Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mouse toast

On Granny's island; it's been raining, windy, cold. Summer is no more. Outside her house the chickens too are no longer roaming; measures have been taken against the arrival of bird flu. They are to be shut up till May 1st - presumably to cover the bird migration period. Even so it seems a rather minimal measure, even for here.

But then most measures against most doubtful things are minimal here. Let's take the minimal measures against the rampant corruption, which everyone knows about. But which, according to Granny's best informant - let's call him only 'the demon headmaster' -makes the little matter in Marbella in Spain (its Town Council has been suspended by the central government, most of its councillor are in prison on corruption charges) look like small beer.

But back in that larger world not everyone is related to everyone else, the way they are here. That does make matters more complicated. Here, one mayor is being asked why he handed out 406 building licences, in areas designated rural in a period designated as 'zero development.' He is prevaricating - 'these are houses for workers' he declares, not tourist development', and delaying things to such extent the building work goes on and will be finished before long; looks like he'll get away with it as usual. Surprise surprise. Granny supposes such matters may be inevitable in areas once dirt poor, living on subsistence farming, and now pulling in tourist and expat money. Her friend Nieves, for instance, says her grandparents never did anything but work on the land; there was no other work. They got by more or less - inasmuch as anyone did. During the war, when no supply ships could come, and when there were years of drought people were half starving.

So maybe it's hardly surprising that those who have managed to enrich themselves - most of the construction firms were started by people from families just as poor - intend to keep going on that way; ditto the politicians, their relations, who get bribed to ensure they do.

'Politicos!' says Nieves. 'I don't like them. They do everything for themselves and nothing for the poor!' The only slight exception to this rule is in the year before the election. Granny and Beloved brace themselves for the road 'improvements' promised before the last election and so far unrealised. One, just at the end of their road, has started already - in hiccups - nothing proceeds steadily here - thereby closing one useful route into the town. (No diversions are offered for road works, except on tourist routes. It's called 'find one yourself.') They expect a lot of this over the next year or so. The mayor wants to keep filling his pocket. Which means getting himself re-elected.

Meantime, within the house, Beloved discovered an electrocuted and toasted mouse in the toaster. Granny has rather gone off toast.

She feels marginally sorry for the mouse, though. Merely in search of crumbs, it didn't deserve the domestic equivalent of the electric chair - it seemed an as "cruel and unusual punishment" for him/her as for anybody else.

Granny is off to England tomorrow for 3 days to go to a memorial service for her friend who died in January. Despite the distance, it did not seem like an occasion she should miss. This means she will not be around any more this week. Hasta la vista!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Financial transactions..

Did Granny say that her Beloved loves banks? It seems he does, at least. If he was anybody else she'd think he was conducting a secret liaison with the bank manager. but her Beloved isn't like that and even if he was the bank manager concerned doesn't look a likely partner; he looks like - a bank manager - if you know what she means. And anyway, between 8.30-8.45 or 9 in the morning seems an uncomfortable hour for amorous activity of the office kind - Beloved always arrives at the bank early. He does NOT like queues unlike Granny, who carries a book in her bag and is happy to make use of it. Books, along with credit cards, are never carried by Beloved.

Other people these days find such nice little cards useful; they can pay bills or to draw cash from ATM's without having to go to the bank. 'The banks charge you for having cards'; says Beloved. 'They charge you for drawing money out. And I can never remember my pin number. And anyway how else am I to find out what's in my account?'

'By putting in your pin number' says Granny 'and requesting your balance.' 'But they charge you for the card,' he repeats. 'And I can't remember my pin number.'

Granny suggests he uses his date of birth. Even Beloved can't forget that. He did put it on the one card he still had, for his English bank. Or rather she put it on for him. But he rarely or never uses it. 'How about internet banking,' she suggests. 'They offered it to me,' he said. 'But it didn't seem worth it. I'd still have to go to the bank to draw out money.'...

'By card?' suggests Granny ever more hopelessly. And before he can say again that they charge for the card says; 'it can't cost more than the petrol for driving half an hour to get the money and half an hour back. Once a week.' Beloved looks unconvinced. (As unconvinced as when she rubbishes his recipe for saving time on buying petrol: handing out the right note and asking for 20 euros worth rather than having it filled right up - meaning that the attendent has to rummage in his bag for change, a job which takes him all of 20 seconds. 'You don't understand,' protests Beloved. 'It's a formula. It works.'

Granny can't see how. But she cannot budge him here either. Beloved visits petrol stations more often than necessary too.)

One effect of Beloved's dislike of cards could be seen, recently, when Mr Handsome put a bolt of wood through the front windscreen of the truck. Granny arrived back from England at the weekend to find the windscreen had already remained like this for 2 days.

'It's illegal to drive a truck in this condition,' she suggests. 'Why didn't you get it fixed at once.'

'I couldn't. The insurance woman was away. I had to ask her first.'

'But Beloved, insurance anywhere allows a windscreen to be fixed, without further enquiry.'

