMadrid one July. It was as if the heat hit the concrete and then bounced back, having heated up some more. It was around 45ºC I think. Although summer in the Canary Islands isn’t as bad as some places (we always have an Atlantic breeze to cool things down in the evenings), I’m getting past enjoying it to be honest. I like sunshine and warmth but not so much the sticky.
I.  Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: This is going to be really corny, but I can’t think of anywhere with better service than Disney World. It’s partly what they’ve built their reputation on, isn’t it, so that’s not surprising. It’s not something most places inTenerife prioritize, which is one thing which lets the island down, I’m afraid.
J.  Journey that took you the longest:  Not a nice story really, but some years back we (as a family) were going fromManchester toMalaga, and very early that morning there was an accident atManchester airport.  As I recall a plane caught fire on takeoff, it wasn’t a crash as such, but the runway was closed and chaos ensued. It took us exactly 24 hours from door to door, which should have been four hours. We were bussed to a different airport, and travelling with two small children it wasn’t easy, but they were so good. I was so proud of them! They were clearly destined to travel!  In one way, it wasn’t a bad experience because everyone was so nice to each other, thinking, I suppose, “That could have been me.”
K.  Keepsakes from your travels:  I don’t have any, specific thing, but I usually like to get something small to remember a place, bookmarks, fridge magnets (yup I know!), books, and I like buying clothes when I travel. I don’t keep them forever, of course, but nice memories each time I wear whatever it is.
L.  Let down site. Where and Why?: You think I’m going to say the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame, because of what I said about Paris before, don’t you? But, no. I’m not sure I’ve ever been hugely let down by anything. Most busy tourist sights are busy and corny for a reason, because there is something amazing about them. However, returning to Rome after a 30 year gap I could have cried to see the hoards of tourists snapping away around the Trevi Fountain, somewhere which had been every bit as romantic as it was in the movies on my first visit.
M.  Moment you fell in love with travel:  I was in love with the idea of travel long before I set foot on foreign soil. As a kid I used to keep scrap books with pictures of other lands I intended to visit.
N.  Nicest hotel you’ve ever stayed in:  Poshest? The Gritti Palace inVenice.  We arrived at a small hotel/guest house which had been recommended by friends, to find it all locked up.  We glimpsed a lovely flower-filled courtyard through iron gates, and it looked absolutely charming, but the rest of my group didn’t want to wait for the owner to return, and one couple was especially “nouveau riche” so the Gritti it was. I wasn’t at all impressed in any way by it, except for the setting of course…..that was to-die-for.
O.  Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?:  I honestly can’t think of one, particular thing. I just like to try to record my impressions.
P.  Passport stamps? How many and where from?: Sad, sad, sad.  Only theUS andCanada outside ofEurope.  It’s not nearly so much fun travelling aroundEurope these days when we don’t get passports stamped.
Q.  Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?   Quirky is the word most often used to describe Gaudí! I’m a great admirer of his work, but it is rather, individual, I guess. No visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing a piece of his architecture.
R.  Recommended sight, event or experience: I think everyone should go to Carnival at least once in their life! Here in Santa Cruz de Tenerife we have the biggest one outside of Rio de Janeiro, and it is, quite simply,  the biggest street party you can imagine – and I’m not really a party-type person! I also went to the one in Nice,  which was quite different and equally as much fun in a totally different way. Still hope to get to Venice and to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, of course.
S.  Splurge – something you have no trouble forking out for when travelling?:  Food and drink, although in the past I’ve been  able to afford to splurge more, not so much these days.  It’s a huge part of the travel experience, even a sandwich in the park tastes different when you’re travelling.
T.  Touristy thing you’ve done: Disney World! I adore it!
U.  Unforgettable travel memory: Standing atop the Empire State building. Somewhere I’d seen so often in movies that it seemed as if I was in a dream, and the first time I saw the Teide National Park inTenerife almost took away my breath.  I’m living inTenerife now, but then it was like going to the moon.
V.  Visas – how many of them and for where: Same as the passport stamps. The current passport is pathetic.
W.  Wine, best glass while travelling and where: I suppose I have to say Dom Pèrignon on the Orient Express, sitting in a piano bar, all polished mahogany, sliding through the French countryside. Never to be forgotten, nor to be repeated!
X.  Excellent view and from where:  Whoa – hard! From top of the Empire State Building? The London Eye? St Peter’s Basilica? La Iglesia de la Concepción in La Laguna? Well, those sprawls of humanity are fascinating, yes, and I’d repeat any of them tomorrow, but the most breathtaking ever was only last year – driving up to the Teide National Park at sunset, my friend and I were simply stunned by this sunset, highlighting the “Mar de Nubes” (Ocean of Clouds), and the island of La Gomera rising on the horizon.
Y.  Years spent travelling:  Well, given that first school trip at 15 that makes a neat 50 years. Never been able to lead “nomadic existence” for more than two or three months, but I think it’s true to say that not many days of my life have passed without me dreaming of going somewhere or other.
Z.  Zealous Sports Fans and Where: I would say the London Marathon. My son, Guy, took part nearly two years ago now, and being there to watch was incredible. Afterwards we went to eat at a favorite place, and people stopped him to ask his time & how he’d done, and everywhere there were folk with T-shirts or medals or goodie bags. It was as if London had become a village for the day and everyone knew each other. Wonderful experience.

