Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


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Putting down roots

Grafitti El Médano

Beatriz is “my” estate agent. I’ve moved so often within this municipality, gone away, returned, left stuff with her to store, that she knows my tastes and habits better than I do. She knows that when I say “minimum one year” that may run into two or more, or less. What I haven’t said, because she probably wouldn’t believe me, is that I am looking for somewhere truthfully, long-term this time. She opens the door of the apartment. That first glance, absorbing the vibe, is important to me. I am an intuitive renter/purchaser.

If you’d asked the younger me what continents I would have visited by the time I was pushing 70 I would have unhesitatingly answered, “All of them.” I’ve only visited three – so far. Yet for years now, even when I’ve lived in the same place for months on end I haven’t felt settled, nor have I felt the need to feel settled. But something’s changed. After living with most of my stuff in storage or in boxes, for 3 years, I dream of leafing through my books (and not just the ones I keep handy for reference); of experimenting in the kitchen again; of lying down at night in a bed which is actually comfortable, and of enjoying the familiar.

Playa Chica El Médano

I came back to El Médano last July to get the cure for me and for Trixy. She, it turns out, will never really be cured, much of her problems are down, simply to old age. I am more thankful than you can imagine that we took the trip we did last year, shared the greenery of La Gomera, the beaches of Fuerteventura, the ferries rides and everything in between. Trix is without a doubt the best dog of my life, and I owe a placid and happy retirement to her.

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For my part, I am improving at long, long last, and no thanks to the medical treatment. I don’t recommend self diagnosis for anyone, but in the end, that’s what’s made the difference for me. A strategic call to a friend who is a doctor (and who has a great blog about health and travel by the way: www.travelthy.com), years of experience + knowledge acquired from my sports-fanatic sons, and Voilà! I seem, after over a year, to be on the mend. I’d been anticipating an operation, so El Médano made sense. I was still registered with the doctors here, and familiar is best when you’re feeling less than best. It turned out to be a fortuitious move because faced with an emergency last December, treatment was swift and efficient.

Something else. The one thing which made me feel homesick when I was away was remembering my early morning runs along the beaches here. Ironically, there haven’t yet been that any of those on account of the knee. Curiously, I have never, in 28 years, ever really felt homesick for England.

El Cabezo El Médano

Over the last few months in this temporary apartment (arriving here in July I was lucky to find anything at all), between doctor’s consultations, struggling with writer’s block, visits to the vet, not to mention septicemia and respiratory problems, I’ve tried to figure out which road to take next. I unreservedly adore the stimulation of change, but perhaps I need a bolt hole too. Perhaps if I have that, I can concentrate better on the more stimulating stuff! I get more serious and better organized when I am settled. On the road, or being perched for imminent flight, it is far too easy to play my default game – procrastination.

Finally, I have sorted out in my own head the difference between the buzz of travel and that need for a nomadic existence, the urge to keep on moving. I don’t have the latter, at least I only have it up to a certain point, after a few months (usually, it turns out about 8) I become weary. So packing, unpacking, storing, downsizing and then rebuying no longer make sense.

Final word: this has nothing to with “age,” NO WAY do I intend to sit around and vegetate as I see so many folk of my age doing. It’s simply a rethink. I have no idea how it is going to work yet, so it’s a new adventure.

Playa principal El Médano

Next decision is where. La Gomera’s pull has been very strong. I was very happy there last year, and I adored the forests and valleys, the greenness and the magic, but my needs and whims are diverse. England? There is a certain attraction, a happiness in the collective memory, the having no need to explain things at times. There is having entertainment and the telephone company in my native language, but, let’s be honest, I’ve become a wimp when it comes to weather! Other places fulfill different needs. If only there was somewhere which could cater for them all!

End of the day I decide it’s El Médano. Here I can indulge most whims with very little disruption. Forests? An hour away. City? 40 minutes away. Beaches? On my doorstep. Good food? On my doorstep. Friends? Within easy reach. Where my sons feel at home? Here. Airport for emergencies? 10 minutes. Roads to connect to the rest of the island? 5 minutes. Ferries to the other islands? 15 minutes or 40 minutes. Places to run and walk, a doggie beach down the road. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Then there is the instinct. I like El Médano instinctively, without burdening my brain with the logic of it. So, as Beatriz turns the key I wait for the instinct to kick in – or not. Stay tuned!

