Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


The sky is grey, the wind windy and there are a lot of bad smells round here. (But no, we are not talking local politics for once.)

1. Beautiful Wimp has been rolling yet again, down on the sea shore. Granny caught him at it - on what looked like a piece of tripe only yellower. He was so indignant when she stopped him, he tried to make off with the thing. Yuk. Interesting fact that whatever nastiness is chosen for rolling on a dog always comes out smelling the same. Not of fish, not of meat, not of festering lilies - the kind that smell so much worse than weeds (myth: try leaving weeds long enough.) Just a nasty conglomeration making up the scent of festering dog. Beloved says- he would - 'He's just doing what you do when you dab on scent, trying to make himself attractive'. 'Really?' says Granny glaring at him. She never dabs on scent, she hates it; though she does admit to a secret addiction to Roger& Gallet's carnation-scented soap - once upon a lovely time they made carnation-scented bath oil too....But no, that's quite different, she will not put Roger & Gallet in the same catagory as rolled on flaps of yellow stuff that looks like tripe. SHE WILL NOT. Bloody zoologists.

1. Ancient Mercedes has been smelling increasingly of petrol. It has tended to for some time when filled up, but since being serviced - wouldn't you know - it has become not only intolerable but full time. 'Nothing serious', Beloved kept saying airily when she complained, 'the mechanic checked it, Mr H checked it, some old cars do tend to smell of petrol a bit'. But it wasn't 'just a bit.' And yesterday he had to drive it himself to the other side of the island and having come back as woozy as Granny does - she doesn't know what long-term effects breathing in petrol fumes has, but it certainly leaves you feeling funny in the short term - he is now taking her seriously. Car is going into the garage tomorrow; a new gasket is likely, according to Mr Handsome from Blackburn; it will cost you, he says. It would be done today only it's yet another holiday - Canaries' Day - as irritating as the rest, stopping everything dead as it does. According to Mr H - again - his grandkids have been looking delightful going off to school in full local dress the last few days, along with all the other school children. Granny, having seen some of them, admits they look delightful, but she does wish her car could be done today, just the same. She's not keen on driving Beloved's truck, even if it is better than getting a hangover from petrol.

3. Water. This is the worst smell; by far the worst. For weeks the water from the taps in this house has been smelling more and more like the water left in flower vases (the festering weeds) among other things. Like old ponds, stagnant drains, like something out of those horror stories which start with rotten smells in old houses, or better still out of Fungus the Bogeyman. F the B would love it - come to think of it he'd love The Beautiful Wimp just now too. Granny and Beloved don't love it. Having a shower under such water is not a pleasure; it's graveyard stuff, like being deluged with the bottom of a ditch. They wondered if the culprit was their aljibe - water tank; if there was some dead animal lurking therein. Mr Handsome opened it up, but claims to have found nothing. His theory is that it's to do with all the digging up of pipes down the road, the relaying of pipes for the new houses opposite, needing many workmen, machines, and many tiresome blockings of their quick way into the town. It's been going on for weeks, but has at last come to an end; the street is now new tarmac from end to end. Unless this is like Britain where road companies don't talk to utility companies and new tarmac or no new tarmac, roads can be dug up regardless, the pipes should settle down; water flowing through them will cease in due course to bring with it reeking detritus of one kind or another. Time will tell if Mr H is right. Meantime it's just as well that paying guests are not invited here in the summer. How would you explain the risks of taking a bath? Even expensive shower gel doesn't kill the smell.

Since, if anything, it makes the smell worse, saving water by limiting showers and baths is not just a virtue at the moment, it's Granny's strategy of choice. Despite Beloved having assured her that getting under or into one or other doesn't turn her into a mate more desirable to F the B than to him. What a lovely man he is; when not being a zoologist anyway.

