Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

As in life...

Granny you can imagine has been busy... Beaches have been visited and swum from, ditto swimming-pools, cute children in Canarian dress singing and dancing Canarian songs have been viewed, as have white tigers - magnificent - along with performing parrots and sealions. Icecreams and pizzas have been eaten - also chilli con octopus - visiting goddaughter is a much more eclectic eater than visiting - eldest - granddaughter. Granny is half on holiday, half heavily at work. Every now and then as she drives her little hire car round the island she sweats at the thought she has the lives of two family jewels in her steering-wheel encumbered hands. For that reason only she will sigh with relief when the red-headed girls take off tomorrow... otherwise she will miss them like crazy.

Beloved is taking them rock-pooling today and cooking a meal with them, using food from the garden... no, not the kid, don't worry.

Meantime new and premature great-niece in Australia is doing very well and Big Brother is nearing - very close to - his end. The phone goes - emails fly - Granny's pleasure is tinged with deep sadness. But isn't it always like that? No need to quote the Bible. Then as now it's just the same, always has been, always will be. Us beasts may live longer than Billy the Kid is likely to, but we too are mortal.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Buzzing Island

Life - of sorts - on this island can be defined by main event of this week; island Mr Big (in political and crook terms) sentenced to 8 years in prison for corruption has had his Grade Three Prisoner status - meaning he only has to sleep in the prison - revoked. Theory is that this status was granted via the ruling socialist party; in return Mr Big's local nationalist party was willing to work with it in running the Cabildo - the island council - and the town council of Lanzarote's capital. Result of the revocation is likely to be political chaos - or at least stultification: nothing will get decided about anything, let alone done. Not that this is an unusual state of affairs. The swimming-pool in the main town, completed a year ago was only opened this week.

In other respects - as above - the island is humming with activity. Today is the Ironman race - the crazy event for crazies - 3,80 kilometres swim, 180 kilometre bike ride and, as cherry on the strenuously-beaten cake mix, a full marathon. Judging by the melee at the Sports Centre where Granny and Beloved swim, the Ironmen and women - many of them looking as if they are really made of iron - are not only crazy but rich; they were surrounded by kiosks selling £6000 bikes. This morning they were riding the bikes - even the new ones possibly. Their efforts made Granny and Beloved's trip to the northern market along much of the same route adventurous, not to say circuitous, not to say slow.

Add to this that tomorrow is Corpus Christi (click if you want to see last year's version): meaning that half the population will be out this evening making salt pictures in the street. Beloved considered joining in with a picture of the local church - his version - but has decided, to Granny's relief, to give it a miss; she didn't particularly fancy an evening up to the elbows in salt as his assistant. Do you blame her?

On Monday Beloved Eldest Granddaughter flies in along with Beloved Goddaughter. They do not come alone. On the same day - possibly even on the same plane, from Madrid - arrive Pedro Almodovar and his crew to spend three weeks filming part of his next masterpiece - Abrazos Rotos - or Broken Embraces - on the island. Granny is wondering - half-hoping - that the Beloved Girls will emerge from the arrivals hall alongside Penelope Cruz.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Meet Billy the Kid

Granny found her camera: and the battery charger: and the lead connecting camera and laptop: miracle of miracles of miracles

So here we have HIMSELF, below. And, above, Beloved and friends...

Granny with baby below- and, right, the baby closer up.

Isn't he a duck of ducks? Well okay, if you must - we mustn't confuse species must we - not in the house of an animal man - isn't he a kid of kids?....And by the way he can't half butt. He's getting horns... which makes him a match for any troll already. If there were trolls on Lanzarote that is. But I think we're mixing up our continents as well as our species. This is Africa, dears (almost) not Scandinavia.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Beloved doesn't believe in days of the week; 'I do the animals every day, he says, 'I write every day, what difference does it make if it's Sunday?' Well there is a difference down on this farm, whatever he says. Because Granny does believe in separating the days and hers are NOT all the same; even the weekdays are not all the same.

