Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Vine leaves

The politics of a place in which everyone, no matter their party, is related to everyone else means nothing ever gets done here - unless it makes someone a lot of crooked money. The island auditorium has had a site allocated - even a sign put up - for nearly ten years now. The sign has collapsed already; no sign of any building still. The plans for improving the island capital have been shelved, yet again. Despite much talk, the illegal hotels show no sign of being legalised - where the illegalities are small - or demolished - where the illegalities put crooked man, on crooked road, in crooked town to shame. At a guess tourists will still be staying in these illegal, theoretically even demolished edifices in ten years time. This is a small island, darling. Disinterest? civic virtue? what's that?

Oh and in a month's time it's August. The whole island shuts down then, apart from tourism. Wouldn't you know. The tents and caravans are already heading for Granny - and her dog's - nearest bit of coast. Noone, anywhere, lives more than twenty minutes from the sea, but that doesn't stop people liking to get up close and personal, spending all the many fiestas/holidays from Easter to October. parked right on top of it, on various grottier - ie non-tourist beaches, (Granny wouldn't mind if only her dog, the Beautiful Wimp, wasn't so fond of rooting about in the garbage left hanging around - he's a greedy animal with disgusting tastes: this does rather disrupt their walks along her non-tourist, grottier beach of choice. One of life's smaller problems maybe; but you've heard the one about the hair - or rather straw - and the camel.... how many hairs - or rather straws - does it take?)

Some things work though in all seasons - neighbourliness for one - provided the weather is cooperative - provided it doesn't, for instance, send a calima and temperatures of over 40 degrees when the grapes are near to being harvested as it did last year. At the moment all is well. Granny and Beloved's neighbours are pruning the vines so that the grapes get their ration of cooperative - not over-heated - sun. Pruning the grapes means guess what, vine leaves: dolmades, thinks Granny - she likes dolmades. Certainly not, says Beloved. The leaves don't grow big enough here. Granny experienced this for herself - she did try to wrap the leaves round their rice filling: in vain. The goats on the other hand are quite happy to eat vine leaves raw and without stuffing; so that's alright. Not that she and Beloved grow grapes, make wine, you understand, but all their neighbours do. Juan down the drive delivered at large heap of vine leaves one morning. Domingo on the far side summoned Beloved to fetch another big load from him. The goats are delighted. Billy the Kid, in particular obviously a gourmet child, has developed a passion for the green things. What next, Granny wonders? Will he be demanding Crepes Suzette? Pommes dauphinoises? Possibly. He might not go for oysters, though: goats are herbivores, after all.

On Tuesday, Granny is heading back to the UK for a haircut - and Big Brother's funeral on Friday- then heading back here the following Sunday for an inspector, then back to UK on Thursday for a baby. Carbon footprint what's that? Oh God. Sackcloth and ashes more like. Sorry environment. Sorry everyone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Art - what's that? Between beans, tomatoes, aubergines, dust, getting to places cleaning normally doesn't, etc, not much time for art round Granny these days. The island on the other hand... how about some island art...As you can see we're not talking Almodovar here, we're talking something much more indigenous. There's some theory the artist responsible is German, but that's hard for Granny to ascertain; she's seen him around several times - a small, not very clean, battered and rather
toothless man, but since he never speaks, how to tell. His size and squareness are Canarian enough for sure, whether he's German or not.

How to describe this weird work? Impossible really. The 'work' - whatever you call it - surrounds a house on the outskirts of Teguise, the old capital, a mishmash of sculpted figures and found objects placed, heaped, jumbled together and added to and altered all the time. The main plaster figures, for instance can change colour overnight, become all colours or one new colour all over; figures can have hats one day, not hats the next. As for the rest.... whatever he finds goes in. At one point you could go inside the house, Beloved said - the lavatory bowl inside the door was always full of sweets. But ever since Granny has been getting out of her vehicle to take a proper look the gate is always padlocked; the padlock and its chain are rusty, what's more as if never taken apart in a long time.

The overall effect is naive art/primitive art rather than the high stuff, but no less effective for all that. It's also very sinister - if anything says the artist is German, this might. Granny thinks of early illustrations to the Brother's Grimm, of an equally grim Germanic kind of surrealism. No more talk. Judge for yourselves. This is only a small part of the whole, she promises. But it will do for now.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Scrubber Granny

No no not that kind of scrubber. The literal kind - Granny on hands and knees with scrubbing brush, cloth, bucket of water and (environmentally friendly of course) detergent, preparing for the arrival in two weeks of Alastair Sawday's inspector. Not that such a title mightn't bring more visits to her blog, visits from those people who arrive after clicking granny something as in Granny porn, expecting much more raunchy things. (Judging by her newly installed and interestingly informative site meter there are more than a few of those around....not that they stay l0ng: Granny's ?demure form of grannydom is not what they are after. Poor things.)

