Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Then there were five

There are five bantam chicks; no bigger ones, though. Those did not hatch. All five are doing well. Daddy - the human one - tends them assiduously. Mummy - the chicken sort - does likewise. Granny - she is not their mummy - will take some pictures when she can. Beloved borrowed her camera a while back, and threw away the rechargeable batteries. 'You never told me they were rechargeable,' he says. 'Oh yes I did. I said you'd have to wait while I charged them, or use some others.' Granny says. She is still waiting for the replacements. She will get them, never fear and then you will see the five balls of fluff, two of them striped. Cheep cheep cheep they go. Oh the pretties.

The Ley de Costas saga continues. Mr Jonah succeeded in nobbling the MP for the island; he will ask questions in the parliament in Madrid. And once again there is some doubt whether the law applies to merely 20 metres from the sea, in this case, rather than 100. If so, Beloved's house at least is clear. Which is no comfort whatever to all the other poor buggers with property inside the 20 metres. What a gas.

Meantime the fight against corrupt building, in general, is getting under way at last in Spain, sparked by this, seemingly. Oh the delight of it: Putin complaining about the attacks on Russia for not living up to European democratic standards, given the scandals around Spanish town halls. We know all about those here, don't we? Today they say 100,000 illegal homes will be knocked down in Andalucia; buying them in good faith is no excuse; people should always check the records before they buy. Of course lawyers are supposed to do all that. But as we know - I know - Spanish lawyers don't. Not sure what that will do for Beloved's case. We shall see.

To work. See you later, alligators. 'Sta luego' as they say here. Good night, sweet dreams, or a very good morning to you.

Friday, October 27, 2006

we are parents!!

Yes, well, Granny need not have worried. Nor, despite his frequent agitated inspections of the labour ward, need the anxious father (Beloved she means, not the cock.) By lunchtime today, four - at least - bantam chicks were chirping away in the bantam coop. There may be more by tomorrow. The hen, Amina, is still sitting rather than eating, meaning there are still unhatched eggs under her- the hens' eggs judging by the size of the present chicks. Those eggs were put in last so would hatch last.

The only problem was that the bantam cockerel, Rocky, then had to be removed from the nursery; even if he didn't eat the chicks he'd be more than likely to trample them once they leave the nest. Enticing him out with food was easy. Getting him into his newly prepared bachelor pad was not. Beloved was to be seen, arms outstretched, knees bent, chasing him round the terrace - it reminded Granny of nothing so much as the pictures on the old Cerebos salt packets of idiots trying to catch bird by salting their tails. Beloved is not an idiot (mostly). But he might as well have been for all the success he had - with or without the salt. Some tail feathers flew here and there; the bird squawked indignantly, ran hither and thither, wings out, giving that alarm call which is exactly the same as the call hens give when they've laid ("Clook-clook-clook what I've done."). Beloved tried throwing a towel over him; still without success. Granny said, not altogether seriously: 'Why not try a fishing-net?' Beloved didn't hear her; he'd already gone back into the house. Guess what he reappeared with? Catch butterflies or fish, he might have done, he has done before now with that same green net. But the by now furious bantam cock was not going to add himself to Beloved's list of conquests. Never mind, friends, the sight of them, Beloved with his net behind, squawking cockerel ahead, was not one Granny would have missed for anything. Particularly when both dogs and the cat appeared and joined in. Beloved did not know who to yell at.

Granny took pity on him in the end. Between them, she and Beloved edged the bird towards the new coop; with no other means of escape he jumped up into it. Granny shut the door and that was that. Poor wifeless bird. But judging by the offspring he'd done his job. And Granny has a fine tail feather or two to decorate herself with.

