Sun 24 – Sat 30 Jan 2015
The big news of last week was my return to beloved Gran Canaria. In November I was here for a week on my own but this time it’s a week with me and my partner. Staying in Maspalomas right on the southern tip of the island though one day I must go and visit the northern capital city Las Palmas de Gran Canaria which everybody says is very nice. I love the Canaries. Basically Saharan islands just off the coast of Africa (including the amazing Dunes national park pictured here) but still Spanish and with a fabulous climate particularly in winter.
Journey to Paradise
Two days of work before arriving in Gran Canaria on Wednesday. Up at 4.30am that day to get the Gatwick Express from Victoria with an incredibly chirpy train driver who was telling us how his shift had finished but there was no-one to drive our train at 5.30 so he had stepped in as the 5.15 departure had already been cancelled due to lack of staff. Check in was fine – done online and self-service labelling and depositing of bags; eminently sensible with a little bit of human inter-action included for reassurance i.e. staff hanging about to confirm you have done everything correctly.
Boarded our packed flight on time though couple of kids nearby one of whom was screaming. 45 mins late in taking off due to problems in loading a wheelchair. How can airports screw up obvious things like that? Reminded me of the time I was 30 mins delayed in getting off a plane at Manchester Airport because there were no steps available to disembark by! Decent journey of slightly over 4 hours though Dave was surprised by people moving about but I think that is really quite normal these days.
Connection at the airport with the ever-wonderful and very resonably priced http://www.hoppa.com – highly recommended in travelling from any foreign airport to one’s final destination. Checked in fine at the lovely Neptuno hotel including being escorted to our room and bags carried up by the ‘bell boy’ who I gave a tip to in a wonderful old-school manner.
Gran Canaria Life
Days in Gran Canaria are repetitive but wonderful. Indeed, to date we’ve had solid sun though on some days with a bit of cloud for a short while. Whichever one of us gets up first goes down to put our towels on a couple of sun-loungers – important to beat the Germans who are very skilled in this. Then breakfast buffet which I’m never really that hungry for having eaten a nice meal the night before. And then onto the sun-lounger for the rest of the day and reading from my lovely pile of holiday books. Free sangria at 12 and I normally poodle off lunchtime / early afternoon to the nearby Yumbo Centre for a coffee. About 4.30, retire to our room to play on the pooter (sadly I am always trying to keep up with work and personal emails to stop being overwhelmed on my return home) and perhaps a little nap. Shower then out for drinks and dinner. All the restaurants are a bit samey and very meat + 2 veg though in an attempted upmarket style.
Gran Canaria (and the Canaries generally) is where Europe goes to holiday in winter. An amazing cross section of Europeans including Scandanavians and Germans in large numbers. There’s a great if slightly trashy gay scene, much of it very late-night. Too late for me and Dave with us both sometimes in bed as early as midnight. On every holiday I try to find a coffee shop / bar that I can use as a base for chilling and reading whilst getting to know the staff a bit. Here it has been the brilliant L’Italiano which does fabulous Pina Coladas. We’ve also got into a habit of finishing nights off before bed with one of their delicious Irish coffees.
Work and Digital
Work on Monday and Tuesday and digital featured on both days. Monday I hosted a meeting to go through the two projects we are funding alongside Microsoft. SafeLives will be enhancing digital conversation between professionals in the Domestic Abuse sector whilst CentrePoint will be using the funding to develop their Youth Homelessness database. Two examples of short, sharp digital interventions – exciting.
Monday afternoon and I met up with Jamie Druitt the social enterpreneur who has set up the impressive TalkLife, an online peer support network for young people’s mental health Fascinating the way he has created something that is truly global (both front and back-end) and going through an amazing period of start-up growth. I really hope it continues its upward trajectory and that he looks after himself as being so successful can create a lot of pressure.
Then on Tuesday I did a presentation to the Early Action Funders’ Alliance alongside Dan Sutch of CAST and Andy Murphy of Age UK Islington around the use of tech to support early action (such as Age UK Islington’s dashboard to collect information which then helps them plan and predict support). The tech work I have been championing has not been specifically about early action / early intervention but it does fit well with this. Indeed I don’t think tech can replace the one-to-one personal contact that is needed for most crisis intervention. Good to talk about where interventions can work such as around homelessness, social care provision, and safety – stopping crisis situations developing. Also good now to be able to start talking about where and why tech doesn’t work, and lessons learnt on how to deliver it well. Slight crisis in that Dan had to Skype in his presentation but it went OK and I hope that one day we will be able to do all such presentations effortlessly.
Health and Efficiency
Holiday and work impacted on my ‘fitness routine’ such that I only managed to get the gym once on the previous Sunday morning. Decided to concentrate on pushing heavy weights without cardio; it’s good to mess about with routines to stop them being dull. And no long walks to talk of, on holiday I love just laying in the sun and reading my book.
Healthwise, Gran Canaria’s sun definitely makes me feel better though I do need to watch my alcohol intake. I use factor 20 sun tan lotion so a bit of a respite for my skin there. Still getting headaches over one eye. Hopefully the ENT appointment will help sort if it is chronic sinusitis or migraine. Did whilst away get some potentially very bad news about the health of someone close to me. After what happened with my best mate James, I’m really hoping things turn out OK once tests are done. Does show how quickly our wonderfully organised lifes can change.
Language, Cinema and TV
No great progress on developing my language skills though just being in Spain helps with my Spanish not least through prompting me to remember words I had forgotten.
Supposed to see ‘The Revenant’ on Sunday but didn’t happen because Dave was ill. A film I really want to see although the fact it is two and a half hours long does scare me a bit.
No Antiques Roadshow on Sunday night but Dave and I did watched Deutschland 83 – as wonderful as ever. And on Monday night I watched the brilliant Benidorm with mum. I love its silly Carry On smutty humour as with the line ‘I don’t care if you’re the Fanny in Fanny Craddock!’ And an exchange at the property auction:
‘So you are a virgin?’
‘Well I have been round the block a bit.’
‘No, I meant you are an auction virgin?’
Books and Reading
One of the big things that gets me excited about going on holiday is taking a pile of books to work my way through. I’ve tried Kindle and it’s not the same. Nine books taken and a wonderful mixture including two trilogies. The following gotten through so far.
Farthing and Ha’penny by Jo Walton. First and second part of the Small Change trilogy. Another alt history book where Britain and the Nazis made peace in 1941 and an aristocratic-fascist government arose in London. All too scarily possible and a warning to how one can drift into totalitarianism constantly justifying itself by fighting internal enemies – in this case Jews and Bolsheviks. Good thrillers in themselves with a subtle gay trend running throughout. And an interesting model of chapters being alternately spoken by a male and female character though the latter are normally slightly dizzy. Wonderfully American historical writing in that though it centres on a policeman, he has an amazing ability to meet big historical characters such as Hitler himself.
Marlon James A Brief History of Seven Killings was read in between the two Walton novels and it is a quite demanding read. Long at nearly 700 pages with various characters (thank God for the checklist at the beginning) and often written in Jamaican patois. Initially I wasn’t sure I could make it through but it is well worth soldiering on with and soon hits its flow. A very well-written book which deserved to be winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015. However it doesn’t hold back on describing the evil and violence that surrounded drugs and gangs in Jamaica. Hard work but ultimately very fulfilling.
This video has been made by the wonderful people at SeeMe in Scotland and is well worth a watch: ‘The Power of OK’