Still it's Granny's birthday today; and presents come in all forms, even merely in raised (if misplaced) statistics for her blog. Beloved took her out for a ?demure lunch and that will do her nicely too.

To get to less raunchy matters: Pedro Almodovar; as promised.

Some years back Granny took part in two of Graham Vick's community based opera productions in Birmingham (playing a mixture of bit parts from aged whore to psychotherapist to rather tipsy lady in a pink hat. And no, she did NOT sing.) Over weeks of rehearsal she watched with fascination idea brought to life: shape/order appearing from no shape/no order, from steps backward/forward, sideways, to afterthought to non-thought. She was reminded then of Indian creation myth - the Brahma breathing out a world from within his head, then breathing it back in again. She was reminded of it again on Wednesday watching the scenes shot on her favourite beach between an arc of sea and an arc of cliff; though obviously in this case the ideas had taken shape much more fully already: they have to if you've got to produce, organise, deal with a film crew, actors, extras, etc etc.

There are always surfers on that beach; sometimes there are wind surfers, sometimes there are kites, sometimes people playing beach tennis, taking part in surf school exercise, going for walks, sometimes there's a dog or two running around madly barking. But today - and it was really choreography as much as film-making - there they all were; the kites like butterflies, a myriad of them flying overhead, three huge wind surfer boards, the surf school stretching and bending, the ball players, the children, even the little dog (Granny thought this might be an accident, but no, there suddenly was its trainer, putting it on a lead) - and there was the film crew and the odd important actor followed around by someone with a sunshade and there was the director's chair and the sound men with their furry cylinders held high and the directors of the extras with their loudhailers - and there was the rather distinguished Mexican-American cinematographer in a loose striped shirt climbing a ladder to his camera and there came the crackly sound of the intercom phones and loud voices shouting instruction and there was Pedro himself in his little trademark straw hat, his white shoes, his striped t-shirt - tight enough to show all the bulges round his substantial middle- sitting in his director's chair, giving orders, displacing the camera man and climbing up to have a look through the view-finder, running down to the beach to instruct an actor, then at last breathing out as it were and setting everything in motion; over and over and over; bringing his world into life.

And such a beautiful life: the butterfly kites dipping and soaring, the choreographed wind surfers, the movers on the beach, the dog jumping and barking; but above all the sea, the cliff, the light, the parts even Pedro couldn't direct, the sun coming and going, the sudden, brilliant flare of turquoise and azure over the sea, the white surf, the rocky solidity of the cliffs changing colour in the changing light. Or maybe, turned Brahma for the day, he did direct it: 'Action, sun. Cut, waves. Try and make it livelier, sea....'

Lanzarote is beautiful - more beautiful than ever looks likely, in this film. Granny can't wait to see it: whatever happens God, she begs, let her live long enough (the same feeling she has when she sets out on a book of her own.)

Not surprising she managed little sleep the night after? All too much.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


No no not tears of grief this time. The relentless produce of the garden continues ever more relentless: right now it's aubergines in over-abundance and Granny has been chopping them up all morning for chutney along with onions - very strong onions - and fresh chillies - also breeding excessively - hence the tears pouring down her face.

She is also tired: very. She caught up with the brilliant Pedro Almodovar at last yesterday on his trawl around the island for his new film. She will write about the cinematic choreography he achieved on her favourite - the most beautiful - beach, when she's less exhausted: for now she'll just say the experience was so wonderful she was still humming and hopping mentally and physically when she went to bed. The humming and hopping was promptly exacerbated by Beloved asking probing philosophical questions as he is wont to do in bed sometimes (she's happier when he confines his over-large brain to his beeping chess machine at that time of night, but if you live with a retired and somewhat eccentric professor such mental probing has to be expected, now and then.) The questions this time related to Beloved's new subject of choice - and a probable book: sleep - something he used to study in sheep among other animals. 'Does time seem to go faster or slower when you are awake or when you are asleep?' he wanted to know - he is aware that Granny dreams copiously, most nights. Granny has to think rather more about that one. Awake she is in a different dimension from when she is dreaming it seems to her, and you cannot measure the experience of one dimension against another. She's not sure he quite got what she tried to say - or if she got what he was. If any of you out there - lurkers or commentators - have any ideas of your own on the subject, let her know. He might be grateful, even if she isn't.

