Tuesday 30 September 2014

Thought Picnic: On why we should all blog

The learning experience
I have just dialled back 5 years on my blog to read of one day in my life where a new reality might have been the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.
What was significant about that blog was the record of the events of the day before, I was lonely and alone, I could not keep my meals down, I was put on new medication, I was in pain and I conclusively learnt that I had cancer.
In learning I had cancer, I was to go on a regime of chemotherapy having not properly responded to the treatment I had been taking for the first week I was in hospital.
The understanding experience
Even more poignant was the level of consideration that the consultant in charge of my treatment had for me, from reading my moods to giving all the information I needed to understand the kind of treatment that I was have, which commenced 5 days after.
Much as I am thankful for where I am now, the most important thing I would like my readers to take from this piece is why you must blog. For without a blog documenting my days in hospital, my diagnosis, my moods and other trivia of the day, it is unlikely that the minutiae I have so written would have been as vividly committed to memory.
The writing experience
A blog allows you to keep track, keep perspective, keep focus and keep history. In keeping all these things, you have a clear opportunity to count your blessings, review experiences, make reference and maybe even offer encouragement to those who might be experiencing what you have once been through.
I am in my 11th year of blogging and each opportunity I have had to write, recall, narrate or explain has been like drawing from wells of inspiration, experience, knowledge and observation that never finds utility except when I type away.
Cancer for me is no more shocking news, it has become part of my story, the embodiment of hopes and fears, or carefulness and carelessness, of foolishness and of wisdom, but most of all, it is part of what we call life where some depart and others survive, none the smaller by what they have known, we are all in the fight to stop cancer becoming the story of everyone that lives.
I learnt on that day, now write of that day, five years past. Here’s to life and to blogging our stories better.
The simple fact is, if we don’t write our stories, we are bound to forget some wonderful moments and can become ungrateful for the amazing life journeys we’ve had.

