CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Sunday, 11 December 2005

The English Woman who adores potaje and calls her cats with Gomeran silbo

The following is translated from my interview, which appears in the Canaries edition of ABC both in print and online today:

"It seemed to me that England was not a country with a future for me. Spain, on the other hand, was", says Pamela Heywood, 48, who has been resident in the Canary Islands for 13 years, during which time she has only visited her native country on two occasions.

Her knowledge of the island on which she lives has motivated her to write her blog, Secret Tenerife, where each day, she attempts to impart her experience that there is "something different, more natural: another face of this location that not many British visitors know about." From Buenavista del Norte and in English, although she speaks perfect Spanish, she tries to show her readers "that it isn't all cement here and that there are other things to enjoy".

Absolutely fascinated with the Canarian gastronomy - "I adore potajes and, gofio for breakfast" - she values the fact that in the Canaries you can still buy "healthy, natural and fresh food", while in other places there are only "industrial products, something horrible".

Pamela learned silbo, from a Gomeran neighbour. "I could hear that when she called her husband she used one sound, when she called her son, it was a different one. It occurred to me to call my five cats in that manner, creating a different sound for each of them."

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Glossary:
Who woulda thunk, I need a glossary for my own words?

Potaje = pottage as in soup. That was easy enough, but it isn't just the simple translation, this really refers to the entire traditional and cultural - healthy - style of eating of these islands. And, one that is only just hanging on against the inevitable McDonalds invasion.

Gofio = Toasted, milled whole grain product (most predominantly made from wheat or maize), exclusive to these islands and which originates with the aboriginal peoples, the Guanches. It is used in a wide variety of both sweet and savory dishes, but often mixed with hot milk and sugar as a kinda neolithic instant breakfast cereal.

Guanches = The aboriginal people of Tenerife, who, at the time of the Spanish conquest in 1496 were still living in the Stone Age. The term is also used to refer to all the pre-conquest inhabitants of the Canary Islands, although this is strictly not correct. It is thought that they came from the Berber tribes of North Africa. Or, if you are a romantic, were the last survivors of Atlantis.

Silbo = Whistling language, exclusive to the island of La Gomera, which was developed by the natives to communicate across the steep ravines. The fact is that it's easier to make yourself heard over longer distances and it does work bring cats home. So there!

Goodness knows what impression people will take of me, however, I do think it represents someone more interested in the culture and nature of the islands than the majority of the British they encounter, most of whom still don't speak Spanish, even after 20 years and, dare I say it, don't give a shit either as long as the sun shines.

Actually, this was the funniest experience today. Naturally, I talked to the reporter, Bernardo Sagastume, yesterday in Spanish. And, of course, I was thinking in that language as I did so. I knew what I meant at the time, but trying to translate that and express the exact same sentiments in English today, just wasn't happening naturally.

In a sense, I feel culturally Schizophrenic. Let's ask the other me?

The other part of Bernardo's report, La «gofiosfera», blogs al estilo canario, also refers to me in passing and is an interesting look at the history of blogs in the Canary Islands. (If blogs in general belong to the "blogosphere", blogs Canary style belong to the "Gofiosfera".)

Yes, there are parts of that which bear translating and reporting, however, for today, my brain has had it. Gone to lunch.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Cat Herding

Supposed to be impossible? Pooh, I am an expert at it! I'm not quite sure what that says about me. Well, yes I am and, constantly look over my shoulder for men in white coats! The locals are surprisingly unperturbed by it when they see me and my little party out wandering the countryside. Of course they probably call me a vaca loca (mad cow) behind my back, but do I give a fig?

It was a clear, if chilly (by my standards) morning and around 8 a.m. dog and I went for a stroll up the lane, across the valley, turn left up the dirt track ... at least 1/4 mile later, there they were, all three ducklings, puppies kittens, still trotting along behind us in single file.

We crossed ploughed fields, rough ground, weed jungle, past vines and came back down the hill on the paved camino (hiking track).

Balu dawdles a bit, but otherwise all still present and correct.

It wasn't even as if they were ensuring I didn't escape because they wanted me to feed them, because they'd just had their breakfast.

As we approached the horse trough near home, there were the other pair who had decided not to come all the way, Mico and Betty, sitting, side by side in the middle of the road, waiting for us to return.

A few moments rest while Kitty and Khan stopped for a drink, then all seven of us filed back down the hill, up the drive, and straight back indoors automatically. "Normal" cats would just go off and do their own thing, wouldn't they? It beats me: I truly never trained them to do this and it still amazes and highly amuses me daily when they do.

And, if all the cats don't follow on the whole walk, we'll usually pick the stragglers up along the way somewhere.

Like later this afternoon when I went down the backyard, with the dog, followed by four cats, to be greeted by the fifth, Betty, yowling from the other side of the neighbours' fence. She promptly hopped on a roof and vaulted that wire fence that she then climbed down like spiderman. I remember her doing that once with the three meter high fence around the goat pen up the hill. Only after a goat had chased her right round the perimeter, you understand!

But I don't care if I was wandering along talking to a bunch of animals, I should say carrying on a monologue. Today was one of those beautiful mornings where I was able to take in the scenery and be really glad to be alive.

Maybe this is not everyone's idea of bliss, but who in the "civilised" world gets the choice to do what I do? I know I am certainly glad I do.