Anyway the net result was she barely dreamed at all last night: she barely slept and ended up reading through the small hours rather than, more wearisomely, writing books - or blog posts - in her head, which she does when she is insomniac, thereby driving sleep yet further away. Early in the morning when she was dropping off at last, the air was rent by howls - goat howls - kid howls - bleat-type howls - because Billy the Kid had got himself stuck behind the shelter in the goat enclosure. Little billy goats quite as prone to be over-adventurous as little boys, the ongoing din, his protests ever louder as Beloved attempted to free him, woke her right up again.

You can see she is still on her island. Big Brother's funeral is delayed another two weeks. She's going to have to rush over for that and then rush back: the Alastair Sawday inspector is due - most likely - to arrive a day or two later to inspect Granny and Beloved's hospitality efforts. Another but different cause of tears, possibly - more that are not caused by grief exactly - they might even be caused by joy. But before then she'll re-encounter no doubt the real kind of tears when confronted by Big Brother's lead-lined - because of travel - coffin.

Monday, June 09, 2008


The limbo of waiting-for-death has been followed by limbo of waiting-to-hear-when-the-funeral-will-be. Big Brother's body has to be repatriated which explains the delay. When the news comes Granny will have to leap to her laptop to buy a ticket, thereby adding to her carbon footprint - yet again - but what can she do about that? Apart from moving back to England for good, not such a simple move just now, with the island economy slowing down, a high unemployment rate, all new tourist development stalled (good) and barely a house selling anywhere - mortgages not currently on offer. (Bad)

Beloved, always proactive in such areas (a bit too proactive in Granny's view) is leaping into action. Though Granny is happy to leave it to him - the only kinds of financial activity she wants are those that involve large sums of money turning up in her account with no input whatever from her, except of the literary kind -some hope- she wishes sometimes he wasn't quite so proactive. She can't keep up.

'Beloved, didn't we agree we'd do x only if all else fails?' she asks plaintively as he outlines how not only x is being set up, is almost arranged but y is following on fast: as he threatens to rearrange her tax status in ways that if he's not very careful will end up in her being taxed both in Spain and the UK. 'I've explained it all,' he says crossly, 'Sometimes I think you must be stupid,' 'Of course I am,' says Granny, 'when you are galloping ahead like this.' But she might as well save her breath. He's proposing other manoeuvres now - ones affecting her less directly - that involve him moving money round accounts, so making it unnecessary to change sums from one currency to another, given that the pound appears to be in free fall against the euro. The problem is that these days, because of terrorism, even such relatively innocent operations are picked up and can give authorities the wrong idea - that you are avoiding tax or much worse. Such activities are fine, she points out, if you're a large corporation that can afford large numbers of cunning lawyers and accountants to get them around all sorts of things meaning that they end up paying ridiculously small amounts of tax relative to their worth. (Attend to this Gordon. NOW. But of course you're too chicken, you won't.) But certainly not worth the hassle for Mr-and- Mrs-Small Accounts-in- two-different-countries which is where Granny and Beloved are at. Big sigh. Granny hates to deflate Beloved's enthusiasm. But.

To think people make careers - and fortunes - out of playing with money. Oh how BORING. No wonder Granny is not rich, nor ever will be - nor Beloved for that matter, for all his efforts - she's not sure financial sleight-of-hand is one of his talents; she might love him less if it was. Pause here: by the sound of it Beloved is about to leap into her room with yet another burst of ideas and sheaf of papers. Granny would rather do the crossword herself. Not that it's profitable in any respect, socially, financially, culturally. Never mind. She enjoys it. As she also enjoys reading detective stories, which she is off to do now, a French policier in this case, translated into Spanish, which does at least add to her Spanish vocabulary. Noone is going to employ her to manage hedge funds are they? Good.

Besides, there aren't any hedges on Lanzarote; merely stone walls. What could any accountant do with them, she wonders?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Big Brother died peacefully yesterday afternoon after a far from peaceful weekend, seizing a moment - as often happens - when none of his family was with him.

Like everyone else in the family - some, of course, his immediate family, more than others - Granny is grieving.

She thinks of her father, aged 80 odd, at the funeral of the last and youngest of his siblings, in her 90's at the time. Granny was out of the country, but her twin reported that their dad sobbed loudly, throughout. 'It was excessive,' she said. Granny at the time agreed that it sounded excessive.

