Saturday, December 31, 2011


My ebook "The Dodo Dragon and other stories" is almost ready.  I'm at the stage of buying a block of ISBNs and looking at the contracts on various web bookshops.

And I've got stage fright.

I suppose in one way, I should have seen this coming.  But I've published over 40 short stories, and I thought I was past this.  But it's like doing a one-woman show instead of being a member of the chorus line.

So I'm worrying about the financial investment, which is about ten times what I initially anticipated, and I'm getting every other problem out of proportion, and most of all, I'm worrying about the reviews.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to both my readers.

I'm passing the ballistic missiles like they're standing still.  I've been guiding at the Roque on top of the usual preparations for a Spanish family party tonight and an English one with friends tomorrow, and I finished this jumper as a present just in time.

SO however you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful time.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Yay for Tiddles!

I'm writing this in the Parador on El Hierro.  Yes, I sneaked off for a weekend visit to my friend, quick, before she moves to a much smaller house with no room for guests.

It was a squash fitting it in.  Last week I was translating for the tourist board, doing the paperwork to get paid for the translation, buying Christmas presents, tour guiding at the observatory and writing blogs.  Organising this trip got pushed back to Friday, and I flew out first thing on Saturday.  Not ideal.  Even worse, I couldn't find Tiddles, my laptop.  I turned the house upside down, of course, and found several interesting things in the process, but no laptop.

One of the things I love about visiting El Hierro is that I get so much writing done.  I think it's mostly the psychological effect of getting away from my responsibilities.  But no Tiddles would make that difficult, and of course it would mean no email.

It wasn't until I was driving home at half past eight on Friday night that I made some comment to my son about the most recent astrotourism meeting, and the little light bulb lit up.  I'd taken Tiddles to that meeting.  She'd probably still be in the same shopping bag.  And since that bag wasn't in the living room, I'd probably put it into the guest room.  Somewhere under the big heap on the guest bed, probably.

It was quite a relief to find her.  And yes, I'm being productive again.  I wrote 400 words of my ebook about the observatory during my half-hour stopover in Tenerife, more last night, 400 words before breakfast this morning, and more since.  In short, I've done far more in the last 36 hours than in the previous three weeks.  If I finish the current section, I think I'll award myself a bit of fiction writing this evening.

In between the usual chatting to my friend and enjoying the glorious scenery one last time, of course.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No Problem

So my husband came home and pointed out that we already knew that the car's spark plugs were about due for replacement.  Probably the warning light meant that we were using petrol like a Hummer - clearly not good, but I could get to work OK.  He poked around under the bonnet, tweaked the spark plugs, and disconnected the battery and reconnected it.  The warning light went off, and stayed off throughout a short test drive.

I went to the observatory as planned, and the car was fine.  It didn't even use any more petrol than usual - not so as you'd notice.

All that worry for nothing.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I was on my way to yoga when a warning light started flashing on the car's dashboard - an orange engine.  Well, I was nearly there, so I got there, parked, turned the engine off, and turned it back on again.  It didn't flash any more, but it was still lit.


There was nothing I could do about it for the moment, so I went to yoga anyway.  The light was still lit on the way home.

Now my husband's good with cars (lucky me) but he was out on a course and not expected home until about 9 pm.  So I it the internet.  The light means that something wrong with the engine, or an engine sensor, but probably not serious.

Probably.  And I'm due to go up to the observatory in the morning.  A mere 6,000ft climb with about 200 hairpin bends and no mobile phone coverage for most of the route.  Oh, and the Spanish believe that Tuesday 13th is unlucky, the way that Brits and Americans do about Friday 13th.

Watch this space.

At last - it's registered.

I've been trying since early in the year to get my English university degree (in Mech Eng) registered in Spain.  And today I got a registered letter to say that it's finally done!  So at long last I can now apply for jobs where you need a degree.

Getting it registered took about a third as long as getting the actual degree.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Warp speed 1

International cards posted.  Decorations up (my husband fixed the tree, if not the humans).  Rush proof-reading job half done.

The house is still a mess, but I might well do a bit more writing first anyway, because my priorities are somewhat eccentric.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Warp Speed 9

Maybe I should just start blogging about the days when I don't feel overloaded.

I usually send out about 25 Christmas cards, with around robin letter.  I like to get this in the post on December 1st, and I haven't finished the first draft yet. (No, it doesn't go through about 6 drafts like a short story, usually just 2.)

I've just finished a rush translation job for the tourist board.  Rushed or not, extra money in time for Christmas was irresistible.

And I like to get the decorations up on Dec 6th, which is a public holiday here.  But we just found out that our tree has a screw missing, just like the rest of the family.

Normal blogging will resume some time in 2016.

Monday, December 05, 2011


I'm knitting a jumper for a friend's son, using up oddments of blue and green in hexagons.  It's probably not to the taste of many adults, but this boy's six.  I've finished the front and I'm halfway up the back.  It'll be a bit of a rush to finish it by Christmas, but I should do it.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Wow what a week!

I worked as a tour guide on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

I spent most of Wednesday morning on paperwork for a friend's car (the car was taken off the road in 2006, and they're still demanding road tax. But I finally have proof that the car's long gone.)

On Thursday evening, Friday evening to 2 am and all day Saturday (8:30 am- 7 pm) I was in a seminar about astro-tourism on La Palma.  We have these wonderful, starry skies that not many people know about - how do we work as a group to get the word out and give the tourists a good time?

It was great.  I got to meet interesting people, many of whom are interested in buying my Guide to the Observatory when it's ready, and to find out what they'd want from a Starlight Guide.  And I got to do fun things like drink the new "star quality" wine which should be on the market in time for Christmas.

But I spent most of Sunday doing very, very little.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feeling better

I spent most of yesterday feeling really down, and feeling that I wasn't getting anywhere.  I wasn't sure whether I felt down because I STILL hadn't finished a short section of the book about the Roque after three days, or whether I wasn't finishing the section because I felt down.

Well I'd tried bashing on for three days, so today I tried something different.  I asked permission to get inside the Jacobus Kapteyn telescope to take photos - if I couldn't write, maybe I could sort out a couple of missing illustrations.

Well it took a bit of waiting about - after all THEY were doing ME the favour - but I got inside and got my photos, and I got it done before showing a group around GTC at 12.
Even better on the way down, I stopped for a walk near Pico de la Nieve, and I found this:
Now that really made me feel better.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writing again

It's been a productive weekend.  I've been working on an ebook of my SF stories.  The stories themselves have each been published at least once, but I still had to produce things like a foreword, biography and acknowledgements, which took much longer than expected since I've never done it before.  Then there was the problem of where to put information like, "This story was first published in Jackhammer ezine in 1998".  After waltzing it around the contents page, foreword and toying with the idea of a separate page, I produced a preamble for each story.

I've sent it off to a friend for comments, but I think I might have finished.

This doesn't mean the ebook will be out this week - there's still layout to do, and I have to learn how to market it.  But my part as author is pretty much done.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Well, maybe it was the cold at Acropark, and maybe not, but I just spent a week achieving approximately nothing.

Well yes, I went and helped friends as an interpreter at the unemployment office on the morning before and the morning after the lurgy, and I sort-of kept up with laundry and minimal housework, but I didn't do any writing.  So I hope the weekend will be better.

But today I actually had some sort of social life.  As I was helping one friend at the unemployment office, we met another and had a coffee and a talk.  Wow.  And in the evening I actually went out for a quick drink with friends for about 90 minutes.

