Monday, April 30, 2007

A storm in a tea cup.

Theresa phoned me at lunchtime, all upset because Helen was upset. It turned out that Helen had been working on the steps outside the house when one of the neighbours came along. Now the neighbour is deaf and Helen's Spanish is still limited, so obviously there was a good chance of a misunderstanding. But the neighbour appeared to be saying that the girls had to allow tractors to get past the place where Helen was building the steps, or they might get a whopping fine.

Not speaking the local language is stressful at the best of times. Being told you're going to wind up in court for a crime you only half understand is guarenteed to send anyone's blood pressure up. And there are two people who own land they have to access via my friends' land, although they're not currently farming any of it. So did I happen to know the Spanish law on access to farm land? There was no mention onthe house deeds, and they couldn't think of anyone else to ask.

I don't know spit about Spanish law, but I pointed out that you couldn't have got a tractor down there before they started work. So I phoned the previous owner of the house who pointed out that:
a) Nobody has ever taken a tractor down there. Ever.
b) If you did get the tractor down, you couldn't get it to the other terraces because the ramps are about 50cm wide.
c) He'd been planning to build steps himself, and the other landowners thought that was a great idea.
d) It would be very easy for a deaf old lady to have got completely the wrong end of the stick.
e) They do have a legal requirement to allow pedestrian access to the other landowners - and the old lady isn't one of them.
f) It would be very nice for everyone, my friends included, if they made it easy to get a rotivator up and down.

I said thanks, and the girls had no problem with people crossing their land and were planning a rotivator ramp anyway.

So I phoned Helen and Theresa back and we all startd breathing again.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Alan Johnston

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I'm a writer. I support free speech. Whoever is holding Alan Johnston should release him immediately.
Only liars need to hide the truth.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Trying new things.

I've had two new experiences today. This morning I washed a dog for the first time in my life. My friend has "acquired" her mother-in-law's dog when Mother-in-law came to live with them. The old lady had been too infirm to wash the poor dog for months, and it was so dirty my friend couldn't bear to touch it - so it just got dirtier. Someone had to break the vicious circle. So I went along in old clothes, carrying dog shampoo and clothes to change into afterwards to do the deed. Actually it was much easier than I'd expected, and nothing at all like bathing a cat. (In my experience, all those gags about cat bathing going round the internet rather underestimate the difficulty.) I'd tied the dog up, but he didn't fight back or try to run away at all. In fact I think he was glad to be free of all those ticks. I must have taken at least 20 of the horrid things off him.

And this afternoon I made chutney for the first time. My parents used to make quite a lot of chutney, but I'd never done it, and for some reason I was nervous about trying. But then my friends in Franceses found something in the pumpkin family in their garden which turned out to be a panceno, which was too old just to eat as a vegetable in the normal way. I was advised to make jam out of it, but it's not my favourite jam and we don't each much jam anyway. Then I had to cut back a load of weeds, and it included some little green tomatoes. I like the wild tomatoes here when they're ripe, but these were very green. So I took the plunge and made a couple of litres of chutney. Then I tasted it and added more sugar. Then I tasted it again and added more sugar and some raisins. And then some more sugar. I wouldn't say it's the greatest chutney since the dawn of time, but it's OK for a first try. Especially since it's unheard of here, so I almost never see it in the shops.

Friday, April 20, 2007

This weird-looking fruit grows in my friends' garden in Franceses. None of us knew what it was, although the previous owners told us that it was edible and delicious. Well, with a bit of help from email friends, now we have an identification! It's a Monstera Deliciosa, from a split-leaf philodendron, also known as Mexican Breadfruit or Swiss Cheese Plant. And they aren't kidding about the "deliciosa" bit either. It tastes like a cross between creamy pineapple and banana. The little black specks in the fruit are apparently completely normal. Shame. It put the other two off so I got most of it to myself. I probably won't be so lucky next time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Happy Birthday

I think I've been overdoing it again.

I finished the rush editing job for the Tourist Board on Saturday, and spent most of the afternoon on housework and pushing my son to do his homework. Sunday morning was more housework, and then I went off to Franceses to see Helen and Theresa. I was late, but I couldn't resist stopping to get this photo of a bee on Echium webbii. I had a really nice time there, then came home, seeing Farida on the way. she's going to have to go into hospital for an operation, so I promised I'd look after her daughter when that happens.

Monday was Helen's birthday. Since they had yet more paperwork to do, they came over early, while it was still possible to park in Santa Cruz, and we tried to sort out internet access for them. No such luck. The "GarafĂ­a-wide" wireless network doesn't cover their house. (To be fair, it's very difficult terrain for a line-of-sight system). They can connect via a mobile hone at a not-too-exhorbitant price, but the shop is out of the special modems. Oh well.

Then it was on to the bank to investigate the non-appearance of their cheque book. Somehow it had never been ordered. Oh well, it's on its way now.

We fetched Julio from school and had sandwiches for lunch in town. Most of the afternoon was spent getting Julio to do his homework, with a trip to Farida's. They read their email at my house and found they needed to go to the bank in the morning to pay the Notary. Oh great, we'd just been there! Then in the evening we went out for a pizza and some wine. We came home early because we were all tired, but it was fun.