Like a strip wash, anyone? Be her guest.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Spoiled votes

Well, Granny and Beloved did go a-voting yesterday. First to the wrong place, then to the right one, baffled by the - proportional representative - system in each case. Information wholly unavailable it was a matter of hazarding a guess. Granny thinks their guess was correct, more or less. No voting for individual councillors here, certainly, no marking your choice with a cross. Rather you put the list of candidates belonging the party of choice in three envelopes, one green, one brown, one white - all conveniently sent to your home by some parties - present your ID to the officials and then post the envelope in the appropriate slot according to whether you are voting for the local 'municipio', the island council or the Canarian parliament. Ex-pats like themselves, only permitted to vote for the municipio, post just the white list, in the white envelope. A neat system, it makes the votes much easier to count; which explains, presumably why the results were all available by the small hours. On the other hand, since the envelope can be filled and sealed before arrival at the polling station it also makes it easier for less scrupulous candidates to present the more confused/aged/infirm voters - many of whom they drive there - with envelopes containing their party lists and say 'I've saved you the trouble, post this.' (Believe me friends, it happens. It really does.)

Granny and Beloved decided to opt for the man with the hat: he has the right ideas after all, ideas that ought to be represented in the council at least. But they might as well not have bothered; though it came third, not did only his party fail to win one place, the sitting incumbent retained his mayoral majority, the only one of his party to do so throughout the island. He's local isn't he. 'One of us'. That counts for a lot here. So no change. A pity. Though it has to be said, given that theirs is for many reasons a non-tourist area, he has less scope for corruption than most, and has no serious cases pending against him, unlike many of his fellow mayors throughout the island, all of whom failed to do so well (though one or two got more support than they deserved; for possible reasons, see above and below.) Presumably he held barbecues for his voters; they all do. But whether or not he also offered them television sets, or stuffed envelopes in advance is unknowable; if possible. Don't bother watching this space.

The party that sprouted most faces did least well of all. GOOD.

Granny and Beloved's excursion to the polls had one positive aspect. The polling station was the local primary school. On one wall was a large cage full of zebra finches - very pretty birds, striped black and white in places and with fat red beaks. Beloved spent a long time looking at them, and worked out that they were breeding satisfactorily. 'Look, nesting boxes ' he said. And indeed there were little birds sitting in every one of them. 'Look, fledglings.' Granny duly appreciated that the fluffier looking birds lacked their adult markings. Nice to know something was being productive, even if her vote wasn't.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

faces on lamp-posts

Granny is back on her little island; with her usual regretful backwards look at her big one which was looking delectably beautiful when she left it yesterday. Too bad it not only sulked most of the time she was there, rained on her, blew on her, but chose to wake up just as she was leaving. The Sussex countryside through which she rode in the Gatwick Express along with large numbers of inattentive people humping large amounts of luggage, chucked a variety of greens at her in the most abandoned way, all of it bathed in sun. She could have eaten it. But it was all too late. No doubt it will remain idyllic until she goes back in July to attend such pleasures as eldest grand-daughter's school play -Twelfth Night (or a version of it, which Shakespeare himself might not recognise; never mind). And in which eldest granddaughter will be playing Viola. And then the rain will fall again. But Granddaughter as Viola will make up for that. Won't she?

The vines are green back here. But that's about it. Grass? What's that? No grass. What this land has sprouted is faces; faces on lamp-posts, multiple faces on hoardings, faces on walls, houses, fences, all of them grinning and looking as if butter would not melt in their mouths; as if they weren't running after the butter which sticks to their bread so readily in political life here. And all of them addressing us in the most familiar terms. 'Tu' they say - 'you' - not the formal version of the word you use to strangers - 'tu y yo' ('you and me') 'tu y yo' will move mountains, shift the world. Etc.

Oh and flags have sprouted too; flags everywhere. And an array of the flat figures, blue, black, orange, propped up at the sides of roads, which is the means by which the more alternative party - or what's left of it, after a fratricidal split - chooses to publish itself. Its split part advertises itself with little flags instead. Either way the lack of faces is a relief. As good a reason to vote for the alternative parties as any. We are talking local elections here; election day on Sunday. All very exciting. (Joke.)

Granny and Beloved are allowed to vote this year, as local householders. At least they are allowed to vote for their local council, this is why their mailbox is stuffed with circulars, quite as fulsome as their English equivalents, which Granny has to translate, owing to Beloved's lack of Spanish. She can translate them in any way she wants. She is in the perfect position to manipulate his vote. No husband here telling wife what box she has to tick. The reverse. This is POWER. At last.

