Archive for July, 2013
Hey Football It’s So Good To Have You Back


After eons (well a couple of weeks) without football it’s all kicking off again and it’s that wonderful time of year when all things are possible. You probably guessed that I’m the sort of sad act that couldn’t wait to get his hands on the Shoot league ladders to start planning my season. There’s only so much Big Match Revisited you can watch so the return of live football is very welcome.

Anyway after a 1-0 win in a training camp friendly in La Palma CD Tenerife were back in action at CD Marino for the Sebastian Martin Melo Cup, a short yomp down the hill from me at the Estadio Olimpico on the cusp of Los Cristianos and Playa de Las Americas. Pre match meet up of the Armada Sur was at The Whisky Jar a few yards stagger from the stadium. It was good to see so many old friends again and a few cold beers slipped down nicely on a muggy evening.

It felt strange not being properly dressed, I left my CD Tenerife colours at home in favour of a neutral choice from my vast summer collection. The start of a new era at CD Marino meant meeting the new regime at the club and picking up a press pass to take photos at pitch side for The Tenerife Weekly. Inside the crowd looked reasonable, about 1,500 filling up as the bar emptied, the banners were out in force and I even saw James Brown AKA Pepe Barrios the recently resigned president of Marino taking a guest place in the VIP seats along with Sir John Madejski on one of his regular visits from England. I had already arranged an interview with the former Reading FC owner, look out for that in The Tenerife Weekly.

Pre season games are all about seeding in new players so the games are often disjointed but this was a decent display. Marino showed  plenty of effort and made some chances but were a bit blunt up front, in contrast Tenerife made the most of theirs with Cristo Martin converting an Aridane cross in the first half and Sandro conjuring up a magnificent second goal just after the hour mark. Late strikes from Sandro earning his man of the match trophy, and Guillem Marti near the end made the final scoreline 4-0.

It’s going to be fun watching the two teams fortunes, Marino have lots of new blood and new leaders after their relegation to the Tercera and Tenerife will be hoping a sprinkling of new faces will bolster the squad after promotion to the Segunda. Marino seem to have “lost” the loud screechy female fan whose dainty voice rang out at games last season but they have gained a new pena or fan club, you can join them at their Facebook page.

Onto Saturday night and CD Tenerife followed up with a 2-0 home win over Las Palmas in the first leg of the Copa Mahou, a friendly by another name, the second leg is at the Pio’s ground on Wednesday night. I missed this one, well the league clashes with our mortal enemies will be the real thing. What a great result though, a 2-0 home win with goals in the first minute of each half, from Chechu and an Aridane header. There are still a few more signings to come for CD Tenerife and with the CD Marino fixtures finally due out I have a long and interesting season to  look forward to – bring it on.



Portland Bill And Football Bill As Bingo Beats Real Madrid In Bournemouth

Fresh air blasting through our ears, maybe that would shake the beer cobwebs away, so as Karen prepared an early afternoon breakfast Neal drove me out to Portland Bill, the highest point of the area. Keen walkers and explorers stared up at the lighthouse and the big obelisk near the rugged edge of the cliffs. Here’s a bit of useless info, lighthouse spotters are known as farologists and they describe visiting these tall towers as “bagging”. The views were inspiring and the rock formations would have sent a geologist into raptures but we were just doing our best to ignore the hangovers after the previous days fun in Weymouth.

I ventured as near to the edges as I dared but it was so busy at this popular viewpoint I couldn’t quite get to the southern most point in the UK. Feeling at least a little better we drove back into Portland with a cheeky beer stop at The Clifton before taking breakfast. It was the day of the pre season friendly game between AFC Bournemouth and Real Madrid so we took the long drive into Bournemouth and checked in at the Cooper Dean Travelodge giving Neal and Karen an easy route to work the next morning and me a short hop to the local airport in Hurn.

My friends are loyal fans of The Cherries as well as keen converts to CD Tenerife so we headed to the Bournemouth and Boscombe Royal British Legion, their pre game watering hole near the Dean Court stadium. My Ryanair flights were booked last minute and the match tickets had all sold out previously even at 55 quid a pop to members and 60 pounds to others. Even if tickets had been up for grabs I couldn’t have justified that much to see the pampered Primera side, especially when Bournemouth paid them one million pounds to come over. Neal and Karen had a certain reluctance to the circus of a game but loyalty to their side had won over, I was quite willing to pass a few hours in the Legion supping ale and their friends were very friendly and welcoming.