Sunday 28 September 2014

I suggest Spatial-Consideration Intelligence

The rules I break
I believe I have broken a few rules as I remember the words of one of Anita Baker’s songs – She is probably my best musician artiste, “Rules were meant to be broken,” she first says, then you goes on the say, “So many hearts break the same way too, aw baby, I said that you ain't no exception to the rule, yes sir.”
The rules I have broken are mainly the unwritten ones, the ones I have read or can still remember as instruction even if irritating to the point of awakening that streak of rebelliousness in me, I have rarely dared to infringe.
Now, I do not intend to speak about broken hearts, but the taking the exception to the rule or rules does concern me. I love order, I like to see order around, order especially when I leave my home for whatever activity I have purposed to do or just happened to find myself in.
In the way
Starting with stepping out of my front door and not having to ask someone who has inadvertently felt my doorstep is the place to take a standing nap. Then I get on the street and some friends all decide to walk abreast, which is fine but in their chatting excitement become oblivious of others that you either have to alert them or step dangerously onto the street.
That simple element of awareness which should be a rule written on the fleshy tablets of the heart and branded fierily on the jellies of the cranial grey matter, yet so carelessly ignored. People who knowing it is a doorway and take up the space constricting access.
I’ve seen too many instances of the absence of intelligent engagement of the spaces we occupy too, like finding myself in queues when I was in India and having the person behind me pressing against my person for no particular reason that thankfully my towering height helped when I bellowed down at the person, “Hold your space.”
Know your space
I can remember when I touched the man in front of me in a pub and apologised that I could not put my feet in a bag, after he stepped on my toes. A very strange situation where my size 12 feet (European size 46) knows full well not to egress in the pied-à-terre (literally, space for the feet) of others and then to find someone with much shorter feet unaware of where their feet should be.
Space is probably a European concept more than it is for any other place, but I am probably in error when I realise that queues were not the kind of order to find in the Netherlands, it drove me to distraction and brought out the most English of annoyances in me.
You could not get off a train comfortably because everyone wanted to get on, yet, we need to get off for others to get off. That is where my cane sometimes made a violent acquaintance with the shins of others and behold the way opened before me without obstruction.
Consideration and deportment
Public transport does provide a test case for those who are literally spatially ignorant, people who take up more seats than they should or create impediments to others getting access to other seats especially by putting their bags on the seats, worse still is those who put their feet on the seats despite the fact that there are notices clearly saying they should not.
People who bring their caterwauling music unto public spaces who in their enjoyment create the greatest irritation to others, a total lack of consideration, I say. Then, being a cane user, you can imagine when I get on the London Underground and find that able-bodied people have made a beeline for the priority seats and completely ignore the aged, the infirm, the pregnant or the mobility assisted. Those seats are not for them, that is why the signs are put there.
Other views of space
Space is a matter of dimensions and different dimensions of occupancy, manner, appearance and attitude which demands awareness and consideration. The consideration that if everyone else did what I was doing, what would the world be like.
Literally no public seat is safe from the halitosis-ridden oral excrements of chewing gum that you never venture the underneath of a wooden armrest or under the seat, forget the number of pavements with gum and cigarette butts. The former should be banned as they have so done in Singapore.
It manner of dressing is the being assault in public with the sight of cack-ridden undergarments that should be covered up in this rotten fashion trend of sagging trousers. Beyond that, it is those forget to dress for the body they have and end up dressing for what they want their bodies to be – uncouth and unsightly, you almost think you should wear a sick bag like a colostomy bag at the things that things that invade the sanctity of the senses.
Public decorum
Forget those who do not take a seat to make a call or sent a text message on their mobile phones, so unaware that what they think is walking in a straight line is anything but, some have met great mishap as a result when they divorce themselves from the personal responsibility of knowing that each person being aware of the other and acting accordingly is part of the order we all crave in society and community.
Use the bins, press the button if you are first at the pedestrian crossing lights, stand out of the way, give way to others less able to manoeuvre, be courteous, polite and considerate, the list goes on about how I love things to be and what really piques me.
Defining this intelligence
As I thought about this, I was about to give this sense of awareness and consideration on the matter of space, Spatial Quotient as an additional form of measuring intelligence along with Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) only to find that Spatial Intelligence is quite a broad field of study amongst other types of intelligence, in what is known as the theory of multiple intelligences, so I back to square one.
Having looked at the nine intelligences listed and the descriptions that follow, for musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and existential. I am not convinced this one or a combination of some of these properly address the element of spatial awareness and intuitiveness that I have raised in this blog.
Giving well, taking little
And back to the lyrics I introduced at the beginning of this blog, there is an element of the absence of this intelligence that is expressed in, “So many times we don't give, we take…” whereas, society works on various levels of giving and taking to different degrees that are usually never equal.
I am tempted to suggest, Spatial-consideration intelligence, however, it probably requires more academic rigour from behavioural experts to properly define this or extend the meanings of the previously defined categories.
Space matters, the giving of it, the giving up of it, the taking of it and taking it with clear consideration of others too.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Thought Picnic: The missing black guy from Old Trafford is not me