The problem is, she hasn't a clue. She's not likely to vote for Canarian Nationalist parties, is she, let alone island nationalist ones. (There are two; hard to see the difference between them; except that the head of one is currently in prison for corruption; enough said.) This leaves the equivalent of the Tory Party - whose meeting she attended - and of the Labour Party, neither them exactly reliable so far from the centre of Spanish government. Beloved's idea was to design and sell a T-shirt saying 'Vote for an Honest Mayor' Spanish in front, English at rear, but he never got round to it, not least because, given the impossibility of telling which previously honest candidate will remain honest once elected, it would have been a waste of effort. This leaves the two alternative parties, both with the right ideas - they don't want the island covered in concrete any more than Granny does; but both factions are run by unreliable leaders, and when they are not too busy fighting among themselves to take notice of what's going on around them, tend to turn Russian and say 'nyet' to every proposal, without offering any alternatives, least of all constructive ones. Oh dear.

Granny could always believe the literature - promises to improve roads/schools/health care/accommodation etc etc, the usual stuff from absolutely everyone - but given what hasn't happened since the last election when the same promises were made, she doesn't think that is a particularly helpful option. So what way will she use her two votes (ie hers and Beloved's)? HEAVEN KNOWS.

Maybe she'll just go for the fancy local hat and designer stubble of the alternative man who was delivering literature today and turns out to be the candidate for mayor. A liking for a fancy hat and a dislike of not so fancy faces grinning at her from every lamp-post and addressing her in such familiar terms- tu y yo? no thanks- are probably good reasons as any for casting a vote one way rather than another. She'll recommend it to Beloved.

Well that sorts that out then. Doesn't it?

PS. It's beautiful here. Not really so bad to be back.

Monday, May 21, 2007

potter (not Beatrix)

Not a fluffy animal in sight; Granny doesn't count the pigeons. She sits in her flat, having declined pressing invitation to visit the A. Gormley exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on basis that she needed a day 'pottering' - getting ready to return to her island: etc. So what has she pottered out?

1. cleaned round bath. (Necessary.)
2. washed knickers. (Even more necessary.)
3.packed suitcase, re-filled drawer with staying-behind clothes
4. Unpacked.repacked, emptied, re-filled suitcase/ drawer, 3 if not 4 times, in search of her favourite pair of black trousers (bought in a sale at Ghost). After around an hour of looking low - and high - under bed, on top of cupboard etc etc - remembered she'd given the pair to Beloved to take back, on basis she would bring bits of his computer.
5. Rang beloved little sister in Australia. (A pleasure; despite circling round such subjects as death and old age etc, the way ageing sisters do, catching up on this and that.)
6. Made and drank her usual lethally strong coffee while contemplating fact that many if not all old friends encountered on this trip seem to have grown melancholy about approaching old age/mortality/crumbling flesh etc (given much earlier demise/crumbling of many others, they should be so lucky.) The most melancholy has just taken off on month long trip to Armenia, Iran etc etc, complete with suitcase full of necessarily all-enveloping garments; that should sort her out. (Granny is rather envious: interesting trip she thinks, enveloping garments and all. The price of a Beloved is not upping and offing on such trips herself. Worth it? Probably, she thinks at less loving moments. Certainly she thinks, at others.)
7. Eaten apple (organic; from Kent.)
9. Arranged for Broadband speed to be upgraded at request of flatmates. (At their expense.)
10. Spent much longer than required surfing the internet to test the new fleetness.
11. Feeling guilty, she then wrote this post

None of it exactly creative; you can see. As compensation, and to add at least one small animal input, here are a much more creative pair; Milly and Sophie, bantams both, sitting on two hens' eggs apiece. Out of one pair appeared yesterday two black chicks. The other two are still awaited.

What virtuous, patient animals. They don't care about festering baths/knickers lost pants, old age, let alone Broadband, they don't even care about - though they probably notice - the parasites that will be INFESTING them, after 3 weeks sitting tight. Why should they care if they itch? They are GOOD MOTHERS. A lesson to us all.