Tuesday, for instance, is the day she goes shopping - or usually goes shopping - because that is the day the Organic Shop - the Tienda Verde - gets its organic produce in from Gran Canaria - on an island, you see, everything not grown here has to come in by boat. While Saturday is the day she goes to the market at the north of the island which has an organic vegetable stall selling produce entirely grown on the island - less and less as the summer wears on - more and more of it through the winter and spring. It is staffed by a man from the mainland and a woman from Yorkshire, daughter of a Quaker farmer imprisoned during the war for conscientious objection and one of the first to keep growing organic crops when all the chemicals came in and Britain's farmers were commanded to go for quantity rather than quality. Quaker daughter has spent most of her adult in Switzerland with a German husband and arrived in Lanzarote two years ago for reasons Granny can never quite make out - except that on a holiday visit she saw a house on a hillside and said 'that's mine.' (Perhaps most expats arrive here on such whims. Granny did in a way, if you can describe Beloved as a whim; well, perhaps not.) Quaker daughter is a very nice, if very serious lady - like all Quakers Granny has ever met. Granny likes Quaker ideas: she even went to a Quaker meeting once herself, but sat through the silence and the not very intellectual discussion that followed - something about rabbits - really - feeling like a parrot - too bright and much too noisy - in a flock of a quiet brown birds. Quaker daughter fits that mould entirely; even if feeling like a parrot - again -Granny likes her, just the same.

There is another organic stall staffed by a man from - Salamanca? - possibly - but certainly not from the island - the very same man from whom Granny and Beloved buy their organic lamb: in the market he sells organic yoghourt, cheese from his goats, and, sometimes vegetables from his garden. It is striking that none of the organic growers seem to originate from the island itself; something to do probably with the hard - and hard growing - life the Lanzarote farmer have always had; hobby farming theirs is not - it's just the means they use to live, and if sprays make their lives easier, that's alright by them. Granny can sympathise a bit and she does buy their produce too at the Sunday market, the entirely local one just up the road, where the few handicrafts sold are also all local ones. The northern market, by comparison is largely run by German and mainland hippy types who moved to the island years ago and make their living in handcrafts of one kind or another - as weavers or painters or silver-smiths or woodcarvers - or organic farmers. Naturally the voices of the didgeridoo and the call of the man who does instant silhouettes up north are not heard at the other, Sunday, market- merely Canarian folk music, canned. While the cakes and biscuits sold there are all local - over sweet - Canarian ones. At the northern market alongside such cakes and biscuits - and a local man who does sell delicious raisin and walnut bread - stands a plump and jolly tri-lingual German woman switching between German Spanish and English to peddle her hefty but delicious German rye bread along with lethally rich loaves drowned in cheese, croissants, pains chocolats and the best cinnamon whirls Granny has ever eaten - known as caracolas - snails - here.

Ah the caracolas. This is one way in which Granny marks Sundays. On Sundays she persuades her Beloved to eat breakfast later than usual. She makes scrambled eggs for them both, and eats her wicked caracola, very slowly, afterwards, along with her coffee. Then she and Beloved go to the local market (Aurelio's wife smiled at her today - no hard feelings, evidently - and Aurelio himself presented her with a bag of tomatoes and an aubergine for free) and afterwards to the newsagent to buy the Saturday Guardian with its wonderful book section. Not feeling obliged at any point to wrestle with her own prose she then retires to the sofa or her hammock with the paper more often not. THIS IS HER DAY OFF.

The problem with days off though is that they followed by DAYS ON. Starting with Monday. Oh dear - if you take Sunday off, Monday has to be faced in all its awfulness; back to the daily struggle - or failure to struggle, almost worse. Still it gives the week and time a shape of sorts. The way time goes, the way each day passes, the way Granny climbs into bed each night and thinks 'yet another day gone' - or 'yet another day older' (if not deeper in debt) she's glad to feel some pattern in its relentlessness - its awful relentlessness.

Granny wishes she could be like the kid that jumps and bounces joyfully in the new paddock at the back of the land - she can see it from her window - having no notion of time whatever, let alone any idea that its time might be up in less than two months now. Poor little thing. Actually she wouldn't want to be that kid, come to think of it. Better to be Granny climbing into bed each night thinking 'I've lived a long time.' And trying not to wonder how much longer she's got - and in what condition. That's a thought to be avoided on the whole. (But not a wholly unavoidable one, nonetheless, particularly given that her Beloved - who is a wise virgin, in this sense - unlike Granny - spends a lot of his time and energy planning for their incapacity, on the one hand, their demise on the other. Beloved likes plans. Granny who doesn't has got herself as far as two wills- one English, one Spanish - and a living will besides - but that's the size of it. Oh dear.)

