Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Granny has discovered a disadvantage about living with a teacher - actually it's pretty much the same disadvantage as you discover being a grandmother; once again you are exposured to kiddy bugs. (Bugs in every sense; she even picked up nits from a grandchild once; the shame of it. Though that wasn't so bad as the fate of George Sand - friend of Chopin, Flaubert etc; aged 69 she got whooping-cough from one of hers. She died not long after.) This particular kiddy bug, picked up by Beloved from his pupils and passed on to her is not such a bad one. It hasn't laid her out entirely. It's being no worse, though, meant she had no excuse, once the paracetemol was stuffed down, not to go on her weekly shop to the other side of the island; to the Tienda Verde where she gets organic vegetables etc - (after lunch on a Tuesday when the produce boat has come in from the bigger island is a good time to go; as the Germans who shop there also realise- best to arrive before they clear the decks; they are such a very thorough people.) And from there to the next town to the north, where she can buy meat guaranteed not to have been reared in little boxes.

But, did she say already?...that just now the politicians, local and Canarian are all busy buying votes and doing up roads? She drives up her road to the t-junction. Can't go left. Road closed. Can't go straight on - the bulldozers are out finishing off one dirt road, which they have widened, walled and in which they are putting in pavements. Granny can't think why; there are few houses as yet and no signs of any more pending. Perhaps the pavements are the human equivalent of putting up nesting-boxes to encourage birds. Odd that. 'Suburbanisation,' Beloved says. True. Small town councils always do seem to think that even rural people prefer to imagine they live in a suburb; street lights and all. Granny has encountered the same thing in rural parts of England.

Granny turns right, right again and prepares to turn left up handy little shortcut through the fields only used by locals till recently when they shut an alternative route for, guess what, 'road improvements.' Problem. Large no entry sign has suddenly appeared her end of handy short cut. At this point her language is inappropriate for one supposed to have retired to lavender, old lace and general gentility. She looks right; she looks left; no sign of friendly local police force, busy earning its Christmas bonuses just now and hot on everything. She goes boldly up the one way street, no matter what- alternative is to double the journey time going round three sides of a square. It's lunchtime anyway; on this island the siesta hasn't yet gone the way of the Madrid businessman's siesta, noone here feels obliged to work like Americans; between 1- 5pm, everything grinds to a halt; she feels safe enough. And no, she doesn't meet anyone much and the vehicles that do head towards her look to her as if they belonged to locals whom she imagines would have done exactly the same: as usual on this road, she or they squeeze to the side obligingly to allow the other past. In general, where she lives, you can, often, ignore "road closed" signs, if you know the territory. Short of meeting a bulldozer digging the road up, which does impede progress somewhat, you wave merrily, mouth 'Soy residente - mi casa..' etc and sail through. There are no houses on handy shortcut, so 'mi casa' wouldn't have got her very far, this time. But never mind.

She came back another way. Via the big roundabout at the edge of the town, the one with the pending Christmas decoration. Clearly the complaint about the culturally appropriate has been taken to heart. Where Father Christmas failed to gladden hearts last year now stand a camel and a man in local dress, complete with black hat. It's a very little camel - the man is right out of proportion. Is that saying something do you think? And why didn't they put one of the kings on top? Or throw in a palm tree? Man and camel, both, are wreathed in wires and junction boxes, clearly some bits are going to flash mightily. Which bits, Granny wonders? Looking at the figures, she has an idea or two herself, all as inappropriate to her aged status as her language earlier. Propriety is sure to reign, alas. Pity.

PS. And by the way, in case you're interested, bloggers all, there's a delicious row going on about bloggers' book reviews as opposed to pro ones. You can read about it here.

PSS. Also by the way, new photo which has appeared at top of blog, next to the seascape is the view from her window. The one she's looks out at as she writes when it isn't dark as now. As promised MG, if you're out there. Take note.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Odds and sods; hints and beginnings. Maybe even endings.

1) Christmas. Granny has made two Christmas puddings...the kind she always makes, has done for over 25 years from a recipe found goodness knows where, but which has no fat in it and only minimal sugar - all the better for the borderline diabetic otherwise known as her Beloved. Does it sound penitential? No it isn't. It has got indecent quantities of alcohol and is actually the best she's ever had; most more traditional puddings are far too rich, fatty, sweet for her taste. They're dead easy to make too: just bung all the ingredients together and STIR. AND STIR. AND STIR. (Beloved was unwilling; Mr Handsome from Blackburn summoned to help, enthusiastic.)

The only problem lies with the four hours boiling.

As in the case of any pudding recipe dire warnings are issued -DON'T let the water off the boil. OK, obediently, Granny boiled her two puddings hard - before she knew it both had boiled dry; a goodly smell of Christmas filled the kitchen, but that was not quite what she was after at this point. She added more boiling water, turned the heat down and looked anxiously from time to time to see that the water was still seething. But here is - was - the nub of it. Anyone both spectacle wearer and cook will recognise the problem: how to see if the water IS boiling when, whatever state it's in, still or mobile, it makes your spectacles instantly steam up? One easy solution - for her - would have been to fetch her contact lenses. To cook with? Oh please. Oh please. It seemed like total defeat as well as tiresome. She didn't. She just peered, wiped glass lenses, hoped for the best. Anyone got a better idea for next time?? She'd be grateful.

