Heavenly Walk With Hellish Rules

My heart sank as I was handed a compulsory helmet by the staff at Barranco del Infierno, I had overcome my resistance and booked my walk in advance and paid my residents rate of 4.50 euros, the only walk in Tenerife to require either, but this was an unexpected torment. Feel The Nature is the walks slogan, the feel of the breeze and the kiss of the sun are among the reasons people choose to get down with nature by enjoying this walk, how can you enjoy it with a potty on your head.

Adeje is truly blessed with the Barranco del Infierno (hells ravine) the 6.5 km return walk starts just above Adeje old town making it an easily accessable route from the tourist zones of the south.It had been two years since my pigeon feet had last graced the walk but I was soon reminded that one of the steepest inclines is the approach road from the historic canon to the walk´s gateway. Once I had read and signed the A4 sheet of rules (aaargh) for the walk I soon found myself looking ahead as the path rose to skirt a corner before plunging down between towering rocks. Looking back from the first viewpoint, Adeje town peered over the lip of the barranco but although the sky out to sea was clear blue, it was dull and cloudy inland.

The path was narrow with big drops to one side, protected only by knee high wooden marking posts. An old aquaduct above the dip in the trail, and narrow concrete channels were a reminder of how water has always been funelled down from the mountains. Even on this cool day my head was already feeling clammy inside its prison, how unbearable would that be in the full glare of summer. At least my ears were free to hear the bird song from the many inhabitants of this haven. I saw my first Barbary Partridge on this walk many years ago and a plump relative briefly crossed my path, I half expected it to be wearing a hi visibility jacket, thankfully it was unfettered.

Air currents above the barranco are a magnet for paragliders, a few were swirling around high above the rocky walls. Getting further into the walk I was able to appreciate the flowers and plants as the scenery took on a greener look. All the trees and bushes were bristling with life and the soft gurgle of the stream was joined by a frog chorus, without Rupert Bear I´m pleased to say. Going against the flow of the water it was becoming more of a small river, at some crossing points metal slats had been added a few years ago, these were done with the minimum of disruption to the look of the walk and subsequent ageing and discolouring of the metal made it blend in even better. The old chestnut tree is one of the marker points along the way, old and knarled it looks like it dates back to the dawn of time.

Even the more mundane flowers like dandelions took on a special quality, nestling in among wild spreads of grasses and leaves. At the top of the rocky skyscrapers, younger trees clung precariously to overhangs, nature will always prevail. Turning the final corner the landscape opened out into a large bowl, a good incline of the neck away from the light filtering down from on high. A slighly raised area gave way to the waterfall running down through a cleft in the rocks from a height of over 200 metres. With the prolonged spell of recent dry weather, the cascade wasn’t as pronounced as it can be but as the walk has previously been closed for days after heavy rain further inland, it was probably as good as visitors will get to see.

A cheeky Robin posed on the chain keeping people from getting too close to the water, I took that as my cue to start retracing my steps back to the start. This time I loitered a little around the water pools and got a closer view of those noisy frogs and the green blaze of colour caused by leaves. Passing other people in some of the other 13 time slots, I reckoned a generous 15 on each would make 225 visitors a day, quite a bit down on the older of my visits. At 12 euros for non resident visitors, it’s hardly surprising, especially as there is a free, challenging and totally natural walk, signposted up the lane to the left of the reception office. Barranco del Infierno still has the power to charm, surprise, and educate, I was glad to have seen it again, but hope the policy of charging and restricting doesn’t spread to other Tenerife walks.

 

 

The Greatest Story Ever Grown

Imagine a painting so enchanting and emotional it took your breath away, then imagine it housed in a gallery so stylish and beautiful it almost outshone the contents. That was the sort of Easter Thursday I found in Guia de Isora for the first of the four day Pascua Florida street exhibition of floral sculptures.

My last visit to the event, unique in Spain, was on a cloudy day but this year the sun blazed and the views out over Playa San Juan to the crystal clear island of La Gomera were as good as I have ever seen them. Taking the modern concrete ramp off the main road, a series of large straw cubes ringed with flowers eased me into onto the church surrounds. “Dice” was the name of this work, referring to the casting of lots as people waited for Jesus to die on the cross. Just beyond was the church plaza and a stunning piece “From The Sixth Hour” with an Agave plant representing nails through the lords hands as roses bloomed below. It was at that point the church bells peeled gently, I wasn’t the only one to stop and savour the moment.