So it was back to the bank in the morning. Only we were a bit slow getting off, and had to park miles away. Good exercise, I suppose. Then on the way back we went past the bathroom showroom. They left at 11 and I didn't get much else done before I had to fetch Julio. And the whole afternoon and evening (with short breaks) has been spent on getting him to do mounds of homework he was supposed to have done weeks ago. At least these days he confesses when there's still a week to go, instead of the night before or not at all, like last year!

But I really don't think I can keep up this pace much longer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Yesterday was mad. I went with Helen and Theresa to customs, to start the paperwork for importing their van - the one they drove down from London. The staff were helpful enough, but the rules weren't. If you buy a car six months or more before you come to Spain, it's treated as part of your personal effects. If it's less than six months, it's treated as a purchase and import, and it's more complicated.

They bought the car five months and three weeks before they arrived. They wisely decided to take the easy out and we trooped off to a gestoría, which is a firm specialising in doing paperwork for you. I think it says a lot about Spanish bureaucracy that there are six of these firms that regularly work with customs in Santa Cruz which has 12,000 inhabitants.

The guy at the gestoría was helpful and spoke some English, so I think it'll be OK, just expensive for them.

I left them to go and have yet another go at getting their electric sorted out, while I went home to dye my hair. My friend Farida had already cut it, thank goodness, but I wasn't planning to go on stage that night with inch-long roots showing. By the time I'd dyed my hair and editing another page of the Tourist Office's translation, it was time to fetch Julio.

Helen and Theresa arrived for lunch, and kindly cleaned up afterwards and supervised homework, while I did a bit more editing. The ironing fairy waved her magic wand, bless her. Then it was off to the theatre for the second Ruido fiesta.

Well it was fun. This time the music was two solo acts, but they were both very good. And my own little reading went off well enough, or at least people laughed at the end. Helen took the photo (thanks, Helen). I don't think they raised as much money as they'd hoped, but the audience seemed happy, at least.

So Issue Two is one sale at last and now I have to get the contents of Issue One up on the web site asap. This would be easier if I wasn't mad busy with the job for the Tourist Office.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Yesterday I went into town with the girls from Casa de las Estrellas for yet another attempt to get their electic supply sorted out. We met in a sea-front bar, and while we drank our coffee, this puppy came past with his elderly owner. I didn't have my camera with me, but Helen did a very good job with her point and click.

We walked up the hill to the the agents for the electricity firm. And we finally had all the paperwork sorted! But the computer was down.

Oh well, they were coming back on Tuesday anyway, to start registering their car. We're none of us sure how long it takes to naturalise a car, and the UK insurance runs out in a month.

And on Tuesday night I'm going to be on stage at the theatre. It's the gala night to raise money for the island's cultural magazine, Ruido, and I'll be reading my own flash fiction in Spanish. It'll only take aabout 30 seconds. I can survive this. Honest.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Right. I've finished editing the stuff about Fuen-bleeding-caliente. I love this island, and normally I'm interested in anything to do with it, but by now I couldn't give a monkies about the history of the salt works.

Actually Fuencaliente is beautiful. The whole island's beautiful. And the salt works are almost blinding under the noon sun. I'm learning a lot about the island and improving my Spanish and getting paid for it. I just wish the deadline wasn't so tight.

41 pages to go.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Well I'm better. Helen, Theresa and Norma all came round for Sunday lunch, but I did the sensible thing and bought in ready-cooked food from place in the next village. I had to ignore them all and have a siesta afterwards, but apart from that I was OK, and I spent some time with Norma updating the Ruido website. By Monday all I had was the ocassional twinge, so I managed to update my own website and spend some time sorting through the hundreds of photos of poppies I took in Franceses on Wednesday.

On Tuesday morning I went into town to help Helen and Theresa with some paperwork. We successfully got their bar codes from the Tax Office, but failed to get their electricity turned back on. We tried again in the afternoon, and still no joy. Luckily they've got a small solar panel up and running, which produces enough for LED lights. In fact they've got an awful lot done in less than a week.

On Wednesday I could have done with multiple clones of myself. I'd promised to go see Helen and Theresa, and I wanted to see how they were getting on, and to translate for them with the neighbours. My friend Farida went down with the lurgy I'd had, only worse. I was all the more anxious to visit since she's been rather neglected while I helped Helen and Theresa, and I managed to fit it inbefore I went north. And the Tourist Office emailed to say they want the "proofreading" finished by (appropriately!) Friday 13th. Actually it's more editing than proofreading. Mostly it's a question of turning
Potatoes, bananas and avocados are the most grown products in the municipality. In the past, potatoes used to be the star product until subterranean springs were dug in the 60s and the coastline started to be home to banana plantations.
The main crops are potatoes, bananas and avocados. In the past, potatoes grown at medium altitude were almost the only crop until subterranean springs were tapped in the 60s which provided irrigation for the banana plantations which now cover so much of the coastline.

But every now and then there's a word which takes hours to translate. On Tuesday it was "dornajo" which I couldn't find in any dictionary. It turns out to be a Canarian dialect word from trough. And I still have 50 pages left out of 120.

So I felt guilty going off to Franceses, but I had a good time. Their cat, Tabby, is has got over the shock of moving and loves having a garden. We had a salad lunch because cooking is still rather complicated, but it was delicious. We cleared a few vine prunings and I pointed out what a sweet potato plant looks like. Then two neighbours came passed with a statue of the Virgen Mary which apparently is going round the houses because it's Holy Week. To an atheist who started out as a Protestant, this seems a little odd, but it's certainly a beautiful little statue.