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Around 5pm on Sunday afternoon I decided to break free from the keyboard, take advantage of the warm sunshine and head out from home for a walk.

My circuit took me through the banana plantations, along the headland, across a ravine and back along a quiet, palm tree lined road until I reached the junction with the main road. Reluctant to end my idyllic rural walk with a hundred metres of busy tarmac, I opted instead to divert through the tiny hamlet of Los Rechazos which lies hidden behind the main road.

Presumably before they built the ‘new’ road, this would have been the main thoroughfare. Barely wide enough for a single vehicle to drive down, tiny cottages with Hobbit-height front doors donate most of what little pavement lies outside to window boxes and planters filled with tumbling geranuims.

Rounding a bend in the lane, I spotted a gathering ahead. Four small, dilapidated tables teetered single file on the pavement with a chair either end, on which eight elderly people were sitting, marking off numbers on bingo cards. Some were using paper cut-outs to cover the numbers, others were using assorted old buttons, and the ‘cards’ were dirty old paper ones which looked as if they’d been handmade many years ago. On the other side of the street, about two yards away, two women were sitting. One held a cloth bag which she shook continuously while the other reached in, pulled out what looked like a child’s building brick, and shouted the number across the street.

I walked quietly past the intently concentrating faces and smiled to myself. So this is what passes for nightlife in Los Rechazos? Street bingo – I can see it catching on.

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I wasn’t really too surprised to hear that yet another yellow alert for high temperatures in Tenerife had been issued by the Spanish Met Office last week. After all, Día de la Trilla was fast approaching.

For reasons beyond my comprehension, some events on Tenerife are linked inextricably with certain weather conditions. For example, Carnaval season pretty much guarantees rain; Puerto’s Fiesta Del Carmen simply couldn’t happen on anything but the most glorious of days and Día de la Trilla seems to need blisteringly hot days before a single straw of wheat can be threshed.

Last year we set off into the hills of Tenerife and found temperatures in excess of 40°C waiting for us in El Tanque. This year, with the tail end of a calima still in evidence, the mercury was  only somewhere around the 39°C mark as we arrived at the site of what is soon to be an agricultural eco-museum.

A fancy new concrete car park greeted us where previously only fields provided space for the mainly 4x4s and horse boxes that gather in El Tanque for the annual traditional wheat gathering and threshing.
Unfortunately, the work being undertaken to create a centre where traditional farming methods are showcased meant that the venue for the day’s fun was largely a building site and certainly wasn’t going to win any beauty prizes. But neither the surroundings nor the excessive temperatures could detract from the festive air as we made our way past stalls selling home made produce, hand made ornaments, Bonsai trees and naturally, lots of home made bread, to a soundtrack of folk music blaring from speakers across the ground.

Horses, oxen and people all mingled under a heat-leaden sky, blinded by the glare off the gold mountain of wheat that filled the small era, or threshing circle in which most of the day’s action would take place.


Barely had we got video and camera lens in place when the first of the teams of horses arrived and the threshing began. Teased from the centre of the era, the two horses cantered in circles, knee deep in wheat, or in the case of the smaller of the two, belly deep. As the level of the sea of wheat visibly fell, pitchforks worked to replenish the bales.
A second team of horses took over to bring renewed energy to the proceedings and slowly, the wheat levelled out and broke down enough for the big guns to take over.

Enter two teams of oxen. Beautiful, placid creatures with big cow eyes and haunches the size of  bulldozers, the oxen stood patiently while they were tethered to heavy wooden threshing boards before setting off effortlessly, the boards, a driver and several squealing local children in tow for what in El Tanque, passes for a fairground ride.
Round and round the oxen were driven, stopping to take on board fresh young passengers, until the wheat was fine enough for winnowing to begin and the fine chaff to be whisked away on the breeze leaving the wheat to be gathered.

But we didn’t stay long enough to see the process through to its conclusion. With my nose already twitching from the hay dust, we made our way to the busy beer tent where bodies vied for space under the limited shade of its awning. After downing possibly the most refreshing beer I’ve ever drunk, we made our way past the guachinche with its burgeoning dinner line and headed to the car, a picnic and the sanctuary shade of the local pine forest.

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Walking the streets of Puerto de la Cruz around midnight last night, you’d have been forgiven for wondering if some giant, flesh-eating plants had invaded the town leaving the streets bereft of its citizens. But there’d be two vital pieces of information you’d be missing. Firstly, much of the population were nursing the hangover from hell after a full day of partying at the Fiestas Del Carmen on Tuesday and secondly, those who were still capable of dancing were all being held hostage at Plaza Europa by a diminutive African woman named Angélique Kidjo.

