Sunday, September 30, 2007

"I Woof Therefore I am ..."

This is Basil's story - the musings of our small (but thinks he's much bigger) terrorist terrier ...

"Well here I am in my weird and wonderful new home ..."

The Woofer on his new balcony - on the look out for a woofing opportunity as ever.

"It's a funny old world if you're a dog. One minute you're freezing your bollox off walking round a muddy field in the rain, and doing the odd spot of kareoke on the park bench ..."

"Then this geezer puts you in this little wooden cage, drives you off to an extremely noisy smelly place (apparently called Cat Wick), and you have to endure hours and hours stuck in this crate while your stomach does all kinds of weird shit (but of course you can't actually shit, 'cos this might be my new home) .... then this other funny smelling geezer arrives and carries the cage around a bit more, and next thing is ... WOW, IS THAT MY MASTER AND MISTRESSES' VOICES ? - YES OH YES, THAT'S THEIR SMELL, YIPEEE WOOF WOOF WOOF"

At this point His Master's Voice intervenes to fill in some of the gruesome details of that day's events ... He was meant to have been collected from his dog sitter (Chris) that morning at 6am to catch a Monarch flight. Yes, slumming it on a charter flight, but still with his own passport and at great expense a private limo had been arranged to collect him.
Mr B's passport photo

At 7am we got a text from Chris to say no sign of the person collecting him !

We had everything organised through a specialist animal transportation company, and had even arranged to pay £140 to transport him the few miles from Brighton to Gatwick - and still they managed to screw it up !

Apparently they'd lost some of his paperwork and didn't realise he needed to be picked up.

Anyway, after a couple of hours of frantic phone calls between Tenerife and the UK, we finally got hold of them and luckily Chris was a hero and had taken The Baz to work with him. So finally another taxi was arranged and the driver turned up to collect him from Chris' work - but not until he had demanded the £140 - which, not surprisingly, Chris had left at home. Luckily, by now his work mates had fallen under the spell of Mr B's dubious charms and had a quick whip round (thanks guys).

And the long and short of it was that he eventually caught a later flight - this time with BA, where he was upgraded to sit beside the pilot ...

"NOT TRUE (says the Woofer) ... I already told you I spent the whole time cooped up in this bloody cage in the dark not able to have a shit ..."

Anyway he was supposed to be arriving at 8pm and we were told to go to the cargo terminal to collect him. After more frantic phone calls to find out if they would still be open (having previously been told by the pet transport company that they closed at 5:30pm) we had a very emotional re-union scene in the cargo bay - even the tough guys with tattoos working there were touched.

So after a sleepless night and a day that started with unbelievable stress at 6am - it all turned out OK in the end.

He made it - what a brave little dog ! and a great present for Nikki who's birthday was the following day.

The Baz in his new bedroom

and for the final thoughts - over to the woofer again ...

"yeah, it's not bad here really - well obviously it's still a dog's life, and I'm having a few problems with the language thing (although the lessons from the gnomes are helping) ....

Senor el Baz with his Spanish teacher

but it's well smelly here, and I'm getting lots of good walks - well more like rock climbs really ... plenty of cats to chase, and I never did like the rain much - the mud yes, but there's loads of nice volcanic dust to roll around in.

And I get plenty of time to sit around in the sunshine and think up things for this blog - like 'I Woof therefore I am' - pretty clever that, don't you think ? I bet no-one's thought of that before ..."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Windsurfing Diary, El Medano 22/9/07

Some days El Medano really comes up with the goodies. Saturday was one of those days that we live for. We'd had a whole week of good wind here, getting gradually stronger as we moved down through the sail sizes and the waves got bigger each day.

By Saturday it was windy enough for a 4.2m sail for me (although some were out on 3.7's) and head to logo high waves with 3/4 mast high swell out the back.

Absolutely wicked, absolutely loved it, absolutely knackered :)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fiesta of the Madonna

Today was fiesta day in El Medano. Nothing unusual in that really, as there seems to be one every few days - but today's was the Big One. Last night there was an amazing firework display (one of the three best ever that I've witnessed - the others being Australia Day in Perth, WA and New Year's Eve in Jericoacoara in Brazil).

