Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Granny in cold London dreams of her past, of the open common on the top of a hill near her old home. She takes the path up there she always used to take, but found it had been built up; that there were shops along the driveway to her house; all of them there so long that they were already half in ruins. She wakes up melancholy, mourning her childhood, her dead parents, all those past places not seen in how many years. She hauls herself out of bed, goes into the kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee to cheer herself up.

Then this; she opens the cupboard to get out a cup. At the top of it stand two frail-looking glasses with a machine-cut pattern on them -a very thirties design, the remains of a wedding present to her parents. There was a whole set of them once, champagne glasses, sherry glasses, wine glasses, the lot, mostly broken, long ago. In the next cupboard sit two hexagonal blue and white plates with gold edges - very art deco: another wedding-present, equally up to date for its time. Granny's parents - her mother at least - were, evidently, escaping the Victorian taste with which both had been brought up. Granny never saw her parents as up to date exactly, but evidently they were, for their time, or saw themselves that way. Now their stuff not only looks dated , it fills her too with a sense of loss; such glasses, such plates appeared from her mother's cupboards, throughout her childhood - from that time gone for ever and yet still, here, disturbingly familiar.

More past: in one of the cupboards, close to the glasses stands a sturdy brown mug which came from Granny's second husband - quite possibly it was the very mug out of which she drank the first cup of coffee he ever gave her, after their very first night together. (Something she also remembers well.) Next to it are two Habitat mugs he and she bought in the course of their marriage. In the saucepan cupboard on the other side of the kitchen are two saucepans which were wedding presents to her and her now dead first husband, father of her children.

This layering of time on time, these strata of family and kitchen archaeology are both touching and sad: she can only reach such times now through objects, through memory - she wishes she could run back to again, just for a moment, even to the times she run away from, - and not just through holding the curve of handles, the bowl of a glass, the weight of cast-iron saucepan lids. She feels so sad that all are gone, gone, gone like too many of the people.

There were pigeons courting on the balcony as she sat, drinking her coffee (and yes, thanks, it did help assuage her melancholy a little.) The male pigeon puffed up its neck feathers, teetered to and fro in as much of a dance as it could manage on a narrow ledge. The female, mostly, played hard to get, turning her head from time to time. Twice she let her suitor get close; put her beak into his beak as if she was feeding him. In the end she flew away; he followed after a little while. Granny does not know if the courtship ended successfully; she could not see them any more. She did notice, though, that the pair looked very alike - mostly black pigeons with purple necks. When she looked up their courtship on the internet she discovered that pigeons do tend to choose mates that look just like themselves.

Interesting that. She doesn't think the same thing applies to humans . Her parents' mutual attraction did not mean they looked like each other, even if it did garner china and glass when they got married. Granny certainly did not look like either of her husbands either. Nor does her Beloved resemble her the slightest, not in any respect. Interesting that.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

between islands

Granny is off again tomorrow to spend some time in England with her friend with breast cancer. She leaves a slightly depressed Beloved behind her. There's a financial crisis on, didn't you know, the pound is going down against the euro and his income, like Granny's, is reckoned in pounds - something probably true of most expats in Europe these days. Granny too is aware her money goes less far here than it did. But she is less of a worrier than her Beloved and has had many a skint period - relatively skint - in the past; she just sets herself to spending less that's all. On the other hand: given Beloved's family problems, his need to support someone in care down on the coast his expenses are much greater, the descent of the euro more serious for him. He talks of selling the farm, in consequence, he is looking all over for somewhere else to live.

On the other hand, again, Granny's Beloved is always thinking of selling-up, moving: he never wants to stay in one place for one single minute; but it doesn't mean anything much ever happens, so Granny just lets him get on with it, leaves him prowling round the sale notices, round the different parts of the island he thinks he might like to live in to his heart's content. She's quite happy where she is for the moment. Financial problems - the euro - allowing, she intends staying here as long as possible.

'Where will you keep your goats, Beloved if we move?' she asks him very sweetly.

