Monday, March 25, 2013

Canadian Stargazers

I got a couple of day's work looking after some Canadian visitors to the island. (Actually they're Americans who've lived in Canada for a long time.)  Nice people. They run a hotel called Trout Point Lodge in Nova Scotia, and they're hoping to start astrotourism over there.

They were staying in a hotel I wasn't previously aware of, the Hacienda de Abajo in Tazacorte. It's gorgeous - it's a converted  16th century manor house, on an estate which used to produce sugar cane. It looks really nice, something like a National Trust property.

This made for rather long days, though.  On Saturday morning I distributed copies of my books to shops in Los Cancajos and Mazo, then in the afternoon, I drove over to Tazacorte, left my van near the hotel, and got a lift back to the airport where I met my clients.  I went around with them in their hire car for the rest of the day. We looked at one of the country cottages for rent, then went down to the astronomical viewpoint at Fuencaliente to see the sunset followed by dinner at Casa del Volcan, followed by stargazing.  I finally got to see comet PanSTARRS!

But that meant we got back to their hotel at midnight, so I didn't get home until 1 am.

I was quite glad that they didn't want an early start on the Sunday.  I got there for 9 and we had a brief look around Santa Cruz before heading up to the observatory. They were suitably impressed by GTC and the view from the Roque itself.

Then we went down the Garafía side and ate at El Bernegal.  (Yum!)  And back to Tazacorte.

They had a meeting in Santa Cruz on Monday, and in the rush on Sunday morning I hadn't shown them where it was. So I met them briefly on Monday and showed them to their meeting.

And then I had to leave rather fast because the meeting was beginning, which made for a rather rushed goodbye.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Spanish books have arrived!

At last!

After literally missing the boat at Cadiz, 300 copies of the Spanish edition of my guide book to the observatory have arrived. Just when I'm really busy with guiding work at last.

So distributing it will be a bit of a challenge, but I'm delighted, obviously.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Car update.

The car is seriously ill and needs an engine transplant.  This is going to be slow and expensive.

Thank goodness we've got the van!  It's a bit slower, noisier and smellier, but it goes, and that's the main thing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I'm a star of the silver screen!

Making me look glamorous
My next day's work didn't quite go to plan either.

I'd agreed to be interviewed at the Roque. I wasn't sure what they were filming, but I had a book to promote, and if I couldn't promote the book, maybe I could promote the island.  At worst, I'd get some practice in at being a media whore. So I dutifully set off with a selection of my working clothes, as ordered.

I was driving through Los Andennes (most of the way up there) when something under the bonnet went BANG!-clatter-clatter-clatter.

Of course I pulled over.

Luckily my boss was right behind me and he gave me a lift.  And I phoned my husband about the car, and he said he'd look after it if I could get a lift down with my boss.

It turned out that they were filming an advert for La Palma as a tourist destination. I could get right behind that!

I'd been expecting a team of about 4 people, but there must have been at least 12 of them. I even got professional make-up and a professional hair dresser fussing over me.  That was fun.  The only catch was the clothes.

It's always warm and sunny in the Canary Islands, at least according to the tourist board, never mind what the thermometer's actually saying at 8,000ft in March. So I wore a T shirt when the cameras were rolling, and I borrowed a jacket every time they stopped. And I answered questions and smiled and tried to look natural in spite of the cameras practically poking up my nose.

Actually it was rather fun. I'm a little too fond of being the centre of attention, really.
Two cameras and a microphone isn't intimidating, honest!

Once they'd finished filming me and my boss, we waited around and suggested other good bits to film around the Roque.  And then my boss had to be interviewed on a radio program, which meant that he had to be somewhere with mobile phone coverage, not halfway down the mountain.  So we waited for that, and he finally drove me home for about 8pm.  Which made for a long day, even though it was great fun.

Meanwhile, my husband had taken the car to a workshop and then walked home.

