Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holy Innocents Day

Today is Holy Innocents Day, which is the Spanish equivalent of April Fool's Day. Last year I got my friends in Franceses This year they got me.

They came to visit on Christmas day, and poor Theresa got stung by a wasp, just below her eye. Of course it's a terrible place to get stung, and it swelled up like she'd been thumped by Mike Tyson.

So when I phoned up today and asked how she was, Helen couldn't resist it. She said the swelling was worse, and the eyeball itself had a faint tinge of green. I was just about to offer to drop everything and translate at the hospital when Helen got the giggles, and said, "Happy 28th, Sheila."

So now I can stop feeling guilty about last year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Muddle Christmas

First there was the job at short notice. Then there was the flu. Then there was the cough that wouldn't let me sleep properly.

As a result, Christmas preparations got done as I flew by various shops, without any proper overall planning.

And amazingly, it pretty much worked. True, there was almost no butter for the brandy sauce, so I made it with a little olive oil and added a lot of cream and it wasn't bad. I even got chance to pop out and see the tall ships in town.

The only really bad thing that happened was poor Theresa got stung by a wasp, just beneath her eye. Of course it swelled up until she couldn't wear her glasses and hurt like mad.

And now I seem to be having a relapse of the flu. I've spent most of the day in bed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The rest of the working week passed in a blur. I finished checking the books on the shelves against the inventory and started on the huge pile of books to add to the database and then shelve. I've done 152 so far and there's maybe 3,000 to go.

It didn't help that I've got a heavy cold, which I think is the one my son had last week.

But last night was the Christmas party in the Three Chimneys restaurant. I was a little disappointed to find out that it wasn't traditional turkey this year, but the steak was delicious. Even so, the best bit was the company. I spent most of the evening chatting to people I've worked with years ago and not seen lately, since I'm rather isolated up on the sixth floor. and the rest of the time I spent getting to know some of the new faces.

It was well worth the hangover in the morning.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Unusual Tree

Agarve flower stalk made into a Christmas tree.

I'm getting a little more organised. Over the weekend I managed to get the last of the Christmas cards in the post and to cook industrial quantities of lentils and chicken stew, so I've got ready meals in the freezer.

Last night I managed to get to yoga. Only three students turned up, so the teacher asked what we wanted to do. I said, "Relaxation," since my head was buzzing with everything I need to get done. The other two said, "Stretching."

So of course we did stretching. But since it was rather cold, it had to be energetic stretching to warm us up. And since the other two are far more advanced than I am, a lot of it was stuff I couldn't do at all. And boy did I ache this morning!

On the other hand, it reminded me that I used to have almost that much trouble with stuff I can do now, so obviously I've made more progress than I realised. I'm now merely very bad at yoga, instead of absolutely terrible.

The Christmas decorations are up in Santa Cruz, and most of the villages too. I particularly liked this Christmas "tree" outside a shop on the main street in Santa Cruz. It's made from the dead flower stalk of an agarve plant.

Agarve flower.

Friday, December 12, 2008

About nine years ago I knitted a cardigan for my son, using brightly coloured odds and ends. It took ages, because it was thin wool, but it was a great success. when he grew out of it, I couldn't bear to leave it in a drawer until he moths got it, so I gave it away to a younger child. Some time later, I heard she'd grown out of it and passed it on to her younger brother.

And now I hear that little Sam's inherited it - the sixth child to enjoy my knitting. Obviously all the mothers have taken very great care of it, or it would never have lasted so long.

And after Sam, maybe I'll put it away and wait for a grandchild. Maybe.

I'd really hate the moths to get it.

The Temporary Librarian

I'm shattered, even though I've only been at work for three days now. Less than that actually. At midday yesterday my son had to be collected from school with flu, so that was the end of work for Thursday, and I was late in this morning because I had to wait for my friends to arrive to look after the poor kid, so I worked until 7 pm to compensate. So far all I've done is to put the books on the shelves back in order and check about a third of them against the printout from the database. It's frustrating. I keep seeing fascinating books like, "Where are all the aliens?" and "The nerd's revenge," and I don't have time to read any of them.

Once I've finished checking the existing library, I'll be adding the books in this pile, plus the ones behind the camera. I think there's somewhere between 2-3000 of them altogether, which should keep me out of mischief for a bit.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gainful employment

I've been offered a temporary job starting tomorrow. It's working in the observatory library, mostly adding books to the database and putting them on the shelves.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hindi Pizza

Yay, I've finished the first draft of a short story. To be honest, I don't think it's very good, but I've got something I can improve later. More importantly, it's the first new story I've finished for a while. I've done plenty of non-fiction and submitting, but very little fiction writing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Support Roberto Saviano!

Roberto Saviano wrote a book about the Camorra - the Neopoltan Mafia. So they say they're going to kill him by Christmas.

That was a bit dumb of them really, because it's the main reason I bought the book, and I suspect it's the main reason it's a best seller. It hasn't arrived yet, but I see it's getting very mixed reviews on Amazon. I get the impression from the reviews that it's great material badly written, or perhaps badly translated. I'm looking forward to finding out for myself.

The Italian newspaper, La Republicca, has a petition to urge the Italian government to make "every effort to protect Saviano and to defeat the Camorra".

This isn't just about law and order; it's also about free speech. As Ian McEwan says, it's not that different from "extremist religious groups which try to close down discussions with threats of violence."

There's a Facebook group to support Saviano, and the petition is at

Wired jaw.

For some time now, my son's been having dental treatment to straighten his teeth and correct a severe under-bite. First he had a thingamy to wear at night to pull his jaw forwards. Then he had to wear it during the day, too, which caused rows. Once he grew up enough to wear it properly, his jaw gradually slid into place. Then he had traditional braces to straightent he teeth themselves. We're nearing the end of the treatment, thank goodness, but the latest instalment is basically glorified rubber bands between top and bottom jaw to pull his jaw forward the last little bit.

The catch is that he can only eat through a straw. As soon as he tries anything else - even a small spoonful of shepherds pie - the rubber bands break. I have a small supply of replacements, but it takes me about half an hour to get them on, and it thoroughly uncomfortable for both of us. We've only been doing this since Wednesday evening, but it feels like forever. I'm thoroughly bored with cooking soup, never mind eating it. So I hate to think how my son feels.

Two more days to go.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Advantages of Writing: #1

One of the advantages of being a writer is that they can't put you in solitary confinement. Wherever they put me, my whole cast of characters comes too.

When you talk to God, it's called praying.
When God talks to you, it's called paranoid schizophrenia.
When a headful of imaginary people talk to you, it's called being a fiction writer.

So I'm a writer because the voices tell me so. Which is a bit worrying, now I come to think of it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

El Hierro again

I spent the weekend visiting a friend on El Hierro. We went for a holiday this summer ( see The End of the World) and shortly afterwards, my friend took a job there. So I abandoned my family on Friday lunchtime and got on the plane.

The landscape around Isora looks a lot like the Yorkshire Dales - lots of dry stone walls and short grass. And then you notice that the bushes leaning over the wall aren't hawthorn, they're prickly pear.

landscape near isora=

My friend took me for a wonderful drive on Saturday. We went round the west of the island, past the road to the end of the world, and we found a beautiful little hermitage. When I was there with my family in September, I must have missed it by less than half a kilometre.

Hermitage del Virgen de los Reyes

On La Palma we have a fiesta every five years, where they bring the statue of the Virgin Mary from Las Nieves down to Santa Cruz. In El Hierro they have a similar fiesta where they take the statue of the Virgin all over the island. And this is the statue.

Statue of the Virgen de los Reyes

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Cat's Meow

Part of the secret of absorbing fiction is to make it vivid. After all, you're more likely to remember that you're just watching a TV programme if you see it on a black and white portable instead of a wide-screen colour TV. As writers, we don't have colours and screens to work with, we only have words. And words or phrases the reader has seen a million times before get like scratched and faded cine-film -- all the zing has gone. The first person to call jealousy, "the green-eyed monster" was a genius -- William Shakespeare. He must have got a really clear image into the minds of his 17th century listeners. But now it's about as fresh as fish kept out of the fridge for a week.