Out in a cab
This afternoon, I went to visit a friend in the Manchester suburb of Urmston and since I was not very aware of where to go, I decided to take a taxi for the just about 7 mile journey.
Annoyingly, the cab driver being aware that it was a Manchester United match day at Old Trafford, he took no diversions and simply drove into the traffic, that added about 15 more minutes to the trip. The whole reason for calling a cab is for these drivers to use their knowledge to get you to your destination in the shortest possible time.
If for any reason the shortest route would present problems, it is only right to intimate their customer with the possible alternatives. I was quite piqued when I asked why he decided to drive into the traffic when he had other alternatives – that was his tip gone.
Walking for health
After leaving my friend’s place, I decided it was a good opportunity to walk back home, the estimated distance being just about 6.8 miles. However, I also decided to take a detour to the Trafford Centre, an out-of-town shopping precinct with a misplaced SeaWorld centre within the shopping mall.
Whilst, I am not averse to visiting zoos, to site an artificial sea environment well away from the sea to house exotic creatures is just beyond the pale and despite my fascination about sea life, I would not give custom to such places. I probably should extend that sentiment to zoos too.
At the same time, I expected to find a honey drizzler in one of the shops, considering I had been into so many shops in Manchester looking for the thing which I eventually found in a Marks and Spencer shop.
We are not the same
Then I continued my walk back home, the detour having added another mile to my journey, I began in earnest.
Just about a mile before Old Trafford, a police car drove by and stopped me for what turned out to be a missing person’s questioning. Apparently, a 24-year old had gone to the Manchester United match that afternoon and was now missing.
Whether by coincidence or crass myopia of some Caucasians who think all black people look the same, I give the policeman some benefit of the doubt. He asked for some identification which I did not have before asking for my name, date of birth and address even though it was obvious I was not the person they were looking for.
I am walking home for exercise, I was not at the Manchester United match, I do not own a club scarf and it is not in my bag, I was not on the grounds – those were some of the answers I had to give, as he needed more to convince him that he should be looking for someone else.
I made the point of recording the car registration number of the policeman and tweeting it with the location information as part of the tweet.
The aspect of identification is interesting because when I lived in the Netherlands there was a requirement to carry some identification with you and if you could not produce it when asked by the police, you were liable to a fine. Thankfully, we have not reached the stage of needing that in the UK.
The new missing is black
Probably another mile down the road as I passed by the Lancashire County Cricket Ground, also known as Old Trafford, a name shared with the Manchester United Football Club Stadium, though they are almost a mile apart, a lady drove into my pathway and immediately asked for my name. I cottoned on the fact that it was related to the missing person and remonstrated about being accosted twice in less than 30 minutes.
She gave a compliment to assuage my discomfiture by suggesting I do not by any stretch of the imagination look my age, but that did not lessen the annoyance that welled up in me. I was at the point where I was going to abandon my walk if anyone drove a third time to check if I was missing.
Maybe, just maybe
I cannot stop being black, it is who I am, but one wonders how much information they had to go on and if it was a distinguishing as to have drawn me into the purvey of being a person of interest. Was he bald too, wearing glasses, and did he had blue trainers on too? You can only wonder.
Yet, one must consider, if a 24-year old black guy in track apparel was declared missing in the space of 2 hours after a match, one can only assume the said person is not of an adult mental age. That is appeared to coincide with when I decide to walk in the Old Trafford area is both uncanny and somewhat unfortunate. C’est la vie.
I eventually got home having walked almost 17,000 steps and 11.61 kilometres. I wonder if I should choose where I walk carefully next time.

Friday 26 September 2014

Essential Snobbery 101: Courtesy is respect

Respectfully concerned
Sometimes, I wonder if I should have lived in my parents’ generation because some of the things I find myself within makes me feel I am not in my time.
Basically, manner, attitude and expression would have some pigeon-hole me as old-fashioned, yet many of these old-fashioned things matter a lot. At least to me.
As I step into the station every morning, the newspaper vendor sees me approaching and readies a newspaper for me. I collect the newspaper first with a greeting and then leave with gratitude. I thank him, always, just because it is the right thing to do.
I wear a hat, but would never keep my hat on when speaking to a lady, and I would most likely take it off when speaking to strangers as a sign of respect even if it appears our apparent upbringing is quite obviously different.
Not like the banks of yore
Yet, I work in an environment where many of these vicissitudes of comportment and decorum are dispensed with as if they do not matter; this is supposed to be a bank.
Electronic mails, poorly composed without proper greetings and with bad endings, the language is coarse and lacking in any refinement, as if language is no more in need of nuance and the understated, it shocks and it appalls.
Worse still is the absence of courtesy, the courtesy of being informed, the courtesy of being engaged, and the courtesy of being respected. Nothing shows this up as much as when someone should have let you know of something that you suddenly learn of because it dropped into a chance conversation that you should have been fully involved in from the onset.
Together but separate
This could sometimes be forgiven as forgetfulness, but when it involves many more who should have known better, it is treacherous and too odious for words. It belies an utter lack of regard and dare I say, it is disrespectful.
Something my old-fashioned would never have allowed to happen, but in our world of egalitarianism, equality in the workplace does not necessarily mean we all had access to the schooling and the breeding that ensures that we have the best manners in all we do.
It is at that point that you wonder if you are living in a different world or that circumstance and situation has brought you into experiences you would rather not entertain if you had more choices and options about the company you keep or the ones you find yourself unfortunate and blessed to be associated with.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Thought Picnic: And more graffiti with punctuation

