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Archive for February, 2008

For the past 6 weeks I’ve been locked in combat with the over sized avocado tree that dominates the garden.

Every morning, I step onto the terrace filled with joy for another beautiful day and my feet cushion on the carpet of seeds from the avocado tree which overnight, have covered every surface. I sigh, look up at tree, take the sweeping brush and painstakingly set to work removing the sticky little blighters from table, chairs, steps and terrace and bagging them up.
By lunchtime, it looks as if the sweeping brush and I have never formally been introduced and I have to repeat the sweep of the area before I can sit down to eat. Over lunch, coasters act as ‘tapas’ for the water glasses and every salad has turned into an avocado salad by the time I’ve finished eating it. So far, “15–love” to the tree.The victorious avocado tree lords it over the terrace
Then last week we had a blustery day and the volume of seeds quadrupled in the space of a morning. Refusing to provide amusement for the tree by sweeping into the wind as seeds rained down on me, I let them fall to their heart’s content until they were virtually ankle deep. “That’ll take the last of them out” I mused.
“30–love” to the tree.

When the breeze died down I spent an hour teasing seeds from every corner of the terrace while they fell and lodged into my hair and trickled down the neck of my T-shirt. When I went inside, a trail of them followed me through the house and when I tried to sweep them out, the ones that had previously refused to leave the head of the brush suddenly decided to make a bid for freedom and joined their colleagues in a ten yard dash around the living room.
“45-love” to the tree.

Last night the day’s drizzle turned to a deluge. This morning the bird baths are overflowing. The pot with the end of last year’s chillie crop is almost floating in its tray. The terrace at the front is pale and patchy, long lines of sand deposited from the calima rain have dried along the border of each tile and filled every crevice in the ceramic. On the horizon, Mount Teide has acquired a fresh thick coating of brilliant white snow and its peak stands out against the iridescent blue of this morning’s sky like a brand new creation.
At the back of the house a million avocado seeds lie in drifts where the deluge has deposited them like seaweed after the tide; along the steps, under the table, around the jasmine pots and the watering can. They lie in soggy heaps that will be impossible to move until they’ve dried out which might be a full day, or longer if it rains again. Looking up at the tree, I can see fresh flowers forming that will soon turn to seed.
“Game, set and match” to the avocado tree.

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From barrels at either side of the stage, draught Dorada is being dispensed in small plastic glasses and disorderly queues are forming. In the mêlée, there are several minor casualties; two wigs, a bedside cabinet whose contents are spilling from its drawers, a fortune-teller’s headscarf and a false nail. When everyone’s got a least one drink in their hands there’s a short interlude of repairing hair and gathering spilt accessories before resuming the promenade of the arena, posing for the hundreds of camera flashes that fill the plaza like fireflies. When the beer runs out there’s a human chain of drinks being passed from the vendors in the square, above the heads of onlookers, to the waiting manicured hands of drag queens. Small measures of coke are being liberally topped up with lashings of Arehucas rum and guzzled in the flutter of an eyelash.

drag queens at Puerto's CarnavalIt’s the 14th Annual High Heel Drag Marathon in Tenerife’s Puerto de la Cruz and it’s the most popular event in the Carnaval calendar. This year, there are over 200 contestants and more than 35,000 spectators.
The area in front of the stage is teeming with contestants, many of them topping seven foot tall in their shoes. The minimum height of heels for entry in the race is 8 cm but most contestants prefer a staggering 15 centimetre stack; calf muscles are pulled tight and backs must be near to breaking but alcohol helps to dull the pain and more than anything else, the show must go on.

For 2 hours, the event’s compère and real star of the show, ‘Lupita’, calls contestants onto the stage to introduce them, indulge in a great deal of witty, double-entendre banter and tell us all how high the heels are; in this race, size matters.drag mayhem at Puerto's Carnaval
Costumes are extraordinary, witty, fabulous, sometimes bawdy, often weighty but always worn with panache and attitude. The size of the heels is rivalled only by the height of the headgear, most of which has clearly been modelled on Marge Simpson. There are more false eyelashes than at a Miss World Pageant and the make-up is louder than the steady Salsa beat that pounds out from banks of speakers at either side of the stage while Lupita and her ‘guapas’, ‘cariñas’ and occasionally ‘muchachos’ dance and whoop their way through the never-ending list of contestants.
The further down her list Lupita gets, the more unsteady the contestants become on their well-oiled heels and the steps up to the stage are proving to be the first real obstacle in an entire race of obstacles. There are several heart-stopping moments, particularly on the dismount, and several ankles have dress-rehearsal sprains.
By the time Lupita introduces contestant number 78, it’s already 10pm and the contestants are only just beginning to make their way to the starting point. It’s going to be a long night. Very few of the contestants will attempt anything more than a fast totter on Puerto’s cobbled streets; in this drag race, there’s very little speed involved, just a great deal of pantomime and thousands of memory sticks filled to capacity with unforgettable images.

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The fluorescent red grass-skirt did its very best to save the night. I don’t quite know where it came from. I found it in the dressing-up box and I have a vague recollection of someone in our party acquiring it last year but I can’t quite remember who…or why.

It’s 10pm on Carnaval’s opening night and, exhausted from a full day of activities (mental note to self: next year do NOTHING on first day), we’ve just got back from watching the opening parade and have emptied the contents of the dressing-up box onto the bed. I’m staring at the assorted masks, hats, wigs and props and I’m feeling singularly uninspired. Large vodka with Sprite appears at my elbow and the strains of Ministry of Sound reach my eardrums but even those two party starters are failing to muster enthusiasm for the motley bundle on the bed.
Then I spot the grass skirt. “Hmm…this looks interesting.”

Waistband tied in a circle and placed on my head over my pinned up hair and beneath a top hat. Fringe (of sorts) cut and hey presto! Well, more of a “what the…” but it’s late, I’m tired and quite frankly, I can’t think of anything else. So, face is painted white, eyes and lips black; long black velvet skirt and black velvet bodice are donned, full length pink gloves are pulled up above the elbows and it’s time to fill a carrier bag with booze and head off into the night.

Fifty minutes of brisk walking keeps the night chill at bay and gets us to Plaza Charco by 1 am (ish), just as the party’s warming up. We mingle into the dancing hordes of Geishas, trannies, super heroes, Stylistics, spacemen, cowboys and girls, witches, dead rock stars, punks and aliens who fill every square metre of space in the Plaza and surrounding streets.
The competition is simply too good. No-one takes our photo and we barely elicit a second glance from the impeccably costumed throng.
That’s it, I decide, I can no longer get away with my high-on-imagination,-low-on-content approach to Carnaval. It’s time to clear out the dressing-up box and splash out on some real fancy dress costumes.
The photos confirm it; we were simply out-classed in every direction. It’s no good adopting a Canarian approach to doing Carnaval; in future, there’s simply going to have to be some planning.

So what on earth am I going to wear tomorrow night?!!!

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