I must make it clear that I am the least religious person I know but I can still appreciate beauty, sincere sentiment, and well crafted art. Guia de Isora is cracking little town bursting with character and for the Pascua Florida the narrow backstreets are closed to what little traffic there is, allowing a gentle stroll around the 18 works, each with a brief description in several languages. But wherever you go, the recently refurbished church of our lady of the light draws you back to its large, partly shaded plaza – the crown of thorns made a nice centre piece.  You might think I was laying it on a bit thick if I said the birds were chirping sweetly as well – but they were.

Anyway it was time to explore the back streets to tick off all the works, not in strict number order, the map on each description was a rough guide to how the streets linked up. Back To Life in a long side alley may have looked like multi coloured wizards hats but it referred to the disciples waiting for the resurection. Passing along Calle La Vera it was nice to see the red crosses on the cultural centre, these are a regular feature but not one of the 18 main works. Next up was one good enough to eat. People were still working on a wall mounted work featuring fresh bread rolls weaved into the circular design. Some of the settings are cleverly tucked away, such as Sermon In The Garden, trailing up a narrow stone walkway. At this point several works could be viewed at once and also a tempting glimpse of the church, a couple of artists were sketching what they saw, very impressively, I was hopeless at art in school.

I took a few detours and back tracked to see a few favourite creations, it was good to see so many people enjoying the day. Forced to choose, i´d have plumped for “Unconditional Love”  simply because the heart design looked so wonderful with the majestic church in the background. Many gathered around the church plaza, a shadey cafeteria was doing a brisk trade and a small wind instrument orchestra struck up with some live classical offerings. On the following evening there would be live theatre in the streets but I grabbed a snack further down the road and waited at the bus station for my green chariot back to Los Cristianos.

Chrome Fur And Scales At Arona Carnaval

Quiet moments are few and far between during Carnaval season but in Los Cristianos Sunday morning was, if you’ll pardon me singing, Easy Like A Sunday Morning. It was a time to wallow in hangovers while taking a little air at the showground to catch the classic car show, and dog show that co existed nicely in the morning sunshine.


BMWs and Mercedes Benz jostled for attention but I was looking for motors that spoke to me, a VW camper van complete with a cross dressing hippie practically yelled at me. As an Oxford boy, a mini winked cheekily at me and a MG sports car purred gently as people worshipped every last nut and bolt. By now the dogs were getting preened, dressed, and ready for their big moment, they all seemed quite happy to be squeezed into all sorts of fancy dress get ups. Apart from the odd playful bark, they were fairly subdued, not even the prescence of a giant koala bear with yellow and purple balloons phased them. Some of the owners had cleverly inserted references to the Arona Carnaval theme of Las Vegas. A dog with a roulette wheel on his back brought a new meaning to mobile betting, and his owner looked very impressive decked out with a pack of cards skirt and a sign advising people to make their bets.

The main event for Sunday afternoon was the Coso parade, here´s a few of the groups that adorned the streets for a couple of hours, most of my shots are in a big spread in this weeks Canarian Weekly. The parade was advertised to start at 4pm but in true Tenerife fashion was almost an hour late, my attention was distracted not only by some of the skimpier outfits, but also the Cadiz v CD Tenerife game that was being relayed through my earhole. I always enjoy a mooch round while the participants are getting ready for the off, it´s nice to see the attention to detail, the excitement, and a little nervous tension. All the best floats and costumes include somewhere to stash plenty of liquid encouragement, for the first time in my memory there was no blazing sun for the procession, but the liquid was pre arranged so it would have been rude not to enjoy it.


After a hectic week, Monday night brought the sardine funeral, it gets ruder each year with men dressed as wailing widows following the giant sardine, exposing their fancy undergarments below the black outfits, and waving the odd exagerated manhood. It´s always great fun as the procession makes its slow progress around the streets and down to the beach. Past events have taught me that after a flurry of early photos I ca adjourn to The Devon Arms for a couple of pints of Dorada and still beat the sardine and friends to the sealed off enclosure near the shore. This years fish was a good burner, it took just the right amount of time to scorch off the multi coloured scales and cute make up job, and the fireworks put on a show worthy of New Years Eve.

Big Deal As Arona Carnaval Hits The Streets

Loud, brash, and fun. Three terms you could apply to Veronicas in Playa de Las Americas, and Las Vegas, the American gaming capital, which just happens to be the theme of the 2017 Arona Carnaval. I had the ZZ Top version of Viva Las Vegas buzzing in my head as I dived into the preparations for the Cabalgata opening parade in the slip road outside the Veronicas strip.