The first step towards vivid descriptions is close observation. If you don't look at it for yourself you'll reach for clichés. As George Orwell put it, some writing is stuff full of clichés, "tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house." What a lovely bit of fresh writing!

It's OK to fill your first draft with clichéd descriptions, just as long as you fix it on the rewrite. That's the stage at which I wind up jiggling rum bottles on their bases to get a description of the noise. (I settled for thwunker-wunker.)

What's all this got to do with cats? Everyone knows they go "meow", right?

Not if you're listening.

A cat's hello is more like, "Mmrrrrrrtt! on a rising note, usually while they run towards you with their tail straight up. And then they stand on their hind legs to head-butt you as high as they can reach.

When they want you to produce their dinner or open a door, they go, "Me! Me! Me! Me! Me" until you do it. When they stand with one hind paw on your foot, they're really begging.

If you accidentally stand on their tail, they say, "MurrrrOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW!" at top volume. And when you lift your clumsy foot, they're off so fast it's a wonder there's no sonic boom.

Tom cats arguing over a queen or territory sound like something between a police siren and a scream.

In fact the one clichéd noise which is at all accurate is the purr, but there are no pauses: "RrrrrrrRrrrrrrRrrrrrrRrrrrr." Of course, they usually do this while they're on your lap. If they're really happy, they scratch and knead your thighs into mincemeat and drool all over you. This is what small kittens do to their mother as they suckled, so it's a great complement really.

I've lived with cats for about eighteen years, and I don't think I've ever heard one say "meow."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More on the Gastric Flu

I'm over the worst of the stomach upset, but I still have flat batteries and occasional shivers and dizziness. I'll be giving yoga a miss tonight, although I'll probably do a little on my own, at home.

Specifically, I'll be doing the pose called Shavasana or Savasana, which means "The Corpse".

Photo: wikipedia

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I plan to write a lot more fiction, and to blog about the art of writing fiction, and what happens?

Gastric flu.

I did at least get some research done into the history of knickers for a short story. Queen Victoria wore open-crotch drawers, with a 50-inch (127 cm) waistline. She was only 5ft (1.52 m) tall.

Normal service will be resumed shortly. Coming soon: How to make your fiction the cat's meow.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Barack the Builder

I keep saying I need to spend more time playing with Photoshop. Well, I just did. It's not perfect, but it was fun and I learned a lot.

As to the politics, I think he's inherited a mind-boggling mess, but then he's already done six impossible things before breakfast. For a start, if you'd asked me six months ago, I'd have said the USA was overdue for a black president, but it would be about 25 years before they got one. And he's saved us from the half-baked Alaskan. So like everyone else, I'm waiting to see just how much he can fix.

And I'm still humming "Little Seeds of Hope."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Last Night's Big Loser

In my opinion, last night's biggest loser wasn't McCain or Sarah Palin. It was Osama bin Laden. His whole strategy is to persuade moderate Muslims that the USA is out to get them, and their only chance of safety is with al Qaeda. For the last eight years, that's been easy. George Bush spent most of his time driving them straight into bin Laden's arms. John McCain's an OK guy, but as soon as he became too ill to work, Sarah Palin would have carried on right where Bush left off.

But now bin Laden's going to lose his best recruiting agent. Instead, he'll have to deal with President Barack Hussein Obama, who'll talk to moderate Muslims like they're human. He might even help poor Pakistanis get an education for their kids at a school that doesn't try to turn them into suicide bombers.

Bin Laden must be fuming.

I'm deeply cynical about any career politician. But I like the way Obama keeps talking about "everybody" like Nelson Mandela, in clear contrast to Margaret Thatcher who kept talking about "one of us". So here I am, humming "Little Seeds of Hope" by Norma Wilow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Plan B, Plan C, and Plan G

After my friend missed the ferry, we had a furry of looking up transport firms on the web. There's a ferry from Tenerife on Tuesday. Plan B: she could leave here on Monday, spend the night on Tenerife, and get the ferry Tuesday night. Plan C: or get up hideously early on Tuesday and get through in one, 20-hour day. Or... All these ferries are much more expensive than the direct one.

In the end she got the plane back, plan D. Which, of course, meant that she had to leave her car behind, and hire one on El Hierro to get to work.

So off she went, planning to come back for the car next weekend. Pricey, but no help for it.

I had another idea. Helen was planning to go to El Hierro to visit anyway, so if she goes this weekend, it'll save one return airfare. Helen liked the idea, too. Plan E.

Meanwhile, my friend set off, and I had a visit from two old friends whom I hadn't seen for years.

And then my friend phoned from El Hierro airport. You need your driving license to hire a car, right? And hers was in her own car, parked outside my house. The hire car firm would take a fax, and would I mind?

I didn't mind at all, but the places in Santa Cruz where you can send faxes all opened at 5pm, and the hire car firm closed at 5pm. And no, they couldn't accept an email of a scan.

I looked for inspiration in a cup of tea. Thank you Tetleys. The Galileo telescope offices are just ten minutes drive away, and obviously they have a fax machine. As it turned out, they're nice people, too.

Then Helen got worried about finding the house on rural El Hierro. Plan F: she'll meet our mutual friend at the airport when she returns the hire car.

But that means the passenger seat has to be kept free.

Plan G: I was going to fly our for a weekend anyway, wasn't I? So if I go this weekend and take the guitar, there'll be room for two.

So that's seven plans so far. Watch this space.

Too much fun, not enough sleep

My friend came over from El Hierro for the weekend. So I got my long translation job done last week, tidied up the guest room, and did some cooking in advance.

She arrived Saturday lunchtime, and the fun started. We got home at about 1:30 am and carried on drinking. It must have been around that time that I said, "You think you're weird? One of my best friends is an imaginary hamster."

In the end we went to bed some time after two.

On Sunday we had a lazy morning, and then our friends from Franceses came to join the party for lunch. We stuffed, very pleasantly.

And then my friend missed the ferry home. There's only one direct ferry per week.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Day of the Dead

Today is All Saint's Day, and in Spain people remember their dead, and decorate the graves. (There's a photo on my blog about La Palma)

When I first came here, I found it strange. Now I think it's a better idea than trying to pretend that death doesn't even exist, as some people do. We each have a finite amount of time to achieve our dreams, and it's hard enough to get started working towards them without pretending we're immortal.

Today is also the old Celtic New Year, Samhain. It's as good an excuse as any for a new year's resolution. So I respectfully suggest that you start taking baby steps towards whatever you want.

Me, I'm going to do a lot more writing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monsters in the street

My son went round to a friend's house to play. When I went to collect him, the friend's little brother, aged three, told me it wasn't safe to leave because there was a monster in the street. So he went first with his ray gun and killed the monster for us.

You forget these things so quickly. It's nine years since my own son was killing monsters.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Unreal Estate

Cover of Issue 15/16 of Electric Velocipede

Issue 15/16 of Electric Velocipede should be out by Halloween, with my story "Unreal Estate". You can already pre-order it at the site, or enjoy three stories from the issue, free online.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Last night the moonrise was beautiful. I didn't have time to get the tripod, but I think I managed to capture something of the atmosphere.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


The BBC has a fascinating news item about sunken treasure found near Sumatra. (See ) About 1,200 years ago, the Chinese were already mass producing china for export. But the two bits that got me: the blue dye used for blue and white china originally came from Iran, and the dhow was probably headed for the port of Samara, which is called Basra today.

So the good Samaritan in the bible must have been an Iraqi.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Productive Week

I've been doing rather well.

On Monday I had some new furniture delivered - cheap, because it was shop soiled. But one part provides enough storage space to tidy up the living room considerably, and the other part goes in the guest room (with the scuff marks hidden against the wall) which frees up a bookshelf, which is just the right size to fit in the gap in the pantry. I now have enough shelf space in the pantry to put the pasta in one pile and the tinned veg in another , and so on. As a result, I can find things much more easily, and I can see what I'm running out of, hopefully before I run out of it. Yay!

On Tuesday, I spent half the morning watching Casino Royale. This was vital research for a writing project, honest. Besides, I'd earned a break and I got quite a lot of knitting done.

