Archive for the 'Life' Category
A Galaxy Of Sport And Science In Tenerife

Where’s my red spandex suit? I felt a bit like The Flash this week trying to run ahead of everything that was happening, but that’s how I like things. Sleepy little Playa San Juan was having an out of body experience when I called by on Saturday morning as the Tenerife International Water Ski Racing tournament was getting underway. The small harbour adjoining the gently shelving beach had a bizarre mix of huge throbbing speed boats, small training yachts, and paint peeling old fishing boats.

Could the mix get anymore bizarre? It sure could, police whistles shrieked, sirens wailed, and a string of rally cars came bombing along the coast road and up through the tight main road. The Subida de Isora contestants were just limbering up for the afternoons uphill charges, a nice little bonus for me in the quest to fill my allotted pages of the Canarian Weekly. I was impressed that people in the sea front cafes hardly missed a slurp of their coffees as the action unfolded around them.

The lure of CD Tenerife at home to Rayo Vallecano meant I could only sample these splendid contests before catching a magic carpet, well Titsa bus to be precise, back to Los Cristianos and a link up with the Armada Sur. My blog match report has slipped down behind life’s sofa with so much going on but needless to say I was well chuffed with the 3-2 win and awarded myself the appropriate reward measured out in Dorada beer. Sunday brought more football, this time a noon kick off at CD Marino in a local derby with Las Zocas. Prowling the touchline with my box brownie (that’s an ancient camera, not a new bondage doll) I was sent almost dizzy by the 5-1 home win.

My big midweek mission was a long anticipated coach trip to tour the Tenerife Observatory perched just below the peak of Mount Teide. Volcano Teide made it possible for me, the observatory report is in the latest Canarian Weekly but as I hadn’t made the journey to the Teide national park for several years, it was good to remind myself how amazing the 2,000 metre plus world is. Rising through the pine forests above Chio, the first stop was at Llano de Ucanca, an old dried lake bed surrounded by towering rocks sculpted by nature. Speaking as someone who can just about turn on his computer without blowing up the national grid, I marveled at the audio guide downloads on the information boards. On a more rural note, one of the walking trails was chained off due to wild sheep, I think on that rough terrain they wear little hiking booties.

There was another short stop at the Teleferico cable car station which takes visitors to viewing areas nearer the peak of Teide. The queues were long but the views make it worthwhile, it’s definitely something I need to do again as it’s been about ten years since my last ride up. Just a week before Teide was glistening with a dusting  of snow but it had soon melted  away, on this day it was clear, and the air was lightly chilled as the sun kept the temperature at a comfortable level. Come the turn of the year when inevitably some heavier snow settles I intend to make the pilgrimage on one of the specially buses to catch people playing in the snow, making snowmen and sledging through the strange white visitor. For now it was onto the observatory and an enlightening tour of the telescopes and science projects. It was nice to think that the beach would be waiting for me on my return offering warmth

Puskas And A Revolution On And Off The Pitch

Ferenc Puskas

The worst thing that happens to modern football superstars is losing a cosmetics endorsement. Imagine being exiled from your country of birth, your family and friends, and being labelled a traitor, all that and more happened to Ferenc Puskas of Hungary but he preserved his talent, his love of football, and his dignity to become one of the greatest players the game has seen. All this was brought into sharp focus for me when I attended a commemorative day to mark the 60th anniversary of Hungary’s short lived uprising against the communist rulers who moved in from Russia after WW2.

Hungary Day Adeje

During those turbulent times 193,000 people fled the country, many headed for Spain and there are 300 Hungarians living in Adeje, Tenerife. The Hungarian Consul Nora Henriette Hermann-Boer and other leading figures from the community led the gathering in El Convento, between the Plaza de España and the town hall. The red, green, and white Hungarian flag nestled between those of Spain, the Canary Islands, and Adeje as speakers recalled those dark days. After the service the Spanish and Hungarian national anthems were played to the small gathering.

Hungary Day Adeje

Hungary Day Adeje

I had been drawn by the promise of a documentary film, The Real Puskas, I had heard lots about the footballing genius and seen old footage but didn’t appreciate the extent and impact of his career not only as a player but also as a manager. Puskas introduced himself to the British public in what became known as The Game Of The Century, England, unbeaten in 24 matches, hosted Hungary in 1953 at Wembley and the sublime Puskas led his team to a 3-6 victory that shook the football world. The Mighty Magyars are still recalled as the most complete team of all time. Get a load of these Puskas stats, he scored 84 goals in 85 internationals and 514 goals in 529 games in Hungary and Spain. The great man joined Real Madird as an overweight, semi retired 31 year old and starred for eight seasons, winning them everything in sight. Later he became a manager, getting Panathanaikos to the European Cup Final and taking Melbourne City to Australian league  and cup titles.