Phew – that was fun, drifting down memory lane a while, and now I nominate the folk below to do the same!

Okey, doke, now I’ve looked back at other posts with this theme, and I’m really not sure who began it, so a thanks to whomever it was, and thanks to Cathy for nominating me.  I’m also not sure who’s already done it. Looks like it’s being going around for a while, so here I’m tagging some random folk, and if you’ve already done it, or don’t have time, well just ignore I guess!

Katrina of

Andy and Jack from

Barbara from

Laurel from Expat in Germany

Lily from Sunshine  and Stilettos


The Penultimate Car Boot Sale

I swing my legs onto the floor, heavy and not ready to leave my cosy bed, but last night I’d sensibly put my alarm out of reach to make sure I would not back out this morning. I potter around the bathroom and whizz Trixy around the block, still trying to clear my head, and rid it of that fizzy, this-really-is-a-dream-not-real-life feeling.

I am amazed by how organized I was last night, leaving everything out and ready for 6am this morning.  I gather my stuff together, head down to the garage and back out my loaded-up car. I always drive with a window open, and the early morning air is cool and welcome. The streets are quiet, but there are lights on here and there in windows around the town. I wonder why.  Are they people on shift work?  This area, of course, has a lot of shift workers. Are they folk going on vacation, returning home on an early flight? Have they partied all night, or is someone ill or in labor perhaps? I pull in for gas before I hit the motorway.  I’m surprised that there are female pump attendants at this dark hour, then I realize that the gas station is right next to the Farmers’ Market, where vehicles are pulling in already, laden with goods. Must be a busy day for this gas station.

My own goods are of another variety.  A part of my life sits in the back of my car, and I’m on my way to sell it off.

On the motorway there is more life around.  I take it easy so as not to break any of my cargo. I reach the car boot sale site, and tuck, patiently into the cue.  The sky is already beginning to lighten.  Thank goodness for gaining the hour last weekend, even though this is the first time doing this that I’ve ever remembered my torch! I shake my head.  I always think that “next time” I will rouse myself earlier to get a better pitch, but I never do.

It’s been 9 years since I started doing this, and I wonder that it would have been much easier to have got rid of everything at the beginning, when my nest emptied. Nine years ago I didn’t know so much, but I would have gotten better prices, but it’s hard to learn to let go.  These days everyone and their kid brother is selling stuff, either because they have to, or because it’s simply fashionable to downsize. Letting go are buzz words.

What I know now about this process is that it’s easy at the beginning, but now it’s getting hard.  Now I’m offloading stuff I’ve been thinking twice about in the past, it’s not like the early de-cluttering.

Guaza’s rastro is unusually quiet today.  Normally, a very international hoard of traders zoom in as you unload, vying to get the best price first, so that they can fill their own stalls at the beginning of the market with the goods they’ve bought doubly cheaply from those of us too lazy to sleep in our cars to get a prime spot, or rouse ourselves from sleep even earlier than 6am.  Arriving at 7, it’s late, and, as usual, I’m at the back.

Today there are only two or three traders, and then I remember that it’s a Muslim holiday, Tabaski (or the Feast of Abraham or Eid al Adha or any of its other numerous names).  Many of these traders come from the north of Africa, and I muse on life’s curious circumstances, which brought some of these people to the shores of the Canary Islands  in search of prosperity, and which now finds them trading on the downfall of Europeans selling off their possessions to make ends meet. There is a certain poetry there.

I clearly remember the first time I did this, nervous, naive, overwhelmed and not a little embarrassed.  I came from a family where, although we were by no means well-off, it was considered uncouth to talk about money, falling on hard times or any of the things which today make up the better part of our conversations and news coverage.