And before you ask, no I don't know when it'll be on the telly.  In any case, these were subcontractors working for the Canarian tourist board.  They seemed pretty pleased with my work, but in theory the tourist board might veto it and it'll never be shown at all.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I don't like Mondays

Here's what was supposed to happen this morning:
I was going to sleep until about 8, have  a leisurely breakfast, and leave for the Roque at about 9 to show a group of students from Suffolk university around the observatory until about 4pm. I've enjoyed the group in previous years, and since it's all day the money's nice too.  Besides, this year I was rather hoping to sell them some books.

Here's what actually happened:
I woke up at 6:45 am when I heard a dull thud from my son's bedroom, followed by "Owwwwww!"

Oddly enough, I thought I'd better investigate.

The poor lad had been getting out of bed, still dozy, when the alarm clock went off and made him jump. Somehow that made him fall.  Result - one broken bedside lamp and a very sore wrist.

So I got dressed, gulped down a coffee, and took him to the emergency room. There was no queue at all, but we hit the shift change.  Anyway, the first doctor examined him, and sent him off for an X-ray.  Then we came back to the emergency room and waited for the result to come back. I thought I might just make it to the Roque anyway. Then I thought again, and called my boss, and explained the situation.  He said he'd be able to get up there in time.

So we waited for the X-ray results.  And waited and waited, and waited.

Eventually they came back, and he didn't have a fracture.  So they put on a bandage instead, and told us to keep it dry.  No biggie.

We left the hospital at 10 am, just slightly too late for me to have made it to work.  Ah well, my son's waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more important.

By then, the rest of his school timetable for the day would have been two hours of English (unnecessary, because his English is better than the teacher's), PE (I don't think so!) and artistic drawing, which would have been very tricky.  So we went to the optician's instead, which we've been meaning to fit in for a month.

Again, it could have been a lot worse.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My books missed the boat


The lorry with 300 copies of my guide book in Spanish "Una espectacular ventana al universo: guía del observatorio astrofisico del Roque de los Muchachos" arrived at Cadiz docks on Saturday 9th March, shortly after the boat to Tenerife left. And they sat on the docks waiting for the next boat until Thursday.

So they didn't make it in time for comet watching on the night of Saturday 16th, but then the comet watching was cancelled for bad weather anyway.

The books should arrive some time next week.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francisco

Update: This quote is a hoax.  I apologise for spreading it.

There's an interesting quote from Jorge Bergoglio (yup, the new pope) published in the newspaper Telam Argentina on June 4, 2007 flying around the internet in Spanish.

"Las mujers son naturalmente ineptas para ejercer cargos politicos." "El Orden natural y los hechos nos enseñan que el hombre es el ser politico por excelencia; las estricturas nos demuestran que la mujer siempre es el apoyo del hombre pensador u hacedor, pero nada más que eso."

"Women are naturally unfit for political office." "The natural order and facts teach us that man is the being political par excellence; scriptures show us that women is always the support the thinking man or maker, but nothing more than that."

What gets me is that the bishops and cardinals claim that the church does a lot of good in the world. I recently realised that most of the good (soup kitchens, passing on second hand clothes etc.) is done by women. The women don't "support the thinking man or maker", they do it all. At least in this village they do! And the credit grabbing and very real harm (lying about condoms and AIDS, hating on gays, protecting rapists etc.) is done by the all-male clergy, mostly the higher-up clergy.

Maybe that's his definition of "thinking and doing".

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A weekend break - part 2

Whenever I'm in El Hierro I tend to wake up early and go for a walk before breakfast, then meet up with my friend later. This time, I was tired enough to wake up late and stagger to meet her at 10 am, although my hip had improved enough that I could walk along the flat at almost normal speed.

My friend knew a couple of teenagers who are interested in astronomy, and wanted to meet me to talk about my book (very flattering!).  Besides, we were out of milk.  So the plan was to drive to Valverde, via the little shop in San Andres which opens on a Sunday morning.

And the exhaust fell off my friend's car.  The tube part separated from the silencer and started dragging along the ground.

So we had to go back to El Pinar.  Who minds a bit of black tea when it's with a good friend?