I ought to have fun more often.  I really ought to.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


There's a new adventure playground in Breña Alta called Acropark, and we finally got there today.   In spite of the mist, I loved it.  They give you a proper safety harness and show you how to use it.  You've got two clips, so you've always got at least one clipped onto the lifeline.  That meant that I felt safe using both hands for the camera.

We went on the rope walks for about an hour.  I want to get fitter and do the big circuit, 7m above the ground.

It cost a bit more than I expected, but really, they have trained staff and a large investment, so I didn't feel robbed.  And the whole thing is designed not to damage the trees.  No motors or anything.  Just fresh air and good, clean fun.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tour guiding in the clouds

I got home from El Hierro on Sunday afternoon, and I had a tour guiding job on Monday morning. I was a little nervous, because it was a new route for me. What I should have worried about was that most of my passengers weren't native English speakers (I use very colloquial English on tour buses) and that, everywhere we went, my group would tend to get mixed up with groups from other buses.

 I coped! We went to Las Nieves church, La Concepción headland, and the Distiladera craft shop. And then we headed though the tunnel to the other side of the island, to La Cumbrecita, where you get a magnificent view of the Caldera de Taburiente.

 Well, you usually get a magnificent view. It's quite normal for the weather to change dramatically from one side of the island to the other, and usually the western side is drier and sunnier. Not Monday. We left the sunny east and came out of the tunnel to heavy cloud and drizzle. Me and the driver looked at each other, and said the Spanish equivalent of "Uh-oh!"

 But there wasn't a lot we could do about it. La Cumbrecita is very popular and the car park is rather small, so you have to book - especially buses. We had our slot, and there was no opportunity to change the order and hope the weather improved.

 So we went up to the car park - and we had to wait for a bus to leave before we could go up. By the time we got there, the rain had eased off to drizzle, and I said, "Well, I'm supposed to take you to the viewpoint, which is about 10 minutes walk away. I'm going anyway, because sometimes the weather changes very fast and the clouds part, and we can only hope."

 To my surprise, most of them followed me. And the clouds did part - just as we got to the viewpoint. And there was a magnificent rainbow too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I'm on holiday in El Hierro again.  OK, so I'm now sitting on the flank of an active volcano, but there's not much to notice where I'm staying, except that the sea has gone green.  I suspect that this is stuff coming out of the undersea eruption, brought here by the ocean currents.  Anyway, I've gone off the idea of swimming in it. All the same, I'm having a great time with my friend, chilling out and getting plenty of gentle exercise to try to get fit after my operation.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Illustration for "The Dodo Dragon."

My talented friend Merche Martin Morillo painted this lovely illustration for my story, "The Dodo Dragon." Isn't it great? It's going to be the basis for the front cover of my forthcoming ebook, "The Dodo Dragon and other stories," and another talented friend, Helen Bennet of, is going to do the layout.  We hope to have the book out in time for Christmas. I'm really looking forward to this.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

English Breakfast at Last!

I finally got to eat English breakfast for dinner on Monday night. After the painful chocolate biscuits I didn't dare have a big helping, but I had a little of everything - an inch of sausage, half a rasher of bacon, half an egg, half a tomato, two mushrooms and a spoonful of beans. And then I filled up on pasta. It was lovely! And it didn't make me ill.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Isla Bonita Car Rally

Every year La Palma's big car rally goes past my front door. I usually find the first few cars exciting, the next few interesting, and the last fifty or so very noisy.  But then usually, they're racing from about 11 am to 5pm. This year, they were going to be snarling and roaring past my house until midnight on Friday, and again for most of Saturday. I really wasn't looking forward to that. In fact, given the way I'd been collapsing with exhaustion at 9:30 pm, the thought was almost unbearable. So I rather cheekily invited myself to a friend's house, and bless her, she said yes. I wound up staying most of Saturday too. Actually I had a great time. Not only did I get away from the noise, I got away from all the housework I'm not quite well enough to do, plus the housework that I can perfectly well do, but don't want to. And I got into a different environment, talked to new people and had a rest. Which is probably why I started a new story for the first time in months. Certainly the first time since my op. It's far too soon to know whether the story's any good, but in one way it doesn't matter. I wrote something!

Friday, October 07, 2011


It's now two weeks after my op, and I can start a little cautious experimenting with fat in my diet.  So I bought some luxury chocolate chip biscuits.

The first one was delicious, so I had another.  And another.  And a fourth.

And then I was doubled up for half an hour with a pain just below my ribs.  Obviously four is too many.

So the big English breakfast is looking rather unlikely.  But I can probably still have one chocolate biscuit.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Post Op: Saturday 24th

Saturday was boring until they set me free, just before lunch.

Rather rashly, I asked to go to the farmers' market in Mazo, partly to get some of my favourite bread, but mostly to see something outside the hospital before I had to stay home for a while.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Post Op: Friday

[WARNING!  If you're squeamish about medical details, this post might make you squeam.]

Well Friday was the day I thought I might just be able to go home.  Certainly I woke up feeling much more human.  Muzzy, and weak, but human.  I actually felt well enough to read fiction, as long as it was short.  The nurse took off the compression bandages of my legs, I got out of bed (with help) and managed to get to the loo and have a shower.  Wonderful!

Then I catnapped until the nurse came along and did things to my four sets of stitches - staples actually, and I read a bit more, and napped a bit more, and my husband visited and I dropped off to sleep again.

And I actually got some lunch.  The same dishwater soup and apple puree, but I didn't have much appetite anyway.

The surgeon came back and examined me, and said I could probably go home.  They did the paperwork and took out the drainage tube.

I was horrified when they did that.  Of course, if I'd actually thought it through, the exit hole was on the side of my waist, and the gallbladder used to be up under my ribs, just beneath my right breast - of course it had to be a long tube.  But watching this thing come out, more and more of it, came as a shock.  It didn't hurt a bit though.

They put a bandage on it, and told me how to look after myself at home for Saturday.  I got dressed and packed my bag.

My husband came to fetch me, and as I got out of bed I noticed a wet patch on my dress.  The pad on top of the drainage tube was soaked.

We called a nurse, who changed it, and said I'd better not go until she talked to the surgeon.  I said that sounded sensible.  So she phoned, and the unsurprising verdict was that I'd have to stay until morning.

I was disappointed, but I don't think I'd have felt safe going home.  And I was pretty hopeful it would be OK in the morning.

Dinner was a small helping fish and more apple puree for dessert.  I quite enjoyed it, but I didn't finish it.

And this time the sleeping pill stayed swallowed, and I went out like a light.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Post Op: Thursday

[WARNING!  If you're squeamish about medical details, this post might make you squeam.]

I woke up back on the ward, feeling incredibly thirsty.  The nurse said she couldn't give me anything to drink, or I'd vomit for sure, but she moistened my mouth with a damp gauze.  It helped.

Then I noticed that the other patient wasn't there, even though she'd gone down to theatre first, and I got a bit worried.

And then I was incredibly thirsty again - I think I must have slept quite a while - and the nurse came back back with her damp gauze.  And the other lady was back, asleep.

And I slept, and woke up again, I think.

And then I managed to vomit anyway, or at least my empty stomach made frantic, painful attempts to empty itself further.

"Here it comes," I thought.  All my previous experiences of general anaesthetic have involved hours and hours of dry heaves, and very unpleasant too, especially with abdominal stitches.  In fact that was the part I'd been most worried about in advance.  (These days, your chances of being killed by the anaesthetic are one in half a million.  I could live with that.)

