Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

The Tale of the Mystery Marrow

Portelas PotatoesA couple of weeks ago, a neighbour brought me a huge sack of potatoes - fresh, straight out of the ground. There's about twice the amount I would normally buy at once, so to avoid waste, I'm making meals that focus on them.

With them, were two bottles of local, home-made wine. Those can be added to the two that the man who comes to tend the vines in my backyard gave me, another two that my next door neighbour gave me and several that my landlady gave me at Christmas. The irony is that I don't drink. Can't drink. Maybe it is some sinister trick of pre-menopausal witchery (i.e. my age), but I can't even take a small sip without getting a headache.

Ah, but I can cook with wine OK, so I'm kinda having a run on stews into which contain large amounts of potatoes cooked in even larger quantities of wine! The wine goes into the pot first and I boil off the alcohol, leaving only the flavour.

These dishes are ideal for cooking up a large amount at once (usually, I do enough for five portions), which I then serve out into plastic containers that go in the fridge. I get a decent, home-cooked lunch every day, but I have only had to cook once. Not only is this less effort, it uses less energy (gas/electric). If I can really organize myself into action, I try to do this on a Monday, so that it also frees up my time to do other things during the week.

Recently, while I was out, a marrow appeared, mysteriously, which I found hanging in a bag outside my door. One of the local specialities where I live is potaje, a hearty soup/stew, which is based around chick peas (garbanzo beans), potatoes and various varieties of "greenery", like cabbage or Swiss Chard. I didn't see why it couldn't also be done as a marrow variety and I was right. It ain't fancy food, but it is filling and the combination of the wine and the marrow give it enough - and actually very a pleasant - flavour.

So, last night I put a half kilo pack of garbanzos in to soak and this morning I cooked them. 

You can cook only as many as you need and that these garbanzos will keep in the packet, but it is a lot of work (just remembering to soak them in time, is enough), so I tend to cook the whole package at once.

Half of the cooked garbanzos go back into the stew and, with the other half, I made a bowl of hummus. Voila! That's afternoon tea taken care of for the next few days too. :) (Fortunately, I have a small loaf of fresh, crusty bread delivered to the door every morning.) My quick and easy recipe for hummus:

About a quarter kilo of cooked garbanzo beans
4 cloves of garlic
A pinch of course sea salt
About a cup of olive oil

Throw the lot into a liquidizer or food processor. Pulverize until creamy.

If you don't always have lemon, tahini or any of the other things mentioned in the usual recipes to hand, it doesn't matter. Mine is based on an old Spanish recipe and it didn't call for them either. The salt is important though, or it tastes like soap! :)

Wasting nothing (even the dog seldom gets scraps from me), after I'd peeled the potatoes to go into the stew, I fried the skins in olive oil until golden, sprinkled with sea salt and served them as a starter with ali-oli (garlic mayo).

Because of the gifts of the potatoes, wine and marrow, I now have healthy, ready home-cooked meals (achieved with very little effort, because most of the cooking was unattended simmering too), for the next few days for little more than the cost of the garbanzos: 80 Euro cents (50 pence/about a dollar).

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Is this the definition of a placid dog?

Chilled dog is happy to share anything with the cats, including treats, her bed ...

This is the dog whom locals think is a "dangerous breed" ...

Came back from the store with a bag of snacks this afternoon: just puffed corn thingies that are really no more than fresh air with flavorings, but dog likes them and so we share a bag once a month. It's a game too, because I throw them at all different angles and she gets training that would hold her in good stead, should she ever make the selection for the soccer team, as goalkeeper!

Just recently, Balu has developed a taste for crisps and snacks too and he begs for them worse than the dog. He's incredibly brazen too, because he plonked himself on the corner of my chair, between the dog and the food, which, you can imagine, could be a very dangerous place to be. Especially, because when I say that I throw these things up at all angles, that is not entirely deliberately: I'm simply a rotten thrower and they just go all over the place. 

Ask Holly about the time I threw a stick and hit her on the head. She now runs behind me, out of range, if I even pick one up now! 

Anyway, back to the snacks. So, I threw one in the air for the dog and it landed short, on the cat. I expected the dog to get it and eat it - both the cat and the snack probably - because it was only inches from her snout. But no, the cat got it first and the dog just ignored it. Sat back down and waited patiently for the next one to be thrown. A dog NOT grabbing at food seems way beyond polite and incredibly placid for a supposedly "killer dog", don't you think?