On Wednesday I took a car load to the island's recycling centre - good riddance to it - and carried on to visit my friends in Franceses. For months now, they've been coming to me, so it was interesting to see their new steps, and the freshly planted garden. In the afternoon I took my osn to the dentist, which meant that I missed yoga for the first time. But I was shattered anyway, so I wasn't too sorry.

And in between whiles, I've sent off four submissions, carried on with the translation, tracked downa missing text book for my son, and started writing a new story.

So I feel quite vituous, really.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Japanese Banks in Trouble

Following the problems in the sub-prime lending market in America and the run on Northern Rock in the UK, uncertainty has now hit Japan. In the last 7 days Origami Bank has folded, Sumo Bank has gone belly up and Bonsai Bank announced plans to cut some of its branches. Yesterday, it was announced that Karaoke Bank is up for sale and will likely go for a song while today shares in Kamikaze Bank were suspended after they nose-dived. While Samurai Bank are soldiering on following sharp cutbacks, Ninja Bank are reported to have taken a hit, but they remain in the black. Furthermore, 500 staff at Karate Bank got the chop and analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank where it is feared that staff may get a raw deal.
Emma Ives, Dorking, Surrey, UK

For Geography students Only: What's the capital of Iceland? Answer: About Three Pounds Fifty...
John Green, Chessington, Surrey, UK

Shamelessly nicked from the BBC. More at

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Car rallies

Today the annual car rally is snarling its way past my house. That's 59 cars, three times over. As usual, the first set of cars was fun, and after thirty attempts I got a nice photo (see 35th Isla Bonita Car Rally

And now, of course, I'm sick of the noise. It makes me too tense for yoga and too distracted for writing fiction. I think I'll just have to go and do the ironing.

Now that's desperation!

Friday, October 10, 2008


The clutter doesn't half collect around here. This year I've made an effort to throw stuff out, a little at a time. Today, instead, I went and bought a couple of new sideboards in a sale, which will be delivered on Monday. One will go in the living room, to hold the overflow of my son's toys. The other will go in the guest room. This frees up a bookshelf which just fits in the pantry.

Today my friends Helen and Theresa came over. They helped me clear out the pantry floor, remove everything form the bookcase upstairs,and put it in the pantry. So at long last I have enough space in the pantry to organise it, instead of just shoving things in wherever I can cram them. I even had space at the top to move stuff out of the living room that didn't really belong there.

Then we unloaded a very narrow bookcase in a corner and turned it though 90º, so that I'll still be able to get things on and off the shelves when it's got a sideboard beside it.

The whole thing took a couple of hours, but the place definitely looks better.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Boogie on Down

Friday night was the fiesta for issue 7 of Fanzine Ruido. I wanted to go, so did my husband, and it was too late for our son.

We got lucky at someone else's expense. Our friends Helen and Theresa wanted to go too, but their clutch has an intermittent problem, and they didn't trust it all the way to Los Llanos. On the other hand, they had to come to Santa Cruz on Friday afternoon anyway. So Theresa stayed with our son while Helen came out with us, then they slept in our guest room.

It was a great night out. €3 paid for entrance to the gig, a copy of the magazine, and a free beer. (I was driving, so it was the only alcohol I had all night.)

Casiano Melian

I'd promised to take photos - the bands turned out for free to help support the magazine, so we take publicity photos for them. This time I remembered the big flash (the one we call the tactical nuke) but my favourite photos were some of the ones I took with the available light.

And here's one I took with the flash, just to prove I took it.

Eremiot y la Tripulación

And finally, they had an impromptu jam session. My husband joined in on the drums, and had a great time.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Sock Drawer

Just belatedly realised that my story's up at Reflection's Edge. I thought I'd missed the deadline and was going in next month.

It's a free e-zine, so head on over and enjoy.

How to Look Ridiculous

1) Sit at your computer a lot, nibbling away until you acquire a serious case of Writer's Bottom.

2) Go to yoga.

Just visualise a very large rear end wobbling over a very fat tum, while the inelegant legs desperately try to straighten out and reach for the ceiling.

Of course if I keep up with the yoga, I'll eventually stop looking ridiculous.

Monday, September 29, 2008

New experiences

Last night I finally got to see the dancing horses (caballos fufo) during the fiesta in Tazacorte. I wanted to get photos, so I made sure I charged up the camera battery, and tookthe full kit. When I got there, I found that the horses were dancing in pretty dark streets, and that they move really fast. So I was really pleased that I'd brought along my big flash gun, the one nicknamed "the tactical nuke."

I put it onthe camera, but it wouldn't switch on.

No batteries.

*head-desk* *head-desk* *head-desk* *head-desk* !

So I went in for creative use of blur!

The photos are on my blog at

The other new experience was my first ever yoga class tonight. It's much harder work than it looks! But I had a nice surprise.

Some months ago, a friend tried to teach me the yoga salutation to the sun, and I just couldn't do it. I couldn't even do it badly. My spine was too stiff, my arms too weak to lift my upper body off the ground, and my hamstrings too short. So I settled for doing a few gentle stretches a day. And for the last six weeks or so, I've been spending a couple of minutes a day lifting weights to strenghten my arms. Yesterday I noticed that I've got tiny biceps for the first time in years.

And tonight I could do the salutation to the sun! OK, I did it badly, because my hamstrings are still too short, and by the time we finished, my biceps were trembling. But I did it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

OK, you can lock me up now...

After three weeks of being responsible, helping friends (which I was glad to do, don't get me wrong) and bashing on with the current translation, something snapped yesterday morning. So I went out. I told myself I was getting material for the blog, but to be honest, what's the point in living on a paradise island, and then spending all day in the house?

So I went to Belamaco cave, The old windmill in Mazo, and Salemera beach where I photographed the rubbish bins (trash cans in American English). I think it really must be time for the kindly men in white coats to take me away for a nice, long rest.

Actually I did take some normal shots too. The Salemera ones are on the blog about La Palma. But this is my favourite!

It was bound to happen sooner or later. An intelligent woman can only sweep the stairs so many times before she flips.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pink Floyd

In 1985, a year after I started my first job, I bought myself a house. I could only afford it because unemployment locally was so high that half the town was trying to move away. In fact my mortgage payments on the house in Shotton were slightly less than rent on a bedsit in neighbouring Chester. The catch, of course, was that the bedsit was furnished and the house wasn't.

It was a stretch to find money for furniture, but I'd been brought up with a healthy respect for the power of compound interest, and I was determined not to acquire big debts. So I knew exactly when the billing period of my credit card ended each month,and how much I could spend and still pay it off in full at the end of the period. For over a month, I sat on a rickety tea-chest, because I didn't have a chair. But I was saving for my future, so I knew it was worth it.

One day, driving home, the radio program had a segment about people who'd got thousands of pounds into debt, furnishing their holiday homes. Not the place they lived most of the time, their holiday homes. And not a couple of hundred quid either. Thousands. And the tone of the programme implied that I was supposed to feel sorry for these rich idiots.

I switched over to to the tape player, without looking to see which tape it was, just to shut up the radio.

And it was The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. "Money, it's a hit. Don't give me that do good, good bullshit. I'm in the two car, caviare, four star travelling section..."

I laughed so hard I had to pull over.

R.I.P. Richard Wright, keyboard player for Pink Floyd.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

Friday morning went on helping Helen and Theresa with paperwork, which gave us all chance to catch up on the chatting.

A friend of mine's gone to work on another island. Since she was leaving on the Sunday afternoon ferry, she stayed with us on Saturday night and on Sunday we hosted a small leaving party at lunchtime. Helen and Theresa promised to bake a cake, which they did. Shame they left it at home! But I think everyone was so stuffed with quiche, roast port and salad that nobody would have had much space anyway.

I'm going to miss my friend, but she's not so very far away really. Hopefully she'll be back fairly frequently, and we can go and visit her sometimes, too.

I also started a jumper I'm going to knit for my son with multicoloured wool we bought in El Hierro.

