Thursday, 7 May 2020

Poco a Poco

    We're now halfway through our eighth week of lockdown here in the Canary Islands. My waistline has expanded a little, ( I'm probably not being too honest about that) and the grey roots of my hair are getting harder and harder to disguise. (I am telling the truth about that.)

    I've been keeping myself busy the best I can. I've read a barrel load of cozy mysteries and I have been very productive in the writing sense. This work I hope to share with you very soon. Something I won't be sharing with you is my baking, which I do once a week as I'm afraid we've managed to scoff it all. Hence the larger waistline. Okay, I've included a picture of my cheese scones, because I didn't want to disappoint.

    On Sunday past, we started a phase of de-escalation of the state of emergency, here. De-escalation will be done poco a poco, as they say in Spain. Thankfully, we are now allowed a little exercise, which will help rid the extra pounds as well as the cabin fever that has gradually crept in. We can leave our homes for an hour each day to walk, run, or cycle, as long as we stay within 1 kilometer of our homes (6/10 of a mile.) This can only be done with members of your household, meaning if your son or daughter lives down the street you can't walk with them.

    In order that social distancing can be maintained our daily exercise has been given time slots by the government, according to age.  My partner and I can go out of doors between the hours of 6am-10am in the morning or 8pm-11pm in the evening.

    We choose to take our walk around 8am and the first morning it was strange to walk along the main road and find it fairly deserted of vehicles and pedestrians. A small line of people had started to form outside the supermarket and one of the store assistants kept a watchful eye on the forming queue, making sure that the 2-meter rule was being adhered to. But, otherwise, there were no queues at the bus-stops and the buses passed with no passengers on board.

    Hopefully, within the next few weeks, we can start to move around a little more freely. Our contagion is now nearly zero within the islands and thankfully the number of deaths has fallen into near solitary figures. But, freedom is not the most important thing right now. Staying alive is.

God bless. Stay safe.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Huntigowk Day, Keep Smiling


    Where have all the days gone this year? The first day of April will soon be upon us and I know I wish that when 12pm arrives on Wednesday, everybody is going to shout "April fools." Yes, you know what I'm talking about.

    When my husband and I were chatting the other day, we started to reminisce, something we do lots of these days. Although we've been married since God was a boy, we can still manage to dig deep and exchange stories that we've never told each other before. Or, maybe we've just forgotten! That makes them sound new I suppose.

    Okay, the memory that flooded into my mind was one of  my grandmother on 'April Fool's Day.'  It wasn't a memory of a practical joke she had played, but of the name, she gave this annual custom. She called it 'Huntigowk Day,' and if you fell for her practical joke, she would cry 'Ah, Huntigowk.'

    My husband had never heard this name before and to be fair I can only remember this name being used by my grandmother. We surmised it was an old Scottish title and I decided that to satisfy our curiosity I would have to dig a little deeper into this unusual name.

    Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away many years ago and sadly so have all of her children, therefore, there is none of her family I could call to shed some light on my query. It was time to hit the keyboard and search on Google.

    It wasn't hard to find an answer. It seems that in Scotland the tradition was called 'Hunt the Gowk Day.' Gowk meaning cuckoo or as in this case, it means 'fool.' Traditionally, someone would be sent with a message to a recipient, supposedly asking for help, but the message on the note said 'Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile.' The recipient sends the person to someone else, so, so on until the messenger realizes he/she has been sent on a fool's errand.

    The memories etched in my mind of my grandmother are still teaching me something many years on and the fond memories I have of her can still bring a smile to my face. That means some of the advice that I would ignore if I was the recipient of this note is 'Dinna laugh, dinna smile.'




Saturday, 21 March 2020

End of Week One "We're All In this Together"

    Week 1 of lockdown is nearly over. Life has changed, but life is important and we need to embrace the changes necessary to save all of our lives.

    Living on a Spanish island the laws that have been put in place are somewhat stricter than in other parts of the world. Such as the UK where I know many feel that the restrictions that have been put in place there with regards to socializing are a little draconian. But, rules are made for a reason and the reason is not always apparent at the time and sometimes it can be too late.

    The Spanish are very social people and hugs and kisses play a huge role in the culture here, so it is difficult to stand a meter away from your best friend or neighbor if standing in line at a food store without interacting with them in any way other than a "Hola! Que tal?" But, when we get through this we can hug and kiss each other with a sincerity that was maybe a little lacking before.

    As the island empties of short-term visitors, a good friend of mine has had to return to England and I was sadly unable to say goodbye to him in-person. Thankfully, we were able to connect on WhatsApp and for now, I can't complain about smart devices and their apps.

    It can be difficult when we watch the news to remain positive and when my grocery delivery men arrived yesterday wearing masks and gloves, a hard blow of reality hit.

    However, last night my spirits were lifted when the residents of the community I live in and the one adjacent all came out onto the terraces and balconies and clapped for a minute to show their appreciation to the health service. The sound made by 400 or so united neighbors was amazing as it echoed all around and the odd cry of "Ole!" uplifted my heart.

    It was an empowering experience, an action that just not gave thanks, it also demonstrated that there is no need to feel alone in this troubled time. As we are all in this together.

    Stay safe.