And this, please. Granny has joined the Guardian Abroad Blog lists. If you go here you'll find her. And if you really love her - or if you don't - she's had enough bad crits in her time to weather it - maybe you could add a review. She's been thinking it was time she upped her stats, just a bit. Not that it matters, really. But it's always nice to feel yourself read.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Death and Birth

The problem of living up in the hills on an Atlantic island is that Granny finds herself writing about the weather more than interests her, let alone anyone else. But how not? Weather defines life here. Especially when as now, dead on cue, the autumn storms/rains have arrived. After an idyllic week - hot but not too hot sun, clearish skies, light winds -the wind swung round to the south west on Tuesday and got up. South west winds make it hard to open the front door. They blow dry bourgonvillea blossoms from the creeper which grows above and round it all over the house. South west winds are also the direction from which the autumn storms come. Last year they held off till late November, much to the agitation of the locals, who can't plant till the rains come, a serious business here, and the more so this year - encouraged by the new local markets, perhaps, more fields have been cleared for crops. Granny and Beloved too have a patch of land for planting; or rather Beloved has; he is also muttering darkly about the rains meaning that it'll soon be time to get his goats.

(It's raining outside the window as Granny is writing this. Behind the rain comes the sun. It's that kind of weather. Any time now the hills will start turning green. She and Beloved anxiously tread the house looking for leaks - leaks are the one way of finding out if the flat roof has cracked through the summer; once dried out it can then be fixed. So far only the dining room is affected, the rain pouring through just missing Granny's daughter's beautiful silk hanging. So things could be worse.)

Granny fears she may not be able to avert the goats. She averted the donkey did she not? The Cabildo was offering everyone on the island a donkey for free last month; Beloved did not fall for it. 'I'll wait till I can't drive any more,' he says. (Granny is slightly doubtful if, in this case, he would be safe in charge of a donkey cart either, but never mind,) The goats she fears are another matter. For her, the really serious effect is that she won't any longer be able to use his milking pail to make jam in; a problem; jam kettles are not on sale here. And no, she has no intention of learning to milk a goat. Or making cheese. That's Beloved's job. (Another one.)

It's all livestock at the moment. Although the hunters have been kept at bay this year via forbidding notices, three boys got onto the land on Sunday. Their dog killed the white cockerel, Colin. Granny and Beloved have been eating him ever since (very good he was too, if a trifle tough.) They frightened the life out of the boys by taking their photographs, but won't pursue the matter further. Very young boys, not more than 12 0r 13, they will have sweated for a few days and won't come back, which is the point. Meantime the black cockerel, Damien-Daphne, has taken over the whole harem, chasing hens all round the place, as if he can't believe his luck. Now only he and the bantam cock crow at each other. But that's quite noise enough.

Up on the back terrace meantime the bantam hen, turned broody once more, has been sitting on eggs for several weeks. This time, if they're fertile, there ought to be some chicks. But it's taking a long time. Beloved just walked into the kitchen saying 'I feel as broody as the hen.' Oh, the anxious father; much more anxious than the bantam cockerel who lurks, wifeless, all the while. Granny is beginning to feel a little pessimistic. Maybe the eggs won't hatch. Even if the cockerel doesn't mind the surrogate dad, her Beloved, will. She will have to find some means of distracting him. Bloody goats?

(The gecko which has turned up in the upstairs bathroom - much rarer and more interesting than lizards is sufficient diversion - and livestock - for her to be going on with. But not, she fears, for him.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Seaside robbery

(To understand the background to this post, if you are interested you need to go here. And here. But of course you are not obliged to. Granny is no bully. She believes in all of you doing your own thing. She apologises too, in advance, if in some of this she is repeating herself, even so. But it may help make some things clearer.