And the last couple of days have been busy with lots of little things. I've posted off the hats to Save the Children (see Little Woolly Hats) , baby clothes to my new great-nephew (see The Things Great Aunties Do) , and a story to Woman's Weekly (fingers crossed!) . I've bought some storage boxes and tidied up the living room, updated the Ruido website, taken my son to the dentist, carried on witht he translation, bought new tyres for the car, and re-written "Agent Hammer".


Maybe I'll have time for a little fun tomorrow. I think I should go and see something I can put in the blog about La Palma. Which is going really well, by the way. I'm now up to an average of 60 visitors a day.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Little Woolly Hats

The other lot of knitting I've been doing lately is little woolly hats for Save the Children's Knit One, Save One campaign. (Another link for USA)

Newborn babies lose a lot of heat from their heads. In colder countries, poor babies can lose so much heat that they get pneumonia - and at that point there's no money for a doctor or medicines. Pneumonia still kills around 2 million children a year.

And in many cases, all it takes to save them is a little woolly hat. I'm a rather slow knitter, but each hat took me well under two hours.

If you want to knit one, the campaign's on until October 21st, so you've got plenty of time. You can use any pattern for a newborn, or the one at

And then please tell the politicians what you think of babies dying for lack of an ounce of wool!

The Things Great Aunties Do

I haven't managed to meet little Saul yet, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to do so. But in the mean time, I've been knitting for him. Actually, did the hat and bootees before we went to El Hierro, and I did most of the little jacket while we were on El Hierro, but I only just got the buttons and finished things off.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Well the Large Hadron Collider is finally up and running. I'm used to big science facilities, but man, it's huge.

Of course some people got the idea that it was dangerous. My favourite is at, by a guy that reckons that the LHC is solely designed by the masons (scientists are exactly the same as masons) to disrupt the Van Allen belt and allow Satan to come back.

I find it interesting that none of the doom-mongers seem to consider the possibility that CERN scientists aren't likely to be suicidal. Not all of them. I mean, come on! And I think Stephen Hawking knows a bit more about black holes than I do. Although come to think of it, there are any number of politicians and oil barons who know far more about global warming in ten minutes than professional climate scientists who've been at it every working day for twenty years, right?

But for those who are still worried, here's a couple of websites.

Has the LHC destroyed the earth?

And the CERN webcam - so you can see whether it's still there.

Alternatively, you could just boogie on with REM.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

R.I.P. Florian Goebel

Florien was the project manager for MAGIC II, the second of the huge Cherenkov telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos. The telescope was due to be inaugurated next week, on the 19th. That's been delayed now, because somehow he fell from the prime focus tower in the dark last night. The tower is about ten metres (33ft) high, and Florien's dead.

I only ever had one conversation with him. He must have been very busy, but he took time out to help me with a magazine article. I always think that's the acid test of character: how you treat people who are of no possible use to you.

My husband worked for him for three weeks, fitting mirror segments to MAGIC II, and said several times how nice he was.

My sincere sympathies to his family.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The End of the World

Isn't it funny how, as soon as you don't have to do something, it becomes appealing again. Like blogging.

El Hierro used to be the end of the world, and so the zero meridian went through the west of the island, before it moved to Greenwich. On Thursday we went to see it. It really does feel like the end of the world. The whole island's rather dry, and this is the drier end of it, so there's no trees or grass, just scrubby little bushes. The B road turns into an unclassified road and then a dirt track. Then we had to park and walk a mile. No houses in sight. The mobile phone had no signal. As we arrived, a couple of people were just leaving in a 4x4, and that was the only other car we saw the whole time.

The monument itself is modest – just a block of concrete with half an iron globe poking out of it. But it was amazing to think that we were the most westerly of the 497,000,000 people in the EU.

The local tourist office will give you a certificate to say you've been, but they'd run out. So they promised to post it to us!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Home Sweet Home

El Hierro was nice. We went out and did things about half the time, and just lounged near the pool for the rest. We saw the giant lizards and the end of the world, and quite a lot of scenery. It was just what I needed, and I feel really relaxed.

In fact normal service will be resumed when I damn well feel like it, and not before.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Well I'll Go to the Foot of our Stairs!

I won the contest at GUD, so I have a free magazine to look forward to.

Just for a change, life's been a bit too busy. This week, on top of the usual translating and housework, I'll be tour guiding at the Roque on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; giving free English classes for my nieces on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; holding my son's birthday party on Friday, and going on holiday on Sunday afternoon. Yes, we're off to El Hierro for six days, which is good because I feel ready for some downtime! We're going by ferry - €98 for three of us and the car - which is so much cheaper than three flights to the UK that we're going to stay in the Parador. (For those who don't know, Paradors are a chain of posh, state-run hotels in Spain.)

So next week should be really relaxing.

This week isn't. It would be easier if I didn't feel I had to give the house a really good clean to make it welcoming for the burglars.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Another Free Contest

GUD magazine are having another contest for issue 3. Since the prize is a copy of a rather good spec fic magazine, check it out at:
(One of these days they'll buy one of my stories. One day.)

Sunset on top of the world

GranTeCan (Grand Telescopio Canario / Big Canarian Telescope) at sunset.

Some six weeks ago I got permission to take sunset photos at the observatory. But one way and another, there was always something that stopped me going: I was ill, or my husband got home late, or the the air was full of Sahara dust and the sunset would be lousy. Yesterday I finally got up to the Roque at sunset. I was pretty happy with the photos I got.

I wanted to put a human being in for scale, and since I was on my own, I used the delay timer and ran into the shot.

I'm not at all fit. I'm not used to sprinting, and up at the Roque, there's only 75% of the usual oxygen.

I pulled a muscle in my rear. It hurts.

And this is NOT FUNNY!

Friday, August 15, 2008

I wonder where the week went?

I know I gave my nieces English classes on Monday and Tuesday. But that's only an hour a go - it hardly fills up the day. And I did some work on the translation - again that would account for perhaps another hour.

I know where Wednesday went. One of my friends in Franceses needed to go to the doctor, so I went along to translate. It's just over an hour's drive to get there, and of course we had to wait quite a while. So we stayed for lunch, and they we went for a swim at the Fajana, where they have salt-water swimming pools. It was very nice.

And on Thursday I was guiding up at the Roque again.

So I suppose it's only two days that vanished. But I'd love to get them back!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Battle of Lepanto

Sunday was busy.

I left home with my son at 10 am to go to Puntagorda, so he could have a go on the Karts. Sadly, it turned out to be a demonstration of Karts, and he couldn't have a go himself. So I took one very disappointed kid off to lunch at my friend's house on the edge of the village.

It was a nice lunch, with better company.

We popped into Puntagorda's farmer's market, right at the last minute. I only just had time to grab some freshly squeezed sugar-cane juice and a bottle of wine before the place shut, which was a pity, because it's a great place for veg.

Then we drove to our friends in Franceses, where my son got a brief video game fix, before the four of us headed off to see the Battle of Lepanto in Barlovento. By the tie that had finished, we were tired and hungry, so we had a quick plate of soup in the local restaurant and went home.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Stop the World, I Wanna Get Off!

I was looking forward to a relaxing summer, but I seem to have been rushed off my feet the whole time. There's the blog about La Palma, of course, and tour guiding, and helping my nieces practise English, and the current translation, and trying to photograph the fiestas, and the website for Ruido fanzine. Not to mention the housework and paying my son some attention now and then!

I got really stressed this afternoon, so I went out for a walk along Cancajos sea front, and then the beach.

Sand between my toes was just what I needed.

And on the way back to the car, I saw a charter flight leaving the island. In my usual mature way, I thought, "Nyer, nyer, na nyer, nyer."

OK, so I'm overloaded and rather stressed, and I've hardly written fiction for months, but at least I live on La Palma.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A new story at last

For months now, I've scarcely touched fiction. I've done lots of blogging and translation, and just a smidgen of fiction editing, but no new fiction.

Last night I found a website that was asking for 6 word stories. Before I knew it, I'd written one of my own.

But by then it was late, and I couldn't face the rigmarole of registering at the site in order to post the story. So here it is:

(Drum roll please.)

He said goodbye. My life began.

(Did I say it was a good story? Nope, just a finished one.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Close Encounter with a Prickly Pear

I went with my friend last week to photograph a leaning dragon tree in Puntagorda, and we found a tame chough there. I think it makes a good living from tourists.