Tuesday, 17 March 2020

The Silent Enemy


    Day 3 of lockdown here in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. It all came as a bit of a shock to us here, that we've got to isolate for 15 days, as we weren't given too much notice. Being some 1750 km/1089miles (flying) from Madrid and an island, we thought it would be some time before the strict rules applied to the mainland would be imposed on the archipelago.

    However, it does make sense as millions of tourists visit Tenerife and the other islands from all over the world every year. Until now that is.

    Tenerife has been affected by many wars, including the Anglo-Spanish war, the Spanish Civil war, and WWII. Pillboxes can still be found dotted along the south coast, in the areas of La Caleta, Los Cristianos, El Medano, and Montana Roja.

    Following WWII Tenerife fell into financial hardship and many of its nationals fled overseas. In the 1960s tourism discovered the island and its neighbors allowing repatriation and economic growth.

    This time we cannot guard ourselves against the enemy that surrounds us by building pillboxes on our shores or, point cannons towards the vast open seas. Because in previous wars our enemy was visible, now the foe we face is invisible and silent. But, like the Phoenix, I know we will rise from the ashes bigger, better and stronger.

    Readers, please take care, wherever you are in the world and please respect others.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Each for Equal


    This weekend it's International Women's Day 2020, a time to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide. On researching great women I came across one lady I didn't know a whole lot about. She is Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord George Gordon Byron the British romantic poet a name that most of us who have an interest in the literary world will recognize. Why is Ada a woman we should know more about? Because her dad is famous? No, Ada Lovelace's life deserves to be celebrated with all those other great ladies in the world because of her contribution to computing.

    Augusta Ada Byron (1815-1852) was brought up single-handed by her mother after her marriage to Lord Byron broke down shortly after the birth of their daughter and he left for abroad. Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron knew the importance of education and made sure that her daughter received the best. Ada proved to be a gifted scholar and especially talented in mathematics under the mentorship of Charles Babbage.

    Mathematician, and inventor, Charles Babbage, is known as the 'father of computing' due to his invention of the Analytical Engine, a proposed general-purpose computer. His young student Ada's contribution to his programmable computing device saw her being recognized as the 'first computer programmer.' A great accomplishment for anyone in itself, but for a woman in the 19th century when women were not treated as equals she deserves to be honored and that's why am writing this today. #EachforEqual #IWD2020

    Unfortunately, Lord Byron never saw his daughter again after leaving England, but she was in his heart when he wrote this verse about her in, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto III.

Is thy face like thy mother's my fair child! 
Ada! sole daughter of my house and heart?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled
And then we parted, ..... not as now we part
But with a hope

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Fantasy versus Reallity

    As a writer of fantasy when depicting a scene I try to imagine the sights and sounds that my characters would encounter. The color of the sky can especially in my opinion help set the mood and help the reader visualize the scene.

    There are times I've written about strange happenings in the heavens above and wondered if my ideas were too fantastical, therefore probably making it too difficult for the reader to envisage.

   However, reality can also create situations that are hard to believe and last weekend here in the Canary Islands we found ourselves living in a surreal world. The beautiful clear blue skies which we have pretty much all year round turned ochre and the warm wind started to blow at gale force speed. The 'Calima' the name given to the hot east- wind from Africa which we encounter all year round, had carried much more red sand from the Sahara Desert than was normal and while it was an amazing sight it caused havoc on the islands.

    Going outdoors was advised against as in these conditions, breathing can be difficult and the winds were causing structural damage and fanning wildfires. Flights in and out were suspended and being diverted to other locations in mainland Spain, a logistical nightmare for the companies and those passengers involved.

    48 hours on the hot wind remains, but it's time to clean up the mess and repair the destruction. Thankfully I only had lots of cleaning up to do, but for those who were badly affected, I'm hoping our real-world doesn't turn into a fantasy one again for a long time.

Normal Tenerife Sky

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Restoring History

Plaza de la Candelaria
      I read a book several years ago about a victorian traveler who visited the Canary Islands. Her documented account of the places she visited was and still is of great interest to me.

    One such location was, Plaza Candelaria, in the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Even in the mid 19th century by her description, it was a bustling Square, as it is now. Located with easy access to the port, in the days of the steamship the weary traveler didn't have far to go before reaching a hotel, here.

        While many buildings facades will have changed immensely, one which hasn't is the Palacio de Carta. Built in 1721 this excellent example of the Canarian Baroque style was initially built as the family home of Matias Rodriguez Carta.

Palacio de Carta
    This stone structure was the first building in Santa Cruz de Tenerife to be protected as a place of cultural interest and one of the first in the whole of the Canary Islands.

    At present, it is under restoration to return it to its former glory,and the tales of its bloodied past will be retold when it becomes home to a history museum. In days gone by, the building was the site of a military coup in 1936 when 2 people were killed and was also residence to 19 General Captains, its walls bursting to tell a story.

  Amongst the many island's heirlooms to be exhibited will be the famous Tiger Cannon which was used to defend the city from the attack in the Battle of Santa Cruz.  This documented assault was led by Admiral Horatio Nelson and the cannon is said to have fired the shot that cost the admiral his right arm. 

    I can't wait to visit here once fully restored.