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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Not a hurricane: quite

The Canary Islands Tourist Board has done its job too well. Tropical storm Delta decided not to winter in Florida but turned east instead. She arrived in the Canaries last night. Granny and Beloved had expected highish winds today, Tuesday, but nothing quite like this. They hadn't looked in the right places, that's all: warnings were everywhere. At least their island to the north got the least of it. But the least was more than enough.

The wind got up all afternoon. By early evening it was lashing at the house the way it hadn't in a long time; since well before the chooks arrived. Even before seeing the warning, Beloved shut them up in their house - chickens in this climate can blow away when the wind gets up. That's not a joke. It's true. As he and Granny sat by the fire later, they could hardly hear themselves think, let alone talk, the wind was so furiously bashing at the glass dome over the sitting-room - once a courtyard - that it looked unlikely to survive it. Nothing to be done though except shift furniture to minimise the damage. This they did. Then they went to bed which meant shuffling through an outside courtyard and up to the room upstairs. Another raised wooden roof and skylight and windows facing west and south - the direction of the wind. They got into bed still dressed in case of having to move hastily. Noise more horrendous than ever. Windows and roof shaking, sounds full-blast not to say orchestral. When the door blew open they decided enough was enough and crept downstairs to another bedroom, also facing west, with thundering windows but at least there was no roof likely to blow off. Wind worse than ever. This mightn't be a hurricane Granny thought, but near enough or not she hoped it was the nearest she'd ever get to one. It was scary. All the electricity had gone by now. The gusts got furiouser and furiouser. She might have slept a little. When she woke the wind was as bad as ever, if not worse. She will not employ the obvious words 'banshee' "shriek" "howl" - you know them; it's enough to say they applied, every last one of them. What was beyond cliche though was this; the way the wind stopped, just liked that; one minute came shriek then - well not quite nothing, but it felt like nothing; a normal windy night chez G and P that's it. That really was beyond astonishment, let alone expectation. What time Granny could not tell in the total dark. Never mind the hour though; the relative silence almost hurt, had its own kind of disturbing loudness by contrast. In time she slept again.

It had stopped pretty much in time. In the morning this - enough but not disastrous: one window blown in upstairs; door blown off chicken house. The front garden is ruination - will take some time to recover; bourgainvilleas blown off walls, passion flower decimated, terminally it looks like, leaves of all plants - hibiscus, geraniums, rosemary - etc black, drooping, as if burnt, where not blown off entirely. All windows so thick with salt and sand it's hard to see out of them. The sitting-room covered in soot and grit; bedrooms all dusty. Still, it could be much worse - wind gusts only (?only) up to 50-60 miles an hour here but more like 70-80 in Tenerife - especially north Tenerife to which The Bottle-Blondshell and husband moved earlier this year to escape the wind and weather of this island. They are without electricity, have been for hours. God knows what gardens there look like. So much for seeking safety. (And all this without the lurking volcano predicted to blow the whole island apart sooner or later. Winter holiday in the sun anyone?)

No chickens blown away, yet. Elsewhere to the south, one poor man decided to fix his roof before the wind got too bad and was blown off it to his death. Six poor Africans, failing to check the weather forecast, chose the wrong night to make their bid for life in Europe, heading for this island on a very small boat. That was the end of them, too. On our island our electricity and everyone else's has now come back on. The Thin German Cosmetic Masseuse has appeared with three removal men and a lot of furniture, including two surf boards which for now have to stowed on the bed Granny and Beloved slept on last night. Just as well Mr Handsome is sick so not present; he would be muttering darkly about exploitation. Delta meanwhile enjoys life in Moroccan souks. Moroccan Tourist Board also good at its job then. Oh what fun.

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