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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Raise a glass to absinthe friends...

I’m not saying it’s been the sort of booze-fuelled haze that Christmas and New Year used to be in my youth, but there have been some particularly memorable evenings that have involved the partaking of a certain amount of alcohol; notably Christmas Eve and Jack’s birthday.

On the run up to Christmas I compiled a small feature for Tenerife Magazine on Tenerife’s Top Ten Cocktails which involved a deal of necessary research. So when it came time to get the final festive shopping underway, I added a few essential ingredients to the list so that I could test out some of my own recipes.

My very favourite cocktail is Mojito; Bacardi, fresh mint, sugar, crushed ice and soda water. Both we and friends of ours have, in the past, had several attempts at making Mojitos but with very limited success. To be honest, mine were poor but Martin’s were positively disgusting…if lethal. So having finally hunted down a good recipe, on Christmas Eve we decided to give it another go and guess what? It turns out that we can now make a pretty darn good Mojito. The first attempt was quaffably very acceptable. The second was bordering on delicious. The third was authentic, pass-me-a-Cuban-cigar-and-turn-up-that-Latino-music FABULOUS! After that it’s all pretty much a blur.

Jack’s birthday falls on 30th December (for which he’s never forgiven his mother – “if she’d just hung on another 16 minutes!”) and so he’s always very Victor Meldrew about it. This year, I was determined he’d have a good time so I bought him something he’s wanted to try ever since I took him to Barcelona for his birthday 8 years ago…a bottle of absinthe.
Getting the absinthe was easy as it’s readily available here on Tenerife, but it took four supermarkets before I could get sugar lumps (a necessary accoutrement for absinthe consumption). Alas, I couldn’t find a proper spoon anywhere so, in the absinthe of an absinthe spoon (allow me one bad pun) we had to make do with the kitchen slotted spoon. It took three attempts to get it right, by which time we wouldn’t have noticed the Green Fairy had she appeared, stripped naked and bounced on our noses. Unless of course she really is Kylie Minogue in which case I suspect Jack may have noticed.
I’ve awarded that particular hangover a massive 9.7 on the Richter scale.

So this week I decided it was detox time and looked forward to feeling 100% alcohol-free and fighting fit for the next week.
I awoke on Sunday morning with a throat that was lined with broken glass and as I drained my wine glass that evening I feared that I may have fallen prey to a cold virus which would interfere with my feelgood plans for the week.

On Monday and Tuesday I abstained from all alcohol and continued working but felt shit. By Wednesday I was bedridden with a headache that would have had to improve to qualify as the headache from hell and bouts of sneezing that barely subsided long enough for me to breathe. By Thursday the headache had turned into the migraine from hell and it was all I could do to hang onto the contents of my stomach.
On Friday I cracked a beer.
I feel much better today.

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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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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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It was one of those perfectly fortuitous sets of circumstances that very rarely come your way.
The Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (TEA) in Santa Cruz were screening Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in its original language at 7pm and we were collecting Jo from Santa Cruz bus station at around 9.30/10pm. So we were off to the movies and would be out in perfect time to meet Jo.Inglourious Basterds

We arrived at TEA a tad on the tardy side and most of the seats in the small auditorium were already taken leaving just the neck breaking first 3 rows.
There were no frills – after all the TEA were screening the movie free of charge in celebration of their first anniversary – no popcorn or ice cream and no trailers. The lights went down and we were straight into the action.

It’s a laudable feature of the film that everyone speaks in their own language which means that much of the dialogue is in French, German and English with a soupçon of Italian thrown in for good measure. With all the subtitles in Spanish, it was proving to be quite an exercise in understanding and gave rise to a sort of Mexican Wave effect when it came to laughs. So, for example, when the dialogue was in English, the Brits would be laughing while the rest of the audience were still reading the subtitles. The same happened for the Germans and the French with the biggest laugh wave always coming from the Spanish for whom the whole movie was in subtitles.  It was a weird and wonderful feeling of being European and sharing a cinema with other Europeans – a camaraderie of multi lingual communication that felt warm and inclusive.