After the excesses of Tuesday, it took a Herculean feat of will to drag myself away from the prospect of a comfy sofa and a night in front of the box last night, but someone has to do it…
Bitching about the fact that there was no break between fiestas at this time of year and sounding like Victor Meldrew in knickers, I headed down to town at around 9pm for the opening night of the annual Jazz & Mas concerts.
Arriving in Plaza Europa, some hundred or so chairs were laid out theatre-style, most of them already occupied. The stage was set outside the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) building, lined by bright green kiosks enticing us to piensa en verde (think green) and beyond the stage large Heineken banners fluttered in the sea breeze like prayer flags calling the faithful to imbibe.

Yul Ballesteros

Jack and I positioned ourselves standing a metre or so behind the chairs, so that we could easily access side of stage for photos, and berated the use of staid seating for a concert as we watched a more mature crowd jostle for spare chairs.

First up was celebrated local(ish) lad, Yul Ballesteros, fresh from the New York modern Jazz scene. Born in Gran Canaria, this young man has been wowing New York with his guitar prowess and last night, it was easy to hear why. His improvised style may not be everyone’s first choice of easy listening but he certainly pleased the jazz aficionado audience last night. His set lasted for over an hour and had Jack and I doing a U-turn on our earlier diss’ of the seating arrangements as our backs, still exhausted from Tuesday, began to register painful indignation at this abuse.
Feeling slightly guilty, I didn’t join in with the random cries of Otra when Yul and his quartet left the stage.

Angélique Kidjo

Muttering to each other about only staying to watch a bit of the next performance, we watched a small African woman with close-cropped grey hair; flared loons split from the knee down and ankle boots, take to the stage. Unaccompanied, she split the night with a voice so powerful and sweet that it brought tears to the eyes. She sang her song in Swahili, keeping time with a soft rhythmic tapping on her thigh; this tiny figure on a huge stage which she filled with her presence. In an instant, she had captured the 500 strong audience and held them in her thrall.

She ended her song to tumultuous applause and immediately went into a fast tempo African number, a fusion of funk and soul to the beat of African drums, her body gyrating and stomping in a dance display of pure vitality and joy. That was it. The onlookers from the back surged forward to surround the seating area, dancing like they’d just discovered how good it was. Soon the ranks broke again and a tide of dancing bodies swept to front of stage as Angélique lifted every single individual up and sent their spirits soaring through the night.

The fact that she spoke entirely in English, most of which would have been lost on them, did nothing to diminish Angélique’s hold on her audience as she told us about how her father had introduced his children to the world by bringing them music from all the places he could never afford to send them to; Europe, America, India – musical influences that she now melted and fused with her native African beats to produce her high energy, compelling songs.

Our broken backs now forgotten, we watched, sang, danced and laughed as Angélique held us hostage late into the night. By the time we left, a good percentage of the audience were up on stage with this incredible woman, helping her to celebrate her fiftieth birthday by dancing to the drums of her childhood which echoed through the empty streets and followed us all the way back to the car.

If you ever get a chance to go and see Angélique Kidjo – do it.  It’s not just a concert, it’s a life-affirming experience.

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The largest British ex-pat population on Tenerife lives in and around the south of the island, predominantly around the Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas and Costa Adeje areas. So being involved in English language business, regular trips south are an occupational necessity.
Last Thursday was one of our ‘down south’ days when we leave our home in Puerto de la Cruz and spend the day in the south trying to fit all the things we have to do into one day.

Lunch consisted of a sandwich while sitting on a bench overlooking the beach in Los Cristianos in between getting photos of restaurants for a customer and a lengthy meeting of Tenerife Magazine in the afternoon.
Then it was more restaurant photos, a quickly bolted down pizza and up to El Faro Chill Art in Fañabe for a 7.30 pm launch of Tenerife’s new radio station, Pirate FM.

