Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The zoo

On Monday I finally finished reading through the first draft of my novel and making notes of all the many, many things I have to fix. So today I rewarded myself with a trip to the little zoo at Maroparque, just me and my camera. With no cries of "Mummy, I'm bored!" I could take as many photos as I wanted.

Four hours flew by. I probably would have stayed longer, but I filled the 4Gb memory card, which is about 1,300 photos. And then I got home to find just 3Gb of space on the computer disk. I spent most of the aftertnoon doing backups, but I did get the photos downloaded and have a quick flick through. Considering the light was poor and I was shooting through bars most of the time, I'm very pleased.

I'll be adding some extra photos to my main web page as soon as I've had chance to sort through and edit,

Friday, May 25, 2007

A long drive

Helen and Theresa have been building steps to the entrance of their house, and the neighbours have been coming round to say something-or-other is seriously wrong about this, but with their limited Spanish, they couldn't make out what the problem was. About the only bit they understood was "Police" and "Fine". (Fine as in taking money off you, not fine as in OK.) This is enough to send anybody's blood pressure up.

So they spent the night here last night, and this morning Helen stayed with my son Julio (his teachers are on strike) and I drove Theresa over to their Town Hall, right the other side of the island. It took two hours to get there via the spectacular old north road, with only two short stops for photos (hey, this is me!). We found the planning office with no trouble, but the lady we needed to see was elsewhere. So we waited.

When she finally arrived, she was very helpful. Since other people need to pass over my friends' land to get to their fields, they have to keep the right of way open at all times, and they need official permission to do anything to it. But she agreed that what they wanted to do was sensible, and they made an honest mistake in starting before they got permission. So it's effectively a rubber stamp.

Theresa's very organised, and had all the papers needed, so they should have it sorted out in three weeks.

By then it was lunchtime, so we ate in a local bar. And I took this photo of the church before heading back.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cyber Sex

My friend Norma's seen a huge jump in trafic to her site. On closer inspection this turns out to be because the songs on her new album include "The Cyber Cafe", "Sex and Lies" and "Girls in Ammunition". So presumably people go searching for "Cyber Sex Girls" and find her.

She's also had a lot of visitors leaving very quickly, presumably sadly disappointed when they realise the site belongs to a talented musician.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I went out to photograph the flowers beside the bus stop, opposite my house. And I wound up photographing lizards instead. This one's male - you can tell by the blue throat patch.
I've been working on the novel again, for the first time in months. So far all I've been doing is re-reading the 50,000 words I've written so far and taking copious notes.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007


One of the less good bits of middle age is getting hairier. I used to have three hairs on my chin which needed pulling out. Now there's something like twenty. I'm not sure exactly how many because I never let them all grow at once.

My eyebrows used to grow in a perfect arch all by themselves and never needed plucking. Now it takes a bit of effort to keep them neat.

And the legs - yes well, the legs.

Yesterday I went shopping for a window blind to go on the window next to the computer. (I tend to roast sitting here on summer evenings.) The girl who served me looked to be in her early twenties, and she was wearing a gypsy headscarf with no visible hair. Her eyebrows were beautifully drawn on with eyebrow pencil. I didn't notice any eyelashes.

My first thought was chemotherapy, but I doubt it because she looked in the bloom of health otherwise. I think she just has alopecia, where your hair falls out due to an auto-immune response.

I hope I'll be bitching less about my chin hairs in future.

Monday, May 14, 2007

We've had a heatwave here. That sort of weather isn't unusual in summer -- we get heat and fine dust off the Sahara for a few days -- but it's rare to have it in May. And whether it was the temperatures or a virus or what, my brains felt scrambled for about three days. Then yesterday afternoon the temperatures dropped a little, and I managed a little overdue gardening. They dropped again in the evening, and I finally finished the web page of Fiesta de la Cruz. You can see it at http://sheilacrosby.com/fiestas/cruz.php

Today was the closing date for the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's Short Story Competition, so I pulled my finger out and sent two stories off. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Oh the other hand when I downloaded the day's photos, I got a nice surprise. I spent the morning in Franceses with my friends, Helen and Theresa. On the way there, I finally took the time to walk on the new bridge at Los Sauces. It's true, you get a much better view that way. Here's the shadow of the bridge on the valley beneath.

And I had another session hunting butterflies in my friends' garden. Why do they flutter around like that? All butterflies do it, so I suppose it must have some evolutionary advantage, but you'd think it was a tremendous waste of calories. And it drives phtographers nuts - this one at least. But I was pleased with this shot, even if it is a common-as-muck cabbage white on a perfectly ordinary thistle.


I've just received a UK tax return to fill in.

I left the UK for Spain in December 1990, 16 and a half years ago. True, I was officially a UK civil servant while I worked for the observatory here, but I left that job in October 2002. I sold my UK house soon after that. So for teh last FIVE YEARS my UK income consists on one savings account that I claim back the tax on. Believe me, the peanuts refunded doesnb't begin to compensate for the pain of filling the form in, even though it's almost all zeros. I know people who are still civil servants who never get a tax form. Why me?

I've written three letters to ask why they keep sending me tax forms and received no reply. From where I'm standing, this looks like harassment.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Busy busy.

I've had a productive day.

As soon as I dropped my son off at his school, I went to the one where I used to work as an English Classroom Assistant until June last year. Everyone was delighted to see me, wihch was very touching. I stayed for the first class, which was the five-year-olds. I'd forgotten how many calories you burn teaching infants. It's not a major workout, but you spend the whole time moving.