Friday, 9 June 2006

Dangerous People

There Is Only One Dangerous Breed Humans
As several sources have reported today, a woman was killed in Tenerife on Wednesday night, when her son’s American Staffordshire Terrier attacked her (I wasn't aware that Staffordshire had been moved to America) and another report had called it a pit-bull. The son was arrested on charges of reckless homicide, because he had not registered the animal as potentially dangerous. (Though I fail to see how registration would stop the animal doing what it did in it's home.) I'm sure the story has also been doing the rounds of the press and the TV and, no doubt, with all the usual sensationalism about "dangerous breeds".

In 14 years on this island, I have yet to see anyone here, other than English or German expats or those with Canarian hunting dogs (then only when hunting), who ever take their dogs out for exercise. Most dogs are kept in small spaces, most often on short chains, eating sleeping and shitting in the same 4 foot radius, 24/7. Then the owners wonder why these animals go crazy! Duh! But, thanks to ignorance and helped by the media, people carry on thinking that there are dangerous dogs, where, in truth, there are only dangerous owners.

As I was out walking my dog this afternoon - no way is she dangerous and she was under control, on a lead which I pulled in close to me as I had to pass what I can only call a pair of "mal educados" (Rednecks). As I approached, they began talking loudly in disapproving tones, at the air in general, but with clear inference in my direction, about how someone was killed "dangerous dog". Honestly, they didn't have the balls to address me directly, but they had to get their 2 cents in.

Holly merely sniffed in the direction of the guy's wheelbarrow, while passing, not even within arm's reach of him, but he immediately made melodramatic hand waving actions to shoo her off. The stupid thing is, of course, that if he did that to an uncontrolled and untrained dog, then he would get their hand bitten. And it would be his own fault, not the dog's, but, of course, they just can't see it.

Sunday, 14 May 2006

Family Day Out

Three cats just chillin near the bottom of our lane

What, exactly, do you need to enjoy a happy family day out at The 22nd Palma Canaria Norte Rally that just happens to whiz past the end of your street?

Why, one dog, three cats and a camera, of course!

Yeah, I took the dog, but the other three invited themselves and I saw them, sitting there relaxed, watching, only 10 yards back from a crowd of unknown people, the road, all the screaming rally cars ... I could hardly believe it. 

Friday, 12 May 2006

Practical Joke Day

I'm not quite sure when today was designated as Practical Joke Day - nor why, because it is neither April 1st, nor December 28th - by the younger members of my family (that is the ones with fur and hair on), but they seem to be making a jolly fine job of it so far and, it's nearly impossible to get mad with them.

At some time during the night, Mico, who likes to sleep curled round my head, had obviously been bored and had indulged in one of his favorite hobbies - hairdressing. This time, he really went to town, with lots of back-combing. To the point that, today, I look like a cross between the Wicked Witch of the West (which, I suppose, is not wholly inappropriate) and a bloody scarecrow. I'll get round to teasing out the dreadlocks he's given me, or not, later.

Mico decided he wasn't going to wait until the alarm went off for me to get up to get his breakfast today either, so when all 9 lbs. of him jumping all over me failed to get him the appropriate result, he jumped on the bedside table instead. When I opened my eyes, he was still sitting there, trying to look innocent.

But, not only had he managed to hit the right button on the remote to switch on the TV, he'd also managed to select Channel 2 (which is not the last channel I had been watching), which shows kiddies "dibujos animados" (cartoons to you) in the mornings. What was on? Rugrats, taking care of a CAT!

Later on, when I took Holly for a run up in the fields, she decided she was going to go off on one of her rambles. She does this from time to time; just disappears into the vast yonder undergrowth and comes back when she feels like it. (Obedience is an optional upgrade that I have never been able to afford.)

Actually, she does come, but not when you simply call her or whistle her (unlike the cats, who do). What I have to do is call out "Bye Holly" and start walking towards home. Usually, she's so afraid of missing something or of being "abandoned", that she catches me up, less than half way down the hill. Not today. She caught me up and overtook me, as I had got back to the bridge at the end of the driveway. I could hear her coming; thundering down the hill at the speed of an express train. She took the curve on two paws. By the time I got back up to the house, she was standing INSIDE the doorway, grinning from ear to ear. If she had been able to say "Beat you!", she damn well would have done.

So I give her a reward, for coming home, of course. Her favorite: a hunk of yesterday's stale bread. She took it, but didn't eat it, because, while we were out, one of the cats had brought a rabbit in (dead) and laid it out in the spare room. Holly wouldn't eat her bread, because she had to "guard" the rabbit. Don't ask me, she just guards them and doesn't touch them, dead or alive. It's the first they'd brought indoors for weeks. Normally, at least some of the cats come with us when I take Holly for walks, but none of them had this morning. 

