Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Granny is in the UK - Bristol at this moment, to be precise. She is cold - autumn seems to have hit early this year. She bought a big, warm, soft sweater at a woollen mill in Gloucestershire when she was driving back to London with Beloved in late August. She put it on as soon as she arrived and apart from when in bed hasn't taken it off since..

The only remnants of the island in her - or rather on her - are the remains of fleabites on her legs - the cat recolonised... and sandfly bites on her forehead, the result of a nice last visit to the saltflats before she left. Itch. Itch. There are better ways of remembering home, but there you go.

She didn't miss the fiesta; only the fireworks. A comment 0n her last post said that the pilgrimage was very quiet this year, thanks to the bishop, but it was still amazing. Unless you actually go up there, it's hard to get the scale of it, even in a lowkey year. She arrived a little after 5pm and stayed till somewhat after seven. All this time she was looking up the road down which the pilgrim were walking. It was jam-packed as far as she could see the whole time; no sign of a let-up even by the time the procession, coming from the other direction, started presenting its offerings to the goddess - I mean the sorrowful virgin - around half six; it went on doing so till after ten (she and Beloved were watching on telly by this point.) The offerings this year were accompanied by a herd of goats, some live chickens (if this was a Kali temple somewhere, the presiding priest would have wielded a knife on these rather than blessing them benignly) a disaffected and very large iguana in a cage on wheels, a fully-furnished altar, a cheese-making factory (both also on wheels) endless barbecues, cookers on trailers or tractors, producing food throughout, donkeys, camels, beautiful horses, shetland ponies pulling cartsfull of babies, large model ships, churches, etc etc etc. Oh and parties of folk musicians and dancers from all over the Canaries. Granny and Beloved walking home past it all received - it seemed to them- almost as many offerings as the Virgin; cheese, fish-stew, bread cooked with cinnamon, dried fish, wine from a wine-skin - which they managed, just about, not to pour all over themselves. The supper Beloved had prepared for when they got home was rather wasted on them.

Even the Shepherd's Bush market seems tame by comparison...

Granny has come back for a particular event; related to her posh past, and, thereby, to Charlotte Sometimes. She will tell you all about THAT next time. Meantime, eldest granddaughter is due home from school; she's off.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

All changes

Funny island this; doesn't know where its charm is and does its best to obliterate it. Where Granny lives - rurally - this is done by creeping suburbanisation. Nice traditional dry stone walls along the roads won't do; they get replaced by nasty neat cemented-in ones. White lines and directions get painted all over the rural roads. Street lamps line everywhere and make looking up at the stars at night - wonderful when there's a power-cut - much less so: Granny thinks wistfully of an air-rifle and shooting the bloody things out. More seriously the advancing blaze of lights won't be doing anything to avert global warming. The Canarian provinces are already the worst of all Spanish polluters. Don't they learn anything?

Granny is not sure what locals make of all this. Given their utter poverty and back-of-beyond ruralness less than 50 years back, maybe it makes them feel better. They can't be blamed for that perhaps. Sigh. What they are not happy about - she knows this for sure - is the way the Dolores pilgrimage has been mucked about. The actual fiesta falls on 15th September; on a Saturday this year. Perfect for the pilgrimage, thought Granny - that was why she made the mistake of saying in a previous blog post that it was taking place last Saturday. All the locals thought it was perfect too. Unfortunately the church didn't. The church had to have its full range of masses, including a full episcopal mass at 7pm. A rowdy pilgrimage in the middle of that just wouldn't do. It didn't. They postponed the pilgrimage till this coming Saturday. Not that everybody knew this - a few pilgrims turned up anyway: so did Granny, who had a hot walk to no avail.(And no she wasn't a pilgrim; she doesn't go in for local dress, it's just that it's ten minutes away by foot, so easier to walk to.) On top of that, the equally rowdy funfair that used to operate in the middle of it all - a huge Mr Incredible topping the octopus ride waving at Dolores in her black and silver robe as she was wheeled out of the church - has been much more decorously tucked away round the back. The locals aren't pleased about that either, nor, Granny suspects, are the fair operators. She knows that the exhibitors at the craft fair, now finished, usually dependent on sales to the hordes of people who turn up for the pilgrimage, weren't happy at the delay, nor were the stallholders at the Sunday produce market, driven out for two weeks instead of one. And nobody was impressed by the rock concert put on to appease everyone, following the episcopal mass. It was REALLY BAD, Nieves, Granny's friend and cleaner said. She and Granny alike will go up to see the procession on Saturday, anyway, no doubt most of the pilgrims will turn up too. But it's a pity, just the same. And Granny's off to England on Sunday, so will miss the closing fireworks; she's fed up about that, even if Beloved isn't - he doesn't like fireworks the way she does and is quite happy to be allowed to give them a miss.