St Patrick's Day is over - no Granny did not go down to the coast and hang out in an Irish bar, wearing an orange wig and a bright green t-shirt - heaven forfend. Good Friday is past too - no she did not process behind the local priest, wearing black, chanting dismally. Nor, tomorrow, will she be eating Easter Eggs: she will be sitting on a plane heading for zero temperatures and even SNOW. The wind may be cold here just now. But even so. On the BBC website this morning there was a photo of an Easter Bunny made out of snow. Lunacy, she thinks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Well well: Granny's island made it into the Guardian yesterday - and not in the travel pages, either, though the story is, predictably, related to tourism and the profits to be gained therefrom and - equally predictably - the inevitable corruption this attracts. A third of Lanzarote's hotels are illegal - as if we didn't all know -and should be demolished: as for two of its mayors..... Granny has banged on about this often enough, so she'll spare you - if you are really interested you can go here. All she'll add is that the chances of the demolition gangs going in any time soon are small, except in the case - possibly - of the two most outrageous hotels, right on the coast, on top of one of the most beautiful and supposedly most untouchable beaches on the island. As for the mayors ending in prison....which they deserve. WE SHALL SEE.

She, meantime, has sorted out - or rather her Beloved sorted out for her - her two most intractable problems; the mysterious disappearance of her master card, and the sudden refusal to work of her new printer. Can't you guess? The one had, somehow, got sucked up inside the other....but not till yesterday did the latter deign to spit the former out. It did spit it out; neither seeming much the worse for wear, she now has her card and a working printer. Very satisfactory. One of the odder accidents of life lately - if your workroom wasn't such a mess, said Beloved....he might have a point.

One goat, by the way, has disappeared to its maker - otherwise known as its breeder, so don't get worried, it's alive and kicking. The young one is keeping its pregnant aunty company and will only be moved on if one of the kids at least turns out female too. Goats don't like to live alone - something else Granny has learned lately. Oh the education of living with an animal man.

Meantime Granny has been busy persuading the animal man, her Beloved - a man to whom all religion is a total mystery - that this is Holy Week, the most significant festival in Spain, that the shops shut on Thursday and Friday, that it's no good going down to the school where he runs a project club each week because it too will be closed all week. 'Look at the campers, Beloved,' she urges him, what would they doing there except for Easter.....' He believes her in the end, but only reluctantly. 'Why?' he asks. 'What's it all about?'

They have this conversation every year. To give Beloved his due, this year Easter has arrived particularly early - the earliest since 1907, or something; but even so.

Hurry hurry. Granny and Beloved must go shopping. They can't wait till Saturday to eat - the vegetables in the garden aren't yet ready and they can't live solely on bantam eggs and potatoes, let alone the marmalade Granny made over the weekend with the Seville oranges given by a neighbour some time back and stashed in the freezer up till then. Potato and egg pie with marmalade sauce, anyone? Perhaps not; not even with their own thyme, basil, marjoram mixed in.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Holy week..

Foggy this morning - another instance (frequent) of all the weather reports getting this island totally wrong. It's not supposed to be sunny as the fog lifts either; but it is. And the wind is supposed to be briskish - and from the north east. It's far from brisk; and from the south west.

What is predictable is Semana Santa - the festivals have come thick and fast this year - the 3 Kings followed hot foot by carnival, now to be followed by Easter. Hard for everyone to keep up, in a place where everything and everyone turns on religious festivals; - even if that does mean, for many, an excuse to get pissed. What is predictable - school is always out through Holy Week and many people take it off too - is that the campers are lined up down at the mudflats at La Santa, rather disrupting Granny's daily trips there with the Beautiful Wimp. The birds aren't that keen on the campers either, but the BW loves them - campers mean garbage bags and he is a greedy dog: hard to persuade him that trying to catch fish is as interesting as smelly garbage -as far as he's concerned, it's no contest.