But that was it. Just the one two-minute bout of dry heaves.  For which I an deeply, deeply grateful tot he anaesthetist.

After a while I was allowed cautious sips of camomile tea, which, amazingly, stayed down.

I managed to talk a little to the other woman.  She'd had the keyhole op too, but it had taken much longer than usual.  They'd told her (presumably while I was asleep) that her gallbladder had been so full of stones and sand that they'd had real trouble.

My husband visited, and I went back to sleep.

The surgeon popped in to ask about the vomiting, and didn't seem a bit surprised when he heard I was OK.  He also said that I'd had lots and lots of gallstones, and that one of them had been stuck in the bile duct, and he'd had fun and games getting it out.  I'd come quite close to needing the old-fashioned op with the seven-inch scar under the ribs.

Suddenly my four narrow-but-deep little holes from keyhole surgery seemed very small.  And I had a few more sips of camomile tea and went back to sleep.

And then he dropped his bombshell.  I'd have to stay on the strict diet for at least another two weeks, and then bring in the forbidden foods slowly, finding out what I could and couldn't eat.  So no English breakfast yet!

My husband left, to look after our son.

The nurse helped me to the bathroom, and I noticed that I had a drainage tube in my side, attached to a little bag.  I had to hold it to get to the loo, but I didn't examine the contents too closely.  Instead, I referred to it as my Gucci bag, "latest fashion from Milan", and made the other woman laugh.

I felt well enough to read a bit.

My husband and some visited, and I got my English breakfast!  My son had drawn one on the top of a pizza box.  It was a really good one, too, with sausages, bacon, egg, beans, mushrooms, cheese on toast and toast and jam.  And all calorie free.  The other woman and her visitors and all the nurses admired it.

Visitors left, and I catnapped some more.

And then at 11 pm I used the last quarter of the cup of camomile tea to wash down a sleeping pill, and it came back up.  Ow!  I didn't know which incision to hold.  But at least it didn't take long.

Oh well.  I slept just fine without the pill anyway.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Sale!

Just what I needed after the op.  The Dunesteef audio fiction magazine are buying my story "The Appliance of Science"!

It may be some time before it's published.  I'll let you know, of course.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Op

I went into hospital on Wednesday at 6pm.  It turned out that I would be sharing a side ward with another lady having the same op.  She's only a few years older than me, but she's in far worse health, and she was in constant pain from her gallbladder, compared to my frequent niggles.

To be honest, I didn't think we were going to have much in common.  But I felt sorry for her, and cheering her up took my mind off me.

Then the nurse breezed in with a BIG smile.  "Hello ladies.  Who's having the first enema?"

And we shared a Look.

And then we shared the experience of an enema.  I'll spare you the details.

It went on like that.  We shared an insipid, meagre dinner:  dishwater soup and apple purée.  We shared out symptoms, including plenty that you don't want to hear about.

In the morning we shared hunger, and silly-looking bandages on our legs.

I went down to theatre during a thunderstorm.  As they strapped me to the operating table, the anaesthetist asked me whether I wanted a holiday in the Caribbean, or somewhere else.  I said I wanted a young man with a feather fan and cocktails.

And it all went buzzy and black.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Home, Sweet Home

I'm sore, but I'm home - minus the dratted gallbladder.  Still tired, and still on the very strict diet for at least two weeks, but the worst is behind me.

In fact I'm too tired to write any more today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Into hospital

Most things are organised, and what isn't will have to wait.  I took a group around Grantecan this morning (which stopped me thinking to much), and packed my  little bag.  Any minute now my husband ill come home and drive me to the hospital.

Still dreaming of chips, crisps, scrambled eggs, chocolate cake...

Monday, September 19, 2011

At Last!

The hospital just phoned.  I go in on Wednesday evening, and they'll be taking my gallbladder out on Thursday morning.  I should be back home by the weekend.  Hopefully I won't have to wait very long after that before I can eat cheese again.  And eggs.  And lamb.  And bacon. And nuts.  And...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A busy day at the Roque

Putting the Galileo's mirror onto the carrying case, which is on the lorry.

 I didn't have any guiding work yesterday, but I drove up the mountain anyway.  I wanted to get photos of people moving the main mirror from the Galileo to the Herschel telescope for realuminizing.  They only do this once every three years, so I was keen not to miss it.  That mirror weighs about 6 tonnes, and if they break it, it's much worse than even years bad luck - they'll close the telescope and everyone will be out of a job.  You'll appreciate that people were somewhat nervous, and I was careful to keep out of the way.

The Galileo's mirror arriving at the William Herschel Telescope.

And there's more.  At the same time, people were working on top of the huge dome of GranTeCan, just down the hill from the Galileo.  I stayed well back, partly because that gave a better angle for photos, but also because a nut falling from up there would be fast enough to be dangerous by the time it hit the ground.  The guys up there obviously aren't scared of heights.

People working each side of the massive GTC dome

And when all that was over, for once I was up there with old clothes and no deadline, so I finally got a close look at a monument that I've driven past for twenty years. It's well above the road, with no path to it, so I had to scramble over and around the codeso bushes for 25 minutes to reach it.  It was all a bit more intrepid than I'd bargained for.

The Union of the Earth and Cosmos from the road

It's was made by Cesar Manrique to celebrate the opening of the observatory, and it's supposed to symbolise the union of the Earth and Cosmos.  But honestly, most people find themselves thinking of something else.

Well I've been there, done that, and I don't think I'll bother again, but I'm glad I did it once.

Monument to the Union of the Earth and Cosmos up close.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

More paperwork

It's been a busy week. I was horrified to find out yesterday that today was the last day to get my son signed up at school for the academic coming year.

I'm not fond of paperwork at the best of times.  It really doesn't help that I've recently had to renew my British passport and help a friend with paperwork over the car she sold years ago. I really wasn't in the mood for more.

Doing it against the clock sends my blood pressure through the roof.  The earliest I could collect the forms was 9am, and they had to be handed in by 1 pm.  4 hours.

At least I could get his  photos passport-type done in advance.  Last night we dashed into town to get them just before I dashed off to Los Llanos for some completely unrelated paperwork.

This morning I ran around like a mad thing, and got the bits together: blank forms collected from the school; small amount of money transferred to the school account with receipt to prove it; photos with his name on the back; formal authorization; application to borrow text books; his promise to study (ha!); application for school bus, photocopies of his ID card, my ID card, my husband's ID card and his health service card; authorization to send me an SMS if he doesn't turn up at school; certificate to say that I've sacrificed a black goat under the full moon, signed by the head of the observatory in his own blood...

OK, so I made the last one up, but all the rest were real.

Now that I've got it sorted, I've relieved and tired out.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Photographing telescopes at sunset

Me and the Superwasp follow-up telescope at sunset, Roque de los Muchachos, La PalmaMe and the Superwasp follow-up telescope.

Last night I went up to the Roque to photograph telescopes at sunset. The time rather snuck up on me, so I left in a hurry and a bad mood, worried that I'd drive up (200 hairpin bends and about 75 minutes each way) and not get any photos after all.

As it turned out, I got arrived with about five minutes to spare. So I said "Hi," to Don, who was commissioning the Superwasp Follow-up Telescope and then got out of his hair - commissioning is a hard work, and sunset is a very busy time for astronomers. I was a bit disappointed with my photos of Superwasp itself, but I was pleased with the ones of the Liverpool and the Follow-up telescope, particularly the one at the top where I set the delay timer and put myself in the picture.