Mariann Szucs Adeje

Mariann Szucs, Adeje

Puskas career gives a unique insight into the problems in Hungary, a team mate was hung for trying to leave the country, Puskas was abroad with the national team when the revolution was quelled and didn´t return until after the new free republic was formed in 1989. During the uprising 2,500 Hungarians were killed, the communists agreed to negotiate a peace but then sent in tanks to crush resistance. Thankfully these are happier times for Hungary, I felt a little uneasy watching this suffering unfold via the football film as I enjoyed the hospitality of ladies in national costume dishing out cheese straws. After the film there was a recital of music and folk stories on a stage in Plaza de España with the Barranco del Invierno as a terrific backdrop. In the plaza there were other echoes of stormier times via the brush strokes of Mariann Szucs, haunting images harked back to the years of struggle. For me though it was a delight to meet some new friends and yet another reason to be thankful for the easy life I have had.

All Ship Shape In Santa Cruz

Any excuse and I’m off to Santa Cruz, there’s so much going on, that was definitely the case as I called in for two big events and still ended up gazing at the ebb andd flow of the ships at the port. My first visit was for the Seatrade Cruise Med trade show at the Recinto Ferial, with 153 stalls and some interesting forums there was plenty for me to dive into.

There was a real party feel to the hall, Tenerife was pushing its charms and the various world ports and destinations were doing the same right back. I partly resisted the temptation of the flowing wine and beer, well I did have the CD Tenerife evening game to come, but I was distracted by some of the very nice promotions ladies. Cruise Wales drew me in with a free fluffy sheep – I’m so shallow, but my mums family are steeped in Welsh history so I was able to sound a little knowledgeable. Places I had visited in my younger years caught my eye, Hamburg, Cagliari, and Amsterdam in particular.

Back out at the port there was the usual mix of working boats, ferries, and cruise ships. Emerald Princess (top of three) was moored up majestically on the far side, that arrangement will change in a few weeks when the new 19 million euro cruise ship terminal starts to welcome up to 10,000 passengers at time. Other vessels will still co-exist, Transmediterranea’s inter island ferry Albayzin was chugging out a fair bit of smoke as it turned on a sixpence,well maybe a farthing considering it’s a veteran of the fleet. Wandering off to the marina I found the Danish training ship Georg Stage (top of page) taking a breather. It had traveled down from its Copenhagen base and was being cleaned, polished, and repaired by a skeleton crew awaiting new paying recruits for their November voyage.

A few days later I was back for the Plenilunio promotion day in Santa Cruz, the streets and plazas bulged with families enjoying everything from live music and theatre to parades and displays of Carnaval costumes. The latest cruise ship to dock was Ventura, they must have thought all the fuss on shore was especially for them. It was quite breezy down near Plaza de España as the wind blew in from the sea, bouncy castles had extra bounce and up a side street a wedding party was gathering and trying to hang on to their expensive hats. One of the strangest sights was vehicles from the military museum driving around, an old VW painted battleship gray and driven by a sinister looking Nazi made me shudder. The American GI Jeep from WW2 was a bit more jolly, but they were late of course. As I wended my way back to the bus station I detoured under the arch of the Puente General Serrador bridge and spotted a fabulous mural honouring the people of Santa Cruz – it had me smiling all the way back to Los Cristianos

Oxford – City Of Dreaming Cranes

Arm wrestling for supremacy, summer and autumn reached a good natured stand off for my latest return to Oxford. My Tenerife flight landed at Birmingham on the hottest day of the year, 34 degrees, with blue skies, but dew laden morning grass and a carpet of brown leaves hinted at impending colder weather. That first evening found me with friends enjoying a decent real ale at The Angel And Greyhound, and even the 4.25 price tag couldn’t temper my pleasure at being back in Cowley.

The blue skies of the city centre were not as clear as usual, crane towers criss crossed the skyline above the fast emerging Westgate shopping centre. This goliath of a project had me scurrying around to find my relocated bus stops and has caused hope and consternation in equal measures among traders. I climbed the 99 steps of Carfax Tower the next day to get a birds eye view of the site and the city centre. The good weather ensured the main streets were packed with shoppers, tourists, and novelty entertainers like the man playing a violin on a tightrope.

One of the pleasures of this trip was getting to see my beloved Oxford City FC at home to Maidenhead United. The hoops are in a financial mess at the moment, a better than usual crowd of around 400 will have helped a little but the 1-3 defeat showed that City will struggle this season in the Bananarama Conference South. Maybe a cup run or a home grown nugget could help to balance the books but City have survived worse in the past, they built up from park football after loosing the Old White House Ground to their college landlords. I still have faith in them and will watch with interest from afar.