One piece of good news as far as Granny is concerned; the local cheese factory will take unwanted goats- so maybe slaughterer's knife will remain unbloodied and Beloved will have to remain without leg of goat for his dinner. Granny's heart bleeds for him (sort of) even if the goat isn't going to. What a relief.

On the other other hand it looks like she's going to be without a car from now on, sharing Beloved's truck with him - a rather cheaper arrangement. Might that lead to blood after all then - on the floor? Let us see.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Granny is sighing/contemplating/struggling with thoughts of a new book. Going Mental has been further revised - considerably revised; you might notice it's gone from her sidebar and that's the reason. The editor friend whose comments led to this has pronounced on the new improved version. 'It's terrific' she says. New Improved version has now been sent off to unenthusiastic agent who hasn't yet pronounced on it - it's not surprising she lacks enthusiasm, given what she had to sell before, given dire state of publishing market which likes its characters/protagonists/authors young, glamorous and celebrated for nothing very much, often, except big tits and loud - sorry bubbly- laughs. Granny would oblige these ways if she could - how she would oblige - but alas she cannot turn back the clock, publishers will just have to take her as they find her: most likely won't. What fun.

Back to a similarly gloomy subject,the slaughter of goats. This has still more -bureaucratic - complications. Granny may like goat's milk ricotta but she doesn't like goat meat any more than publishers like sagas about the toothless mentally ill and she doesn't want to be involved in any way. Non-productive goats, on the other hand, are now consuming quantities of expensive fodder. "Pasture them on your land," says local friend. But Granny is not -NOT - having her wild flowers decimated: that's her one input here. The rest is Beloved's problem - they're his goats. Let's hope the pregnant goat's kids aren't both male.

Apart from the crop being a wild one, it's 'farmer and the cowboy can't be friends' all over again, it's Cain and Abel all over again, to go back quite a bit further. (Not that Beloved will be bringing out his cudgel. He doesn't mind the wild flowers and he is even fonder of of Granny than of his goats. And so, says she, he should be. After all she is fond of him too.)

Territory it's called. Speaking of which, there's a report in the Guardian today saying that Iraqi asylum seekers are now to be told to go home - 'it's safe enough now' - or be left destitute.

Granny doesn't usually do politics on this site. Even here - assuming the report is true - she will limit herself to expressing outrage. OUTRAGE.

We Brits are supposed to be decent people. But the asylum policy of our dear Government here and elsewhere is INDECENT. And worse. Much worse. Sending gays back to Iran. Sending the tortured back to places that tortured them. Imprisoning children. And now this. To hell with the Daily Mail.


This post is not about a poet - let alone about gravy. What it is - among other things - is a reflection on almost a month without rain; the miraculous spring green fading, the land returning to its normal shades of brown despite the flowers till bravely flowering. Once upon a time these wild flowers were all there were on this island. Once upon a time, when spring was over the land was monochrome, shades of yellow and brown and ochre throughout, apart from the greens of maize, potatoes, vines, pumpkins lingering on into mid summer: apart from the bursts of leaves from fig trees all the year round. The leaves on fig trees here come and go with abandon, regardless of season. The figs only come once but also with abandon - along with fish and rabbits they used to be the only wild food to be got, except for grass seeds. The grass seeds were turned into the local flour - gofio - mixed with wheat, maize, whatever other grains were or were not available over the year. For the poorest sometimes, ground-up grass seed was all it ever was. Gofio, dried and salted fish, dried figs are still dietary staples, available everywhere. It is hard to avoid the stink of the fish at the markets, in the supermarkets; though it tastes even worse the locals buy lots of it: the taste may be hard to acquire but is also long a-dying.

That was how it is was then; no water, no flowers. But now they are everywhere according to season: poinsettias, hibiscus, geraniums, bougainvillea, roses in some places, morning glory, flowering shrubs of all kinds, depending where there's shelter from the wind. An easing of the island, you could say. It has time, money - water - for such fripperies these days.

