Having received an e-mail from my ‘conscience’ in Abingdon pointing out that it has been four weeks since my last report I thought I had better make the effort. My apologies to those regular readers that may have wondered what had happened.
This will be our final post from the Canary Islands before starting the run back home.
In fact I have been enjoying a very entertaining time. First, my very good neighbour came visiting for a week bringing all the local news for the past eight months. We spent six of the seven days she was here walking in the mountains and were fortunate with mainly warm and cloudless weather, important if you are to be able to appreciate the breath-taking views.
The next week I got back into some serious training in the gym and obviously overdid the whole thing because I pulled a muscle in my groin and had to rest it for most of the following two weeks. It now appears to have healed and I am back onto an almost full training schedule.
This past weekend will be remembered for an incident on Saturday evening that started whilst I was preparing dinner. There sounded to be raised voices outside and I looked up from my preparations to see through the patio doors a man outside the front gate waving what appeared to be a long bladed kitchen knife. Initially thinking it was some sort of bad joke I moved over to the door where I could see one of my neighbours standing and waving an equally long bladed knife.
Realising this was a serious conflict of opinion and without thinking I pulled open the door and ran outside shouting “Oi, oi, oi. I’m not having this”. Why do Englishmen come out with such daft statements in these situations? I turned to my neighbour and screamed at him “Alec, get in the house and get rid of the knife” He was clearly inebriated, an all too common a situation, and it took a moment for him to react, but then he went into his bungalow.
I turned to the other man, who I now recognised as a member of a particular “problem” family that had been brought to my attention before. A major part of the family’s problem is that, the males at least, spend most of their weekends out of their heads on a variety of drugs. They speak and understand even less English than I do Spanish. The only thing I know they understand is the phrase “No problem” which they take to mean “I/We want no trouble”. I repeated this several times trying to keep my voice at a normal pitch so he would not consider me to be aggressive. I then pointed to the knife which he was still waving and said “Prohibido” which I understand to mean “Not allowed”. After what seemed ages he stepped over to a low wall where a sweatshirt was laying and picked this up and wrapped the knife in it. After shouting some final abuse at Alec, who was now sitting with his partner at a table on their patio, he stormed off in the direction of his residence.
For the rest of the evening I jumped at the least noise outside, but everything remained calm. The following day a couple of ‘locals’ did a diplomacy shuttle to smooth things over and ensure that the event did not re-ignite. Quite what had started it is still not clear to me.
I have received a new king pin assembly for Bridget’s left side front wheel however the garage I was going to use to fit it has closed! So I have decided we will attempt the run home with things the way they are and hope the wheel doesn’t come off. With that in mind, we leave here on 15th March on the ferry to Cadiz which should deposit us there on the 17th March. I expect to arrive back in the UK around the 24/25th March after a steady run up through Spain and France. I just hope someone fixes the weather in time.
I am managing to stay sane, or at least I am no less sane than I was before I arrived here in Gran Canaria. I keep reminding myself that laying in the sun, warm and bored is infinitely better than being at home, wet, cold and bored! However, as usual when I have a date for doing anything, the fact that I know I am starting the return journey to the UK in seven weeks’ time I just want to get on with it. There are few things guaranteed to frustrate me more than waiting.
The time has given me the chance to start investigating some possible new projects. Having decided to hold on to Bridget for the foreseeable future (2 or 3 days) I think I may treat her to some upgrades. Front runners are; a five speed gear box, all round telescopic suspension and all round disc brakes. This will be in addition to new stub axles (one is certainly on the way out and may not make it back to the UK) and uprated front springs.
I have been spending an unhealthy amount of time in the local gym since I arrived here. For the past four weeks the in-vision TV there has been covering the Dakar rally!! The more I watch it the more convinced I am that I could do that in an MGB. Flare the wheel arches, fit some decent tyres and ‘Bob’s your uncle’. We might need to lift her off the ground a little, but nothing a decent mechanic couldn’t do. And above all else, it looks damned good fun. Spectating, I couldn’t’ help but notice that most entrants go ‘hell for leather’ and then spend a couple of hours repairing some part or other that has broken. I am thinking along the ‘hare and tortoise’ principle; take a little care on the bends and blind hills and keep the car moving at a reasonable speed, etc. etc. etc.
Could be ready for 2016 following a few months practise in Australia. Potential sponsors wishing to apply should e-mail me direct or contact me through the MG Car Club, Abingdon. Perhaps we should consider the East African rally as a test run prior to Argentina (I still have issues with calling a rally the Dakar when it doesn’t get within 3,000 miles of the place).
Yes, yes, I know I said I would hang up my driving gloves, but his won’t take long and it will be the last one……..