Often thought of as the Los Cristianos Carnaval, the Arona Carnaval always kicks off in Playa de Las Americas on a Saturday evening. A good mix of early evening revellers and afternoon sports watchers in the local bars, were spell bound by the frantic last minute adjustments to costumes as the music and dance groups assembled on their alloted starting grid. Coaches on the main road above arrived packed with feathers, sequins, drums, and high heels as year long plans came together in a blaze of colour.

So what´s the difference between the Cabalgata and Coso closing parade? The opening parade is less outrageous as it features many of the younger groups, everything is more accessable at ground level ( the big high floats come later with the Coso) and it has more of a family feel to it. The candidates for the showpiece events like Carnaval Queen, were there in more formal wear and free of the metal support cages that help them glide across the big stage when trying to win their crowns. The hopeful six for the main crown looked magnificent in their matching red and silver outfits.

There´s always at least a nod towards the theme of the year, playing cards were a safe bet this time. Lots of old characters were lurking, religious figures in particular, the church is the main butt of the jokes at Carnaval time. Lent was always strictly imposed on the poor people at this time of year, taking meat out of an already limited diet. In recent years there has been a big influx of cartoon and super heroe influenced costumes,call me old fashioned but I like to see the fairy tale figures out in force.


Cinderella was flashing her twinkling slipper, and the Queen of Hearts was shadowed by her little white rabbit. The parade is a long walk down through the golden mile to the Oasis shopping centre, so those with heavier outfits did their best to pace themselves.The royal candidates got chauffered in open top cars while others gave the illusion of getting a lift but still had to do the foot work. As an official opening, the Cabalgata throws down the gauntlet for the entertainment to come over the following week and a bit. Many of those taking part in the first parade will also pop up again in the Coso, along with lots of cheeky works in progress that will give the organisers a few grey hairs as they wait to see how far the jokers will go.


Prepare to dance, and prepare for late nights. The showground in Los Cristianos will be the focal point for the duration. There´s a fun fair a short stagger away, with a giant sized ferris wheel, listen out for the sound of beating drums, roll those dice, and off we go.

Arona Fighters Stage A Knock Out Night

The sad sight of David Haye shambling around the ring like a drunk did little for the public image of boxing but my first taste of live action showed me me why it´s called the noble art. Los Cristianos sports hall hosted nine amateur (three rounds) and two professional fights (six rounds) filled with skill, power, determination, and a refreshing respect for the sport and oppoments.

 


A dedicated team of referees, scorers, time keepers, and medical staff made sure it all clicked along professionally and with safety the over riding concern. That didn´t detract from the intensity of the contests, the gloves were pounding, the muscles pumping, and the tactics subtle and well drilled. First up was Pablo Luis, he survived an early tumble to grind down Joel over the three rounds and take victory. The second match up saw Raul narrowly defeat Adrian of the home club Real Boxing. Each winner got a trophy, and the runner up got a medal, as well as plenty of appreciative applause from the crowd up in the bleecher seats.

The next contest didn´t get beyond the first round, Chiky launched straight into his opponent, Sandro and with a fierce combination of punches put him down. Sandro was clearly dazed but got plenty of time and medical attention to ensure he could collect his medal, a consoling hug from Chiky, and then leave the ring. Head protectors were worn in the next fight as both fighters were under 18, Kilian, a late substitute, saw off Diego Medina after a close contest.


One of the closest and hardest fought bouts brought together home favourite Mihail of Real Boxing, and Alberto Arley. These two really slugged it out and either would have been a worthy winner. After the scoring forms were collected, Mihail just shaded it. The big tv fights aren´t the only ones to enjoy a touch of glamour, the girls from Chocolat paraded the round number cards in the rests and looked every bit as good as their Las Vegas contemporaries.

Back to the action. Saul and Cotu gave their all before Saul got the nod to lift his trophy after a little wobble from Cotu. Everyone loves a showman, Jerday played to the crowd when he entered the ring for the next fight. He showed he was made of stern stuff, surviving a small cut above the eye to clinch the contest. Womens boxing has had to battle hard to get equal billing, every boxing event poster I´ve seen around Tenerife seems to include at least one female bout, Melissa Tudge and Patri showed that they could match the men with their skill and all action style. It was a very even bout with Patri ending up the winner.