One more change: there's a sudden eruption of Chinese restaurants on the island, most of them permanently empty. The Chinese government, it appears, are investing in island real estate; the restaurants just an excuse, nobody is bothered by their lack of custom. They haven't picked a good time to invest here; according to the local paper Lanzarote is going into the red. But that's a matter for them - (and the estate agents, of course: luckier them.)

Granny and Beloved have water again, by the way. Thank goodness for that.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Eastern approaches

Grey sky today and Granny had one of her more sleepless nights. What it is getting old(er). Beloved is in an orgy of cooking next door (almost) to her office. Chop chop, clatter clatter, chink chink. Maybe it's just chicken food. Probably not.

The water situation approves a little but not much. A small amount of water comes in by night but that's it. Granny who needs to do a lot of washing ahead of Beloved's scientific workshop is thoroughly frustrated. As she is also frustrated by the fact that few of the happy hens on the island, including theirs, are laying eggs - it's the local chicken equivalent of northern Europe in winter. Friendly cleaner Nieves advocates some special feed, but that will take time to work and meantime Granny needs to be making cakes etc for the freezer but can't. And no she will NOT use commercial eggs, not nice, animal-friendly her. The commercial hens on this island are kept in conditions too disgusting to believe. She knows her boycott will not have the SMALLEST effect. But she continues it, just the same.

Meantime the big local festival/pilgrimage - biggest on the island - biggest in the Canaries - is gearing itself up: Dolores. (If you want to know about that go here.) Part of it is a big craft fair which opened last night. Granny and Beloved took themselves up there - partly because this sees the start of their hunting for Christmas presents and some of the best stuff goes early; and partly this year out of simply curiosity; for some mysterious reason an Indonesian element has been incorporated, meaning a tent full of baffled-looking Indonesians selling batik stuff, sarongs, shadow puppets, etc. None of the Indonesians spoke a word of Spanish, which might have caused problems with the local buyers: most of them spoke a little English, so it was fine for Granny and Beloved. And all of them knew the word 'euro' in any language. There were also four Indonesian dancers, all female, one exquisite, with speaking prehensile hands, with speaking prehensile feet, dancing to canned gamelan music, three more galumphing, dancing to jazzed up gamelan music; exquisite not quite the word here. In this case it was the locals appeared baffled. The applause was polite, merely.

Granny and Beloved met one of their neighbours, Aurora, who keeps large amounts of goats, chickens etc in a not very large space behind her house, contravening, Granny is sure all the rules that say animals cannot be less than 50 or a 100 metres from human habitation. But noone seems to mind: no 'denuncia' has ever been sent to the police. Aurora has a fearsome and effective fly trap which probably helps. Beloved asked Granny to inquire if she knew where they could find a billy goat to impregnate Beloved's females when the time comes. 'You can have my husband, he's a billy-goat,' she said. (Beloved who understood this as her husband having billy-goats had to have the joke explained to him. Which made it marginally less funny.) As it turned out Aurora also owns two non-metaphorical billies, and will be happy to bring one over; so that's one problem solved, even as it creates others; both nannies being liable to have two kids next time round, there's going to be something of a cabrine surplus. 'We'll castrate the males, then eat them,' says Beloved. Oh thanks. Granny is not a great meat-eater at the best of times; but goat - even a kid, even a castrated one, is meat too far: YUK. YUK too to the notion of Beloved wielding his knife - or his elastic band - round the babies' tenderest parts. What it is for a sensitive woman like her to find she's taken up, inadvertently, with a farmer..... Why wasn't she warned?

God knows why Aurora's place doesn't stink, though: have you ever smelt a billy goat? They are really the most gross devilish of animals. But somehow it doesn't.

When she is not tending stock, devilish or otherwise, Aurora crochets fancy bags and scarves, mostly in pink. As you can see she's a versatile woman. Unfortunately she's suffering bad arthritis at the moment - 'mucha pena' she complained. Granny was sorry about that. Aurora is another riproaring - not to say much put-upon - grandmother - (her husband is not only a macho cabrio but also a real cabron ..you'll have to look that up). She doesn't like seeing her tamed by bodily ills, unable to perform the neat salsa she demonstrates or did demonstrate - at the slightest whiff of a party. Shame.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

water water...

