Archive for December, 2009

It was a tough decision to make and an even tougher one to enforce, but the sad fact was, after five years living in Tenerife we simply could not make ends meet and it didn’t take a genius to figure out why.

Fun at Carnaval with The Largies

We’d had a ball. We’d been blessed with visits from more friends and family than we could ever have imagined when we packed our cases and left the UK. And we’d had real quality time with them, not just a night out or dinner or even a camping weekend, but entire weeks, often a fortnight and sometimes even three weeks at a time. Long days on the beach, picnics in the forest, Carnaval nights, cavorting in the crater – we’d introduced so many people to the delights of the Real Tenerife and naturally, they were hooked and wanted more.
But each time they left, we had to work like demented beings to catch up with our work and we could never get ahead of ourselves.

With nephew, Liam at the Fiesta del Carmen

As we faced Christmas 2008 with just €49 in the bank, money owed from features written which was now almost certainly never going to materialise and savings that were dwindling faster then the snow on the Cumbre, Jack calculated that, out of five years, we’d had 16 months of visitors. That was 16 months of earning less and spending more.
We had to face reality.
If we didn’t knuckle down to building this business, within five months we were going to have to sell up and move on.

When you’re faced with that kind of a scenario, it becomes easier to make the tough decisions.
We declared 2009 ‘The Year of No Visitors’.
Giving out the news was difficult. It felt like we were telling people we didn’t want to know them anymore and we very nearly crumbled and gave in, knowing what the consequences would be. But then we checked ourselves and realised how stupid it would be to lose all of this just because we didn’t want to hurt or offend anyone. How very British of us!

Hiking in Teide National Park with Sarah

So we held fast and apart from the occasional one-night stay by Jo en route to or from her home on La Gomera, we’ve been a visitor-free zone for 12 months.

And has it made a difference? Well, for one thing, we’re still here.
For another, we’re now earning more money than we ever have since we moved to Tenerife and for the first time, this month our bank balance has actually gone up instead of down. That statistic alone is enough to send me into whoop whoops of joy and I’m tempted to pop the cork on a cava!
We’ve got more work than we can comfortably handle, which is great because we both work best when stretched to well beyond comfort levels and for the bonus ball, we’ve started to get a bit of a social life too.
This year we’ve actually made new friends on Tenerife.

The only trouble is, although The Year of No Visitors is over, we can’t go back to where we were before. We’re working flat out to finally get ourselves established here and we’re not willing to put that at risk. Besides, in six years of living here, we’ve never actually had a holiday; we’ve just shared other people’s.
So we’ve declared 2010 The Year of Our Holiday. Of course, I haven’t broken the news to friends and family yet…

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I always think Christmas is a time for children. The excitement of waiting for Santa and the certain knowledge that magic really does exist in the world.
I have precious memories of Christmas morning; waking at first light to see the outline of the presents at the bottom of the bed; my brothers running into my room to show me what Santa had brought them; cartoons on the telly and mum’s home made bread fried for breakfast. I can’t imagine a child’s Christmas without feeling the warmth of being part of a family and thankfully, I never had to find out.

But for millions of children in Africa, AIDS has stripped them of that precious family childhood.
Although we can never replace what those children have lost, we can help to give them a home, a family and a better chance in life.

This month, Tenerife Magazine has teamed up with Pearly Grey Ocean Club to promote the project Ingane Yami.

The face of Africa's orphan crisis

Ingane Yami
The Restoration of Hope Ministry is a charity project which is about to commence building a Children’s Village in the Durban area of South Africa. The village, which will foster and care for orphans, will be called “Ingane Yami” (meaning ‘my child’ in the local language, Zulu)
Pearly Grey Ocean Club has been organizing charity events to raise awareness and money for this vital project including a sponsored climb of Kilimanjaro which began on the 8th December 2009.

Win a Holiday in Tenerife

Your 5 star terrace awaits you at Pearly Grey's ocean-side location

As part of their commitment to Ingane Yami, Pearly Grey Ocean Club have donated a really fabulous prize to Tenerife Magazine; one FREE week’s accommodation in a 5 star apartment at their resort on the sunny west coast of Tenerife.
To enter the competition, all you have to do is become a fan of Tenerife Magazine on Facebook and spread the word about ‘Ingane Yami’. It’s that simple.

