Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Granny will be flying...

Granny is off tomorrow. She'll spend some of Monday with precious little lone twin then take off at some hideously early hour on Tuesday with 2 of her ex-Oxford group of girls for Italy where there'll join a third. All lovely except that the merry little group is hardly one of girls any more. The trip is to celebrate 50 years of friendship -help! - - and a 3 day walk they did then along Hadrian's Wall, none of them fit and none of them with proper footwear; but they made it, blisters and all. She thinks- hopes- they know better now.

This trip will be much more sybaritic: they're staying at a delicious-looking Calabrian B&B this time- as compared to very austere youth hostels and equal austere B&B's then, both kinds of hostelry freezing cold and latter featuring slippery brown lino and disapproving landladies. Much pasta will be eaten - the Italian landlady is a celebrated Italian cook - and much wine consumed. Fifty year old trip as Granny remembers was entirely dry. Oh, those were the days - all of us in love then, but the husbands in the process of being acquired are now all dead and gone. Women it seems live longer, so though old age is not exactly to be celebrated we can and do celebrate each other. We will. Bibulously for sure.

Granny is then taking Beloved to Venice to a borrowed flat to celebrate, belatedly, his 70th birthday and both of them are having a party in Bristol at the end of June to celebrate that and also her own 70th birthday in mid June. Family and quasi-family come to 20 odd in all and to that some very old friends have been added - plus some 70's music to groove to. It should be fun.

Can anyone suggest the odd hangover cure??

Granny will be glad to leave Lanzarote for a month or so anyway. Trade winds weather - wind everywhere, persistently cloudy up here - has set in and she is not at all fond of that. So no looking back longingly on volcanos. And anyway, if she was feeling volcano-less, she and the rest of them are flying to Naples first and visiting Pompeii so she can feast her homesickness on Mt Etna. Let's hope it doesn't erupt... Not that the four of them wouldn't make lovely ash-hardened fossils. Given that they are half-way there already.

'Sta Luego. She'll post again from London. Perhaps.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sumer is icumin in...

Sumer is icumin in.. no singing though. It was a song wasn't it, usually sung by greenery yallery people dressed up as mediaeval minstrels, all very prissy. (Well that's how Granny heard/saw it once, before mediaeval music got bucolic and rumbustious.)

Granny still sees her little Pili round every corner. She still kicks the washing-machine on passing which doesn't do the washing-machine much harm, but doesn't improve her big toe either - all fair enough really. A new cat will be acquired when she comes back here in July. Meantime the mice will have their way with things. And Beloved is back and Mr Handsome outside the kitchen window painting the house, even as she writes.

Apart from the grieving it was a good week. Much sun, little wind, dogs behaved themselves on the whole, Granny had nice lunches with women friends - minus all the men, life stories could be exchanged - and were. Some of her most virtuous friends seem to have been tearaway children: good. And she got back to her piece of fiction - up to 25,000 words now: she still doesn't know whether or not it's a lost cause/total shite or worth proceeding with: she might show it to critic friend back in the UK to get an idea.

Leaving aside all this solipsistic stuff, leaving aside the good weather, she has to report, sadly that the island is in bad shape. The unemployment figures in Spain are 3 times those in the UK, the Canaries the worst in Spain and Lanzarote the worst in the Canaries, 23,000 and climbing; 40% of the working population she's been told. It's not so bad in her area: people have gardens and access to land and they've gone back to doing what they've always done, that is growing things. Oh and bartering and exchanging crops, milk, eggs, etc the way Granny and Beloved do too, a bit, now they're part of the small-holding community.

In the towns there's no such recourse. And very little in the way of social security either. It turns out that few of those who worked in the now collapsed building trade or declining tourism were properly employed, or even on contract. They were casuals, ie 'autonimos' - ie self-employed: moreover, unlike in the UK, they cannot claim unemployment money when the work runs out. (There'd had been some move to change this before the recession broke, but that's now fallen by the wayside.) The result is that families are left without any income; the charities that used to feed street people are now feeding them too. The burglary rate is going up: burglars not only stealing things they can't afford themselves but food; lots of it. (And booze: the local supermarket has taken to locking up their stock of spirits.) Can you blame the thieves? It's dire. The better-off who can afford it are sending stuff to the charities, but of course it's not enough.