Strange but inevitable that, writing from an island with little in the way of natural water - apart from the salt stuff we can see from almost every window here - Granny finds herself talking about water very often on this blog. Here we go again - sorry. Last week saw the inevitable crisis with the local water company, Inalsa. A fire at one of their desalination plants two days before she and Beloved arrived home did for 40% of the island's supply. If there were reserves this would have been less of a problem. As it turned out there are no reserves to speak of. Practically every last drop turned out on any one day goes to the consumers.

Inalsa, Granny discovered, is owned and run by the Cabildo, the island council. The party never in power here, the Partido Popular - the Spanish equivalent of the Tory Party - blames naturally the parties that have been in power: in particular they blame PSOE, the socialist party. But then they would, wouldn't they? One of the PP party members, now a councillor for his local ayuntamiento (town council) Granny and Beloved's friend, Mr Jonah, does so vociferously. (Granny tries to avoid talking politics with Mr J. He knows where she stands, no less than he knows where she does. A little mutual mockery covers all eventualities.) Granny on the other hand thinks it would be the same whatever the party; noone here unless their noses rubbed in it think much beyond short term profits; long-term plans are either shelved or trampled on. This is why building goes on, expats, tourist welcomed in without any regard to an inadequate infrastructure, in terms of all utilities, electricity no less than water. On a wind-blown island the amount of wind power used is pathetic. On a nearly waterless one, new build goes in ignoring all long-term historical experience of, knowledge of, storing and using the rain that falls in winter. Granny and Beloved's house being old does have storage facilities. In the winter they sometimes do not need to call on piped water supplies. During this crisis, their aljibe managed to provide what was needed, though they did cut down their demand. Those in newer houses without adequate water storage weren't so lucky.

Not that Granny and Beloved knew from the water company that they needed to cut down their demand. Consumers are never forewarned when work needs to be done on power or water supplies, or on roads either. Last week there were was a four hour power cut, for instance. Were they warned? Were they warned their own nearest street was going to be blocked for several days? They were not.

The water problem is especially scary, though. Given the hugely augmented population here, a world oil crisis, disappearance of electricity, whatever, could leave a large number of people dying of thirst. It doesn't bear thinking about.

A thirsty Granny will now go in search of her bottled, brought in by boat (what would happen were there no boats?) water. She doesn't fancy the stuff from the aljibe, whether full or not, given the lizards, mice etc, which drown in it sometimes, if only for aesthetic reasons. Not least it does not taste nice.

One new chicken has died, for no reason, after closing its eyes, huddling up, refusing to eat all yesterday. One bantam hen has had to removed from her chicks because she was bullying them. Smallholding life is life in the raw. Ole.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First term

The Jewish New Year is in September; something which makes absolute sense to Granny. Even here, where summer extends through into October - and sometimes beyond - there's a sense of things waking up and turning over. Of the sadness of end of summer and all kinds of other things; and the excitement of starting again. For Granny and Beloved the prospect is of twelve scientists plus wives, hangers-on, turning up in early October for a scientific workshop. She and her friend Lucy who is flying over to help will be making breakfast for 10 people and a three course lunch for almost a week for more than 20. The house meantime has to be scoured from top to bottom, cupboards and wardrobes emptied, linen sorted-out, rewashed if necessary, ironed (no, Granny never irons for herself or her family, but guests, paying for the privilege, are another matter.) What food can be prepared in advance and frozen will be prepared too. Beloved normally would be doing some of the cooking at least. But this time he's been asked to take part in the workshop by the man organising it, one of his great admirers, who claims to have based his life's work on an insight provided by Beloved. The only problem there, according to Beloved, is that he interpreted the insight wrongly.....Granny does hope there will not be blood on the floor. Working in the kitchen, divided from the dining-room turned workshop by a small rug hung up for the purpose, she will be listening anxiously. Beloved claims he will be tactful. But she's not sure quite what he means by 'tactful.' She can only hold her breath,

Today too she's holding her breath for another reason. September is not just Jewish New Year: it's school new year. And Beloved Eldest Granddaughter is starting at her comprehensive school today. Granny will be ringing her later to find out how she got on, but doubts she will get much information. Meantime she feels almost as nervous as the B.E.G herself, and beset by the sense of time passing so fast, so fast. One moment there's a new baby, first grandchild, blink and there is an eleven year old in a comprehensive school uniform walking to school on her own for the first time with a group of local friends. The school is in a two year old building and the Bristol Education Authority, not known generally for efficiency, let alone good schools have set up a safe, lit path, via common land and allotments which does not involve crossing roads; good on them. But it's a further source of the kind of anxiety that can only be avoided by living in a vacuum sans family, partners, children. Granny as you may have gathered by now does not.

But she will still get to her laptop to write when she can. Be sure of that.

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