Good Times: Maspalomas, Back After 3 Years

Mon 23 – Sun 29 Jan 2023

I sit writing this blog on our hotel balcony in Gran Canaria looking out over Maspalomas and a sky that is cloudy with occasional breaks for the sun. I am in a pair of shorts because the weather is around 20 degrees. Important to remember these things in the future – when things have been good in life.

My previous blog (read it here) was primarily about how nice it can be to be optimistic and ‘looking forward’ for good things to happen in your life. Particularly when bad things are happening (like Russia’s war against Ukraine) and the weather is shit. Much of last week was about getting ready for mine and Dave’s annual trip to Maspalomas on the lovely Spanish island of Gran Canaria.

Our big soft spot for Maspalomas and the memories

It’s a place we love. Four and a half hour flight, decent weather in winter, and a fun gay scene. We have also found a hotel we love staying at. Pre-pandemic we came here for a couple of weeks during every January / February but the last time we were here was Jan 2020. Indeed, you can read about the start of that holiday in my old blog here.

Reading that blog, I remember my life before the Covid lockdown and prior to being made redundant. Good to see some similarities with that life have been re-established and maintained. Like going to the gym and doing lot of reading. Though there are things I miss like the massage service THT used to provide for people living with HIV and the colleagues in the great Influence team I managed at Comic Relief.

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”

Marcus Aurelius

Holiday in Maspalomas

Chilled pre-holiday Tuesday

Me and Dave flew out to Gran Canaria airport on Wed morning. But our holidays really began on Tuesday. We deliberately created a day to get everything done before we went away. So a small lay-in and then I returned some books to the library that would become overdue on holiday. Last minute bits of shopping and then finishing off the bag packing. Plenty of time to check everything before getting a train to the airport to stay in a hotel because we had a very early flight on Wed morning. Further improved by being able to check our main bags in that evening.

Dozing and subdued bulldog

Delayed flight and the basketball team

The main holiday started proper on Wed. Up at 5.30 am and, literally, crossed the road to go through security and then chill. Flight boarded on time but problem with Canarian Air Traffic Control meant we were delayed taking off for an hour and a half. But a good flight and we only arrived half an hour late. Further delays with getting our passports stamped – the legacy of stupid Brexit.

Fun in that there was a basketball team travelling on our flight. And those guys were tall. Well over six & a half feet with some having heads that touched the ceiling of the plane. They were spread throughout the plane and it was hilarious to see their beautiful long legs all over the place as they were too cramped in the seats.

Plane flying

The actual holiday

Got to the hotel in Maspalomas and checked in followed by a walk and a drink before going back to crash out. Woke and showered then down for dinner which was wonderfully relaxed. Great to see and talk with several members of staff we remembered from 3 years ago. They said how the hotel was full now but had very few visitors during the pandemic and it had been depressing.

Days since then have taken on a nice repetitiveness. Up for breakfast (though see my comments on ‘Diet’ below) then laying out in the sun which comes and goes with frequent cloud cover. Don’t forget it is still winter in the Canaries they are just further south than the rest of Europe. Perhaps a snooze in the afternoon then showers, dinner, and the rest of the night out in the Yumbo Centre drinking and chilling. TBH I haven’t had any very late nights yet. Drinks at the bars but no club visits for me and bed by midnight.

One of the most fascinating things is seeing what has changed in the last 3 years. This is the nice side of regular holidaying in the same places. You get to know the area and see the changes (good and bad) over time. Great to see some familiar faces and places. However also worth noting we’ve lost some nice places like the ‘Nuevo Rokoko’ coffee shop and the fun German restaurant ‘Bei Lelo’ as well as the old owners of the ‘Eiffel’ bar.

Now gone, German restaurant in Maspalomas

Health and Efficiency

Gym

Only managed one session before going on holiday. This was on Monday morning and it was one of those great sessions where I was completely on my own in the gym. I think the cold weather put people off as it was bloody freezing that morning. I walked across the park to get to the gym and everything was frosted and white; it was like something out of ‘Frozen’. Did various exercises for various body parts – it rapidly turned into a long session of about an hour and a quarter but I was happy.

11 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £45 per session

dumbells in the gym

Jogging

Our hotel in Maspalomas does have a small gym. However, I have decided to use this opportunity to focus on starting the ‘couch to 5K’ programme to gradually get me back to jogging. Much easier to do when it is warm and sunny.

I used to jog a lot and I did it in the mornings simply because I feel very awake then and I could get it done without too many people seeing me. However, I realise that there is a value in letting my muscles and joints warm up through the day. So I am doing my jogs in the later afternoon after I have finished lying on the sunbed. The first parts of the programme are very easy. Every other day, eight 1 minute runs with one & a half mins of walking in-between.

Holiday diet

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have been quite successful at losing weight since leaving work in December. Indeed, I’ve lost about half a stone so far (well done Billy!). Our lovely hotel in Maspalomas doesn’t have a set of scales – a nice touch in the hotel I usually stay at in Torremolinos. So I don’t know how my weight is going.

Obviously, the danger on holiday is always to over-indulge. I have restricted myself to just having breakfast and an evening meal. However, with the drinking of multiple glasses of wine and cocktails I have been feeling a bit fat and bloated. So rectified this on Saturday by skipping breakfast. Was a good idea and a nice reset on the need to control my eating.