Well that's it for Christmas then. This island takes it much more lightly than the island back north, the frenzy there mainly revealed to Granny and her Beloved via the ads on channel 4. Oh yes there are signs - intimations. But low key ones by comparison. Down to the East, in the shopping centres patronised by expats, the Christmas trees are going up. There's various signs of glitter elsewhere and even the local supermarkets are filling up with turrones - a kind of nougat/almond sweet which for some reason is the Christmas treat of choice across Spanish territories. The odd electric decoration, bell, star, bicycle (bicycle?? -maybe that's a sop to the visiting pro cyclists who sail underneath the bicycle in question on their way back to the big sports centre where they all stay - who knows) hangs drunkenly from phone and electricity wires across the roads, all as yet unlit. Oh and on the roundabout at the edge of the town a large low platform has been set up, to hold this year's monstrous, electric, Christmas display, something for which this town is noted. Last year's bloated Father Christmas was not popular with anyone; culturally inappropriate was the least of the complaints. Granny waits with interest to see what more Canarian alternative the Ayuntamiento's cultural department will have come up with this year.

2) Spring. The first wild marigolds have opened on Granny's land. And, praise be, it has been raining. Let's hope that pleasure is not followed by fierce east winds, drying everything up again, as after the previous rains this autumn. There's enough growing now to bring the birds back, though. And planting does at last seem to have started. Good. Good. Good.

3). Goats. There is now a pen for them, lovingly erected by Mr Handsome alongside the (non) donkey house. 'When will you have time to milk goats now you're teaching?' Granny enquires of Beloved. Mr Handsome says, 'He's going to teach you how to do it.' Mr Handsome is not a man who makes jokes, often. But Granny thinks he was joking this time. She hopes so.

4.) The war on corruption. The island's Mr Big, sentenced to 8 years in prison, who has been making appeal after appeal to keep himself out of it till the elections are over next May, looks as if he has finally lost; he has been ordered to present himself to the prison shortly (a sign of his power? Most sentenced crooks would just get arrested, wouldn't they?) But the island is very fond of him, oddly enough. And he does seem to have much more charm than most of the political crooks here, and no one could say he isn't generous with his ill-or-well-gotten gains. Without him his nationalist island party will not do well at the elections next year. Just as well.

Meantime, the Spanish government is coming down hard on everyone in local town halls and about time too. The neat career path for local politicians whereby they busy themselves during their period of office with getting rich, are indicted for corruption, receive a short prison sentence, spend it cushily, then emerge to live for the rest of their lives on their millions, seems about to come to an end. Those arrested for corruption on the bigger island were not treated kindly. They spent their nights before being bailed in concrete cells without beds or bedding. A new law is coming which will make all those elected to local government declare their assets upon entering office and again upon leaving it. Of course there's always ways of laundering such monies - noone doubts they will be looking hard for them. (There's currently a case in Spain of mysterious accounts which noone is claiming, obviously set up in some such scam.) But still it may begin to curb the over-development that is the source of almost all these illicit earnings. (It figures that on this island three of the four mega rich families have made their money out of building and property development: and that many of the politicians bear the same surnames. SAY NO MORE. )

Intimations only? Or reality. Let's hope, let's hope. This island started later than most because of the lack of water and can still be saved from the worst. But it teeters.

One thing though; the flies haven't got any of the hints, let alone the intimations. THEY ARE ALL STILL HERE. GO AWAY YOU LITTLE BLACK BLIGHTERS. GO AWAY. They don't. Any more than corrupt politicians. Or Christmas. (Up till now.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

rockpool in the kitchen

Well, you asked for it, wombats....and here it is, the very best Granny can do; and she has tried, how she has tried. Iphoto is full up with out-of-focus pictures of da da da.....trumpets, drums..
the rock pool in the kitchen

With all its inadequacies, she has managed to give you A FISH.

Otherwise. Global warming, something like that. The past month has been: find sweaters, wood, sheepskin slippers, light fire. Followed by: forget fire, find sandals, hammock, strip off sweater; followed by find umbrella plus sweaters, etc, followed by find sandals etc. Most of it accompanied by a lot of dust. The Sahara has hi-jacked the island so many times now, how come it's got any sand left in it?

Cooler now. Good. May it last this time. The autumn after Granny first arrived to live here, the day the clouds came, the rain came, the temperature dropped, a friend came round and said; 'isn't it lovely, I sat in my office with my coffee, the heater on, it was so cosy!' Granny, fresh from England, delighted to be missing the onset of its winter, couldn't see it. But she can now. She can feel in her body - and her skin - that endless summer has its drawbacks. Not least it precludes those delicious, yes cosy evenings, when she and Beloved sit by their fire, him with his electronic chess - beep beep beep, a portable chipmunk - Granny with her book. Lovely indeed. You can have enough of sun, and certainly you can have enough of dust. And it's quite time things started growing. Things did start almost a month back, when the rains first came, the shoots lurk still, but don't get any further, shrivelled by the dryness of the wind. Any minute now they'll retreat for good, and then where will spring be? At this time of year, normally, everyone is out planting, but not now. When Granny walks the Beautiful Wimp on local tracks, there's nothing and noone to be seen. Scarcely a bird even. Rain please, God. Lots and lots and lots of it. And more cosy evenings by the fire. Lots and lots and lots of them.

