Started to write this blog last week on my hols. So here goes. Hail from Tenerife! Not able to do my normal brisk walk this morning, because I strained something as I tripped trying to cross the road yesterday toting the morning's groceries. As plums rolled down the road, I was hoping no-one had seen my knickers. (Thank God I was wearing a sensible pair!) Feeling stupid, stinging and sore, I picked myself up asap to avoid offers of help if proffered and limped homewards. Why does embarrassment almost always attach itself to a fall or mishap of this nature? Being centre of attention for all the wrong reasons, perhaps.
Anyway, this morning, I headed down to the promenade with my first nescafe of the day to read on the sand and found myself, instead, watching couples running together alongside roaring ocean. Here in Ireland, there is a saying that families who pray together... stay together. Perhaps couples who run together... have fun together... ? I would love to be able to... and even be interested in running, but I find it difficult. Its not that I don't like to keep fit, I swim 100 lengths of the pool 3 or 4 times a week and walk briskly whenever possible. I think I just have a mental block about it since primary school when I was only selected to compete in the sack or egg and spoon races. I can remember waiting, expectantly, each summer for my name to be called out for the relay or 400 yd sprint, but it never was. At grammar school I played on the school hockey team for several years and was constantly being told I'd make a great golfer, because I swang my hockey stick way above my shoulder. I was shocked beyond belief one day when the surly PE teacher (why are religious instruction teachers and PE teachers always so miserable?) made me sports captain of the class just because I managed to face my fear of jumping over hurdles and finished the course without knocking any down. I was petrified, but secretly chuffed as I thought back to the eggs that had rolled off my spoons in lonelier times. Anyway I enjoyed watching the legs and running shoes that seem to look good on every one but me. I have been looking for a greyish, blackish, worn-out looking pair for about ten years now, because I dislike white ones intensely, particularly when new. Takes me back to shell-suits. Oh dear, do you remember them? A member of my family, who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons, wore shell suit bottoms with stilettos! Anyway back to the book I was intent on reading inspite of the distractions of man and nature.
The book I am reading is the first novel, The End of Sleep, from author, Rowan Somerville, who was born in East London, now residing in Donegal, Ireland. It is described on the outside cover as:
'a riotous love letter to Arab culture, its rich history, humour, food and friendship and, above all, to the transformative power of storytelling.'
I am in the overture stages of the story, but already finding myself intrigued by some of the images he conjures.
'He was grateful, he explained to an uninterested Farouk, to the shipwrecked sailors of the Spanish Armada who, finding themselves stranded on Irish turf in 1588 and discovering pliant Catholic maids, did the decent thing and bred some colour into an otherwise pasty race.'
'The sun´s glare bulllied Fin's eyes and his stomach whined for comfort.'
More about the book later.
Flew back into Birmingham after midnight last Sunday with the prospect of sleeping on an airport seat to catch flight back to Ireland the following morning. After I bid farewell to my friends Diane and Avril, I approached two airport maintenance men. I asked did they know of a cheap hotel closeby where I could rest for a few hours. They told me about Etap Hotel just across from arrivals behind Novotel, costing only £35. In the lift on the way up to my room, I asked another patron what the rooms were like. His description fit the bill of a youth hostel. However, I was more than delighted with the room. It was clean, comfortable and cigarette friendly, as long as you opened the window. Irrespective of whether I smoke or not, hotel windows that don't open, freak me out. The bed was cosy and the pillows, most importantly, were more comfortable than most of the more expensive hotels in which I have stayed. I flicked on the TV and watched the remains of a film that is quite scary, one that I still haven't yet managed to watch in its entirety, 'Don't Look Now', starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. The music is a little over the top, but there are some lovely shots of Venice. In comparison toThe Ibis Hotel at £125 and the Novotel Hotel at £150, this hotel was real value for money, with a 24 hour snack service if you felt like soup or a sandwich. I would have no hesitation recommending this chain of hotels to the most discerning traveller. etaphotel.com. Anyway back to Tenerife.
Even though I have many, many acquaintances and friends, the closest are the ones I grew up with, and as I only get to see them spasmodically, I have become quite independently self-analytical. It always takes me a few days to get into 'girlie mode' and eventually the barriers come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho. Diane, as I mentioned in a previous blog has just overcome breast cancer, a difficult time, but one she has battled with mind-numbing positivity. She works as a carer in a home for the elderly. Avril is a social services care manager with the elderly, who should have a portfolio of 25 cases, but has 42 clients in total and takes every one of them into her heart. Apart from a few wonderful days in Connemara, last year, it had been some time since I had had a break myself, so this was a much needed respite for all three of us.