And we chatted and watched DVDs and chatted and did some painting with the little girl next door. It's years and years since I painted a duck, and I'd forgotten what fun it is, even though I'm a terrible artist.  Maybe it's fun partly because I'm so terrible - it takes all the pressure off. (And maybe I need to worry less about results in general.)

The little girl made up a story about the duck, along with the butterfly, bee and ladybird that she'd painted. It was a good story too.

And her parents offered me a lift into Valverde in the morning, seeing as my friend couldn't take me to the airport. Fantastic!  It looked like I'd have to hang around in Valverde for a bus to the airport, but there was one that would get me there in  time for my flight. Although it would mean a very early start.

And for once in out lives we went out to the bar for dinner, and met friends of my friend and had a great time.

It was only once I was back at the hotel, packing, that I realised I'd have to leave before reception opened at the hotel.


In the end, I left a note with my contact details explaining the situation, and promising a bank transfer as soon as they gave me a bill and an account number. I still felt very guilty as I left though.

The journey was uneventful, except that I only had to wait ten minutes in Valverde before I got a bus to the airport. Of course that meant a longer wait at the airport itself, but I checked in the suitcase immediately, which made life easier.

All the same, by the time I got home, I felt I needed a holiday.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A weekend break - part 1

La Restinga harbour

In January Binter had a special offer - make a booking in January for a flight in March, and get about 40% off. so I booked the flight to visit my friend on El Hierro. It was a little risky, because I couldn't change the dates at all. But still, 40%.

So I booked.

And then life got a bit complicated, what with bumping the car, and a party I didn't want to miss on Thursday night and my friend having to work this Saturday morning and so on. But I'd booked, so I went.

On Friday the flight from la Palma was delayed, so the connection in Tenerife was really, really tight. To my surprise, I managed to jog all the way from the plane to the new departure gate only to find that a) I'd hurt my hip by running and b) the flight to El Hierro was delayed too. In fact, when I limped painfully to the second plane I was greeted by the same air-hostess I'd ad on the first flight. Yup. Same plane. No wonder it was delayed! But ouch, getting up the stairs to the plane was unpleasant, and coming down again was worse.

Well, my friend collected me from El Hierro airport and took me to my hotel. They'd only reserved me a room on the third floor (and there's no lift).

So I asked for, and got, transferred to the first floor.

The hip continued so painful that I had to go and see a doctor. She gave me one of those examinations where the main diagnostic is to see what makes you scream. Then I got two injections, some pills, and instructions to rest. It worked. Chilling out with my friend got progressively less painful. My friend had to prepare for tour guiding so I went back to the hotel fairly early on Friday evening. Thanks to the injections, walking was less grim, but those stairs back at the hotel still weren't fun.

I was tired and crashed into bed at about 9 pm.

And I woke up at 11 pm. The bar just below was holding a party. No wonder they'd given me a room higher up! At that point I found that I'd left the power cable for the laptop at home. Now normally I do lots of creative writing when ever I'm on El Hierro - I think my muse loves getting away from the routine and chores - but that wasn't going to happen this trip. So I read, since sleep was impossible until the music stopped at 5 am.

So I spent most of Saturday morning (while my friend was working) asleep. Around 8 I got up and went out for breakfast (with the leg much better), then went back to bed. I got woken by the chambermaid who hadn't expected to find anyone still asleep at 12:30.

When my friend finished work, we went down to La Restinga for lunch.  I even managed a hobble around the harbour. Then we met friends and had a good chat until almost sunset, and went for a very good pizza in a local restaurant, followed by an early night.

Friday, March 01, 2013


I dropped my son off at his friend's house higher up the mountain, and decided to pop in and see a friend on the way home. As I braked and turned into my friend's driveway, the lady driving behind me failed to see my indicator (I'm sure I was indicating - I could hear it ticking) so she moved to overtake.


I'm sorry to say that we had a brief yell at each other, being human and upset.  And then we calmed down and went into my friends house and had a camomile tea to calm down some more and we filled in the paperwork.

It could all have been so much worse.

A nice sale

The Isaac Newton Group just ordered 20 copies of my book - the English version.