Listening to music today - to her preferred grief music - she wasn't quite so sure. Twenty-five years on, she's learned the hard way that as you grow older, as the deaths mount up, each one comes ever more freighted with past deaths, old griefs, with whole lives lost in the past; lives leaving little but photographs behind them- the odd object - the odd reminiscent piece of music - to remind you of how things were. At that funeral her dad was, she's sure, weeping not only for his sister, but for his long-dead parents, for his two much older brothers swallowed up in the killing machine that was World War One, for his wife, her mother, dead at 53: for all those lost lives - his lives - that theirs contained. At such moments the past reaches away behind but is also very close, close as the stratified layers in an archaeological site: whole centuries lying one on another, a mere whisker or two apart, in a single wedge of earth.

Granny's music was what it always is at such times - has been since her own twin died - Purcell's chamber opera Dido and Aeneas, written to be sung by schoolgirls and containing feelings well beyond theirs. It swells in the end through cello chords - or viola da gamba chords if the instruments played are old ones - and into Dido's Lament, one of the most wonderful pieces of music ever written. Its last words - 'Remember me, but forget my fate....' are a good epitaph besides for those who, as in Granny's family, die all too slowly and miserably of cancer. The tears well up when she hears Dido at the best of times.... as for days like today - you can imagine. This is all very self-indulgent of course, not to say sentimental but SO WHAT? The music isn't either of these things - far from it - even when accompanied by the tinny crowing of the bantam cockerel outside that Granny doesn't think Mr P ever intended as part of his orchestra; the bantam didn't have a clue about singing in time, let alone in tune. The wind in the beams and doors played better; whereas the blessedly silent sun through the high glass did its thing regardless, just like the bantam, flooding granny with light and warmth at the most inappropriate moments.

"Remember me but forget my fate."

Tragi-comedy all of it: tragic because life really is so short and we are each of us so insignificant- comic because we persist for long in thinking life is long and that we are, each of us, at its centre. Big Brother's life did not seem so long today, for sure, even though it was at the centre of Granny's, of his family's thinking, without a doubt. He was a pain in the arse in certain respects - but then all in her family can be pains in the arse, all are obstinate idiots - including her - but still a living breathing man with a wealth of good qualities, a not always happy life - far from it - and with four lovely kids who could be as maddened by him as his sisters could be, but who loved him to bits none the less. It says everything important, everything that was good about him, that they loved him as they did, that they are who they are, every last one of them.

Goodbye Big Brother. Granny too did love you after all. She does so wish you were still out there, playing golf and bridge, despairing that England had turned socialist, being your own true self: that you'd been given a few more years to enjoy your life in the sun at last. She hopes there's chocolate mousse up there for you - and a golf course or two. Sleep well.

Monday, June 02, 2008


This time last week Granny was, excitedly, also nervously, heading for the airport to meet Beloved Granddaughter and Beloved Goddaughter. Now instead, she is missing them. No fears realised - weather good, girls did not decide they hated each other and fall out - far from it (they had not known each other that well before so anything was possible) - Granny drove them safely hither and thither in her little hire car, despite her worries about that. Only problems were Beloved Granddaughter suffering mild sunburn despite all precautions against such things and Beloved Goddaughter catching a cold - she claimed - noone else caught it and this is a child inclined to hypochondria so who knows. The only real casualty a large fish the children caught in a rock pool and placed in the kitchen one, where it expired within the hour.

This was the case anyway, until Granny took her unaccompanied minors back to the airport.... where it turned out no airport guardian was available to mind them airside, accompanying relation had to do this, proving her identity with a passport - which Granny didn't have on her of course - compounding the problem by being no relation to one of the minors. It took half an hour of battling with officials all saying different things till they let her and them through but not before she and the children had had to traipse hither and thither, from uniform to uniform - police with caps - officials capless - from office to office. Sigh.

Tomorrow Granny was supposed to go back to Malaga. But Big Brother's two daughters are now with him, Granny definitely is not needed. BB still close to death - closer - despite rallying on Friday, sitting up in bed and eating large amounts of chocolate mousse. Which all goes to prove Granny's observation from long experience - too much of it really - that the dying are still in life, can still enjoy it, and that this is quite as significant as the lurking skeleton with his scythe. In this case BB did enjoy it, very much - the chocolate mousse she means: obviously. Good. As for now.... She waits to hear. You can't keep on ringing people to find out what slow stage of consciousness/unconsciousness someone has reached now . BB will go when he goes and she will sit here thinking of him and missing the children and listening to the wind making music with the house. As usual.

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