Mon 8 – Sun 14 Jan 2017
Another week in paradise (or something similar). Weather a bit more cloudy than previous week but still some opportunities for sunbathing.
I can’t remember when I last had a fortnight’s holiday. But it’s brilliant. The first week is simply about adjusting to the fact that life is not normal i.e. with work and so on. Then in the second week, you actually get into the whole swing of relaxing and enjoying a new way of living. Plus it’s long enough that you become slightly tired of the place and start to look forward to getting back home.
Mon was cloudy and so I took a long walk around Las Dunas whilst Dave lay in bed back in the hotel drowsy from some cough medicine. He did have a really annoying cough and persuaded himself that he needed medication from the pharmacy. It did knock him out so I suppose every cloud has a silver lining…
The Dunes are a little bit of desert on the southern tip of Gran Canaria. An absolutely amazing place that is like being in another world. You enter them via a very posh hotel and the first sight is a mass of sand dunes with patches of vegetation. Most people simply walk through to get to the beaches.
I love just wandering around the Dunes, going off the beaten tracks and finding quiet places to sit, read my book, and be. There are lots of people who go there to sunbathe naked and coming across them is something you simply get used to. I think during summer some people may well even stay there overnight. Walking through sand is actually hard work and it gets everywhere. However as a place to visit on Gran Canaria, it is an absolute must.
Our trip to Las Palmas had been planned for Tues but was put off till Wed because Dave still didn’t feel well. Tues itself was a very half-hearted day of laying in bed, wandering around the Yumbo, and drinking coffee and wine. Wed up for breakfast then off to get the bus to the big city in the north. The bus was packed but thankfully the journey is not that long. Indeed most time was simply spent trying to get out of the maze of streets that make up Maspalomas. After that it’s a straight run up the coast.
As you approach the city, you can see loads of very large container ships off-shore. I suspect bringing stuff to the island rather then taking it away. I don’t think the Canaries produce much for export apart perhaps from fruit and veg grown in huge plastic-sheeted greenhouses.
Las Palmas is a proper, big Spanish city. Population wise it’s not massive at around 400,000. But it does sprawl. Indeed I didn’t realise it was so big and there was no way we were going to cover it in a whole day. I actually think there is a good argument for spending a week just based in the city and using that time to explore it fully.
Vegueta and Casa de Colon
We focused our time on the old town of Vegueta. The centre piece is the cathedral which is big but we gave that a miss as churches can be a bit samey. Instead we focused on the Case de Colon (Colombus’ House). It was actually the governor’s house but it is inevitable that Colombus (Colon in Spanish) would have visited there. Its exhibits are primarily about this voyages to the New World and Las Palmas’ relationship with South and Central America as well as the history of the city itself. There is a recreation of Colon’s ship which reinforces how small it was. And some fantastic archaeological finds from the Americas which demonstrates the amazing civilisations that the Europeans destroyed. 🙁
One of the fun things about the House was that they keep two macaws. Absolutely big, beautiful creatures. But we were warned they might bite if we went too near. It looks like their wings had been clipped to stop them flying off. Instead they wandered around. And at one point went up the steps to the first floor. Very funny to watch and you could hear the staff trying to shoo them back. Ultimately they got one on a stick (the red one), carried him down and the blue one followed.
Chatting to a Canarian and views of Brexit
We had a coffee in a nearby square and chatted to a young, disabled man who was studying theology at the university. His English was really good – it’s great to see how his disability did not hold him back or enable others to do so; he had been able to access a good education and do wonderful things. Inevitably he asked about Brexit. Generally people abroad are really curious asking ‘why are you doing this?’ They think we are crazy and it did feel like there was a diminution in the respect other nationalities had for the British. This included nationalities traditionally close to us like Germans, Dutch and Scandinavians who you got the feeling almost felt sorry for us like people who have really fucked something up.
We tried to go to the modern art museum but it was closed for refurbishment and by that point Dave was in revolt about going to another museum (the Canaria museum). So instead we just pottered around. Clearly Las Palmas has a fab climate and is a fun, modern Spanish city. Lots of young people and there’s a vibe about the place. So much more to see another time like the beaches of Las Canteras – I love cities with beaches. And the brand new aquarium. Back to Maspalomas via a much less busy bus which we got at the wonderfully hidden underground coach station at San Telmo.
Back in Maspalomas
So our days back in the South consisted primarily of lying in the sun on the loungers by the pool (watched over by our lifeguard dressed as an eskimo), having our evening meal at the hotel, and pottering around the wonderfully crazy Yumbo shopping centre that also contains various gay bars and clubs.
We ate each night in the hotel restaurant at their buffet. Quite decent food and in the past our main expenditure had been meals out in the evening. Dave was happy so long as there were chips as part of the buffet. You should have seen his sad little face the night they didn’t have any…
Our table was near to the two old ladies whose table we had sat at by accident on the first night. They continued to give us daggers – bothered. Very funny that another couple came and sat at their table by accident as well just like us. More indignation from the old girls. Shame really because the male half of the straight couple would have provided some nice eye candy whilst we were eating.
