Archive for the 'Life' Category
Green Silver Pink And Blue On My Path To Christmas

Easily confused at the best of times, my head has been spinning like that girl in The Exorcist as christmas has crept up on me. There´s been some good stuff going on, keeping me busy for Canarian Weekly so I reckon I owe you all a catch up before the madness of sprouts, beer, and desperate loitering under the mistletoe takes over.

Wandering is never far from my plans so it was good to do a double whammy, the green Titsa bus whisked me up to San Miguel and Granadilla, mainly to check out the christmas decorations but there’s always a few surprises along the way. Checking down the back streets of San Miguel I could hear a band tuning up and was hopeful of a live show, especially when the guitar burst into the opening bars of Sweet Child Of Mine. It was coming from inside a school, not bad for a christmas concert, all we ever got was All Things Bright And Beautiful. The detour gave me the chance to admire the citizens statue put up to mark the towns 200 year celebrations in 1998. The christmas decorations were pretty good too but not as many as last year. The day was young so I hopped on the next bus up to Granadilla, another favourite of mine.

I thought it was a little chilly but a digital read out pegged it as 21 degrees. The buildings of Granadilla in the narrow streets always impress me with their slightly austere look but the giant murals at regular intervals add a splash of history and culture. The church decorated in a minimalist way but a council crew were loading some imitation wrapped presents up high in the branches of the trees as I dribbled my churros with chocolate.

December means the Walk For Life, I’ve witnessed it evolve and grow into one of the best events of the year. Pink is the colour for the fight against breast cancer and I was swept away by the sheer enthusiasm and upbeat spirit as always. The route was shorter this year, from Compostela Beach shopping centre to the Magma Centre in Playa de Las Americas, better for some of the older walkers on another scorching morning. It’s like a glorious assault on the senses with so much music, drumming, costumes, and wonderful people who have lost loved ones but celebrate their lives in the best way, by helping to raise awareness and funds to spare others the same pain. Here’s a link to my collection of photos from the morning.

With the earlier finish I was able to dash across to see the second half of CD Marino v Union Puerto. I must have been a curse, 0-0 when I started prowling the touchline but within minutes of the restart they had let in a soft goal and ended up losing 0-2 and had a penalty saved.. The festive break always leaves me hungry for the return of football so it inspires new hope in me, CD Tenerife had lost 1-0 at Levante the day before so i´m hoping for better from both teams in 2017. Hopefully I will be a bit more regular with my blog posts but stick with it I have plenty of plans among my resolutions.

Logos Hope Makes A Book Mark On The World

A floating library might seem an odd setting for a stage performance of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe but the Logos Hope is an extraordinary ship not bound by frontiers, languages, or conventions. The converted car ferry was on a 10 day stopover in Santa Cruz, and I got to meet just a few of the 400 crew members drawn from 60 countries.

Even among a bumper crop of luxury cruise ships, the fourth ship of the GBA (good books for all) christian charity organisation made a big impression and had a steady stream of visitors treading up the gangplanks. I made my way through the visitors section with video histories in Spanish and English playing on the screens, and strolled through the ranks of 5,000 books for sale. There were a lot of religiously inspired books, well they are a missionary project, but also lots of modern thrillers, travel tales, and childrens books. Sales of these books go towards funding the ships voyages, volunteer crew members also pay for their passage by raising sponsorship, there are only 10 paid full time crew.

Captain Chris Hughes, originally from Bristol,gave me the full tour, after 40 years experience with tankers he retired and has served on two of the earlier GBA fleet since 2006, he´s also an experienced north sea pilot. There was an unmistakable pride in his vessel and crew and it was noticeable that the crew we met on the tour were very relaxed, no salutes and even the uniform is functional rather than  formal. They all seemed young to me (well who doesn´t) but the skipper pointed out that they even have an 80 year old on the crew.” They all have to apply to join us and need to have a basic fitness level but they undergo on shore training for health and safety before even stepping on the ship.” There are other basic boxes to tick. “We are an evangelical movement so they have to be committed christians, we segregate male and female crew, the two or three bunk sleeping quarters are single sex, there´s no alcohol, smoking, or drugs allowed on board and the ships working language is English. Once on board they get allocated specific duty groups like books, galley, cleaning, engine, and deck.”

Whilst admiring the view up on the bridge, the captain told me more about the 40 year old ship. “It used to be a ferry between the Faroe Islands and Denmark, so when it was bought and converted in Germany in 2009, new stabiliser sections were added and a new upper deck. There are 4 engines, two propellers with variable pitch for better manouvering, and we normally travel at a fuel saving 10 knots although it can go at 15 knots.”

 

The bridge seemed very uncluttered and minimalistic but it was deceptive, the computerised navigation system zoomed in on their next course to Guyana picking out every fine contour and detail of the sea with a light touch of the captain´s hand. Continuing the tour downward, the 400 seater theatre was being prepared for the show, big screens would translate it into several languages. Passing the galley, the smell of freshly cooked bread tweaked my nose, and we had a peak inside the hospital the dentists office, and at the engine room from a safe distance.

A chart on the wall of another area showed details of one of their main missions, supplying water purification systems, they also supply eye glasses and clothes, and do some teaching, painting, and anything they can do to help at their ports of call. Since 1970 the organisation has visited 160 countries. Captain Chris stressed that they have to be invited, they don´t just impose on destinations, they have even visited some muslim countries. It was time for me to swap the gentle lapping of the ship for dry land as the crew prepared for another long spell at sea. With so much to do I´m sure the time must fly by but if the crew ever get bored they can always read a book, they have another 800,000 in a warehouse to back up the on board library.

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?