Oh and to add to all the good cheer, the water company on the island is bankrupt. Where all the money went, god knows, though one can imagine some of it went into political pockets, given that it's owned by the island council. (Not that corruption isn't universal: look at the news from the UK right now: tax-payers paying for MP's swimming pools? Oh come on.) The managing committee for water is made up of council members from the two parties currently in coalition, the numbers from each proportionate to their representation on the council. Currently there's a coalition between PSOE the Spanish socialist party and PIL a nationalist island party. They were falling out anyway and over the business of the water have fallen out totally. Meaning NOTHING is being decided, let alone done. Since the business can't be shut down - the island cannot do without water - and it can't be taken over, already belonging to the public, what now? God knows. Certainly the politicians don't. But then they never do, do they.

By the way: Granny and Beloved having become via their smallholding to be part of the community is a a good thing for them. In a country where democracy is comparatively young and where good of family/friends trumps good of the community - hence all the embroglios of politicians, developers, business men etc - one weapon of little people is the denuncia - which means literally 'report' rather than the more punitive English meaning of the word 'denounce.' But it works out the same. The denuncia can be anything: you've built an illegal wall/swimming-pool/extension, run an unlicensed business/unlicensed pig. your dog has grubbed up someone's garden, your goats/chickens are kept too near residential buildings. Etc. But once the report is handed to the local police - that's the procedure - even if it turns out unfounded it can cause you - and the police - a great deal of hassle in the meantime. Which is the point. Many expats living in rural areas have been hassled like this. Granny and Beloved have never been - but then they do know the odd thing about the odd illegal local pig etc, which might be a way of them causing problems in return. This helps.

(Ah Spain. Yahoo Espana has just reported an asparagus 3 meters in length. Sumer may be icumin but we haven't hit the silly season yet. Or have we?)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Poor Puss

Granny sat outside this morning with her breakfast. She'd brewed coffee in a stove-top espresso pot with strong freshly-ground Fairtrade (of course..) coffee; toasted slices of bread full of seeds and walnuts from a German bakery: put out ricotta cheese - Italian - and her own home-made strawberry and balsamic jam. She had also picked two ripe guavas off the tree that Mr Handsome planted by the front gate. To her right on one side of the patio was a riotous display of nasturtiums, on the other an equally riotous display of morning-glory. The olive trees she planted five years ago were growing and healthy, she saw, the fronds of the palm tree that was small when she arrived and is no longer were waving benignly in a very gentle wind. To the far left, hibiscus bushes were in full flower. Such a sunny, relatively windless morning a relatively rare thing here, Granny sat comfortably, eating and drinking and reading an only half-read issue of the Guardian review. Bliss.

But no, actually. Not bliss. Granny was not - is not - very happy just now.

You know the comic shaggy-dog story about the cat that got shut in the washing-machine and washed? Well, she can tell you it is not a funny story really - not unless you like black humour -something fine on paper -or in the movies; but not at all fine in real life.

Yesterday morning she went to get the washing out of the machine to hang on the line. In the middle of it was the sodden, rigid, very clean, very heavy - being sodden - very dead body of Pili (otherwise Pilar Lorengar after the opera singer, because as a kitten she had such a sweet miao): Granny's half-calico, half tabby and much loved little cat.

Kicking the washing-machine shouting 'murderer' wasn't much help: the washing-machine is an inanimate object which was only doing what it's programmed to do: the real murderer - programmed to do the washing after all these years she might be, but Granny is not an inanimate object - was the one who closed the machine door and set it going: Granny herself.

She howled mightily half the day, but nothing could bring back her little cat, by now wrapped in large amounts of newspaper and two plastic bags and dumped in the rubbish: no grave no cat funeral here; the ground is too hard and dogs would have come along and dug the body up.

It was an evil collection of unfortunate circumstances; starting with the fact that the Local Yokel having not adapted to the cat like the other dogs, and continuing to hassle her, Pili had ceased to station herself in the dining-room in the evenings, on a chair and taken to hiding in cupboards etc - but never so far as anyone knows in the washing-machine before. Going on to the fact, that, having discovered the odd flea bite on one of her legs, Granny had that evening decided to do a flea blitz, had hauled the throws off the sitting-room sofas, sprayed the sofas - sprayed everywhere, dumped the throws in the machine - she hadn't shut the door, in case there was more washing to be found. (The throws of course would have smelled comfortably familiar to the cat who sat on them sometimes when noone was around to chuck her off. )

There was also, for the first time ever, another cat lurking down on the land; a black and white monster. Granny due to go to a concert watched it for a bit, hoped it wouldn't cause trouble then hurried to her office to look up the map giving her the whereabouts of the concert, remembering to put the machine on as she went.