Help us Raise Awareness
Please pass on this message to friends and family and ask them to support Pearly Grey’s efforts to help Ingani Yami. If you can afford to give, please donate. Even the smallest of gifts can make a difference.
Between us we can help to bring some magic back into the lives of children, what better Christmas present could we give?

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I can understand how the Canarios have become so entrenched in their Sunday routines; they’re very addictive.

We’ve been working 24/7 for several weeks now, which is brilliant in terms of having lots of work, but ultimately exhausting. When I learned that our neighbour, Nicole, was going back to her homeland in France for the whole of Christmas and New Year, I thought it only neighbourly to have lunch with her before she goes. So last Sunday we arranged to meet her at Los Faroles restaurant behind Playa Jardín in Puerto de la Cruz

Nicole’s a bubbly 58 year old (she won’t thank me for telling you that) of the Brigitte Bardot school who was obviously a stunner in her youth and is still very attractive now. She has long auburn hair and tattoed lip liner and she’s extremely petite so wears high heels that she totters around on. Nicole is always tired (she works incredibly long hours as a courier), is health obsessed and is constantly fending off suitors for whom she feels no passion and therefore cannot possible consent to have sex with them, much to their chagrin.
In short, she’s great entertainment value.

Nicole - she's very French.

Managing always to be at least a half hour late so that she can make an entrance (I think it’s a French thing), Nicole finally arrived at Los Faroles wearing a crimson velvet tracksuit and orange, yellow and red platform sandals. The waiter (an old friend and ever-hopeful suitor) announced that Miss World had arrived which Nicole acknowledged with a twirl and a giggle. I glanced over my shoulder, half expecting the paparazzi to be lined up with their cameras.
We ordered our food – Nicole chose hake, plain grilled, with papas arrugadas and mojo and a tomato salad with oregano. Jack ordered the rabbit stew and I went for hake stuffed with salmon.
A bottle of crianza arrived at the table, compliments of the waiter, and we settled back to listen to the latest instalments of Nicole’s nearly-love life.

The sun shone, Nicole was on sparkling form, the food was absolutely delicious, the wine was dangerously quaffable and the time flew. When Jack commented that his conejo en salmorejo was the best on Tenerife, the waiter corrected him and said it was the best in the Canaries – no-one disagreed.

It was the kind of Sunday that Tinerfeños  enjoy every weekend and I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re not daft. I sit at this screen every weekend social networking and marketing like my life depended on it and sometimes I’m deafened by the empty echo that bounces back at me as everyone else is having a weekend.

My New Year’s resolution is to have more Sundays, Tenerife style, and I’m getting some practice in now.

Today we planned a hike through the Güímar malpaís with Richard, followed by a fish lunch at Puertito.
The hike was excellent but unfortunately, ‘pressing’ business took Richard away so we shelved lunch for another day. Next Sunday perhaps…

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There’s a really narrow, blind corner on the road into Puerto de la Cruz from the La Paz area where we live. One time we were driving into town and as we rounded this corner, a car was heading straight for us. A woman obviously thought it was one way and we both slammed on the brakes with barely enough room for a Barclaycard between our bumpers. Concentration is paramount.

Imagine therefore the effect it would have if, coming into sight across the bridge from this very spot, there was a giant Ferris Wheel dancing with neon laser lights that spiralled, circled and raced around the wheel, cutting the night sky like a rainbow on acid.
How I managed to keep the car on the road is anybody’s guess and I predict broken glass before the Christmas period is over.

The annual Christmas funfair opened in Puerto last night and the town all turned out to see it. Not that you could miss it; the Ferris Wheel is probably baffling scientists in the International Space Station even as I write.

BIG fun at the fair in Puerto this Christmas

The air was thick with the smell of burgers, candyfloss and churros; music blared out from the Viking Ship and the Dodgems; the ground was littered with tickets from the Tombola and everywhere I looked, someone was carrying a giant fluffy toy as the evening’s spoils.

And just to add that final festive touch to the whole affair, the Christmas lights had all been switched on too.
I don’t care how Scrooge you’re feeling this year, take a trip into Puerto one evening and you’ll be digging out the Santa hat, smiling at the kiddies and feeling an uncontrollable urge to say “ho ho ho” at regular intervals.