I like to wander to the supermarket and cook etc. on holiday. Crazy perhaps! Most of the year I rush from work to the supermarket to the kitchen. Not big in to going out for a meal anyway, unless there is an accompanying ambience. Seems like a total waste of time and money! (I called into an Italian restaurant in Portlaoise quite recently (quite partial to pasta, ricotta etc.) and asked the waiter whether he could swap Frank Sinatra for some Italian music. I was dismayed to hear that customers had complained about the Italian music, so Pavarotti had been ditched. Same story in the Catalpa restaurant in Clonmel. I just don't get it!) Anyway, most restaurants in any touristy place possess zilch ambience as far as I am concerned. We missed the weekly market in Tenerife, where the local produce would be displayed. Keeping an image of the world map in front of me almost like a board game, I am always fascinated by the different plants, foods, climate change etc. simply because we move from one box to another, another line of latitude and longtitude. Leaving the airport and stepping into a twilight Tenerife, we were welcomed warmly by gloriously golden marigolds, creamy-white, vanilla- scented oleander and cerise-petalled bourgainvillea. I had left behind me a frost-scorched garden with daffodils waiting patiently in the wings, dying to hum the first notes of Spring.
I like to talk... perhaps that's why I keep a blog! I have also been told I am nosy... and there could be an element of truth in that as I like to people-watch and make up stories of connection. The lady in the local supermarket was icelandic with a perfect english accent. (By the way, just a note about her bananas. They were small, blackening and misshapen, but they were scrumptious, tasting like the bananas of my childhood. They were a real yellow, not the symmetrical anaemic milky version sold here in Ireland. It was a real treat to get a banana sandwich growing up, as it was mostly sugar or condensed milk sandwiches. Is it any wonder I have such a sweet tooth?) She told me she fell in love with an Italian and lived in Italy for thirty years. When he died 10 years ago, she moved to Tenerife, to be closer to family etc. She was reading a Ruth Rendell murder mystery at the counter and I said I had read some PD James. She maintained that RR was the queen of murder-mystery writing and I'm quite willing to take her word on that. I would liked to have spent more time talking to her, particularly about Italy, but the sun and ocean called. The temperature was a pleasant 20 - 23 degrees and the Atlanctic Ocean, whilst quite cool upon first immersion, was refreshing and wholesome.
The girls were easy about whether we dined out or at home, as long as they didn't have to cook. This arrangement suited all of us and allowed extra chill out time before heading out to 'Divine Soul', 'The Dubliner' and 'Soul Bar'. These were our boogying ports of call throughout the week.
There was a feast of amazingly talented artistes performing hits from the Temptations, Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Tyrell, Freda Payne etc... etc. in these bars, and when the live action was over, DJs played original recordings that floated and shimmied over nightfall's laughter. We have all been asked at some time or another, 'What is your favourite song?' I have always found that a difficult one to answer, because there are so many that I particularly love. However that was all about to change, when the first notes of Barry White's great song, 'You're My First, My Last, My Everything!' swam into earshot. What an amazing piece, not just because of its romantic lyrics, its sensually heady rhythm, the full orchestral string treatment complete with brass and woodwind, his gorgeously bass-timbred voice. It is in the compilation of all these aspects that creates such a sense of sheer joy, a freedom to be who we really are! It reminds me of the film 'The Sound of Music' where Julie Andrews (Maria) sings 'The hills are alive to the sound of music...' as she runs up to the top of a hill in the Swiss Alps, her arms outstretched, open-heartedly, unrestrainedly and without cynicism. She believes she can do anything and that nothing is impossible in her well-meaning world. So now, when anyone asks me that question, I can answer with great conviction. Voila - Barry White - 'Your My First, My Last, My Everything!' Now I just have to work on the other standard question, 'What do you want to do when you grow up?'
I had planned to hire a car to go do a little sight-seeing etc. etc. but then couldn't find my driving license before I left. (Unorganized... I know!) Rico, from whom we rented the apartment, who is also a theatre director and producer, working presently on a major production for Zurich in the Summer, offered to take us up into the mountains the next time we visit the island. Apparently the roads are quite treacherous. I would have liked the challenge of that... my own fault! Mount Teide, which dominates the landscape of the island, is the third largest volcano in the world (from its base) and last erupted in 1909. Some commentators say it is active, some say it is dormant. It is surrounded by 18900 hectares of land, which is collectively called Teide National Park and was named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007 and one of twelve treasures of Spain. It receives millions of visitors and is second only to Mount Fuji in Japan. (It is quite horrifying to see high sky-scraper apartments killing the natural landscape of this island. In Lanzarote, another of the Canary islands, buildings cannot be built over two storeys.)