(Plea to Haloscan - please show comments.... there are some... so what are you about?)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blank notes

Blank blank blank. Skies cloudy - trade winds failing which brings up ever-present spectre of global warning - headlines in papers from China and Burma horrendous. At Granny's end, temporary excitements are over, stats have sunk back to normal torpor, no word on whether film option for Charlotte Sometimes is going through - a long story - or whether agent has actually submitted Going Mental to any publishers yet and if so which...... There's a limit to the amount of interested but not-too-hassling emails you can write to someone for whom you are never going to be the kind of milch cow agents - relatively new agents anyway, without a strong backlist - need these days.

So Granny waits in patience; not very patiently. Sadly too. Big Brother has relapsed and still lives out his final days in Andalucia, driving the workers in his hospice mad - so mad they sent him home at one point: Etonian arrogance doesn't go down well with otherwise patient Spanish nurses who get more than they want these days of non-Spanish speaking expats unsympathetic to their lack of English. Big Brother is very sick and very confused so not entirely to be blamed for bad behaviour; you could see it too as his version of not going gentle into that goodnight.... a phrase Granny concurs with mostly....but still. She herself is booked to go and see him again in early June; he might live that long, he might not. Meantime a lovely South African carer and BB's youngest daughter are with him, she is not needed. In fact she'd be in the way.

Now she sits listening to Robert Plant and Alison Krause - a beautiful CD sent her by Beloved son-in-law. Its mixture of jiggy and melancholy fits her mood better than classical music today. She is supposed to be working on something her agent wants her to work on - namely a book version of her blog - a very distant version it must be said. She is reluctant: ageing is tiresome enough - especially when people are dying all round you - without spending her entire life writing about it.

Still the little goat grows and jumps a lot, the bantams can't be stopped going broody meaning yet more bantams.... what to do with them? - and in 10 days Beloved Eldest Granddaughter and Beloved God-daughter are coming for a half-term break, which will be interesting. Very.

Oh and Eldest Granddaughter is now lead singer in an otherwise all boy band - of 12 year olds - singing songs they write themselves: she's the lyricist: songs about obsessive/freaky boyfriends, wouldn't you know - except at twelve the idea of a freaky boyfriend is one with a ring in his nose....thank god for that. They've even won a prize!! - which means a session in a studio recording their songs. Granny hopes EG is not going to turn into Bristol's answer to Amy Winehouse - well not in certain respects. Let's see. For the moment this news really does cheer her up. In due course she'll even get to hear the songs....she will report.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Two of the many respects in which Granny and Beloved differ entirely is firstly their capacity - or lack of it - to get out of bed in the morning and secondly the nature of their eyesight.

Take the first. 'When I wake up I get up, whatever time it is,' says Beloved, the lark. And indeed he does, jumping out of bed without hesitation, no matter how cold it is out there. Later, very often, he says: 'I've been up since 5,30 - or 6 - and disappears to have a siesta.

Granny, a nightingale, is not like that. If she does wake up so early, she looks at her watch, groans, and tries to go back to sleep. Even if she doesn't sleep, she stays there, enjoying the warmth, the sense of relaxation. 'What a waste of time,' says Beloved (whose use of such ungodly hours is a total mystery to Granny, though she thinks he enjoys the time to himself, and is sympathetic to that. She too like - loves - time to herself.) 'Not at all,' says Granny, who has difficulty in dragging herself out of bed even when she wakes at a more civilised hour like 8 o'clock. The thought of the cold air - even in summer -is agony. Even extracting her hand from the covers to look at her watch can sometimes seem an effort too far; how much more so the thought of all the things she has to do when she does get up- reaching out for her glasses is only the start. Oh the agony of it - of facing the cold, finding her clothes and putting them on, shoving on face-cream/sun lotion, cleaning her teeth, let alone of all that going out into the air of the open courtyard, down the stairs into the main house, heading for the kitchen, digging out implements, squeezing juice, heating milk for her coffee, trying not to fall over the importuning cat as she does so: etc etc etc.. A whole range of mountains to climb it seems while she is lying there, trying to persuade herself to throw back the covers and face this daily horror.

