Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Laws and bad smells

Granny has downloaded new version of Firefox; to no avail. All she can do is write on it, as she does now. When she tries to save what she writes, it disdains it; 'no data' it claims sternly. Meanwhile blogger proceeds to put the post up twice. And granny's site on Firefox goes back even further in time; allowing no posts beyond two before the last. Is it looking for a role for itself in Dr Who, she wonders? Thank goodness for Safari, for all its limitations.

What she is wanting in this new post is to direct you to this which explains to her and anyone else's who interested about the Ley de Costas 1988, not implemented up till now, as explained in her last post. The matter has become of still more interest to her today. Beloved, her Mr Rochester, has discovered that the house he owns in the village, contrary to earlier reports, is also affected. In one half of it lives the attic woman, tended by her carers. She is due to move shortly to a sheltered housing complex with many more facilities. Beloved was then planning to sell the house, but who will buy it now with this threat hanging over it? He needs the money for the care of the attic woman not least, so what to do? It can be let, but that is only a short-term solution. And at least he has somewhere else to live unlike many other inhabitants. In theory he and they should be paid the price of the land at market values, but on the edge of the National Park whose land is it anyway? And so-called 'market prices' as defined by government departments are always peanuts; worth much less than the price of buying another house. Of course the big developers can drive a much harder bargain. No doubt that's why the little people are targeted first; despite all the years in which developers did their much worse things unchecked. On this island as everywhere else.

There is a lawyer in Valencia who specialises in this law now and takes on such cases at a price. Some of the villagers are already turning to him. But where there is a law there would be lawyers wouldn't there? Where there is a law there are profits to be made getting round it. This lawyer claims to fight for the small people, not developers, but who can be sure of that? One thing can be sure, he won't be losing money by it.

What a week. The weather has been delicious, Granny and Beloved have swum, rock-pooled, Granny has taken the Beautiful Wimp and Tiresome Terrier for some good walks. But problems have multiplied all round them. Beloved's family problem escalates. One of Beloved's family problems, previously solved, reared its head again, if only for the moment. The accommodation thought booked for the overspill of next years Natural History Course has been declared unavailable. And now this. Expropriation. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Spanish law can be, it is, brutal.

Oh and the dogs have been rolling in bad fish. That stinks too. But at least a hosepipe and dog shampoo can get rid of that, eventually. Of the rest Granny's not so sure.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In passing

There's something up with Firefox. Its version of Granny P refused to put up changes she made on the post before last, and hasn't put the last post up AT ALL. Maybe someone geekier than her can help out? Why does she use Firefox, you ask? Because Safari the MAC-preferred browser is primitive, blogwise, won't let you make links, photos do bold or italics, etc etc. And no she doesn't do Internet Explorer. It doesn't come up automatically on a MAC, its MAC version is grotty and anyway she's a MAC snob now; prefers to have as little as possible to do with Microsoft and all its works. And oh yes, she has tried to ask Mozilla Firefox the problem; it merely refers her to something called Bugzilla, which demands she do all kinds of complex things before it will help her. And quite likely won't help her even then. Other people's problems seem far more abstruse than hers. Such problems she doesn't understand to start with - as for the answers......She gives up.