And then we went to have a look at the ravine, and I brushed gently against a prickly pear. Of course I got hundreds of spines on the shoulder my T shirt, and I couldn't think of driving back until I'd got them out, or the car seat would have pushed them into me.

My friend tried to get them out, but there were so many it was going to take forever. She even suggested driving back to her house without my T shirt, but I was worried that at least one oncoming driver would be so distracted he'd crash - it's not exactly a straight road. So we decided that the lesser evil was for me to take my T shirt off so two of us could work on removing the spines. I sat in the car for that, so as to be a bit less visible from the other side of the ravine. At least I was in the shade!

So there we were, working away at my T shirt, and an old man came down the track!

I threw the T shirt over as much of myself as possible, but he didn't seem a bit embarrassed and stood there chatting to us for at least five minutes, even after I said I'd brushed the prickly pear and got spines all over my T shirt. My friend though he had bad eyesight, and didn't see how little I was wearing. But I suspect he was just bemused, and felt you could expect any bizarre behaviour from foreigners. Or maybe he was just two sandwiches short of a picnic.

Eventually he went, and we got rid of all the prickles we could find, and drove to my friend's house. Thank goodness it was close.

And I had a shower, to get rid of as many left-over spines as possible. Yes, I found a couple in my knickers. How in God's name did they get there?

And for the next few days I was pulling them out of myself. I think I've got them all now.

But if that's what happens when you barely touch it, I'd really, really hate to fall into one.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Yesterday was my day for coming across craziness, and not the good sort.

First up, this video from This Is True. (I love This is True) An American politician called Brent Rinehart is running for re-election with a comic book full of s**t stirring and spelling mistakes. (Does a County Commissioner have much to do with education in his district?)

It also talks a lot about "The homosexual agenda", without ever spelling out what this agenda is.

Well I'm pretty sure I know what the homosexual agenda is. I reckon they want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, same as the rest of us.

And then in the afternoon, I went to a little girl's birthday party. It was a very nice party, and I met a very nice man who was convinced that the astronomical observatory was causing an epidemic of cancer on the island by "concentrating the stellar radiation."

I said this was like blaming thermometers for the heat. The reason they concentrate the starlight is because there's so little of it, and anyway, they're concentrating it away from the people.

We do seem to have a rise in cancer rates though. I doubt that it's any worse here than elsewhere, it's just that we know the people here with cancer.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A free contest

Writers need to read. Did you ever hear of a chef that didn't notice what s/he ate, or a musician that never listened to music?

One of the online magazines I like is GUD, which stands for Greatest Uncommon Denominator.

It's not free, although it is cheap. Much as I like to read for free, I don't expect to write for free, and they have to get the money to pay writers somewhere. They haven't bought anything of mine yet, but I'll keep trying. I particularly like the fact that you can buy single stories. In the digital age, why not?

But, cheapskate that I am, I couldn't resist their competition to win all of issues 1 - 3. See

And one day they'll buy one of my stories.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Burnt matches

My hair colour is my own. I paid for the dye: I did the work: it's mine! I've been dying it for years, because I went prematurely grey.

For a long time, I used a strawberry blonde colour that was actually quite similar to my natural hair colour when I was a toddler. It looked pretty and natural. But they stopped making it.

So I tried a new dye that came out about the same colour as almost-ripe persimmons - about as subtle as a fire-engine siren. My husband took one look at it and started calling my fosforita, which means little match, or someone with a fiery temper. So I'd pretend to get mad at him.

I quite liked standing out from the crowd, but it looked really unnatural, and the colour didn't stick properly. After two weeks, all my grey hairs were showing through. So this morning, I tried a darker colour. I was expecting it to come out bright mahogany or a bit lighter. Actually, it's a very dark auburn, and still doesn't look natural.

When my husband came home, he took one look and called me fosforita quemada, which means little burnt match. It's spot on. My hair is exactly the colour of a burnt match-head, and this week, I've got a minor case of burnout.

I'll just have to try again. Maybe it'll be third time lucky.

Or maybe it'll come out pink.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


When I got back from developing photos, my brother-in-law who lives in the other side of the semi collared me before I got inside, and lead me to the mini-garden between the parking space and the pavement.

I say "mini-garden": it's a triangle of ground with poor, thin soil. Having tried other things, I planted nasturtiums there, since they would survive. I love nasturtiums. Admittedly, most people here regard nasturtiums as weeds (if it's free, it can't be good) and I had neglected them lately. Even so, I think my patch looked better than the ones in front of the other houses.

My brother-in-law had roughly shoved back the nasturtiums, breaking a lot of stems, turning most of it upside-down, and put in cuttings of the bright pink flowers he has in front of his own house. So that's orange and pink together.

I saw red. before I could draw breath to ask what the f___ he was playing at, he said, "Carlos agreed it would be good to plant something here. So I just put these in. Remember to water them occasionally, all right?"

I said through clenched teeth, "I liked the flowers that were there already."

He said, "Well, you can always take them out again." Ignoring the mess he'd made of what was there all ready.

Now I have a habit of going off the deep end and regretting it afterwards. So I bit back the 97 things I wanted to shout, and went to talk to my husband.

No, he did not agree to this. He'd agreed to the idea of maybe putting a bush in there at some unspecified date in the future.

I've taken the cuttings out, of course. (I don't think they'd have survived anyway.) Now I'm trying to calm down enough to have a sensible conversation with my brother in law about this.

If I put this in a short story, do you think people would believe it? I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cueva Bonita

Yesterday evening we finally got our boat ride to Cueva Bonita, on the Fancy II. It's a nice little boat which holds about 30, and the crew are friendly. The light was gorgeous, and I can see exactly how Cueva Bonita (the Beautiful Cave) got it's name. At sunset, the light comes in reflecting off the water in the most gorgeous colours.

And I spent the entire three and a half hours vomiting. The fellers were very sweet to me while this was going on, but it was a huge relief to get back to port.

In spite of having parted company with tea and lunch, I didn't want dinner, just a glass of milk.

I was exhausted, and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Then I woke up at 2 am from a dream about vomiting. After that, every time I shut my eyes I could feel the bed pitching like the boat. So I had to get up and make myself some tea. I got back to bed at 4 am and managed to sleep.

Boy was I tired in the morning. And still nauseous. I couldn't face breakfast until eleven.

And ever since, people have been queuing up to tell me how wonderful modern sea-sickness pills are. I confess, I didn't even think of that, because they were no use to me when I was a kid.

So I might jsut try again another day.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Galileo

Up again, to do the Galileo for the first time. Nobody fainted, thank goodness. But I need to work on the timing a bit.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fainting Tourists

Wow, what a week!

I can now spout explanations of four new telescopes (although I need to work on the bit about Cherenkov radiation in Spanish) and the general talk about the observatory. It took a lot of practice, and I'm sure I must have looked quite mad, lecturing the bathroom mirror on the short history of Gamma Ray telescopes. But however ridiculous I looked, it worked. By Tuesday, I found myself regurgitating it quite confidently in front of the tourists.

I was deep in the explanation of how they observe gamma rays, given that gamma rays never make it as far as the earth's surface, when I heard a collective gasp and everyone looked away from me.

An old lady had fainted.

She was already coming around when I got there. We moved her to the recovery positioninthe shade, and I just had time to run through the checks to make sure it was a faint, not a stroke, when Romer, the assistant, arrived with the ambulance.

By then it was obvious we didn't need it. She was on her feet again, with her husband hugging her fit to bust her ribs and choking back tears. The poor man obviously thought for a second that she'd died.

She insisted that she was fine, and sorry for being such a bother. So Karl, the boss of the MAGIC, produced a chair and some water and we carried on. Then when we'd finished with the MAGIC, we persuaded her to rest in the nice, cool residencia for the second half of the visit.

We made a good team, I think.

We got up to the Liverpool and Mercator telescopes, and found engineering work going on inside the Liverpool,and the man who'd offered to take half the group very busy with higher priority things. But I wasn't going to let a little thing like that put me off after coping with the faint. I ploughed on, and remembered it all (although not quite in the best order.)