And today was the Fiesta of the Madonna. Now I'm not going to pretend that I really understand what's going on here (and it's probably not even called that), but it seems to be a celebration of the riches of the ocean, combined with a religious thanksgiving, combined with the usual general knees-up - this time culminating in a mass paella experience.

First the religious bit ...

the men carry St Joseph into the sea

a good excuse to get wet (but don't drop the camera :)

The statue is loaded onto a boat and then sailed around the bay, to the accompaniment of much hooting of klaxons and general mayhem. A circle of boats is formed and flowers are dropped into the sea (very Hawaiian that). Meanwhile back on land ...

the women carry the Madonna into the church

Nikki says: "it was quite interesting for me as an ex convent girl and a lapsed catholic ... I followed the procession up to the church, and then went inside - the first time in fifteen years that I'd been in a church ! It felt quite strange for me, and provoked some weird feelings. When I was brought up as a catholic in the UK it was much more austere. Here in Spain there seems to be a much more relaxed approach to religion ... more celebration and more joy ... perhaps if I'd been brought up in this culture I might have remained a catholic."

So, it's this synthesis of religion and just having a good old knees-up that makes the fiesta so uniquely latin. Everybody from granny to the toddlers have a great day out, there lots of eating, drinking and dancing - and nobody throws up or starts a fight.

the band strike up ...

and more people get wet as it hots up

beauty queens strut their stuff

and then ... out comes the Mother of all Paellas !

and we leave you with this shot of a shy girl who knew she was being photographed ...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Windsurfing Diary 1

Here's our first windsurfing post.

We've been here a month now and both of us have sailed plenty. We've had loads of wind, although the waves have mainly been fairly small.

I'm just about starting to get my legs working the other way for port tack jumps (I'm a Sarf Coast Shingle Licker in my previous life) and the onshore DTL riding is getting better as well - although this switch stance / clew first malarky demands a lot from my ageing body !

El Medano is a great place for both us really ... I tend to sail mainly at the harbour wall (El Muele) - a fairly gentle reef break, and meanwhile & simultaneously Nikki has been working on her gybes and jumps in the rolling swells of the south bay.

Both of these spots can get quite big on their day though ...

local (TF 66) jumping at The Wall

Tris Best (OTC boss) just 10m off the beach in the South Bay - a rare day with head to logo high waves breaking onto the Playa Sur

There is of course also the notoriously gnarly Cabezo beach.

I've now sailed Cabezo a couple of times - having cruised up there from the south bay, where our gear is stored - so not actually launched / landed at Cabezo yet.

First time I was on 5.2m and my recently aquired Tabou DaCurve 85 ... played it quite safe and had a fairly good time.

But the second time I had my first close encounter of the rocky kind ... light wind (i was on 5.7m and my FSW) and smallish waves lulled me into a false sense of security ... went for a few DTL rides and fell in the white water zone ... within about 20 seconds i was about a foot away from being mashed up on the sharp bits and just managed to waterstart and get the hell out of there - phewww ... needless to say I activated the down wind run back past the harbour wall to the placid waters of the Playa Sur.

I see what they mean now about the current, rocks, and relentless white water - still, I'm going to keep going up there - the waves are much better than the harbour wall - just have to hope I manage to survive these excursions.

I leave you with Nikki's beautiful shot, that seems to encapsulate the two sides of El Medano, our new home ...

fishing boat and locals in the south Bay - Nikki says that this sums up El Medano for her (fishing village + international watersport location)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some Recent Pics

Here are a few of Nikki's recent shots of Tenerife ...

The forest fires on Tenerife's steep wooded slopes were a recent international news story. Here's a shot of some of the devastation. The tree trunk is charred black, and the cactii look like they've almost melted as if in some strange Dali-esque painting.

a door to who-knows-what ... perhaps an alternative world ruled by gnomes ?

they're not moving much now, but as soon as you turn your back on them ....

electrical installation of the ad hoc kind

bathers taking evasive action - South Bay, El Medano

The Manana Washing Machine

We've been here barely a month and we're already finding out that this is a place where things are not quite as they seem. For one thing, some things can be both true and untrue at the same time, without much of a contradiction or anyone actually being accused of telling untruths.

For instance it can be the case that an internet connection is available in your rental house but also that it is not actually available - and both of these are (kind of) true - from someone's perspective anyway (more of this later).