A Rather Phallic Perspective of Mount Teide?
We met two very interesting men, Dave and Alec from Cumbria in the UK (hope I got that right lads?) towards the end of the week who had spent three or four days hiking through the interior landscape of Tenerife. They had rejoined 'civilization' for the last couple or so days of their holiday, and said if we had met up earlier, they would have taken us out trekking. We commuted mostly by taxi, and because of my interest in people, and the fact that Italian is so close to Spanish, I tried very hard to communicate with them. However, most were po-faced grumpy, tired-looking men who were hugely pissed off with the whole tourist thing. I enjoy the company of taxi-drivers, who, because of the nature of their job, are usually talkative, knowledgeable and chivalrous. Perhaps these Canarian taxi-drivers are sick to the back teeth of having to smile until their faces crack at holiday-makers who want everything at knockdown prices.
My heart was broken some years ago while holidaying in Thailand with my mother at the sheer snobby disgust some human beings show to their fellow man. I had surprised my mum with a week long holiday in Thailand... absolute madness when I think about it now! My poor mother! 17 hours flying time in cramped conditions. Took half a week to recover and spent the rest of the week thinking about the horrendous flight home. I was initiated into the whole bartering fiesta about half-way through the week. It was advised to start the negotiating process at about half of what they punched into their calculator. The currency was bahts and dollars. So I had wandered into a shop to buy some bits and bobs for the girls. Being the nosy person that I am, my eyes wandered over to this slick, overweight, moccasinned man, who entered the shop with a youngish bikini-clad blonde. He was smoking a fat cigar, (probably matched the size of his penis! Quite possibly a selfish lover, in which case, size would make no difference whatsoever!) The two of them swanned around the shop like royalty, building a pyramid of genuinely branded designer dressing gowns, sweaters, shirts etc. by the counter. Crunch-time came when this up-his-own-arse gobshit responded to her calculator machinations. Tears flooded the poor girl's face. His offer had obviously seriously humiliated her, given that starting halfway was the norm. She protested and pleaded benignly through her tears, which he ignored and discarded like dog shit from his shoe and walked out of the shop languidly, casting sneering and demeaning looks back at her and her livelihood. I was seething mad. I actually wanted to run after him and thump him! How dare he offend another human being like that. I bought an extra garment, because I felt so sorry for her. She was still sobbing when I went up to pay for the stuff. I felt so ashamed!
Finished my book. Really enjoyed it. It did give me an insight into the hustle and bustle of Cairo and the islamic culture. The main character of this book, Fin goes to work as senior reporter with the Cairo News, only to find that he is the only reporter with that newspaper and becomes slowly disheartened by the lack of intrigue and romance that he expected in the exotic location of the Middle East. His friend, Farouk promises him a breaking story re. finding treasure etc. The story didn't take Fin or the reader in the direction that was expected. Fin is searching for something to fill that hole that is in so many of us. Towards the end of the story Farouk dons his bedouin-like clothes, raises Fin in the night and forces him up onto an arabian stallion to ride out into the desert. After a fall or two, the horse and himself entwined together cantering with the wind, Fin's macho bid to cover his fear of horses with a veneer of dislike dissipates like his fear of joy and brings a realization of the treasure within himself.
'Shouting was sometimes a matter of emphasis, sometimes a matter of anger, but rarely an expression of real hostility.'
'Many would say that Yousef was a soft old man for accepting, but he explained, he knew what he saw and felt, and he saw that God had pitched his tent of love in his daughter's heart and who was he to tear it down?'
My ensuite bathroom (NB scarves at window)
Well back to work with a vengeance and this blog is all over the place! Girls slotting some pictures of my boudoir and bathroom, so you get an idea of what I was talking about. Girlie...? Thank you so much girls for a week filled with friendship and fun.
I'm back to my beloved Crete in May. I want to explore the White Mountains and the Southern coastline that played such a crucial part in defeating the Germans in World War II.
ps. Still can't get the hang of positioning photo titles. Centring works sometimes and not at others! Sorry I know its untidy and annoying. Help!
Somerville Rowan. The End of Sleep. Great Britain: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 2008
Bedouin proverb that Rowan cites at beginning of his book:
Dawn does not come twice to waken a man!
Ciao for now!