Some things don't change though, hot or cold, wet or dry: the once or twice weekly funerals at the local church, for instance. The local police close the square for these; the moment the cones go out you know what that's for; or usually what that's for. Next thing is, before the hearse arrives, the square fills up with men. They're not in funeral gear, no black, no suits, no ties, no hats. They are tidy enough, spruced up; but the shirts are short-sleeved or even t-shirts. The trousers though never shorts can be, often are, jeans. There they stand in lines two or three deep, waiting, talking a bit but quietly. Granny does not know if they go into the church for the service itself, quite possibly not. Sometimes as she passes by, the hearse is waiting with the coffin inside it; sometimes it is waiting coffinless, and still the men stand there, lines two or three deep, talking still, quietly. No women ever. Granny wondered if that was because they were in the church. When she asked Mr Jonah, her island informant, he said he thought not; he thought that women do not go to funerals here. Not even the family women? Mr Jonah thought, possibly, not even the family women sometimes. Afterwards the hearse departs for the cemetary, without the entourage now, to be buried in front of the family. A grave space -often just a hole in a wall - has to be rented in the cemetary; the coffin remains in it only for as long as the family is prepared to pay for annual fee - presumably for as long as anyone is around who remembers the corpse, who wants to bring flowers on the day of the dead, who wants to see the bones honoured, one way or another. When that's no longer the case it's a mass grave somewhere, along with everyone else. The bones, the graves, the flowers, the inscriptions, don't go on for ever, as they do in English country churchyards, unregarded, weeds growing, headstone covered in lichen. The dead are more honoured here, on the one hand. On the other hand, in the end, they are just bones to be disposed of. Practical really. And sensible on an island - if they went on the way they do in England, it would be nothing but headstones now, when Granny walked her land, she'd be tripping over memorials to people centuries old, Juanita this, or Pepe that, Jose aged 6 months, Abuelo aged 90. And so forth.

The sun is out; the islands visible again. Behind Granny, Beloved is cutting up a chicken, Mrs Handsome from Blackburn, in a skin tight pair of jeans is talking and talking. Maybe Granny will tidy this post later. But, like the picture of the fishtank, it will have to do for now.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

bums and onions

Bums? Onions? What is the old fart talking about? She's talking about this, wombats, the arrival of the one, the disappearance of the other. First the bums, the arrivals; the dayglo lycra bums on bikes that is, many of them, all of them, in front of her, especially when she's going somewhere in a hurry. Do the dayglo lycra bums deign to get into single file? Rarely – they jostle in front of her, their owners' beetle-heads pressed down over the handlebars, muscles pulsing, legs pumping, bums not doing what normal people’s bums do, wobbling, there isn’t a wobble among this lot; it ain’t natural.

There’s always some bikes here; the island is like a large scale mini landscape, the kind people run toy cars on, but in this case large enough to run real people, real bikes. Up hill down dale, bends, straights; all very satisfactory if you are a cyclist, and in TRAINING. Very much IN TRAINING. Not so satisfactory if all you want to do is get from A to B. And are not interested in running cyclists down (oh God, the horror that would be; not least as a chance of getting to know the local police at much too close quarters; from inside a prison cell most likely. If for no other reason running cyclists down on a Spanish island is NOT a good idea.)

Many of the pro – or would-be pro - cyclists, many of the iron men (3 kilometer swim, 80 kilometre cycle, full marathon, they must be MAD) come here to train in winter, and this is the time of the year they arrive. Pro cyclists are unmistakable even off their bikes; shaved steel legs, tight steel bums. Granny used to like men with neat bums in that long ago time when she had a choice. But she doesn’t think she’d fancy these, even back view, let alone from the front. (Is there anything less erotic on a man than lycra cycling shorts? she doubts it.) Touching them must be like touching metal, touching flesh only pretending to be organic; robot flesh. Some women like them, evidently, but not her, especially when the bums are multiple, active – but only as machinery is active – dazzlingly multicoloured and right in front of her. FILLING UP THE ROAD. Oh what a nice tolerant person she is. (Yes, she knows she has complained about them before, but here she is at it again; why ever not? And, let's be clear, she's not talking about you, healthy exercise, bike amateurs, she's been one herself in other times. She is talking about the pros; the logo lycra-ed ones, that come in flocks, like starlings.)

And the second thing - the disappearing onions? Another feature of the island, onions are one of its main crops, along with potatoes. They have been since god knows when. There is a description by a visiting ornithologist in the 1920’s of what looked like the entire population of the island down at the old port packing them up and loading them into boats. Very squalid he found it. (This was not a man who took to this island.) At most other times of the year you see them all over, in fields, piled up on the edges of fields, being jammed into lorries, being carried round to every food shop on the island. Each and every vegetable section is full of them. Granny buys them gladly. Apart from her liking onions, these haven't travelled too many food miles; not so much as one mile, more like 20 metres, when they come from the garden of her neighbours. (She doesn't even have to buy those.)

But at this time of the year, as the cyclists arrive, they're off. The only onions on sale are those large Spanish onions, some of them rather past it; a bit like Granny. She doesn’t like to be reminded of decay - hers or any other kind - in quite this way. She almost prefers the cycling bums. (Well almost.) If she could do without onions, she would, but she can’t. Garlic and onions are as much HER as cycling lyra gear isn’t.

