Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Well, I've guided two tours at the Roque, started the paperwork to re-register my son at the same school (yes, I'm still his mother, yes, I've still got the same ID number), picked up a small travel writing job (yay!), repotted a bunch of plants, submitted three stories, handed in my tax return and written several thousand words of fiction.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

My Easy Good Deed

I went into the chemist this morning, to buy a first aid kit to keep in the car (best way not to need one.)

I queued behind an old lady with a crutch who was clearly feeling down. She was just telling the assistant that it was taking her forever to get over her fall.

Several years ago, I broke my ankle. I remember feeling it was taking forever to get better, and I really sympathised. I remember down days.

The assistant said, "Well, go for a stroll in the sunshine, now that you can. I'm sure you'll feel better."

"Where to?" asked the old lady. "I don't really see the point."

I said, "What you need is a handsome young man to chase after. That would make it a lot more fun."

I was hoping to make her smile a bit, but no. She absolutely creased up and cackled with laughter. "Me? A handsome young man? Yes that would be fun!"

And she was still giggling as she left the chemist's with a new spring in her hobble.

I seem to have done an awful lot of good for ten seconds effort.

Monday, June 21, 2010

On Sunday I continued my walk around the island, from Montes de Luna to Los Canarios. Unlike previous sections, this part of the path doesn't run through villages, criss-crossing the main road. It goes through the lonely middle of nowhere, and I wasn't sure whether there'd be mobile coverage. Walking alone seemed like a bad idea. Not that there was any particular reason to expect an accident, just that twenty years of working with computers has given me a lively respect for Murphy's Law.

Helen and Theresa got up indecently early and arrived at my house before 9 am, so that we could start before the day got too hot. I fed them bacon sandwiches and coffee, and we got to Montes de Luna by 10 am.

Previous sections of the path have been anything between main road and goat track. This was the roughest bit yet: very steep goat track, heading up behind the first house of the village, and up, and up, and up, until we'd climbed 200 m in about half a kilometre. It made a great cardiovascular workout for three large ladies. It wasn't sunburn that made out faces red.

We found fresh dung on the path in several places, and had a ribald conversation. It definitely wasn't sheep, goat, dog, cat or human dung. It looked rather like horse manure, but none of us could imagine a horse getting up that track.

Black skeletons of bushes dotted the mountainside. Last summer's fire had obviously swept through. A little higher up, we found scorched pine trees, recovering nicely. Canarian pines have evolved to survive burning for anything up to six hours.

At the top of the big climb we saw the burnt-out remains of somebody's summer house. Poor things! It was completely wrecked. But they were rebuilding; someone had stacked a pile of breeze blocks and roofing slates beside the ruined back wall.

And that explained the dung. The most practical way to get building materials up that steep, steep path would be a donkey or mule.

After that the path was relatively level, and soon became a track, which was much easier going.

After some kilometres we came across a tiny statue of the Virgin Mary in a niche in a pine tree. And just past that, the track had been washed away. Presumably that happened when the winter rains arrived last year. Since the vegetation had been burned, that end of the island suffered a lot of small landslides. There was no way you could have got a car past, but we managed it on foot easy enough.

The track carried on. It was all very pretty, but we started to get tired, and we were all glad when we reached the crossroads (crosspaths?) with the trail down into the village of Los Canarios. When we got there, we found a restaurant, and my husband and son joined us for lunch. We had the fresh fish, and it was awesome.

If you're looking for food in Fuencaliente, we all recommend, Restaurante La Era.

30 km down, 129 to go.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Green Eggs (hold the ham)

My son had a school project on cabbages. So I bought all the different varieties I could find to be photographed, and we asked everyone in sight for recipes, and an elderly neighbour let him photograph his gardening tools.

So far so good. But it's nice to have something nobody else has got in their project, isn't it?

Well, I was looking through "How to Fossilise Your Hamster" for teaching ideas, and I found an experiment involving red cabbage.

First, boil chopped red cabbage for at least 10 minutes and save the water (you can also eat the cabbage). The water will be purple, of course.

Then fry an egg. When the white just starts to lose its transparency, drip some purple cabbage-water over it. The egg white turns green.


Well, the chemical that gives red cabbage its colour is very sensitive to acidity. Tap water is pretty much neutral, so the water from boiling the cabbage is purple. Egg whites are alkaline, so it turns green - but you can still eat the egg, and it tastes quite normal.

You saved the rest of the cabbage water didn't you? Right, share it out between four glasses.

  • Add nothing to the first one.

  • Add baking powder to the second. This is slightly alkaline, so it should turn lavender.

  • Add lemon juice or white vinegar to the third, and it will turn red.

  • Add laundry detergent to the fourth, and it will go lurid green, and then evil yellow. Don't even think about drinking this one.

Who'd a think it?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The biggest and Bestest

Sometimes my life contains far too much laundry and cooking and mopping floors. And sometimes I get to be really jammy.

Today I was jammy. I spent the morning being trained to guide visitors around the biggest and best telescope in the world, Grantecan.

I used to work at the William Herschel Telescope, when that was the biggest in Europe, so I'm used to big telescopes, but Grantecan is something else. If you took the telescope out of the dome, there'd be room for a full-sized tennis court on the observing floor. And when that huge telescope moves, it's completely silent (whereas the 25-year-old Herschel rumbles like a purring dragon.)

When Spain first announced that they were going to build it, they had trouble finding collaborators, partly because people didn't think Spain had the technology to make a go of it. Somebody, somewhere is saying, “Nyar nyar na nyar nyar.”