Then I went to the Automatic Transit Circle in hopes of getting one of it open - no such luck, but I couldn't resist trying to get a photo of the constellation Scorpio over the Roque itself. And while I was doing that I saw a very bright satellite over the other side of the sky, and hurriedly took this shot of the William Herschel Telescope, Cassiopeia and the satellite. The long streak is the satellite, because it moved during the 15 second exposure. I'm almost certain that it's the International Space Station, because it's so bright.

The William Herschel Telescope, Cassiopeia and the International Space Station seen from the Roque de los Muchachos, La PalmaThe William Herschel Telescope, Cassiopeia (the W of stars) and the International Space Station.

And finally I tried to get photos of Mercury and Venus. This was tricky, because stars and planets are too faint to see in the viewfinder of the camera - you have to take a 15-second exposure, and even then, you might not be cable to see anything until you upload it to a computer. It's rather like using rolls of film that way.

This photo of Mercury won't win any prizes, (I think the main problem was my 30-year-old tripod, rather than the camera. It certainly wasn't the sky!) But you can still see that Mercury isn't round. It goes through phases, and at the moment it's gibbous. Incidentally, the phases of Mercury and Venus are proof that Ptolemy and the Vatican were wrong, and Copernicus and Galileo were right. There's no version of the Ptolemaic system that accounts for Venus and Mercury being sometimes crescents and sometimes gibbous.

Mercury in a gibbous phase, seen from the Roque de los Muchachos, La PalmaMercury in a gibbous phase.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cruise passengers

On Sunday I had my first job with a bus full of people from a cruise ship. I was rather nervous: new company, new route, not as much time to read up as I'd have liked. But I reasoned that I'd picked up a lot of information in 20 years of living on the island and being interested in what was around me, and made sure I got to the port 15 minutes early.

The paperwork was unfamiliar, but not difficult. And I was told that I had to be back punctually, because I was one of the last buses back and the ship had to leave.

And then the inspector arrived. The cruise company, not unreasonably, sometimes put a surprise inspector on one of the buses to check that the cruise passengers are getting good service from the local contractor. You've guessed the next bit, haven't you? Yup, I got the inspector.

Right, I thought. Deep breath. Forget the inspector, just concentrate on giving people a good day out which is what I'd do anyway. The driver was probably very good at knowing how long various bits of the route would take and where to park (he was, too.)

And it was fine. We went up to El Time, had coffee and admired the view. Then we went to La Zarza. It's an archaeological site with rock carvings in the woods. I went a bit too fast, and I couldn't see the end of the queue, so it took me a while to realise I'd done it. Part of the problem was that I was worried about getting lost, because there's a part where you could go round and round in circles forever. Luckily the inspector brought up the rear, and I didn't lose anyone.

I didn't go round in circles, not even once.

And then we went into Santa Domingo for a picnic lunch, followed by the Roque, and back to the port dead on time.

The inspector was happy. The customers were happy enough to tip, and my boss seemed happy.

Next time will be easier.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A lovely review

The Escape Velocity Anthology got a great review on Amazon. And I particularly liked what she said about my story.

"Scream Quietly" by Sheila Crosby was one of my favorite stories. Told by way of letters from the perspective of a young woman in 1849 England. This story depicts the intricacies of alien contact and space/ time travel. It's a wonderfully heartwarming tale with a great twist at the end.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

This diet's no yolk.

I went to someone's leaving party on Saturday at a social club. It was nice to be invited, since my husband works with the host, not me.

But the buffet was a problem. There were yummy looking croquets, which I couldn't eat, since they were fried. Ditto the little tuna pastries. I couldn't eat the cheese and anchovy sandwiches either. I made a beeline for the smoked salmon sandwiches - I love smoked salmon - only to find that they had cream cheese underneath, which is another no-no. The Spanish omelette looked really good, but I'm not allowed egg yolks, so I couldn't eat the lovely quiche either. The pork sandwiches would have been ok without the fried onions in them, and the octopus salad would have been ok without the raw peppers.

So I ate beef sandwiches. And they were nice enough beef sandwiches, but I'd have enjoyed them a lot more without all the other stuff under my nose.

The bar had beer, wine, spirits and fizzy pop, so I went out and got a bottle of water.

All of which was rather frustrating. I managed not to whinge while I was there, but when I got home and had to produce food, the only easy thing was more eggs.

That did it. I moaned to my son, "Lord, I'm sick of this diet. All I want is a cheese omelette. Is that so much to ask?"

He said, "You can have an omelette Mum. You just can't eat it, that's all."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Not as bad as I thought.

I've been getting very irritated with myself for taking so long to finish this ebook. But this morning I found a backup of said book from January. It turns out that since then, I've written 8,000 words. I've also added lots of photos and written captions for all photos old and new, to say nothing of the editing I've done. Considering I've also had the Starlight guide course and the health problems, it's not nearly as pathetic as I thought. Not brilliant by any means, but not pathetic either. I supposed I'd give myself a C rather than an F.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


As a reward for getting my website finished, I felt I'd earned a day off. Luckily my friends Helen and Theresa felt they'd earned a day off too. So this morning we all met in the flea market in Santa Cruz, and then moved onto the picnic area up at El Pilar.

It was pretty full, but we got lucky. Someone had almost finished cooking for a largish party, and said we could have their hot coals in about five minutes. This was great - much quicker and easier than staring from scratch. We were cooking n under ten minutes and we didn't even have to get our hands dirty.

It was nice food too, my friends brought chicken and salad and I brought sausages and burgers and pudding.

Right. Back to work on that ebook.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A Window on the Universe

Galaxy M 83

Want to learn about amateur astronomy on La Palma? Well, at last, my new website is open for business. Star Island is designed to be a window on the universe, and a show case for astrotourism on La Palma.

In future, I hope to sell advertising on the site, but for now, it's just for people to enjoy.

The Cat's Eye nebula

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I still seem to be tired all the time, and I'm getting very little done.

Even my blog posts are getting shorter.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Concert in San Jose

I've been frustrated by a like of progress with my writing projects, but then I was tour guiding three mornings last week, plus it's the village fiesta (which makes it too noisy to sleep some nights) plus we had my husband's belated birthday party on Saturday. One way and another, perhaps it's not so very odd that I'm tired.

Certainly I was tired after the birthday party, but after a nap I decided to go and take a look at the concert, since I'd seen almost nothing of the fiesta so far.

I was glad I made the effort. The first group were punk rockers called the Ramones (no, not the originals), and I don't think I'd have enjoyed a recording, but the live performance was fun. The second group called Overbooking had a much wider range: Pink Floyd, Queen, Brian Adams, U2 and many more. And my goodness, the girl could sing!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Good things come in threes

Life on a gall-bladder-friendly diet is rather boring, but I have several things to smile about. Something Wicked are buying Breathing Space, to be published "around December/Jan". And Wily Writers will be reprinting Loathsome Alyce in BEST OF WILY WRITERS, VOLUME 2. Thirdly, I've lost a bit of weight (which figures since I'm not allowed to even look at cheese, chocolate, fried food, egg yolks, alcohol, bananas etc. etc.) Hey, I'd rather be thin and bored than fat and bored.

Friday, July 08, 2011


The surgeon agrees that I'll need an op, and says that it'll probably be September. Meanwhile, I need to stick to the boring diet. On the plus side, he can see no reason why he shouldn't be able to do the keyhole surgery, which means a much faster recovery.

Bring it on. I really miss cheese.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A Face Worse than Death

My story, "A Face Worse than Death" is out in the anthology Probing Uranus from the Library of Science Fiction and Fantasy
As you might guess from the cover, it's humourous SF.

