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Monday, December 18, 2006

That festival

Didn't Granny ride three weeks ago, into that Valley of Death called the UK in winter? - didn't noses to the right of her, noses to the left of her volley and thunder?- didn't she return home unscathed, without so much as a sniffle, feeling smug? Well she has had her come-uppance for such hubris. Hasn't she now been hit by Beloved's latest version of the winter cold acquired from his pupils? Atchoo. Atchoo. With tinsel on top. Bugger it.

For she would LOVE to go to bed with a hot-waterbottle and a book today; wouldn't she just. But. Some hope. It's bloody Christmas. Isn't it?

Flipping through Guardian or Observer online yesterday - Granny can't remember which - she saw a piece in which some woman claimed that what she really wanted for Christmas was two weeks of being a man....Granny knows exactly what she means. Beloved claims he came to the Canaries to get away from Christmas; that he doesn't do Christmas; full stop. This doesn't stop him from asking months in advance 'who are we going to invite for Christmas?' So though the haul this year consists, apart from themselves, of only of a cousin of Beloved's (whom he hasn't seen for twenty years...what's he interested in? - music? birds? .. don't know ..what's he look like?- don't know what he looks like NOW... um...) and Beloved's daughter who is coming for a mere twenty-four hours, Christmas of a sort has to be done. Guess who does it? No prizes.

To be fair, Granny is quite ready to admit she brings some of it on herself. She made her Christmas pudding after all, and her mincemeat. Today she will embark on mince pies and drag out the Christmas decorations to hang on their apology for a Christmas tree - no firs here - which is actually not the least apologetic, just a big, bare agave, with branches hard as steel, that stands in their sitting-room all the year round, looking proud of itself. She will go off to the plant shop and buy poinsettias - the Christmas flower of choice all over the island. She supposes she could decline to do any of it; she could not decorate anything, she could produce cabbage soup for Christmas dinner. But Beloved wouldn't have that. Even if he doesn't do Christmas, he does do food; if not puddings and mince pies, he does the smoked salmon and stuffs the bird and quite a lot else besides.

Meantime the local lights are now finished and lit and are all very culturally appropriate. The blazing camel rotates round the blazing man in local dress. Both are decorated with flashing lights: Granny will try and photograph their glory sometime and put their picture up. The lights strung across the roads include an equally culturally appropriate windmill and prickly pear, a Mexican hat + guitar - well it's Latino at least, even if from the wrong side of the Atlantic.... etc etc. Let's not mention the footballers kicking their ball outside the football stadium. No snowman in lights in her town, let alone Father Christmas - this year - though down at the coast where the tourists and expats roam, they are to be seen in plenty, presumably for their benefit. Never mind that no snow has been seen on this island, ever. Let alone snowmen.

But there are -or were - angels; really. Driving home across the volcanic wasteland, Granny was astonished to see a cafe in a tent alongside the road. Plus three, bright turquoise, portaloos. Cars were parked. People were eating at tables arranged outside the cafe. A little further along..... had the star finally come to earth?? There was this blazing silver light. If so, the star, 2006 version, had landed plus camera crew and movie cameras, and a man holding a stop-go sign for drivers like her, the way they direct traffic past roadworks here. On the other side of the road from the star/light were the angels; three beautiful young men, in white from head to foot and with big white angel wings strapped on, leaning against a strategically-placed rock, surrounded by people, adjusting gear, powdering faces.

(And she'd never have expected angels to need portaloos - turquoise or otherwise. Just fancy.)

A commercial probably. The identikit young men looked like models. Against this arid rock, against fields of volcanic cinders under a dour sky, the effect was surreal. Granny's not sure it would sell anything. But what does she know? It's Christmas. Atishoo. Atchoo.

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