The moment my nest emptied my house went up for sale, granted, it was partly necessity and partly a desire to begin a new phase in my life.  In the end, in my struggle to create newness, I offered my furniture to a local Lyons Club, which was, apparently, even back in 2002, so inundated with offers that they could only just be bothered to take barely a quarter of it.  I stacked it all in the garage, left the door unlocked  and told them they could return to take whatever they wanted.  If only I’d known then the folk I know now, who could have found homes for my castoffs! I assume that the new owners disposed of the rest.  Since these purchasers messed me about for the 3 months which Spanish law allowed them to complete on their purchase after the due completion date I felt no remorse about shoving that onus on them.

This morning there is no embarrassment, whilst I’m not a regular by standards here, I feel as if I know my way around, and my choice stuff is stowed away, out of sight in the front of my car, to be produced later,  as I pull the rest from the boot.  The sky begins to streak with its morning pinks and turquoises, and for once I have time to open my flask of coffee before the bartering commences.

It’s a slow day, a professional seeker of antique-y bargains, a handful of traders and not much else as day begins to dawn.  As the sun creeps over the hillside opposite people arrive gradually.  The scene reminds me of a scene from “Oliver,” “Who Will Buy This Beautiful Morning”  – folk arrive in dribs and drabs until the passageway is a chatter of humanity, a cross-section of the world, here in this small space allotted for commerce of the common folk.

The seeker of antique-y bargains buys my Spode, Shakespeare plate, and I hope that the research I did on its value was right, that I’m not giving away a fortune here.  It’s not that I’m inordinately fond of the plate, nor that it has any particular memories for me, just that I’d kept it, hoping that it might be of some value.  eBay said it wasn’t, and the bargain-hunter has a profit to turn too.

For a short while the emerging sun dazzles and I curse forgetting to plaster on some sunscreen, but it’s short-lived, and the clouds close in. That’s good for us sellers. A hot day here is like being stranded in the desert, without sunscreen you burn and the dust clogs mouth and eyes.

Back when I first did this, it was well worth it, but now I wonder.  Each time I come it’s evident that times are getting ever harder.  It’s isn’t just the recession, I realize that with cheap Asian goods flooding the market certain second-hand goods have no value at all, and others far less. Even if a scarcely-worn shirt bears the label Lacoste, to the average patron of this event a brand-new one from the Chinese shop is preferable.  I am tempted to snatch back the kaftan that I bought in Busch Gardens six years ago, but never wore, as a fat woman clutches it to her ample bosom.  I was saving it for something, sometime, which never arrived. Tonight the fat woman will enjoy its unconstricted freedom as she slouches in front of her television.

I wonder how come I acquired all this “stuff”, this stuff I never used, didn’t need.  I feel guilty about my materialism. I like nice things.  I like good quality things, but …. things which are surplus to requirements, put away for rainy days which never come? I content myself in thinking that if we stopped buying junk then there would be an awful lot of people out of work, we can’t all lead creative and rewarding lives, but we can create demand, which builds factories and sweat shops in China and the Philippines, and then, in discarding our possessions we provide income for others in the reselling of them.

The day rolls on, the better stuff comes out from hiding, there is joking and bargaining, chatting with fellow sellers and when the snowbirds begin to arrive I sell some books and cds.  The snowbirds have arrived back on the island over the last few weeks.  They aren’t all super-rich people with second homes, some scrape by in order to escape the effects of the damp and cold on their various ailments, and they are regulars here.  They are the only ones who buy books, even in Spanish.  I summer I never sell books.

I close my eyes and listen. …..Spanish, English, French, Wolof, Arabic, German and something East European I can’t name Romanian? Russian? Never Chinese, you never see Chinese people here. I guess they don’t need second-hand stuff. Imagine how cheap pots and pans are at wholesale price, they’re cheap enough at retail in their shops.

Candlesticks, fruit bowls, a tray, glass jars, a set of screwdrivers (how did I ever end up with so many screwdrivers?!), a couple of throws and an unused duvet, a pair of hiking boots and a worn suitcase, a couple of pictures and my IKEA kitchen unit – that’s a relief, didn’t fancy taking that back home, and there is no room for it in my new apartment. My pitch is beginning to look quite empty, and I spread out the books to fill space.  It’s 11.30 and my neighbor has had enough. He packs his stuff away, but can’t move his car yet, so he wanders off.