I should have guessed, they were up to no good.

Once in a century

At the celebrations of the 300th Anniversary of the volcanic eruption in Garachico

Whilst it's true that I don't tend to get out much, I'm not trying to infer it is that infrequent, however, very few days are quite like the one I had on Friday. In the morning, I went down to Buenavista del Norte to do my once monthly round of business, but it is getting ever more difficult to distinguish a trip to the bank and some shopping from the old custom of paying visits. 

On the way down, I had called in to see, Ana, my next door neighbour - I've seen her twice to chat otherwise since the first of the year - because she now works full time, running the family bar. She was standing outside the bar in La Cuesta as I approached and I wanted to ask a favour anyway.

This makes it awkward when she insists on giving me coffee on the house, just because I have bothered to go and see her. "Er, not entirely without interest", I assured her as I asked if she would rent me her husband again to spray whatever it is (they aren't saying and I ain't asking), the only thing known to man and science that will get rid of the plagues of black centipedes that crawl all over the floors, walls and other surfaces. Half an hour or more, coffee, chats with Ana, with her daughter and meeting her sister for the first time, I made my way into town.

There I dropped off some British stamps for Manolo in the bank. 

A visit to the newsagent next is always a lengthy one to get caught up on news - not the sort that is printed in the press - and my friend there picked out very nice cards for me for my friend whose baby arrived on May 1st.

Called into the supermarket to get baked beans (it's the only place locally that sells "foreign food") and cat food. I was accosted with "We have Piccalilli and Branston Pickle". Well, you can't refuse, can you? And from there ensued an explanation of how Branston Pickle is nice with a bit of cheese. 

From there to the post office to get stamps for the cards. My friend Crissy works there. She used to do the delivery round in my area for several years, during which we had got to know each other quite well. "Gosh, is it a month since I last saw you?", she exclaimed and there started a long chat with her, the other man who works in the post office and any other customers who came in, one of whom was a lady selling lottery tickets for the charity lottery, ONCE. She had one ticket ending with 57 - the year of my birth - so I bought one of those. 

When I eventually got out of the post office, I went to the square to have a coffee at the kiosk, then  across to the corner to La Venta also the offices of El Cardón and introduced myself to Janiera, who I had spoken to on the phone. Another fifteen minutes, chatting, collecting information and leaflets.

Time was flying away from me, is it any wonder? But, I needed to get back up the village, pay my debts to the local supermarket and buy a few provisions, before they would close for the siesta. Then later in the afternoon, based on the idea that I was probably unlikely to be around for the next centenary, I decided to go to Garachico to see the events surrounding the celebrations of the 300th Anniversary of the volcanic eruption on May 5, 1706, which had destroyed the town and its livelihood. Little did I think I would be rubbing shoulders with the President of the Canary Islands and other assorted dignitaries.

On the way back from Garachico, I picked up a young lad hitching from Buenavista to Teno Alto. I've had to do this myself many times, because the buses are so infrequent and finish so early in the day. To Teno Alto, they are non existent at any time, so I know it is the only way to get around these parts.

The good news: when I got home and checked the lottery numbers, number 7 had come up that day. WOW! That means I've won a whole 2.5 euros.

Monday, 10 April 2006

Intruder Alarm

So, here I was minding my own business at the keyboard, dog at my feet this morning, when suddenly, a singular caterwaul broke the morning's silence. Holly's sense of direction, it has to be said, is somewhat better than mine. As I began to check various directions, she bolted straight out towards the back utility room.

Nanoseconds later, Khan came rushing through the house at the speed of a bullet and fired himself out of the front door between the gaps in the trellised "kiddy gate". He was closely followed by a ginger cat of unknown origins, who was catching up on him rapidly as he passed through the house.

Kitty was right behind the stranger. Considering that all three cats only had to traverse one 12 foot room and the 6 foot wide hallway to reach the door, either the dog wasn't trying or she's supremely daft. She failed to catch any of them!

Betty was observing all this, calmly and serenely, from the safety of a windowsill and Mico was in the garden, not far from the front of the house. It all happened far to quick for him too. When I took the dog out to investigate what she'd missed (she wouldn't settle until she'd made sure the intruder was gone), Mico was just sitting there, transfixed, with a shell-shocked "WTF was that?" look on his face.

And, as we strolled down the garden, Balu ambled lazily up from the vines opposite to see what was going on. "You've missed all the fun, lad.", I thought.