And another of my stories, "Muddy Holes" will be in "People's Friend Fiction Special No. 49 " on sale July 14, 2011. As you might guess, that's a gentle, mainstream story about archaeology in the Orkney Islands.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

It's official.

Today I formally graduated as a Starlight Guide.

They held the ceremony at Palacio Salazar in Santa Cruz de la Palma. We had short speeches from the president of the Cabildo (the island government), the head of the Instituto de Astrofisica
(the Institute of Astrophysics) and the head of the course, and then they called us up one by one and gave us our diplomas and ID cards.

After the formal photos for the press, we all went off for lunch together.

I'd have enjoyed the whole thing a lot more if my insides had behaved a bit better, but I still had fun.

Saturday, July 02, 2011


I got sucked into the internet and went to bed after midnight on Thursday. At 2 am Friday morning, I woke up with indigestion. Not typical down-in-the-guts indigestion, though. The pain was up under my ribs.

So I got up and made a herb tea, hoping that would soothe it. Nope. In fact I was sick.

Well, obviously I wasn't going to be able to sleep, and there was no point in waking Carlos, so I stayed downstairs to suffer. I was sick a few more times, and the pain got slightly worse. And worse. And worse.

By about 7 am I'd had enough, and I was beginning to worry that it might possibly be something more serious than plain old gastroenteritis. So I got dressed and Carlos took me to A&E. By that time I was whimpering.

I saw a doctor pretty quickly. Most of the examination was of the:
"Does this hurt?"
variety. Then he said it was probably either pancreatitis or something I didn't understand, but thought might be gall stones. I'd need tests, and they'd give me something for the pain meanwhile.

"Something for the pain" sounded wonderful.

So they put the usual plumbing into my arm, took a couple of blood samples, put me to bed and hooked me up to a drip of painkiller.

It didn't get rid of the pain completely, but it was bloody marvellous. I think effective pain relief has to be one of the crowning glories of our civilization. I only wish that everyone on the planet who needs it could get it.

I dozed for a bit. After a while they took me for an X-ray (on the trolley, since sitting and walking were both uncomfortable), and then back to A&E where I dozed a bit more. The doctor popped in to see how I was doing, and said that I'd need an ultrasound.

It was quite a long wait, so they gave me another lot of painkiller (yay!) and I dozed quite a lot more.

Finally I got my ultrasound. Now, the thing with ultrasound is that they have to press the doohicky into you quite firmly in order to get a good picture. Even in a healthy pregnancy, it can be rather uncomfortable. And this ultrasound mostly consisted in having the doohicky pushed firmly into precisely those places that were very sore indeed. Repeatedly. From lots of different angles.

It wasn't pleasant, but it did make things clear.

I have enough gall stones to pebbledash the house.

Oh all right, I actually have about 15. My gall bladder will have to come out, but it wasn't bad enough for them to whip it out right away. (Holy painkiller, what does "bad enough for an urgent op" feel like?) So they kept me under observation for a few more hours and sent me home with a prescription for anti-inflamatories and a medicine to reduce stomach acid. Oh, and a special diet. Liquid only for 24 hours, and no fried food, pulses or dairy until they take the gall bladder out. Which is a routine op, and they can probably do it with keyhole surgery and a minimal hospital stay.

I'm still sore and sleepy, and a bit scared of eating, but I feel lightyears better than yesterday.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Zen and the Art of Astronomy

Today I showed two Buddhist monks (plus three of their friends) around the biggest telescope in the world. The senior one is the professor of Buddhist Philosophy at the University of Varanasi, in India. Unfortunately I can't remember his name since it was so exotic to me.

I did a bit of a double take when I saw that the university professor was wearing Tibetan robes, like the Dalai Lama. It's not something you often see on La Palma. If anything, the observatory dress code learns towards slightly scruffy, since quite a lot of the people there have been up all night, are living out of suitcases, and are more interested in exoplanets than fashion anyway.

Well, it didn't take long to see past the robes to the people, and to find out that they were very nice. So I showed them around and gave the talk for people who are intelligent, but don't know much science, and they were all very appreciative. And as usual with small groups, we all took photos of each other.

When we got outside, we were all thirsty. We had plenty of water but only two cups. I was just about to go back into the building in search of cups when the monks showed us how to share cups hygienically - you don't touch it with your lips. I got soaked on my first try, but it was only water on a hot day, so that was no problem. And then I got the hang of it.

When I got up this morning, I certainly wasn't expecting drinking lessons from a Buddhist monk.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I'm on Swiss radio

Back in February I showed a Swiss radio journalist around the observatory. To my considerable surprise, he wanted to interview me.

The programme is almost completely in French, with a few bits of me speaking English before they fade up the translation, but if you're interested, you can find it at Go down to the bottom of the page to "Les télescopes terrestres" (beside the photo of a telescope) and click on "écouter" (to listen) or "télécharger le sujet" (download). It's a bi file, though - 22 minutes long.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Blood Red Moon

Total eclipse of the moon from Llano de la Venta viewpointA Blood red eclipse of the moon from Llano de la Venta viewpoint

La Palma has beautiful dark skies, so I was hoping for a really good view of last night's lunar eclipse. But looking at the low cloud along the horizon, I decided to drive up to the star party at Llano de la Venta, one of La Palma's astronomical viewpoints. In practice, an astronomical vciewpoint means parking space, level ground suitable for tripods, a signpost pointing to the pole star, and an information panel.

Signpost to the  Pole Star, Breña Alta, La Palma.How far to the Pole Star?

Astrotour was offering free stargazing, courtesy of the island government. These viewpoints can be pretty cold in winter - this one is at 1,300 m - but last night it was quite balmy. The first surprise was the number of people who'd turned out. The next was the discovery that we had trees blocking the view of Mt Teide - and the moon was due to rise from behind Teide. It's a good thing I didn't have a saw with me. I'd have been very tempted, which would have been sheer vandalism, of course. So there wasn't anywhere sensible to put my tripod.

We got a splendid view of the moon, when it rose. I found I could get halfway decent photos by setting manual focus (to infinity) and jamming the camera against the Polaris signpost to hold it steady for the 1-second exposures.

One woman beside me was grumbling that she couldn't get any photos with her DSLR, and I confess I felt rather smug. Then she realised that I was getting photos with my compact, and the grumbling turned bitter.

I said mildly, "Well it's a rather good compact and I have practised." (This is an understatement. I've put in thousands of hours of photography practice.)

But she still clearly felt that having a DSLR ought to guarantee good photos, even if you didn't know how to set it to manual focus. I looked, but I couldn't see how to do it either. (I found out later that Canon camera have the manual focus on the lens, not the body)

Then the International Space Station zoomed overhead, looking gorgeous. (Every time they add more solar panels, the ISS gets brighter and brighter). You can imagine the DSLR's owner's reaction when I got a photo of that too, on my itty-bitty compact.

And to round things off nicely, Astrotour pointed their 10" telescope at Saturn, so we could all see the rings. They're as stunning as ever.

You could say it was a heavenly evening.

The International  Space Station passing over La Palma, seen from Breña AltaThe International Space Station passing over Breña Baja

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Not so free.

I think I made a reasonably thorough job of item one on my post-Starlight-Guide-course list, which was "Chill". I don't seem to have got much further, though. Well, I managed the overdue haircut before my fringe reached my jaw and I caught up with the laundry backlog and excavated the kichen.