Real Ale was also on my agenda and although I was a bit early for the dark, brooding winter ales I prefer, I did find some nice brews and several pubs fighting back against the lure of cheap supermarket beer at home. Full marks to The Cape Of Good Hope, how rough was that in my youth, since then it has changed its face more times than Doctor Who. I sat with my friends in one of the wooden cabins out in the back yard, a nice drinking experience, or put another way, I spent the evening in a garden shed with some mates – like some drunken gnomes. Very impressed by The White Rabbit, formerly The Gloucester Arms, no longer a rock pub but a great beer range and nice barmaids. The Royal Blenheim may be partially hidden behind the Westgate building site but with ten hand pump ales it was another welcome stop.

The hot weather ended just before m trip did, heavy rain and lower temperatures but it was still great to see Oxford again, expensive, full of clueless cyclists, and almost impossible to access via the jammed up roads, but I love the quirky nature and diverse mix of people. It’s always home to me.

 

 

Hats The Way We Like It For Virgen Del Carmen

My school cap lasted five minutes before I deliberately lost it, never been keen on hats but the annual Fiesta del Sombrero (hat fiesta) as part of the Los Cristianos Virgen del Carmen celebrations has given me a new admiration for them. This Tenerife variety is much more jolly, inventive, and ingenious.

As the fishermen’s boats draped themselves in bunting ahead of the sea parade, a street party of tables groaning with food was taking shape in a small plaza off the old beach. A DJ was belting out dance inducing music, a mix of Spanish pop and some old Brit 70’s classics, the beer and wine were flowing, and it was only mid afternoon.

On the stage there were several prizes for the best home made head gear but this was no glory hunt, it was all about having fun. The spread of ages is always impressive, families had been united around the sewing machine, scissors, and spray paint, a sort of Blue Peter meets the last day party at a design school. There was a vague theme of the sea and Canarian traditions but basically anything quirky and amusing fitted the bill.

I wouldn’t have wanted to be the judge, all the entries were wonderful, I had severe doubts that they would be able to munch their way through the mountains of food but I knew they would give it a good go, especially washed down with plenty of lively lubrication. Over on the boats, barbecues were sizzling, music was building, and the bunting was bristling in the welcome breeze. What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Tenerife Has A Passion For Fashion And Cars

It was enough to make Jeremy Clarkson and Chris Evans flip their bonnets, a multitude of cars spread over two parties. For me it was the fashion models at Parque Santiago 6 that revved my engine but for all who attended it was the overall glamour of a Saturday night in the west end of Los Cristianos that made it special.

The open air top tier of PS6 is the setting for regular promotional events but this was the most ambitious, a red carpet circuit around a central seating area was the focal point for the models to show off some of the outfits on sale at the centers shops. Before reaching that area there was a large display of classic cars from the Club de Amigos de Coches de Tenerife, and modern sleek styled motors from Mercedes, Porsche, Maserati to name drop but a few, all courtesy of Canary Cars. A cava and cocktail bar kept everyone fuelled up and the show was under starters orders.

A gleaming car heralded each pair of catwalk stars as they set out from their changing area. It was all about practical elegance at affordable prices for men as well as women. Full marks to all concerned, it was smooth and professional against the backdrop of the top floor shops. There were some quick changes going on and it was a very warm evening but they managed to look cool and chic. The music pumped up the mood and a commentary pointed prospective buyers towards the outlets where they could purchase their own slice of style.

On my way in I had noticed another party going on in the former pink supermarket just behind the ring road. It was the official opening night for Autostil Tenerife and more superstars of the luxury car scene spilled out onto the forecourt. They very kindly invited me in and what a transformation greeted me. There were two big open plan halls, one full of names like Rolls Royce, Alfa Romeo, and Bentley, linking to another hall with a stage and live band, and a raised bar area. It was banging in there with lights, music, and tasty snacks and a cooing admiration for the big guns of modern motoring. It was all a bit more glittering than my usual Saturday night with a few pints and a bag of pork scratchings.

 

All Ship Shape On The Danmark In Santa Cruz

I was scared to stand still in case I was oiled, polished, varnished, knotted, or stowed away in a locker. They’re a hard working and cheerful bunch aboard the Danmark training ship. This was a few days port call in Santa Cruz for the triple mast sailing vessel, on a 9,000 mile voyage from Denmark to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but there was no slacking for the 80 young trainees.

