Archive for July, 2009

Yesterday a helicopter lost control and plummeted into the tarmac of Puerto’s harbour side car park scattering pieces of shattered blades during the air display which marks the end of the July Fiestas.

Thankfully, it was only a model copter and the only injury was to the pride of the pilot who had been doing a grand job until the disastrous moment which raised what I thought was an insensitive cheer from the crowd.

That would be at least a €100 fine for anyone else!

That would be at least a €100 fine for anyone else!

Half an hour later the Guardia Civil sent bits of the lighthouse the same way as they attempted to set the runner of their very real helicopter on its top and very nearly sent the satellite dish flying. I’m sure I can’t have been the only one to consider the irony of such a blunder by the island’s traffic cops. To be fair, it was a freak gust of wind that sent the runner awry and they’d already wowed the crowds with their prowess beneath the blades in a series of awesome manoevres. Still, I trust a ticket was forthcoming.

Hordes of residents and visitors braved the excessive temperatures yesterday to enjoy the free air show, filling the stands and swarming the hillock beside the car park like ants on a termite mound. They were rewarded with demonstrations by the archipelago’s air rescue and firefighting services and a display of freefall parachutists, one of whom resembled a flying squirrel in his special suit as he glided to within what felt like death distance before pulling the chord on his chute.

The Canarian rescue services are often unsung heroes

The Canarian rescue services are often unsung heroes

Jack and I positioned ourselves on a small mound right behind the VIP grandstand with its top brass audience. With the mercury pushing 35 degrees Celsius we watched a staged land to air rescue and gallons of water dropped from the basket of a twin bladed copter which just the day before we’d watched doing it for real in the hills above El Tanque where a forest fire had clearly broken out in the tinderbox conditions.

Then half a dozen uniformed officers left the stand and disappeared, at which point the demonstrations ground to a seemingly inexplicable halt for the best part of half an hour while audiences broiled. That’s when the tragic accident befell the model helicopter whose pilot had stepped into the breach to keep the crowds amused.
Eventually the VIP guests returned and the show was able to resume. I do hope their view wasn’t too spoiled by the ambulance removing the heat exhaustion victim right in front of them.

The day before we;d seen this in action for real

The day before we'd seen this in action for real

But imminent sunstroke or not, we weren’t leaving until we’d seen the finale. A Hornet jet fighter appeared over the sea on the horizon, shimmering in the heat haze, and screamed towards the crowd in a supersonic series of manoevres that sent pulses and testosterone levels rising; an effect earlier achieved by the appearance of two rather sassy looking female army officers in extremely tight skirts and rather fetching berets.
“It’s not in the slightest bit like the British army’s female uniform,” remarked Jack, his camera lens following their hips like a guided missile to its target.

All in all, a rather splendid day and a fitting end to a month long fest of fun. Well done, Puerto!

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Some people fantasize about winning the lottery, others about rescuing Johnny Depp from imminent life-threatening danger and then he’s so incredibly grateful to them that he suddenly realises he’s fallen hopelessly in love with them and…ahem, sorry, where was I? Oh yes. But not me.

I fantasize about a tree.

I’ve just spent the past hour and five minutes raking enough leaves from the lawn to fill an extra large sized garden refuse bag, mowing, clipping and then raking again. I put the sprinkler on, came inside to get some water and check email and when I returned, the lawn was already splattered with leaves from the bloody great avocado tree that dominates my life.

We’re living in perpetual autumn with ‘the beast’, it’s fallen leaves filling bag after bag which then have to be hauled down to the car park and the wheelie bins. The only time it stops shedding leaves is in spring when it blossoms and then sheds tons and tons of seeds.

So while I sit with my well earned beer and let my thoughts wander to daytime fantasies, it’s watching two thirds of  ‘the beast’  fall gloriously to the ground that brings a wry smile to my face. I know it’ll grow back again, quickly and stronger than before, but for 5 or 6 glorious months I’ll be able to concentrate on rescuing Johnny again and save myself a whole lot of sweat and garden bags.

And the really great thing about my fantasy? It wouldn’t take a lot to fulfil it.

So, can anyone lend me a thirty metre ladder, hard hat and a safety harness?

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To queue or not to queue, that is the question.

