Playing Russian Roulette in the Shower

Every night for a week things have been tense in our bathroom around 7.30pm.

Will it? Won’t it?

A always goes in first whilst I leave some clothes on, just in case there’s a shriek and I have to make a run for it and brave the cool outside air. It’s 17C out there which isn’t exactly cold, but not pleasant if all you’re wearing is a towel.

She emerges triumphant and I dive in, wondering if this time I’ll be reduced to a shivering wreck.

It’s not made showering an enjoyable activity. Normally the hot water would be a welcome friend, but the suspense that it might change personality at any second to nip icily at exposed flesh has robbed it of all its cosy pleasure.

The gas bottle which heats the water should have run out a week ago, but still the water remains hot, teasingly so, waiting for our guard to slip so it can have its bone-chilling fun. When it goes whoever isn’t mid-soaping at the time has to run outside of the house to the gas bottle cupboard and change over to the back up bottle whilst the unlucky victim’s goose-pimples pop like cava corks.

It could do the decent thing and run out whilst we’re cooking. It never, ever chooses to do that though. It’s always when one of us is in the shower.

Tonight’s the night, I just know it. I can feel it in my nervous bones.

The question is who will be the victim this time?

Where is the South of Tenerife?

Where exactly is the south of Tenerife? Seriously, where is it? Because I don’t know. I thought I knew. The Spanish papers think it’s in the same place as I do. But there are quite a few non-Canarios on the island who seem to have drawn up completely different boundaries.

The location of the north of Tenerife is easy to define. It’s anywhere there’s cloud and rain… even if that happens to be geographically in the south. Honestly, there was a situation a year back when heavy rain devastated a beach in the south west of the island, yet if you read facebook you’d have been told the town was in the north.

A few weeks ago A was on a trip with a posse of British travel writers when the coach left warm sunshine to enter cool, damp cloud. Comments were made about how there was a noticeable difference when you left the south for the north.
Only thing was, this was still in the south. But it was in the hills and, as I’ve discovered over the years, nowhere in the south is above coastal level, certainly not anywhere where cloud is common and it’s significantly cooler i.e. the hills.

Last week we stood at the coast under a thick blanket of cloud watching holidaymakers in denial cloudbathe… with towels wrapped around them to keep them warm. It was in the heart of what I’d always believed was the main southern resort on Tenerife. That’s where it is on the map anyway. But then I read about how sunny the south was at that time so I was clearly mistaken.

This week on Tenerife all the seasons have descended at once – wind, sun, monsoon rain, wild seas, snow. There’s no doubt northern parts are experiencing the most extreme of the weather but I’ve seen photos of snow on the southern slopes and in hill towns above the south west coast, in some places as low as I’ve seen snow before.

Yet I also read about how the south was warm whilst the north was cold. It’s common for people to talk of the north when referring to anywhere from coastal level to the highest point in Spain at the peak of Mount Teide and compare it to the temperature on the coast at a specific point on the southern coast (i.e. the warmest bit). This can change on a daily basis – one of the reasons it’s difficult to pin down exactly where the south of Tenerife is.

But think I might have finally tracked it down. The south of Tenerife is actually on a balcony overlooking the coast on a promontory in Playa de las Americas.

At least that’s where it is this week, if cloud dares to fall across the balcony the south will up sticks and move somewhere else; somewhere there’s a sunny spot.

Political Platitudes For Sale

Just watched the West Wing episode (again) where Josh Lyman makes the mistake of going online to debate with ‘ordinary people’ who don’t really understand what they’re writing about. It was a timely reminder about the perils (and waste of time) when it comes to leaving comments on threads of those who are a bit dodgy (in a number of ways) and aren’t interested in facts.

There’s a shop somewhere selling political platitudes. A place where people can buy off the shelf phrases.
“Can I help you sir?”
“Yes I don’t like the look of that scruffy bugger. I’m not sure what he stands for or what party he’s in but he’s not nice and neat like Mr Cameron or that other smart little fellow from a few years back… Adolf somebody.”
“Ah yes, I know exactly what you want. We’re doing a deal, you can have ‘left wing nutter’, ‘socialist dinosaur’ and ‘unelectable joke’ all for the price of one.”
“Sounds good to me. And I won’t sound stupid? Nobody will spot I haven’t actually read anything more than a headline if I put these on my facebook page?”
“I wouldn’t worry about that sir, none of our tens of thousands of other customers do.”

Incidentally  VP John Hoynes is the worst alcoholic in history.

Evolution of Travel Writing

Anyone who still thinks in terms of one camp ‘v’ the other when it comes to travel writing is missing the point.

Travel writers who point a finger at travel bloggers as being jumped up, amateur pretenders to the throne are guilty of not waking up to the fact travel writing has evolved.

Travel bloggers who crow ‘print is dead’ are equally blinkered and betray a naivety regarding the business of travel blogging/writing.

Writing about travel now involves a whole range of mediums – both online and print. This is the evolution of the business.