(Except, oh dear, except: Granny has had a sudden guilty thought. Some time she will tell you about her wet suit. Which is quite another matter, of course it is. Even though it's just as tight – almost tighter – than the day-glo lycra. She will have to feel very strong to tell you about her wet suit, wombats, almost as strong as she has to be to put it on; let alone to to get it off. Her flesh is not like steel. Nor ever was. Maybe you would prefer the cyclists. Even thinking about her wet suit, she is inclined to think she does. She definitely prefers the onions.)

Oh - a hasty change of subject…..She has been scooped up by a system called Stumbleupon. Which, on being told she liked animation (the film kind) has sent a lot of it her way; if she is not very careful she will never post another word, wasting her time with such as this. She gives it to you in turn - especially she gives it to those who've ever lived, as she did once, in a flat, in a house with inadequately sound-proofed floors. ENJOY. (Did you?)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Granny cannot hear herself think. Damage on roof - and the sounds like camels and an elephant making it - is one thing; the sound of it being repaired is almost worse. (Electric drills, don't you know.) The roof is, obviously, very very thin. Complaining about the noise to Mr Handsome from Blackburn , asking for the work to be left till she is out, later, would not be politic on the whole. He is even thinner skinned than the roof. No wonder the roof springs its leaks every summer; as for the leaks Mr H springs when complained at, don't let's mention them. In any case the job has to be done. Of course it does; rain is threatened. If the boiler electrics are left uncovered, rain will short the whole house; electrics of which find themselves shorted often enough for much less obvious reasons, local electrics being what they are. (You think they are bad in Britain? You should try here.) But still, meantime, bang, bang, screech screech + (loud) groan (from granny.)

She had been going to continue with her translation of the excellent Spanish detective writer. But that requires close concentration and a clear head. Is it an insult to say she needs less for writing this? Possibly. On the other hand a leap out from rational thinking sometimes does wonders when it comes to banging out new prose. Wonders are needed on prosaic mornings - even with the help of coffee most mornings for Granny are prosaic and worse. Let's hope wonders come.

In any case Granny faces a disrupted day. Beloved has co-opted her to help with his AS level students. All of them have been brought up in this island. Not one of them seems to know anything about it - if she is being snobbish about these things she'll explain that they are mostly the children of British bar-owners; when the parents' thinking doesn't stray much beyond, sun, sand, beer, alcopops, chips and Traditional English Breakfast, what can you expect of their offspring? They have never been rock-pooling for instance; the sea for them means beaches and pulling each other; that kind of marine life. The often more interesting kind, creatures in, on, over and under the sea, don't figure to date, not for them. Beloved is determined to change this. Currently he is teaching them about the food chain; today he will introduce the food chain directly in a local context, via the salt flats down the road from Granny and his house. His job there will be to show what's in the sea, eating and being eaten; to point out the seaweed and samphire, covered and uncovered by the tides, twice each day; to help them catch animals, pull up seaweeds to install in the fish-tank/rock pool newly installed in the school biology lab. His job is not - he has decided- he hasn't the time - to introduce his pupils to what's above the sea, the top of the food chain, in this context. Namely wading birds and seabirds.

Guess whose job it is to introduce them? Granny has only herself to blame for getting herself landed with this. She likes birds, a lot. They give her acute pleasure sometimes, lift her heart. Doesn't she take and use her binoculars every time they go down to the salt flats - several times a week usually, to run the Beautiful Wimp and the Tiresome Terrier. She has always liked seabirds, especially; not least because even the smallest are not particularly little. She is very short-sighted - a fact discovered when she was eight years old. Her mother unfortunately fell for the Bates school of thinking espoused by Aldous Huxley - him of Eyeless in Gaza, Antic Hay and "Gumbril's Patent Small-Clothes" (very funny. at least she used to think so: she doesn't know if she'd find them funny now). His views on short sight were not so funny. They involved curing lazy eyes with extremely tedious, frequently repeated exercises; they involved not wearing glasses so as to make 'lazy' so-called eyes work harder. Between the ages of 8 and 12, consequently, just at the age when children learn, or should learn, to be observant, Granny went round in a fog the whole time, except when permitted to wear her black-rimmed NHS spectacles - at the cinema or the theatre, or looking at the blackboard at school. Out in the open air she never wore them She couldn't see sparrows or blue tits, except as blurs. She could see seagulls and herons, more or less. So there you go.

So perhaps she should blame her mother for inflicting this task on her. Or maybe the rather dishy oculist Granny used to be taken to see. Shame on her to think his dishiness might have influenced her virtuous (very) mother's thinking. Worse shame on everyone - not least Aldous Huxley - that the whole thing turned out to be codswallop. Granny suffered her blindness for nothing; which in the case of so many things, for so many people, is often the case.

'I'll show the kids what's in the water, we'll fish for shrimps, pick up snails etc,' Beloved said. 'You can go and look for birds. When you see some you can let me know, and I'll send the kids over in pairs. You can tell them the names and they can write them down.'

Excellent thinking, Beloved; except for two things:
1) Birds don't tend to stay in the same place. By the time her students arrive they will quite likely have scarpered - because of the kids' arrival, or her own moving or shouting, not least.
2) Although the salt flats are often full of birdlife, they aren't at the moment. Three weeks ago along with the ubiquitous egrets, of which there will still, most likely, be a few - she can point them out, make the kids look at their beaks through binoculars, explain how they feed - there were herons, whimbrels (small curlews), all kinds of big and little plovers, sanderlings, turnstones, terns as well as gulls. Oh, and a spoonbill. But then the rains came, the winds came, they scarpered. The lot of them, apart from those egrets. She can only hope they have returned today, some of them. Otherwise the only beaks they see will be those of gulls - scavengers, they don't feed directly on what's under under the sea - and of that odd egret, high stepping about like a little pony, snaking it's neck. Their notebooks will be full only with the names she gives them; they'll have to go back to school and look it all up in a book. Which is a pity.