I had planned to go shopping, but i'd left my purse at home, so instead I popped in at the gestoría - the paperwork specialists - who are importing my friends' car. It turns out that things have been moving, and my friends need to come and pay a bunch of taxes and then puyt the car through its technical inspection. The only problem being that the only place ont he island that does the inspections is on strkie. Oh well, that gives them a cast-iron excuse if they're stopped by the police.

I got home about 11, to find my husband back from the dentist feeling a bit worse for wear. There was only just time to download AVG (an anti-virus-and-spyware program) before I took my son to the doctors. While he was in there, I got to the post office, and I found a magazine that publishes a reader's photo every week, and the prize is a compact digital camera. I have to try this!

We got back home just before my friend Norma arrived for lunch. Fortunately for once in my life I had things organised, and the food was on the table in ten minutes. She had to leave to teach almost as soon as we'd finished.

Once Julio had done his homework, I took him round to his friend's house inthe next village, and went to see my friend Farida. She wasn't well, and I wound up leaving her to sleep while I ran errands. By the time I got back she was feeling better, so we went into town. She bought clothes for her daughter while I bought socks.

It doesn't sound like anything to get excited about, but socks are a problem in our family. Julio's ten, and likes socks with Spideman or Taz. He also has very big feet for his age, which makes it hard to find the socks he likes. But I got some yesterday. They also had "genius socks" with a picture of Einstein on the packet, which I knew would make my husband laugh after his bad morning at the dentist's. I even got some socks for me.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Today is Mother's Day in Spain, which is a relatively recent thing. In fact the first place in the country to have it was the village I live in, San Jose de Brena Baja. The custom was started by a local writer, Felix Duarte, who emigrated to South America very young (fifteen, I think) and sent a lot of letters back to his mother. When he finally came back to San José, he persuaded the Town Hall to have a fiesta for mothers. The Plaza in the centre of the village is called "Mother's Square."

People wear flowers; red if you're mother's still living and white if she's died. And I got a bottle of perfume and a lovely hand-made card.

Then I went to the flea market in town with a friend. It's quite a small one, only about twenty stalls, but it's still fun. I bought myself a second-hand necklace and some plants for the garden. Also a little ring of a tortoise, to remind me to get on with the novel.

Julio had a friend round for lunch, so afterwards I did the comments for Heroicstories. Then whenthe friend left to go to a party, we went round to Ana's. Now Ana is Julio's godmother, and she was his nanny when I worked full time at the observatory. For years we've called her "Julio's other mother", so of course he had to see her on Mother's Day.

And now the day's almost over.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fiesta de la Cruz

Today is Fiesta de la Cruz in Spain. La Palma was finally conquered on May 3rd, 1493, and the town of Santa Cruz de la Palma was officially founded the same day. Now I'm not sure it's in good taste to celebrate treachery and slaughter, but of course people are celebrating because they've always celebrated. And the celebration itself is beautiful - they decorate the roadside crosses in Santa Cruz, Breña Alta and Brena Baja.

Actually people start decorating the crosses the evening before, and most of the locals go to see them late at night. That way the whole thing is much more atmospheric, and then you've got the public holiday to recover. MEanwhile, the group of people who've decorated each cross take it in turns to stand guard, partly because each cross is hung with jewelry. The people watching make a party of it, and send up some rockets (not very pretty, but lots of BANG!) every now and then, which I suppose helps them to stay awake.

Since most of the crosses are quite old, they tend to be on the old roads. One of the favourite itineries is to take the new, twisty road up to San Isidro, and then come down the steep old road past the crosses. The police set up one-way traffic flow for the event. The catch is that it's too far for me to walk (although groups of teenagers do) and it's very hard to drive and take photos, because there's nowhere to park at half the crosses.

So I persuaded my friends from Franceses to come. They haven't seen the fiesta before, and it meant one driver and two photographers. As we approached each cross, me and Helen jumped out while Theresa nobly drove through the queue (stop - start - stop - start). That gave us about five minutes at each cross before it was time to jump back in and drive to the next. Fortunately there were some places where Theresa could park and get a proper look.

I'll be putting up a page on my website with more photos of crosses soon. MEanwhile today is the public holiday, and those little rockets arte still banging away.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bees and Butterflies

A butterfly on amor-secalo (Bidens alba)

Yesterday was a public holiday here, so I went to see my friends in Franceses Alone, since my husband and son didn't want to come. It was drizzling when I left, but the sun was shining by the time I got there. We had the usual wide-ranging conversation about how their house was getting on, how my writing was getting on, and whether your farts would freeze on Pluto. (Pluto has a lot of methane frost, and methane is the main ingredient in digestive gas.)

Then two more friends arrived, Farida and Jose. It's the first time they'd been there, and they exclaimed over the view, and the peace and quiet, and how much work there was to do on the house. Now they understand why the girls chose a house so far from the main towns! Farida paints, and she admired Helen's drawing. Then we stuffed ourselves with barbecued chicken and salad.

Over lunch the conversation turned to different interpretations of Islam (they think bin Laden and the Taliban are nuts, as do all the Muslims I've met) and then to different styles of headscarfs. Jose thinks they make women more attractive because it emphasises the face. Farida says that when she was a teenager, her aunt forbid her to cover up her mouth because it made her eyes too beautiful, which was a new point of view to me. And somehow Farida persuaded me into a headscarf. It was more comfortable than I expected.

Farida and Jose left, and I spent some time trying to photograph the butterflies. They wouldn't settle to feed at all, which was frustrating, because they were more interested in making catapillars. I took 12 shots of this pair to get one half-way decent photo.

Then we went for a walk. I was told it would take about half an hour, but the girls reckoned without my camera. I took 140 photos, so the walk took well over an hour. Most of the photos were flowers and/or bees. this is my favourite.