Not bothering much
The blog lies fallow for nothing has been written for a week. For some, they blog daily to meet a target, fulfil a duty or a calling. Mine is done for leisure even if one desires a bit more discipline to the activity.
It is not that there isn’t much to write about, there is some much going on that tweets on Twitter do not have encapsulate thoughts and thinking about the issues that concern and bother.
Yet, between writer’s block and lethargy you decide you cannot be bothered and yet as each day goes without letter or writing, you wonder if you are not relapsing into apathy and disinterest.
Things to do
The holiday snaps still need to be completed and I’ve been back two weeks already, my walking experiences have taken me places I never knew existed around Manchester, then the plague of megalomania men of God who act with impunity being answerable to God alone in Nigeria – there is enough to make one so justifiably a humanist and be done with every similitude of religion or faith – it rankles.
However, a blog starts with a thought and with fingers tapping at the keyboard the network of cranial interactions in the mind seems to generate a piece that could never have been intended at the time the first paragraph was completed.
All this rubbished
That in itself is the beauty of blogging, though after almost eleven years of this, you could understand how dejected I felt when I read a posting on a friend’s Facebook page, ‘“Blogging is not writing, it's just graffiti with punctuation." Dr Ian Sussman in the movie, Contagion.’ I wept for myself and returned to the self-same graffiti with this blog.
So there, one done, and many more to come.

Monday 15 September 2014

To perceptive and accepting parents

'Son I just want to sit here and toast to the rest of your life'. Gareth Thomas’ dad.
Great man, gay man
The quote above is from a BBC news story about Gareth Thomas, but I read a snippet of the story from People section of The Week magazine on my way to London in the weekend.
What caught me about this remarkable man’s story was not so much the struggles with his sexuality but the perceptiveness and acceptance of his parents.
Having earned 100 caps for Welsh rugby, a man’s man, build like a brick house and supposedly the epitome of raging heterosexuality, he was in fact not once that.
As many do, he attempted aversion therapy, got married, lived on the down-low, fought depression and other despairing issues on account of his homosexuality, it almost broke him until he was courageous enough to tell his wife and then his Welsh rugby team mates.
The toast
However, it was when he visited his parents having told them three weeks earlier that he was gay that he got home to them and he saw three champagne flutes on the table. His mother said, ‘Fetch the champagne from the fridge.’
He did not know what the celebration was about, but the champagne was poured and it was then that his father, a man of not many words said, “Son I just want to sit here and toast to the rest of your life.
The Week piece writes it with more emotion, when he was divorced from his wife, he returned to his parents’ home where one day as he laid weeping in his childhood bed, his parents called him downstairs and proposed this toast.
Apparently, they knew he was gay without his having to tell them.
The challenge of parenthood
So many things are heart-warming about this story that should also be a learning moment for parents. Parenthood goes a long way beyond meeting the material needs of a child, food, shelter, clothing, protection and education are not substitutes for getting engaged with the emotional needs of a child.
Most parents have known their children all their lives, yet, many do not understand their children in the first place and others try to mould their children into the lives they failed to attain or achieve.
In the process they destroy the individuality and the personality of the child, undermine the child’s self-esteem by being over-bearing and consequently destroy the creativity of the child, having made a robot of a free moral agent. Some parents might even excuse this as discipline, but nothing could be further from the truth.
It means the world
I commend Gareth Thomas’s parents for helping him on the way to self-realisation and acceptance by first being perceptive, then understanding, then accepting and then celebratory.
It means the world to a child regardless of the age they have reached or the status they have attained when a parent stops trying to impose will and desire on the child, but offers guidance, advice, room to explore, encouragement and acceptance to the child.
Acceptance, especially when it pertains to deep personal and difficult issues as sexuality, but this can extend to career choices, partner choices and any issue that brings the child to crossroads and decision.
The way parents influence the lives of their children is, I dare say, down to what parents decide to do in terms of interacting with their children, being ready to listen and available to communicate.
Then me
In some ways, some of what I write about here is indicative of some areas that were open to discussion with my parents and other areas where we never had the rapport for me to approach them with my problems when I most needed help.
There were no open doors much as my parents might have imagined I had free access to them, the questions linger as I have never told them of child sexual abuse that started in our home from the age of 7, the times when I had palpitations as I saw my home from a distance, when failure was a consequence of my not attending class, it was because I was in classes and completely clueless of what was going on in the class.
Where we are
I took religion because I was looking for solutions, yet it brought me into searing conflict with my parents, it became war that led my mother to act abominably in one instance. Though we appear to now maintain a modicum of communication, I do not believe a good deal of me is understood by my parents, we still strive in my dreams.
The damage has been done, as perceptiveness was replaced with the demand for my respect and obedience, they were all-knowing and all-seeing and rarely ever listening.
Yet, again, I still had an enchanted childhood, provision was there, comfort abounded, things and gifts given, no interference with my career choices, an education of class and quality, I can only be thankful for the parents I have. Parenting does not come with a manual. Alas! But love goes a long way, know it, show it and act it out.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Holiday Snaps: Location still serves vocation