It was around the hour of 9pm and a few dozen bodies had already begun to form a line from the ticket man at the top of the steps on San Telmo to the long bar backed by rows of red hot barbecues laden with smoking sardines.
“Let’s go for it,” said Jack
And by the time we’d made our way to the back of what was a small queue, people were attaching themselves to its rear like iron filings to a magnet.

4 juicy sardines, bread and a beer, not bad for €3.50

4 juicy sardines, bread and a beer, not bad for €3.50

It’s the night before Embarkation Tuesday and the traditional ‘Sardinada’ on the San Telmo in Puerto de la Cruz. It’s a sultry night and the fragrant smoke from the barbecues is adding to the ambient heat. The whole town is teeming with people and San Telmo itself is a swarming mass of people, most of them under the age of 25 years and the girls are looking stunning in their sun dresses and strappy sandals.

As usual the Tinerfeños have opted for the chaos system of organisation and as usual, it seems to result in everyone eventually getting 4 grilled sardines, a chunk of anis bread and a plastic beaker of beer for the princely sum of €3.50, with not a cross word, a shove or a push in sight.

We eat the fish with our fingers, the tender flesh falling easily from the bones, leaving cartoon-style fish heads on skeletons. Suitably salty and greasy, we dump our plates and head with parched throats and sardine smelling fingers to the bar and the dance floor.

This year there’s been a slight deviation from the usual agenda (no doubt questions will be asked in the Ayuntamiento) and there’s a DJ to warm the sweating crowd up. The music is dreadful; 70s and 80s pop and for a moment, I wonder if we’re lying in a coma somewhere in 2009 but then I remember,we’re in Tenerife. But we lap it up because just for once it’s not Latino and we join the hordes of people getting down to ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘YMCA’, ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Karma Chameleon’.
Around us everyone’s joining in with the chorus and singing nonsense that sounds like the real thing, which is exactly what we do to the Spanish stuff and when they play ‘La Bamba’ and ‘Volare’, roles are reversed.

Getting down to bad retro sounds in a brilliant setting

Getting down to bad retro sounds in a brilliant setting

The DJ pumps it up with more retro rubbish intermingled with Spanish pop rubbish and finally climaxes with Blur’s ‘Song for Two’, presumably a tribute to this year’s Glasto performance, which goes down a storm and like all good DJs he bows out leaving his crowd hungry for more.

At this stage the Maquinaria Band take to the stage and the dance floor shifts a gear from busy to crushed. Sweltering in the heat of the night and the bodies around us, our throats like sand paper from the garlic-laden food we’d eaten earlier, now augmented by the sardines, we slowly thread our way through the masses and escape to the slightly less overwhelming heat of the promenade.

At around midnight, like salmon returning to spawn we fight our way upstream through the crowds of teenagers making their way towards San Telmo where the band are still on their warming up numbers.

Tomorrow’s the BIG DAY – hour after hour of standing, eating and drinking in the searing sun while all around us people are throwing, squirting, diving into, sailing on, swimming in and predominantly being thrown into… water.
It’s tough, but being privilaged enough to live in Party Town, we feel obliged to join in at every opportunity.

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I need someone to stand on my thigh for me,” said Jésus.

It’s not a request you hear that often.

Jack, Jo and I looked at each other. No-one said anything.

It was approaching midnight on the dying embers of my birthday and the three of us were sitting on the back terrace after a very pleasant evening of food, cava and rosé wine. We had the patio doors open wide and Massive Attack was supplying the sounds from the living room stereo.

Then Jésus arrived, made his strange request and sat on the terrace steps while Jack poured him a wine.
Twenty minutes or so had passed in pleasant conversation when I made my decision.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
I’d had a few glasses by then and I thought it might make an interesting and amusing end to my birthday.

Jésus unrolled the exercise mat on the terrace, lay face down on it and placed the heel of my left foot precisely at the point where buttock meets thigh.
“Can you feel the muscle?” he asked.
I jiggled my heel slightly, my weight entirely resting on the other foot and felt the softer tissue of muscle.
“Okay then, slowly put your weight onto your heel holding it right on that muscle.”
Holding the terrace rail for balance I carefully and gingerly transferred my weight to my left heel, concentrating hard so that the wobble stopped and I could feel the sinewy muscle.
“That’s great,” said Jésus. “Now press harder.”