One of the visitors comments afterwards, that they enjoyed it, but it would have been even better with some photos of galaxies or seeing the telescope move.

So now we have pretty pictures organised for the next visit to the Mercator.

Most of Wednesday passed in a blur of housework. I went to see the astronomer for the Galileo telescope who does public relations, to educate myself some more. Then I took my son to the dentist. And finally, by way of relaxation, I drove right to the other side of the island to see the Fiesta del Carmen, where they take the statue of the Virgin Mary on a boat to bless the fishermen. I've been here 17 years, and it was the first time I've actually got there to see it. I was hoping it would all happen with the golden evening light, but it was dark by the time the boats left the harbour. It was still beautiful.

It was beautiful.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ruido Magazine, Issue 6

Well it's out there.

Helen did a great job of the layout, and the party in Rocke's bar was fun. Mind you, I was taking photos and video for the web page, so I couldn't just relax. But it's all up at the Ruido website.

And one of the raffled T shirts went unclaimed after they'd drawn three numbers, so Merche threw it into the crowd. I was very pleased with myself for catching it in mid air.

So that's the Ruido web site up to date - until I have to start work on getting the previous issue up. And I've blogged. So that just leaves learning about new telescopes, the translation, entertaining my son in the school holidays, the housework, the novel, saving the whales, reversing global warming, and bringing peace to the Middle East.

You, I'm really puzzled by people who say they've got nothing to do all day.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More Tour Guiding

Last summer and this spring, I got several mornings work as a tour guide, showing people around either the William Herschel Telescope, or the Isaac Newton Telescope.

Today was my first go at the new-style open days at the observatory (see my blog about the island) where I have to give a general talk about the observatory first, then take them to the MAGIC telescope (and maybe give the explanations if the MAGIC site manager isn't available) and finally take them to one other telescope, which could be the Galileo, the Liverpool or the Mercator. Today was the Galileo, and one of the Italian astronomers was going to give the talk there. That left me learning the general talk, and creating one about the MAGIC.

Last night I dreamed that I arrived at the residencia (the private hotel for the observatory) in good time, had a quick coffee, and suddenly I was half an hour late, and I couldn't find my car to go and meet the visitors. So I ran uphill the whole way, only to find that they were all Japanese, and expecting me to explain telescopes to them in Japanese.

Spot the anxiety dream.

And this morning went fine.

I was on time (as always). Juan Carlos, the observatory site manager, offered to give the general talk, since it's the first time, and I gratefully accepted. As it turned out, most visitors were Spanish, but six were German, so he gave the talk in Spanish, and I did it in English for the Germans. Then Karl, the MAGIC site manager, was available, so he gave a talk in German, while Juan Carlos did it in Spanish, and I listened and learned.

In fact the hardest bit was the Galileo, translating the talk into English when I could only half hear it for the background noise. Fortunately I knew more than half of it anyway, so I managed.

And then I went off to the Mercator and Liverpool telescopes to educate myself. I came home feeling that my brain had been down the gym, but it was fun.

And now you'll have to excuse me. I have to do my homework. I'll never remember all that new stuff unless I write it down in my own words.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Happy Birthday Ringo Starr

And what does he want for his birthday? "Just more Peace & Love. It would be really cool if everyone, everywhere, wherever they are, at noon on July 7 make the peace sign and say 'Peace & Love'."

That sounds like a much better present than a pair of socks and a dodgy tie.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Star Party

My friends in Franceses have amateur telescopes, and my friend in Puntagorda usually has cloudless summer nights with no street lights nearby. So we finally put the two together.

The catch is that it meant camping, because the house in Puntagorda is tiny, but that made a change.

It's almost a year since I've been camping, partly because the previous exhibition wasn't a success. (See Sleeping With My Best Friend's Wife) This time I vowed to be better prepared, and bought two new sleeping bags.

We got there for lunch, and then I left my son with our friends (who were setting up telescopes), while I went off to take photos of a local artist for Ruido. That was fascinating.

We came back and cooked a barbecue meal, watched the clouds roll in, and discussed our chances of actually seeing stars.

It stayed cloudy, and my son went to bed. We stayed up, chatting and drinking wine.

Then glory be, the clouds disappeared and the stars blazed. I woke my son.

The big 10" telescope (the one in the photo. If you look closely, you can just see my son's eye in the innermost circle.) had a technical problem, but the 90mm was fine. We just had time to get a really nice view of Jupiter, complete with cloud bands and the four Galilean moons, when the cloud rolled back.

So we went to bed. And this time I didn't freeze.

Friday, July 04, 2008

More on the racism

I got an email from the people I mentioned in my last blog. When they said "foreigners" they meant people from the Peninsular, not the English, Germans, Venezuelans etc. I can stay.

Then there's a lot of stuff about why they feel they're a separate country, and a colony. Spain (in other words some Spaniards) treated the Canaries badly in the past and therefore it's perfectly logical to hate all Spaniards today.

I wrote back and said:

SOME mainlanders have been very racist against Canary Islanders. You hate them ALL.

SOME British behaved very badly towards the Irish. I didn't. My ancestors didn't either, because they were too poor to oppress anybody. The IRA would have liked to kill me anyway, just for being British.

You probably know that in July 2005, Islamist extremists exploded four bombs in central London. They killed 52 people and injured 700, because they blamed ALL the British for the war in Iraq, even though half of us were against it (and presumably half the dead people too.)

There were about 20 people involved in the attack, which leaves approximately 1,000,000 British Muslims who had nothing to do with it. But some British blame all Muslims anyway. (This is what bin Laden wants, to make everybody hate each other.)

For some reason human beings love to blame whole groups for the actions of a few. It's common, but it's not fair, or helpful, or pretty.

Most mainlanders have done nothing to you, but you hate them because of their race.

That is racism.

Fortunately I still haven't personally met any of these racists, although I know a lot of Canarian nationalists. You can be pro-Canarian without being a racist. After one ETA murder, I remember protesters chanting, "Basque Country, yes. ETA no."

And now for something completely different. The planet Mercury has shrunk, and is now a mile smaller. Maybe I should ask it for dieting tips.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Well I've been invited to leave the island for supporting a non-approved football team. Somebody calling him/herself "The voice of the Awara" emailed their list and said "We invite all foreigners who shout 'Spain!' to pack their cases and leave for the Peninsular."

Nobody I've asked knows who this person is, much less remembers electing them as the island's spokesperson. Most of them support the national team too.

I've had emails from this self-appointed "leader" before. What the history books call the conquest of the island, he calls an invasion and armed robbery. I find this refreshing, since I agree (although most people seem to have regarded it as normal at the time.)

S/he wants independence from Spain. I can see all sorts of problems with that - very small countries tend to get pushed around - but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

S/he refers to La Palma as a colony of Spain. Nope. It certainly used to be a colony. A colony, by definition, is ruled from outside, and has no say in the matter. We get to vote in national elections, same as everywhere else in Spain. Not everybody likes the result, of course, but they're real elections, not like Zimbabwe.

But the bit that really annoys me is the attitude to people from mainland Spain. Now I don't know about you, but I judge people by their actions, especially towards the powerless. I look at the way they treat slow old ladies and stray cats.

Not this person. The entire population of mainland Spain is guilty of invading La Palma. The invasion was a crime, and therefore the Spanish football team are criminals.

Of course it's obvious that the Spanish football team didn't invade personally. (Did they have a time machine or what?) No, they're judged guilty because they're the same race as the guilty person.

In other words, this self-appointed "voice of the Awara" is a racist.

And I'll support whatever football team I damn well like.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Germany 0 - Spain 1

I went to see the European Championship Final with my friends in Franceses, who have a big projection TV and satellite feed.

So you have to picture three large English ladies and one skinny boy rising off the sofa, punching the air and screaming "YES!" when Fernando Torres scored. And whent he final whistle went, we were all pogo-ing up and down, singing, "Olé, olé-olé-olé!"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Still busy

I feel I'm crawling out from under an avalanche of paperwork.