'I can't be sure of that. And anyway I couldn't have paid for it. I'd have had to go to the bank, and the bank was shut..'

Cards? Internet Banking? Telephone Banking? All the convenient devices that means Granny need only plug in a card, connect up, make a telephone call, to sort out her monetary life seems to have passed her Beloved by. She never goes near her bank. He continues to visit his.

Just in case you are wondering why, in the light of her exasperation, his 'formulas', he's still her Beloved, she'll show you something. Last year for Christmas he gave her this; a drawing he'd made before she went into hospital in September for the removal of the relevant bit. 'You don't mind?' he said anxiously. 'Mind? Of course not. I'm...' she couldn't find the words then. She can't find them now. It doesn't matter anyway. Even if he does insist on going to the bank in order to pay for the still putative donkey, nothing more need be said.

Friday, April 21, 2006

RIP Feline Manrique

Granny doesn't seem lucky with her male cats - or alternatively, if she's being really paranoid, she hexes them in some way. Hexed or not hexed, sweet, purring, pretty, very loving little Feline Manrique has been a problem for some time; forever needing the vet, forever being fed anti-biotics. He had some congenital problem with his uro-genital system; and no, Granny will not burden you with the gory details - the nice little drawings done by the vet to demonstrate the not very nice problem will remain between her and him. Suffice to say she spent a lot of time clearing up after him. And taking him to the vet and feeding him anti-biotics. It was a rare condition said lovely vet Pedro, doing his best. Today she took FM to see Pedro yet again, this time to check that his latest little problem had cleared up, as a result of the latest batch of anti-biotics. Certainly he seemed more lively; her hopes were high. It hadn't cleared up. It was going to happen again and again. Lovely vet Pedro could have tried operating on him; most likely an operation wouldn't work.

The result was inevitable. FM was not a viable cat; was never going to be a happy, well cat. Was always going to be the often languid depressed cat Granny had seen too often, with sadness.

She departed weeping from the clinic of Lovely Pedro - who was at his most lovely, giving her a hug and and a kiss of sympathy - leaving her pretty purring adorable FM with his stripy stockings and very loud voice behind her. By now his voice, his purr will be silenced, his stripy paws stilled. Forgive Granny, if left with one lively, if less pretty female cat she is a bit too sad to continue with this. She's off to throw the last remaining pills FM was supposed to take into the bin.

Why do we have animals when they cause us so much sadness? What a waste of feeling it is, she thinks. Except it isn't.

RIP Feline Manrique, missing a vital bit but so lovely and only 10 months old - RIP.

Monday, April 17, 2006


The families have come and gone. The house is empty again except for Granny and Beloved and their menagerie. Except for the wind which has returned with a vengence and is currently going in and out, especially at Granny's back in her rather cold office. She has replaced her shawl for the first time in over a month. She is wearing her sheepskin slippers. All of it is a sign, she fears, that the dread trade winds are limbering up to start on their over-long summer residence. Making the clouds gather, the chickens stop laying, the land dry up, the vegetables dwindle to nothing, in the curious Canarian inversion of the northern barrenness of winter. Time to go elsewhere, Granny thinks. Except that, thanks to the menagerie, this is difficult. Curses. This evening she and Beloved will return to their Darby and Joan existence, sitting alone by their fire. The fire hasn't been lit for a month. She intends lighting it tonight.

Trade winds or no trade winds, this island, at least, continues its normal not so merry way; suffering from the attempts of corrupt businessmen, corrupt tourist chiefs and even corrupter politicians, most of them related to each other - this is an island, darlings, and small - to concrete it over, to the sole advantage of the above and, in particular, of the already stinking rich construction industry. If this lot had their way the only open spaces left outside the national park would be golf courses. (Which use more water than the biggest town on the island; water here, by the way, almost all coming from the local desalination plants already doing their bit to add to global warming providing water for the new unlived-in houses, the new developments, ditto, the new never full hotels ; none of them wouldn't you know, provided with the water tanks - the aljibes - that used to catch all the rain and conserve it for use; not enough profit in that little extra, obviously. Madness. Also: how come it is worth the developers' if not the construction industry's money/time, building these things if they are so surplus to requirements? They must get some - even some large - profit out of it. Tax relief?? Granny and Beloved will use their now more extensive - if still limited - contacts to try and find out.)

There are signs, however, that things may change; a little. To judge from the local free sheets, newspapers, journals which Granny devours these days - her Spanish classes have had one good effect - the non-political worms, tired of the concrete, tired of an ever-increasing flood of what they call 'low-class' tourists, brought in to fill the houses/hotels at very low cost - to the tourists - and very little profit - to the locals - the tour companies take it all - are beginning to fight back. People thrown out of their houses and land in order for one golf course to be built, offered a mere 4 euros a metre in compensation, are shouting very loudly indeed. A new development, further north, has been blocked with the help of a community of German nudists; another, in Granny's own district which would have put paid to the spoonbills not least, has been vetoed by no less tham the Spanish Ministry of the Environment; thank god the Canaries aren't yet independent. Politicians of all colours, even the ones not yet in prison/court on corruption charges, are being slated on every side. New, purer (for now; until they too can't resist the chance to buy Armani suits, install swimming pools at their villas) political parties are springing up. Cynicism apart, next year's elections will be interesting. Granny as a householder has the right to vote in local elections; she has every intention of doing so. She is beginning to measure her growing love for this island she landed on by mistake by her growing outrage at what she sees being done to it.