Granny is writing this in a hurry. She's off with Beloved shortly. As he is still outside, discussing life with Mr Handsome she does, just, have time to tell you the latest problem on her island. The Ministry for Coasts, in Spain - Costas for short - has decreed that throughout Spanish territory all buildings not in areas designated as urban and less than 100 metres from the sea have to be pulled down; this land belongs to the state and is not to be dwelt on, except within legal documents. This edict - much too late - talk about shutting the stable door -is designed to deal with the total ruination of the Spanish coastline and the Disneyland palaces, not to say Never Never lands, built here, there, everywhere. It is not meant - it is far too blunt an instrument - to deal with nice, perfectly in character little village houses, lived in for forty years and more in many cases. Some of them are cafes providing invariable but authentic meals for tourists after their visits to the nearby natural attraction. None of them offend anyone. As not in the case of the enormous, illegal and unsightly hotel described here, local people are all on the side of the unfortunate house and cafe owners sent letters last week ordering them to remove themselves within one month - almost without compensation -before the bulldozers arrive. There are other, similar places on the island likely to suffer the same fate. One is the previously almost ruined and deserted village just down on the coast from Granny and Beloved's place, taken over during the last few years and lovingly restored by locals, including friend and cleaner Nieves and Lolo her husband, as holiday houses; they too now await their letters with trepidation. Granny suspects local riots if this regulation is enforced in any such place. As everyone points out; "before they pull down our houses they should pull down the King's first." For his great mansion, on the far side of the island, the sunnier one, is built right on the coast, on the rocks, more or less. All await with interest to see how the authorities deal with that.

They truth is, she fears, that in the end only the little people will get done by this law. The owners of the hideous palaces will bribe someone and so get exempted. Not least because their palaces would cost the state a fortune to demolish, unlike the village houses.

Granny must stop here; it's the lowest tide of the year following the equinox. She and Beloved are off to the once-ruined village, one of the best places they know for rockpooling, for finding some if not all the animals with which they like to stock their kitchen rockpool. On Sunday she has to return to the UK yet again, on behalf of the sadder members of her family. She may post again first. She will post from there if not.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Taking to the roads

Roads are up at the moment, all over the island; local roads and main roads alike. Why all at once asks Granny? Silly her. The local elections are next year and those in office have to do something to suggest they have done more than fill their pockets for the past five years. Some of these 'caminos cortados' are kind enough to suggest alternative routes. Some aren't. Meaning that the dithering tourists dither more than ever, making the dangerous delights of driving round this island even more so. And even more circuitous.

But at least the big road closed for last weekend's festival is open again. Which means too that you are no longer liable to run down the pilgrims dressed in local dress who walked from every end and corner of the island to reach it; some of them starting several days before. The festival is a pilgrimage celebrating the local 'Nuestra Senora de las Dolores' - our Lady of the Sorrows to you - she doesn't sound a likely origin of such a major jolly, but so she is. And all because in 1824 she is said to have answered the prayers of those threatened by yet another erupting volcano and stopped the lava short, saving a village or two thereby and all its crops. And now she's celebrated by people from across the Canaries. Each year more so; hence this year the party that wasn't. Granny and Beloved living just down the road from the pilgrimage church have over the past year or two invited friends to a barbecue in the evening. This year only one lot -who knew the area well enough to wriggle around the 100 detours - made it. They faced an awful lot of food for five people. Most of it ended up in the freezer. But there you go.

But the festival itself was delicious. It always is. It has nothing whatever to do with tourists who hardly know that it is on. Imagine a cross between a harvest festival, a procession, a funfair, the Canarian equivalent of a morris dancing fest, an English village gala and general piss-up. Waving your beer can to greet the Virgin seems a perfectly acceptable greeting. The whole thing is one of those weird alliances between the genuinely holy and the stupendously tacky that only Hinduism and Catholicism know how to produce. Take the moment the image of Dolores is rolled from the church; there she comes, crowned, beneath her silver arch, surrounded by flowers, robed in black and silver; there is the priest saying prayers; there is the tinned choir singing anthems - it is a heart-stopping moment; really. At the same time the fair-ground carries on at full belt. Round and round goes the whip machine, surmounted by a huge - twice the size of Dolores - plastic image of Mr Incredible, throwing out its grinding tin music, throwing out shrieks of pleasure and panic from those sitting in the seats, their ethnic skirts flying up, their ethnic hats flying off.