Ice cream El Médano


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Blooming Easter in Guia de Isora

For years, like many non-natives, I drove straight through Guia de Isora. It’s main street is a part of the main highway from the west of Tenerife to the north, at least until, sometime in the mist of a long-promised future, the autopista circling the island is completed. Guia was just another mile marker along the way; nondescript, modern blocks of shops and apartments; the old folk sitting on the plastic chairs of roadside bars; glimpses of mountains above and ocean below. The town curves busily along the hillside, bland and unremarkable, en route to prettier destinations, Arguayo or Santiago del Teide and points north.

Over time, years, in fact, I got to know the town behind the concrete façade. It was slow, the grasping that this little community is not what it appears to be at a hurried glance. A visit to the high school revealed a vibrant, enquiring environment, far from the sleepy village school I’d imagined. A friend worked temporarily with the town hall on a special project, a documentary, which turned out to be a very professional testament to a facet of island history, capturing its essence whilst there were still folk alive to remember it. And then, of course, there is the MiradasDoc documentary film festival, an event which has been going on every Fall since 2006. Who would have thought – a full-blown international, intellectual festival, full of lively debates and workshops as well as the movies themselves in this quiet backwater? The place is a hotbed of creativity and communal artistic endeavor!

There is a splendid auditorium where the films are shown, and a shiny, modern town hall and civic buildings. Then there is the old heart of the village, which spirals out around the church square, an utter contrast. Doors, walls and windows cheerfully bright, and narrow roads so you can always walk on the shady side of the street.

Come Easter these historic thoroughfares blossom with a distinctive kind of art, dramatic pieces (because what is more dramatic than the Easter story, after all?) made from plants, flowers and natural materials, like wood and moss. According to the town hall it’s the only one of its kind in Spain, though there are other flower festivals, none revolve around the Easter story. It’s ambition and success seems typical of this surprising community.

easter guia de isora

And so, seeking, and finding, escape from the crowds on the beaches, at the passion play of Adeje or the sombre processions in La Laguna, I meandered my way up to Guia on Friday. Previously I’d been on Maundy Thursday, and I expected to meet more tourists this time, but it was as quiet as before, no problems in lingering around a favorite piece or taking snaps without folk photobombing, perhaps because they have extended the length of the exhibit from two days to four this year.

easter in guia de isora

semana santa guia de isora

Although the pieces are designed by prestigious names in this world of floral artistry, unknown to those of us outside the sphere, groups of volunteers and civic staff help in the creation, making it a real community effort. Like the mandala of Buddhism or the flower carpets of the Catholic Corpus Christi, this art is a lesson in life as well as a celebration of beauty and a sharing of ideas. Come Monday it is gone, leaving behind the lesson that nothing lasts long in this world.

This is what I discovered as I ambled around, dodging the hot sun, but cursing the shadows on Friday.

I begin with my two favorites:

The inscription reads: " It has not changed anything, currently people still (sell) themselves out for a few coins."

The inscription reads: ” It has not changed anything, currently people still (sell) themselves out for a few coins.”

I like this for the design, for the beauty and simplicity, and because, try as you might, you can always see yourself in those mirrors. This is a powerful message, which haunted me the rest of the day.

Jordi Abelló is a teacher  at the Catalan School of Floral Art.

Jordi Abelló is a teacher at the Catalan School of Floral Art.

The inscription reads:

“Pain is sometimes necessary to find inner peace in each one.

But if we see life with light and color, it is easier to find.

Inscription on this work by Carlos Curbelo of the Catalan School of Floral Art " Coins of betrayal that ended up scattered on the ground after Judas' betrayal."

Inscription on this work by Carlos Curbelo of the Catalan School of Floral Art ” Coins of betrayal that ended up scattered on the ground after Judas’ betrayal.”

I love the originality of this exhibit.  This was one of the first pieces I saw and it struck me as apt, in a time when Spain is reeling from corruption scandal after corruption scandal. From the king (that is the father of the current king) down, the country is examining its collective conscience.

"While others slept Judas left the group with intent on betray(ing) him for a few gold coins."

“While others slept Judas left the group with intent on betray(ing) him for a few gold coins.”

Third piece with more or less the same message – surely this can’t be a coincidence.

The mount of olives by carlos curbelo

This minimalist piece is by Carlos Curbelo, who is municipal designer and expert from the Catalan School of Floral Art, and was responsible for the larger part of the exhibition. The plaque describes it as inspired by the Mount of Olives, where Jesus went to pray before his arrest.

Another piece by Carlos Curbelo representing, "Flagellation: His first torture was received tied to a column where the scourge tore his skin."

