The story continues
But first, before anything let me point you all to the fact that my friend Caroline, of the wonderful Trivial Pursuit, has been nominated in the Australian/New Zealand section of the Bloggie awards. Visit her; read her; enjoy her. And ABOVE ALL VOTE FOR HER. Because you know - as I do - she's worth it.
Granny is boiling Seville oranges for marmalade. One of her favourite smells. On a wet and windy day in the Canary Islands it seems a comforting kind of activity. The rain over Granny's land is practically horizantal. Means more plants, though. Good. Only problem is that all rain here is like snow in England 'the wrong kind of rain.' System can't cope with it. Roads flood. (No gutters.) Roofs leak (no slope, no gutters.) Electricity shorts thereby cutting off phone water and God knows what else (no proper insulation.) This is not surprising. Rain used to be a much rarer event on this island. The very first time Granny visited it, over twenty years ago, was in the middle of a seven year drought. Even when she came to live here three years ago there was a good deal less rain than now. Plants, flowers, such as grew were low to the ground. These days, the wild marigolds covering her land have long stalks. Main disadvantage - apart from problems above - is that it is also much colder; currently 13 C up here - not much more inside house. Since the Spanish electricity company refuses to allow its Canarian branch greater capacity and since everybody is busy turning on the heaters, at night especially, and during fiestas even more so, Granny's electricity is always blowing. She has - quite illegally - managed to increase her allowance slightly, essential when there are paying guests all wanting showers, to use hair-dryers, not to die of cold. Even so, one appliance too many and darkness falls. Candles to hand in every room are essential. (On ecological grounds being so forced to limit use is A GOOD THING. But it's hard to be glad of virtue when shivering in the dark.)
More animals. (Sorry.) Currently a seven month old tabby kitten is acting as rather prickly neck-scarf. Her brother is yowling somewhere in background. (He's hungry; too bad. Lunchtime is some way off. ) Meet Feline Lorengar (she has the nicer voice) and Feline Manrique (he's prettier.) FH they aren't, but it is nice having healthy cats around after the misery of the last month or so with the ever sicker orange one. And kittens are always engaging - Granny is glad to see them developing their mouse-catching skills around stray pieces of paper, etc, though she'd rather they didn't do so on lurking pieces of crockery; much more breakable; at this very moment a loud crash. (Pause to pick up pieces; CURSES -one of Beloved's own creations; hide pieces; FAST.) A donkey as yet there isn't. The one on offer turned out to be an entire male; ie - to those of you need this further information on the genitals of the ass in question- ungelded. Liable to be noisy at the first sniff of a female, claimed Beloved. Not to mention obstreperous. Granny did go so far as to visit it. It did not seem obstreperous in the least - 'docil' she had been assured: more like 'dopy,' it turned out, or even depressed; it barely showed interest in the carrot thoughtfully provided by Beloved. Granny wondered if it had in fact been dosed with something to make it seem docile. Either way Beloved has given it the thumbs down. Good. Not so good is his mention of the noise made by donkey. This 'rural paradise' (sort-of) is supposed to be a haven of peace. But between two crowing cockerels, two yowling kittens, two barking dogs, and any moment now a braying donkey, quiet it isn't. Bring earplugs everyone. You'll need them.
Anyway it is now all, donkey-wise, up to Beloved. Granny has washed her hands of the matter. If Beloved he wants a donkey, let him have one. He can do the work! She'll confront the goat problem when it arrives. And not before.
She is reminded of her parents a little; also like Beloved full of wild schemes, though less likely than him to put them into action. The pig never arrived for instance. Nor the 14ft dinghy. (A bit difficult to manage that; the nearest water a muddy trickle called the River Darenth, good for sailing paper boats but not much else; the sea a two hour drive at least.) One that did come to fruition was Khaki Campbell ducks, which turned a large part of the garden into a sea of mud and produced eggs that noone would eat. Another time - this was a money-making scheme of which they had many, mostly ill-advised - came the idea of breeding standard poodle puppies.
Granny for her eighth birthday had been given the mother - the runt of a litter from a very pedigree mother, whose father it was reported had won the championship at Crufts. Since she had been the wrong shape, colour etc - the Kennel Club, wrecker of many breeds, were sniffy - she'd been handed over for free. This did not stop Granny's parents thinking they were onto a GOOD THING; as soon as she was old enough they introduced her to a suitably aristocratic mate. First litter, they thought. Two or three puppies, four at most. Sell them for a fat profit. MONEY. (Granny's parents always felt themselves poor; by middle-class standards they were; but not by anyone else's.)
Actually she produced eight. And did anyone want them? Does it need saying? NO! Standard poodles are large dogs; they eat a lot. This was at the time of meat rationing. And although horse meat on which the dogs were fed did not count it was not always easily come by and expensive. (Oh the sweet smell of it that used to float round the house when Granny's father boiled it; not as bad as his chicken food, but bad enough. Unlike the rest of the family, Granny's dad did not have a good sense of smell.) Had they been miniature or toy poodles the puppies would indeed have sold for good money; but they weren't miniature or toy poodles; far from it. Granny's parents managed to find homes for four of the puppies - but not for money; they had to be given away. Four of them stayed on, making five large dogs in all. Never mind, everyone said; they're nice - they were too, all different colours - champagne, orange, russet, black and a magical etherial silver, each lovingly named by Granny and her siblings -and all entertaining to boot. But oh the cost - oh the smell - of the ever-increasing quantities of horse meat. Which they didn't seem to think adequate, even so. Unbeknownst to the family they ganged-up, took themselves off and raided neighbouring chicken-runs - very crafty about it they were - one went inside, to chase the hens out, two caught them, one stood guard. The mother meantime sat helpless in the distance, clearly worried about the whole thing. The chicken owners protested. Some went to the police. The dogs' owner - Granny's dad, ended, inevitably, in the local magistrate's court.
After Granny's father died she found in the book of family clippings that, sweetly, lovingly, he kept all his family's life, a piece cut out of the Sevenoaks Chronicle, their local newspaper, detailing the case. 'It is not only human parents that have delinquent children..' it began. A large fine followed on top of costs, of reparations to chicken-owners etc etc, on top of the fortune on horse-meat. The dogs, apart from the mother, disappeared - the children were told that homes had been found for each of them after all; Granny wonders now if this was the whole truth; never mind. What was certain was that yet another money-spinner - not the first or last - turned out anything but. Her parents were like that.
Having grown up with such eccentricity, though, you can see why she loves her Beloved. Most of the time.
Labels: family stories