I pick up my book, and the next, slow hour mostly I pass in reading.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of reading this last week, much of which has been spent trying to get round bureaucracy, or waiting to try to get round bureaucracy at least. It’s normal around here.

An hour passes, dust rises as cars begin to move off.  This is the good thing about being at the back, those at the front must have a long wait to pack up. My pockets bulge with change.  That’s another thing.  Few people these days ask you to change a note, payment comes in coins, which jangle and weigh down my trousers. It’s time to go.

For me it’s a slow, hard road, this de-junking.  I mourn a little for the pretty, white porcelain fruit bowl I let go.  Shaped like a daisy, its companion cake stand broken years back, it never “went” in any of the several homes I’ve had since 1997 when I bought it, but I always thought that one day there would be the right place.  And maybe that’s what this is about, about not waiting for that time in the future when something will fit, but chucking out what doesn’t fit now, to live more comfortably in the moment.  Like Jack Nicholson said, “Maybe this is as good as it gets.”

My quest, long before I’d ever heard of a travel blog, fueled by books like Rolf Potts’ brilliant “Vagabonding”  (which Amazon confirms I bought in 2003, not long after it was published) was to whittle my possessions down to free me up to travel.  When my time came though, I’d procrastinated about so much stuff that in 2004 I had to put my gear in storage, and get away. Finally, 7 years on, after returning to the island I thought I was leaving behind, dead-end jobs, unemployment, several car boot sales and some life-changing experiences later I’m finally there.  What is left now is either needed or I simply won’t let go. The Christmas cards my kids made when they were little, presents they gave me, and, of course, box upon box of photos, and my books.  At last I realize that I am no less an aficionada of travel for being the owner of a certain amount of possessions, not everyone is able to fit their entire world into a backpack, and that travel takes many different forms.   In fact, I could say that yesterday the world came to me.


Why Travel?

I’ve been home now for around 20 hours, and this is my suitcase.  It’s still where I plonked it yesterday, before I rushed off to collect Trixy when I arrived back from a three-week trip.  Am I, I wonder, reluctant to unpack it because it means the trip is over, and I need to get real again, or am I just lazy?

I’m opting for the former because I rushed around this morning paying bills and doing banking and shopping, I set the alarm and I walked along the beach with Trix, so I don’t think it’s laziness.  I’m inclined to think that I don’t want to get back into a routine.

I know this question – why travel? – is one which is constantly on our minds, and I know that probably there are at least as many opinions as there are travel bloggers (and let’s not forget that not all travellers blog!).  It’s a question which has been on my mind throughout this short trip, possibly because on the one hand I’ve had very little opportunity to travel in recent years, and on the other because when I realized that was going to be the case, towards the end of 2009, I made up my mind to take my travel attitude and apply it to the life around me.  That was a good move.  It brought me opportunities, contacts, and experiences I might have otherwise missed.

The river Guadalquivir in Sevilla, Spain

Travel brings us contrasts and comparisons, which wake up our senses and bring us out of any inertia into which the daily grind might have sunk us. In three, short weeks I took in so many different vibes; from the charm and elegance of Sevilla (in a heat wave!) to the sturdy and handsome history of York (in a finger-freezing cold snap!).

Lendal Bridge, York, England

I went from the chaos of cities like London and Barcelona to the peace of the English Lake District.

Parque Güell, Barcelona, Spain

My trip wasn’t just about seeing and doing, but also catching up with family. I’m lucky that my family lives in interesting places I guess, but one thing which occurred to me over the days I was in York and the Lake District was how little I know of places I’ve visited so often, which just re-enforces my idea that our minds should always be open to new ideas and experiences wherever we are, and however long we may have known a place.

“Interesting places” said, I truly believe that there are things of interest everywhere you go, it’s just that there are times when you have to scratch the surface of a place to find what’s underneath.

London’s marvelous Kew Gardens – my “new discovery” on this visit to the city.

Travel isn’t just about seeing something and ticking it off a list, but equally you can gain something from even a short trip. A weekend away or a day trip can qualify as travel if you approach it with an open mind; if you don’t try to do it all.For me it’s better to concentrate on one aspect or one theme, and acquire some in-depth feeling for the place.  It might turn out to be that you don’t like whatever theme you chose, or that you don’t like the place, but you will have experienced and learned.