The stylish roof terrace of El Faro Chill Art

Climbing the stairs to the chic roof terrace of El Faro, complimentary champagne flute in hand, I looked around at the gathering. I had heard that the event was operating a black and white dress code to complement the pirate theme and so I had chosen to wear white pants and a black T shirt, but there any similarity to the way the assorted female guests looked ended.
Hair was perfectly in place, lips were painted, eyes were freshly and liberally made up, outfits were glamorous and heels were sexy and high.
I, on the other hand, had left home over 8 hours before, during which time my hair hadn’t seen a comb; any pretence of mascara had long since melted into submission; my T shirt had lost its freshly clinging appeal to be replaced by a sadly hanging one and I was wearing flip flops.

At one point Jack took a photo of me sandwiched on one side by the über-attractive Head of Sales and Marketing for Pirate FM – Clare Harper – and on the other by the freshly showered and changed, dapper-looking John Beckley. Even as the lens pointed towards us I could feel my body shrinking in anguish, a clear premonition of the contrast between Clare and I asserting itself firmly into my brain.

Spot the "Oh no! I'm not even wearing lipstick!" expression.

Sipping a first class red wine with Eric Clapton’s Some day After A While spilling its Blues magic over the stylish surroundings of the roof terrace, I gazed out over the lights of Puerto Colón and Fañabe and then back at the perfumed, glamorous gathering. I remembered vividly how I used to look when I attended similar functions in Britain. My job dictated that I regularly attended gala dinners and glamorous functions and I always looked fabulous; full make up, perfect hair, high heels and sexy clothes. I thought about what vast sums of money I would now be earning had I stayed in Britain and what beautiful outfit I’d be wearing and how I’d look, and for a little while, I wondered if I regretted giving all of that up.

But then I realised that it wasn’t really the lifestyle I missed, it was my youth, and no matter how much make-up I wore or if I traded my flip flops for some killer heels, my youth would still be behind me.
But how much better for it to have been lost in our house beside the banana plantation, in a culture where ageism doesn’t exist and an occupation where I’m judged not by my looks, but by my words.

On the other hand, I wish I’d put some lipstick on…

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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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It’s a weird thing about Los Silos. Venture there during the day and you’ll find a sleepy, picturesque village with an Art Nouveau bandstand, a church that looks like it’s constructed out of icing sugar and egg whites; and beautifully restored traditional architecture. But go there for one of its fiestas and you’ll find yourself knee deep in dreadlocks, harem pants, patchouli oil and peace and love.

Hippies and batucada in Los Silos

Hippies and batucada in Los Silos

And that’s exactly how it was last weekend when Los Silos staged the Boreal Festival of the Whale; out came the Neo-hippies in their droves.
As I wandered up towards the whale skeleton that stands as a sculpture on the headland I had to snake my way through jugglers, a girl practising her Zuni Poi Swings who nearly had my eye out, trainee stilt walkers and a dreadlocked, bare-chested, uni-cycle rider.
The air was thick with the smell of musk, patchouli and the Tree of Moses and the peace and love was positively palpable.

Beneath fluttering, silk pastel flags stalls lined the promenade. In between the juggling paraphernalia, homemade jewellery and henna tattoo stalls, there were information points extolling the adoption of earth-friendly practices in businesses and homes.
At some point some baby turtles were released into the sea but it must have been a very low key launch because I managed to entirely miss it.

A large stage was filled with equipment, chord practising guitarists and roadies muttering “uno, dos” into the mikes. At one point several people including myself thought that the band had started and one woman began to dance but then the song just fizzled and the “uno, dos” began again. I concluded that the sound engineers were rubbish and that the waiting bands were refusing to perform with such an incompetent mixing desk.

Satisfied with my made up explanation and feeling slightly giddy from the atmosphere, I headed off to Garachico in search of rock and chips.

Reaching the tiny harbour the smell of leather and burgers assailed my

Leather and chrome at Garachico

Leather and chrome at Garachico

nostrils and the iconic chords of Kings of Leon soothed my ears.
The car park was lined with the chrome, leather and glass of motorcycles and milling around them were black leather-clad bikers and their chicks.

I grabbed a burger and wandered the rows of bikes feigning any kind of knowledge whatsoever of what a great bike looks like.

I felt like I’d wandered into the anti-Christ of the Eco festival. Goth T shirts and black studded belts and wrist bands replaced pastel hemp. Tattooed fire-breathing dragons and bloodied knives replaced butterflies and wispy spirals and boots the size of astronaut’s moon walkers replaced flipflops.

With just a handful of spectators out front, the bands took to the stage. No sound checks were necessary here as the mixing desk was in the über-efficient hands of a professional sound production team and the opening chords rang out across the harbour, bouncing back off the frozen lava streams on the hillside.

