New Year’s Day, holiday time, and some great books

Mon 1 – Sun 7 Jan 2018

Happy New Year everybody! Probably late in the day but better late than never. This has been a great week, the first week of my fortnight long holiday in Gran Canaria. This was supposed to be the start of my sabbatical at work but that has been cancelled due to me taking on my exciting new job. However the two week break has been long-planned (for over a year) and is being honoured. A wonderful leisurely time of lying in the sun, drinking coffee and wine, and doing lots of reading.

New Year’s Day

As per usual, I didn’t stay up on NYE for midnight. I get too tired and did my normal thing of going to bed to read around 10pm then crashing out about an hour later. Dave woke me at midnight – many thanks. Up around 9am which shows I must have been tired, perhaps due to the cold / sinus problem I had been dealing with for a couple of days. Out to the quiet new world for coffee. The rest of the day was spent pottering about to get everything ready for our trip to Gran Can the next day.

Bath and World’s Strongest Man

Eddie HallHad a lovely luxuriating bath in the evening and then watched the final of World’s Strongest Man. Well done to winner Eddie Hall. A great competitor who has been around a while and his perseverance has paid off.

Film: Theo & Hugo

Also finally got to catch up on NYD with this widely acclaimed gay film. I am left with very mixed feelings about it. It is a well-portrayed, simple story of 2 gay men who meet and start a relationship. The realism and plot have caused it to be compared to the British gay film ‘Weekend’. I actually think Weekend is better. There is some beautiful flowing dialogue within T&H like when they talk about the next 20 years of their relationship. ‘Then what?’, says one. ‘We probably split up’, says the other. ‘Is it worth it?’ ‘Oh yes’.

But there are 3 big drawbacks for me

First, it was controversial because of its explicit sex scenes. Yep they are there but frankly they are quite boring. They meet at an orgy, people meet in all sorts of places. There are also some hilariously stereotypical French film scenes like when one gropes the other’s genitals then very artistically describes them. Made me laugh (‘ode to meat and two veg’ LOL).

Second, a key element of the story is that they have anal sex without a condom and one of the them (the recipient) turns out to be HIV+ whilst the active one is negative. There is then a huge melodrama as they race to A&E for emergency PEP treatment to eradicate any possible HIV infection. But we know now that U=U Undetectable equals Untransmissable. The HIV character states clearly he is undetectable but we are still stuck in this massive melodrama. The post-film interviews suggest that the film makers either weren’t aware of U=U or simply ignored it to get the plot-line.

virus & retrovirus

My final complaint would be just the sheer over-acting and theatricality of it all – due to dodgy acting and script in certain places. And yet even with that it could also be quite wooden and stilted at times. Perhaps this just fits with the whole melodrama of it all. Good in parts but with fundamental flaws.

Gran Can

Getting there and our hotel

shot from space of gran canariaMe and Dave both love Gran Can though it does seem to get more popular and more expensive every year. I suppose that’s because everywhere else for winter sun seems to be out of bounds or less desirable i.e. Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.

Up on the 2nd at 4.10am to get the Gatwick Express at 5am. Obviously our sleep was crap with a constant semi-alertness. However the train journey and flight were fine with us arriving in Gran Can 30 mins early. As we were staying more than 10 nights at the hotel, we were given a free pick-up. Check-in fine and we were happily in our room by 2.30pm.

Welcome to the Solano

Our hotel is well known to us and we like it. But it is a bit strange. Indeed we joke it is the Solano Hotel from the brilliant TV programme ‘Benidorm’. It’s quite 80s and aspires to be very posh which it doesn’t totally achieve, thank goodness. The clientele is a wonderful mixture of people from across Europe, mainly Germans and Scandinavians (imagine dodgy mullet haircuts and ‘Take my breath away’ being played in the bar). Primarily elderly couples or groups, some of whom are incredibly over-weight and really should not be doing the all-inclusive deal, and gay male couples. I know I should probably be doing Air BnB but there is something wonderfully communal in such a diverse group of people being thrust together.

Benidorm ITV programme

A bit of cheer on Thurs when we were invited to have a slightly better room. Amazing how quickly we shoved everything in our bags and did the transfer. Not dramatically different but slightly nicer with a bigger balcony.

Weather

sunny sky with bits of cloudWeather is great, about 20 degrees though with some cloud. Hey it is winter here as well. The Canarians thoroughly disagree with the tourist perspective and one of the funniest things is seeing the lifeguard (who had the misfortune to sit by the pool all day doing nothing) dressed up like an eskimo.

Our Daily Routine

Gran Canaria Hotel NeptunoUp at 7am to claim a sun lounger each for me and Dave with some seeming to get up at 5am to claim their favourite spot by the pool.  Then breakfast (skipped sometimes when we just weren’t hungry) and onto the loungers.

I spent most of my time reading and dealing with stuff on my phone. Dave preferred to swim though he did also go for his very long walks. And the occasional doze in the sun though making sure we didn’t end up like one bloke who fell asleep with one of his balls hanging out of his shorts!