Grasmere, English Lake District

I learned that even in the Lake District, a place I’ve known (and, of course, loved) since I was 11 years old, there is still so much I haven’t seen or known. I was unexpectedly stuck there for four or five weeks a couple of years back, in a post-Christmas January blighted by freezing rain and the darkest midday skies you can imagine – definitely not sight-seeing weather, not even for gentle drives – unless there is a purpose!  I found mine in the local bookstore (now a Waterstones) in Kendal center.  Dripping my way along the shelves in search of books to pass away the time I came across a biography of William Wordsworth, one of my favorite poets since my school days.  It was a nice, chunky book to fill my time, but it proved to be a gateway to new experience too.  Feet up on my dad’s sofa, I found myself in a world so much more interesting than I remembered from school.  It lead me to re-visit Grasmere and Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived and wrote some memorable masterpieces.  I knew Grasmere quite well, as a point from which to end or begin a hike, and I’d been to Dove Cottage twice previously, but I found myself looking at it all with new eyes in light of what I read. The other thing was that I remember a lot of what I read much more clearly because I visited places which re-enforced my reading, and visiting those places meant so much more because I could fit my newly-acquired knowledge to them. Even now, almost six years on, it stands out as a memory of a great visit, which could have been so much different given the weather!

Personally,  it’s exhilarating not to be in a routine too.  I know that isn’t for everyone, but I love to wake up in the morning and take a minute to figure out where I am.  I avoid routine wherever possible, but a certain amount is forced on us by circumstance, even if we aren’t slaving away at the 9 to 5.  By the same token I find myself missing somethings about my routine. I missed Trixy and our walks enormously this time, and since I started to exercise seriously (yep ….kept that one quiet, didn’t I?!) I missed the daily challenge too. Fact is it’s kind of nice to miss things.  It’s nice to have something to miss.  Would I adapt to a life of constant travel? Not sure, but I doubt it, though I certainly don’t need to feel secure in one place all the time either.

Weeping willows in Guildford – last year’s new discovery.

At the end of the day, I go back to one of my first remarks – there are as many reasons as there are travellers, and probably our reason this trip may be different from the reason we have next trip, for those of us who are not in constant motion. Whatever the “excuse” I can say that the end result is what I seek. Sitting at my desk now I feel as if my brain has taken a cold shower and emerged fresh and stimulated for whatever lies ahead. What I want is for this feeling to last (forever if possible).  You know how daredevils say that they never feel more alive than in a moment when they face death?  Well, that’s how travel makes me feel, more alive.


Musings on a Movie, a Book, Travel and Being Judgmental

I did two things yesterday which are rattling around in my head still today.

One: I finally caught up with the movie “Summer of Sam,” which I definitely would have seen before now had I understood what it was about. As it was, I still wasn’t good enough at speaking Spanish to see it at the cinema when it was released in 1999, but that said,  I thought it was more to do with the mind of Dave Berkowitz than being a moral tale about the dangers of judging others by their appearance. The message was clear, not veiled, although the tale was woven so that we weren’t sure until the end just what connected the characters to that summer of fear and murder in 1977.

It’s a moral so clear and obvious that I can only wonder that it still needs to be told in the 21st century.

Then I logged onto Facebook when I got home, to find a friend of a friend referring to Los Indignados as “hippies” in a tone which was clearly critical and carried the message that hippies were inferior in any event, and this person considered themselves to be above that type of person.

Firstly, Los Indignados are not “hippies.” Sure, there may some amongst their number who have long hair and a fondness for gypsy skirts or baggy pants, but they are, and it is a well-known fact, a very broad cross-section of the Spanish public, many of whom are suffering as a result of the current recession, and who are protesting the lethargy with which their government addressed the situation. Like most people in the “civilized” world they feel betrayed by those in power, the bankers and politicians, who have left them helpless in the pursuit of their own greed. This movement has been notable for the lack of violence or other such problems on their marches and camps throughout Spain since the spring.

Secondly, hippies – judging the book by its cover again? I have friends who might be called “hippy.” I’ve been with some of them when they worked 24 hour shifts to help those in need, and I know someone who is giving away everything he has to live a “hippy” lifestyle and help others instead of sit on a terrace drinking gin all day, which he might well have chosen to do in this climate. I also have friends who are comfortably off. They have worked hard for what they have, and deserve to enjoy it. The fact that they don’t give their all to others doesn’t make them bad people. They give in their own way. They aren’t greedy or flash with their wealth, or judgemental or inconsiderate of others. Neither of these “types” should be judged by their outward appearance.

Let’s face it, if Warren Buffet or Bill Gates hadn’t stored up wealth in their younger days, they wouldn’t be able to do the great work for those in need they now do.