Saturday night in the Isla Baja region proves that the culture on Tenerife can be every bit as diverse as its geography.

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“Sweet dreams are made of this.
Who am I to disagree?
Travel the World and the seven seas;
Everybody’s looking for something.”

If you’re thinking of moving to Tenerife, ask yourself this; “What am I looking for?”

We were invited to a barbeque last weekend, in an exquisite contemporary villa in the south of the island. It was a sumptuous feast and we met lots of new people, some of whom had re-located relatively recently to Tenerife.

During the course of conversations, it was interesting to find out what people were doing; what their expectations were of life on the island and how long they saw themselves living here.

Playa de Las Americas where life can be very good indeed

Playa de Las Americas where life can be very good indeed

Some had grown weary of the demands of life in consumer Britain and had traded long hours in an office for endless days in the surf. Others were investing time and money in setting up new businesses on the island and hoping to combine quality of life with entrepreneurial success.
So far, it seemed like life was living up to expectations for them.

Coincidentally this weekend saw our neighbour Jesús leaving the island and heading back to the Basque Country. It’s doubtful that Jesús will return and it was strange to hear him telling us on Sunday night that he was finally able to see that Tenerife hadn’t been right for him. It was as if he couldn’t see what was in front of his face until he’d made the decision to leave and then the veil was lifted.

We’d often joked to Jesús that he had the money of a pauper and the lifestyle of a rich man, spending all day every day playing golf to the detriment of his wallet, his social life and his health. It was clear to us that Jesús was stagnating in his casita at the bottom of our path but he couldn’t see it until he went back to the Basque Country for a holiday, got some temporary work as a masseur and realised how much happier he was working and socialising.

It got me thinking about what it was that Jack and I had been looking for

Life in the sun, sea and sand in El Medano

Life in the sun, sea and sand in El Medano

when we left Britain and whether we’d found it.
In terms of getting out of the rat race and spending time together in a beautiful environment in which we could spend most of our lives outside, there’s no doubt we’ve achieved that.

We never moved here with the intentions of getting rich – we had enough of that cycle of earning and spending in Britain – but what has been far more difficult than we predicted has been the ability to make a decent living here. To some extent that’s to do with adjusting our expectations; Jack has adapted much better than I have to the vagaries of getting work and the even greater unpredictability of getting paid once you’ve done it. But I’m getting there.

My choice, though clearly not everyones

My choice, though clearly not everyone's

The people I spoke to on Saturday agreed that, having made the initial move from the UK, they wouldn’t hesitate to move again and that’s important to know if you’re scared of leaving everything you’ve ever known; it doesn’t have to be a one way ticket.
For us, when the time is right we’ll simply sell up and move on, but it’s unlikely to be back to the UK if we do. There’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered and you never really know a place until you’ve spent some time living in it.

Of course, the other thing that separates Jack and I from many of the Brits who re-locate to the island is the fact that we have chosen to live in the north, which for some, would just be a step too far but for us is because we’ve chosen to live in the real Tenerife.

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A new survey conducted in May by Confused.com has come up with some rather surprising statistics for what Brits get up to in their cars. Apparently, of the 2000 motorists surveyed, 47% of Southwest drivers admitted to having sex in their car, hotly pursued by the South East (44%) and Scotland (43%).

It’s not entirely clear from the report in RealTravel.magazine whether the sex is happening at the same time as the driving but a quote from one of the Confused.com people which refers to “the distraction element some drivers are exposing themselves to when multi tasking”, would certainly suggest that this is the case (personally, I would have chosen a different phrase there if I’d been their spokesperson).

Other in-car entertainment options to come out of the survey are eating (75% of respondents) and sleeping (50%), though whether the sleeping comes after the sex is unclear and what exactly is being referred to by ‘eating’ is somewhere I’m not prepared to go.
Apparently 33% of the Welsh have been dumped by their partners whilst behind the wheel, presumably because they fell asleep while having sex and got crumbs all over the seat…the mind boggles!

All I can say is, British drivers must be very bored with the scenery on their doorsteps and really ought to get out more.
I can whole heartedly recommend picking up a copy of Island Drives, renting a car on Tenerife and taking to the Tinerfeño roads where you’ll be far too busy gawping at the scenery to indulge in auto-intimacy, or at least, not whilst the vehicle is actually in motion.

And if you can have sex whilst simultaneously driving down the mountain into Masca, you’re either having bad sex or else you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

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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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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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