I did as he asked, suddenly aware that this was going to involve a lot more work on my part than a) I had bargained for and b) I was probably capable of at this stage in the proceedings.

“Now follow the line of the muscle a little bit farther down,” said Jésus, directing my heel fractionally away from his buttock.
“Aaargh” he said “that’s it”.
I could sense his pain as I placed more pressure on my heel.
“Harder” he grimaced through the pain.
I was torn. I wanted to lift my foot and reduce his pain levels but clearly this was precisely what he was looking for.
“Harder,” he said.

Things to do on your birthday, Number 142

Things to do on your birthday, Number 142

By this time Jack and Jo had got bored with the proceedings and had gone back to drinking and chatting leaving me with my foot on the agony-ridden Jésus and a minor cramp spreading through my left buttock.
“How much do you weigh?” asked Jésus.

I felt this was a bit akin to ‘how old are you’ in the personal questioning department and would normally try for some witty retort but under the circumstances…
“Ten stone.” I said
“How much is that in kilos?”
There was a lengthy and rather pathetic discussion between Jack, Jo and me that involved a great deal of attempted and failed mental arithmetic before Jésus said;
“You feel about 65 kilos to me,” and I settled for that.

Our strange dance continued for twenty minutes or so while I inched my heel further along the muscle and Jésus grimaced and gritted his teeth. Eventually he said he was done and I was able to take my numb buttock and return to the serious business of catching up with Jack and Jo.

Earlier in the day Jésus had offered to give me a massage for my birthday and I had rather cruelly retorted;
“You’re supposed to get nice things on your birthday.”
I’d regretted saying that as it looked as if I’d hurt his feelings. But as I hobbled back to my chair and left Jésus contorted in a vaguely slip knot position on the mat while he re-aligned the muscle, I think my earlier comment may have been guilty of no more than understatement.

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This way to obscurity

This way to obscurity

I guess the name ‘El Tanque’ (the tank) should have been enough of a clue but I was thinking in the neighbourhood of fish tank and so was taken aback when the full sized oil storage tank came into view; gleaming lime green and silver in the glaring midday sun.

We followed the road around the perimeter circumference of ‘El Tanque’ and arrived at the sort of tunnel that normally takes you from an aircraft to the arrivals lounge. This one led from the bridge to the car park and the entrance to Espacio Cultural El Tanque.
We asked the smiling receptionist if the exhibition was open.
“Yes, of course,” she beamed and handed us each a small set of square cards pinned in one corner so that they fanned out like playing cards. The cards were all black and on the front in white was a skull and crossbones with the skull wearing a gas mask and the words ‘Keroxen 09’ written underneath.

As we walked through the entrance I flicked through the cards to find out what the exhibition was about but the light

Yes, I know its too dark!

Yes, I know it's too dark!

was too dim to make out the wording on the black background so I gave up. We walked up a slope and, aside from floor level lamp shades hanging above jam jars placed around the perimeter floor inside each of which was a single letter of the alphabet, there was darkness.
I don’t just mean it was dark, I mean complete sensory deprivation darkness.

Giggling, Jack and I turned on our heels and went back down the slope realising that we’d wandered inadvertently into the actual oil tank rather than the exhibition.
Following the only other corridor past the toilets we arrived at…the exit.

Okay. Now we were perplexed.
Has the nice girl at reception forgotten to put the lights on we wonder?
Now on the brink of hysteria and trying to muffle giggles, we head back into ‘the tank’ and inch our way, arms outstretched ahead of us like contestants in a game of Blind Man’s Buff, further into the space.

Gradually our eyes adjust slightly to the dark and we can make out several long, black cloths hanging from the ceiling to head height in rows leading into the centre of the tank. As we get nearer we can see that each cloth has a single sentence written on the bottom of it, seemingly random sentences like “Have you heard the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine?” and “A city creates experiences for those who live in it”.

I carefully make my way to the centre of the tank where a dozen chairs are set out in rows and I take a seat. I can see and hear nothing. It’s admittedly peaceful if somewhat spooky, but I am completely unenlightened.

We inch our way back to the lamplit jam jars and out.
“It’s very dark in there,” we say to the nice girl on the door.
“Of course,” she smiles.

Sometimes, art is just too obscure for me.

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