But I've made very little progress on the rest of the list. That's partly because I've been doing a lot of tour guiding, but mostly because many of the items are ridiculous long or vague: "Learn German," for example. That was never going to happen in on afternoon, was it? (Mind you, I have learned a few more words of German.) "Get fit again" - I'll do that on Wednesday, shall I? Only how will I know when I'm fit enough.

So the whole thing needs a rethink, just as soon as I can make enough time to do it.

I'd better put that on the list.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Escape Velocity: The Anthology

Yes, well, better late than never.

This Escape Velocity Anthology published by Adventure Books of Seattle came out while I was up to my eyes in the Starlight Guide course. It's 353 pages long, and contains forty-eight sci-fi stories, including two of mine: "Scream Quietly" and "Zuggyzu and the Humans". The Kindle version's only $5.74, which I think is seriously good value for money.

I think it's only fair to say that I get a small commission if you buy through these links, but it doesn't cost you any extra.

US Kindle Edition


UK Kindle Edition

Friday, June 03, 2011

Free at last!

I've finished the Starlight Guide course. I worked up at the Roque this morning, and went to a first aid course this afternoon. Now I'm free.

After concentrating on the course for the last three months, I have 39 items on my to-do list, ranging from "get a haircut" to "finish the e-book" and "learn German."

It's time for item #1: Chill.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

At Last!

After I got back from El Hierro, it was full speed ahead on my course project. My friend Merche helped me with the Spanish for about three hours, bless her! I finally printed it out at about 10:30 pm on Wednesday night.

On Thursday morning I had a group up at the Roque, so I only had odd moments here and there to prepare my presentation of said project. I had lunch at the Roque, and stopped the car on the way don to tell the heather and laurel trees all about it. I found that I got horribly tongue-tied, and it came out far too long. After about the fourth attempt I had a decent opening, a rough idea of the timing, a couple of ideas to make it interesting to listen to, and some thoughts of what I could add if needed.

And a sinking feeling that mine was going to be the worst presentation of the lot, by quite a wide margin. Oh well, too late now. And it was 10% of the total mark.

And on to the exam. I think I did fairly well. And then the dreaded presentation.

I didn't get tongue-tied, people laughed in the right places, and I finished on time. Not brilliantly organised, but not bad either.

So I think I passed, but in any case, the course is over, the pressure's off for the first time in three months, and we all went out to celebrate.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

El Hierro

Originally, the final exam for the Starlight course was going to be the 26th of May, and that was when the project had to be handed in. So I booked flights to visit my friend in El Hierro for the long weekend afterwards, on the basis that I'd have earned a break by then.

Then the course teachers found that it suited them better to move the exam to the 2nd of June, and decided we could hand the project in then, too. Of course nobody objected.

Well, the flight was booked anyway, and I knew that my friend would understand if I spent some of the time putting finishing touches to my project, and/or studying for the exam.

And then my friend found that she had to move house while I was there.

So the relaxing long weekend largely consisted of lugging things out of one house into another, and cleaning the old house. Quite a lot of the rest was spent working on my project. My digestion started acting up again.

And you know what? I still had fun.

Mostly it was being with my friend. In spite of high stress levels on both sides, we had some good laughs. And I love El Hierro. She's moved to a particularly lovely part, near the Parador.

I woke very early one morning and went for a walk and saw the crescent moon rising near Venus and (I think) Mars.

We went down to the Parador for delicious (if pricey) sandwiches and to use the Wi-Fi, where we met an albino pigeon who obligingly posed on the roof for quite a while.

And once we were in the new house, we also heard weird noises in the night, which sounded something between a furious tom cat and a duck, like this . I wasn't exactly scared, but I was rather glad that I was inside the house and the whatever-it-was outside. I think I'd have felt decidedly uncomfortable about it if I'd been camping.

I can see why people have mistaken them for witches or even the devil, but actually it's a nocturnal seagull called Cory's Shearwater, or in Spanish a Pardela Cenicienta.

And with all that, I still made considerable progress on my project.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bunking off

Yesterday afternoon I should have bashed on with the Starlight Guide project and housework. Instead I took a couple of hours off and met my friend in Los Tilos. The bar there is popular with small birds (a kind of chaffinch, I think) and I couldn't resist trying to get a photo.

There was a catch, of course. Flexible though my new compact is, there's a short delay between pressing the button and the shutter firing. It's less than the previous compact - maybe half a second instead of a full second -- but it's good for lots of shots of a bird that just flew away.

Luckily persistence and patience eventually paid off, and I got a shot I'm fairly happy with. But I still plan to go back with the DSLR and try again, in better light.

And then we had a nice little walk in the drizzle, down to the water channel. This time the compact came up trumps. The trick with flowing water is usually to set a slow shutter speed, which makes the water look wetter. This was shot at half a second, and I couldn't have done that with the old camera.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Night on the Mountain

The last practical activity on the Starlight Guide course was a trip to the observatory at the Roque de los Muchachos. The bus left Santa Cruz at 2:30 pm, and when we arrived we left our stuff in the dormitories that I didn't even know they had up there (they converted one of the houses some time ago for groups like ours, four bunks to a room, bathroom shared between four rooms). We had the head of the observatory show us round the Newton and Herschel telescopes, and the Swedish solar tower (the best solar telescope in the world). After dinner we watched the sunset, then had a class on astrophotography with Daniel Lopez (very cool). That was followed by stargazing with two amateur telescopes, and a visit to the control rooms of Grantecan and the Herschel while they were working. Of course I took tons of photos plus videos of the talks. We collapsed into bed at 3 am. I was really pleased that I'd brought along a spare camera battery.

I didn't sleep too well. The room had an emergency light in the ceiling which was too bright for poor, delicate little me. So I got up early and went for a walk, where I took yet more photos.

After breakfast we had a class on infrarred and spectroscopy, followed by observations of the sun. (NEVER do this unless you know what you're doing. You can go blind instantly.) There was only one sunspot, but it was fun. Then we went around Grantecan, including the places they never normally show the public. Including places I've never managed to get into before, like the aluminizing room.

And I ran out of space on my camera card. It's a 16 Gb card, and I filled it.

So I deleted obvious duds and hunted through the menus and worked out how to drop the picture quality. And I took quite a few more before the second battery died of overwork.

I haven't managed to edit my way through 16 Gb of photos yet, which is why there's no photos in this post. I have ten days to revise for the exam and write a 4,000-word project in Spanish, and I won't have lot of time for very much else. It doesn't help that I already booked a long weekend with my friend in El Hierro, thinking that I'd have finished by then.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Really cool time lapse

Astronomy Picture of the Day is a great site. And yesterday they had a fantastic time lapse shot in the Teide national park in Tenerife.
But the coolest bit of all is that Daniel Lopez, who shot this video, will be giving a talk to us trainee Starlight Guides on Friday night.

Sickening, aren't I?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh well.

I was supposed to do the volcanoes walk on Saturday night as part of my Starlight Guide course. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's 20 km, and starts with a 500m climb, which is obviously not ideal for a podgy writer with a bad case of Writer's Bottom. On the other hand, it's a famously beautiful walk, and I've always wanted to do it someday.

So I decided to make the deadline work for me and get fit. As I've said here before, I walked up Montaña de la Breña several times, slithered around half the Breña springs walk, and went to Mazo market and back by shank's pony. that didn't look like it was going to be enough, so I swore off caffeine and sugar on Monday. The withdrawal symptoms were tough, but I reasoned that after five days' abstinence, an energy drink like Red Bull or Burn ought to have the same effect as petrol on a barbecue, and get me up that first mountain.