I haven’t plucked up the courage to have a go on that Ferris Wheel yet …watch this space.

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You know it’s nearly Christmas on Tenerife when the poinsettias come into bloom and La Villa shopping centre starts to open on Sundays.

So on Sunday we decided to try to put the gift-buying to bed in the hopes that we could get everything in the post by Monday and it would still have an outside chance of getting to the UK before Santa did.

We figured we’d head up to La Villa around 11.30am which would give us enough time to do the shopping without descending into bad tempers and get to the beach for 2.45pm where we were meeting Nicole for lunch.

I was surprised at the lack of traffic on the slip road to La Villa and we remarked on the stark contrast between Tenerife and the UK where, by now, any hope of getting to somewhere like Manchester for shopping on a Sunday would entail setting off at 8am with a flask, a tartan blanket and some emergency food for the journey.

The smugness was soon wiped from our lips when, driving into the car park we were faced with row upon row of empty parking spaces. Something was amiss.
The doors of the centre were open and we wandered past shuttered stores like extras on the set of 28 Days Later until we reached the Al Campo hypermarket where a security guard was sitting, idly thumbing through a magazine.

“Excuse me,” we asked. “Why isn’t the supermarket open yet?”
“Because it’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.”
“But that isn’t until Tuesday is it?”
“That’s right, but this is the bridge.”

‘The bridge’ is the name they give here for all the extra holidays they take every time a public holiday falls within spitting distance of the weekend. So because Tuesday is a public holiday on Tenerife the shopping centre closed on Sunday, opened (inexplicably) on Monday and closed again on Tuesday. The Correos (post office) is of course closed Monday (the bridge) and Tuesday.

So, to all our friends and family in the UK who are now not going to have their cards and presents by Christmas Day, I’m taking the Mary defence; I blame the Immaculate Conception.

"Honestly, Joe, there was this Angel..."

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Yesterday was a nerve wracking day.
It’s been two years since the car was last tested for the ITV – the Spanish equivalent of an MOT- and it couldn’t be put off any longer.
Last week Jack rang the test centre and made the appointment; 3.30pm on Monday 30th November. So at midday yesterday preparations began in earnest.

First we popped the hood to check oil and windscreen fluids. EEK – what oil!!!
Then I looked at the tyres which looked okay (we’d singularly failed to do that last time and were left looking suitably stupid when the guy pointed out flat, smooth rubber where once tread used to be). Finally I checked all the lights were working.
Well, we agreed, if it’s anything else, it’s out of our control.

We drove up to the garage to buy some oil and give the car her bi-annual wash and brush up. There’s nothing in the test that says the car should be clean, I just figured that it might help to give the impression that we actually do exercise some kind of care over our vehicle. You know and I know that’s a load of cobblers but the ITV test guys don’t read this blog.

Finally, we got together all the documentation and headed up to Los Realejos.
Once in the office we handed over our documents and waited while the girl checked for the appointment. No appointment was there.
There’s a funny thing that happens when things start to go wrong around here which I suspect may be a stress related syndrome; we both become Spanish-deaf. Unable to make out a word the girl was saying, we moved, baffled, to the back of the room while the next in the queue was seen.

Just as anxiety levels were reaching boiling point we were called back to the counter and with a smile, told to join line number 1. We headed back to the car, nerves jangling.

With Spanish-deaf effect now at chronic levels, we bumbled through the rapid fire instructions, turning on the indicator when he wanted the reverse light and turning the engine off when we were asked to move forward. Sometimes we got it so wrong that the guy asked us to step out of the car while he put her through her paces for us. Still, other than a non-functioning licence plate light (for which I was pretty sure they weren’t going to fail us) we moved to the final test.

Another case of stepping out of the car while the steering wheel was jerked rapidly and brakes were applied at emergency stop pressure and we were done. Well, apart that is from the bald inside edges of the front tyres.
So it’s two new tyres, a new light bulb, back to the ITV centre and the sack for me in my ‘pre-ITV test tester’ role before that illusive little coloured sticker can be plastered onto the windscreen. Sigh.

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