Archive for March, 2008

I kept wishing I’d worn the scarf Aunty Barbara bought me for Christmas.

Less than a week ago I’d been stretched out on Playa Jardín, turning intermittently like a chicken on a spit. Now I had my collar turned as high as it would go and my ears hadn’t been this cold since I spent an October night at the Alta Vista Refuge 2,500 metres above sea level.

But that’s La Laguna for you. Even at the height of summer you think twice about coming here without socks and a sweater for insurance. This was 9 pm on Good Friday and even a rollneck sweater and jacket were no match for the cold wind that was coming in from the north and racing down the narrow streets between tall buildings creating mini tornadoes of litter that danced along the cobbles.

La Laguna's Silent ProcessionThere were considerably more people here than I’d expected. Last Easter at the Magna Procession there were no more than a dozen people at any one point along the route. The Silent Procession wasn’t due to start until 9.30pm and already the route was reaching capacity. Like me, most people had opted for the relative shelter of the narrow streets rather than the open space of Plaza del Adelantado where the wind had nothing else to do but seek out the gaps in people’s collars.

I made my way along the route looking for somewhere to squeeze into and settled on an intersection where a group of schoolgirls were gathered, all of them at least 2 foot smaller than me and so no object to visibility. I moved in behind them and waited. Around me people shuffled their feet and re-arranged their scarves, chatting and greeting friends in the usual holiday atmosphere.
Amber lanterns cast a flaxen glow over the seventeenth century buildings and the cobbles, lending the scene a Dickensian aura. Above the end of the street the full moon hung like a Chinese lantern, the last wisps of clouds scudding across its face in their haste to vacate the firmament and abandon it to the cold.

Suddenly the lamps went black and darkness fell like a blow across the street. Everyone stopped talking, as if their voices had been light-activated. In the silence, the bells of La Concepción rang out and heads turned to watch the top of the street.
First came the sound; a soft, rhythmic beat like an army marching in slippers. Then came the torches, swaying in the wind high above the heads of the Brotherhood torch-bearers. The rhythmic beat grew more audible as the group drew closer and I could see that the noise was coming from the way they were walking; each foot brushing the ground before creating an arc and returning to repeat the manoeuvre.
In the torchlight, the tall conical hoods cast two storey high, menacing shadows that crept along the walls of the buildings opposite. The noise changed. The steady beat was replaced by a grating of metal on stone as the shackled ankles of the barefoot Brotherhood dragged their chains behind them.

For forty minutes I stood in that cold street in La Laguna along with hundreds of others while Brotherhood after Brotherhood filed past in the dim torchlight and no-one broke the silence.

With the whole of the old quarter blacked out and barely a Policia to be seen, no-one tried to pick a pocket or steal a car.

When the Procession had passed, the murmur of conversation resumed and shutters and doors were thrown open to allow the warm glow of lights from bars and restaurants to spill onto the street in invitation.
In the absence of Aunty Barbara’s scarf, they didn’t have to ask me twice; a shot of rum was just what I needed to bring the feeling back to my fingers and ears.

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As a visitor to Tenerife, you’re likely to discern only minor differences between your January and your June holiday. In January the backless dress you’ve been saving for your last Saturday night when the tan would be optimum may have to stay in the suitcase, or you may decide to wear it anyway and go for that ‘I may be frozen but hey, check out the tan’ look, but other than that, the long sunshine hours and the flowering bougainvillea will be pretty much constant.

jasmine cascades over the terrace wallBut in the garden, spring arrives with an assault on the nostrils when the jasmine and wild freesias come into flower filling the air with their transient scent which drifts through the windows and causes me to almost hyperventilate in my attempts to greedily drink it all in while it lasts.
As well as being perfumed, the air has notched its temperature up a few degrees heralding the abandonment of socks and the return of sandals. For feet which have been cosseted for the past 2 months that can only mean one thing; some sun and a varnish make-over.
So when yesterday dawned glorious with a monotone sapphire sky and temperatures in the high 20s, I headed to that litmus test of spring’s arrival – Puerto’s main beach of Playa Jardín.

