Monday, July 30, 2007

Simplify your life

Today is the start of "Simplify your life" week.

Great idea.

But how?

I suppose we could all become nudists, so I'd have less ironing to do.

I did all the easy simplification years ago, like always putting the car keys down in the same place so I can find them when I want them.

Actually I did the best bit simplification when I stopped worrying about being cool. It saves so much time not to worry what other people think about my car, or my clothes, my taste in music, or my housekeeping. If anybody wants to pity me because I don't drive a Mercedes, fine. I can pity them for doing the 1,000 hours of overtime to pay for it, or pity them for the nights laying awake staring up at the ceiling wondering how they're going to pay for it.

My life, my rules (just as long as I don't hurt anyone).

You know, if everybody stopped buying stuff just to impress other people, we'd have a lot less global warming.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More paperwork.

Today was busy. This morning I went to El Paso with my friend Helen to collect the paperwork from the technical inspection of their van, and then take it to the agency in Santa Cruz. When we got to the agency, the door was open and nobody was there. So we went for a coffee and cameback. Still nobody there.

We went to the bank. I've had people phoning me, saying they were from the bank and offering me a new credit card, but it was "Caller ID withheld" an I wante to check. The bank couldn't say for definite either way, but they told me if it really was someone else, then they'd know my details without being told, so DON'T TELL ANYONE. I'd assumed that anyway.

When we went back to the agency. Still nobody there.

So we went and bought a birthday present for my friend's daughter, who'll be three on Saturday.

And when we got back to the agency, they were both there. We were told the local car tax will be 40 Euros for half a year, and we should be able to pick up the Spanish number plate on Tuesday, maybe even Monday. That just leaves insurance, which only takes about half an hour, and then they'll finally be able to drive the thing again!

Of course they'll still need my help with other things, but it'll be good to have that out of the way. And they'll be delighted not to have to pay for a hire car any more.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Whyever not?

The Roque's been in a state of some excitement lately. This is GranTeCan (Gran Telescopio Canario), the new Spanish telescope on the mountain top. The photo doesn't really give you a sense of scale, but it's huge, with a main mirror 10 metres (33ft) in diameter. Look for the door at the base to get an idea. On July 15th, they had the first light ceremony for it, with the star guests being the crown prince Filipe of Spain and Brian May.

First light doesn't mean that it's working yet. It means that they opened the dome at night and got starlight falling on the mirror. I heard on the grapevine that the optics are extrememly well aligned, better than anyone hoped for, but the telescope can't track stars as they move across the sky yet, and there's certainly no instruments on it yet. It should be open fully in 2008.

And we missed the whole thing because we were in Wales.

And then we found out that Brian May was observing at the Galileo telescope, where my husband works, on Monday and Tuesday this week. I got him to ask for an interview for Ruido , but Brian refused before my husband had finished his sentence. Apparentely he was interviewed and photographed almost to death at the First Light ceremony. But we now have Brian's signature on our CD of "Back to the Light".

I seem to have spent most of the last few days cleaning the house and restocking the freezer, with ocassional writing. Yesterday evening Norma came around, and we updated the Ruido website together.

And today I was tour guiding again - this time for a group of 60 scouts from 7 to 17. Now 60 is too many to take all at once, so we split them into two groups and took the little ones first (because a lot of them needed the bathroom rather urgently.) The questions started while most people were still doing what nobody could do for them: How big is the telescope? How much did it cost? Can you see aliens with it? What was my name? Had I ever been to the moon? What was the name of the dog that went to the moon?

Eventually I got everyone together and took them into the telescope dome. They were very impressed. Everyone is, but most of these kids had been expecting something a tenth of the size. And they were actually quiet while I explained how it worked. Luckily I found someone who could move the telescope, and they were even more impressed. Some of them found it hard to believe that the dome was moving, not the floor we were standing on.

And then the questions started again from a hard core of about ten kids. Are the planets hot or cold? Is Pluto a planet or not? Will the telescope see an asteroid before it hits the Earth? Why don't they just send a spaceship to look at the other planets? Is it true that if you go very, very fast in a space ship, then you get younger?

I asnwered as best I could. I even made a stab at explaining Einsteinian relativity for 7-year-olds. And the questions just kept coming. Are there any aliens? Could a microbe really evolve into something like us? Why can't we see stars with the telescope in day time? Couldn't you make a rocket out of diamond or something, so that it was very hard and could go very fast, so you could get to another galaxy before you died?

And my prsonal favourite: why don't they build bigger telescopes so they can see the little green men on the moon waving at us?

Whyever not?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Home again

Well, we're home again. But I feel I haven't stopped since we got up at 4 am to go to Manchester airport.

We got home at 5pm on Thursday. Helen and Theresa, friends from Franceses had cleaned the place up, sorted out the laptop, and left some fresh food, bless them, so I didn't have to dash out shopping. My husband went to fetch the cats, our son made a beeline for the Play Station, and I went upstairs for a siesta.

As soon as I walked through thedoor the fleas attacked. I'd realised that we had a flea or two, but I'd been too rushed to sort it out. Now a bunch more had hatched, and none of them had eaten for two weeks while the house was empty. They leapt on me and chewed.

I couldn't sleep like that, and I was even less sleepy after I saw two fleas jumping on the bed sheets. So I changed the bedding and gave the place a good clean instead. By the time I finished, it was dinner time.