I was gutted that the only hand pump ale was off but was saved from a diet of keg by Matt pointing out they had Ringwood Fourtyniner and Doom Bar in bottles, and very nice they both were. As we chatted various interesting snippets emerged, one chaps son was a mascot for the game and he had been told there was strictly no asking the visiting players for autographs or photos – so much for positive PR and good old fashioned pleasing grass roots fans. I found out later that Madrid had taken over an entire hotel, The Haven in Poole and had a police escort to the ground, the financial juggernaught clearly didn’t want any commoners getting near to them.

Pre game I walked across the park with the others to have a nose around and get a few photos. Glossy programmes were on sale for a fiver and street vendors were knocking out dual scarves to mark the game, they were 10 pounds but had dropped to five just before kick off. AFC Bournemouth had reportedly made just 600,000 from ticket sales, their must have been other corporate money earners, advertising and sources in Tenerife confirmed that Gol and Marca TV were screening it live but it still didn’t seem a good financial adventure. Bournemouth’s ground impressed me, I had a look around their new football superstore that fronts the Goldsands Stadium and particularly liked the gnomes, the diehard fans still call it Dean Court.

The thing that most caught my eye was the photos of former squads and players around the walls of the stadium perimeter. The Heliodoro sadly lacks this homage to past heroes, clubs should be proud of their history and have a strong identity that fans can relate to. As the game kicked off young fans were trying to peek through the gaps in the pitch gates and back at the Legion there were several Cherries fans that were not going to the match. Bingo was the big event of the night, I declined an invitation to play, I was quite happy to sit near the entrance with a nice breeze blowing in as I demolished a few beers. It’s serious stuff this bingo, they all had magic marker pens and special check lists, I tried to keep a straight face but the caller had a voice just like Jo Brand, I sniggered away in the corner waiting for her to mention cream cakes and how useless men are.

Time and the beer went quickly and my friends were soon back after a 0-6 home defeat with two Ronaldo goals in front of a 9,600 full house. A few more beers and we headed back to the Travelodge and said our goodbyes before crashing out. My return flight to Tenerife went well the next morning and I was soon in a Los Cristianos bar reading the Bournemouth match report in the Canarian newspapers. What a fine week – and before you wonder, I did actually manage to get plenty done in my ongoing legal wrangles. Cheers to the Dorset crowd and good luck to The Cherries for the new season.

Muzzle That Seagull, I‘ve Got A Hangover

They breed the seagulls big and noisy in Portland, a loud screechy one was perched on the roof of Neal and Karen’s house as I awoke with a delicate head after a great day in Weymouth. I have fond memories of Dorset from holidays in my youth and the last two days of my England trip allowed me to create some new picture postcards in my mind.

The previous day I signed off in Oxford tying up loose ends and I had the chance to savour a few good pubs. Coming back to town from Wantage with a rumbling tummy the bus stopped on Botley Road outside The Seacourt Bridge and it seemed to reach out and lure me in so I went in for some food. I always liked the pub when I worked near there and was pleased to see it looking unspoilt inside with 5 good ales on hand pump and some great food offers, I went for the Golden Greats package of plaice, chips and beans followed by apple crumble with cream for just 4.35. A nice pint of Rascal and England taking a pre dinner break wicket on the TV left me feeling rather smug. At night I met up with some old mates at The Chequers in town before ending up in the St Aldates Tavern (formerly The Hobgoblin, my home from home). The beer choice was superb and it was good to see the pub bustling, and restored to its gleaming best.

Saturday morning I was on the platform at Oxford station clutching my ticket and ready for the Bournemouth train. I was down there just in time to catch my link train to Weymouth and the Jurassic coast, stations like Wareham and Poole triggered reminders of youthful excursions as we chugged through the Purbeck hills. Weymouth was buzzing on a scorcher of a day, a quick drop of at my friends house at the top of Portland gave me some stunning views of the modern marina used for London 2012 and then Chesil beach stretching out below. The last time I was in Portland was the big drought of 1976 and the grass was again starting to turn the same parched brown colour. It was time to break the beer drought and a taxi back into the centre of Weymouth dropped us at The Globe, an excellent locals pub with plenty of real ale.