Still, some things don't change; not least the way local festivities carry on, regardless of builders, politicians, tourists. On the evening of Good Friday she went out for a drink with Beloved's Beloved Daughter and her boyfriend. (Beloved was back home doing what he always does - how he always protects himself during these onslaughts of people; cooking.) The bar chosen - Granny's and Beloved's preferred bar, because it is mostly patronised by locals - sits alongside the main road through the town. All was quiet at first. But then suddenly the road was invaded by large numbers of junior bowls teams (Canarian bowls is something between English bowls and French boules and played by all ages, not just the aged as in England) each team wearing different coloured tracksuits; red, blue, green. Their brightness, their chatter was overtaken by the blaring of police horns, by blue flashing lights; one police car crawled ahead of a procession led by a woman carrying a large crucifix, another car crawled behind it. The procession itself chanted a low muted chant; apart from the priest and another man it was composed almost entirely of middle-aged women wearing brown and grey and black. The vivid, noisy children - their children, their grandchildren, no doubt- flowed around them, in the opposite direction Two worlds; one world. How the island is.

Between them they took over the main road. Granny and companions had to go home the long way round.

But now it's all over. Tomorrow Beloved will renew his non-festive communion with the bank. Of which more, next time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


This will be brief. Granny's house is still awash with family; on top of usual animals - and more. Those who guessed feathers got nearest the surprise. All those allergic to birds leave now.

But no it was not peacocks - or Easter chicks. And, alas, no everlasting pool. (Thanks for the idea, MG. She wishes.)

The surprise was two bantams; male and female. The kind with little feathery socks on. Black cock, brown hen. Both pretty. They hop about the back patio, in and out of the palm trees on the garden, competing with the little cats for food - kittens are warier of them than they of the kittens - giving the three small girls lessons in biology; the cockerel is for ever leaping on his brown wife's back. (Granny suspects the biology lessons are not needed, there's plenty of that on the telly. But there you go.)

But she liked the surprise. So did the the girls; they have named the bantams - Granny has no idea why - Rocky and Anina. But that's alright.

Today she, Beloved and the children are cooking dinner. (No, no roast bantam; heaven forfend.) And beforehand she, Granny, is taking the three to see parrots riding bicycles up in the north of the island. Not her idea of heaven; but theirs. (Roast parrot? Certainly not.)

Also the spoonbills are still down on the marshland; which has delighted the rest of the family. One of them took a picture which he sent her by email and she tried to put up here. She failed.

The title of this post is about right, you can see. All ways round.

PS. Beloved is definitely thinking goats these days; not donkeys. 'But goats need milking,' Granny protests. 'Who will do it while we're away?' (She cannot quite see the thin German cosmetic masseuse undertaking this one; even if she has got strong hands.)

'I'm going to teach Mr Handsome. I'll prick holes in the fingers of a rubber glove, fill it with water and see how he gets on, pulling them,' says Beloved.

Granny doesn't know what Mr Handsome will make of this. Nor does she think that the makers called Marigold ever thought of such uses for their product. She awaits the outcome of this suggestion with interest. With rather more than she awaits the arrival of the goats.

(Actually goats snicker delightfully. She likes them. But only so long as they belong to other people.)

Monday, April 03, 2006


Well well. Granny is home from rainy and windy London...having acquired, sort of, a flat which she can afford - and likes; a lot. Unfortunately, it is local authority and in a concrete 10 storey block... Building Societies do not like such things. Beloved and Granny are spending this morning on the telephone. (And, by the way, forget everything you know about the horrors of Local Authority housing estates. This one - apart from being 10 minutes walk from last flat and two minutes from the underground - and also containing - in a more mortgagable property, Beloved's Beloved Daughter's boyfriend - IS NOT LIKE THAT.) If anyone has any ideas of how to get round lender stuffiness, please let Granny know. (Or, alternatively, have £100 grand to spare to lend to two very safe bets - who will return it within a year or two, maximum....? No? You don't surprise me.)

And yes; there was a surprise awaiting her return. Apart from the land having turned from green back to brown; apart from the heat - a calima - the wind from the Sahara has arrived; (but will have gone by the end of the week; the wind will be colder again _ a pity given the visitors to come.) And no, she is not revealing what the surprise is. YET. She wants to surprise the visitors -her family - who arrive here on Thursday and who also read this. Suffice to say no donkey has appeared. No camel. What then? Can you guess? A prize to the winner, but only of Granny's admiration. Will that do?

One clue. The surprise is alive.

No more. She is busy; as usual. Will be till after Easter... Visits here will be short.

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