Meantime, today in fact, she has re-discovered one diversion, another excuse for idleness with which she can amuse herself, so delay the inevitable still further.

Granny is, has been all her life, very short-sighted. Till the age of 30 she wore the heaviest of heaviest, thickest of thick glasses, which did nothing for her sex-life (it's not quite true that 'men don't make passes' etc, she after all did manage two fiances, one of whom turned into a husband, but even so, until she put on contact lenses, her success in such areas was limited.) Beloved on the other hand - this is the second difference between them - is very long-sighted - it is his main excuse for never cleaning the stove, leaving the kitchen surfaces covered in smears etc: that he can't see it needs doing. (Granny did subsidise a pair of varifocals to get round this problem as well as that of his never being able to find his reading glasses- but he claims they are useless and won't wear them. Big sigh.) Back to Granny's short sight. As a child though not able to see anything in detail beyond a yard or two, she did have - still has - the advantage of microscopic sight, of being able to see close-up detail that most people can't. Though this is not such an advantage these days when surveying her ageing skin, she likes this capacity on the whole. As a child it gave her, among other things, the language of the blankets. If you're short-sighted and also old enough to have slept under blankets you will know what she means by this- the little hieroglyphics of the threads that stick up from the blanket weave looking like an unknown script, which you can read in any way you like. She used to divert herself for hours deciphering that alphabet, through all the ever-more frantic shouts of 'get up Penelope you're going to be late for school' etc, etc.

In the days of duvets that language seemed long-gone. But this morning, lying in bed under not only the duvet but the bed-cover - trade-wind nights have been chilly lately - she discovered that it offered a smaller version of the same hieroglyphics, of yet another alphabet, and ecstatically, a child again, started deciphering them once more.

She did not think Beloved would be sympathetic when she told him at breakfast that this was yet another thing had kept her in bed this morning. She was wrong. 'I used to look for animals in the ceiling,' he said, reminiscently - 'Or on the walls.' This was something short-sighted Granny hadn't been able to do, of course, not without her glasses on. But she was delighted he had his own version of her distraction, lark as he is. You can see that she and Beloved do have things in common after all. Well of course they do.

There is a black chick arrived in the hen house. There was a brown chick too- Granny held its little palpitating life in her pocket while transporting it to the nursery coop, but that was about all the life it had. Either the mother took exception to it, or else it didn't have the yolk left to keep it alive. Did you know that chicks come provided with enough yolk to nourish them for a day or two after hatching and if they don't have that they die? Granny didn't. What it is to be attached to an animal man. How many more hidden languages are there out there, she wonders, how many more?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Hundreds and Thousands

Odd thing the internet. Granny whose blog stats are usually modest has suddenly, by her standards, been inundated by hits. More than two thousand since this time yesterday. Now she knows that is NOTHING compared to sites like Petite Anglaise which attract 30,000 hits a day, but it is still a lot for her. Judging by the comments which have also come pouring in it all relates again to Charlotte Sometimes - someone somewhere with much bigger readership than hers has put in the link. Granny cannot establish where but she has discovered in the course of this that there is an American pop singer called Charlotte Sometimes who  calls herself that specifically because she loved the book and the Cure song, both. And that there was once a rock group in Wales called Charlotte Sometimes too; now alas it is defunct. There is also a film called Charlotte Sometimes which in subject and story seems to have no connection whatever to her book; but maybe the title was taken from the song: who knows.

Granny thinks back to when she first thought up the title for her book. She  can't remember doing it exactly, but it probably came in the night, just like that - most of her good titles do. But it wasn't altogether liked at first. An early reviewer liked the book a lot all except the title which she dismissed as 'coy.' Well never mind that, given what's happened to the title since. 'You should have trade-marked it,' Beloved says. 'Trade mark a title?' asks Granny. 'I mean - you just don't. It would be a waste of money. And, anyway, most titles turn up all over the place on different books.'