Granny and Beloved went to a meeting at six o'clock on Saturday night, in that seaside village, full of restaurants and tourists - not the package sort. That village loved by locals, near and far, by visiting Spaniards, by visiting everyone else, come to sit in the sun by the sea, eat gambas al ajillo, or papas arrugados, with mojos - Canarian sauces. It is not a resort, far from it, despite the restaurants, despite the odd self-catering lets. It is a nice -very nice - little white-washed village, parked on a black volcanic coast, backed by volcanoes and lava fields, and far from objectionable or inappropriate. The way such a village ought to be. The meeting had nothing to do with the tourists or tourism; it was for the 'vecinos' - a Spanish word hard to translate exactly - 'neighbours' is the nearest; but it means more than neighbours; it means community too, householders, most of them in this case islanders, apart from a Norwegian couple, a German or two and Beloved. All of them, neighbours and/or householders, are now under the serious threat previously mentioned; the threat caused by the Ley de las Costas, that could mean that any time now the village as such could cease to exist. Hence the meeting, taking place in a marquee put up at the far end of the village for next weekend's fiesta; local life carrying on, no matter what. Alongside the organiser, collecting proofs of residence, tax numbers etc, the presence of another, obviously canny, village woman selling green raffle tickets to her conveniently assembled vecinos proves it.

It was a perfect evening. Granny who was less involved - her Beloved is the vecino, in this case, the householder - sat in the sun with a glass of wine looking out to sea, watching the chefs do their twice daily chore of gutting fish, hungry seagulls in attendence. When she wasn't watching them she watched the people arrive for the meeting; babies in push chairs, old men leaning on walking sticks, young, old, middle-aged in jeans, shorts, t-shirts, weekend gear. Even the notary she saw turned up wearing an orange open-necked shirt and jeans. But for the notary, you might have thought it the opening of the fiesta. But it wasn't. The notary's job was to allow the vecinos to prove their identities one by one, to witness and notarise their signatures on the appeal to the National Assembly in Madrid; the appeal asking -begging - that the Ley de las Costas should not mean that village territory a full 100 metres from the sea is land belonging to the state, to be cleared of buildings. That rather, in this case, the state owns only 20 metres between the village and the shore, thereby leaving the majority of village houses and businesses legally in the hands of the vecinos, their rightful owners - or so you'd think. That is the people who bought the houses, as Beloved did, who built them in some cases, in good faith, all under the eye of, approved by, the local town hall, despite the law first passed in 1988, but till recently left in abeyance.

The local mayor by the way, despite the fact it was his town hall issued the approvals took two months from the issue of the legal notices to come to the aid of the vecinos. Mindful presumably of the fact that there are elections next year, he has now leapt into action - providing his tame lawyer to act for the vecinos for free and to legitimise the appeal to Madrid. All of which has heartened everyone, explaining perhaps some of the air of fiesta round the meeting. As everyone was heartened too by the visit of the Spanish Minister for the Environment last week, who reassured them that noone would ride roughshod over them, that their rights as householders would be attended to.

Granny and Beloved too were somewhat heartened by all this. But not for long. That same evening, they had dinner in the company of a man long on the island with contacts all over it, who played Jonah throughout the meal. He said, for instance, that the environment minister knew nothing about the matter; her reassurances were merely hot air. He handed them, for instance, a leaked document setting out the orders against the vecinos and listing previous appeals on similar grounds to the appeal in this case, each and every one of them rejected; the law is the law, said Mr Jonah. To alter the case here, it would have to be repealed; and it won't be, said Mr Jonah. In the best case there are years of legal wrangling ahead making houses unsaleable, causing many householders - including Beloved - considerable financial problems. In the very worst case - and it's quite likely - the properties are not only owned by the government as of now, and so worth nothing, but, far from offering compensation, the government will very kindly let the ex-owners stay in the property they'd previously thought they owned for up to 30 years, and charge them rent for doing so. No, Granny is not joking. The final resort of course is the European Court of Human Rights. But before then every other line of appeal would have to be exhausted. And it would cost thousands. And none of the people here are rich; far from it.

How come, you might ask, that people were not warned before they bought - or built -houses over the past 18 years? This is the kind of thing that should have come up in searches made by their lawyers. In England, for instance,Beloved could have brought a case for negligence against his lawyer for not finding it out. But not here, said Mr Jonah. Here lawyers stick together. Here lawyers won't act against one another. And that is that.

