Saturday, January 28, 2006

English thug beats up innocent Canarian!

Oh my God! I am sooo ashamed. Having been delighted and impressed by the altruism of our island hosts, in my last post, it grieves me to report that it is one of my own who has shattered this cosy state of affairs.

The picture on the right shows the English thug in question, eight years old (should know better), Spike has had tolerance issues since he was a mere kitten. Perhaps it was the London streets where he was born, or the suburban green belt where he spent his formulative years, stalking sparrows and baiting the neighbourhood dogs… but Spike has always been a scrapper. And since coming to the Canary Islands, he has not improved. In Lanzarote, our neighbours called him Tarzan. Here in Tenerife they don’t call him at all. In fact dog walkers cross the road to avoid him: he likes calmly to sit on the wall and look contemptuously down at their pets, while they furiously bark back at him. Forget horse whispering, this cat has an uncanny, telepathic connection with dogs... he can piss them off with just a swish of his tail.

This time, his victim was a sweet, small, black and white puddy tat who only came to borrow something from our dustbin. The local cats are smaller than their English cousins and generally quite timid. Cuffed around the ear by Spike, the poor little thing was off like a shot, and never to be seen again. The aggressor sauntered back into the house and curled up on the sofa to continue his afternoon nap, as if nothing had happened. No shame. No apology.

Brutal, huh?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Gofiosfera

Well, I’m really chuffed this evening. This blog now officially exists in the ‘Gofiosfera’… er, I suppose we’d call it the ‘Gofiosphere’… but perhaps a more detailed explanation is required.

Gofio is sort of flour made from toasted cereal that was originally used by the Guanche people (who came to Tenerife even before the tourists) as a staple in their cooking. It is still used in local cuisine, flavoured with stock and herbs and stuff.

So the Gofiosfera is the Canarian blogosphere, an expanding community of bloggers from Tenerife, Gran Canaria, la Palma, el Hierro, la Gomera, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. And the reason why I’m chuffed is because they have been so generous as to include this blog, in which there is hardly a word of Spanish scribbled. And I didn't even have to beg. How nice of them!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Raining in Tenerife

It’s not supposed to rain in the Canaries. These are islands blessed with year round sun… or at least that’s what I write continuously in all the articles that I churn out in my real life, daytime incarnation. The truth is, though, it rains every year around this time. And every year, expats and Canarians alike are all equally surprised. Here in the south of Tenerife, we are more ill prepared than the North, where rain is comparably frequent. Our houses are not built to be waterproof. From the oldest ‘casa terrera’, to the newest concrete marvel, water floods through every roof. Our roads are not drained. Every dip means, quite literally a dip! We have a tendency to build new housing developments in dried up riverbeds, only to be surprised when they suddenly fill up with water. Oh it’s all such fun!

And then there’s the annual game we play with the tourists:

Tourist (looking at sky, dismayed and surprised): “Does it normally rain here?”

Resident (accusing expression): “No, never. You must have brought it with you.”

Tourist (crestfallen and guilty, meekly replies): “Oh… sorry.”

Oh how we love to play with their minds.

And now I think about tourists and rain, I have to note that they’re a curious bunch. They lie on the beach in their swimming togs. It rains. They all run off the beach, shielding themselves from the rain with their towels. Are they not wearing waterproof swimming costumes? Strange.

Personally, I rather appreciate the rain. I have lived on the Islands for five or six years, so I don’t mind the change in climate at all. And it gives my increasingly decrepit car an annual wash. Inside and out. Because of course, like everything here, the roof leaks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Scribbles from Tenerife: A new slogan!!

Having read that “RogueState: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower” has shot from the sub 200,000th region up to the top 50 best sellers on Amazon Books because Osama Bin Laden said it’s a decent read, I have been toying with promoting this blog through such celebrity endorsement.

