Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sheila, Patron Saint of Cabbages

Last year I decided to take "localvore" to its logical conclusion, and grow a bit of food on the balcony. I had mixed success (see "Peas"). Well, last night I harvested the solitary cabbage, and we had about a third of it with pork for dinner. It was delicious. I suppose it figures - organic cabbage harvested twenty minutes before we ate it.

And then I looked at the half-circle of cabbage leaves from where I cut the cabbage, and the light bulb on top of my head lit up.

You knew I was mad anyway, didn't you?

Another Sale!

Escape Velocity have bought "The Dodo Dragon" for Issue three. This story's been published before, (once in Greek!) but it still makes me feel good all over.

And the novel's up to 80,771 words, which also makes me feel good. But I don't think I'm going to finish the first draft by the end of the month after all. Which is a puity, because I'm starting a writing course in March, and I'm going to be seriously pushed for time.

Ah well, I'll just let the house get dirty. It's always worked before.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Funeral at Last!

Last night I went to the delayed Sardine's Funeral in Los Sauces. I finally discovered why people say it's better than the sardine's funeral in Santa Cruz.

They say it because it's true.

The crowd was far bigger than in Santa Cruz, and over half of them wore fancy dress - mostly Halloween theme costumes. This is my hairdresser. I didn't recognise him nutil he spoke.

First they had a butaca - serious percussion. I took a lot of video, but there wasn't much light and most people were wearing black, so it's not brilliant. I need to learn to edit video.

At the end of the butaca it poured with rain for about ten minutes. Imagine a couple of thousand people all looking for shelter and saying, "Oh no!" all at once. Thankfully it stopped pretty quickly.

Then I wondered about for a bit and had a beer (alcohol free - I was driving).

Then the sardine appeared.

Now in Santa Cruz its a funeral procession, and the mourners are wailing with fake grief, but they're walking in a dignified way.

In Los Sauces, the sardine is being tossed around as though it's on a rough sea. The pall bearers really work up a sweat. I found out the hard way that it gets a fair bit of momentum - the guys at one side can't necesarily stop just because they're going to crash into a phtograher. I was glad I only took the compact camera. And the mourners jog and pogo and scream like banshees. It's like Santa Cruz used to be, only better. Monty Python eat your heart out. What's more, there were a couple of smaller sardines brought by groups of kids. The sardine goes around the square twice, and then through the back streets towards the huge new bridge, back along the main street, round the square twice again, and finally onto the bier in the square. The kids' sardines went under the bier.

Of course it ends with the sardine being cremated. And in Los Sauces, the crowd doesn't just watch and cheer. They pogo and boogie and scream again. And there are lots more fireworks.

By then it was one in the morning, so I didn't stop for the public dance. I just ate a sandwich and went home.

Next year I'm going back, and I'm definitely dressing up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008



After seventeen years on the island, I finally got to the summit of the volcano Teneguia.

It's only 400 m above sea-level, and I didn't walk all that far. But I'm horribly unfit and it's a rough path. And besides, I have a horrible tendency to leave everything to some mythical day in the future when I won't be so busy.

So I'm proud of myself for getting up there. And boy was it windy!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Carnivorous Shopping Trolley

It's been pouring with rain for days. Eventually I had to go out and get shopping regardless.

I went to the supermarket at San Antonio, and I had to park on the steep slope beside the building. It wasn't raining when I went in, but as I came out, it was pouring with big gusts of wind . I didn't want to sit in the car and wait, because I thought the firewood would get soaked, and so would the six-pack of milk. Not that the milk itself would mind, but it was likely to turn into six separate packets at the most inconvenient moment. So I struggled down the steep hill with the umbrella trying to turn itself inside out and the trolley trying to gallop away down the hill.

I got the trolly propped on the front bumper of the car - the uphill side - and started dumping the shopping into the car. One bag at a time, because the other hand was clinging onto the umbrella, to stop it flying off to the Bahamas. By the time I got all the shopping in, I was soaked from the thighs down.

And then either I knocked the empty trolley or the wind did. At any rate, somehow it came charging down the slope and whacked into my middle, carried on, and crashed over the kerb and into the bushes below. There's no serious damage, but I'm bruised.

I left the goddam trolley where it was. For one thing, I wasn't sure I could get it back up the slope, and I'd certainly get soaked trying. For another, I was in a foul mood.

Carlos laughed, but he applied alcohol and sympathy. He knows me pretty well!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Today we have an orange weather alert, and it's poured pretty much non-stop. So a number of things I'd planned have been postponed.

But I did meet Helen, Theresa and Norma in town for a coffee, and then Helen helped me
collect my cat Inky from the vet - she went in yesterday to have her teeth cleaned (I wish she'd learn to use a toothbrush like the rest of the family!). You see there's nowhere to park nearby, so Helen waited with the cat basket until I drove past, which made it much easier.

Then they all came back for lunch. Between us, we filled the available clothes drying space inthe house, and Norma had to borrow dry clothes. She's very slim, so they drowned her (appropriately enough, given the weather.)

With a bit of help from Helen, I finished designing the bookmarks Norma ordered. Then with a lot of help from Theresa, I moved the blog about La Palma over to my own site, complete with all the old posts. She even showed me how to add a weather forecast. So I feel that I've made real progress, in spite of the rotten weather.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


For those of you who've spent the last three months off the planet, the Hollywood writers have been on strike. They wanted to be paid for internet distributions. After all, the studio get paid and the actors get paid, and i thinkthe camera men get paid too.

They won most of what they demanded.