It occurred to me that I haven’t said much about my stay here in Gran Canaria and speaking to one or two people at the Car Club it is clear that totally the wrong impressions are doing the rounds. So to put the record straight the following, in the style of the late Tony Hancock, is a typical evening:
Scene: Sitting room of my duplex in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria. Me, pacing the room wearing checked, knee length, shorts and a Trinidad short-sleeved shirt with a picture of a Hawaiian Sunset.
“Grief, another day of rain. May as well be back in the UK where at least I had an umbrella.” “Wonder if I can get a refund from Primark for this shirt. I’ve hardly worn it. Indoor wear only!”
Long pause follows, then a big sigh. “Typical; Gran Canarias’ most important annual classic car show and they choose the one day when a cyclone strikes. Stuck here with the roof down and a soft-top that refuses to stretch enough to close the fastening clasps.” “Had the concours in the bag, too. Those new 80 spoke wire wheels I’ve fitted would have sent everything else into oblivion. Especially that smarmy little weasel from Las Palmas with the 1965 Sebring. Ha, he wouldn’t know what hit him.” “I’ll bet he is behind this unprecedented precipitation”
“Why don’t they just call it rain? Precipitation! Just hedging their bets, so if it doesn’t rain and someone says “you said it would rain” they can say “Oh no we didn’t. We said there would be precipitation” Have to remember that one; on a triple letter, double word that could be worth a few Scrabble points.
Second big sigh: “Wonder if they would accept a photograph? After all it’s their fault holding the competition in the middle of winter…..what do they expect?” Pause. “You know I wouldn’t be surprised if this was deliberate. That chap in the office didn’t look at all happy accepting an entry from an outsider. Yes; come to think of it I’m sure he said something about Gibraltar. Difficult to pinpoint with him not speaking any English.” “I thought that under EU legislation everyone had to speak English, otherwise what’s the point?” “Perhaps I should e-mail Alan and get him to raise it with the National Font. What they say may be rubbish but it looks very nice on paper!”
“What’s the time…..18:20! I knew I shouldn’t have eaten dinner so early, but I was bored.”
Pause….”How many floor tiles are there along the edge of the wall, 1 2 3 4 …..18. Hmm and across the room, 1 2 3 ….10 So that’s 180? I’m sure there was 190 last night let’s just check again. No, why bother. What’s the time? Is that clock working?”
“No point turning the tele on, it’s all Spanish programmes. Even the English series they have are dubbed over so you can’t understand them.” “Let’s try the ‘Teach Yourself Spanish in 30 Minutes’ again.”
“Now, pronunciation. ‘Quisiera una escobilla para limpiar la pipa’.” “Hey that wasn’t half bad, I’m beginning to get the hang of this. Now let’s see what does that mean; I want a pipe cleaner. !!!! What good is that, I don’t even smoke a pipe.”
“What’s the time?” “18:43 ohhh”
“Almost dark outside now, and its stopped raining. The reflection of the moon is bright tonight I can see miles across the Atlantic.” “Now there’s a point, hundreds of square miles of ocean and not one Spanish trawler in sight. Where are they all? They complain about not being able to fish in places that don’t belong to them and there’s all this water, full of fish and they can’t even be bothered.” “Typical”
“Oh, let’s open the last of the Christmas cards. That’s a joke, there was only one other and that was from the bank. Sarcastic bankers!” “Oh and I mustn’t forget the Car Club electronic card with MGBenji”
“Well, at least this is a large card….I’m sure the wisemen didn’t wear motorbike leathers but that’s modern life”….”Ah” ‘To Royston’ “I like that, no shortened familiarity, shows good taste” ‘Wishing you all the Seasons Felicitations – Felice Fiestas. With the greatest of respect, Roy’!!! “Well someone had to send one. Couldn’t leave it to chance.”
“Let’s take a look at the paper. Nothing like three day old news. In this modern day of high speed flight is it too much to expect the National newspapers to be delivered on the day they are published” “Let’s see”
“Huh. That’s just what I need. Australia has stolen the Ashes back in just three tests! Time was that the competition had to be finished before anyone was declared the winner!” “Typical antipodean sportsmanship. I would disqualify the team from the competition and hand the Ashes back to England”
“Ohh, I’ve had enough of this. What’s the time, 19:32. Close enough, I’ll just have my Horlicks and an early night……..again.”
Whilst sitting here mussing in my ‘duplex’ in Gran Canaria, I am reflecting on, why here? Come to that everything is reflecting thanks to the INCESSANT RAIN!