Totting up my earnings from google adsense (almost $4.00), I realise that most celebrities may be a little out of my budget. Furthermore, the lack of political conviction, calls to jihad and fundamentalist fervour expressed in this blog is unlikely to attract the attention of Osama… so I have to look for a new angle on this. Clearly, I am not going to get away with a claim like “Bin Laden reads Scribbles from Tenerife”. I don’t think Tenerife is high on his list of favourite holiday destinations. (Hmmm… come to think of it, you never know! After all, they did unearth a Croatian war criminal here the other week! Note to self: pay closer attention to people’s faces on the street, there are some large rewards to be had!) Also, admirers of the aforementioned Mr Bin Laden are not necessarily going to take kindly to being faced with my mindless drivel when they were hoping for a healthy bit of anti-American fanaticism.

After some intense deliberation whilst supping my coffee this morning, I have finally cracked it! I will use George Bush. As far as I can see, on the net, Bush is the singularly most unpopular character in the known world at the moment. Therefore, it seems to me that there is a lot of kudos to be gained by saying, (small trumpet fanfare, if you please)…

“George Bush does NOT read Scribbles from Tenerife”

In this way, I should be able to attract the anti-Bush contingent (about 90% of the population), and yet avoid the potential fatwa that the Bin Laden claim may have encouraged. So there it is. My blog now has a slogan. I can sit back, watch the hit counter go ballistic and the google gold roll in.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Tenerife: South vs North

Like many countries and Islands, Tenerife has a north – south divide. In this case it's separated by Spain’s highest and most imposing mountain: Teide.

The south has better weather, more sunny days: a warmer climate and less rain. Consequently, the south is where the tourists flock in greater numbers. Tourist towns cling to the southern coastline, concrete complexes populated by pink people smothered in suntan lotions. Full English breakfasts and burgers jostle with Chinese ‘eat as much as you want’ buffets and fish ‘n’ chips. A stroll along southern promenades is interrupted by timeshare touts desperately scratching together their commission by proffering ‘prize winning’ scratch-cards to anyone they can find with a visa card. The predominant language is English with a smattering of German and Dutch. The ‘lookie-lookie’ men speak all three as they work the restaurant tables with their Arnani sunglasses and Ropex watches. Bazaars overflow with Moroccan leather and ‘lovely jubbly’ salesmen, the perfect place to pick up your Praba handbag for less than €20. And weaving drunkenly through it all, the package holiday bar crawlers shout their ‘ogi ogi ogi’s’ to numbed bartenders till the sun rises and the fun starts again.

But now in the south, the winds of change are blowing. The timeshare crimelords no longer dominate the local economy, superseded by slick estate agents and corporate business. Five star hotels are springing up, with private security firms to keep the touts and hawkers at bay. Manicured stretches of promenade replace the battered beachfronts. New shopping centres boast retail outlets where products spell their designer names in more conventional ways than their predecessors used to. Restaurants serve foie gras instead of fry ups… Tenerife has even made the Times, who call it the ‘makeover island’… a far cry from the articles of yore that were found exclusively in the gutter press. The south is crawling out of that gutter.

While this metamorphosis is overtaking the south of island, the north remains immune to such evolution. Originally settled by the Spanish back in the days when the island was the trading stop-over from the new world, a completely different atmosphere pervades these more fertile and verdant slopes. Rain brings life to this region, vines bear grapes that produce the island’s wines, farms flourish with fresh produce. The original settlers were not sun seeking tourists, but real people who survived and prospered. They are still alive in the architecture they leave and in the faces of their descendants. The character of the towns and cities in the north is much more genteel, more sophisticated. Not for them are the foibles of fashion that remould the south. These towns were the original tourist destinations, but not for the charter masses of today. This was the exclusive getaway for an affluent Victorian to winter. Here, there is tradition, stability… ah but no, I speak of the past. Here is tragedy. Here the process of modernisation is not one of improvement. The old fincas are making way to housing developments and the unrelenting process of urbanisation has blurred the borders of towns and villages until it is all becoming one suburban sprawl. The old are nostalgic and the young are full of property price rises and investment opportunities.