I've sent off my son's passport application and collected his last Primary school report - and picked up a the official application for him to start High School. Now for the last seventeen years I've had plenty of practice speaking (mostly informal) Spanish, but very little practice writing it. And these forms are formal. My son even has to fill in a legal declaration that he hasn't got a High School place elsewhere. I've got most of the associated bits together, like photos, and proof of bank transfers for insurance and the parents' association, and the form for free textbooks. We've got a doctor's appointment to fill in the form to say he's healthy enough to go to school. I could see the sense in that in the days when TB was rife, but it seems a bit OTT these days. But we have to get one, so we'll go waste the doctor's time on Monday.

We handed in our tax return. I also went along and translated for a friend signing off self-employed teaching work over the summer. And we went to hand the next issue of Ruido at the printers. Only the printer's off sick, so I have to go back on Monday. And I did a pile of updates to the Ruido website.

I've given last year's teacher a copy of all the photos and videos my son took on the school trip.

And in the middle of all that, I had a guiding job. Not take-two-groups-round-a-telescope, but stay-with-the-group-from-11am-to-4pm. The Science Museum in Las Palmas held a competition, and the prize was this trip to the Roque. So I had to stay with the group all day but only do the actual guiding around the Herschel and maybe the MAGIC.

First we went around the MAGIC telescope, then the Herschel. Half way around the Herschel, we were joined by the Vice-Consul for tourism in the Canaries, and her driver. Then we went up to the Roque itself to admire the view (photos on the blog about La Palma).

We had a rather nice lunch. Coffee was rather spoiled by a skinny American woman who kept muttering "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" like she owned the place, and generally acting like we were illegal immigrants because we were talking Spanish. In Spain. I ignored her, rather than make a scene, but I now wish I'd asked her when she bought the observatory, because I hadn't even heard it was up for sale. And then she started telling her companions that she really hoped Spain would lose the football. (They won. Yippee!) Altogether it was the worst display of bad manners that I've seen for about a year.

Then we forgot the silly woman and went up to the Swedish Solar Tower. To my alarm, the guide there didn't speak Spanish, so I had to translate, but it went OK. And we finished up with GranTeCan, which was spectacular as always.

All great fun, and presumably lucratuive, but very tiring.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I've been a Good Girl

Well I feel I've been rather productive today.

  • Two loads of laundry

  • Handwashing

  • Scrubbed the kitchen

  • An hour's ironing

  • Sorted through my son's T shirts and removed the ones that are too small

  • One page of translation

  • A ton of email

  • Found a couple of new markets

  • Finished my son's passport application

  • Got a present ready for my son's teacher

  • Nagged my son into a thank you note for his teacher. (He's grateful all right, but writing letters or even notes looms large when you're 11.

  • And this blog post

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Lover's Leap

I got up at 6 am to photograph the dawn behind this statue of a goatherd, and then the sun came up behind a thick bank of clouds. So this was the best photo I got.

There's a local legend associated with it, which you can read on my blog about La Palma if you're interested.

My story "Agent Hammer: Licensed to Kibble" went down really well at the critters critique group. In fact I got an amazing 28 critiques, all mildly or very positive, and I've just finished writing 28 thank you emails.

And the translation is still chugging along.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Well, we haven't got a primary school kid in the house any more. Our son has graduated.

At the end of the school year here, each school has a concert, with the acts mostly being playbacks, performed by the kids. I knew my son had been practising playing the air guitar for his number. But I was a bit taken aback when he came home and announced, "I need to make a pretend guitar for this afternoon."


Fortunately we had a large cardboard box I could sacrifice. With more card on top, it came out rather well. And biased though I am, I thought the concert went well too.

And then they had the graduation ceremony for the kids leaving. Boy was I proud.

So in September, out son's off to High School. And it seems like only yesterday that he started infant school, aged three.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

At Last!

We moved into this house almost five and a half years ago. And I've finally got all the banisters varnished.

To be fair to myself, I got the ones at ground level done years ago, but since then there's always been something more urgent to do first. And of course banisters are almost entirely awkward little corners, so it wasn't a small job. In fact I started ten days ago, and I've spent most of my mornings on it ever since.

Which makes me all the more pleased to have it finished.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A weapon of Mass Irrigation

Today was the annual water fight at my son's school. In previous years he forgot to tell me in advance, and I'd get a sad phone call at 11 am. "Mum! PLEASE bring my water gun and swimming trunks!" This year he remembered about it the day before. Which was a very good thing, because his big water pistol was broken.

He's had this water pistol for years, and it's beginning to look that way. But it fires a long way. Even more importantly, it includes a back pack which holds about two litres of water. We call it the weapon of mass irrigation.

And over the summer, the tube connecting the ammunition to the barrel finally split. So we went to the local iron-mongers - who were out of narrow plastic tubing. But the second iron-mongers we tried had it. So this morning, off he went armed to the teeth, and had a great time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Fat Point

On Saturday we went to see my friend in Puntagorda, which means "Fat Bridge". My husband did a bit of maintenance on her car, and we chatted, and then while they were out checking the car actually worked, I took this photo of some bricks piled up in the garden,and one of old roof tiles, ditto. They came back and we had a nice lunch on the patio and chatted. And we went to the farmers' market at the other end of the village (details on the blog about La Palma) . I bought quite a lot of veg because it looked so fresh. Then we came home and watched the football for a bit - Spain vs Sweden in the Euro Cup. (Spain won, 2-1).

There wasn't a lot of the day left by the time we got home, but we felt we'd had a good day out for once.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Unlucky for Some

It's Friday 13th.

Did you know that in Spain, nobody worries about Friday 13th, just Tuesday 13th?

Anyway, my son is very lucky today. It's St. Anthony's Day, and so the village of San Antonio has it's local fiesta. And that's where my son's school is, so they wanted to shut for the day.

Initially, they were told that no, they couldn't, because they'd already used up their elective days. Then at noon yesterday, the word went around that, yes they could.

So he's had one school day this week.

I wish I had a day off housework!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yesterday my son had a great time playing with his new PS game until lunchtime. Then, all by himself, he announced, "I ought to study for an exam."

So we started looking for his school bag. And we looked, and we searched, and we searched and searched, and searched.

And after about nine hours, we admitted to ourselves that we couldn't find it anywhere.

We were all worried sick. Not so much for the cost of the books, as for the looming exams. The best we could think of was to go to the school and grovel, in the hope that they'd loan him some of the books at least.

So this morning, off we went.

And the bag was there, on the back of our son's chair!

To be fair to our son, the day he left it at school, they had a party for Canary Day ofter recess, and his mind was pretty full of the upcoming trip.

But we could have lived without that, we really could.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

He's Back!

Our son is home, safe and sound. And the only thing he lost in 12 days and 4 moves was one cap. More specifically, he didn't lose the camera or his ID card.

In the meantime, we got two coats of varnish on the banisters. They were slower going than I expected, because they're all finicky little corners, but they're looking good.

I did a couple opf critiques for the big writing group, and I got a little bit further on with the novel. And I had a morning's guiding work, showing kids around the INT - kids my son's age, on their own end-of-primary-school trip. And of course I gave my son's bedroom a good clean.

And finally it was time to go and meet the ferry. We saw it in the distance and drove down to the port. Only when the ferry got in, it was the Armas ferry, from the other end of Tenerife. So we waited around with all the other parents until the 10pm ferry arrived at 11pm.

Boy was it good to see him!

Even better, because the boat was so late, he doesn't have to go to school this morning. So he can enjoy his new Playstation Game (that he spent his holiday money on) and we can enjoy him.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Achievements at last

Well after the fun and the domestic trivia, I finally got down to some of the stuff I'd planned for my son's trip.

I read through the novel so far, made notes, and found it better than expected. I just need to start fixing the remaining gaps and inconsistencies, a bit every day. It feels good to be back at it again.

I sanded down the banisters, and I hope to get the first coat of varnish on tomorrow.

I even caught up a bit on overdue critiques for friends.

My goodness I'd missed the buzz of actually achieving things.

I even had time for a little fun too. I went with my husband to hear a Cuban-music group called Chango play at a bar one lunchtime. They were great.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Domestic Boredom

Well half my son's trip is over, and I've done almost nothing of what I planned. Of course I've spent a lot of time having fun, which I don't regret.

