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Posts Tagged ‘calima’

Jo's scented terrace in Los Aceviños, La Gomera

When the winter storms and cyclone Xynthia hit Tenerife, they took the tangled mass of hedge which borders the bottom of our garden, bent its back low and hung its flowering heads in shame, so low over the nectarine and peach trees that no light was penetrating to the buds.
When it gets to the point that even Mother Nature is giving me one almighty hint that my gardening input has fallen way below par, I have no choice but to take action.
So, three weeks ago, armed with a €10 tree cutter and two rusty, blunt saws; Jo, Jack and I set about trying to free up the nectarine tree. After four sweaty hours of grappling with entwined, overgrown branches beneath which we wouldn’t have been surprised to find Sleeping Beauty, we’d cleared about one fifth of the hedge and allowed the sun to fall on the nectarine buds.

Jo declared our saws useless; suggested we invest in some proper tree loppers and returned to her mountain home on La Gomera where tackling two months of overgrown rain forest would feel like gathering buds in May after the trials of our hedge.
Meanwhile…we bought some tree loppers.

A profusion of flowers as Spring reaches the mountains

Last weekend was Jo’s birthday party and we went over to La Gomera on Friday to help her organise and celebrate.
We arrived at her finca at 6pm in a hot and sticky calima. As we trailed down the forest path to her terrace, we were enveloped in rich, heady perfumes. The slopes bordering the path were awash with wild lemon thyme; the terrace was a blaze of sweet-smelling freesias and spicy jasmine interspersed with vibrant lavender and the elegant heads of white Calla lilies. From the front of the terrace, the garden spread down the barranco in a profusion of orange nasturtiums punctuated by pink geraniums, more freesias, the ruby flowering spikes of aloe vera and delicate faces of purple daisies.

At the end of the house where the terrace leads to the ‘new garden’ we walked through a haze of lemon blossom and freesias to the delicious vanilla scent of a Heliotrope in full flower. We sat on the terrace until late, inhaling the perfumes which intensified with the night.
On Saturday morning, enthralled by every new discovery of scent, colour and form I wandered Jo’s garden with a growing sense of shame and determination.

It's enough to inspire even the most reluctant of gardeners

We arrived back on Tenerife late on Sunday and by yesterday evening, I’d left the keyboard and headed, new tree loppers in hand, down to the hedge. An hour later, with barely any flesh left on my bones from the midges, I’d hardly made any impression at all.
But I’ll be back there tonight, and tomorrow night and at the weekend until I’ve cleared that hedge.

Then it’s time for the avocado tree to be tackled…

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Echo and the Bunnymen play La Laguna in TenerifeYou know it’s calima when… the temperature cranks up into the red zone, the sun turns white and Mount Teide disappears from the horizon to be replaced by a white veil behind which shapes ghost in and out.

You know it’s calima when… you’re woken at 6 am by the sound of the wind howling and a sizeable proportion of the garden and the banana plantation next door is swirling in mini tornadoes around the house while your windows and doors are rattling like a thief looking for a way in.
When you finally give up on sleep, haul yourself to your feet and in your heat-induced torpor open the doors to the terrace wide and hot air rushes in to replace the, what you now realise was only tepid, air.

You know it’s calima when… your chimney’s where it should be when you go out to watch the match and when you come back it’s on your front terrace in a pile of crispy leaves.

You know it’s calima when… you go up to La Laguna to watch Echo and the Bunnymen in concert; it’s an outside venue, you’re wearing a T shirt and jeans and you’re breaking a sweat before a note has even been played.
A hot night in La Lagunathat’s when you know it’s calima.

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November in the north of Tenerife usually evokes two strong images in my mind; heavy rain and chestnuts roasting. But last year, and so far this year, only one of those images has transpired.
Normally, November is the month in which everything breathes a sigh of relief as the long, dry summer draws to a close and the heavens open to the welcoming arms of the wilting tropical vegetation. Once sated, the earth blossoms anew and the faded colours of summer are replaced by vivid scarlet poinsettias and the bright orange crowns of strelitzias.
But as I compile this blog we’re deep into our second calima in as many weeks and, save for a couple of midnight light showers, the temperatures remain resolutely high and the ground solid.

The rains may have failed to appear but the chestnuts haven’t. Roasting chestnuts at the harbour in Puerto de la CruzAs the sun bids its hazy adieu to the day, the white-out of calima is replaced by the fragrant smoke of a dozen braziers, fired up to white hot and topped with small clay pots in which sweet chestnuts are roasting. When darkness falls, the pyramids of ash beneath each brazier show their fiery hearts and sparks fly from the fires like mini volcanic eruptions. Brows wet, clothes stained with ash while gloved finger and thumb test the chestnuts for readiness, men and women tend the braziers and feed the busy stalls that line the front of the harbour.
Small skewers of spicy pork kebabs (pinchos) sizzle on grills alongside wine vats from which the year’s new wine is dispensed in small plastic cups.
It’s the prelude to Christmas; from December the lights will be turned on and thoughts will turn to the holidays and preparations for the festivities. But for now, as the fiesta of San Andrés approaches, it’s a time to savour the sweet chestnuts and new wine and to spend evenings on the harbour and in Plaza Charco enjoying the warmth of the bonus summer nights.
Tomorrow the rains may come.

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