And after all that, I got gastroenteritis on Saturday, and had to cancel.

I was pretty hacked off, but I did recover enough to join the group at Fuencaliente for breakfast, and the final class at the San Antonio volcano visitor's centre.

Oh well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The best laid plans...

Here's what was supposed to happen:
I was supposed to meet a group of 52 kids plus some adults at the observatory heliport at 9:45, give them a quick general talk about the observatory there, then take them up to the Isaac Newton Telescope, split the group in two, and take 26 kids+a few adults into the telescope at a time, and finish by 12:00

Here's what actually happened:
The kids' bus broke down. Not broken-down dead, but broken-down good-for-a-few-hundred-yards-before-it-stops-again. The driver nursed it as far as the residencia (the observatory's private hotel for astronomers) by 10:05. Obviously it wasn't going to make it up to the Newton. And the bus company didn't have a spare bus, although they did send a couple of repairmen with clean filters.

Obviously, I couldn't take 58 people up to the telescope in my car. It's at least ten minutes each way.

Right: first things first, give the kids chance to use the bathroom in the residencia. They'd been in the bus for 90 minutes, so someone was going to be desperate.

Next: phone my boss, tell him what was happening, and suggest the MAGIC telescope. It's not the best telescope to show to 10-year-olds, and I wasn't about to start explaining Cherenkov radiation, but it is within walking distance of the residencia.

So up we went up to the helipad beside the MAGIC, and I talked for almost an hour. By that time, I could see quite a few of them beginning to fidget. I didn't blame them - that's a long time for kids that age without any breaks or pictures or anything.

And then the bus driver came with good news - another bus was about to drop a group of walkers off at the Roque, and would be free for a couple of hours until it had to pick them up. We'd have transport up to the Newton for a quick visit.

And then Carmelo the raven dropped in for a visit. I think that was the high point of the day for most people. He managed to greed most of a sandwich off the trip's organizer before he flew off.

And then the second bus arrived, and we went up to the Isaac Newton Telescope, where I waltzed them through at high speed, so they'd have time to visit the Roque viewpoint before they had to give the second bus back.

I really hope they got to the airport in time!

Monday, May 09, 2011


It's only a week until the volcanoes walk on the night of the 14th.


Of course that means more training.

So this morning I walked to Mazo market, which is about 5 km. Then I bought lots of veggies, plus bread, cheese and eggs and filled my rucksack. I deliberately didn't buy potatoes, but the rucksack was so full that I stuffed a courgette down one side pocket, and a sweet potato down the other. Then I set off for home, wondering how far I'd get before I collapsed and had to phone my husband.

Well, I was clearly going to get home too late to cook lunch, so I phoned the roast chicken shop in San Antonio (the village just down the hill from home) and reserved a chicken. I reasoned that once my husband had picked me up from collapse-point, we could collect the chicken on the way home.

Good golly miss Molly, I made it to the chicken shop, another 5 km, and with a heavy rucksack, too.

I couldn't face the walk back up the steep hill to get home, though. So I wimped out and got my husband to drive me the last half kilometre.

I felt less of a wimp when I weighed the rucksack: 11.6 kg.

Maybe I'll manage the volcanoes route after all.


Saturday, May 07, 2011

Slithering around the Springs

On Thursday I took my get-fit-for-the-volcanoes-route programme up a notch. Instead of walking up to Montaña de la Breña, I had a go at the Breña Springs route, above San Pedro.

Most of the path is through laurel forest, which I love. It provides a great workout, since it's steep, and that day at least, rather slippery. I was glad of my new walking poles.

As the name suggests, it goes past several springs. First there's the Lavaderos de Fuente Grande, where housewives used to take the family laundry. It's rather like the Fuentiña at Puntallana, with stone washbasins still there,although not as well preserved. Then there's a little detour to Fuente Nueva, which I missed because it wasn't labelled (at least not that I could see) and on to Fuente Espinel, where the spring is surrounded by lots of little twig crosses. I don't know it this is there all year, or just an Easter thing that hasn't collapsed yet.

And then the path popped out of the forest onto a hillside. Since I was running late, I took a track down to the road, and left the other half of the route for another day. I think I did about 4km with a 300m main climb. Not bad, but I'll have to do better than that if I do the volcanoes route.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Into the Caldera

No writing, but I did survive the Caldera trip.

It didn't help that it was raining when we set off on Saturday morning. We held a discussion in Los Llanos bus station, and decided to go anyway, even though obviously we wouldn't be stargazing or leaving via the river bed as planned.

The mini buses had no trouble driving over the ford, and dropping us off at Los Brecitos.

Then we had a 5.8 km walk in the rain, with overnight supplies weighing down our backpacks.
After the first half-hour or so, I found that my waterproof wasn't. So did several other people, and by the time we arrived at the hostel, many people were soaked to the skin. Luckily, the hostel has a fireplace. Unluckily, the wood was soaking wet. We could have kippered herrings in there, if we'd had herrings.

And then things got better. The fire got going, we changed into dry(ish) clothes. One of the guy who works in the Caldera gave us a couple of bottles of home-made wine, and someone else had bought a couple of bottles of shop wine, which cheered things up no end. We had a shared dinner (my coffee and walnut cake went down well) and several classes, and a pretty good night's sleep.

And in the morning we woke to that the rain had stopped, and there was snow on the peaks, all around the Caldera rim.

After a visit to a pre-hispanic rock carving, we set off back up the hill to Los Brecitos. I was glad that my back pack was lighter without the food, but it still felt like a long way.

My camera batteries died. Then my mobile batteries died, probably because I was taking lots of photos with it. And then my batteries died, and my ankle started swelling up, and I just had to stop. Someone kindly volunteered to take my backpack, and I staggered up to the Los Brecitos at least 20 minutes after everyone else, except the people who stayed back to keep me company.

And instead of being annoyed that I kept everyone waiting, they cheered. They were all really supportive, and seem keen for me to try the volcanoes walk in two weeks time.

Gee. I'm really not sure about that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Busy as usual

I'm back in the course, which is demanding but fun. Yesterday was meteorology, accident prevention and first aid, and today was astronomical distances and the sun. A lot of the others are finding the astronomy bit hard going, while I know most of the content, but I still have to learn all the vocabulary in Spanish. Mind you, taking notes in Spanish is getting easier, thank goodness.

I'm also trying to get fit, ready for the weekend trip into the Caldera. This morning I managed to get to the top of Montaña de la Breña for the first time since I was ill, so I think I'll be all right. I hope so. It'll be embarrassing if everybody has to wait for me.

Will I ever get time to write again?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The lost week

That last post turned out to be tempting fate. I had a short course on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, about how to start a tourism business. I was sniffling on Tuesday evening and worse on Wednesday. I scaled back my planned walk on Thursday, but by Friday afternoon I was downright ill.

I spent pretty much the whole weekend in bed, and still felt wobbly on Monday. I cancelled Tuesday's guiding job, and pottered around on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, I felt well enough to take a group around the WHT. Yippee, recovered at last!

And on Friday evening I went down with gastroenteritis. I had to cancel my plans for Saturday and Sunday, and still felt rough on Monday.

Today I finally feel well enough to start exercising again. Only the house is a mess and I haven't studied, and I need to cook ahead for next week's course and...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tired legs.

Continuing my plan to get fitter, I took the bus into Santa Cruz this morning,and walked home. The hard way - up the steep hill to Buenavista at the back of Concepción, and then through San Pedro and down the hill to home.