The sun was calling and with some new friends in tow we moved to the old fishing quay where the pubs were spilling out onto the street as the fishing boats bobbed up and down beneath the road bridge that rose and parted to let tall boats sail by. It was a lovely setting and the company made it even better, the beer flowed as we mingled outside The Royal Oak. Some fine local ales like Knob and Jurassic kept me well watered and a cracking afternoon was had by all. Apparently in the recent hot weeks several people had come a cropper on and below the bridge, I bet the 6.8 strength Crazy Goat cider in the bar had played a hand in a few tumbles.

For a well deserved food stop we popped around the corner to a big chippie with a sit down section, the fish and chips portions were large and tasty and even here there was more great ale like Piddle in a bottle. It all got a bit hazy as the evening wore on but when the three of us returned to Portland myself and Neal nipped out for a late few beers in Portland. All the liquid intake ensured I slept well and even my seagull alarm call and the hangover that came with it couldn’t detract from a great start to the Dorset adventure.

Walking In Wonderland And A Spot Of Croquet

So there I was walking down Cornmarket Street in Oxford and I saw a White Rabbit on a bike held stationary on a frame, he was peddling furiously to produce a cascade of bubbles as a tubby tuba player performed theme tunes like Superman and The Wizard of Oz. I know your thinking I shouldn’t have had that last pint the previous night but it was just a small slice of the diverse and bizarre happenings going on in the centre of my home city.

Thursday was my day for exploring before the final push ahead of my weekend in Portland so I set off for Marston and Court Place Farm, home of Oxford City FC. Blimey how it had changed, the new community arena and artificial training courts were very impressive but what really pleased me was to see the place buzzing with visitors. There is a community college and a large party of language school students were also heading into the clubhouse and teaching rooms, I even found a couple of ladies rehearsing a play at pitch side. Sadly I won’t get to see a game this trip but it was nice to see the amazing strides the club has made.

Next up was a steady walk down Marston Road to cut through to the cycle track into the University Parks, more surprises awaited me. The Somerset pub caught my eye with its Thursday 2 pounds a pint offer – I will check that out later. Turning down into Canterbury Road I was surprised to find a Russian Orthodox Church squeezed in a terrace. The Church of Saint Nicholas the Wonder Worker looked lovely, later research showed it was opened in 1973 and is used by several different faiths. Hitting the cycle track the cattle grid was a clue to the cows I was to encounter ahead, they seemed friendly but I was worried they might sense my fondness for a burger so I sneaked past them. The gate into the parks took me past the weir with the nudist area Parsons Pleasure somewhere beyond that – I remember on a 6th form punting trip our posh English teacher got an eyeful as she inadvertently steered us right by the less then shy clothes shedders.

A bit further up the main path opened up to the full glory of the park and the cricket pavilion and square. Every alternate year the University team hosts the tourists in a game, a few of us used to take time off work and spend three glorious days emptying cool boxes of beer as we watched the West Indies or Australia. There was no action to see but plenty of sunbathers peppered the lawns and little groups gathered under the shade of some mighty trees. From there it was just a short walk up into town, St Giles was looking good with hanging baskets overflowing with colourful plants, and then came Cornmarket and the White Rabbit. The costume (I suspect it wasn’t a real giant cycling rabbit) must have been stifling in the heat but he waved happily to families as they gathered, a collection tin was filling up well with funds for an African children’s charity.

Town was heaving with visitors so I headed down to the Thames for a cool beer at The Head Of The River pub. I still had a few calls to make and called at old Oxford Prison complex to see how the beach was doing and even had a little knock at croquet on the lawn, it’s ok but will never replace football.



Catching Up On Business And Pleasure In Sun Soaked Oxford

It will never match the late great Alan Whicker but my own modest tour back to blighty began with a smooth early Ryanair flight into Bournemouth International Airport and I was impressed that the Red Arrows were parked up to greet me – well maybe they were actually there for a series of nearby shows. The sun was glorious, my return train ticket wasn’t as horrendous as expected and I even managed to grab a bit of food on the way through – my mood was relaxed and matching the weather.