Ah yes, I came here to escape the English winter. I am reliably informed that during the first two days of last week we received a whole year’s quantity of rain. Since then we have had three sunny days and dull cloud for the rest of the time.
Now, according to the weather bureau we have our very own depression. Oh lucky us, it’s caused by the weather…. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that a Canary Island hurricane is brewing up just in time for the Christmas Season. In fact I have already made preparations naming, it aptly for this island, “Puff, the Magic Drag-Queen”
Yesterday the authorities announced that all the schools on the island would be closed today because of the extreme weather forecast (I thought it was only the NUT’s that did bl…y stupid things like that). Well it is raining consistently, but not heavily. There have been some claps of thunder, but it can hardly be considered extreme, just WET.
My neighbour was telling me that he has been to Gran Canaria for the winter three times before and the weather has never been as bad as this. That makes me feel a whole lot better! All I need now is for someone to call and tell me how unusually mild the UK is this year.
I have of course had to put the top up on the car, only to find that it has been down so long it’s shrunk. I must be getting old, as I had to get assistance to ease it in place whilst I closed the fasteners (any potential purchasers of the car need not worry as it will be adjusted shortly).
Sorry, there has been a short break in service due to a power outage. Fortunately it has only affected part of the south of the island. My part of the south of course! I am now typing by candlelight and no, it’s not romantic.
To compensate for the weather I was going to cook myself a special treat. I went out and bought all the ingredients from the market today. Tomorrow I shall have a container full of rotten vegetables because I can’t use the cooker! Just to finish off a wonderful day, I was searching by candlelight for the bottle opener for a rather pleasant Rioja I bought, only for my elbow to just catch the edge of the worktop, right on my funny bone. I yelped knocking over the candle and in trying to prevent a rather inconvenient fire starting, knocked the bottle of wine off the side table to smash on the floor.
With any luck, one of the island volcano’s should erupt shortly blowing everything too smithereens.
I have now been on the island for two months, which is a third of my sentence served. Mr Innes at the Car Club has quite rightly taken me to task for not posting anything on here for several weeks and I should have enough time spare to do so.
I have settled in really quite well and developed a weekly routine. I have joined a very well equipped gym and go there Monday and Friday mornings, and depending on other activities some Wednesdays. I go into the interior of the island once a week and walk around the mountains which are beautiful with some great views. The island is very varied in its vegetation with the north being really quite green and the south, very barren.
I have fallen in with a group of classic car enthusiasts and attended a couple of their Sunday displays for the general public (similar to the shopping/garden centre event the MGCC do). There are some surprising cars hidden away here including a 1954 MG TD owned by the proprietor of the holiday complex next door to where I am staying. Can anyone name the above car?
Bridget now has two new front wheel bearings and is handling much better. The roads here, with the exception of one main motorway, are small winding mountain roads or dirt tracks. Many of the mountain roads are not much more than single carriageway with hairpin bends very common.
Winter has certainly arrived with the temperature falling to 20°C on a couple of days. The south coast of the island, which is where I am based, gets the best of the sun but can be very windy. This causes mini sand-storms that can make the beach less attractive than the pool outside my front door. The sand on the beach is quite fine, but gritty and you can end-up sand-blasted rather than sun-burnt.
I have uploaded some photos of the area around Soria in the south-west of the island which is really quite beautiful and also some photos of a few of Bridget’s new friends.
On arriving on Gran Canaria I wasn’t totally convinced that staying for six months was really a very good idea. Certainly you can’t fault the climate, with the onset of winter the temperature has dropped to mid/high twenties, but the tourist industry here is so big that most of the islands culture is difficult to find.
However, I am beginning to find my way around and the interior of the island is excellent for walking, climbing and generally exploring. The island has three separate climatic systems; the south of the island is very similar to mid-north Africa, the centre of the island receives a little rain and a great deal of cloud and the north of the island is Mediterranean.
The centre is mountainous with the highest point just under 2000 metres. The mountains are fairly barren but have deep valleys that are well populated with tropical vegetation and pine woods. The wild life (as opposed to the night life which is pretty wild) consists of lizards, small mammals, nothing much larger than a rabbit, birds of prey, woodpeckers, green parrots and wood pigeon. There are no insects or reptiles here that have dangerous bites, stings or that try to eat you, a few humans might try, but …..
I now have a book of some twenty-five different walks scattered around the island (the walks not the book) that I purchased from one of the hiking companies on the island. They run guided walks, but the value for money was not impressive whereas the book is really all you need unless you want to be part of a group. Bridget has been enjoying a well deserved rest most of the time with the occasional run-out to the interior. The roads, with the exception of the main coastal motorway, are narrow, winding and often steep. You need good brakes and that is what made me realise that Bridget’s felt a little spongy. I decided to bleed the brakes but as with most work it is a lot easier if you can raise the car off the ground. I was told about a car restoration company working from premises near the airport and took Bridget there. Bleeding the brakes is no more than a 20 minute job at the most so I expected to be back on the beech by lunchtime.