Among the first years students, there will be a second year; the student - a boy - asked especially to be included. Beloved was pleased to see him so enthusiastic. But as soon as Mrs Jonah, the headmaster's wife, who is to help with the driving heard about the request she said; 'There'll be a girl involved. I bet you.'

Granny will be looking to see which pair of students arrives for her instruction hand in hand. That's real biology that is. Perhaps Beloved can add it to his instructions on food chains. Or perhaps not. Such things don't interest him. His idea of hell would be to be shut up in a room with nothing but volumes of agony aunt stuff, and the Mills and Boon backlist. It would be Granny's idea of hell, too - but not for the same reasons.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

fish pond/pie

Now, wombats, you or some of you requested a picture of the rockpool in the kitchen. Granny has tried taking a picture of it now, with little success. Its main occupant currently is a black crab which spends most of its time hiding among black rocks. You see the problem. There was one dramatically large fish - a blenny to those of you who know about such things - but he was very dozy and now has disappeared. We suspect the crab of having seized his chance and eaten him up. Certainly the crunched up snail shells have been fewer of late, suggesting el senor Congrejo had decided to vary his diet. There are snails and hermit crabs a-plenty, two or three sea anenomes, ditto sea urchins and a goby or two. But that's about it really, at the moment. It's still nice, but very hard to photograph in any way that makes sense - let alone a good picture.

Last year, on the other hand, we had Mr or Mrs.. known variously as a sea slug, a sea hare - or in Spanish - a sea rabbit. Take your pick. Under any name, he, or she, or he-she - it's a hermaphrodite - is a fine beast. The little ears by the way aren't ears at all they are more like noses or breathing holes. S/He departed to the aquarium up or down there quite a while back. Sometime we'll get another, but this requires perilous trails across rocks so while Beloved is so busy, it'll probably have to wait. Some of you will have seen the picture before - it was first put up last year; and maybe, at some point, will be added to the heading with a picture of the view, which has disappeared for the last few days behind a haze of Saharan sand so can't be photographed. Granny will have to feel strong enough to fiddle with her template - again - too.

The wind has dropped at last, thank god. Granny hardly went out for three days. When she did, the camels clog dancing on the roof turned out to be the wooden shelter that had housed the boiler, torn off, ripped to pieces and thrown all over the place. As for the mighty bang just above her head as if an elephant had joined them and fallen down, that was the television aerial, now adorning the garden. No more news in Spanish for Granny till it's fixed- not that she doesn't find it as hard to understand as ever. A gate to the chicken run had also been dragged from its hinges, and, saddest of all in Granny's eyes, her dear little guava tree, flourishing up till then had all its leaves and flowers blown off. No guavas then for quite a while. Though the wind is still in the east and warmish, it's no longer full of dust. Probably there's none left. The whole Sahara seems to be covering surfaces in Granny and Beloved's house. Tomorrow Granny will busy herself with a duster. Not an activity she cares for, one she avoids so long as you can't write your name on anything.

And she can do some washing, at last. She was running out of clean knickers. Yes, there is an (unconnected) dryer, but in the interests of global warming (or rather not warming) she prefers never to use it. Hanging washing out was not an option while the gales were doing their worst. Even if she could have anchored her smalls firmly enough not to join the merry dance of plastic bags that takes place across her land when the easterly gales start blowing, tossed over from the landfill site on the other side of the island, they would have come from the line all covered in dust. Granny likes deserts - she's been fascinated by them for years (one of her secret dreams, unlikely to be realised - Beloved does not like travelling, and anyway it would cost too much - is to travel across the Gobi). But the liking - or even fascination - does not extend to wanting to wear a desert on her person. Not while living this far away from one at least.

Now, off to her cooking. Tonight she is making for her Beloved - appropriately enough - a version of fish pie. With a flat fish known here as 'gallo'. And with some fennel left over from last night.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Sand - flies

No pictures today. No islands. Beyond the immediate landscape all Granny can see sitting here at her desk, looking out of the window (if you want to know which window, it's the left hand one of the small windows between the two big ones in the picture above) all she can see is a hideous yellow fog; dust from the Sahara, plus dust/sand from this island, blown up, torn up, thrown in. A calima has arrived; an east wind, not hot like in the summer, or icy cold, like in the winter, something in between, but dry, dry, dry, distressing animals, people, plants, withering skin, hair, petals, fur, leaves - Granny's precious nasturtiums, leaves as well as flowers droop, their edges burnt - poor things, they're directly in line. Eyes smart, noses run, respiratory problems abound all over the island. Upstairs, above her head it sounds like a party of out-of-order people shrieking, yelling, banging around, making a nuisance of themselves.

This is the first serious day of it - there'll probably be two more at least. No warning either - for some reason the Sahara is sneaky, it never or rarely lets the weather forecast system know in advance. It creeps north makes a smash and grab raid on the wind and drags it round to the east. And there we are; desert in the air and on the ground. Birds blown about rather than flying. Animals staying undercover. The only creatures unfazed are the bloody flies. They should have gone by now, it's November for god's sake. But this year nothing diminishes them; rain, cold, heat, non-typhoon, calima. Here they still are crawling on everything. There's two on Granny's typing hands even now. Go away little black bastards. I'm not even sweating now it's all dried up; I'm no use to you. GO AWAY.' (Obviously they can read. They've gone. For the moment.)