But this one hasn't. Whim or not, coy or not, here it still is. While Granny herself who has spent the week processing tomatoes - sauce, pickle, chutney - why when you grow stuff does it all come AT ONCE- feeling rather like her domesticated mother rather than her undomesticated self - doesn't feel like  a writer just now AT ALL. 

Not that she minds being reminded she was a writer once. Maybe, one day, she will be a writer again.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Un besito...

Beloved buys his red wine mostly from a local farmer called Aurelio: a nice man with very dark - rather beautiful in Granny's view - eyes and not-so designer stubble, who wears, while selling his wine and his vegetables up at the local market one of the ubiquitous local trilby hats. Beloved is probably Aurelio's very best customer: when he and Granny are running a workshop or have many guests, he buys Aurelio's wine in bulk. He is such a good customer that he and Granny have even been invited to very solo private tastings at Aurelio's Bodega - his wine-making workshop -invited to bottle some of his wine to see how it is done. It is good wine, if drunk young. The only good red wine they have encountered here, it costs 3 euros a label-less bottle, less when bought in bulk. You can see it is good value. For obvious reasons Aurelio is fond of Granny and Beloved and very chatty around them, seemingly oblivious of the fact that Beloved understands nothing and Granny only a little - Aurelio's local accent is as impenetrable as most.

Beloved went up early last Sunday to acquire his supply - he always goes up early: Beloved does not do queues. Granny followed later - she does do queues - or rather she's not prepared to hustle herself to avoid them. She did her business at the stall she always patronises run by a grandmother and her daughters and sometimes too by her granddaughters (Granny herself supports the women every time - she's a seventies feminist isn't she?) Afterwards she headed up the line of stalls, past the smelly dried fish stall the one only patronised by locals for obvious reasons, past the plant stall, the cake stall, past Aurelio's stall. For once there was no queue there. Aurelio saw Granny passing and rushed out to greet her, grabbing her hand and pulling her closer to him - 'Un besito,' he said, 'un besito' - a little kiss - kissing her chastely enough on the cheek, surprising her a little but not unduly: Aurelio is a good friend. Very promptly, up came a woman - a rather wide woman with short dark hair - having seen her selling vegetables alongside Aurelio, Granny had more or less assumed this was Aurelio's wife, a fact that is now affirmed, firmly - very firmly - by the wide, dark-haired woman. 'You know who I am,' she says. 'I am his wife' - pointing at Aurelio. Granny nods in agreement. 'Hola,' she says smiling. 'I am his wife,' wide woman says again, taking Granny's hand, 'So,' she says, 'It's alright to shake his hand like this' - she shakes Granny's hand vigorously, 'But kisses, no.' She is smiling. Sort of. She is joking sort of. But she is not joking entirely. Granny has been given her orders. Siren Granny - can that really be how Aurelio's wife sees her....- it seems unlikely, they are both women of more than a certain age - maybe it's more a question of macho cabrio - Billy goat husband? - ?siren Granny smiles sweetly at both of them. 'Sta luego,' she says and removing herself and her vegetables, takes them meekly back to the truck.

Local life. Going on otherwise in its normal way. After four halcyon days plus sun and without much wind - happy guests - the trade-winds have started blowing and the clouds persisting up in these parts the way they do in summer. Billy the kid grows and jumps, jumping on his mother's back sometimes, on Beloved's back even, when he is milking. Two bantam hens are sitting on four hen's eggs: the question which will be established shortly is whether the young cockerel is doing his job fully or just firing blanks, The old cockerel, Damian-Daphne meanwhile is lonely: not only is he allowed no access to the hens while the latter is established, the young goat with whom he'd shared his quarter has been returned to the flock from which her mother came. When first put together, goat and cockerel were not friends, far from it: the goat chased the cockerel round the enclosure, the cockerel pecked the goat. Latterly though, they established a rather charming friendship, snuggled up against each other a bit. (Maybe when noone was looking they even exchanged besitos. Without a husband or wife in sight, why not?) Poor lonely wife-less cockerel - he can't even be let out to roam the land because he gets in among the vegetables. What should be done with him? He'll be much too tough by now to eat.

Friday, May 02, 2008

sun, wine and catheters...