Friday, May 18, 2007


More zilch - between Beloved (now gone) grandchildren etc, friends, movies (four this trip, what decadence) lunches with ex-agents, etc etc, Granny has little time and little inclination to write. It's different back on her island... all those empty days; well, not exactly, what with goats, chickens, dogs, etc etc, but certainly calmer. Here one thing is exercising her mainly. What to do about the person who appears, endlessly, to be practising the didgiridoo, straight above her head? (Difficult person, she's told. Neighbour disputes are not what she's after.)

Well, person can do it all he/she likes now. Granny is off to have lunch with ex-publisher, followed, later, by dinner with ex-husband, and maybe a little retail therapy in between. That should sort out her if not the musician(?) upstairs. Who has just stopped. Sod's law.

It's sunny outside. If windy. Wow.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Sorry sorry sorry. Rain, London, Beloved, people. No posting. Zilch.

Later in the week, this being London, Earls Court just down the road, Granny will tell the story of her excursions in rock; as in Cure.

That's all for now.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Health and Safety

A miscellany of Pembrokeshire; from pebbles to grannies, back and front...

Oh and two unrelated young: and a dog.....

A perfect holiday. Beaches birds bluebells primroses orchids - a solitary seal - and friends - and tired legs. One friend - nameless- accused two friends - nameless - of walking her off her feet.....but it was sedate enough really; most of the time. (This Granny is facing forward: she's the one wearing a cap.)

Pembrokeshire is a special place for her; one she retreats to when it matters. Years ago she spent four hours - by mistake, more or less - sitting on a gannet island, on top of collapsed puffin burrows, watching nesting gannets come and go, rubbing affectionate necks, beaks against their mates on each reappearance; an effecting sight.

This year on the days they enquired about it no boats were going out; too windy, the man in the kiosk said. Granny asked him if, when it wasn't too windy, people were still allowed to land among the gannets. 'Not any more. Health and Safety,' he said. 'What do you mean, Health and Safety?' asked Granny. 'Someone twisted an ankle among those puffin burrows. They SUED the national park. Noone's allowed to land on that island now..'

Beloved about to arrive, Granny makes no further comment on this one. She'll leave that to everyone else.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Far away and long ago.

It's one of the most disconcerting things about ageing; when you suddenly realise that it's not just your childhood and youth happened so long ago; that your middle age is - it feels - a long time ago too. If not in some ways longer.

Granny belongs to a writer's blogging group, most of the members much younger than her. From time to time they talk about their parents; worrying for instance what their mum, let alone their dad, will think when they write, graphically, about sex. (This is not a new problem; Granny had to shut her mind, often, to the horror of her old dad reading her adult novels - which he did, every one; faithfully, sweetly, and probably without much pleasure. Though all he ever said was: 'I do wish you'd go back to writing children's books.' ) To get back to the point; it is a shock in itself to realise that some - many - of these shockable parents are around her own age; that her fellow writers could be writing about her. While she, on the other hand, feels much as she ever did, not so shockable at all, and not so far from any of them as this gap would make it seem.

Nearly fifty years ago she arrived in Oxford along with a group of young women of her own age. Four of them became particular friends. This four, forty-nine years ago, spent part of one Easter vacation in Northumbria walking the Roman wall. None of them had walking boots, let alone lightweight walking gear of any kind; it did not exist then. All of them ended up with searing blisters on their feet. They stayed in spartan - very spartan - youth hostels or in almost as spartan B&B's with fierce brown linoleum on the floors and quarrelsome gas heaters in the bathrooms that produced no more than dribbles of brown, luke-warm water; forget soaking in hot baths. But at 10 shillings - 50p - a night - to those so broke they'd had to hitchhike their way north - who cared. Anyway, in the fifties. such things were normal enough.

This May the four of them had intended to celebrate their meeting, 50 years ago, by walking much more comfortably in Calabria, in Southern Italy. But it wasn't to be. Three, including Granny, had already lost the husbands - long divorced or still married to them - whom they had met at Oxford. Now the only one left has fallen ill, seriously, and may well not survive, meaning that the fourth member of the group cannot join them. Granny knows that women tend to outlive men; but it seems an injustice that out of those who married into their group - and two or three others married to some more peripheral friends - not one has survived beyond their mid seventies, and most barely into their seventies. While the women on the other hand, younger admittedly, remain relatively, hale and hearty. (Was that the problem, she wonders; 'did we wear them out??)