Granny doesn't go out on such days, not if she can help it. At least she has the choice. Poor Beloved at the moment doesn't. He's been hi-jacked to teach at Mr Jonah's school. The biology master left at a moment's notice, leaving two A level groups without a teacher. So there he is, setting everyone by the ears. His pupils don't seem to know what's hit them. 'It's the first time anyone ever made them think,' says Mr Jonah's wife. (Possibly this is not a tactful statement, her husband being the headmaster.) 'They're all pig ignorant.' says Beloved 'God knows how they passed GCSE. They can't even name the classes of animals, and their defining characteristics.' (Nor can Granny actually, at least the latter; but let's let that pass. Did you know that the defining character of amphibians - think frog - is the capacity to breathe in the air, while breeding underwater? No? Or maybe you did know. Probably - you're all so very much better informed not to say cleverer than she is. Just like Beloved.)

Equally fazed is the person in charge of school supplies. Within the first two days Beloved had demanded: a fish tank; a hundred small plastic beakers; a recently dead rabbit. Actually the supply man seems quite intrigued - this is a livelier list than usual. The fish tank has arrived already. So have the plastic beakers. The newly dead rabbit is on its way. The chemistry teacher meanwhile, also short of supplies, is still waiting, or she complains. Evidently the odder your list the quicker the supply man jumps. Perhaps the chemistry teacher needs to turn her pupils into Harry Potters, doing witchy kinds of chemistry - whatever that is. Maybe that way she'd also get served more quickly.

Back home at the ranch - here - it means Granny is doing much more of the cooking; not that she minds. She likes it. Not least it means much more in the way of vegetables; and salad. (Beloved is not big on salad, not of the leafy kind.) It also means many fewer dirty saucepans: Beloved's cuisine involves almost every saucepan in the kitchen simmering away; - all too often boiling up prawn shells; one of Granny's least preferred smells this always drives her away, which maybe is Beloved's intention. She admires the way he uses up everything; he is an economical cook. She wishes he didn't forget all too often that he is cooking oddments up. Almost every saucepan has been burnt at some point, its bottom by now irredeemably coated; non-stick saucepans do not remain non-stick saucepans very long in this house. If he doesn't forget what he's cooking, he leaves it cooling on the stove- cooling at first, then just lurking. 'What's this?' asks Granny, eying some dubious mixture. 'Oh,' says Beloved. 'I forgot about that. I was making stock/a sauce/the beginnings of a stew. We'd better not eat it now, I'll give to the dogs - or the chickens.' It's another of his virtuous economies, saving left-over lettuce, vegetable cuttings, bones, cheese rinds, saucepan contents for the dogs or chickens. Granny is all for this. You could say it was his version of saving the planet. But she does wish he'd remember to cover the bowls and saucers and saucepans from time to time. Even if she doesn't love them the flies do. She goes round at intervals with saucepan lids, plates, wire covers and hides them.

As she also wishes he'd learn Spanish. A man who can remember and expound complex concepts and theories, Beloved is hopeless on words, language. (Poetry? Forget it.) He does try; but in Spanish his small amount of trying hasn't got him very far. Investigating the freezer Granny finds a packet which says (she can read Spanish, she is translating -roughly) Prawn pieces for fisherman. Not fit for human consumption. )

'Are you thinking of going fishing, Beloved?' she enquires.

'No? Why?'

'Then what have you bought this for?' She translate the message word for word.

'Oh' says Beloved. 'I thought it was very cheap when I bought it.'

Granny has an awful thought. The packet has been opened. 'You haven't been feeding us on it, have you?' she asks.

'No,' says Beloved. 'I had a bit once while you were away. It didn't do me any harm. I'll give the crab some. The chickens can have the rest.'

Please believe, possums, he is really a good cook. Just a bit absent-minded that's all. Just as well she's around to keep an eye on him.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More changes

Changes? The changes in this case are those between Granny as she was then - aged 19, taken in a university tutorial, and Granny now. She has just seen herself in a film made by a student filmmaker in which - out of the kindness of her (very kind, of course) heart - she agreed to take part; and now, seeing the result - no, not the film, that's excellent, justifiably it earned its director a first - seeing her indubitably aged self, she rather wishes she hadn't. In the light of that distressing experience she can promise you wouldn't recognise her now. She doesn't wish to be recognised - her blog is, for various reasones, anonymous - but showing you this will not blow her cover. Oh no. Oh no. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.

More changes; or envisaged ones. She went to the village threatened with extinction today. Sat playing dominoes with the Attic Woman, watching an as-ever fish-gutting cook with his entourage of evil seagulls. Things are shifting a little. A photograph has been found from 1985, three years before the Ley de Costas was passed showing the village not much different from the way it is now - and showing, almost certainly, Beloved's own house. This is helpful. It means the land to be taken is now most likely just the 20 metres back from the shore. The restaurants - most of them - would remain. But the Ministry is still demanding not only the removal of the houses on the the shore sides of the road, but also the terraces alongside the sea, made by the still legitimate restaurants on the other; including the nice terrace on which Granny and the AW were sitting, shaded by umbrellas, shielded by a glass screen from the prevailing north winds. Nothing wrong with it at all, or any of them. An amenity for those eating, drinking, no more. What idiocy. Part of the problem, it turns out, is that the Canarian government failed to register the area correctly at the right time - labelling it 'suelo rustico' rather than 'urbanistico' , but by oversight rather than intention. The law doesn't recognise oversight. It's just called 'tant pis'. Or too bad, to you. TOO BAD.