This village is the first to be jumped on by the Ministry for Costas. But every other coastal village on the island is in the line of fire. Every last one of them is the kind of nice village that the more ?discerning tourists and expats retreat to in relief from the horrors of the three resorts. The resorts of course are safe enough. They can abut their Casinos, their Krazy Golf, their Macdonalds and Burger Kings, their Popeye's Bar, their Irish pubs, their Full English Breakfast/Roasts like Mother Made Them outfits hard up against the beach. The resorts are designated urban, unlike the villages, in rural areas; for them, anything goes. And how it goes. In the same municipality as Beloved's village, for instance, the local resort has doubled in size since Granny arrived here first, five years ago, despite the Cabildo - the island council's -embargo on any new development, despite much of the area's designation as rural. The Mayor's solution to that? Re-classify the land. Away from the coast itself, he can get away with murder, ignoring protests from the Cabildo; undoing what's done is much too difficult. He lines his pockets of course in the process; that's what mayors on this island do. (Which is another story.)

Now as Granny pointed out in that previous piece, the Costas law is not all bad; it was drawn up originally to confront the wrecking of the Spanish coastline - noone could object to that who has visited the Costa del Sol. It has had benefits on this island too, as Granny has also pointed out; not least in terms of the vile hotel squatting above the most beautiful beaches on the islands, exceeding even the terms of the dodgy not to say illegal licence (handed out to its Valencian developers by the above mayor, to his certain financial benefit), also due to be pulled down to the delight of the entire island. The problem is that despite the fines paid by those responsible for the illegal horror, despite their enforced contribution to the demolition, it will cost the governments, local, island national, at the very least 20 million euros. The chances are someone will balk at the last minute and there the horror will stay no matter what.

It costs much less to knock down the harmless and pretty villages. Especially if the householders are charged rent for living in their own houses for up to 30 years.

Don't get Granny wrong. She loves Spain and all things Spanish. Well mostly she loves them. But just as she can't help noticing that the Castellanos in general (not so much the Catalans and the Basques and possibly the Galicians) aren't very interested in the environment or organic anything (look at the way Spanish fishermen are emptying the sea of fish, and have to be bullied by Europe into recycling plans and so forth); just as she can't help noticing that they are often brutal to animals (forget the bulls; take the half-starved hunting dogs wandering round on Thursdays and Sundays during the hunting season, but shut up in tiny cages for the rest of the year); she is also beginning to think that they are pretty brutal to people - their own people. And what can any of them do about it? Granny does suspect that if all this goes through, if every shore village on the island is destroyed by order of distant bureaucrats in Madrid, there might be some kind of riot. But what good would that do? Most likely NADA.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Granny and a large number of total strangers in holiday gear plotted yesterday. They plotted to damage the tail of the plane carrying them to Granny's island, and back at Gatwick, in transit, to acquire nefarious substances from other travellers, who'd somehow managed to get them through departures security, and somehow managed to be coming via the relevant gate so meeting Granny and her fellows en route, in order that she and they could place the substances (toothpaste? hairgel?) in their handbaggage and blow up the substitute plane they boarded in the guise of continuing their journey. And blow up themselves of course in the process.

Well, actually, they didn't - how did you guess? (And not only from the fact that she is back on her island, writing this....) But they were on a plane that did have to turn back, did come to land with alarmingly heavy sounds (which, they were told but not till afterwards, resulted from safety precautions being taken) and they did find themselves back in departures two hours after leaving it. Half an hour of which was spent in a long queue, while security officials were found and a scanner put in operation to allow them through the necessary swing doors.

'Isn't this security gone mad?' Granny enquired of the woman frisking her yet again. Airport personnel are clearly given a script to work from in these circumstances. Script was spouted - 'suppose you're in the air' etc etc. 'In the air? I wish,' Granny thinks, but doesn't say. Actually she and the rest of them are in the air two hours later, still unfed. She got a free tomato juice and some shortbread biscuits to make up for things - she spurned the alcohol offered - she also the whole spread of 4 seats on a 767 jet, twice the size needed but the only one available to take the stranded passengers. And that was it; home again six hours late. Unblown-up. The airline owes her a meal voucher. But she may not bother to insist on that.