Tribes in the sun
Location, they say, is everything. This could not have been more evident than in my recent visit to Playa del Inglés on the island of Gran Canaria.
Much as this part of the island offers hotels, sun, sand, mostly in dunes and the sea, there are sections around the place that are tribal, clannish or native.
We are left in no doubt that the Germans frequent this island more than other nationals considering the number of signs in German compared to English, Dutch or Scandinavian signs.
Whilst, many other nationals do visit for the sun and surprisingly we met up with Americans who had somehow found this out-of-the-way European sunshine paradise, it is was something of a surprise to me.
Traces of places
When it comes to night life, there are places to go where a lot is going on. I could not however fail to notice that beyond these central places that the tourists throng, some enterprising and entrepreneurial spirits had thought to attract custom to other places in town.
These new places I found were considerably better in standard, facility and variety compared to the crowded places that proprietors could not care to maintain or update. However, they have so much footfall that they cannot be bothered to differentiate themselves from competition to attract more clientele. Complacency had set in.
Whereas, these new places strive to convince us that they are close to the centre and in the process miss out on providing the critical detail that might persuade people to visit their premises.
Failing to listen
I took it upon myself at one such venue to state that the instructions given for their location were not clear and sometimes confusing. The indications use referred to a building that had a name spelt top-down rather than from the left to the right as most of us read words.
My friend, new to the island had more recognition for the building name that had the word spelt horizontally from left to right rather than for the building name spelt vertically, prominent as it appeared to be, but I could not get that point across to the owners, rather, I was pushed back as being probably stupid.
Missing the essential
You then wonder if their market research despite the quality of the product took cognisance of that minor detail of getting people to come or whether it had any strategies for persuading people to leave the beaten paths to the less well-travelled places.
Yet, with owners who appear to know too much that they cannot appreciate a simple observation from a customer concerned enough to make a point about the directions to venue, there is no wondering why despite how good and fantastic the new places are, not many are venturing beyond the central hubs of activity.
They’ve created paradise in a desert and expect people to leave the comforts of tried and tested venues for an unknown. Unknown, they would remain until they rethink the whole scheme because they present no competition as at yet to force the popular places to improve, upgrade or make attractive offers to customers.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Thought Picnic: Facebook bearing news of deaths