Dinner time etiquette

Then perhaps an indoor nap, pooter time, and shower before dinner around 6.30. We had a bit of fun on the first day when we broke dinner etiquette. This is the first time we’ve had dinner at the hotel. We thought the evening was like morning in that you just sit anywhere. Oh no, you need to be allocated a table. This we found out when two old women were very indignant that were sitting at their table eating our food! After dinner it’s back to the room to do pooter stuff and Dave particularly enjoyed watching stuff on the DVD player (Time Tunnel – what a great programme). Then out for drinks at the crazy Yumbo centre. The only problem in this is that all the laying on the lounger seems to be giving me back-ache.

Nights out in the Yumbo Centre

glitter christmasOn the first night we had an early one and were in bed by 10 as we were knacked. Dave did a late one on Wed night getting back at 5.30am. After that we reversed roles with him normally went back early and I rolling between 12.30 and 1.30am.

Illness

Fri evening we both stayed in as I seemed to come down with some sort of bug. I had some tummy trouble and felt really cold – perhaps it was sunstroke. Went to bed early and sweated it all out. Shame not to go out on Fri as Sat was the bank-holiday for epiphany (when the Kings arrive) so was probably a lively one. Currently Dave has a dry cough. I’m sure it’s your body just dealing with new bacteria that locals have developed immunity to.

Sadness

Gran Canaria Cafe ItalianoOne sad thing, my favourite coffee shop / bar in the every-wonderful Yumbo Centre has closed down. Cafe Italiano was a great place to chill. It’s been replaced by one of the ubiquitous units selling clothes, shoes, wallets, etc. The name Bazar (sic) Oslo does suggest it is targeting the Scandinavians 🙁

Books and Reading

One of my big aims for this holiday is to get through some good reading. Three books achieved in week one.

‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead

This novel was published in 2016 and has been widely lauded – rightly so; it’s impact is similar to that ‘Roots’ had several decades ago. I picked it up at the library – where I do many of my best pick-ups these days. It’s well-written but what grabs is the sheer inhumanity and evilness of slavery in the American South. If you are white then it is easy to write it out of your life. But the way black people were treated was absolutely dreadful and it is all presented here. Indeed part of America’s present problems sit with the inability of white people to accept the horrific things they did and the lasting legacy.

It’s a very clever novel as well with the twist that the author has based it on an actual secret underground railway. In reality, the ‘railroad’ was based on former-slaves being smuggled to safety by horse and cart via various safe houses. The bravery of the people involved at all stages should not be under-played. I recommend this book not least because of the mirror it holds up to us all, that we need to look into to understand and appreciate what is the basis of the modern society we live in. And to consider similar things still happening in the world and our reaction to them.

‘The Sisters Brothers’ by Patrick de Witt

Another library pick-up though it is always one I have had on my bookshelves waiting to be read, along with about 3,000 books in the same predicament. It’s a western which is a genre I normally avoid. Indeed, in timing it is not too far further on from The Underground Railroad. The reason I don’t like westerns is because they are generally too simplistic. Stories of the white man’s victory.

This is as realistic and bloodthirsty as the Underground Railroad. More humorous certainly but in a very dark way. What it tells us is how arbitrarily violent and lawless the American West was during the nineteenth century. And what you realise with both these books is how utterly savage were the Europeans in basically taking a nation from the native Americans.

Two brothers are hired to hunt down a man – I assume this makes them bounty hunters. The book is a weird road journey as they carry out this function. Indeed, in many ways the Underground Railroad is also the same. The Sister Brothers is a slightly easier read but still harrowing. However it is also beautifully written and very engaging with an interesting meditation on what being brothers means.

‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne

This book has been widely praised by many people and, my God, how right they are. This really is one of the nicest and most poignant contemporary books I have read for a long time. It’s fundamentally the life story of a gay man visiting him at every 7 year stage of his life. In this way it reminds me of a novel I read once by celebrated gay author Felice Picano though I can’t remember the title. In that a gay man reviews his life based on the moments when his cousin turned up.

Boyne’s book is achingly sad but I was left feeling very uplifted by it. The life of the central figure (Cyril) is positioned to show the main changes that have also happened in modern Ireland. Indeed it does not shy from the time when the Catholic church controlled the state and ruled with complete hypocrisy and misogyny. No doubt the Catholic church is slightly better now but there is still a long way to go. And there is a fantastic slagging off of most Irish politicians, though they are only as self-focused and bullshitting as many other politicians in the world.

It’s a great book to reflect on one’s own life. Has it been a success or failure? The key danger is not to fall into the ‘What if’ trap. This gets us nowhere. As the old saying so brilliantly put it, ‘If your aunt had bollocks then she’d be your uncle but she isn’t’. However it is always good to reflect without that becoming a permanent fixation.

Overall, a wonderfully written book and just beautiful. I would highly recommend.

The Week Ahead

Still in Gran Canaria so more of the same (hopefully): books, sunbathing, eating, people-watching, and taking it easy. 🙂 I do need to watch my alcohol intake though; 3-4 glasses of wine and 3 double whiskies is not a normal daily alcohol intake. I will carry on keeping an eye on personal and work emails to stop them going crazy. And I would love to do some more language training (beyond just hoping the Spanish seeps into me by being surrounded with it) and coding practice now I’m holiday with, supposedly, loads of free time to do whatever I want.

And Finally…

Senator Doug Jones’ son is hot!

 

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