But, ever the optimist, I know that this desecration cannot last. Like the rape of the environment in the south, there must be a reversal, a rethink. Soon must come a time when the value of the north’s inheritance will be realised, and as in the south, change will be for the better. And when it happens, I have every confidence that the north will reclaim its pride and splendour, and once again will become the envy of the Canary Islands. Until that time, the north still has many, many treasures to offer those who are inclined to look for them. And for those without the time or motivation to explore, then the south can pamper and cosset in multi-starred luxury… and maybe even flog you a genuine Chamel pair of shoes.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

How to give up smoking in Tenerife

I have developed a general health strategy for 2006. Having smoked my last cigarette at 11:59:59 pm on New Year’s Eve, I have spent the year, so far, trying my hardest to deal with my frequent cravings for the evil weed. And Tenerife is no easy place to give up: everybody here smokes. Unlike the UK, where the cost of a carton of cigarettes is equivalent to a small family car, here it is possible to pick up 200 smokes for next to nothing. So there has been no local financial incentive to quit the habit. Indeed, in the Canary Islands, it is nicotine patches that are extortionate.

So as my wife puffs a cigarette after her leftover turkey sandwich, I am still struggling with my own cold turkey as pangs of nicotine desire coarse through my every fibre. Fortunately I have found a method of dealing with it. I eat. I eat constantly, and I cannot stop eating. Because if I do stop, then I will get the ‘after meal’ craving for a smoke. So my solution is to never reach the end of a meal, at least until the cravings stop. January will be one, long lunch.

I have been told that the nicotine cravings should stop by the end of this month. By which time, I estimate that I will weigh about the same as a small hippopotamus. And this is where the second stage of my 2006 health strategy will kick in. My plan for February will be to kick the eating habit and lose weight. My sister in law reliably informs me that wine will assist in breaking down fat, and indeed a constant state of inebriation is a great way to not be in the mood to eat. Therefore my intention is to survive on a predominately liquid diet to sustain me through the month.

In March my plan is to beat the alcoholism that I will undoubtedly be a victim of. I have yet to research this thoroughly, but I understand that the regular use of intravenous class ‘A’ drugs tends to diminish alcohol dependency.

April will be a challenging month, of course, and at this point my research reaches its limits. I don’t doubt that there will be an adequate substitute for whatever class ‘A’ drug I will have become addicted to, but even if there isn’t… hey, who cares? I will have managed to give up smoking.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Cheers! Ziveli! Salud!

Multiculturalism is great, but a real strain on both the brain and the liver. It’s 14th January, and therefore New Year’s day according to my wife, who’s roots wander back to Eastern Europe. Still running on the Julian calendar, she celebrated the orthodox Christmas on 7th January. The day previously, the 6th, we naturally bowed to local Tenerife (and Spanish) custom, by observing the fiesta of Three Kings Day. We had barely recovered from the Gregorian New year’s day on the 1st of January… or rather the excesses of the 31st. And of course there was the traditional Christmas and boxing day on the 25th and 26th of December.

So between the period from, say Christmas Eve (the ‘normal’ one on the 24th), till now … just 3 weeks… we have managed to empty over 25 bottles of wine (including a few Cavas and Champagnes), 2 bottles of Vodka, 2 Baileys, 2 Brandy, half a bottle of Scotch and half a bottle of Arehucas (local rum). Oh yes and a heap of beer, and a bottle of Amaretto. That’s the (rather diligent) work of three adults – my wife, her sister and I. And that still doesn’t really cover it, because we have been out to meals and sunk wines and liqueurs at each one, we’ve been out dancing (innumerable vodka redbulls), and we’ve propped up the odd bar every now and then. We have been thoroughly marinated.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not boasting. Calculating this lot is quite frankly, shocking. I am eagerly awaiting the teetotal period that can legitimately start tomorrow. No more fiestas with compulsory drinking until… well I’m not that sure, but for a while at least. And with that in mind, I am off down to the supermarcado for a couple more bottles of wine in order to toast on the Julian year and the impending dry patch!