The second thing I did was to finish Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.” Half way through the book my attention had wandered a bit, and I wondered why I was reading it, but by the end the message had come together, just as the film did, and the messages are not unconnected, even the same in some ways.

Christopher McCandless, the subject of the book, was derided after Krakauer’s article about him and his death in the wilds of Alaska appeared in “Outside” magazine in 1992, derided for being a dreamer and for wandering unprepared into the wilderness. I see “Into the Wild” as Krakauer’s way of putting the record straight. He investigated further and in-depth, and had full co-operation from McCandless’s family, which must have been a very painful process for them, and what emerged was a portrait of, yes, a dreamer, but also a kid with a true spirit of adventure, who probably had a far better grip on real life than most of the rest of us. The passage below is taken from a letter McCandless wrote to a friend, which is quoted in full in the book:

“…….I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, ….you must lose your inclination of monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. An so,…..get out of ….. and hit the Road. I guarantee you will be very glad you did. ……………………Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time……and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.”

I know that passage will ring lots of bells with those of you who read my blog, but let’s also be clear that it isn’t the only way to live, either. Some people just aren’t cut out for this kind of life. The important thing for them is not to get so bogged down by the limits of their actual world that they cannot understand others. That’s not hard these days with books, tv, movies and the internet to keep us up to date with other lives the world over. I’ve known folk who haven’t travelled that much, but who know more about countries/people/places/traditions/religions/whatever than other folk I’ve known who scuttle around the world, “protected” from new/stimulating/exciting/educational experiences by their own shells, which they hump round with them, retreating like the tortoise if anything threatens the security of that comfort zone.

For me, I agree with almost every quote I’ve ever read about travel broadening the mind, stimulating the soul and teaching us to live in harmony with others, but we should remember that there are more ways than one to achieve those things.


My 7 Links

I’m always taken by surprise when I get recognition of any kind whatsoever for this blog, so when Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut invited me to participate in the 7 Links exercise initiated by Tripbase  my first reaction, after seeing the list of other participants, was sheer panic.  Some of these names are legendary in travel blogging circles, and I know I’m just an amateur in comparison!  However, either I’m a blogger or I’m not, and I do keep harping on about taking this blog to the next level, so maybe this will give me a push!  The aim, after all, to quote Tripbase, is  “To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.”  So here is my two centsworth:

1.  My Most Beautiful Post

This was by far the easiest.  My favorite time of year on Tenerife is almond blossom time.  I think, even in the last 6 months since I posted this, I have learned more about photography and presenting photos, but this was this year’s almond blossom post.

2.  My Most Popular Post

This one was easy too, that’s because I was lucky enough to be Freshly Pressed by WordPress, so I didn’t have to go count stats to find out!  I wrote Subtropical Snow after a visit to the mountains in March.

3. My Most Controversial Post

This one took most researching back on, and I found that I haven’t really had any negative feedback when I’ve said critical things, although I know that some Canarian people read my blog.  In one way it’s a shame.  The thing I am most critical of is the accumulation of rubbish in various places around the this beautiful island.  In this post about a tour of historical sites, including the place where Horatio Nelson lost his arm,  I deliberately courted a reaction, but got none, so I can only say that I attempted to be controversial!

4.  My Most Helpful Post

I’ve yet to finish a series of posts about my steps in becoming an expat, this one was the first, about things you should consider before upping and leaving, and although there are only two comments on the post itself I got lots of feedback from Facebook and Twitter.

5. The Post Whose Success Surprised Me Most…..

…..was this one.  It’s quite personal.  At this stage I was really still writing at people I knew, albeit they were spread throughout the world, and in another sense it is my first “real” blog post.  It was “…the fork stuck in the road,” and re-reading it makes me realize how far I have come in life’s proper journey.

6.  The Most Which Didn’t Get the Attention I Thought it Deserved

A post I did for World Environment Day.  About rubbish – again.  Why does nobody care about how we are messing up the planet?  You know, just for the sake of having something nice to look at instead of a beach full of cans and plastic bags?

7.  The Post of which I am Most Proud

I chose this one because for once I was happy with my writing and because it’s about my sons as well as about the island.

A big thank you to Barbara and to Tripbase because it was interesting going back over posts, and realizing how I and my life has changed over the time I began blogging.

Now to figure out who to nominate because so many blogs I follow are already on the list!

Cathy of Travelling with Sweeney                                                                                             Zoe of The Quirky Traveller                                                                                                       Andy and Jack of Buzztrips                                                                                                       Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid