Living the quiet life
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Where I stayed
This is the first blog since we left Hong Kong on the 2nd October last year (2011) so it feels strange to be typing again. I have been very lazy for the last 9 months and it would be a mammoth task to describe everything that has happened in that time so I will try to summarise briefly.(I can hear the disbelieving laughter)
As we had planned, we visited family and friends in the UK before settling here in Lanzarote for the winter. Originally we took out a rental for 6 months but after 2 weeks and some discussion (eg if we go “home” after 6 months we don't actually have anywhere to live?), we decided to extend the contract to 9 months
We chose Lanzarote because it is the nearest place to the UK with a reasonable winter climate and it is close enough for people to come and visit. On the whole it has worked well, we had a pleasant, mild winter and lots of visitors. It was a pleasure to take visitors around the island and share our favourite places. I hope they all enjoyed their breaks here.
I particularly love the attractions designed by Cesar Manrique, (Monumento al Campesino, Jameos del Agua, Jardin de Cactus, etc and his own house which is now the Cesar Manrique Foundation), who has had an amazing impact upon the appearance of the island, and helped to prevent ugly, unplanned development.
His approach was to use natural materials and blend buildings into the landscape to make them as unobtrusive as possible whilst also emphasing the beauty and starkness of the landscape
Many people find the scenery ugly and I have heard it described as one huge building site. This seems so short sighted as the scenery changes from the flat areas of barren black lava flow, through the wine growing area of La Geria, where plants are protected from the wind behind low horseshoe shaped walls of volcanic rock, to desert landscapes with volcanic calderas and ancient cliffs providing amazing views across to the island of La Graciosa in the north, not forgetting the superb beaches of Papagayo in the south. There are pretty villages and hermitas everywhere and even the capital, Arrecife, has interesting historical sites and a pleasant harbour and seafront.
We rented a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom modern “holiday” home in a small complex right on the cliff top by the sea front path
Life here is very gentle and the neighbours are friendly although recently there have been a number of changes as people move on, and the complex is almost empty. I am not sure how much of this is a result of the financial situation in Spain. Here, unemployment is very high and the local authorities are trying to make money anyway they can as their income from yachts mooring in the marinas, and tourists, has fallen. There is a sense of community, Spanish language lessons are provided by the town hall, and there are numerous sporting activities and cultural workshops for children.
These community events lead to one of my most interesting experiences. A neighbour (Maggie), had been taking me with her friends to the local library in the County town of Yaiza (only the size of a village) where the librarian, Maru was very welcoming and helpful but with little English. Through one of Maggie's friends who is Spanish, Maru invited us to “a meeting with coffee”. We weren't sure what the meeting was about but to be friendly we agreed to go
We turned up to a meeting of 12 people including 2 local poets and the purpose of the meeting was to listen to their poetry readings. Surprisingly, I found the poetry easier to understand as I suppose the tone of voice and emphasis helped. Both poets are elderly men born on Lanzarote and able to communicate their love of the island. It was a superb morning, really enjoyable. Again, at the end they asked if we would come to the next meeting and suggested we bring a poem in our own language.
So a month later we arrived with our poems written out
The other great activity here has been “intercambio” which is when 2 or more people get together to converse in English and Spanish
Staying here for 9 months was also a way of deciding if we could settle here permanently. I think, on balance, the answer is probably not. Although we have enjoyed it, the diurnal range of temperature in the winter is not good for Jim's arthritis, despite being very pleasant during the day. The wind is strong and in the winter not unpleasant as it is warm but it disturbed me much more in the summer when it is often too strong to be able to enjoy being outside. It carries sand and dust which has to be swept up frequently, and which can be so thick in the air that the sky appears orange or yellow.
Last week we had a Calima so bad that when I opened the door it was like walking into an old peasupper smog but the world was dark orange and perfectly still
Now we are becoming very restless. My feet are so itchy, I can hardly stay still. We have our tickets for the next trip starting on the 1st October, when we plan to fly from Heathrow to San Jose in Cost Rica. In early February we take the next flight from Santiago, Chile to New Zealand. Between those dates we hope to explore Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia but as usual our plans are flexible (or vague, depending upon your perspective).
In August we return to the UK to do some maintenance work in Beeston where Anna is living, visit family and friends, do the usual personal MOT things such as doctors/dentist etc and finally kit ourselves out to take off again
I will try and send this to people who I think might want to know what we are up to as a way of checking the blog system still works but there probably won't be another one until we are in Costa Rica. Have a good summer everyone and we will be in touch in October if we don't see you before then.
The photographs are just a selection to show the variety of scenery and some of the birds and flowers to be found on the island.