The island, of course, has its own conspiracy theories. 1) That Costas is here trying to get at the local mayor, because they can't get at him for the way he has expanded - against all embargos - the main resort. 2) That it is all designed to get rid of the little people and set up an exclusive tourist resort on behalf of the usual suspects. Granny herself thinks this is a little far-fetched even for here. There are only black, stony beaches on this side of the islands. The sea is dangerous, full of lethal currents. Drowning tourists would not on the whole be good for business. Also Costas is supposed to be getting rid of such resorts except those that pre-dated the law and that have the right paperwork.

But, who knows. Whoever knows anything here. El Pais did yesterday list 42 sites throughout Spain which Costas wishes to see removed including the dire Valencian-built hotel on this island - but the village was not among them. This may mean simply that El Pais got things wrong. On the other hand it might not. El Pais also headlined - a very rare event - the national media rarely recognises that the Canaries exist - a major -MAJOR - scandal in this Canarian province. On the big island, every PP councillor from the ruling group on one council (the PP is roughly the equivalent of the Tories), bar one, has been arrested for corruption - relating to land development, real estate, of course, how did you guess. Even the daughter of the chief culprit has been taken in, for laundering the money from her mother's ill-gotten gains. The Canarian government, rather washing its hands of things, has requested the national government takes the matter in hand; it will dissolve the whole council most likely, rule the district from Madrid. Just in like Marbella. Granny seems to have heard it all before. (Is Putin watching this time too?)

Granny will not apologise for quoting again - if she did before - the 1880's travel writer, Olivia Stone, who said - of the Canaries - it is strange how everyone here wants to be the mayor. Nothing changes in the town - but all the mayors end up with fuller pockets. This is one area where NOTHING seems to change.

More about Beloved's - genuine - changes, tomorrow. Really.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Granny you see has altered things slightly. But she is still Granny p. And the rockpool is still a rockpool. Full of snails at the moment, takeaway dinners for the black crab. They do not care for this designation. If Granny fails to block up the hole in the tank top, Beloved finds snails all over the kitchen when he comes down in the morning. (He always comes down first.)

And this, the lead story in El Pais - the best Spanish newspaper, its equivalent of the Guardian - on Sunday: about a newly uncovered Al Quaeda cell whose aim is to 'liberate' the Andalucian cities of Ceuta and Medilla. Bin Laden himself, of course, has muttered about bringing 'Andalus' back into the Muslim fold, but this is the first time that Granny is aware that anyone has seriously set about addressing the problem. And what a problem. Even more than the rest of Spain, the entire culture, economy, agriculture, society, social life, gastronomy of Andalucia - when it's not at the bullfight that is, or getting drunk at some fiesta - is based on the pig; on these rather - very - sweet black animals routing round for acorns under the cork oaks. And very delicious they are too; especially to an Andalucian. Granny was in a Sierra Morena tapas bar once where the long list of available dishes chalked up consisted entirely of different parts of the said beast. The belief that every Spaniard in such large swathe of land can be 'liberated' into a culture in which pork - and the pig - is taboo is even more far-fetched than the hopes of Sharia law in our own dear British land of pubs and clubs; so far-fetched, so utterly impractical, it's almost sweet. Such faith, such impractical beliefs are often rather sweet, even if the methods used to impose them are anything but. You might as well believe in Father Christmas really, or fairies - hullo Tinkerbell, don't go away - as believe in pigless Spain, as in people all loving each other or in Iraqi Sunnis and Shias forgetting their mutual loathing and shaking hands as Saddam Hussein of all people begged them to do today. (The unlikelihood of such latter aspirations is a shame; but there you go.) You might as well tell the black crab to forget about liking snails.

And no Granny is not anti-Islam, not in its better manifestations. The Kingdom of Granada under its Islamic rulers was one of the most civilised there's ever been; you only have to visit Granada to know. But that's not the point. Granada was a long time ago and now is now and the pig? - well the pig is the PIG. Sooner imagine Islam here - where they like pigs too. But where they are not such a cultural icon. If there's any cultural icon on Granny's island it's the rabbit; or even that much less taboo animal the goat. Though probably not.

(Talking of goats, it turns out that Granny now has a dairy for cheese-making in what she mistakenly alluded to in Mr Handsome from Blackburn's hearing as his 'shed.' 'My workshop you mean,' he said indignantly. Goats then are still in the offing. Fortunately - another change - Beloved is rather otherwise occupied these days; which may delay things - she hopes will delay things - still further. More on that next time.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cheep cheep. Cluck cluck

Well here they are, mother and (some of the babies.) Granny is sorry the pictures aren't just a bit better. But taking them within their coop isn't easy; with sun there's too much shade, without sun the light's not really good enough. Excuses, excuses. But she did her best. And you get the idea.

All five babies are doing fine; somewhat to Beloved's surprise. The viability of chicks, he says depends on the extent to which the embryo grows round the yolk. The yolk is what they feed on in the shell. Those who get too little - there are often one or two who get too little - don't survive. But all these evidently did get enough: they do.