Another piece by Carlos Curbelo representing, “Flagellation: His first torture was received tied to a column where the scourge tore his skin.”

The Resurecction "Why do you look among the dead (for) the living?" Carlo Curbelo

The Resurrection “Why do you look among the dead (for) the living?” Carlo Curbelo

This sombre and effective work is by Ángela Batitsta of Tacoronte in the north of Tenerife. The inscription reads: "The time of Christ death on the cross the sky turned dark there were thunder and lightning announcing that he left us and is no longer among the living, leaving a large gap and shame to those that loved him and bewildered to those that guarded him."

This sombre and effective work is by Ángela Batitsta of Tacaronte in the north of Tenerife. The inscription reads: “The time of Christ death on the cross the sky turned dark there were thunder and lightning announcing that he left us and is no longer among the living, leaving a large gap and shame to those that loved him and bewildered to those that guarded him.”

I had intended to correct the English (old habits die hard!), but typing out these inscriptions now, I find the mistakes kind of charming, so I’m leaving them alone.

"During the via crucis Veronica tended to Christ a veil to wipe away the sweat and blood. On the clothing redemptive factions were miraculously printed."  This work by Cristina de Leon from Santa Cruz de Tenerife

“During the via crucis Veronica tended to Christ a veil to wipe away the sweat and blood. On the clothing redemptive factions were miraculously printed.” This work by Cristina de Leon from Santa Cruz de Tenerife

"In heaven the angels announced Jesus´victory over death."

“In heaven the angels announced Jesus´victory over death.”

This was the only one with which I had a problem. Were those really chicken wings?

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By Carlos Curbelo: " A crown of thorny branches surrounded his head, reflecting a mockery which became a glory."

By Carlos Curbelo: ” A crown of thorny branches surrounded his head, reflecting a mockery which became a glory.”

Lovely translation there.

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This was the prettiest, though I know it's not about the pretty. Tribute to the brotherhoods of pentients who parade during Holy Week by Carlos Curbelo

This was the prettiest, though I know it’s not about the pretty. Tribute to the brotherhoods of penitents who parade during Holy Week by Carlos Curbelo

Hole by Carlos Curbeo  "A broken heart at the end of the cross harbours the hope of resurrection."

Hole by Carlos Curbeo
“A broken heart at the end of the cross harbours the hope of resurrection.”

Carlos Curbelo has a brilliant translator who conveys the meaning as well as the words.

Ecce Homo by local artist Hugo Pitti. "His clothes were distributed by lot (dicing), scourged and crowned with thorns, by giving a fishing rod as a joke because they said that he itself was said 'King of the Jews.'

Ecce Homo by local artist Hugo Pitti.
“His clothes were distributed by lot (dicing), scourged and crowned with thorns, by giving a fishing rod as a joke because they said that he itself was said ‘King of the Jews.’

"The repentant tears dried Christ's feet with her long, messy locks. With so much love Jesus forgive her sins and left her free from the 7 devils that tormented her to the astonishment of all present." Cristina de Leon from Santa Cruz de Tenerife

“The repentant tears dried Christ’s feet with her long, messy locks. With so much love Jesus forgive her sins and left her free from the 7 devils that tormented her to the astonishment of all present.” Cristina de Leon from Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The temple by Zona Verde, who, I believe are the gardening contractors to the municipality. " A temple of prayer became a market. Jesus ejected the merchants from the temple."

The temple by Zona Verde, who, I believe are the gardening contractors to the municipality. ” A temple of prayer became a market. Jesus ejected the merchants from the temple.”

Sitting now, writing this and editing the photos, it occurs to me that, although not Christian, I “get” the messages of Easter, and these works of art made me dwell on them far more than, well, other Easter manifestations I’ve attended in the past.


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Almond Blossom Time Is Over: A Slightly Cynical Look at Tenerife Island Festivals

This post began, a couple of weeks back, in a totally different form. Technology killed it. I clicked something I shouldn’t have, and three-quarters of what I’d written was lost in the ether of cyberspace. I had no heart to try to recall lost words. Its time was past.

All of which set me thinking about how we tell time by the revolving customs as well as the seasons.

 

almond blossom el hierro

As soon as the Kings have hiked on back to Fairyland, I begin to think about almond blossom.  The first ones were spotted this year very early in January, and I missed my usual jaunt over to Santiago del Teide to see them , so I was surprised and happy to spot on orchard in El Hierro, still groaning with blossoms.