And then the pilgrims come; led by Amigos de Caballos on those beautiful Spanish horses, some of whose riders know how to perform elaborate high school movements, some of whom - finding it hard to control their steeds at all - don't. They come with carts, ships, model volcanoes, model Canarian farmhouses, model churches, model townhalls, full of gifts and produce, pulled or pushed by donkeys, shetland ponies, mules - camels sometimes though not this year - by tractors, big and small, by groups of people. They come with groups of singers and dancers from this island and from others. They bring baby buggies, wheelbarrows, supermarket trolleys laden with stuff, from every township, village, hamlet on the island. (Sometimes the baby buggies come complete with babies. Granny doesn't think they are on offer, human sacrifice to the Goddess - for Goddess Dolores is - would not appear to be de rigueur - unless you count possible accidents from the dodgier fairground rides.) A full-sized model of an altar, complete with lace altarcloth, flowers, candles and a chalice pulled by one reverent group was followed by a man carrying on his shoulder a 30 kilo pumpkin. Everything was announced in the same excited tone of voice by the local-town-costumed master of ceremonies, a radio presenter; the entire performance, as every year, going out live on local radio and television. Hence the nests of cables, the cameras, the microphones wielded by swarms of technicians not clad in local dress, aside from a hat or two, unlike the more glamorous presenters.

The arrival of the pilgrims lasts for hours each year, well into the night. The fair and the much more sedate handicrafts fair behind go on for three or four days, as do the entertainments, folkloric and not - local comedians, local rock-groups - and so forth. But only on pilgrimage day do the islanders turn out in local dress. Only on pilgrimage day are they televised.

Granny does not turn out in local dress; heaven forfend. But she loves it all. Last year she had an unavoidable date with a surgeon, so had to miss it. Not this year. She and Beloved went back the following evening for the climax of the festival - a magnificent firework display, culminating in a firework church surmounted by a cross; tackiness plus holiness all over again. The only problem; the Spanish and the Canarians do not think fireworks are fireworks without loud - very loud - bangs. Granny takes earplugs when she remembers.

No, silly her, she forgot to take a camera. Sorry about that.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Angry Old Women

Granny will point you to another piece today in which Michelle Hanson responds to the accusation by Help the Aged that baby boomers - Granny is slightly older than them but never mind - failed to save for their old age. MH points out rightly how little she and the rest used to earn then. As a single parent who did not opt for alimony, Granny goes along with that. She will confess she did get left a bit of money at some point; but did she put that in a fund for the future? Did she, hell; she blew it all on a trip round the world. And no, she does not regret it, nor is she apologising. She does have a little money put aside now and fully intends to spend much of it on enjoying herself while she is able. Irresponsible? Not she.

These days, pneumonia is no longer an old man - or woman's- friend, the way it still should be. She watched her old dad constantly pulled back from the brink of death in an ever more weakened, miserable state. He had to go into a home, in consequence, spent his last three years deeply depressed despite medication to control it, envying the fellow-inmates who popped their clogs before him, longing for death. And yet, relatively speaking, he was one of the lucky ones; he was still alert, read, watched television moved about a little. Others - stroke victims for instance, totally incapacitated -are in a much worse state; she knows some. If Granny in her very old age finds herself in need of expensive care for any reason, she doesn't want to live like that, she doesn't want her children to suffer seeing her live like that; she'll end it thanks very much; assuming she's allowed to. (She's making a living will for what it's worth, but very often noone takes any notice or so she's told.) If the government remains cowed by the pernicious pro-lifers, who seem oblivious of the fact that modern medicine will, if allowed, prolong 'life' in a state very far from natural, let alone life-like, if it persists in refusing to let people die, let alone permit them assisted suicide, then the government can bloody well pay for her bedpans. SO THERE.