Sunday, 4 December 2005

Mystery Mishap

It probably isn't surprising with six animals, that you can almost guarantee that any one of them will have something wrong with it at any given time. This definitely seems to have been the case lately.
This morning it was Mico's turn (again).

All the cats had gone out at first light. Quiet day, being Sunday and, by mid-morning the sun was out, the sky was clear and it was dry.

I looked out of the kitchen window at about 10.30 to see Mico and Betty walking up the front path together. This is normal, where you find one, you usually find both (and wherever they are together there's usually trouble), so I went to the front door to let them in.

(That's just force of habit and acute over-politeness - they could easily come in the back window that is left open for them.)

Given the fine weather, the absolute mystery relates to why Mico walked in sopping wet and covered in mud up to his armpits.

So, I proceeded to give him a bed bath, which would give me the opportunity to inspect for damage at the same time. He growled and squealed and did not want to be handled, but I found only minor injuries, like grazes, on one front leg and the opposite shoulder.

I don't think he's been fighting, because the dog usually advises me (noisily) of that, even if the caterwauling is right across the valley.

The wetness would suggest that he might have fallen into some long grass and he does smell strongly of fennel, which most of the weed is made up of here. But cats "don't" fall into things and hurt themselves. They have perfect balance and, unlike toast, land the right way up!

Or do they? I can't work out what he's done. All I know is he is feeling VERY sorry for himself.

Despite being "walking wounded", he obviously hurts all over and crawled off to spend most of the day sleeping it off.

He just about got up the energy to walk three feet from the basket to the dish at dinner time and now he's curled up on my bed on the electric blanket. I laid him there and he stayed as he was put.
And, yes, the "wife" curled up with him, as usual.

When I got the ham out of the fridge to give them all a treat - this is my trick for keeping them "obedient" - normally, Mico will come running and be one of the first to arrive, ready to bite my hand off for a sliver of ham (we are talking one slice shared between six), even if he were two fields away, without being called. He can hear the fridge door open and the rustle of aluminum foil from that distance.

A mere two rooms away in the bedroom, poor lad was only "well enough" today to lift his head.

Previously, he had been flat out and fast asleep, but he was also "well enough" to eat his sliver of ham when I took it in to him! Well, we'll wait and see if he's as right as rain tomorrow (hopefully), as he was last time.

Or, maybe this is another reason to keep them indoors.

Friday, 2 December 2005

Who Said Dogs Were Stupid?

I Dreamed My Whole House
Yes, I would be dreaming if my whole house seemed clean.

One word you would never associate with me is "domesticated". Oh, I keep the parts of the house that matter relatively habitable and hygienic, but housework is not something I ever do for "fun".

Things that are not used often, like the room that my mother sleeps in when she visits once or twice a year, or the loose cover on the sofa in that room are not cleaned until they are going to be needed again.

And, of course, my mother is coming for Christmas, but I haven't put any decorations up to give that game away and I haven't told Holly what the date is, nor that my mother's visit is imminent.

All I did today was to remove some boxes that groceries had come in and that had been thrown into that room and remove and launder the cover for the sofa. Obviously, this constituted enough of a "flurry of unusual activity" for dog to put two and two together!

When my mother visits, either excitement or jealousy (I think both), always causes Holly to behave like a spoilt three year old child.

She has been bothering me for attention all day.

I mean more so than normal and she is already joined to me at the hip 24 hours a day, which is the crux of the problem really. Since I am at home most of the time she can be, absolutely and exclusively.

And we've had little puddles. No, I don't mean she sits and deliberately wee's on the floor, I mean, she "leaks" with excitement or, perhaps for the reason that she is too preoccupied to remember to ask.
I am sure it is perfectly normal for any child / dog to show their dislike of having their routine mucked up in the only way they know how. And there's probably not much I can do, other than to ignore the bad behaviour and not make a fuss that could make it worse, but it does make me chuckle that the clever bitch is SO quick to catch on.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

Delta Destruction

Delta Dawn

Every time I've almost made progress and posting here got somewhere near the top of the pile, the lights would go out, again. Aghhh ... Probably not surprising, since we were visited by Tropical Storm Delta, which left a trail of destruction in its wake. I dread to think what's to come, as the electricity company estimate that repairs to the main network will take 4-6 months. Whilst I should bite my tongue and give them the benefit of the doubt, many years of bitter experience tell me that a Canarian estimate of 4-6 months really means it would be a bloody miracle if it was even started in 4-6 years!

No, it is not usual for us to see this kind of weather, so I do allow that these are some pretty extenuating circumstances. In fact, we have never had this kind of named storm before in the Canary Islands.

The first I knew about it was when I went out early on Monday morning and captured this shot of the sky. I sensed that a bad storm was on the way in, but I didn't know how bad until I then turned on the TV to find that we were under alert and advised to stay indoors.

It wasn't long before the electricity went and being the really brave person that I am, I went to bed, pulled the covers over my head and woke up once the worst of the storm had passed! I can sleep through phones, barking dogs, alarm clocks, thunder, loud winds ...

Of course, the wind speeds they predicted (75-100 kmh) and the ones some areas got (240 kmh), were two different animals entirely. We've had winds of 75 kmh that rocked this house with its 18 inch thick walls before. I had no wish to be conscious of it again.

And, there is always a "silver lining". When the electricity was cut again this morning for another 2-3 hours, I couldn't sleep, so I took the dog for a long stroll. We came across neglected almond trees that still had almonds on them, so we did a bit of "scrumping". They'll come in handy for Christmas recipes! 

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