She felt sorrier really for the passengers waiting to go home, who would have been returned to Gatwick between 4 and 5am. She got in a lot of reading anyway; balancing heavy stuff from the Times Literary Supplement (whither history? eg) with the whole of a shlock detective story purchased hurriedly in the airport and was only temporarily alarmed as the plane shook its way slowly - heavily - back into Gatwick. And here she is home again and about to retire to her hammock in the sun. Very nice it is too. Her cat is purring all over her. She is purring all over the cat. (And over Beloved, when he is not being busy, which is most of the time; busy-ness being his business.)

The window are clean too. As for the dust she can remove that herself. Beloved doesn't notice dust, even in this climate, this brightness, where even Granny, hardly a manic. housewife, can't fail to. He is a mere male after all.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Half-builds - and silence

Granny apologises for such silence. Between neck problems, bad cold and family ups and downs she has had neither time or inclination to write here. Thinking of her island, she did find time to look at the book by the 1880 travellers in the Canary Islands. Nothing seems to change. Why, the writer asks, do they start buildings here and never finish them? Granny often asks herself the same question.

She remembers the gas-stations, half-made, that linger for two years or more without staff or custom, let alone petrol. She thinks of the grey hulks visible from her own house which have been that way ever since she arrived there, four years ago. She thinks of the unused factory just outside the town - someone built it, then found no role for it. Some of it of course has been stopped because illegal. Seller of the materials doesn't care, he's made his profit. Illegal builder can't afford to knock his illegal building down so just leaves it. This is on top of the crumbling farm houses to be found in every village. One problem there is that a whole family has to inherit when the owner dies, whole family has to agree on what happens to it- repaired, lived-in, rented, sold, whatever. Very often half family has crossed Atlantic and is not to be found. Even where family can be found, can reach a decision, it is cheaper to build a new house than restore the old; even though old house is much better designed for the climate, is far more environmentally-friendly. There should be some power for the local authority to buy up such houses after a certain period. If there is such a power it is not used. Alternatively grants should be given to restore them - they are part of everyone's heritage, after all; but no. They sit there, paint faded to non-existance, windows and doors nailed up, weeds drearily taking them over, year by year. So very sad.

Granny's house was like that once. She's glad it isn't any longer. She is also looking forward to seeing it again - complete with her Beloved. Any day now.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Kiss and make up

To cheer herself up today while eating breakfast, Granny snatched up tatty copy of Penguin edition of Katherine Mansfield's letters and Journals. KM is one of Granny's heroines, always has been. At a time when slaughter in Pennsylvania, Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, jumps out at her from every form of media, she reads this; KM talking writing two days after the armistice, following World War One.

"I heard the drunks passing the house... singing the good old pre-war drunken rubbish. I felt cold with horror. They are not changed. ....

My baby longing for people to 'kiss and be friends.' -

How horrid they are not to - Why don't they fly at each other, kiss and cry and share everything. One feels that about nations - but alas! about individuals too."

Not baby longing at all. Just right, really. But there you go. Kiss and be friends, everyone, PLEASE. Now, yesterday and tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pain in the Neck

Granny is in London for the next two weeks.. She has celebrated by putting her neck out. This involves either a) living with the problem, which is therefore bound to get worse: excruciating pain when she tries to turn her head will extend - not gradually enough - across her shoulder, down her arm, etc: or b) visiting friendly and effictive chiropractor who unfortunately, for historical reasons, lives some way away in Oxfordahire. (Why not go to another nearer chiropractor then? Excuse me, if you have found a chiropractor who cures these problems without paralysing you - this can happen with neck manipulation - you stick with him/her. Believe me.) Given such a choice, Granny opts for the latter with all its inconvenience. Not least it involves the use of a car. She doesn't have a car. At least not currently available. She calls on oldest friend who does have one, will lend it; only problem it's insured just for herself. This leads to protracted conversations with insurance company, who will only take instructions from oldest friend, who does not have details of Granny's driving licence and its fixed penalty endorsement for speeding: insurance company insists on having code for offence. Insurance company will also not take instructions from oldest friend for payment on Granny's account, as she is not the cardholder. Etc Etc. As Granny is in West London and oldest friend at work in North London, this is all a problem to negotiate. There are a lot of those kinds of phonecalls which involve keying in 1 2 3 or 4 many times over, listening to unwelcome music, and negotiating the way through a series of not necessarily intelligent operatives who may or may not disclaim knowledge of all or any previous negotiations. Tiresome.