The two big professional fights of the night featured fighters in the heavier weight brackets and the contests were very different. First on was Jacobo (Caco) Barreto from Anaza against Siliviu Costea from Romania. It was a short contest as Caco floored Siliviu in the first round with a thunderous punch. The last clash went the six round distance as Adasat (Toro) Rojas took on a late replacement, Ullrich of Cameroon. Ulrich was a bit slower than Adasat but he was tough and solid and took everything that was thrown at him. Adasat wasn´t sure what to make of him at first and had to use all his ring craft to alternate tiring body punches with head shots that he hoped could bring a knockout. At the finish they both knew they had been pushed all the way but Adasat clinched it thanks to his higher work rate and more adventurous approach. Fight nights are pretty frequent in Tenerife and always great value, this latest was 15 euros on the door and here is the gallery of photos.

Getting Down In Isla Baja With Titsa And Teno

Just add a knotted hankie and I would have looked like a stereotype Brit abroad. I didn´t care though, I was so happy to finally get to Punta de Teno on the north west corner of Tenerife that I had to feel the sea gently lapping at my pigeon legs exposed by rolled up jeans. Adveristy had dealt me a kind blow, the old cliff road had crumbled away last year and the replacement needed protecting from too much traffic. The Titsa bus company introduced a new shuttle from Buenavista del Norte and that was just the encouragement I needed for a big day of adventure.


An early Saturday morning start got me to Icod on the 460 bus from Playa de Las Americas, just after 9.30 am, I had a few alternatives in mind in case the weather kept up its frisky mood of recent days but the emerging sun was kissing the corkscrew roads beyond Santiago del Teide. With time in hand I had a wander around Icod, their Pirate Carnaval was on and a big wedge of home made chocolate and almond cake from a street stall further lifted my mood.


The next leg was a 30 minute hop to Buenavista del Norte via Garachico,I filled my 30 minute wait there with a catch up around the main church plaza and a coffee at the lovely bus station bar, La Gran Parada. There´s something about bus stations in the Isla Baja region that atracts great mural artists, this bus station also had a pleasing offering. So the deal with the new Titsa 369 shuttle is it only runs on weekends and holidays, hourly from 10 am to 5 pm as that is when the access road to Teno is closed to pretty much all other motorised traffic. The fare is one euro each way (cash only) and includes a leaflet with basic info about Teno as well as a guided commentary on the 30 minute journey, those extras come in a range of languages.


What a fabulous journey it was as the road rose to reveal the coastline far below. A manned check point before the steepest climb added a few more passengers who had parked their cars or realised they couldn´t continue walking up the road, especially as it goes through a large tunnel hewn into the cliff. The steel mesh pinned to the towering cliff above us should prevent further rock falls and is a reminder of the mischief that nature can work. Arriving at our destination the views out to Masca and on to Los Gigantes were superb and the relative lack of people due to the restrictions was a big bonus. With nesting Ospreys, giant lizards, and a wealth of rare plants, the new protective plan is very important, a Guardia Civil van underlined this point.


I was surprised to see a mini fishing port, and it was on their launch slope that I twiddled my toes. There are a few modern additions like concrete driveways that serve the Teno lighthouse, and a couple of portaloos but there´s nothing on sale anywhere so if you bring water or a snack, make sure you take your rubbish home. There are a couple of enhanced low ledges to dangle a rod from but swimming is not a good idea as the currents in the area are notorious. A gate on the driveway prevents access to the lighthouse up on the rocks beside the entrance there is a clear view. Lighthouse spotters are known as farologists and apparently getting to see one is known as bagging it.


There are plenty of paths to explore and nice viewpoints along the coast, it was a pleasure to be at this amazing area, the small number of visitors made it feel very serene and untouched. After an hour the bus returned with another sparse cargo of people so I hopped on to begin retracing my route back to Los Cristianos. Low clouds were rolling in now but I still managed a brief stop off at an eerily deserted Los SilosThere was time of course for a few beers in Icod and the bus station bar had the Mallorca v CD Tenerife game on, the 1-4 away win completed a perfect day.

And The Sun Shone Down On Santa Cruz

White faced and with a sparkling blue top hat, the clown mimed pulling himself across the zebra crossing on an imaginery rope near the Meridiano shopping centre. Santa Cruz Carnaval was warming up nicely for the main events but this clown from the south of Tenerife had a full tick list to cram in before CD Tenerife v Elche.