Face tough news
The way Facebook has invaded our space is quite alarming to some extent and it led to a conversation I was not too willing to have.
In pretence and denial, I dodged the premise and the direction the conversation was going in as I chatted to my dad the other day. I had called to express my condolences at the passing of my aunt, his second younger sister.
I learnt of her passing on Facebook as I have learnt of the passing of at least 3 other relations. Going through time-lines of the friends, you happen upon a status that in some cases is as clear as plain English and in others it is cryptic but indicative that something serious has happened.
Face finality
Though, this time, the information came to me as a message, at other times, one is never prepared for the suddenness of the impact of just a phrase that suggest an end with such finality and resignation that we all comfort ourselves with promises of religion many of which are leaps of faith than experiences of reality.
The wonder of that thing called life, terminated in the seizure of breath and the stopping of the heart suggests that is more to flesh and bones than we sometimes give the simpleness of humanity credit for.
Everything ceases and decay begins to set in, every essence of existence gives way to what we all have to do eventually, commit and excuse, we are left with only one enduring thing, memories in recollections, dreams and voices, the concentration in our thoughts of the experience that was the person when they were then with us.
Face truth
So, as my father suggested that the way things are, I might just read of his passing on Facebook, he was probably closer to the truth than I was ready to admit. It makes you want a different medium to be informed of the death of a close relation than to read of it in crudely crafted words of sadness and grief. Your heart stopping for a moment as you really hope that what you’ve read is not true.
Facebook is not a dream, it is reality that slaps us in the face daily from the trivial to the serious and I do not think we have made adequate provision for the consequences of what gets revealed therein.

Friday 5 September 2014

Holiday Snaps: Nowhere near a post-racial Europe

Mythical curiosity
Maybe to my mind that is the case, but there are possibilities that I have been in places where I am probably the only ethnic minority for miles.
Now, it does not bother me, though there seems to be an exotic and sometimes erotic quality to my presence as curiosity and myth collude in a bizarre setting of becoming the cynosure and object of interest.
This can be comfortable as in where over 40 Turkish school children gathered round me for a photograph in the amphitheatre of antiquity amongst the ruins of Ephesus to where some young men with other interests appeared to sit with me for a picture but had their hands in all my empty pockets.
Keep your valuables in your hotel
I am the wiser to know that when going out at night never to take anything of value with me, the list of those things includes passport, wallet, lots of money and most particularly my mobile phone.
The mobile phone which can be replaced is a lot more valuable than we realise, it contains address books of contact details and information that cannot be easily retrieved as pictures and certain utilities or application settings too important to be without as banking apps, navigation tools and so on.
This became evident last night when a lady, I used that word loosely, got herself so inebriated that she became a victim of opportunistic crime. She lost both her money and her mobile phone to one of the many who look for the vulnerable to exploit. Spurting out expletive after expletive would not have changed the situation and the more she railed, the less it made it to help her, I was saddened for her sake.
No one should be a victim of crime, whether vulnerable or not, yet, one cannot absolve the victim totally from blame if a few precautions were taken as leaving valuables in the hotel and drinking sensibly. The phone had much treasure pictures of her daughter, but thieves are not people who place any value on anything we hold dear. The phone would be pawned off for a pittance just because, I’ll leave it at that.
Impressions about black people
Back to what I began with and I have not written about this before, the fact that regardless of how open and free Europe appears to be, we are nowhere near a post-racial society where stereotypes, prejudices and ascribed attitudes define how people are viewed.
I cannot count the number of times I have been approached by people who assume I have hard drugs to peddle. The idea being that mainly what black people do, they do not have conventional careers or professions but live on the edges of society fully involved in some sort of criminality.
Where you wonder do you begin to tackle this rotten misconception and image of people of my race, many of us, honest, decent, upright and hopefully respectable members of society and the communities with which we work and live?
Fuck Off!
So, this Swedish couple approached me, the man sat beside me and then asked if I had smokes to sell. When I responded in the negative, not only was he displeased, he intoned, “Not good.” Basically, he genuinely expected me to be peddling drugs and never expected me to be doing anything otherwise, it was obvious he approached me because of my race rather than any other factor.
Somewhere in his preconceptions, that is what we did. The slight and gravity of disrespect seething with insidious racism was compounded by the fact not an apology was offered for this effrontery of atrocious stereotyping.
I was half-angered and I am minded to blurt out an uncharacteristic – Fuck Off! – When next I am approached for drugs. Not my kind of expression, but it would be more than effective in helping such idiots realise than we should be approached with great caution, if the intention is to belittle us with association with criminality rather than quality of character and better assumptions of status and achievement.
We are nowhere near a post-racial Europe, even for those of us with a very high self-esteem and well-developed sense of self.

