Archive for January, 2018
Westgate Oxford, White Rabbit Or White Elephant

Half yearly trips back to my Oxford roots have for the last three years featured curiously peering into the 440 million pound Westgate shopping centre rebuild. The old building was decidedly shabby and run down so this trip I got to see the opened and nearly finished article. Standing on the roof terrace looking down into the three layers of 100 shops and 25 cafes and restaurants I was getting mixed messages.

Wind tunnel is the biggest criticism I had read and heard about and on this arctic chilled January day I could feel their point. Ok I know I have been spoiled by all my years in Tenerife but I thought comfort was the big consideration for modern shoppers. The building layout reminded me of prison wing landings but this chocolate box collection had some nice thoughtful touches. Little scattered seating areas around coffee and snack stalls were nice and informal, and I liked the references and quotes from Lewis Carroll, alias Oxford scholar Charles Dodgson, who wrote Alice In Wonderland. As a true Oxonian I would have liked a few nods to “town” heritage such as William Morris, rather than just “gown” references.

The five screen Curzon cinema was a work in progress but promises to offer more relaxed viewing habits than the many other screens in and around Oxford. Social, is a collection of taste experiences from around the world, such as noodles, nachos, and designer burgers, all in a self contained dome. The Junkyard Crazy Golf looked tempting with dance music and pulsating lights as players pick their way around wrecked cars and other obstacles. Maybe at this point I should drop some store names, Hugo Boss, Mint Velvet, Moss Bros, Primark, and Ted Baker, There are also health and beauty shops. The two bus companies have stops just outside the centre and frequent Park and Ride links but the roads into the city centre are still a nightmare.

The crowning glory is the Roof Terrace with views of the spires and hills of Oxford, the tourists will love it in the summer as they can sit a little bit worryingly near the edge of the roof. The restaurants and cafes are all very up market and expensive, even the churros and chocolate by the plastic grass. I met a friend for afternoon coffee at The Alchemist, a nice relaxed setting although the multi coloured vapours coming off the cocktail mixing at the bar made me yearn for a real ale. Drinks are on the house in the Roof Terrace but only in an altitude way. The posh watering holes are open to 1 am Friday and Saturday and 12.30 other days.


I was told the opening days entertainment in the main square was spectacular, if they can have regular promotions and events, that will draw people back. The centre has no doors, I walked through a couple of nights, security have their work cut out, and I wondered how the ghosts are coping with the changes. I will have another look on my next trip over, but as I fancied a proper beer I adjourned to The Castle opposite, newly refurbished by Hook Norton and brimming with real ale.



Saddle Up Here Come The Three Kings

It´s not every day that you see three kings riding camels, magical characters that have stepped out of the pages of story books, and dancers with more moves than any Saturday night reality show. But 5th January is not just every day, it´s 5th January, Reyes Eve, the day before Spanish christmas celebrations and towns and villages across Tenerife were pulling out all the stops.

After a sunny but blustery day, Los Cristianos was a little chilled down by the sea front, some camels were even thinking of wearing human skin coats. Crowds were bigger than ever this year as the anticipation built, I caught up with the floats at their gathering point at Las Vistas beach as final touches were added and costumes were slipped into. The 8pm arrival of the three kings from a boat around by the old quayside was as always optomistic, so it was nearly an hour later that the kings joined the long procession as it began it´s journey up the port road.

Ancient and modern entwined as Carnaval influenced exotic dancers overlapped with cartoon favourites from classic stories and recent Disney movies. A giant book of fairy tales proceeded rows of bunk beds on wheels, full of children ready to dip into the realms of dreamy make believe. The kings were quite far back but were the must see attraction, their arrival was heralded with showers of sweets that were clutched at by a forest of eager young, and not so young hands. Back in the UK the sweets would prpbably be banned as dangerous missiles but thankfully they fly freely for Reyes.

The reason for this celebration is to mark the arrival of the three kings, Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltasar, at the Bethlehem stable armed with gifts for the baby Jesus. The procession ended up at the cultural centre where the outside was transformed into a stable scene looked over by the kings on their thrones. Pre wrapped presents were then pulled from large containers for those lucky children whose parents had handed theirs over earlier, the 6th January is the main day to receive gifts.

As the camels dispersed to return to their luxury hotels, well they can dream, a burst of fireworks lit up the skies to signal the start for the present hungry children about to approach the thrones. It was a glorious evening with magic in the air, bars and restaurants were enjoying the huge boost to their trade and I hope the organisers and participants in the procession will have rewarded themselves with suitable drinks. Creative juices will soon be flowing again as Carnaval season looms in February and March, the party never stops!


Future Stars Shine In La Liga Promises

Footballers come in all shapes and sizes, so write off the short, skinny, or clumsy at your peril. The under 12 players in the La Liga Promises tournament in Playa de Las Americas showed that a passion for football mixed with dedication and belief can create the next generation of star players. Over three days the 15 teams served up a glorious showcase of international starlets at the Antonio Dominguez stadium.

A half size pitch surrounded by extra seating, television gantries, and giant video screen was beamed out to TV audiences as seven a side teams battled it out, begining with 12 minutes each way games in the group stages. Big clubs like Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, and Paris St German were expected to do well but there are always surprise teams and players. Jef Utd from Japan exploded onto the scene with their tiny captain hitting a goal of skill and control against Inter Milan. They couldn´t sustain that form and lost that match 2-1 and didn´t make the knock out stage but won lots of admirers. Roma player Cristian Totti, son of Italian legend Francisco, caught the eye, and Valencia twins Vicent (goalie) and Marc Abril (midfield) were looking to create their own family joy.

The quarter finals produced some tight games, Barcelona beat Juventus 1-0, Valencia beat Dortmund and Espanyol beat Real Madrid both by a solitary goal. The drama came after a 0-0 draw between Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, it took a penalty shoot out to send Atletico through. At the semi final stage games increased to 20 minutes each way, Valencia saw off Espanyol by 1-0 and a thrilling 2-2 draw was settled on penalties as high scoring Barcelona put out Atletico Madrid.

The stage was set for the decider and thousands packed the stadium, CD Tenerife were first up to play Inter Milan in the Consolation Final, a combination of the Bloko Del Valle drum troop, a large contingent of noisy CD Tenerife fans, and their mascot Elio Doro the elephant, created a real party mood. Two quick goals caught Tenerife cold but they fought hard to reduce the arrears to 2-1 before Milan netted a third before half time. The second half was shaded by Tenerife but they couldn´t finish off the many chances they made against their more physical opposition and they lost 3-1. As a CD Tenerife fan it gladdened my heart to see so the future of my club in such good hands.

Barcelona and Valencia had been full of goals during the tournament but it was a cagey, technical main final with plenty of neat passing but few clear chances. Andres squandered two first half openings for Valencia as he skied his shots high over the bar. That was to come back to haunt them at the start of the second half, Amadou broke on the left and crossed to Hernandez who claimed the goal for Barcelona. There was no way back for Valencia, Barcelona were stroking the ball around and Cristo was unlucky not to add to his five goals in previous games, he still got the top scorer and MVP awards for the tournament.

The Barcelona players almost skipped up the steps to collect their medals and the trophy, and then spilled back onto the pitch to celebrate with coach David Sanchez. Valencia´s Tony Lopez got the coach of the tournament award, it was little consolation but his staff and players were quick to  congratulate the winners.