For anyone who actually thinks the continued rise in online ‘publications’ at the expense of printed ones will leave established travel writers trudging the streets with obsolete and metaphorical typewriters under their arms, here’s a little anecdote from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I once worked for the Dept. of Employment in the UK. A regular comment thrown our way when people didn’t like the ‘rules’ was: ‘If everyone was in work, you’d be out of a job.’

If everyone spouting that line stopped to think about it for a second, they’d realise I really wouldn’t.

So, even if all travel writing were to move online…

Deciphering Reviews on Tripadvisor

I like Tripadvisor, it can be an extremely useful travel tool. But I occasionally feel like I’ve visited a parallel universe when, after I’ve stayed in a hotel or eaten at a restaurant, I check out, masochistically, what ‘reviewers’ think of the place.

Over the years I’ve realised some people actually reveal more about themselves than about the place they’ve reviewed.

The following were all from one rural hotel which was in a stunner of a mountainous location, used local dishes and ingredients in its restaurant and a chef to cook to order, had friendly staff (but with limited English) and was a fantastic base if you were exploring the area on foot.

What they said: The welcome was unfriendly and they were unable to provide basic information about the surrounding area.
What it means: I expect everyone to be able to speak English when I travel and if they can’t that makes them rude.

What they said: There was a large variety of food but it was just a bit dull.
What it means: The dishes available were mostly local and not the sort of thing I’m familiar with or happy to eat (e.g. there weren’t any French fries).

Location 1
What they said: Being in a hilly/mountainous area access to the hotel is along winding roads making journeys to the coast or into the mountains tedious.
What it means: I did absolutely no research before I booked otherwise I would have known I was staying in a rural part of a volcanic island with winding roads.

Location 2
What they said: Minuses are the remoteness of the hotel (40 minutes of mountain roads to any type of nightlife).
What it means: I cocked up because I didn’t research and therefore didn’t spot the hotel was in a rural location not a purpose built tourist resort.

What they said: Don’t know how the locals can stand the pandemonium (in reference to barking dogs and crowing roosters).
What it means: I’m a townie and don’t expect there to be any noise at all in the countryside.

What they said: The majority of TV channels seem to be German with BBC News 24 being the only English language channel.
What it means: I have absolutely no idea how to use a remote control otherwise I’d know you can use them to change TV programmes into their original language thereby giving me more choice. (Plus the reviewer obviously couldn’t tell the difference between German and Spanish as the channels were mainly Spanish.)

Local Life
What they said: It was quiet stressful and tiring because we felt terribly sad about these dogs (in makeshift tin kennels) and therefore we felt a bit “heavy” during the whole time being there.
What it means: I wish country life was like a Disney movie.

A Lament for Generation Y

How lucky my parents were,
To huddle under iron beds,
Whilst the sky filled with planes,
And bombs rained down on neighbours and friends.

How lucky we were,
To stand arm in arm,
Fighting for pride and livelihood,
As a she devil pummelled our communities.

How lucky were both our generations,
Having to fight for what we believed.
Knowing the keys to the kingdom,
Would never be handed to us on a plate.

How lucky we were.

Mind Reading

One sentence. The woman has uttered just one sentence of seven words and I now know everything I need to know about her.

She reads the Sun newspaper and believes everything in it, even when it admits to printing inaccurate information; she likes to watch soaps and reality shows on TV; her and her husband eat exactly the same thing on the same day every week (usually involving meat and two veg – none of that fancy foreign muck); she believes Syrian refugees are actually terrorists in disguise; she works in a factory located two streets away from her house; she thinks Jeremy Corbyn is a scruffy dangerous Communist and votes Tory although she thinks Nigel Farage is a thoroughly decent bloke, and she uses the line ‘I’m not racist but…’ on a regular basis.

How do I know this from a sentence of seven words?

Because the sentence was “normally I go all inclusive in Sharm.”

You Don’t Have to be Mad to take a Selfie, but it helps!

There used to be a sign that was quite common in shops and offices. It read ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps!’

Often the people who put up signs like this were the sort of folk who wore sensible (grey) woollen cardigans buttoned up to the neck (women… and maybe some men) or shiny (grey) trousers worn at half-mast so you could see their white socks (men).

Rarely were they the sort of people that you’d think ‘I want to party with these guys’, unless your idea of a party is a couple of glasses of shandy and being tucked up in bed by 10pm.

Whenever I see a selfie of people gurning furiously it reminds me of that sign.

The Fable of the Grammar Nazi and the Dying Man

A man in a too-tight cardigan is walking along the road when he sees a scruffy looking gent lying on his side in the gutter clutching his chest with his left hand. Cardigan man bends down and asks the man what’s wrong.

Gasping, the man scrawls on a pad on the pavement beside him and tears off a piece of paper which he thrusts toward cardigan man.

Written on the paper is this: ‘I can’t speak. I need my heart pills. Their over theyre in that bag by the wall’

Cardigan man shakes his head. “This won’t do at all,” he mutters in disgust as he corrects the man’s spelling mistakes.

The man in the gutter desperately writes on the pad again.

‘Please. NOW! I should of taken them this morning.’

Cardigan man is outraged. He takes out a pen and strikes through the note.


But the man in the gutter doesn’t hear cardigan man’s words; he’s dead.