Saturday, December 29, 2007

A giant nativity.

Today I visited the Helen and Theresa again. We went to see the local nativity scene, which is life size! I've scene this sort of rag doll at Fiesta de la Cruz, but never in a Nativity before.

They hope to finish the room they're working on by the end of the year. So far they've smoothed the walls, sanded, sealed and painted all the window frames sanded, sealed and varnished the roof beams, plastered and painted the roof between the roof beams, fitted a skirting board, and sanded the floor. It still needs the walls painting, but here's Helen varnishing the floor. I think they're two impressive ladies.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Today is Holy Inocents Day, which is the Spanish equivalent of April Fool's Day. Last year I amazed myself by fooling my husband. This year I couldn't resist having a go at Helen and Theresa. Fair do's, I'd told them about the Spanish tradition yesterday.

And this afternoon I phoned them and asked if they'd seen the local news? Because their Town Hall was suddenly full of policemen investigating allegations of major fraud, like Marbella, but obviously on a smaller scale. And the really awful bit for them: they'd announced a moritorium on all planning permissions for the forseeable future. Which presumably included their permission for a bathroom.

Poor Theresa fell for it completely until I got the giggles (which was only a couple of minutes). As she said, a corruption scandal was only too plausible at the moment. Unfortunately I worried her far more than I intended to. She's forgiven me, thank goodness.

Memo to self: This is fun but I really have to stop before I do real damage to someone.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to Both my Readers

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and Merry Whatever-you-celebrate to the rest.

On La Palma they have really elaborate nativity scenes, often showing a whole Canarian village. This picture is from one just down the road, last year.

I'm cooking turkey today for the first time in twelve years. You see in Spain the big party is Christmas Eve. So the first Christmas we were married we went to Mum-in-Law's and partied until about 2 a.m., and then I had to get up at 7 a.m. to put the turkey in the oven. I'd invited all the observatory batchelors, but only one
came and he was a Muslim, so presumably he wouldn't have missed it all that much anyway. We had a good time, but for the last eleven years I've settled for just the Spanish party.

This year Helen and Theresa are coming over for turkey, but we're not eating it until about 5 p.m. So I'll have plenty of time to cook it.

I collected the turkey yesterday. It was 66.61€, but the man on the till read teh label upside down and charged me €19.99.

Oh lord I was tempted, but I pointed out his mistake.

He said, "No, it's 19.99€."

So I pointed out the writing on the label was upside down when it said 19.99€.

He might have said thank you!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A sale!

Last night I submitted a story to Escape Velocity, and this morning there was an email waiting for me, accepting it. I think this is a new record for a high-speed acceptance.

And since the story features the Sardine's Funeral in Santa Cruz de la Palma, which ends Carnival every year here, I put up a photo essay on my main web site.

I feel like Father Christmas came early.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Lottery

Today was the biggest lottery of the year in Spain, "the fat one", with a first prize of 3,000,000€ and loads and loads of minor prizes.

I didn't win spit. This is probably because I didn't buy any tickets, because I prefer to make my own luck. I also know enough about probability mathematics to know that the house always wins.

My brother-in-law thinks he's won about 250€. But then he bought about 15 tickets, and that cost him 300€.

See what I mean?

Friday, December 21, 2007

The sorting engine

Today my husband got a Christmas card from the union, togather with a letter dated 10th December, 2008.

As a Terry Pratchett fan I instantly concluded that Santa Cruz has bought Bloody Stupid Johnson's postal sorting enginer from Ankh Morpork.

If you haven't a clue what I'm talking about, you need to go and read "Going Postal".

Like all of Pratchetts books, it's hilarious.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

DON'T use couriers to the Canaries

Friends of Helen and Theresa decided to send them one big Christmas parcel instead of lots of small ones. They sent it via courier, thinking that it would be cheaper, and I agreed to do all the phone conversations.

The first time the courier company phoned, it was to say that there was a charge of 50€ to clear customs.

"What???" Consumer tax here is 4%, and I really didn't believe that the contents were worth 1200€.

So I phoned Helen and Theresa who were also gobsmacked. But they really wanted the contents. So I phoned back. It turns out that about 14€ is customs tax (on a gift?) and the rest is an administration charge.

I wasn't thrilled either, but I said we'd pay.

A week later I phoned back to ask where it had got to. I was passed onto the "local agents" in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Nope, they didn't have it, the reason being that they only do the other Canary Islands province, Gran Canaria. Somebody in Madrid doesn't know the difference between La Palma and Las Palmas, even though there work at a couriers. Not impressive.