The chicks are not only getting bigger, they are growing wing feathers. They are developing 'Chicken Behaviour Patterns' according to Beloved, who knows about such things - he is a biologist after all. And a raiser of chickens. And he sits and watches them. Beloved likes watching chickens: so does Granny as a matter of fact, but not quite so much as she likes watching people. Beloved is not interested in watching people, even in foreign places. They do just the same as people do anywhere else, he says dismissively. Granny doesn't like to point out that a chicken anywhere does what a chicken does; that's what interest him about 'Chicken Behaviour Patterns.' Isn't it? CBP's among other things, if you're interested, consist in grabbing up a piece of food and taking it away to eat alone. Or making scratching movements just like their mothers. Or preening themselves; or stretching like grown-up birds. Cheep cheep, cluck cluck.

This may well be more than any of you want to know about chickens; but it’s what you get reading someone who lives with a biologist like Beloved. She is happy to be able to assure you that his knowledge on biological matters is not just limited to the birds (or the bees). That his knowledge of humans in the necessary respects is more than satisfactory. Nor does he call that kind of functioning 'human behaviour patterns', either. Or at least not out loud. He wouldn't dare.

Granny you can see has been playing with her template. Not her favourite activity. With many curses she did manage finally to get the picture of her house to head her blog. The photo was taken at the driest time when the land was totally dry. It is not always so desert-like. It is, for instance, greening up now after the rain, the beginning of the yearly miracle. Less usual is that now the wind has died, what there is of it remains from the south. The air is still hot.

After the first rains, the weather cooled down, granny got out her jeans, Beloved lit the fire at night. Winter seemed on its way. But since the not-typhoon she is back in her knee pants. They eat their meals outside; last night they even ate dinner outside, not a normal possibility at any time of year here; something that may surprise those of you from more northerly places. But it's true; the wind is too often cold. As it's also true that the glassy sea of the last few days, mirroring the sky in places, is an equally rare event. Another nice one. Back in London it's dark and getting cold. Here Granny plays at summer. She doesn't complain.

Oh and thanks to all you nice people who wrote about her blog on Guardian Abroad. As they say in Tesco ads, 'every little helps.' Blessing on each and every reader; on those who just want to read her too. She likes to please.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The typhoon that wasn't: or the Day of the Dead

It's weather yet again, friends. So sorry.

Granny came home from shopping on the other side of the island yesterday to find an anxious Beloved awaiting her. 'I'm glad you're back,' he said. 'There's a typhoon warning. All the schoolchildren have to be home by three o'clock.' (It was after three then.) It did feel strange too. Unnaturally still, even with a slight wind, gloomy, the air hot. What is meant, she thinks, by the calm before the storm. She went searching on the internet, thinking he must mean 'hurricane'. But there were no hurricane warnings in either east or west Atlantic. So what then? The weather felt sinister still.

They waited all evening. The wind got up a bit, from the south east. Air and wind were hot hot hot. They went to bed. 'Don't think it's coming,' said Beloved. They slept - or Granny did; Beloved claims to have had a bad night. She woke in the morning to furious rain, hot wind still, leaks in the sitting-room via the glass roof - a normal autumn and winter occurrence here; sofa's - luckily they are light bamboo ones - have to be moved around. No typhoon though. But there has been a typhoon - Typhoon Cimaron - it's bashing the Philippines right now, poor things. Quite how anyone could think it would cross the Pacific, the whole of Africa from South East to Northish West and arrive here she can't quite understand. Maybe with the rain and hot wind the island has the farthest fringes of it; but no more.

A typhoon, of course, is the Pacific version of a hurricane. And there was (almost) a hurricane here last year- though unreported in the UK. The Spanish Meteo totally failed to pick it up and issue warnings. Only the American systems did; that was how Granny found out what exactly they were in for, searching the internet at ten o'clock at night as the winds grew ever more furious. Obviously this year, Meteo weren't going to be caught napping, and warned everyone, just in case. Granny is glad they got it wrong - again. Hurricanes are not nice.

She now has a working camera - and has to admit she maligned Beloved unduly. She found her re-chargeable batteries in the charger. Still she now has two spare sets, so can keep them by her for when the ones in the camera fade. Good. Sorry, dear Beloved. Sorry.

She still can't take pictures of the chicks though. With the (hot and wet) wind blowing straight at them they are huddled in the corner of the coop so impossible to see. She will try again tomorrow. She is sure (?) that you can't wait.

Oh and today of course, is the feast of All Saints. A holiday. Though, thank god, there is no Halloween here, no trick and trick, though it is not like Mexico's Day of the Dead - there are no dressed-up bones in sight - people do troop off to the cemetaries to put flowers on the tombs of their dead. Granny approves of this. Her significant dead are in Kent (her mum and dad) in Oxfordshire (her twin sister) in West Somerset (the father of her children). It would be hard to honour all these scattered graves, even if she was back home in the UK. From here, she can only honour any of them virtually; thought lilies, carnations, chrysanthemums; what else?

It's so hard to think of those you love as skeletons - the beloveds are all skeletons now. But the flowers help flesh them out; still more memory fleshes them out. She sends plenty of both from her heart, blown by the not-typhoon wind, blowing in the right direction today - what luck - to reach them. She sends them with love. Of course.

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