She heard a cat scream in a little while; but put it down to the cat outside, hoping there wasn't some fight in which her cat would come off worst. When Pili didn't turn up for her breakfast in the morning she even went outside to see if she could find her wounded somewhere on the land. In vain, of course. Then she came back in and emptied the washing-machine....etc etc.

The cat's scream is what haunts her, especially. If she'd correctly identified its source, could she have got the machine open - could she have saved her? - the programme was a low temperature one, so couldn't have boiled her at least - one small comfort, of a rather black kind. Maybe even then it would have been too late. The sheer terror of the poor animal when the machine started turning is more than she can bear to think of. Your animals - like your children - are yours to protect and care for, not to condemn to horrible deaths.

Murderer Granny....felinicide - whatever. Aided of course by the lethal tendency of cats to seek out small warm, familiar-smelling places, especially when harried by a small black street dog - who isn't to be blamed either, though this disaster doesn't make Granny any fonder of the Local Yokel.

Granny didn't even get to her concert. Despite her investigation of the map before leaving, she still drove round and round an unfamiliar village and couldn't find it. Not an apt punishment for the killer of what must have already been a very dead cat. But something.

She will keep her washing-machine shut in future. And meantime, until another cat is found, later in the summer, the mice will be happy. Sod them.

(Pili would have been sitting on Granny's lap while she wrote this, in other days. She had a book on her lap at one point and almost thought it was the cat. She keeps seeing the cat, she thinks - or at least expecting it to come round the corner. She keeps on having flashbacks of everything - if only she had done this, not done that etc etc. That's how it always is with tragedies, big and small. Don't drop that handkerchief, Desdemona. Don't turn that machine on, Granny. Oh God. Oh God.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Oh dear

Sorry. Granny has not taken the wings of the morning and vanished into outer space - nor has she descended to the uttermost parts of the sea. She and Beloved have had guests - one thing - also the novel she's been tinkering with for a while took off, to her excitement; she felt - as one writer friend described such things happily, mentally, pregnant and was looking forward to the disappearance of not only the guests, but also Beloved, off to do various bits of business in the UK. The day before the departures, alas, she made the mistake of reading through what she'd written and Granny's answer to Anna Karenina - or even to Joanna Trollope -revealed itself as the usual load of solipsistic shite: a baby with defects for sure. You know how it is. So here she is, all by herself, with all the time in the world, finding every excuse she can not to get back to this ungem of literature - yet another heap of paper for someone not to publish; today's excuse is writing this. Any excuse will do, boring or otherwise.

There's the laundry from the guests, for instance, then there's sorting out the bloody dogs of whom she is now in charge. (After a nice week in which the safely enclosed animals gamboled round their dog garden, the Local Yokel applied his teeth and claws to the usual effect - how Granny HATES that dog - a hole in the wire appeared and out they all came. Shit.) And then there's hoovering the rugs in the sitting-room - and washing the kitchen floor - and moving herself upstairs to what in the summer is her and Beloved's bedroom instead of the guests'. And yesterday there was a charity barbecue, attended by the usual expat display of bottle blonde and withered cleavage - often on the same person - not anywhere Granny fits very well, lovely as some of their owners turn out to be on closer acquaintance. She hasn't got a cleavage anyway after her unwilling encounter with a surgical knife and turning blonde would not suit her one little bit. She did encounter an extraordinary brown-eyed - and white-haired - Belgian woman with a very deep voice confined to a very high-tech wheelchair: despite which handicap she lives on the island in winter, IN A VAN - parking it on any offered garden. Granny heard herself offering her their carpark place in one weak moment - no she hadn't drunk anything: the prospect of having to move the truck out of a tight space and up a steep slope when she left the barbecue inhibited that. But she doesn't think the carpark place would be enjoyed much: too windy. Nor is she sure what Beloved would make of this unusual visitor. Contemplating which she ate far too much garlic bread - the barbecued meats were slow to arrive -before, with difficulty -see above -taking herself off home.

No such excuse today - though she does have to go to a concert this evening. Lunch then? Or siesta? Or back to the load of shite? Choices choices.

Actually no choice: after a gloomy morning the sun is out. It's her hammock for Granny. Literature? What's that?

Click Here