But still Granny sighs for the passing of miraculous spring; the wild ones.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Well, the water came back - after four days - both Granny's kids rang her on Mother's Day, and this weekend Zapatero's electorate voted with all its might and he got back in. The red PSOE boxes standing everywhere now have stickers posted on them saying 'thankyou' - and the local mayor here - only would-be senator - can get back to his job of being mayor; whatever that means.

Meantime, Granny and Beloved do what they should have done a long time ago; they have registered themselves officially with the Spanish police; meaning they can get cheap travel and all sorts of useful things. Some of them - like cheaper water and electricity - they had already, Beloved being proud possessor of a residence card: he lost the card a long time ago, but who was to know that. Hearing the hassle involved in acquiring such a card, Granny herself had decided to pass on this one; not least the hassle would have had to be repeated five years on. And she could get her cheap travel with her residence document from the local town hall, so that was alright.

However Spain is in Europe now - and yes, she knows that it has been for a long time now, but, you know, this is Spain, the bureaucracy takes some time to catch up. It has caught up. Last time Granny attempted to get cheap within-Spain travel, her local document was not enough. Time to register - a much less complicated procedure than getting the residence card, she was told, and anyway, if you too are a European citizen this document is a whole lot simpler. But - this is Spain, darlings - not that simple.

She and Beloved headed for the police station down in the main town last week, clutching their passports, local registration documents. All they succeeded in collecting at this point were several forms supplied by a nice young man. To register, they were told, you had to get a 'cita', an appointment, something you could only do between four and six in the afternoon. Oh and all their documents had to be photocopied; several time. This was eleven in the morning and the main town is half-an-hour's drive away. Clutching their forms G and P decided to call this one a day and went home.

Yesterday, clutching their now filled-in forms, their photocopies, they drove back down to the police station. And oh yes, they got their 'cita' - but was it for that day? No, it was not. This morning at 9.15 they went back again - through the rush hour - and after a wait inside, clutching their documents, were called to the table of the same nice young man who told them that all was well - except that they had to pay for their documentation at the cashier's. Was the cashier in the police station? You guessed right: it was at a bank, ten minutes walk away. Oh and the bank didn't accept cash payments for the documents after 10am. It was now 10 minutes to 10. Granny and Beloved drove there - hoping to find a parking space; which they did - and after another wait behind other customers with complicated transactions, got their documents paid for and authenticated at around 1 minute to 10. Loud gasps.

Back to the police station; back - after, you guessed it, another wait - to nice young man, who handed back their documents, asked them to submit them to nice lady with computer on desk opposite: nice lady after a little while, summoned Granny over and said she'd written down the names of her parents wrong on one of her documents; on nice lady's computer (Granny was on it, because she has had for a long time, her NIE number - the financial identification number without which you cannot so much as open a bank account here) Granny's parents were called 'Robert and Carol. Granny's parents definitely not Robert or Carol, Granny can only assume that these names were supplied in an imaginative moment by the other nice young man who had acquired the NIE number for her. She remedied the situation - not without a brief panic she was going now to have to supply her parents' birth certificates - you can be asked to do this in some circumstances; nice lady smiled, fortunately, and saw that all was good. Five minutes later Granny and Beloved were marching out of the building clutching their 'papeles verdes' and with a sense of relief almost as big as if they'd emerged from some police cell to the rear.

After five years in this place, she is now official; far more official, than she's ever felt in England; she doesn't possess any such document there. And now, flourishing her papel verde, she can travel to Spain on cut-price fares. Whoopee.

All she wishes now is that the bloody wind would stop blowing, bringing cold - very cold - air, a plague of flies and a lot of dust. The only comfort is that, except for the flies, things sound even worse back home in England.

Oh and news just in, via Beloved; her car's packed up. WHOOPEE AGAIN.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Food - and Wind....

Granny is lucky in having a Beloved who is a good cook.

On the other hand...