At a fairly critical point in the movie, the mobile started to intone its jaunty you have mail jingle and Jack nervously slid it from his pocket, trying desperately to muffle it with his hands, before finally remembering how to switch it off, which it did with another jaunty see ya later jingle. Interestingly, the Spanish don’t say shush or hush, they give a cross between a tut and a hiss that comes out like bursts of air escaping from a punctured tyre and is very effective at deflating a sense of camaraderie.

The curtain fell to spontaneous applause shortly after 9.30 pm and Jack switched the mobile back on to a series of text-received jingles.
It would seem that Jo’s flight had landed early so she’d decided to get the earlier bus and had been sitting in a bar in Puerto de la Cruz since 9.15 pm. It was now 9.40 pm and Jack and I were in Santa Cruz.

Quentin Tarantino can re-write history, present it to audiences in four different languages and make us all feel part of an inclusive society.
Jack, Jo and I rarely manage even the simplest of arrangements effectively, despite a shared first language and fortuitous circumstances

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I guess we can expect a lot of births in early August 2010 then...

Heading into Puerto de la Cruz last night, we arrived at San Telmo to be stopped in our tracks by the sight of the moon. Larger than a Star Trek holodeck creation, it hung over the horizon in the perfectly still, cloudless night casting its luminous glow over the La Orotava Valley and the Ocean.
It was a magical sight and one that gave me a warm inner glow and made me realise once again how lucky we are to be living in such a beautiful place.

When we got to the bar, I asked a young Venezuelan friend if he and his girlfriend had seen the huge, romantic moon outside. He said he hadn’t and, glancing sideways at his lovely chica and looking decidedly worried, he whispered that such a big moon often led to pregnancy and he made a beach ball motion over his stomach just to emphasise his point.

And there was me thinking it was just mad dogs and werewolves …

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It's hard to beat starting your day with a sight like this.

We were just admiring the magnificent view of Mount Teide from the putting green outside our gate this morning when José and Glenn came wandering past. There followed a short conversation during which each showed due deference to the other’s native tongue.  So Glenn, Jack and I spoke in Spanish and José answered in English.

It made me smile.

The conversation ended with us all  agreeing that we were living “en paraíso”.

And indeed we are.

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Ever expanding developments on the coast and abandoned terraces in the hills.

Ever expanding developments on the coast and abandoned terraces in the hills.

Hiking in the hills above the south coast last weekend, the landscape was dominated by dried up terraces overgrown with brown weeds where only the lethal leaves of giant Agave plants punctuated the arid monotony.
A derelict farmhouse told its own story. Set into a hidden valley with the mountains at its back and the Atlantic Ocean laid out at its feet, its once crop-rich lands were today in ruins, a back-breaking life of toiling terraces long since abandoned in favour of the easier and more lucrative option of providing shelter, food and drink to sun-hungry tourists on the coast below.
You could see the attraction. Up here the earth was baked, the only rainfall coming from dense low cloud and the rarest of winter downpours. Just negotiating its contours on foot brought on a sweat, I could only imagine how hard it must have been to plough, sow, weed and harvest the unyielding earth.

Bordering the ocean on the coastline below, the developments of the last fifty years spread ever further westwards, closing gaps between resorts and swallowing small fishing hamlets into their hungry jaws. Down there the terrain was just as barren as up here but everywhere it was dotted with the green swathes of a golf course here and a banana plantation or a hotel garden there.
Despite the distance, I could hear the amplified instructions of an aqua aerobics instructor and imagined her class in their five star swimming pool, unaware that life even existed in the mountains that provided their holiday backdrop.

Further along the road there was a picnic laid out on long trestle tables and forty or fifty hunters were gathered. In all probability they lived quite locally, spent their working days serving in the hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and banks at the coast below and retreated up here at the weekend to don their hunting clothes and get back in touch with a way of life which seems mostly to have been lost. Apart from one or two notable exceptions, these guys all had huge bellies overhanging the waistband of their camouflage pants and were smoking big, fat cigars as they wandered the two strides distance they had left between their parked 4x4s and the tables containing their generous lunches.

I couldn’t help wondering if anyone had done research into the life expectancy of the Canarios over the last fifty years. I wouldn’t mind betting that, for all its severity and deprivation, the old way of life would have kept their grand parents a whole lot healthier than many of their descendants are today. It would have kept their hills a lot greener too.

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