(On second and third thoughts they could always send the bills to the pro-life organisations. Why not?)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Climate change: + corporate lies

In passing, do check out this one, friends.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Topsy turvy

Granny is back on her island, she's not sure for how long. Today, for one reason and another she spent very little of her afternoon upright. The second part she was down at a black beach, crawling round on rocks and in between this awkward form of progress (the rocks can be slippery and she does not fancy measuring her length at her age - or, to put it more crudely, going arse over tit) she was upended over a rockpool watching fish, etc, a soothing occupation when matters are in some disarray as they are around some of her family's lives just now. (Hence her uncertainty as to her movements.) Beloved was in search of anemones and sea water to add to their kitchen rock pool - plus weed plus the odd snail and hermit crab. Granny would have added some shrimps but had not had the forethought to bring a net; her fingers do not serve. She will have more sense next time. (Shrimps tickle fingers nicely, though, as they skid about.) The kitchen rockpool by the way now sports a weird creature - it's called a spider crab in Spanish, but Beloved says it is not what he - or the English - call a spider crab. And indeed it does look more like a marine daddy long-legs, all legs, very little body, except that the airborne variety of the cranefly - to give d-l-l its more official name - does not sport a dinky little pair of claws on its central legs the way this does. When food of any sort is in the offing it shoots out these inoffensive claws with amazing speed and GRABS. Oh the wonders of nature.

She spent the first part of her afternoon, on the other hand, in her hammock between sleep and reading the Saturday Guardian (the all-important - to her - book section) hat on her feet, apron on her head to keep the sun off. The appropriate reversal would have been shoes on her head, but her scruffy Birkenstocks wouldn't provide enough shade. The hammock now sits so low that her bottom hits the tiles, but it still feels as nice and is as difficult to get out of as it ever was for someone of her advanced years. She has to think about it each time; then place a strategic cushion, heave herself - she sometimes has to do this more than once to get it right - and effect an inelegant roll, ending on her knees. She DOES not do this when anyone is around to watch. For obvious reasons.

To go backwards - but then this post is like that, all back and no front - a rather hungover Granny and Beloved spent the morning clearing up in a desultory way from the party that wasn't. Curious? Well maybe she'll explain tomorrow - or the next post - all about that. Or maybe she won't. Tonight is for FIREWORKS. Really.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Down time

Granny is conscious of her silence. She doesn't find much to say. She is still sitting in London - tomorrow is the memorial service for her children's father; not an occasion she looks forward to; but then nor does anyone else. Meanwhile other family storms rage. She is off back to her island on Thursday but not for long. Meantime she suffers the raging of politicians with a degree of detachment that is the consequence of her dad's forty years working in the House of Commons, around politicians - he knew all the the PM's from Baldwin to Wilson and didn't think much of any of them, as far as Granny can make out, apart from Churchill possibly, whom he freely admits was senile by the end. Not to say babbling. The shenanigans were all the same - just more behind the scenes; so the public didn't get to see their dirty linen then the way Granny's dad did. So now we're all disillusioned. Depressing. Mark Gamon has some pertinent things to say as usual. So go to him. She's had it.

So what's she been doing? Swimming. Walking. Being domestic. Missing her Beloved. Translating - or rather trying to translate - a good Spanish detective writer she thinks should be in English and isn't. (His name's Lorenzo Silva for anyone who does read Spanish.) Going to the cinema - try Volver, everyone and Little Miss Sunshine which said everything about those porno baby beauty contests that need be said - without actually SAYING it if you get her meaning. It had Granny laughing out loud too, which is just what she needs at the moment.

Oh and the other high spot - the highest spot; she got in a train and went down to Lewes in Sussex to sit in a garden full of wedding guests, looking out at the South Downs and having lunch with Dotty Nana. It was a pleasure of pleasures, which she hopes will be repeated, even if minus the wedding parties.

Enough for now. She will be back.