After years of having cooked for a family, in the middle of writing books, she is of the school that slopes into the kitchen around 6 o'clock thinking, oh god, what are we going to eat tonight? - and proceeds to look in the fridge and the vegetable rack and then get on with it. Of course it isn't always quite so spontaneous; - she has shopped, looked at this or that - thought this or that would make a nice this or that - but she hasn't thought much further till the six o'clock deadline when she just hopes that any extra ingredients for the particular this or that are hanging around: if not improvisation is in order.

This is not the way Beloved cooks. He has things planned out for days ahead; stews this, stews that, marinades the other, makes stock with something else. All very laudable of course - and it makes, usually, when he is not being just a bit too experimental, for some very nice food. The only problem is the way the stocks, marinades, bones, flesh, leaves, all lurk meantime. They lurk on the stovetop, in the fridge, on the worktops, in the bowls/saucepans/frying pans Granny wants to use for her more spontaneous efforts. They lurk alongside the equally lurking bones, leaves, pods, scraps, designated for this or that animal - all very virtuous; little organic waste from this household goes into landfill.

Granny admires this. In general she admires Beloved's way of things a lot.

On the other hand....she does sometimes hanker wistfully after a Nigel Slater do-alike who can wander into the kitchen around the time she does, find a beanpod or two, a tin of tuna, the odd salted almond, some rice, say, and within half an hour turn it into a gastronomic delight. Not least it means he must lurk less around the kitchen less than Beloved does - Beloved's lurking preventing Granny from lurking herself and listening to Radio Three on the their digi-box, while writing this, for instance. Damn it.

Also it must make for A LOT LESS WASHING-UP. Enough said.


Now for something completely different; well mostly different - politicians do, after all, fall into categories as different as those of cooks. Don't they? It is general election day today in Spain. If Granny isn't out there it's because a) she's not allowed to vote, even though the machinations of any Spanish government can affect her life, and b) because the wind has been blowing furiously for the past few days and she's had enough of it. So she keeps herself and her post subject indoors. Strange really - wind has no sound of its own, it creates sound in conjunction with solid or not so solid objects - like trees - but there aren't many trees here. It has to do what it can with the products of trees turned into windows, roofs, doors. And doesn't it do just that - swoop, swash, bang, crash, rattle, wallop. Wearisome.

As for the election - made melancholy this time by the ETA murder of a socialist politician in the Basque country - though not as melancholy as by the Madrid bombings last time - she does hope Zapatero - the Socialist - gets back in. The 'conservative' candidate, Rajoy, is a bit too conservative for her and charmless besides. She can vouch for the fact he doesn't do charm, relaxed, flexible having seen him in person, complete with embarrassed almost manic grin when a local fisherman's straw hat was dumped on his head at a rally here for last summer's local elections. Charm, relaxedness. flexibility does not necessarily make the good politician, let alone statesman, but boy when you have to listen to him banging on, it sure helps.

Also Rajoy is of the 'don't talk to the bastards' (ie ETA) school - and this we know, in the face of Israel and Hamas does NOT.

Vote with 'all your might' Zapatero has been urging his followers from every PSOE poster. Please do, please yes.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Granny was a tagged a day or two ago by one of her favourite bloggers, Ruth of Meanwhile Here in France. She has to tell you seven of the weirder facts about herself: here goes. Not that they are that weird - Granny has led a very straight, not to say pure life, you will understand....as for the rest she' s not telling you....

1. She once curtseyed to the Queen wearing a flower-pot hat.

2. She once knocked a poor old woman over. (This was a nanny you understand, not hers, someone else's nanny, with whom she was having a little argument.) She also, aged 2, hit her twin over the head with a toy train. After that only soft toys were allowed. (The twin survived.) That's enough about her tendencies to aggression - except possibly for the time she emptied a can of peas over her then husband's head.
3. Aged 13 she had a crush on Valerie Hobson after seeing her in the King and I. (That was before VH's husband got involved with Christine Keeler.) Aged 60 0dd she has moved on and has a crush on Alan Rickman.