It really annoys me the number of places that don't pay writers. I once had the website of a major national newspaper ask to use my travel piece for free. The editors got paid and the software engineers who kept the site going got paid and the cleaners and canteen staff got paid. They were quite happy to pay rent for the building, and nbills for electricity and water.

But the writers?

Nah, they didn't pay them.

I'll write for free when nobody else is getting paid. I do that for Ruido and I don't mind a bit. What really gets my goat is the notion that writers are the only people you don't pay.

So I'm delighted that the Hollywood writers won this round.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The blog about La Palma

I've been working hard on the new blog about La Palma. I've written fifteen posts, and friends say they're good. It's already getting more traffic than the other two sites combined, but I'm trying to publicize it. The catch is that I've never done anything of the sort before. Suggestions welcome!

I've set up RSS feed and Blogrush, so similar blogs get a link on my site, and my site gets a link from theirs. I've submitted it to Digg and Reddit, but so far I can't find out how to put up those little buttons for people to give my content the thumbs up.

Ah well. "A baby step a day" has worked so far, so I'll leave that until tomorrow. But if anyone wants to give me a thumbs up, I'd be grateful.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Not Boring

Today Norma came for lunch. And while my husband gave her car the once-over, the two of us gave me a Sci-Fi makeover. You see the photo on my main web page is perfectly adequate, it's really rather bland. So we spent a happy afternoon trying to make me as un-bland as possible.

We succeeded so well that I'm not going to post a photo of the results. I want to have a long, calm think about whether it should go on the internet.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


On Tuesday I felt tired and out of sorts, so I got very little done apart from a bit of housework and a bit of novel. I didn't even make pancakes, Shrove Tuesday or not.

Yesterday I felt rather better, and made some modest progress. I threw away some clutter. The ironing pile shrunk. The new blog got up to ten posts, RSS feed and links to friends and Blogrush. I made pancakes, which my son loves.

The novel's been plodding on too. It's up to 75,500 words, and I haven't done today's stint yet.

Not a very intersting post. I'd better try to have a more interesting life, hadn't I?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Los Indianos

Today was Los Indianos, which is usually my favourite night of Carnival. It's the night when people dress up in white, maybe have a suitcase full of Monopoly money, and for some reason throw vast quantities of talc at each other. By vast, I mean tons. Literally tons.

My son spent last night with my friends on Franceses. The plan was for them to bring him home this afternoon, then we'd all go out and get covered with talc, and then they'd stay the night.

How do you make God laugh? You tell him your plans.

Since I went out with my husband last night and had a good time, I was hung-over this morning so I never got my costume ready. Then Helen got a stinking cold, so they brought my son home, and then went back to Franceses. And then it started raining.

So we stayed home and I got the novel up to 75,000 words instead.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Small Rock in the Atlantic

For some time now, I've felt that this blog is a right dog's breakfast. So I've created a new blog about the island of La Palma.

The rest of the dog's breakfast is staying here, for those who like dog's breakfasts.

Dogs, presumably.

Well maybe serendipity would be a better word.

Friday, February 01, 2008


Ever since we lived in caves, people have gazed up at the night sky and wondered where the heck it all came from. It's one of the things that makes us different from animals. Britain has produced famous astronomers since Charles II founded the Royal Greenwich Observatory in 1675. That's why the international meridian goes through Greenwich. We've built wonderful telescopes ever since Isaac Newton.

And now we're going to stop. The governement's apparently decided that we're a third world country, and we can't afford a decent astronomy budget any more. They're cutting the budget by ₤80 milllion.

Now that sounds a lot. It's certainly waaaaay more than I ever expect to earn in my lifetime. But as government budgets go, it's about what you'd expect to spend on feeding the cats that keep the mice down. Put it this way, they spent ₤80 billion - one thousand times as much - to rescue Northern Rock. The astronomy shortfall would buy you about 1/30th of a trident submarine (according to Wikipedia, four submarines cost £14.9 billion at 2005 prices).

In order to sdave this money, a huge amount of science is at risk. You can see the horrendously long list at Amoung other things, UK astronomers may not have access to any large telescopes inthe Northern hemisphere. That's half the sky closed to them!

The telescopes here on La Palma are getting old, certainly, but they have modern instruments, and they still produce a lot of good science. (See

The justification for this butchery is that astronomy doesn't produce "technology transfer". Meaning the new technologies that are invented for astronomy can't be spun off into commercial stuff.

So we can all sleep soundly in our beds, reassured by the knowledge that the country's being run by people who've never heard of digital cameras. (Yup, the Royal Greenwhich Observatory used to be a world leader in astronomical instrumentation. They were particularly good at CCD technology - the bit at the heart of a digital camera that converts the light into a digital file. John Major's govenment shut the place down. Most of the expertise was los, although some went to the Royal Observatory at Edinburgh, which is now under threat too.)

And did you know that the ceramic part of ceramic hobs was developed for telescope mirrors? The almost-finished telescope on the island, GranTeCan, has that kind of mirror.

And you know I think they've got the wrong end of the stick anyway. Most science doesn't produce new technology. On the whole, science gives rise to new science, and technology gives rise to new technology. But every now and then, one bit of science in perhaps a thousand gives birth to a whole chain of new technology. For example, silicon chips used to be a scientific curiosity. But that one scientific discovery is the basis of all modern computer technology.

Here's the important bit. It's impossible to tell in advance which bit of pure science will be the jackpot. That doesn't mean we should give up on science. It means we should keep plugging away.

If you agree that this is a really bad idea, please sign the petition at:

Some people might say the country simply can't afford big telescopes. To my mind, poverty isn't giving up 1/30th of a submarine. Poverty is when you stop reaching for the stars.

Save Astronomy