PS. The wedding party in the garden wasn't the only one - the whole town of Lewes was full of them. But this one was distinguished by the bride sitting on a wooden bench in white, plus veil, plus groom, plus baby on lap - the photo taken of the three of them will come out like a modern Madonna and Child - with St Joseph possibly - Granny thinks. Archetypal somehow. Very touching. She hopes the family has a long life together. These days you never know. (Not that she can talk.)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Cell Time 3: or History

All this is history to you, possums. At least to the younger possums among you. Granny shudders when she realises that the length of time between the events she has been describing and the birth of her grandchildren is much longer than that between the end of the First World War and her own birth. In the case of her youngest grandchild it's nearly double the time. As the First World War has always seemed like history to her, even though it was part of her parents' early childhood, what will these events seem like to them? HISTORY. Oh dear. How time passes; like light; faster than light; all yesterdays seeming as much and as little part of today as the yesterday she has been trying to write about here. Maybe, as she sits here at her screen trying to find the words to describe that September day, on yet another September day forty-five long - and short - years later, it does renew itself for her, temporarily, as a kind of still present. But in all other respects it remains, irrevocably, yet one more yesterday. With the obvious conclusion which she is sure you will all be drawing, dear ones, that she herself is HISTORY. Not to say old hat. Deny it Granny doesn't. Today she encountered a new ache - in her right index finger - just to prove it. Tomorrow it might be her left index finger. Alas, at her age, it happens.

Before continuing with her version of pre-history (pre Thatcher, Blair, the death of history) She should perhaps explain briefly her own first encounter with the horror of nuclear weapons, aged thirteen or so, via her father's favourite newspaper, The Times. Each morning it was laid out in the Common-room of her boarding-school. Granny's addiction to newsprint had begun even before then. She remembers all too clearly how the paper lay that day on the table in the window, bathed in sun. She was not interested in its front page, consisting as usual of columns of births, marriages and deaths; she turned at once to the headlines on the news page. And there it was in huge letters; HYDROGEN BOMB EXPLODED. And nothing for her was ever quite the same again. Of course the atom bombs had been dropped for real on Nagasaki and Hiroshima a long time before that. But she had been too small to register such events at the time, had not thought of them as having anything to do with her until the day she saw that headline: HYDROGEN BOMB EXPLODED. Only then did the terrors of nuclear war, of nuclear winter kick in. As it did for most of her generation at some point or other. You can say, Granny thinks, that if her parents' generation lived their lives in the shadow of two world wars, if her grandchildren's may live theirs in the fear - and within the effects - of global warming and the disappearance of fossil fuels, her's lived much of theirs under the ever-present possibility of the Third World War which threatened to do for everything and everyone. And in the light of which she like everyone else was powerless; had no say at all. Protest, feeble as it was, seemed better than nothing. Not that she would have admitted it was so feeble then. Given the number of people crowding into Trafalgar Square it seemed almost powerful, even though it wasn't. The politicians would keep on doing their thing, no matter what; as they still do. NUTS. Dangerous nuts what's more, in most if not all cases.

All this may explain why, she rode down to London on that grey September day, more than a year before the Cuban Crisis - a terrifying week that demonstrated the reality of the terror all too well. And thereafter found herself incarcerated, intentionally, and not so intentionally, both, in a newly white tiled police cell along the City Road.

Little by little, like the room at Marlborough Street Station the cell filled up, to the constant music of clanging doors and jangling keys. Men went to the one next door; all her companions this time were women. The sense of old school reunion reasserted itself still more strongly amid the cries of greeting and the excited swapping of the day's experiences. 'Where were you sitting? We were by one of the lions.' 'Did you hear so-and-so screaming at the fuzz, telling them they were bastards? I don't think she was supposed to do that.' Did they have to carry you? They did me!' And so on. Many of the women - in Granny's memory at least - were from places like Hampstead. They were doctors' wives, lawyers' wives. They complained to each other about the difficulties they'd had finding child care prepared to stay the night so that they and their husbands too could spend the night in gaol. Evidently they had found it, for here they were, afire with the pleasure of their defiance. Innocent that she was in those days - more innocent than you can imagine - their lives seemed no less remote from her's at that time than the life of the woman sitting very near her, a thin woman with lank dark hair and lank dark clothes, who said lugubriously to anyone prepared to listen; 'I saw my husband today. For the first time in three months. He didn't say a single word. The first time in THREE MONTHS.'