So I phoned Madrid again, and got the right number, and the parcel was on La Palma. But when I phoned the local delivery man the echo on the line was so bad that he sounded like he was talking through a long metal pipe. So I said I'd phone him back.

When I did I got somebody who didn't seem to remember talking to me. Yes, he had a parcel for me. All I had to do was come "here".

And where was "here"?


Whoops, wrong number.

And then the man from La Palma phoned back. I explained that he parcel was for GarafĂ­a, over an hour from his depot. But Helen would be at my house, five minutes away, all afternoon. He explained that his workload was frantic, and he'd have to pass the opportunity. The parcel would have to wait for a few days.

So I popped down to their warehouse and collected it myself, dammit.

It turned out to be worth it. Today was Theresa's birthday, and there were birthday presents in there too, which she was very glad to have.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Music in the street again

Today was the Ruido 4 launch party for Santa Cruz. Again, I didn't really have time, but I went - and anyway it was a lot closer to home this time.

The first act had to cancel at the eleventh hour, which left my friend Norma with a mad scramble to sort out the sound equipment. She managed.

And then the students from the Mareando Association did us proud.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Winning - slowly

I'm getting there. I've finished both jobs for the Tourist Office, and got the bills in. I caught up with critiques in time to get my own story critiqued. And the house is a whole lot less grubby, although it's still very disorganised. I even got some Christmas cards in the post, and made a good start on updating the Ruido website.

We had a weather alert yesterday, but all the rain went to Tenerife. We had sunshine.

And tomorrow there's another Ruido concert int he street, this time in Santa Cruz. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ruido issue 4

Today was the Los Llanos launch party for Ruido 4. This time they held it in the street at midday. I didn't really have time, what with the tourist office job and the state of the house, but I went anyway.

I was glad I did. We had music from local musicians, Jonny Acosta, Tomimoto and Aida, followed by a jam session. And I even found a good birthday present for my sister-in-law.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The dentist again

Well my son now has a brace fitted to half his top teeth. 200€ please, and that's just for the first month.

Which explains why I've taken on another rush editing job for the tourist office, even though I'm absolutely shattered after finishing the last one on time (and the fiction edit and all the critiques.) And the house is still grubby and the ironing pile is even higher.

It'll all get sorted out eventually.

Although I'm beginning to wonder if I'll get the Christmas decorations up before the New Year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Poor kid

It's getting near the end of term, and my son's having his coursework marked. How times change! Last year it meant a panic as he tried to catch up on missed work in every subject at once. This term the only problem was French. So a good bit of the weekend went on that, and I helped as best I could, being almost recovered from the lurgy.

The one thing we didn't do was to pack his bag for morning.

So we had a panic trying to find the stuff he'd sweated blood over. It wound up with both parents giving the poor kid a loud lecture on keeping track of his stuff.

And it was in the bag all the time, hidden behind a folder.


He really could have done without that.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I got behind with everything while I was ill. For one thing, my story These Eyes is supposed to go out at the critters workshop on Wednesday, but it hasn't been edited and I'm waaaay behind with my critiques of others' stories.

Now the Tourist office want their editing job by yesterday, the house is decidedly grubby, the ironing pile almost reaches the ceiling, and I have one urgent edit and five urgent critiques to fit in by Wednesday.

And people expect to eat.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

A school excursion

My son was supposed to go on an overnight school excursion last week, but it was postponed because of the rain. He finally went this week. The bus collected him early Thursday afternoon and took them all to Roque Faro in the north of the island. They walked downhill all the way to the lovely village of El Tablado, where they spent the night in a new hostel run by the island's government. Then on Friday they walked and walked along the old coastal path to Santo Domingo, where the bus met them after lunch and brought them home for tea time.

The bus and hostel were free (great!) but I had to provide lots of packed food and some sheets, and of course waterproofs and boots. That meant I had to get out of bed and sort it out, flu or no flu.

As soon as the bus had gone, I collapsed back into bed. I surfaced long enough to eat the pasta my husband cooked for dinner (so much for our planned romantic evening), and slept almost through to lunchtime on Friday, when Helen and Theresa arrived.

They took one look at me, bought in lunch, fed me, cleaned the kitchen, and left me to sleep. Good friends indeed.

By the time my son got home I felt human again.

I'd given him a disposable camera, and I was looking forward to seeing shots of the magnificent scenery.

What he actually took was three landscape photos, and twenty-something shots of the boys dormitory. But the main thing was that he had a great time.