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When Home Isn’t Quite the Right Word: The Seeds of my Wanderlust

The pilot warns us to buckle up because we are on final approach, and I glance out of the window. This view, this is why I bagged a window seat. Ascending from the ripples of the Atlantic, swathed around its midriff by a drift of white clouds is Tenerife. My island. My home. From its core rises El Teide, darkly against ocean and clouds, guarding its terrain, chiding me for my absence.

I have to wonder sometimes why I roam. This island fulfils so many of my needs, not all, but then, I’ve come to the conclusion that nowhere ever can; or at least that my chances of finding my personal Shangri-La are diminishing with time. Yet the need to roam is in my blood, because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel this way. Another month and my feet will itch again. I know it.

Wanderlust fulfilled in the 70s in the South of France

Wanderlust fulfilled in the 70s in the South of France

I’ve tried to trace my longing back. Is it something I acquired or something with which I was born? I’m inclined to think the latter. There was a time when I blamed television. We got our first television set in 1953 for two reasons. One: Blackpool Football Club was playing in the FA Cup Final and Two: Queen Elizabeth ll’s Coronation was in June. That June I was six and a half years old, and long after the fun of dressing up as a princess, pretending to ride in a golden carriage had worn off, another image was still imprinted on my brain, a picture of a huge, snow-covered mountain towering into the blue heavens, and I wanted to see it in real life. The Coronation coincided with the first summit of Everest, and my imagination was on fire.

Over the next few years television fuelled the fire, Cisco Kid galloping free across the US west, David Attenborough in search of dragons, Flipper apparently happily surfing the warm waters of Florida, the team from Sea Quest exploring the ocean, Armand and Michaela Dennis getting up close with the exotic animals of Africa. I acted out scenes and invented more amongst the long grasses of the half of my granddad’s market garden that he didn’t cultivate. I think I ran just a little bit wild.

First coin in the fountain in 1967

First coin in the fountain in 1967

Third coin tossed to the gods of Trevi in 2004

Third coin tossed to the gods of Trevi in 2004

Not only TV but books egged me on Anne of Green Gables called me to Canada, the Swiss Family Robinson to live on a desert island in a tree house (still a dream that one!), Little Women hinted at life in the US (and left me with an undying curiosity about the American Civil War). At one point I decided to become a missionary, and have no doubt that had more to do with wanting to see Africa than any deep religious convictions; at another time, by contrast and inspired by our annual visit to Blackpool Tower Circus, I decided to run away and join a travelling show –the gypsy lifestyle had lots of appeal.

Dream come true carriage ride in Rome in 1967

Dream come true carriage ride in Rome in 1967

Into my teen years I watched TV and movies as much for the locations as for the plots or stars. In my mind I traveled to Paris and Rome with Audrey Hepburn, to the mountains of Austria with Julie Andrews, to Russia with Omar Sharif and to just about every state in the US. When my first chance to step onto foreign soil came I was ready.

Me and my several petticoats on the left

Me and my several petticoats on the left

That opportunity came by way of a school exchange to Solingen in the north of Germany. My parents must have scrimped and saved to let me go, and there was no money for a new suitcase, so I traveled with a heavy, old, brown leather one, which had been my dad’s. Strapped to the outside was my tennis racket. This girl was going to seize every opportunity that presented itself on this trip, and wasn’t going to miss a game of tennis because she didn’t have a racket! A little under an hour into the journey I realized my folly as I struggled over the bridge which connected platforms on Preston station, but happily this was back in the day when gentlemen still came to the rescue of a girl in distress, and it happened again as I plodded along the platform of a Tube station to change stations for the Dover train and the exotic. The time in Germany passed in a swirl of new tastes, scents, customs and sights. Travel was everything I dreamed it would be, despite turning green apparently (I have that on good authority and I certainly felt it!) on the Ostend ferry, and feeling gauche in my layered petticoats (all the rage in England, but not so much in Germany).

Solo to Germany at 18 and rocking the Jackie Kennedy look

Solo to Germany at 18 and rocking the Jackie Kennedy look

When it came to my first solo trip at 18 I was more than ready, I’d already lived it in my head over and over again. I was just on the cusp of when we used to “dress” to travel, so I bought a Jackie Kennedy hat and a neat suit, and thought I was the bee’s knees. I also missed my first opportunity to get bumped to first class because the flight was overbooked, and I was offered a flight to Cologne instead of Düsseldorf to where I was booked. What was I thinking???’