At my age I’m allowed to have the odd grumpy moment and this latest was sponsored by Cross Country trains. I had brought my netbook with me and looked forward to doing a little work on the train in the WI-Fi carriage but was shocked to find out it wasn’t free, so if you go in a café or pub and have a drink you can get free Wi-Fi but if you pay 54 pounds for a return train ticket you have to fork out extra for the wibbly wobbly web – not impressed.

Anyway hitting Oxford the memories came flooding back as I dived into my task of pulling together the last (hopefully) bits of the aftermath of my Dads death three years ago. Several fruitful calls later I was in town and deserving a drink, it was fairly quiet, most people had headed for river side pubs but I visited a few old haunts trying to avoid the light summer ales and picking the darker brews. The old Gloucester Arms has been stripped back from a rockers paradise to a boring place with no atmosphere called The White Rabbit. As luck would have it The Chequers in High Street had a beer festival on for a month, 60 ales and cider with a free pint after every five bought. The dark brooding pint in the photo is a Copper Dragon from Skipton – very nice.

My second day was a whirlwind of office calls and visits, my mum eventually recognized me at the care home in the beautiful Wantage countryside but she is oblivious to most of what’s going on – I manage that state sometimes but only with liquid help. I had a quick look around Christ Church college grounds, Oxford is stunningly beautiful especially in the sun and it was nice to see so many delightful young ladies enjoying the weather and flashing the flesh.

One of my big tasks was to organise  the clearing of my parents house, this has only recently been added to the legal hoops I have to jump through for the pleasure of finally signing my old home over to an Equity Release company. I met a bloke from a local firm outside the house to give me a quote, putting  the key in the lock was a weird feeling as I braced myself for a wave of emotions. I thought a stampede of animals would rush out like in Jumanji but it was in surprisingly good condition. I scooped up as much as I could off the huge stack of post and later sat outside a pub as I opened all the envelopes, mostly advertising junk (Mr Branson was particularly keen to offer my parents broadband). The TV licence people want my Dad in court and Southern Electric have been sending ever spiraling assessed bills although the power has long ceased flowing – a few emails will sort them all out.

At least I had an evening treat to look forward to, catching up with an old Ice Hockey friend Andrew Hall at his pub The Rose and Crown – a pleasant evening of beer and wobbling down memory lane closed the day nicely. I’m missing my daily swims but Oxford has a temporary beach outside The Swan & Castle at the old prison shopping complex – complete with Punch and Judy. Let’s see what else Oxford has to offer.

Getting To Know Magnificent Masca

There is always another wow moment in Tenerife, slicing down into Masca valley on the corkscrew road from Santiago del Teide, the island of La Palma shone brightly in the distance as the rocks and the centuries parted for amazing views of the village below. For me this was a chance to close a glaring gap in my exploration of Tenerife, despite many treks and jolly jaunts I had only had a brief brush with Masca village on a jeep safari as it slowly recovered from the big fires of  2007.

Clasped in the palm of nature the not so secret seven clambered, squeezed, and carefully picked our way down the high sided Masca valley. This was an Armada Sur based group adventure with myself, The General, Kirsty and Gordon with the girls and Federica a visiting language student from Italy.

We met up on the 460 Titsa bus from Playa de Las Americas before changing to the Titsa mini bus 355 that always waits for the connecting buses at Santiago del Teide plaza prior to taking the 5km road to Masca. The driver was great, not only skillfully negotiating the tight road but also stopping at key points so passengers could take photos. This mini marvel was only 1.45 euros one way but the second discounted fare of the morning on my Bono ticket was a mere 10 cents.

Spilling out at the top of the village we had a quick look at the church plaza and then hit the trail downwards past the bar restaurant with just some brief fruit snack buys from a local vendor. The pathway isn’t clearly marked but it’s easy to find, especially as it’s a busy and popular route, we could pick out a few bobbing backpacks up ahead. The exposed rocky path was soon embraced by fertile green undergrowth and a bridge over the barranco gave us a chance to do a panoramic sweep of all the nature had laid out before us.

Probably the biggest challenge of this walk is the diverse terrain, changing rapidly from smooth and dusty to rugged and cracked with plenty of blocks of exposed rock calling for a well placed step up or down. Looking up the towering stacks of rock were carved and etched by a combination of the elements, natural stairways rose in small crevices and old water channels still trickled despite the current alert for dangerously high temperatures. At several crossing points of the stream it was easy to imagine how even a small amount of winter rain could make it difficult to pass.