Granny wondered what had happened to Rosemary, half-hoping each time the door opened that she would come. Of course she didn't. Had she been arrested too? Had she managed to get anything to eat? Was she still sitting in Trafalgar Square or in a different police cell in another part of London, listening to other middle-class housewives complaining about the problems of combining childcare and civil disobedience, laughing to herself her wonderfully dirty laugh. If she was here all this might have seemed more like fun. As now it didn't.

The night passed somehow. Everyone seemed far too polite to fight over the single sleeping bench with its single blanket. Shortly they were all lying huddled up against one another, strangers as most of them were, feet jammed against heads, arms against backs and shoulders. none of them familiar. She must have slept a little, though it did not feel as if she had. The next time she heard the familiar jangling of keys, the familiar clang of the doors, it was followed by a voice asking 'tea, ladies?' The police constable making the offer was clean, tidy, freshly shaved. Night shift or not, he clearly had not lain on the floor for hours, like Granny and her fellow-prisoners, all of them dishevelled and heavy-eyed and much less talkative.'Can't give you breakfast, ladies, we haven't the facilities for so many, not at such short notice. But we can do tea,' he said.

Granny has never liked tea much. But she wasn't going to turn this down, like everyone else she supped it with relief, feeling ever hungrier. But there was nothing she or any of them could do about that.

An hour or so later most of them were back on the road. Not in a Black Maria this time. Given so many prisoners the police had been forced to hire a bus. The prisoners were sat down on the seats. The policemen were obliged to strap-hang the down the middle, helmets on. As the bus lurched through the streets, spirits rose, the prisoners burst into song - Ban the Bomb songs may not have been school songs exactly but the poetry no better, the choruses as rousing, a sense of old school gathering reasserted itself once again. Granny did not know the words of the songs, but she picked up the choruses pretty fast and began to enjoy herself.

'Don't you hear the H-bombs' thunder,
Echo like the crack of doom?
While they rend the skies asunder
Fall-out makes the earth a tomb;
Do you want your homes to tumble,
Rise in smoke towards the sky?
Will you let your cities crumble,
Will you see your children die?'

And then they chorussed in full voice; everybody including Granny knew the words after the first verse or so:

Men and women, stand together.
Do not heed the men of war.
Make your minds up now or never,
Ban the bomb for evermore.

The police swayed in time on their straps, the bus lurched, outside in the streets, people glanced casually, then stopped quite still, glanced back astonished at what they saw and heard -


And then they were all off-loaded at Bow Street. And led downstairs to the cells there, which were very far from newly painted, let alone tiled. The walls were yellowed and slimy in Granny's recollection and smelt bad, of endlessly, desperately smoked cigarettes among other things. The only light was a single bulb and the faintest of faint daylight coming through grimy and viciously-barred basement windows. Any attempt to sing was quashed at once by police shouts from outside; but noone felt like much singing much in that dispiriting place. They had to sit there for a long time. The magistrates upstairs were very busy.

Granny's turn came at last. It was, inevitably, an anti-climax, a production line in front of bored magistrates who when anyone tried an anti-bomb oration, silenced them with a gesture and an ever-repeated'Fined thirty shillings.' Followed by 'Next please,' as the protester was hustled off by equally bored police. Granny decided that her protest had been made. She gave her name this time, was fined her thirty shillings, and went outside to have her address taken down by the clerk. And then once more she was in daylight, blinking, free, walking down the steps.

She got the next Greenline bus down to her bemused parents in Kent and slept for twelve hours or so. Next morning she went back to Birmingham and Rosemary. She had escaped arrest somehow, many demonstrators had. They ran out of cells for them presumably. And that was that.

As for Bow Street? To be turned into an expensive restaurant, something like that? Weird. All that misery and boredom eaten into it's walls won't be easy to exorcise. Granny is not sure she would ever want to eat there.

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