On Friday morning I had to get up early to go help Helen and Theresa with their van's technical inspection - the Spanish equivalent of the MOT. It passed, thank goodness. They stayed for lunch and \i started downloading some of the photos from our holidays. It was slow going, because there are around 1,800 altogether. Then we went to see my friend Farida, and I FINALLY got to pick up the camera flash I'd ordered about 7 weeks before. But by the time I got home I was too tired to try it out.

On Saturday morning I had to get up early again to go to work. My first job as a tour guide, showing people around the William Herschel Telescope! It was rather fun, although I was nervous showing the first group around. I thought the next group would be easier, until I found out that I had to do it in Spanish. And then it turned out that one groupof Germans thought they'd signed up for a tour in English and were terribly disappointed - so I had to do a bilingual tour. I was surprised how well it went, considering. At least they were pleased enough to want me to come back again and do another group on Thursday. And I got a few nice photos on the way down.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


We're still having a good time, and haven't got seriously wet yet. We've seen rather more scenery than Julio cares for, and also been to a farm with loads of baby animals to pick up and cuddle. This morning we went to Tralee museum, which has a reconstruction of several Norman streets - complete with open sewer down the middle. Thankfully, they didn't reconstruct the smell.

Today we head off to Rosslare, to catch the ferry to Wales tomorrow morning.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

We spent a day admiring Conemara, then the next day we weent down past the Burran, also called the Upside-down land. From a distance it looks like bare limestone, but when you get up close you can see that it's full of cracks, with plants growing in them - so the plants are beneath the rock - upside down, see? We found several naturally bonsai-ed trees, and an orchid.

Then we carried on to the famous Cliffs of Moher. We had planned to see them, but the car park was 8 Euros. EIGHT FREAKING EUROS! so we gave that a miss.

Friday, July 06, 2007


The journey wasn't too bad. The flight to Tenerife was delayed half an hour, which was enough to make me nervous about the connection. But as it happened, the very moment we got to the baggage reclaim belt, our suitcases landed in front of us, so we checked in and got to the gate with 10 minutes to spare.

And then the flight was about 90 minutes late. Ah well, nothing like as bad as the 28 hour delay last year.

And when we got to the B&B, they hadn't received my confirmation email, hadn't booked me in, and were now full. but he phoned around and found us another B&B just a few doors away, so that was all right.

We all liked Dublin. It's a human-sized city - you can walk around the centre, with no trouble at all. Well, except for the big city traffic that I'm not used to any more. The pedestrian lights seem to go green for about 10 seconds every 5 minutes, so the place is full of jaywalkers, and we wound up joining them. It's full of nice little statues, and I'll post photos when I can download some from my camera. It's also rather wet, but as they say in Ireland, "If you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes, and it'll change."

The buildings look a lot like the UK, which figures. After all, most of them were built when Dublin was part of the UK. And the sky is just like Britain - towering fluffy clouds with maybe a few patches of blue. But the money is Euros, and the distances are in kilometres.

I finally got to meet a long-standing email friend called Peadar O'Guilin. He lives near Dublin and was kind enough to give us a guided tour. Even better, he knows a lot about Irish history, and knows how to tell it. So now we know why there's a woman buried beside Johnathon Swift in St Patrick's cathedral, and why there's a door in the cathedral with a hole cut in it, and how the halfpenny bridge got it's name.

This morning we picked up a hire car and set off west. On Peadar's reccomendation, we stopped off at a place whose name I can't remember, never mind spell. But it used to be the cultural centre of Ireland a thousand years ago. There are several ruined churches, and two round towers, where the monks used to hide when trouble came calling. Trouble came a lot, what with Vikings, Normans, and what have you.

And now we're in Galway, in a B&B with internet access. Watch this space.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Oh no!

I often find it difficult to sleep just before a trip. My brain spins with worries that I'll forget something important.

I woke at 5 am and realised that I hadn't checked our passports. Since I wasn't going to sleep with that hanging over me, I got up and took them out.

Mine expires in 2011. Carlos's expires in 2012. And Julio's expired in November 2006.

I stared at it, willing it to change. Nope. It still said November 2006.

So I checked the internet. He can travel to both Eire and the UK on his Spanish ID card. I can't, because mine's only a foreigner's residency card, but that's OK because my British passport's good for another 4 years.

Whew! I think I can sleep now.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Mad busy

I should have organised our family holiday ages ago, but I've been too busy. Meanwhile, my husband went and booked the time off work. Panic stations!

So we fly off to Dublin on Wednesday, to take advantage of the cheap Ryan Air flight from Tenerife. And practically all I've done for the last two days is make bookings.

  • Flight from La Palma to Tenerife

  • Flight from Tenerife to Dublin

  • B&B in Dublin (not yet confirmed)

  • Hire car to pick up in Dublin and drop off at Rosslare

  • Ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard in Wales

  • Hire car to pick up in Fishguard and drop off at Manchester Airport

  • B&B in Wales (not yet confirmed)

  • B&B in Somerset(not yet confirmed)

  • Travel lodge at Mancherst Airport

  • Flight from Tenerife back to La Palma

And now I have an email saying the tickets for the Manchester - Tenerife flight are coming here to La Palma. ARGH! They haven't a hope of arriving before Wednesday.