The auditorium was my first stop after arriving on the 111 Titsa bus from Los Cristianos. Reports of the mosaic pattern peeling off the roof amid a row with the architect reminded me to give it a full 360 degree nosey. Apart from a bit of light scuffing low down it looked as majestic as ever, the cafe terrace facing the sea was overflowing and people were enjoying a sun kissed rest on the sea wall with the rock stars spread out below. Happy with architectural matters, I cut back through the bus station into the city centre and felt a sigh of pride at the Chicharro fish statue in its sea of new flowers.


The port always lures me down, as always there was a nice assortment of sea faring craft from the inter island ferries to the huge MCS Magnifica cruise liner. Further in, the marina I found the Rubicon 3 taking a rest from clipper racing. Originating from Plymouth, I bet it bobbed up and down a bit when the Green Army made life hard for Liverpool in the FA Cup. Tall mast ships were moored up further round, they are recruiting crew at this time of year for their adventure voyages, the Eye Of The Wind looked particularly fine, and together they partially masked the rather ugly oil platforms that call in for repairs.


Back in the busy capital city, shoppers were packing the streets as I passed through onto another favourite haunt, Parque Garcia Sanabria, it was ablaze with colour, well tended, and chomping at the bit for spring to come along. Whilst admiring the flowers I could hear a loud croaking sound which drew me to the big pond area. The murky green soup was full of tadpoles but many had already started turning into noisy frogs, it just needed Rupert Bear to complete the scene. I wouldn´t rule out seeing Rupert or any other cartoon character over Carnaval time, I can feel a few more walk abouts coming on.

Hear, Smell, And Taste The Almond Blossom Walk

Even two weeks after my latest experience of the Almond Blossom Walk from Santiago del Teide to Arquayo, the sights, smells and sounds are still with me. There´s a full report in the Canarian Weekly but with limited space for photos, here is the pick of the petals.

 

It wasn´t just blossom on the Almedro en Flor, there was history as we passed through the lava fields just beyond Chinyero where the last big Tenerife eruption of 1909 stopped in its tracks when the statue of the virgen was placed in its path.

The walk is backed by food and cultural promotions until 19 th February, the blossom will be at it´s best at least until then.

Two Sports In One Perfect Tenerife Day

I´d like to boast about my sporting prowess, all the medals I have won and records I have broken – only one problem, it´s just not true. I was the wimpy kid at school who always got picked last, even the smokers did better than me at cross country. Despite that, I love watching sport and with Canarian Weekly giving me free reign to cover as many different varieties as possible, I´m like Olly Reed in a brewery.


Tenerife is a magnet for professional sports teams and individuals, especially when the UK winter sinks its teeth into any bare flesh displayed in the name of competition. Arriving at T3 (Tenerife Top Training) in La Caleta to cover Hull Kingston Rovers training camp I was overjoyed to find that Warrington Wolves still had a day left of their 10 day trip and had arranged a training game against Hull KR. I had to brush up on my flimsy rugby league knowledge, the only live UK I had seen was at Wigan Warriors on a very boozy lads holiday up north – when I was still a lad.


Both squads and management were very helpful and the T3 complex is always a joy to visit, the two swimming pools always make me wish I´d brought my budgie smugglers. Warrington finished last years Superleague in second place while Hull KR (white corner on shirt)  were relegated to the Championship. There were a few clues to who was the higher placed club, Warrington (crimson red shirts)  had a bigger staff including two female masseurs who were treating players at two tables at pitchside, part of that could have been down to their stay being twice as long.


The game was played over two 20 minute halfs and was decided on tries, Warrington ran out 3-1 winners, but for both teams it was more about getting ready for the new season. Both squads had some powerful looking players, if they say it´s Tuesday then it´s Tuesday. Warrington coach Tony Smith (above with hat) was referee and laid down the guidelines before they started, basically competitive without getting too carried away -injuries were not part of either coaches plans for the visit. This was very much a working holiday, both coaches talked of the odd team meal out rather than the usual rush to Las Americas that most football teams seem to favour. It was a nice insight for me to see how rugby league teams run and left me with great admiration for both clubs.


The evening brought a change of sport and venue as I headed to CD Marino´s ground in Playa de Las Americas to see my beloved CD Tenerife take on a southern select side made up of players from the Tercera Division and Preferente League. It was a charity fundraiser for the people of Venezuela, there have always been close ties and movement of people between Venezuela and the Canary Islands. I expected a bumper crowd as it has been a few years since CD Tenerife played in the southern tourist zone but it was probably around 500 people. Some of my Armada Sur friends met up at The Whisky Jar but I was down at pitchside getting ready to prowl the touchline with my camera. The team sheet gave a clue as to what was to come, the Tenerife list had 33 players and even then there were others with unlisted numbers.