Car achieved. Car driven down motorway, through country roads to isolated equestrian centre where for some reason chiropracter hangs out. (Does it relate to frequent needs of riders for her services? Possibly. Granny has never enquired.)

Chiropractor goes click click around Granny's person. Instant relief. Granny hands out her £30, gets into car, heads back for London. While still on narrow country road, without verges, in a stream of traffic, there is a hideous grinding sound. Oldest friend's car has had a puncture.

Granny rings friend. Does she have AA cover? Indeed she does. Granny rings AA. No the membership applies to the person, not the car, could oldest friend pop down to sort this out? Granny takes deep breath, explains it's unlikely her friend can 'pop down' from her work desk in Islington to darkest Oxfordshire. She is a woman on her own in a country road. Could AA at least give her the number of a local garage? Of course they cannot. All they can do is offer her immediate membership. Granny is about to explain she does not own a car herself etc etc, when her mobile runs out of juice. Granny starts walking back down narrow, vergeless coutry road with stream of traffic coming and going. Passes on left side place claiming to offer second-hand furniture. There is an empty chair sitting there to prove it. Also an empty tractor and empty -of -people, if not furniture barn. She walks on. Passes on her right side ancestral pile, similarly lifeless. Walks on some more, and happens on a nursery garden, called Acorn Nurseries. OPEN it claims. Shed is empty apart from trays of plants and some machinary. But in the distance is a solitary man digging. Granny thinks of Bate's Motel as she approaches. She even works out the camera moves - high long shot, figure of self advancing on digger via rows of small plants; zoom in to close up. Fortunately man does not turn out to be homocidal maniac - or not so that you would notice. Even so he does not appear altogether willing as he offers Granny the use of his phone and even a cup of tea. Unwillingness somewhat explained subsequently, when man unbends a little and tells Granny that he performs such services on average four or four or five times a month. He is always, it seems, the only person in sight. Digging. If ever he felt like turning into a homocidal maniac, he might have a good excuse. Fortunately for Granny this point has not yet been reached. A breakdown company is contacted, promises to appear in return for the divulgence - again - of Granny's credit card details. She sets back trudging along the road, trying to avoid trucks thundering towards her - the hedge seems a better option from time to time. It starts to rain.

Breakdown man appears plus belly, plus information about his four strapping sons, all able to change tyres, no problem - he has told his wife not to bother to learn. Does she keep one strapping son on hand in the back of her car, Granny wonders? Maybe she'd lend him to Granny any time Granny goes driving. More usefully, the father of four removes punctured tyre, extracts spare car from boot full of kites, dolls, baby gear bags of assorted junk-shop type junk - dear friend is not only a grandmother, once, long ago, she ran a junk shop- and puts it on car. Granny drives back to London very slowly, owing to puny nature of spare tyre, and then has tiresome session in black-tyred, black-oiled, black-attended Kwiksave. It doesn't save her time, money, it is definitely not KWIK - if very friendly. Tyre of course is unsaveable and has to be replaced by new one. Granny's is credit card called on for the third time. Bugger it.

And so at last back home. Only problem is that after all the pulling and pushing, her neck seems to be out of place again. She fears she may, next week, have to go once again to friendly chiropractor. Can anyone lend her a fail-save car. PLEASE. (No virtual offers accepted.) Actually on yesterday's experience it might be much cheaper to rent one.

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