Emigrating came naturally to me. I read blogs about the pitfalls and the angsting and I don’t get it. It was simply long, long-term travel. Something I’ve learned about myself of late though it this. I am not a nomad. I can travel for months without feeling homesick, but there comes a point when I crave the familiar. I’m not sure that homesick is the right word, it’s a need for tranquillity and for people, rather than for place, but one has to store ones possession somewhere, and so I come back to the Canary Islands, and when I see the mountain rising from the seas it feels something like home.

The ultimate dream come true, riding the Orient Express which remains one of my best travel memories

The ultimate dream come true, riding the Orient Express which remains one of my best travel memories

Travel has changed one heck of a lot in the intervening years, even in the years since I became an “expat.” Now we dress for comfort, travel like sardines, at least on short haul and if we can’t afford better. I’ve stayed in five star hotels and grotty hostels. I’ve traveled light and I’ve traveled with the “kitchen sink.” I have yet to do a long boat trip, but I’ve done a couple in small Cessna. I’ve traveled with my family, with friends and solo. I’ve seen so much more of the world than my mom ever did, but already my sons have been to places I still yearn to see. Eating lunch in a sunny square in France the other day with a dear friend, one with whom I’d shared that first trip years ago, we mused about how we’d seen ourselves evolving back then. Would we have predicted how this moment in time would find us – both expats, and her journey having been even more exotic than mine? I realized then that the journey will never be done. There are so very many places still to see, experiences to share, tales to tell. I still haven’t seen Everest for a start.

The Orient Express took us to Venice. A never-to-be-forgotten trip.

The Orient Express took us to Venice. A never-to-be-forgotten trip 


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Things I Learned from My Islands Trip: No.3 My Need to be Near the Ocean!

 

The lush and very beautiful Hermigua valley in La Gomera

The lush and very beautiful Hermigua valley in La Gomera

I’d long been aware that I had the good fortune to live somewhere so easy to enjoy both ocean and mountain scenery. Running through my list of pros and cons of continuing to use Tenerife as a base (and there hasn’t been one year in the 27 I’ve spent here that I have not done that), it ties for first place with the pleasant climate. But now I have that same certainty about the seas that Juanjo has about the mountains. I’m lucky I don’t have to choose, but if I ever did, I know which one makes my heart beat that bit faster.

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Home for Now

The morning air is utterly neutral on my skin. Those Atlantic breezes do their thing overnight, and bring down temperatures, so we don’t suffer the way, say, Florida does (Orlando is on almost the same latitude as Tenerife).

Outside the main door of the apartment block the delivery guys are sitting on the low wall that surrounds the grassed, center part of the walkway, waiting for the supermarket to open its back doors for their deliveries. They chat quietly and smoke. Soda cans and plastic bottles have been tossed onto the grass overnight, and, mysteriously, yoghurt cartons and a handful of curtain rings.

This is a barrio, a ‘hood – even in a town so small there are divisions. It’s the sort of place where people hang out of their ground floor windows and chat with friends on the street. Sometimes I’ve passed one of these conversations on my way out to walk Trixy, and it’s still going on when we return.

Conversation is a serious business around here. Already in the couple of weeks I’ve lived here I’ve hurried to the window thinking a big argument was taking place outside, but it was only the delivery men flirting with the supermarket girls, or women hanging around outside the hairdressers a little way down to smoke their cigarettes.

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Of Dream Homes and the Internet

Do you have a dream home? Oh, I don’t mean a house as such, though that would be a part of it, I mean a place. When you travel are you, even unconsciously,  looking for your dream home, that special place which ticks all the boxes in your heart and soul? Everywhere I’ve ever been I believe I’ve asked myself, “Could I live here?” The answer invariably is, “No,” but sometimes there’s a “Yes.” To date, however, the yeses have been too expensive, forbidden (no longterm visa) or too far away from aging family.

Generally for me it’s that middle thing, the not being allowed to live in my chosen spots. Deciding what to do a few days back, I made a list of what it would take to make my dream place. It is, of course, by the ocean, but with mountains within easy reach; it is multi-cultural, drawing color and passion from folk from many different backgrounds and nationalities;  there is good wi-fi; a variety of cuisines at reasonable prices available; it’s lively and has sports facilities; easy access to art is high on the list (bookshops, cinemas, theater, museums, concerts); it’s sophisticated (in the real sense of the word) in a laid back way. The climate is important, but if everything fell into place, and the seasons were as seasons ought to be (i.e. not 12 months of rain and cloud) then that might be less important. In fact, I guess, if enough boxes are ticked, then the ones which aren’t become less significant.Early morning El Médano

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