Archive for January, 2017
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.


Blowing The Dust Off Christmas

Flitting around trying to find a clear route, I was like a junkie looking for a decent vein. Deep down I knew my last Tenerife walk of 2016 was penance for liquid over indulgence through christmas but it was a balance I was happy to strike. Barranco de Chijas was hazy in my memory from the first time I did it 10 years ago and I was struggling to find the true path just above Valle San Lorenzo in Arona.

This was going to be a special Christmas Day walk but a midnight downpour trapped me in a bar and delayed my treat. Talking about that crazy weather, strong, swirling winds, and an on off calima (dust blowing over from Africa) had been dogging the last few weeks but it was bright and sunny as I took the 25 minute ride on the 418 Titsa bus from Los Cristianos. The coldest part of the walk was the steep climb up the well signed La Tosca turn from opposite the BBVA bank in the main street of Valle San Lorenzo, if I had kept on straight up I would have been fine, basically keep to the right of the Terrero (Canarian wrestling stadium).

Running water is a big feature of the walk, old concrete channels criss cross the route and several of them were roaring down at a cracking pace to irrigate fields. Low down a series of interconnecting clearings gave me a chance to assess my surroundings. The barranco ravine carved its way upwards, weaving around old deserted houses as my rough earth path worked its way over large bolders. It didn´t look much of a rise but looking back the views opened up down to the hazy calima dusted coast. A modern water pumping station gave way to the much more elegant old viaduct andpigeons and doves surprised me as they fled from bushes at the sound of my crunching feet.

Amazingly some landmarks tweaked my memory despite my long absence, a couple of impresive trees caught my attention as previous sandwich stops. The trees kept a stubborn hold on their exposed hillsides despite a keen but fairly warm wind and time passed quickly. The highest point of the walk is Salto del Chopo but with the wind whipping up and the mornings newspaper warnings of further strong gusts, I decided not to push my luck, and sterted my return trip after just over two hours. Tyre marks in the loose dirt had made me think of scrambles motor bikes but that idea was soon corrected as a helmeted and elbow padded trials cyclist came flying down behind me. I just side stepped out of the way in time and was alert by the time another whizzed by ten minutes later with a cheery wave.

It was a lot easier walking downwards and spotting the correct finishing stretch, it’s imprinted on my little pea brain now so I can sprint out of the traps when I return again soon. Valle San Lorenzo is always a good place to visit as it has a good choice of bars and restaurants and the bus service is frequent with two main services pasing through.