Or maybe you are told that yes you will be able to store your windsurfing equipment in a particular 'local' (business premises), and perhaps you are quoted a price for this - but when you get to the point of doing the deal, it all mysteriously becomes somewhat murky and you are left wondering if you got it all wrong in the first place.

I've been warned about a couple of phrases that you tend to come across quite a lot:
"temporary problem" = "could take at least a year"
"no problem" = time to get really worried when you hear this one :(

Another thing that tends to happen here, is that either things that can go wrong do inevitably go wrong, or sometimes they surprise you by working if not perfectly, then at least a hell of a lot better than you thought they would.

We have our English expressions that express the first part of this: Sod's Law, Murphy's Law ... the French say stuff like "c'est la vie", and then there is the infamous local shrug of the shoulders (usually by an official at the head of a queue that you been in for the past couple of hours).

I'll need to learn some Spanish phrases that capture the contradictions, absurdities, and manana murkiness that are part of life's rich, surreal tapestry here.

And yet (so far) everyone here has been so wonderfully friendly and genuinely wanting to help us through the initial teething troubles that you find yourself forgiving most of the murkiness and just going with the flow in a "don't worry, it will work, be happy" kind of way ...

This is all a bit like our washing machine - it's a kind of 'manana washing machine' ... you switch it on, and it makes helpful noises for while - but then it kind of shrugs and goes for a siesta and you're left wondering if perhaps it will decide to finish the rest of the spin cycle some time in the indefinite future - perhaps when the sun has gone down and all the other washing machines have sprung into life for a bit of 'electrodomesticos' socialising.

I think that quite a lot of this blog is going to be about these kind of serious philosophical issues :) anyway, for a while, as we adjust to our newly adopted culture ... but hopefully there'll be a bit of room for bit of some lighter stuff.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It Starts Here ...

This is a blog about our Life on The Reef ... Ten-er-Reef that is. The British ex pats here like to use the term to indicate a certain nonchalant familiarity with the place, but we are windsurfers and so it's a particularly apt title for our new life here on this dusty, volcanic rock stuck out in the Atlantic ocean somewhere off the coast of Africa.

Mind you, I'm hoping that I don't spend too much time on the (actual) reef ... sailing the waves on it, yes ... but not too much staggering around on the sharp bits, getting sea urchins stuck in my feet - been there, done that, and got the scars.

Basil having his first lesson with his Spanish teacher

As you can read from my profile, we (that's me, my photographer wife, and Basil the small (but thinks he's much bigger) pooch have re-located from the shingly beaches and rolling green countryside of the south coast of England (Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex to be precise) to the tropical paradise (some of the time anyway) that is Tenerife - one of the Spanish owned Canary islands.

me and Nikki outside the church in Grendilla

When I say 're-locate', I should also add 'downshift'. Our house in Shoreham had shot up in value over the past few years (along with much of the UK) and when we compared it to the house prices in Tenerife, we realised that we could sell up and join the growing hordes of ex pat Brits who have been inspired by the various "Living the Dream" / "Place in the Sun" type property programmes that have invaded British TV. The idea being to live a lot more cheaply, in a smaller house, with fewer possessions etc but basically windsurf all year round, free up some time to pursue our own projects, and enjoy life a bit more.

For a while I'd been describing my occupation as "currently researching for a new role as a freelance beach bum" ... I've actually made my living for the past 25 years or so as a composer of music for TV and Radio (having spent eleven of those years as a staff composer at the BBC's renown Radiophonic Workshop). A few years ago I also started working as a tutor for an on-line course for people wanting to get into the media music biz ( and since the work is carried out via the internet, it meant that we could, in theory, be located anywhere in the world with an internet connection (however nb this requirement is not to be taken for granted, as you'll read later !).

Nikki and I are both very keen windsurfers and we've been going to this lovely little Spanish fishing town / surfing resort on Tenerife called El Medano since the early 90's - getting to know the town, watching it grow, and occasionally fantasising about how it would be to live there.

market in the main square in El Medano with Mt Teide in the background

Then my Dad died and left us enough money to pay off our mortgage ... and it just seemed like the right time to give it a go.

So we pushed the downshift button and activated the rather scary process of uprooting ourselves and moving house and country.

and that's where it starts ...