The big draw was to weigh up Tete´s new loan signing from Las Palmas, Tyronne (no 22) , from the start it was clear he wasn´t rusty from not getting regular games witht he Pios. Playing up front he looked strong and fast and created several chances for his new team mates. Choco Lozano was sharp and cracked in a stoater of a shot into the top corner of the goal after36 minutes. Half time brought wholesale changes, Angel Galvan got a chance in goal but had little to do, Oscar Gonzalez and Giovanni from the B team caught the eye, and Cristo Gonzalez was trusted with the captains arm band. With Tyronne going off after 59 minutes some of the fizz went out of the game but the young guns were keen to stake a claim. Giovanni showed his skills to set up Oscar for a 65th minute second goal, and when Giovanni had a one on one with the select goalie he slipped the ball sweetly past him for a 79th minute, game clinching third goal.


The charity organisers were well supplied with a seemingly endless list of donated raffle prizes, and non perishable food was also donated, near the stadium exit there was a tower of boxes full of long lasting food and supplies to ship out. All in all it was a mighty fine day, there was onmly one way to cap it off, a few Dorada´s at The Victory bar and I was able to wobble up the hill with a satisfied smirk on my face.

Doing Time In Oxford

Being hung was the least of your worries when Oxford Castle and prison were in their heyday. Anne Green survived it in 1752 despite helpfull spectators pulling on her body, pumelling her ribs, and putting her in a coffin. Mary Blandy asked to be hung low down to stop people looking up her skirts, she saved her blushes but still died and now haunts the castle mound. She must be a bit shocked at the huge buidling project fot the new Westgate shopping centre nearby, on my latest Oxford visit the sky was still dominated by giant cranes but the centre is taking shape and should be open by the end of 2017.

Every time I pop back to my roots, I have at least one Tommy The Tourist trip, the castle visit was shoe horned in on the day of my return flight to Tenerife so I paid my 10.75 for the first tour at 10 am when the frost was stinging cold. Empress Matilda, the grandmother of Richard The Lionheart was our character guide for the five of us as we entered the base of St George´s Tower with its nine foot thick stone walls. The Norman conquest of 1066 led to the building of the castle with the earth from the moat becoming the mound. Our informative guide added her story of escaping down to the frozen river and beyond on skates made from animal bones. The cold base of the saxon St Georges Tower made me shiver, and so did the tales of prisoners 10 hour shifts turning a heavy capston wheel. That time span was to become a recurring theme for all punishments and work details once the prison was established.

The 101 steps of the tower were a good wake up call for my hangover and the sight of the chimney of the defunct Morrels Brewery brought a tear to my eye. Back down in the foundations we were stirred by talk of ghosts. A tight passage led us to the prison section and D Wing, a small remaining part of the prison, it closed in 1996 and a large part is now an expensive shopping area and a posh hotel that will cost you an arm and a leg. Talking of arms and legs, Matilda told us of mutilations and robbed body parts at public hangings as we crowded into a cell. It was all delivered with a gallows sense of humour and plenty of relish at the most gruesome parts. The pillary, tall version of the stocks, sounded fun, locked in and dreaming of being pelted with rotten fruit as excrement (don´t ask whose) and rats were hurled at you. Oh and for good measure your ears could be nailed to the back board to keep your chin up.

What heinous crimes could get you banged up? Anything from stealing a back of sugar to having a saucy tongue when talking about the Queen could win you a free holiday. Later prison governors were quite happy for inmates to be used for medical research, and if your thinking this is ancient history, the last Oxford hanging was in 1962. There was an opportunity to pose for mug shots against the inmates wall, these were quickly converted into grainy and aged looking photos complete with your crime and sentence. Talk of treadmills, cranks, and the origin of the officers nickname screw” made me glad I couldn´t be punished for the childhood nicking of sweets from Woolworths Pick and Mix.

 

The guided tour took just over an hour, once outside I took advantage of the pass for the castle mound (included in the price) treading carefully along the upward spiralling semi thawed track. At the mounds top it was weird to look across to the old Co Op offices I started work in when just a young pup. Public hangings from the grassy peak were the big sporting event of the times with people turning up drunk and lusting for blood and possibly a few bits of bone or fingers as souvenirs. These days it would be endlessly repeated on Sky. Back at the bottom I popped into the Castle Yard Cafe for a warming coffee, they do food as well – as a nice cheeky touch they serve porridge.