I was just walking away from the vehicle when they lifted the hoist and I heard the garage owner say “What’s that?” I turned just as he reached out and touched the front offside wheel. It wobbled like a loose tooth. Clearly the bearing was totally shot and yet earlier in the week another garage had carried out a check and correction for her tracking! How they had missed the problem with her bearing I do not know. Fortunately I had a spare bearing set that the garage will fit on Monday. The nearside front one is also going, but will last until a replacement arrives from Moss. So for now I shall get plenty of walking until Bridget is fit once more.
The ferry trip from Cadiz to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, was civilised by any standards given that it was forty hours long. Bridget found it a breeze.
In Cadiz the queuing, bureaucracy and high temperatures took its toll and when some cars started to queue jump I could not help myself from jumping in front of them, thankfully bringing them to a halt, and berating the second in line, the first having escaped. He rather sheepishly slunk away and even though I hadn’t achieved anything, other than establishing that the British queuing system is right, returned proudly to Bridget. Later that evening, following the consumption of a well-deserved dinner, I suddenly felt that I was being watched. I looked up and some 20 feet away a slightly merry gentleman was grinning and when he realised I had seen him called out “Mr MG. You shouted at me and I am in terrible trouble”. We soon established that he was the driver of the car I had berated earlier and it transpired that my action had cost him dearly with is better half.
He is a Norwegian with an English wife, who understands the queuing system well and was embarrassed by the event. He made me feel a most terrible bully, yelling at him in the way I had and so we got mutually drunk together.
We all eventually arrived in Gran Canaria and Bridget and I drove to Playa del Inlges in the south of the island. By ‘close of play’ Friday I had found some winter quarters in Maspalomas and that is where I am now writing this. I will be holding regular ‘natters’ on the second Friday of every month, all are of course welcome.
Bridget and I have been travelling for just under three months during which we have covered 9,000 miles (14,600km) around Europe. With the additional 1,500 miles from here to home which we will complete next year, plus local mileage on the island, that will be a total of some 11/12,000 miles. I doubt if either you or I are overly delighted that Bridget’s retirement run has been anything less than Around the World but financially it never really was on.
Yes, I said retirement run. I think I have asked all that realistically I should of a car of Bridget’s vintage. I have calculated that she has certainly covered 150,000 miles (240,000km) and it could possibly be more. Many of them have not been easy, a classic British understatement, and she never was considered, even by me, to be suitable for what was asked of her.
Of the seven years since we started this activity we have travelled for well over three of them. The experience has been awesome for me.
Now the question is “What to do with Bridget?” I don’t know if any of the museums would be interested in taking her, this would be my preferred outcome as she would be properly maintained and available for the public to see and share. I am open to any other ideas, or even offers!
There are times, rare indeed, when everything just seems to go your way. This past weekend started that way.
It began when I arrived at the Montecastillo Golf and Health complex and told them I had booked a room for four nights. “Oh yes” said the receptionist, “you have a villa”. Whatever, I thought and was told I could drive my car around to it. What I wasn’t told was to leave it in the parking layby and not follow the golf cart road right up to the door, so I got it a little wrong. I have found, people allow classic car owners to do all sorts of things that ordinary drivers are not allowed to do and so everyone smiled politely over the weekend and said nothing about my parking.
I was speechless when I entered the two story villa I had for the weekend. It was the same floor area as some two bedroom houses. I thought “If only I had known, I could have thrown a party”.
The complex has of course a gym that I really needed, having only twice done any real exercise since leaving England. I could also play as much golf as I wanted, except I haven’t played since I was stranded at Charters Towers, in Australia, for four weeks. So I passed on that facility.
As usual, I hadn’t done any research on Jerez (pronounced Harez) and so was delighted to find, when I went into town that I was in the centre of the sherry producing area. Being a little partial to a Tio Pepe before dinner I decided to take the official tour of their winery. The tourist bit was a similar set-up to the port caves in Porto, but very different production methods, it was enlightening.
Next door to the Montecastillo complex is the Circuito de Jerez F1 test track. Sunday afternoon I idly drove up to the entrance to see if I could blag my way in and was very surprised when the security officer said yes, I could go to the Pit-Stop restaurant and watch the motorcycle racing. Even more surprised than me was the restaurant owner who was ecstatic when he saw Bridget. Although his English was on a par with my Spanish he clearly wanted to show me something in the restaurant. It turned out to be an event calendar and scheduled for the 11/12th September were two days of historic automobile races. I would dearly have loved to attend the event, particularly as the guy was sure Bridget would be able to go on the track, but unfortunately we will be on the ferry and unable to go. You can’t win them all, but it was a close run thing.