So Granny is back. Just about. (You know that feeling when half your head still seems to be elsewhere..) Beloved's bad back is better and the goat....the gravid goat...has given birth; at last. To twins, one of which died shortly after. The lone twin is flourishing and very pretty but alas, male, which means his life won't be long either, unless someone decides he'd make a good daddy; but he won't be pretty by then, his smell will be worse and he won't be on this land. For sure.

Birth then; and death - or pending death. As in life you know.... Something Granny knows all too well after her trip to Malaga - or rather somewhere near Malaga where her brother lives in the sun, in his expat enclave. A week which was a strange mixture of the sybaritic, the farcical, the very sad and the bizarre. But isn't all dying like that - the prolonged kind of dying Granny's family go in for? - when you are reminded continually of life and living and still more so when as here the illness takes place in a perfect climate, sun, no wind, not too hot, cool at night; swifts, blackbirds, hoopoes, palm trees, jacarandas, a glass of wine and gambas pil pil at the pool bar. A foreign place just about, which made the excess of English furniture imported by Granny's brother from their shared childhood - sideboards, French-polished dining-tables, china cabinets, bookshelves full of Bulldog Drummond, the life of Churchill, of Margaret Thatcher - crammed into a small Spanish townhouse the more evocative on the one hand and comic on the other.

To all that add catheters, wheelchairs, groans, confusion. Big Brother, as is to be expected in such circumstance is not a well man. To lung cancer add colon cancer - the later cured but the cure has left him very weak, add an infection spotted by Little Sister (not so little sister) a nurse, add anti-biotics - and a night in a ritzy Marbella clinic - B B, is a BUPA man - and he will be better for quite a while. He was in fact so much better that the evening after he came home he even got up his stairs aided by this sister and a carer, had a bath and slept in his own bed. Such things are triumphs in such circumstances. In the meantime Granny and Little Sister had a crash course in various forms of Spanish private medicine and the problems, much talked about, of what happens when the ageing British, non-Spanish-speaking expat population on the Costa del Sol get sick.... Difficult. In the to-ing and fro-ing - not least to acquire Big Brother's Daily Telegraph - she stubbed her toe badly. The dramatic bruise lingers still to remind her of it all. A very minor malady, for sure.

Big Brother who is a man very much of the right in everything (compared to him Granny's old-fashioned Tory Dad was, in retrospect, almost socialist) just about forgave this sister for introducing that red rag, The Guardian, into his house ('that paper makes me sick') when she managed to acquire for him a good English Sunday roast. No, BB doesn't care for any kind of Spanish food like garlic -'disGUSTING' - or what he calls 'grease' meaning olive oil, as opposed to his daily full English breakfast type grease - funny what a very English life you can live in Southern Spain these days, surrounded by other expats. Who were, by the way, very kind, mostly very helpful and very fond of Big Brother, dinosaur as he is. They all helped him get his furniture into the house for one thing. 'You can't move in there,' they said, laughing fondly. And it is true, you can't, though sensible little sister had made some changes, banishing parts of the clutter upstairs.

As for the rest - coastal Andalucia.....oh God. BB's own enclave is pleasant enough - even very pleasant - though reached via a trip past the local sewage works and the cemetery and threatening to be engulfed by grotesque, terracotta, half-built golfing resorts. But the rest of it burgeons in a way which is Disneyland at best, at worst just avert your eyes, provided you're not driving: Costa del Golf indeed. One effect is that finding your way anywhere is impossible: so much of it is recent there are no maps. Granny and her sister spent a lot of time driving round in circles trying to look for this place or that. Granny loved the birds, the flowers, the trees, the lack of wind, true, but back in real life on her much less built-up island she can see its relative merits.

She has been writing this piece for 3 days: life since she returned on Monday has been overcome by the stomach bug roaming the island, by two bed and breakfast guests from Tenerife, by a visit from Beloved's Beloved Son - a philosopher - meaning that the air was thick with discussion of philosophical zombies and something called the the 'Jackson-Mary problem' - no, don't ask - Granny didn't; she retired to the washing up. The weather after a furious hot wind which has dried up everything, including the grapes according to worried locals, has turned almost as benign as in Andalucia. She spent yesterday afternoon in her hammock. Some things remain good. Oh and little sister since this morning is a granny too. As in life once more. How it goes on. Granny returns to Malaga in June. For now she will live her life.

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