Of course we came prepared with ample water and snacks, shady spots became natural breaks and Christmas for the lizards that scuttled out of the plants and rocks looking to scavenge any stray bread. There were notices early on warning against feeding the skinny feral cats as they also devour smaller species and tip the balance of the eco system. Numbers on little squares fastened to the rocks were clearly some indication of distance but we found out later they are also reference points for anyone needing to call emergency rescue. There’s not a month goes by without people needing rescuing from Masca, it’s not a walk you can easily opt out of part way through, lack of preparation is a common cause but as this is the second biggest natural attraction in Tenerife after Teide National Park there are bound to be a few accidents.

Settling in one of the large clearings for a breather it was like being in a giant cathedral and the echoing quality of the air added to the sense of awe. There was a steady procession of other walkers, some on organized trips and some making their own way. The stream came and went as it burbled under the surface only to re-emerge later, it encouraged plenty of insect action and a selection of dragonflies in contrasting colours. Maybe we were deluded but was that the faint sound of the waves wafting in on the cooling breeze? Myself, The General, and Federica hit the front and worked our way over and around a particularly challenging section of rocks and tight ledges as the rock stacks parted wider and we got our first glimpse of the sea.

The beach of large pebbles that greeted us spread out to our left where it became a sandy cove, and to our right where a rocky outcrop below the steep incline served as a launch point for swimmers via metal stairs, and also as a mooring point for the water taxis. Two companies operate from under sunshades on the beach, we booked our sea trip to Los Gigantes with Top Class Tours, just 10 euros each or 5 euros for children aged 2 to 12.

Some of our group took a dip before our taxi arrived, the 20 minute skip over the waves came with a refreshing sea breeze and some on board entertainment. The skipper held a biscuit aloft for the seagulls who powered into our windy slipstream to take turns at grabbing a little snack. At one point we thought we might have to hang on to The General’s feet to stop a feathered kidnapping but the biscuits were their preferred treat. The walking part of the day took us 4.5 hours but we took our time and made several stops. It was a cracking day and Masca lived up to all my expectations.



Ten-Diez Wants Art To Flow At Magma Artes & Congresos

Culture in the south of Tenerife, now there’s one in the eye for all the cynics who can’t see beyond sun, sea, and sand. The seed sown by the Ten-Diez art movement two years ago is growing nicely and their latest gallery has just opened with a dozen exhibitors at Las Americas Magma Artes & Congresos, itself a bold merger of culture and commercialism.

Mark Fradley (top pic) is the driving force behind Ten-Diez and he explained the dream, the reality, and the ambitious future. “I was into photography as a teenager but work as an electrician and adult practicalities took over until I moved to Tenerife. That’s when inspired by the sea I took up my camera again but was frustrated by the lack of exhibition areas in the south to give a platform to myself and other artists.”

Mark wanted his exhibitions to show off the best face of art so he took the name from another type of craftsmen. “ Ten-Diez refers to the time 10.10 that clock and watch makers set their time pieces to so they showed the best possible view of their work.”

Magma plays a key role in the Ten-Diez movement and with a sweep of his hand Mark gave me a sneak preview of their biggest canvas “The Event” which will fill one of the large display areas on the first floor from 25 October to 2 November. “We will have 55 artists, local, national and international, and it will include photography, painting, and sculpture. This is a very versatile venue so we will make the most of it inside and out, a display of classic cars will set it off nicely.”

Back downstairs a new dimension was added to the large cavernous interior of Magma by the hot evening sun throwing lengthening shadows across the craggy concrete. The gathered artists all had a chance to introduce their work with a short speech and browsing beforehand I found a nice mix of mediums and subjects. The digital dogs and surreal surfscapes of Nikki Attree were full of fun and invention. Cayetano Gomez Barrato breathed new life into recycled materials for works that jumped out and demanded a reaction – yes that is an old mattress given a colourful makeover. Laura Serrano de Pedro delved into the deeps of the ocean with photos that gave an insight into a world of grace and mystery.

These were just a few of the selection on offer, all the works are for sale and represent some of the best artistic talent in Tenerife in photos, ink pen sketches, collage, creative use of technology, and most of all imagination and talent. The gallery is open Monday to Friday 9 to 3pm, Tuesday and Thursday also from 7 pm to midnight, and it’s free to view.