They graciously rolled out the gangplank for weekend visitors and added host and tour guide to their growing list of skills. Several training ships pass through Tenerife with similar values of teaching teamwork, sailing, navigation and social skills, these trainees also got involved in all aspects of the day to day running and maintenance of the steel ship built in Denmark in 1933. It’s an impressive sight to see close up and the number crunching adds to its imposing stature. The ship is 215 feet (74.4 metres) long, 33 feet (10 metres) wide, standing 125 feet (38.6 metres) above the water line, three masts with 26 sails of 1,700 square metres, and 219 rigging lines. As well as the sails there is a 357 KW engine.

The crew are the heart and soul of the ship, there’s 15 full time crew plus the 80 trainees taken on for each voyage. I grabbed a word with a couple of the keen hands. Grunnhild from the Faroe Islands told me in English, the official ships language. “I had been thinking about following my two brothers into a career at sea but have no practical experience so this is a big test for me. It’s hard work but I’m enjoying being part of a big team.”

Mathew from Ireland was also relishing the challenge. “I have sailed on a tall ship in Ireland before but this is a much longer experience, I flew out to Denmark to join the voyage and sailed back past Ireland as we came down over the north of Scotland. It’s going well, we’ve seen lots of wildlife like turtles and I haven’t been seasick so that’s encouraging.”

The trainee qualifications are to be between 17 and a half and 23 years old, have a health certificate, and pass though an interview. Then six weeks craftsmanship training on shore leads to 14 weeks continuous training on the voyage. Education rarely comes free, the whole trip with training costs 3,200 euros and lots of tough, physical work, then at the end they get a certificate as an Ordinary Seaman which will get them entry to a career as a merchant marine. It’s open to anyone who is a EU citizen, whoops that ship has just sailed for some people. Hammocks are the order of the voyage but it was looking very spick and span when I popped down to the sleeping quarters, the wooden lockers and table were gleaming from a good polish.

They do get some leisure time, they are split into two watches, port and starboard, one watch was out on a coach trip around Tenerife when I called and I spotted a smartly dressed group of crew out in the city later on. This trip is the Olympic Voyage as they arrive in Rio for the games and will be promoting Danish industry. By the time they arrive they will have acquired many new skills, a lovely aroma wafted from the galley and the menu offered lasagne, veggies, and salad, not a ships biscuit in sight. Good luck to them all, it certainly seemed a happy ship.

Things were a little glummer across the port, two large Danish oil tankers, Maersk Traveller, and Maersk Trimmer were moored up, one of the Danmark crew informed me they were laid off due to the post Brexit crash in oil prices, a fate shared with many other containers, double whoops, I made my own exit at that point.

Green Dogs And Corporate Cats In Los Cristianos

Is it the mopping of the brow, the plop of the ice creams, or the smouldering rubber of mobility scooter wheels. They are all clues to the arrival of summer’s peak in Tenerife but in downtown Los Cristianos it’s the diversity of street activities that is the clincher for me.

I never know what I’m going to walk into, an early evening exit from browsing in the cultural centre library and the slip road had been transformed into an assault course for dogs with large litter themed props strewn around. Arona Ayuntamiento (council) were promoting environmental awareness among youngsters and an attentive young audience had gathered to `learn solutions they could use to chastise their sinful parents. A hawk stood on guard on its perch, I think I had missed its moment of glory but a trainer guided a dog up and down the course to pick up selected litter items as indicated by the children. The youthful jury were then able to select the correct container for the dog to drop the rubbish in, plastic, paper, food etc.

Everyone wants dog pooh taken in hand or stamped out, but not literally, so a few plastic walnut whips were scattered around for removal, some children were even shown how to pick them up without touching by using a plastic bag. It caused quite a bit of merriment, and some guilty looking parents may have been shamed to clean up after their dogs in future. The entertaining programme is touring the Arona municipality through June and there are even two open days at the Arona refuse depot on 25 and 30 June.

Just a few days later I came across a large corporate team building challenge taking place at Las Vistas beach. A coach load of workers from Innospec, a global chemical company based in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire were over to test their practical and financial skills in a series of challenges. It was like The Apprentice meets It’s A Knockout. I caught the last act, the teams had to build catapults from a selection of parts to propel water filled balloons. Extra materials and further glimpses at the plans cost them cash, as did malfunctions on their test firings. It was all fun and very safe with medical staff on hand.

This was a new one on me, I am aware of many sporting youth groups that come to Los Cristianos for sports based courses on the beach or at the big swimming complex. Arona council run a large programme of their own summer leisure activities from baby swimming to golf, kayak, and padel classes, for locals and non residents. There’s a brochure you can pick up at the cultural centre or online at the councils website. I’m quite happy with my regular sea swimming, now which way id La Gomera?