The next and probably final blog will be from Gran Canaria.
PS. I have posted some of the photos from our party in Porto as promised (had to be careful there were no spelling mistakes in the heading Porto Night Out)
My previous post mentioned, in passing, the financial difficulties the bikini manufacturers are obviously going through, given the lack of material used. I have received an unprecedented amount of feedback regarding my comments on present day swimwear, or lack of it, and felt that further clarification for the case for woollen, neck to knee, one-piece costumes should be made.
Basically the feedback falls into three groups and I will handle them in that way. First, and easily the most proliferate are the licentious requests for photographs of nubile young ladies unknowingly captured on film (digitised images actually) in immodest poses. The gentlemen making these requests should be embarrassed and ashamed of their own behaviour and should consider how they would feel if their identities were published. They should have received their merchandise by the end of the day and I would remind them that payment is required by return, or the afore mentioned publication will appear on Monday.
The second group are the Australians, particularly from the Bondi Beach area. Nobody is trying to spoil your fun, indeed I would argue the opposite is the case. Firstly consider, the weight of a saturated woollen swimming costume will make the wearer a far stronger swimmer if indeed they wish to stay on the surface of the water. Secondly, and perhaps the more important advantage, is that sharks will no longer see people as a tasty little morsel, but as nothing more than a fur-ball! Also it is well documented that the Australian economy needs new industry to take over from the natural resource mining that is dwindling. Sheep farming is the answer, and is what Australians were originally born to do. Un-employment will fall dramatically.
Finally the third group are those arguing against the job losses for the garment industries in third world countries where most of today’s bikinis are made. It should be remembered that the third world is the area that will be most badly affected by rising sea levels as global warming takes hold and the ice caps melt. Woollen swimwear will soak up much of the additional water released into the oceans and save the flood prone areas such as Bangladesh. Wool is also a natural material and causes less pollution than manmade fabrics. Granted, there is a spinoff benefit for Britain, in that, the North of England could re-open all the old mills!
This proposal is financially and ecologically robust, as are the models for this year’s swimwear collection. I think I will talk to Bridget about releasing her own line of swimwear…….
Portugal is Bridget’s 52nd country and largely new to me. The drive down to Porto from Vigo was short but interesting. Lots of tree covered mountains, but unfortunately speckled with forest fires. Conditions are seriously dry and there are notices everywhere warning people to take care, but still the fires occur.
Arriving in the city of Porto, not Oporto as inaccurately entitled by the British, I was struck by the wide avenues, plentiful statues and unfortunately the disrepair of many buildings. Once again, the financial crisis is evident although some regeneration is under way in Porto.
My priorities were set and I visited the Port wine producers as soon as I had checked into a hotel. As the world centre for the production of port all the big names are here and all have visitor centres. I was recommended to choose Sandeman as the first which I did and was fascinated by the production process. However the disposal methods were far more fun. I was relieved to be told that once a bottle was opened it should be emptied within 24 hours. I have yet to find a bottle to last that long. I couldn’t help noting however, that they did not mention at any stage the ‘bad head’ effect of the product.
Although set on a path to discover all of Porto’s history I fell into disruptive company during the first evening and never really recovered. Two charming young ladies, Jenny from Toronto and Barbara from Berne, shared a drink, or two, over dinner at an Italian restaurant and that was the end of my strictly tourist exploration of Porto.
From Porto we drove down to Setubal, 30 kilometres south east of Lisbon. Although everyone has told me that Lisbon is a lovely city, and I believe that, I just couldn’t face another big city. We stayed overnight and then struck out for El Rompido, just across the Spanish border.
I have made the decision to take Bridget to the Canary Isles for winter. We are booked on a ferry from Cadiz to Gran Canaria leaving on Tuesday 10th September.
El Rompido is one of those purpose built sun and golf holiday resorts. Not my usual choice, but occasionally it’s good to have a change. Once again I have noticed the effect of the economic climate, this time on the big company clothing industry. It is obvious that the bikini manufacturers have run seriously low on stocks of material for production and this results in tiny bikini’s. The young ladies are obviously embarrassed by the situation but when that is all that is available…..
Personally, I think we should return to the all-woollen, single piece, neck to knee bathing costumes so popular when I was a youngster! Iran has the right idea with segregated bathing beaches; people are so much more relaxed.