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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Winds and houses

Weather till today has been impeccable. Last night though it clouded up. Today it has turned to the summer norm - cloud pushed over to this side of the island; clear skies and sun on the other. Granny took BD and BS-i-l to other side to walk so got the sun that way. Beloved and BGD meantime went shopping. They are now are in the kitchen, within earshot, cooking.

Beloved Granddaughter is one of these children who, left to herself, would live on chicken nuggets, cheddar cheese, icecream (ersatz kind) chips, tomato ketchup, chocolate biscuits and NOTHING ELSE. Her parents, via insistance, bribery, carrot sticks, etc, contrive to see her diet is adequate just the same. But she will eat/try nothing new whatever. Granny at her age might have been choosy too; but given rationing didn't get the chance. On the other hand maybe not; she was always greedy. Lugged round Europe on family holidays, while her siblings got car sick and objected to 'foreign food', she stared enthralled out of the car window, and at meals tried virtually everything offered - to the extent of overdoing it at times and throwing-up. (She has fond memories of ham in some delectable reddish French sauce - not so fond memories of the messy and uncomfortable morning after.) She is somewhat puzzled therefore by this extreme conservatism - especially in a child whose visual tastes run to Frida Kahlo, and currently, via her mother's birthday present from Granny, the graphic works of Paula Rego; sophisticated stuff; but then maybe kids need to be childish in one area.

Beloved thinks he sees a way round the food problem. He and the BGD have planned tonight's meal and are going to cook it together, which she is happy to do. There will be a grown-up dinner with candles and napkins, served up by the two cooks. Granny - and her parents- think he is over-optimistic in expecting that she will, even so, eat what she has helped cook. (NOT chicken nuggets etc as above.) Well, we'll see.

Meantime Beloved Daughter is walking over on the far side of the island in the barrancos - ie deep gorges in the hills, running down, in this case, to the sea. These hills - and the cliffs that are just visible from Granny's house in clear weather - are quite other than the volcanoes in the national park behind. They are old old old - they look old - are dry, yellowish even in the wet season. They are very steep. They sit on the land, holding it down with what look like huge paws. The old volcanoes also sit down somewhat. In some lights their craters appear as smooth regular curves above, shadowed hollows below. They have plant cover which greens up in winter and spring. They are also grey, resigned. They say: we have been here a long long time. They are Ozymandias hills.

The newer volcanoes are another thing altogether. Most of us expect landscapes to be old. Mostly landscapes are old; geography and geology talk millennia on the whole. Not here though. Much of this volcanic moonscape is less than 300 years old; these hills erupted on the middle of a fertile plain between 1730 and 1736 - a few more erupted in the 1820's. Far from sitting down in any way they sit up - at times it feels they rise up - will rise higher any minute. In some places their sides are red - the cover on them looks as smooth and moveable as sand, ready to be swept smoother, in different directions, when the wind blows especially fiercely. Their summits and craters are jagged.

The volcanoes, by the way, both old and new provide useful building material. All the older houses like Granny's were built of lava stone - good for keeping in the warmth in winter, the cool in summer. The newer ones are made of breeze-blocks - 'bloques' - like everywhere else these days. The island ones though are different - they contain large amounts of volcanic grit. As the building boom goes on, stacks of bloques are lugged round, all over the island, on large construction trucks . If you are not held up by the straining buttocks of cyclists en route to the airport, you are equally lucky to avoid a straining truck or two spewing out diesel fumes. Bloques are not as efficient as the lava stones though in holding in or keeping out the heat. Nor are modern builders as careful about prevailing winds as the old ones used to be.

Old houses were always - or mostly - one storey, built round a courtyard, with a gate on one side, all the rooms opening onto the courtyard on the others, connected to each other only via the courtyard. Everything went on there. People sat, sheltered from the wind; chickens lived there, goats did. Only the rooms that did not back on the northeast winds had serious windows. In granny's part of the island this meant all the houses sat with their back to the view. As Granny's would have done once upon a time. Unfortunately the English couple who restored it knew better - or thought they did. They lined the northeast side with French windows made of very inadequate wood. Granny and Beloved spent most of their first year here with a percussion orchestra of shaking, banging wood, spending large sums of money in attempts - mostly successful - to silence it, via shutters, smaller windows made of decent and expensive timber; also by pergolas against wind and sun both.

Beautiful daughter has spoken via mobile phone. Granny has to go into the sun to collect her. More anon.

(Beloved grand-daughter likes Ozymandias too.)

3 Old comments:

Anonymous Bob said...

We have one daughter that has the same diet as your grand-daughter, one daughter that will try some things, and one daughter that will try virtually anything.

The oldest is the boldest and the youngest is the pickiest. I wonder if it is something to do with birth order...

4:35 pm  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Maybe it's temperament, too? Or independence ("Tell me what to eat, and I'll eat something else")? My youngest sister survived by eating not much more than ham sandwiches and caramel milkshakes for years at a time...

Your island is like a blink-of-an-eye in the geological scheme of things. Have the rocks had time to weather at all?

5:43 pm  
Anonymous caroline said...

I am there with you when you write descriptively. Lovely Shelley link too.

My 'poor' children have only rarely been given chicken nuggets etc. Sometimes I say it's 'children's food' for supper and they look crestfallen.
Mind you the old one didn't eat ANYTHING for about 8 years.

12:25 am  

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