All this walking is working. After 6 km it was nice to sit down, but I wasn't collapsing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On TV tonight.

Just had TV Canarias on the phone. They say I'll be on TV tonight at 10:30 pm in "Canarias, Mi Mundo." With a bit of luck, they're right this time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Busy, busy

I've been burning the candle both ends lately, and not for fun.

I'm on a course to become a tour guide, specializing in astronomy. Of course I've been working as a tour guide at the observatory for a couple of years, and I love it, so the course is just what I want. The tricky part is making the time. It's three separate weeks (on in March, one in April and one in May) and each week is pretty intense: lectures from 4 pm - 9 pm Monday to Friday (that's 5 hours, all in Spanish), plus practical activities on Friday night and Saturday afternoon and evening. Later one, there's a couple of overnight activities. Well, astronomy usually happens at night, doesn't it? And I was rather startled to find that the practical activites involve fairly strenuous hiking. I hadn't realised that some hiking firms offer night-time hikes with added stargazing. Fine. Great idea. It's just that I'm worried that I'm not fit enough.

While I was at the course on Monday, TV Canaria phoned to say that I'd be in "Canarias, Mi Mundo" late on Tuesday night - the bit they'd filmed of me at the beginning of the month. I was surprised that it was so soon, but this started a flurry of activity, with my husband preparing to record it and me telling the world I was going to be on.

Although I was rather tired, I stayed up to watch the programme. And I wasn't in it.

It was a bad time to miss sleep, because yesterday I had a guiding job in the morning as well. I left home at 8:15, showed one group around the Liverpool telescope, and two more around the Herschel. I got home at 2:45, very glad that I'd grabbed a pizza on the way, because I had to eat, shower and leave by 3:30. And then I had my five hours of lectures in Spanish. I was half dead by the end of that.

And this afternoon I have more to come.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A Carnival costume

My son fancied a Ghostbusters costume for Carnival. We borrowed a backpack sulphur duster, which I cleaned out on Thursday, and I bought white overalls (which my husband can use later). On Thursday evening, my husband and son sprayed the backpack black, while I got a Ghostbusters logo off the internet and ironed two copies of it onto the overalls, and printed another two onto sticky labels to go on the back pack.

Very quick (apart from washing the dang sulphur out!) easy and cheap, and it was very effective. He wore it to the school's carnival party on Friday, and we filled it with talc for Los Indianos tonight, and we got lots of positive comments.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Filming, part 3: The road to the Roque

Wednesday was the last day of filming, but would be the first to be broadcast. I set off a little early, so I'd have time for a relaxing coffee at the residencia, the observatory's private hotel, before meeting the film crew.

In Velhoco, I had to swerve around a dog lying on the road. I ahd a bad feeling about it, so I parked, and went back to look.

The dog lay there gasping, pleading with his eyes.

Obviously it had been hit by a car. I didn't really have time, but I started knocking on doors, trying to find the owner. Since it was 8:50 am, most people were out.

At perhaps the seventh door, a woman answered. I told her there was an injured dog lying in the road.

She shrugged. "I haven't got a dog." The obvious inference was, "and I couldn't care less."

I knocked on more doors, which stayed shut. Finally I got another answer, a man who said he didn't have a dog either. And clearly he couldn't care less.

I knocked on more doors. I was beginning to really worry about the dog and the time, when I heard someone lamenting loudly, so I went back to the dog.

It was a young man, perhaps twenty years old. I asked, "Is it your dog?"

He yelled, "Are you the bitch who hit him?"

That hurt. "No, he was lying there and I stopped to find the owner."

"Well help me get him to the vet."

"I have to get to work."

"Well there's no point stopping if you won't help! Why didn't you take him to the vet straight away?"

Perhaps I should have, but before I could reply, the poor dog stopped breathing. I wished I'd stayed with him and at least stroked his head for his last few minutes.

So we moved the dog to the grass verge, and the young man started yelling and kicking at an abandoned car.

I started to get really worried that he was going to hit me.

So I said, "I'm really sorry about your dog," got back in my car and drove off.

I felt pretty shaky after that, but I didn't have time to stop and calm down until I got to the observatory an hour later, where I burst into tears.

But you know what? I think I liked the young man better than the people who didn't care at all. He's probably quite nice when he isn't in shock.

Filming part 4: The observatory

I arrived feeling very upset (see previous episode), but I had to calm myself down and get on with it. I had to get to the heliport by 11:45 to meet a group of tourists, and there was a lot of filming to do before then. Luckily, several people people were kind and helped me pull myself together.

So we filmed in the residencia for a bit. Then the TV people wanted somewhere you got a good view of all the telescopes - not the helipad, because we were going there later. So I took them up to the viewpoint at the Roque de los Muchachos, the highest point on the island.

I don't get up there nearly as much as I'd like, because I'm usually in too much of a hurry. Once I got up there, I found myself promising to do it more often. It wasn't a struggle to smile any more. So they filmed me saying hello to the "muchachos" - a rock formation that looks vaguely like a group of boys, and they filmed me with the telescopes behind me, and they filmed the view.

Then we went down to the Italian telescope, the Galileo, so they could film my husband. They asked him how we met, and he had to stop talking because he had a lump in his throat and a tear in his eye. After sixteen years of marriage!

And then we had to dash down to the heliport, to meet a group of tourists. I gave them the usual speech on why the observatory is here, (which the TV people didn't film much of) and we went off to Grantecan. The TV people didn't seem to film much of that either, although they did take quite a few shots of the inside of the telescope. I didn't mind, I was busy looking after the tourists.

When the tour finished and the tourists left, we finally filmed what will be the opening shots. I might have known.

Once they'd finished, the adrenaline left too. I drove home and collapsed into bed for hours.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Filming, part 2: Llano de los Jables

The cloud waterfall

Shortly before sunset I met the TV crew again at Llano de los Jables, at about 1,850 m (6,000 ft) with a group of friends who'd volunteered to come along at short notice (because the TV crew changed the date from Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday and back to Tuesday while they sorted out their complicated schedule.)

I spent the afternoon baking a chocolate cake, because I wanted to thank people for coming. The traditional thing here is to take Spanish omelette, but I always find that chocolate cake is more popular. And I'd a feeling it was going to be cold up on the ridge, so I made a flask of hot chocolate too.

The golden light at the end of the day was beautiful, and the cloud waterfall was stunning. When I got there, Carmelo was setting up the telescope. So they filmed me saying hello to everyone, and then we waited for it to get really dark.

I'd worried that it would be cloudy, but it was a beautiful, clear night, with a million stars. The catch was that it got colder and colder. The chocolate cake and hot chocolate were very well appreciated, although I could have used a lot more hot chocolate.

After that, filming became harder work. Of course, they had to use a spotlight on the camera to be able to film anything, so looking at the camera felt like being interrogated by the secret police, and I couldn't see anything else at all for several minutes after I looked away.

A Dutch family happened to be up at the viewpoint. The children's grandfather had just died, and they were little enough to believe that he was a star now, and they'd got it into their heads that he was the brightest star, Sirius. So we had to let them have a look at Sirius through the telescope, didn't we? And they got filmed doing it. I exclaimed over constellations I couldn't see for the spotlight, and got filmed doing it. We all started pogo jumping to keep warm, and got filmed doing it. And then Merche did her best ET impersonation, "Phone home!" and we all got filmed creasing up.

And then we all went home to our nice warm houses.

Carmelo setting up his telescope