As I suspected, on arrival at the beach, the tell tale signs were evident. The rows of sunbeds which decorate the rear of the beach are normally almost fully occupied by the dark brown, oversized bellies and non-too-pert, naked breasts of the retired British and German ‘swallows’ who over winter in Tenerife and for whom tanning is a way of life. Yesterday, hardly any of the sunbeds were occupied, the swallows having flown north for Easter and the summer.

Instead, one or two Spanish mainlanders were sitting below their brightly coloured umbrellas on the water’s edge where they wouldn’t have far to walk if the urge for a dip came upon them. Most of the middle ground was occupied by young, good looking Canarios for whom the warmer air had tempted them to cast their clouts and allow the sun to turn their perfect bodies a shade more golden. It’ll be another month and another five degrees or so before their parents venture onto the sand; for them, the prospect of a day on the beach in winter is about as tempting as a January dip at Scarborough.

The spring tides, which last week had been gathering pace filling the ocean with white caps and smashing against the harbour wall, had taken the day off and were gently lapping the shore as if they were the Med. The lifeguard changed the flag from yellow to red but nobody took any notice, including the waves, and after a while the lifeguard lay down on the sand with his head propped on one arm, ready to spring into…well, a snooze.
As the sun rose higher the sand became hotter prompting the inevitable spate of the phenomenon known as ‘Daniel Craig to Lee Evans in the space of sea to towel’ to occur up and down the beach.

I lay back listening to the strains of ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ coming from an ice cream van in the distance which had at first evoked a sense of nostalgia and a mild curiosity as to what exactly the line “stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni” meant, but had begun to feel like the onset of insanity as it played over and over and over again.

In the land of eternal spring, how do you know when the seasons change? It’s in the sights, sounds and smells.

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This weekend Patricia Rodríguez, a girl from Granadilla de Abona in the south of Tenerife, won the Miss Spain 2008 title.
Like Pamela, once I get past the whole ‘women seen solely as articles of ornament and objects of sexual desire’ bit, I can confess to a politically incorrect twinge of pride on behalf of Tenerife.
Patricia Rodriguez, photo from ABC.esWhat struck me most about Patricia, apart from her obvious stunning beauty, was her height; a slightly-above-average-for-anywhere-else but bordering-on-giant-for-Tenerife, 5’10”.  Exactly my height in fact, although there the similarity unfortunately ends.

Before I moved to Tenerife I had never considered myself to be abnormally large. I may have gained a few excess inches around the midriff as middle age and I become far more closely acquainted than I would like but that’s nothing that a dozen weeks of fruit, boiled rice, water and intensive exercise won’t shift.
But since moving here, I’ve developed a certain affinity with Gulliver, which is useful for the inhabitants of this real life Lilliput when it comes to getting me to reach for their favourite brand of flour/biscuits/soap powder from the upper shelves in Al Campo supermarket in La Orotava.

The Tinerfeños are not what you’d describe as tall people. Today at the supermarket, an eight year old girl had her arm across her mum’s shoulders as they strolled back to their car and from the back, if it wasn’t for the school uniform, I wouldn’t have known the difference in their ages. And that’s the norm for both sexes here.
Even in flat shoes, I’m a good head and shoulders above the rest of the population and when the high heeled boots come out I’m apt to get the sort of second glances that I just know are of the ‘Dutch or Carnaval Trannie?’ variety.

So why then are the trousers here so ridiculously long? Jack (tall for a Tinerfeño, short for a Brit and average for a Scot) can’t get trousers here for love nor money. Every purchase results in either a trip to the dry cleaners to have a yard or so lopped off, or turn-ups to the knee. I on the other hand, who in the UK could only buy trousers that either had a large hem which I could take down, or, God help me, as a last resort had to buy from the M & S ‘tall’ range, bought a pair of trousers in the sales at Zara in La Villa last week that are actually slightly too long for me.
Someone should tell the manufacturers of clothing destined for the Canary Islands that their target market is ‘below average height’. I know that these things are taken into consideration in the world of clothing manufacture because large bosoms and protruding bottoms are both accommodated in the women’s department and Jack assures me that a lack of dance floor (ie no Ballroom) is evident in the gent’s department.

So congratulations, Patricia Rodríguez for your double achievement; for winning Miss Spain 2008 and for getting an entire island to stock long trousers just so you can shop anywhere you like!

P.S. Yes, I do know where M&S is in Santa Cruz and no, I am not going to give you directions, get a life and some better trousers!

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