Holiday cocktail

Family and Friends

Mum

Spent some quality time with mum before we went off to Maspalomas. She should be alright whilst I’m away as my brother can keep an eye on her. Also phoned the Housing Association to be told her repair had finally been approved to be done! Only taken about 4 months from when first reported. But we have to wait for the sub-contractor to contact us once they have in stock the replacement part needed. Looks like it still won’t happen till after I’m back from holiday.

Friends also in Maspalomas

Great that my old mate Phyllis was on holiday in Gran Can with his mate Rafa at the same time as me and Dave. So obviously we have been meeting up with them often for a drink usually after we’ve had our separate dinners and before we all go off to different bars and clubs (or bed for me). Plus on Saturday saw the arrival of Dave’s old work mate Ian. We will also be catching up with him at various points.

It is very busy in Gran Can at the moment. I think lots of people are taking the opportunity to get some ‘normal’ winter sun for the first time in 3 years. And basically all European gay men visit Maspalomas at some point in their life. So I suppose it is inevitable that you bump into friends here. And there is also an element of seeing people who you have seen ‘on the scene’ for years but don’t know well and thinking how much older they have got. Suspect they are thinking the same about me LOL.

Personal Development

Advancing in Spanish

Had a great session with Duolingo on Monday at the gym in London. Several lessons done whilst I was resting in-between sets. Also did a nice long session on Tuesday, my ‘pre-holiday’ day. And then I have managed to get several sessions done pretty much everyday whilst we’ve been in Maspalomas. Basically I’ve been grabbing moments at various times on the balcony or the sun lounger.

But I have also got the chance to practice my Spanish. I took opportunities to talk in Spanish whenever they arose. Often it was silly stuff like ordering a drink or making small talk with hotel staff. But it was useful and made me realise various Spanish words I had forgotten.

Spanish flag

Sustainability

Not easy when you are on holiday

So took outward leg of the two return flights I am trying to restrict myself to for 2023 as part of my contribution to tackling climate change. Aim is to do Torremolinos for Halloween. Me and Dave would like to do Berlin during the year as well. Thus that really needs to be by coach and / or train.

It’s difficult to be sustainable on holiday. By it’s very nature, it is temporary and wasteful. What I am trying to do is not eat or drink too much. The former is not always easy with buffet style meals which do feel so wasteful when you see all the uneaten food. I’ve also taken a limited amount of clothes, focusing on washing them rather than just taking loads of clothes or buying new ones.

Books and Reading

As with all our trips to Maspalomas, I spend a lot of time reading and managed to get through 3 books last week.

‘1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows’ by Ai Weiwei

Fiction is my thing rather than non-fiction. But this autobiography has been a real eye-opener. I knew little about Ai Weiwei beyond him being a contemporary Chinese artist and a dissident. This book told me a lot more about his art and also his clashes with the dictatorial Chinese Communist state.

A large part of the book focuses on the poverty and turmoil of the life of his grandfather and father. You realise the brutality of Chinese history in the twentieth century. Like how Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party ran a constant terror leading to people being murdered and exiled. The campaign against Ai Weiwei for trying to seek a more open society fits firmly into China’s history of suppression.

My understanding is that Ai Weiwei sees art as a reflection of life and that everything can be art. This is a nice way to view living rather than as a succession of throwaway experiences with no purpose. He is very good on challenging the hypocrisy of those who say we shouldn’t ‘export’ Western values around human rights, democracy, and equality. Linked to this, he is also very caring about those fleeing oppression.

‘The West has an obligation to reaffirm human rights, for otherwise its conduct is tantamount to a neo-colonialist exploitation of developing nations.’

Ai Weiwei

‘A Psalm for the Wild Built’ by Becky Chambers

Chambers is a popular American sci-fi writer. Her writing fits firmly into space opera with a strong reflection of modern contemporary society. Her stories feature humans in very typical current situations but in a space age setting based on technology that we are already familiar with.

This is a very optimistic and much lauded novella. Basically a travelling human monk strikes up a friendship with a robot after all robots have been ‘freed’. It is firmly based in west coast American thinking with a strong emphasis on diversity and multi-culturalism. It’s also very new age with an outline of a society at peace with nature and a religion that encompasses many other different modern religions.

I would recommend this book with its main message seeming to be live for today as there is no particular purpose to life. But my main complaint with it is that it’s a bit too cutesy. Yes, it’s good to be optimistic about the future (that was partly what my previous blog was saying) but there is also a danger of rose-tinted glasses. Here is a future / alternative dimension where everything is perfect; conflict nor prejudice simply don’t exist. I don’t think humanity will ever reach that place but perhaps I’m too much of a pessimist.

Phobos

‘Elric’ by Michael Moorcock

This author really is a great British sci-fi / fantasy writer. Weirdly I have only recently become aware of how good he actually is. I read ‘Gloriana’ which was a brilliant Gothic fantasy. So I looked forward to reading this book under the warming sun of Maspalomas. It is actually a collection of key short stories and novellas covering the life of Elric the sorcerer-prince.

This is classic fantasy with a warrior anti-hero, monsters, and magic. Elric destroys his homeland and is beholden to his sword, Stormbringer, that demands people’s souls. Wonderful stuff very reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian as well as Dungeons and Dragons. Suppose it’s also similar to Game of Thrones though I haven’t really gotten into that. Still a brilliant piece of writing that stands on its own merits.

The Week Ahead

I’m going to quote what I said in my blog 3 years ago regarding my previous holiday in Maspalomas:

  • Hey I’m on holiday so I’m gonna chill and relax plus read lots 🙂

And Finally…

What liberalism is

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