I got two submissions off. Gotta keep 'em out there, or they won't sell.

I've also spent a lot of time in the last two days cooking. You see I left the freezer open just a crack, and most of the food half-defrosted. Not enough to be a complete disaster, but enough that I feel I have to cook it all within a few days. Plus defrost the freezer, of course, because an inch of frost on the cooling pipes makes it horribly inefficient. Ah well, it'll save cooking later.

I've also done a ton of updates for the Ruido website.

And I've vacuumed the car.

I hope that wasn't as boring to read as it was to do.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Heading North

Well my trip only half worked. On the way to Puntagorda I stopped off at the Sanctuary of Anguish to take some photos. they have little wax votive offerings on either side of the altar - read more at

I stopped again at El Time for more photos. They'll be appearing on the La Palma blog soon.

I saw my friend, which was great, and got some photos of a butterfly. That'll be on the other blog, as soon as I can't think what else to put! But at that point I noticed that my camera battery was running low. And no, I hadn't brought either the spare or the charger. I was none too pleased with myself, but it was too far to go home and fetch the spare.

And then we went down to a little cove on the coast, where I had a swim. I didn't take the camera, partly to save the battery, and partly to save weight, because it was a long walk back up to the car. It was a lovely spot, and I have to go back with my camera another day.

Eventually I got to Franceses, for yet more socialising, along with yummy lemon chicken. But I kept thinking of all the work waiting for me at home, so I didn't sleep well.

Come the morning, the camera battery held out, but there was thick cloud on the horizon, and the sunrise was a total washout. Come tot hink of it, that was probably less frustrating than a wonderful sunrise and no battery. At least I know where to go back to another day. So I settled for breakfast and a good chat.

And then it was home again, via the statue of the Lover's Leap at San Bartolome. Yet another thing for the La Palma blog another day, but yet another place to go back to when the light's better. Fortunately it's only about half an hour's drive away.

And now it's my wedding anniversary, and time to go out for dinner.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Social Whirl continues

I'm not used to all this fun. On Sunday we went out to lunch with Carlos's friend Oswaldo, and we got back at 11pm. Since I wasn't driving, I made the most of my lack of responsibilities.

I didn't feel too good on Monday morning. I did manage a bit of housework, and then it was time to see yet another friend, Steiner, for coffee, to talk about a project he had in mind. Yes, I'd be interested in doing the photography.

Then I'd promised to help N get the last few things out of her house, so we did. But her car was acting up again. In the end it took a while to fix, so she stayed the night. It was fun having her around to talk to, when I'd expected to see a lot less of her.

She's gone home now. I have to deliver a birthday present, and then I'll be heading off to the north of the island. I plan to have lunch with a friend in Puntagorda, and then stay the night with Helen and Theresa in the hopes of catching the beautiful early-morning light in Garafia.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Baptising the Bodega

My brother-in-law's new bodega is finally ready. Since it was another brother-in-law's birthday, and the day after Canary Day, it was a great time to baptise the place. We stuffed ourselves with salted fish and sweet potatoes. I learned how to make kneaded gofio, which I still think is pretty uninspiring food. Then there were two cakes and some biscuits. And of course plenty of beer and wine.

And then we started singing. They're a musical family, and I enjoy these occasions much more, now that I know the words to some of the songs, and we sang a couple in English too.

All in all it was much more fun than doing hte laundry.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Good Healthy Exercise

My friend N moved house today. This isn't relaxingat the best of times, but this was harder work than usual, because she had a house ten minutes walk along a rough path from the nearest parking space.

It's times like that when it's good to have friends, and there were five of us, including Helen and Theresa who brought their van. Thank goodness that included two blokes, because I really don't think we'd have managed those speakers even between three girls. So us girls let the fellers do the macho stuff and just moved boxes. N spent the last month or so having a major clearout, and the last week moving a bag to her car each time she went. That's probably why we got the whole lot done in just over two hours, and all the stuff fit into N's car and Helen and Theresa's van.

Some people pay a fortune in gym membership for that kind of workout.

And then we went for a pizza, before the other girls set off for Garafia.

Stretching his wings

Well my son's gone off on a school trip for twelve days around four of the Canary Islands. It's a bit nerve-wracking letting him loose, but it's time for him to stretch his wings a bit. And you know, it's rather niceto tidy up the living room and expect it to stay tidy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Great Underpants Emergency

Early tomorrow morning my son goes on his end-of-primary-school trip. He's going to Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuertaventura, La Graciosa, and Tenerife - all in 12 days. He should have a great time. (He'd better! It's good value for money, but it's still not cheap.)

The trouble is, he doesn't have all that many clothes because he grows out of things in three months. And this trip means he'll be away from the washing machine for almost two weeks.

Cue for a clothes buying spree. We've been buying trousers and T shirts for weeks, a couple at a time. Then I realized I'd forgotten to count his underpants. Sure enough, we were short.

So this morning I went on an emergency underpants hunt. The shops have plenty of underpants in other sizes, both larger and smaller, but his size, and the size below, were pretty much sold out.

Then the penny dropped. Something like 70% of Palmeran kids his age are going on similar trips. And every other mother had the foresight to get the underpants good and early. I was left hunting for the dregs.

Eventually I found some that looked about right, but the label said they were too big. So I crossed my fingers and bought them.

Hallelujah, they fit. We don't have to go shopping again!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Canary Day

Friday is Canary Day. It's a big thing here, and the celebrations have started already.

Early this evening, I went into town with my son to sort out some paperwork and a birthday present, and we found they had bouncy castles in the port car park. So of course we stayed for a while.

We were both wondering what the nozzle was for. And then they started squirting foam out of it. My son was so delighted that he dived in with all his clothes on. I'd have been seriously tempted to join in except that I had my expensive camera with me. So I had to stay upwind of the fun.

I drove my son home in his underpants, sat on a plastic shopping bag. In this climate it was no great problem.

Tomorrow most schools will have a party for the second half of the morning. My son's school includes lunch, so he'll be coming home late. And the real celebration is Friday.

Scratch Photo Studio

It's getting busy around here. On Friday, my son leaves on a 12-day trip round four of the Canary Islands to mark the end of primary school. Since he's just grown out of all his clothes again, this meant a frantic shopping spree. And since he doesn't have all that many clothes that fit him, the ones he'¡s got all have to be washed and ironed.

Last night we took a break from shopping and went to see his godmother, quick before he disappears for a while. Somehow this wound up as a photo session for her and her very photogenic daughter.

And now I must go and get the washing machine on again.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Perfectly legal parking

My husband managed to fix N's car on Saturday. We invited her to come for lunch and collect it. Since she's found herself a new home to move into next weekend, it seemed like a good idea to move a bit of something from her house at the same time (she lives a ten-minute walk from the nearest car-parking space.) So we set off with a couple of bags of books for a mutual friend. Of course the bags got heavier as the walk went on, and we were glad to get to my car. By then we really didn't fancy walking any further, so we braved the one way system round the roadworks in Santa Cruz to get to our friend's house.

Hallelujah, there was a parking space nearby, on the wide pavement outside the old theatre.

So we took the books in and had a cup of tea and a chat, and as we left a woman going past said to the street in general (facing away from us), "They ought to give you a dirty great fine for parking there!"

This surprised me. I said, "There's no yellow line and we had a lot of weight to carry."

She didn't turn around. She just said something I couldn't catch and marched off.

I looked again in case I'd missed something. No yellow line, no parking restriction signs. It was a perfectly legal parking space.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Corpus Christi

Yesterday was the main day for Corpus Christi in Mazo. I was busy yesterday, so this morning I went there as soon as I'd dropped my son off at school. I'd hardly started driving when I saw the nearly-full moon about to set behind the ridge. By the time I'd managed to park, change camera lenses, and get out of the car, it had set quite a bit. I'm still pleased with the photo, though.

And so to Mazo. As always,it was lovely. I took lots of photos.

So where are they? On the other blog. And presumably they'll be up on the main site too, as soon as I get around to it.

But first I have to get another submission sent off. I average one sale for every ten submissions, so I try to send lots out.