In truth, there did not seem to be a great deal of animosity towards this stranger and the disturbance was minimal: everyone returned to whatever they were doing quickly once he'd left and it is the second time I have seen him loitering around recently, which probably means he's been around much more that I haven't been aware of. Presumably now, he's "cased the joint" and got up the confidence to come in the back window in search of the food that is served out in that back room. No doubt, this will open a new chapter in the tales of the feline frolics.

Sunday, 2 April 2006

Rabbit Rescue Employs New Security Chief

Pocket-sized baby bunny

Yes, boys and girls, rabbits are in season again! Well, maybe the rabbits were in season how ever long ago it takes to make more little baby ones, but rabbit hunting season (for cats) has begun again this year.

We have too many rabbits here and they do cause considerable damage to crops, especially the vines and, for that maybe the "responsible" thing to do would be to ignore it and let the cats get on with what is natural to them to control the population. Unfortunately, when they bring them, alive, into my house and the poor little things are screaming in fear of their captors, I find that I simply I do not have what it takes to be an accessory to murder.

So, one dear little thing spent the hot afternoon in a cool cat basket to rest and recuperate from the ordeal, after being inspected, given a little milk and some TLC in lieu of psychological counselling. When they are this small, I'm not sure that their chances of survival are good alone, but I've taken him (or her) to a spot where, hopefully, it will find some friends or, better yet, a new mummy.

Let the dog see the rabbit ...

I generally thought this meant so that they can eat them. Here was the curious thing and, I suspect it was because Holly picked up from my caring for the little bunny, that this was the right thing to do. So that is what she did. Just like she has done in the past with kittens. Strange and wonderful dog. All afternoon, each time a cat went to go near the rabbit, she would stick her nose between cat and basket and give them a short, gruff bark and a nudge out of the way. These cats, her "older children", knew she meant it too, because I watched as they rolled over quickly into defensive postures, then slunk away.

A German Shep/Presa Canario mix is probably not what you'd normally consider as suitable as a babysitter for small rabbits (nor for small kittens, for that matter). 

Friday, 24 March 2006

How small is a small kitten?

Khan, Kitty and Balu at a couple of months old

One of the things I have always regretted when I took in these three munchkins, is that in my haste (no, sorry our constant busyness, because I had a lot of help from Holly the hound) to maintain the continuous factory production line of feeding, face washing, bum licking (Holly's job) and so forth, in triplicate, is that I did not get to take any photos of them while they were still very small. When I first got them, you could have lost all three in a shoe box, they were so tiny. 

And the three of them are all, still, at five years old, perfectly synchronized. Back then, as soon as I'd fed, washed, shown them the bathroom and got them all snuggled back down again with a refilled hot water bottle, it was almost time to start preparing the next feed, ready for when they'd wake again.

It was an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Balu, who was the largest of the three when I found them, was the same length (from nose to bum) as the distance from the base of my palm to the first joint in my middle finger - some 12 cms or approximately 4 1/2 inches.

At that time, Balu had not yet developed any distinct markings. He was white underneath, but just a a soft donkey brown otherwise, which made him resemble a little teddy bear, hence the bearlike name. It was apparent, unusually, at that early age, was that Balu was going to become one big mass of fur.

Sunday, 12 March 2006

Clever Doggie

Holly on sentry duty in the hallway

The owner is undoubtedly stupid (yesterday, I managed to completely misplace a cat, because I'd shut it between the layers of one of our psuedo double-glazed windows), but my dog certainly isn't daft! Bless her, she's a real help. 

One day, when it clouded over (yet again), four out of five cats came indoors swiftly and voluntarily. That left just one outside, who was sure to follow soon and, for reasons of her own, Holly decided to sit by the front door and wait.

Since she sat there and I certainly didn't want to hover round the door calling for ages, I casually remarked to Holly, as I went back to my desk, "Let me know when the last one arrives." Don't you hold conversations with your animals then? :)

It didn't really cross my mind that she would listen, understand or answer.

However, about ten minutes later, she let out two short barks, so I went to the door to look. Yup, there he was, fifth and final cat waiting by the door to be let in. This I did, after which the "watch dog" abandoned her post. Job done.

Just a coincidental fluke? Nope, I tried it again next time we were waiting for a different last cat to come home at dinner time and I got the same result.

It works for keeping an eye on her "kids". She also "tells them off" when they fight, run around indoors or scratch the furniture. I've had no success yet with requests for help with the housework, but we're working on it!