4, She was a vegetarian for years - but continued to have a craving for underdone calves liver. She isn't a vegetarian any more - not entirely - partly so she can satisfy this craving. She just hopes the former wearers of the liver haven't been kept in little boxes.

5. Up in the High Andes she was once 'cured' by a local healer of an ailment she didn't suffer from, wearing nothing but a pair of Marks and Spencers knickers. And no, she doesn't propose to explain the circumstances. It wasn't an entirely pleasant experience. Part of the cure involved being lightly whipped with some kind of stinging nettle.

6. She has never seen Snow White. Her mother said it was too frightening and she has never managed to catch up with it since. Perhaps that was why, inadvertently, she scared her own son to death by taking him to see Fantasia when he was eight: the dinosaurs dying of thirst in a drying-up world set him scouring newspapers for years after for articles that mentioned drought.

6. The first book she ever read to herself, aged 6, was Enid Blyton's tidied up version of Barbar. She supposes she should be grateful it wasn't EB's version of Oliver Twist. She can still see the grain of wood on the dining-table under which she lay at the time.

Now she has to tag 7 lucky people to take the challenge on. Oh dear, oh dear.

Let's go for the grandmothers first.
Lin of Dotty Nanna.
Granny Fiddler
of Past Imperfect
Maggie May
And now some parents.....
and one owner of a horse

And now you all can go away and curse her....xxx

OH DEAR. Granny did all this in a hurry. What she forgot to add was that you have to add a link to the person who tagged you, plus links to the seven lucky people you have to tag in your turn. OH WHAT JOLLY FUN.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Water - and secrets

Granny and Beloved have no water again: nor does anyone in the street - this zone's been cut off for no known reason - without anyone being informed in advance - which happens here. There's been a lot of rain lately, they like everyone else had well-filled tank and assumed the supply was good - but last night it all ran out. A problem when you have animals: currently the animals like the humans are getting bottled water. Lucky them. Currently the loos are smelly... and the humans not at their cleanest. WARNING. KEEP AWAY. What with all the to-ing and fro-ing Granny's nice peaceful morning with Beloved out has been thoroughly disrupted - oh the trials of her life...

She went out early this morning, before the rumpus got going. The wild marigolds were all closed up - they don't open till the sun is much higher - but with the dew on the grass it smelled like England on a dampish morning - and sounded like England - a warbler was singing somewhere. This is slight exaggeration, probably just expat yearning for home; but still it was much nearer it all than usual on this dry but currently greenish island.

The dry island is currently awash with far from dry meetings, loud with loud speaker vans, festooned with election posters for people for whom Granny and Beloved as non-citizens are not allowed to vote. It's the Spanish general election next Thursday - the loudspeaker vans bellow at voters and non-voters alike. Posters for PSOE, the Spanish socialist party, currently in power, and likely to be the biggest party still after the election, feature Zapatero the prime minister in an open-necked shirt: not only a big name, Senor Z is probably the most popular politician around; no doubt that's why there's no row of candidates in suits and ties, smiling stiffly, as in all the other parties' posters. The nationalist party begs voters to 'talk Canarian' (though not dressed as such itself) but looks likely to lose some of the seats they now have. Just as well, one of the candidates for the Senate is the mayor of Granny and Beloved's local municipio - and what would the citizens all do without him? Alright probably - this mayor may be less corrupt than most - largely, Granny suspects, for lack of opportunity in this non-tourist district - but that doesn't mean he isn't lining his pockets in some way like all the rest. (The last mayor ran the local ironmongers; his brother made breeze blocks. Guess who got the contracts locally..)

Granny has been tagged by Ruth of Meanwhile Here in France meaning she has to come up with seven weird things about herself. She'll reflect on the matter and return to it in her next post. Some lucky people will be tagged in their turn; so start trembling NOW in your crocs/trainers/flipflops/Birkenstocks/LK Bennetts/Jimmy Choos....whatever you fancy. Or rather, perhaps, don't...

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