Granny thinks back to being young, to being middle-aged; to being in love, marrying, raising children etc etc alongside these men, the kinds of business- and busyness- in which of many of her writing friends are now engaged. 'Dark, dark they've all gone into the dark.'.. she thinks, sorrowfully, misquoting TS Eliot who was, to be literal, writing about people going into tunnels in tube trains ... but at the same time meaning precisely what she means, what she feels, here. It makes her feel not only melancholy but dolefully resigned. Yet glad - grateful - to be alive herself. And yet, yes, melancholy, very.

'Dark, dark, they all go into the dark..' Granny's group of women is still in the light, though; they will go to Italy next year probably, inshallah. Meantime the three of them whose Oxford loves have already disappeared into the tunnel are off tomorrow, much more penitentially, to walk in Pembrokeshire. Granny is looking at her suitcase even as she writes; West Wales in May - or any time - means preparing to be frozen, cooked or drowned. She is going by bus as far as Bristol - now as then, students and the aged have this means of transport in common. With no car to hurl it all into, her suitcase is - has to be - a smallish weekend one. How will she fit everything in?

See you next week, wombats. Ta ra for now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

HMV - no no no - C

Beloved is one of those men with very regular habits. Every morning, he disappears into the bathroom; every morning Tiresome Terrier, equally regular in hers, sits outside till he comes out.....Not so much Her Master's Voice - more like his Crap: dog or activity, whichever way you care to put it.

Such are the little things Granny will be missing as she heads - any minute now - home or away from home: whichever way she cares to put it.

(Sorry about the crappy photo - in this case appropriate perhaps. It's what happens when you're in a hurry.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Away from Home

Strange this business of being an expat; especially if, like Granny, you fell into it by mistake more or less in the first place. She's going home on Wednesday: back to England that is. Or is she going away from home?

When she first arrived on the island it was clear to her that she had come for Beloved and that her roots were still dug deep into London - and England in general - soil. They are still are in a way. You can't change who you are, just like that. And, besides, practically everyone who means anything to her, apart from Beloved himself, is still back there: her friends, her children, her grandchildren. But she's also found she's put roots down here, now; inasmuch as you can put roots down in this dry hard soil, where you hit solid rock all too soon.

Partly it's a result of owning - if you can "own" in any real sense - a piece of land; something she never did before. After four and a half years she knows it end to end, what grows where and when, where the lizards hide, where the rabbits come from, how the colours of it shift through brown, ochre, grey, green, according to the season. And it's not just her land. It's riding across the island, from north to south, from east to west, seeing the light and the cloud shift and change, amazed by its uncatchable beauty, the rock, the smooth volcanic cones- ancient and much more recent - the sky, the endless little circles of protective walls, the livid green of the vines and the crouching fig trees, feeling that every inch of it, where it's at its barest and most austere, most weird and unearthly, where it's most inviting, where open, where closed, whether arrid, arrid, arrid or shooting up green and flowers -and everywhere at all times the feeling, if not the sight of the sea - has become part of her in some very essential way. She has come to hate leaving it, almost as much as she hates leaving London when she has to do that.

Not that she has any regrets about hitting an English May. Even though it means leaving behind not just Beloved but her daily trips with the Beautiful Wimp; here he is going fishing, lucky dog...

Nor is she wholly unhappy to leave behind for a while the wind battering the island at this time of year. It gets her down and not just her; the islands has a high depression and suicide rate. Nor unhappy to leave at a time when, local elections four weeks away, the politicians are trying to pretend they do care about their electorate, their island, and not simply about putting money in their pockets. While those few who do appear to have better ideas are all too busy fighting each other to make much impact. Granny doesn't know which is the more tiresome; especially given that at least some of the above, come to think of it, shares a resonance - or two - with her other island. Odd that.

But in either case, wherever she is, despite the sense of belonging, of feeling both passionate and despairing about whichever place it is, she continues too to feel this gentle ambivalence, an almost pleasant melancholy, being happily in one place, while aching slightly for another. Quite a creative condition really; perhaps it's a good one for writers. Sometimes she wonders whether being totally and only at home in one place would ever suit her.

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