I have almost certainly over eaten though as the week went on we found that we wanted to eat less at the buffet. The thrill of simple over eating had gone and it was much more fun to concentrate on small portions of things we liked. Though we were doing 3 courses so I still expect to gain weight. Also there was no real exercise on days when we weren’t going out. However we did skip breakfast on a couple of days simply because of not being hungry.
Maspalomas is party city but we found we didn’t want to go out too much in the night-time. We did find one bar we really liked, The Eiffel Bar run by a Frenchman. It was there that we often went for wine or a cocktail but returning to our room by 11. Dave really got into the DVD player and watching trash movies on the hotel’s film channels. I generally went straight off to sleep. Dave takes the view that this is the start of his newly retired life so why rush things, hmmm.
But I did have a couple of late nights out, coming back around 1am which is nothing for Gran Canaria. I simply felt I needed to make the most before I got back to normality. You can’t go out too early so I frequently sat doing stuff on the pooter until 10.30 then headed off to the Yumbo.
Me on the pooter on the balcony of our hotel room in Gran Canaria pic.twitter.com/gWhx7ZxkzK
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) January 11, 2018
Some Duolingo done to improve my language skills. Not as much as I had wanted. My time in the sun was spent reading and on the balcony my main preoccupation on the pooter was dealing with emails – personal and work. I know I was on leave but it felt important to dip in and keep the work emails under control without getting involved in any heavy shit. That can await my proper return.
However I did pick up and was reminded of Spanish simply by being surrounded by it.
No time to practice my coding. I doubt I am going to have time when work gets back into full swing. When will I ever find time to do something like the 100 day challenge when you are supposed to do some coding training every day? 🙁
Books and Reading
Another 3 books knocked out like the previous week. And 3 of my favourite authors.
‘Unseen Academicals’ by Terry Pratchett
I have been working my way through Terry’s Discworld book series and I am now coming to the final couple of books. Very sad as I always want to know that I have another one of his brilliantly funny books still to read. There being a limited number because Terry sadly passed away in 2015. Indeed, after he died he insisted all his unpublished work was put onto a disk and crushed by a steamroller.
Having said all that, I liked this book but I don’t think it’s one of his best. It’s a story about football. Well ostensibly it is that but there are actually several themes going on within the book. These include gang violence, rivalry, the beauty industry, racism, and tackling stereotypes. Indeed, it feels to me like there are several books here that have been mixed together whereas there could have been two or three separate ones.
Ultimately Terry died of dementia. And part of me wonders if this book is an example of brilliant but confused thinking. Or perhaps he was in a rush to get everything in his head down on paper as soon as possible. It is unimportant in the sense that he was still a genius writer and if you haven’t read the Discworld series then give yourself a treat.
‘The Days of Anna Madrigal’ by Armistead Maupin
The importance of The Tales of the City books to gay men in the 80s and 90s cannot be over emphasised. They spoke to us about San Francisco as a sort of promised land. And the stories and characters were wonderful as was the actual writing. This is the very last book in the series and, to be honest, I think Armistead should have left it after the sixth book ‘Sure of You’.
‘The Days’ is the ninth book in the series though I think Armistead says we shouldn’t see it as a series. It feels to me like we are left with an attempt to tie everything up though with a realisation that things never really end and the story always carries on. Some of the characters have become quite unpleasant and this book reeks of new age thinking. Nothing wrong at all with alternative lifestyles but this book really over-eggs it for me with its setting at the Burning Man event. The story of Mrs Madrigal’s early life also feels a bit contrived.
Overall, a decent enough book. However my recommendation would be to read the first 6 books in the series and stop there. Enjoy and appreciate the first 6 books as summaries of the amazing beacon of light that was San Francisco in the dark days of the 80s and 90s.
‘Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood’ by Christopher Fowler
One of my favourite contemporary authors and someone who seems to have no problem in churning out good books. He’s also got a great blog-site that he updates daily and can be read here. Bryant and May are two detectives, the suave May and the irascible Bryant. Both work in the Peculiar Crimes Unit based in London.
This is a very amusing thriller mystery concerning Punch and Judy plus various references to theatre. Great fun and ultimately a bit silly. But still very enjoyable trying to work out who did it and how. This is another series I am working my way through. And I love knowing there are several more books to read plus with more in production.
The Week Ahead
Everything gets back to normal after Wed but I think it’s still a week with some surprises in store:
- Mon is our last full day of our holiday in Gran Canaria
- Tues is all about travelling back. We’re flying into Stansted which should not have been a problem if this was my sabbatical and I did not have to get up for work the next day. But I do need to be back at work on Wed and we won’t be back till about 10pm 🙁
- Work on Wed AM, all day Thurs, and Fri PM. Catch-up with Dilhani on Wed lunchtime and then our inaugural team meeting on Thurs. Also handover meetings and a supervision meeting with my boss.
- Hopefully getting back to the gym on Fri morning with the big expense of renewing my annual membership. If not Fri then it will have to be the weekend. I would also like to do a jog-run at the weekend but that will depend on the weather / temperature.
- My big annual meeting with my HIV consultant on Wed PM
- Going to try to do Duolingo daily as well as keep on top of my emails. Coding practice is also an aim…
My response to the Daily Mail front page claim that May’s botched reshuffle equalled a massacre of middle-aged men (if only):