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 is 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.

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