November in the north of Tenerife usually evokes two strong images in my mind; heavy rain and chestnuts roasting. But last year, and so far this year, only one of those images has transpired.
Normally, November is the month in which everything breathes a sigh of relief as the long, dry summer draws to a close and the heavens open to the welcoming arms of the wilting tropical vegetation. Once sated, the earth blossoms anew and the faded colours of summer are replaced by vivid scarlet poinsettias and the bright orange crowns of strelitzias.
But as I compile this blog we’re deep into our second calima in as many weeks and, save for a couple of midnight light showers, the temperatures remain resolutely high and the ground solid.
The rains may have failed to appear but the chestnuts haven’t. As the sun bids its hazy adieu to the day, the white-out of calima is replaced by the fragrant smoke of a dozen braziers, fired up to white hot and topped with small clay pots in which sweet chestnuts are roasting. When darkness falls, the pyramids of ash beneath each brazier show their fiery hearts and sparks fly from the fires like mini volcanic eruptions. Brows wet, clothes stained with ash while gloved finger and thumb test the chestnuts for readiness, men and women tend the braziers and feed the busy stalls that line the front of the harbour.
Small skewers of spicy pork kebabs (pinchos) sizzle on grills alongside wine vats from which the year’s new wine is dispensed in small plastic cups.
It’s the prelude to Christmas; from December the lights will be turned on and thoughts will turn to the holidays and preparations for the festivities. But for now, as the fiesta of San Andrés approaches, it’s a time to savour the sweet chestnuts and new wine and to spend evenings on the harbour and in Plaza Charco enjoying the warmth of the bonus summer nights.
Tomorrow the rains may come.