 

High Tide Of Fun At Fenautica

Whatever floats your boat, powers your jet ski, or paddles your board, they can all be found at the Marina del Sur in Las Galletas. For the first weekend of June it was packed with activity as the Fenautica marine fair showed off the many ways to experience the sea in Tenerife.

As I arrived on thee bus I could see the beach packed with sun worshippers as novices tried out kayak and stand up paddle surfing near to the boatyard. King Neptune looked down approvingly from his lofty perch above the first clutch of restaurants, and youngsters sat astride the old canon that stands guard by the fishermens sales huts. The Marina curls it’s protective arm around the beach side of town making it a safe haven for swimmers and a calm mooring spot. On the other side the promenade of bars and cafes looks out over the shingle beach where the ebb and flow of the tide is accompanied by the gentle crunch of the rocks as they are raked along.

The big focus of the weekend was the marina, it always a doorway to pleasure trips and fishing as well as being a pleasant place to stroll. The Guanches Cup regatta had set off earlier and a flock of billowing white sails were bobbing along on the horizon, a few steps up to the harbour wall provided clear views out to sea. Along the marina walkway a variety of craft were on display from big cruisers to small individual boats. I recognized a couple of speed boats from the waterski racing championships of previous years, the next is at Playa San Juan in late October. I have tried kayaking and really enjoyed it, a big display of multi coloured craft reminded me that I must do some more soon.

At the end of the marina there were stalls with food, drink, and even body painting. The pontoons leading down to the water were busy with eager trialists waiting to dip their toes into the delights of parascending, diving, and jet skis and many other aquatic diversions. Throughout the two days there was plenty of music from a traditional Canarian drum band to the late evening live music on the stage at the end of the marina. I always enjoy my short hops from Los Cristianos to Las Galletas, there’s another good excuse to pop over on 18 June for Arona En Colores. That day will feature 14 hours of music, bargains, and family fun in the commercial zone including a mad rush of special offers at shops and cafes from 2 to 5 pm. Back at Fenautica everything was sailing along smoothly and Las Galletas was winning plenty of new converts.

 

Spring Hotels Serve A Feast Of Song And Dance

You know it’s going to be a good party when there are two mermaids in the hotel lobby pool. That was just the start of Spring Hoteles 5th annual music celebration, once I had taken the red carpet under the pool side arch by the Arona Gran Hotel there was a tidal wave of entertainment.

It had been a typically scorching Tenerife day and the sun was setting slowly behind the Los Cristianos ferry port, but in his raised booth looking over Las Tarajales beach the DJ was sewing a cool vibe as 250 of the great and good of the major tour companies mingled. Artist Rafa Gamez delighted the growing crowd with his well observed and skillfully sketched caricatures. The mayor of Arona Jose Julian Mena was in attendance and the cocktail welcome was backed up with a steady flow of assorted long cold drinks.

It’s going to be a big summer for Tenerife, bookings are soaring and all the hotel groups are relishing the prospect of welcoming a bumper crop of visitors. Even on a late Friday evening there were plenty of people taking the night air on the beach promenade below. They could only guess at the musical treat about to unfold for us as the Bravissimo Show burst onto a large stage with an explosion of music, dance, and saxophone. It was breath taking stuff as they raced through several lavish costume changes while the dancing got more and more seductive. For older memories like mine it made Hot Gossip look like a Cold Chat. After taking their well earned ovation, the dancers dropped down to the sun lounge and encouraged guests to strut their stuff too.

That was going to be a tough act to follow, my taste buds were already tingling at the thought of the lavish buffet dinner that awaited in the main restaurant. We entered to the sound of a flamenco guitar duo, my eyes nearly popped out as I passed the banks of exotic food that seemed to be never ending. Lobster, prawns, a stampede of salads, and a range of meats cooked to order as we waited, how’s a boy supposed to choose. The salmon won my vote, with canarian potatoes and a hint of salad I was under way. I’ll admit I returned for some turkey breast, prawns and a few more tempting treats.

As we enjoyed our meals, Rafa Gamez passed between the tables to capture some more faces with his pencil, and Steve Johnson mesmerized with his close up magic. A few Estrella beers and I was ready to tackle the stunning range of cakes and pastries, the chocolate fountain was luring people in so I had to dip a few profiteroles in the sweet flow. By now some of the ladies were displaying their nifty flamenco footwork, as someone with two left feet I was very impressed. Even fully loaded with food, there was plenty of enthusiasm for more live music as we adjourned to the big hall for Salvapantallas to mix classic rock and pop that had people up and dancing into the early hours.