Holiday Snaps: Loro Parque, Tenerife

Tripping to another island
The day trip to Tenerife is now a constant feature of my holidays to Gran Canaria where I have the choice of visiting Loro Parque or just doing a tour of the island.
The port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is just a 70 minute boat ride from Puerto de las Nieves on the north-eastern coast of Gran Canaria, but this all takes a lot out of you.
I felt going to Loro Parque was essential especially for my friend who was having his first package holiday at a seaside resort. At least to prove the point that there was more besides sun, sea, sand and sometimes sex.
We had already visited Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capital city of the island of Gran Canaria and between fable, legend and truth, gone to the Christopher Columbus house purportedly resided in, which is now a museum. The view is that most trips to the New World as it then known passed through the Canary Islands.
Off to Tenerife
For Tenerife, we got a wake-up call at 5:15AM having been out most of the night, we were somnambulists for the hours that followed. Though we had planned for an early breakfast at 5:30AM, we had no stomach for such.
The shuttle bus to take us to the port arrived around 6:20AM and the sooner that I got in my seat, I attempted a half slumber and for the journey between Playa del Inglés and the Las Palmas, the chaperone allowed us some peace to catch some shut-eye.
I noticed a few changes to the scheduling, the trip was better planned, we were given hints to what shows to see and the best order to maximise the usage of our time at Loro Parque. The ferry was an hour earlier and it also meant we returned in enough time to make dinner back at the hotel.
Our chaperone was a chatterbox extraordinaire, he switched between 4 languages with ease and repeated his advice in as many ways possible that the stupid would be highly enlightened, yet there were times I wished I had travelled with my ear plugs, for I was on the verge of telling him shut up for a nanosecond and give our eardrums a rest from the din.
The shows
The sea was calm, the journey easy and we were at Loro Parque just before 11:00AM, and we made for Orca World where we were to see killer whales in performance. Though the show as to start at 11:30, the arena was quite full some 15 minutes to the start.
The orca whale is really not a whale, it is a dolphin and yet apex predators. These creatures are huge and could measure up to 6 metres long.
The handlers do not get in the water with the orcas as they do with the dolphins that are much smaller or even the lion seals.
Though Loro Parque was created for parrots, parakeets, cockatoos and birds of that family group, it is essentially a zoo, but one of significance for the rarity of the animals, their conservation efforts and the documentation that accompanies their exhibits.
And then
We attended the orca and dolphin shows, but decidedly missed the sea lion show, at the dolphin show, I learnt something new, how to determine the sex of dolphins and what to do if I encounter a beached or stranded dolphin.
The service at the publicised restaurant for which we had vouchers for a discounted price for a set meal was perfunctory to the point of almost appalling.
The waiters at Patio del Loro looked like if they smiled they might have a terminal cardiac arrest, even I could not wish a smile for them, lest it became an emergency. I left a tip, well the tip was, please find ways to smile. As for the bill, it was not a penny more and not a penny less than what the bill said.
Much as literally every venue in Spain displays the WiFi free logo, nothing is as annoying as to find that the service is poor to the point that you could not connect. My view was that Loro Parque did not add enough capacity to handle the crowds that throng the place. I would rather they did not have the service than have signs everywhere and yet not deliver.

Thursday 4 September 2014

Holiday Snaps: Dressed to shock

Returnees’ paradise
One of the things that keeps me returning to this hotel on Playa del Inglés is the same that keeps the majority of custom coming, service.
Service, friendliness and going completely out their way to be helpful and wonderful. There is very little staff attrition, most of the people I met here where I first lodged in this hotel 7 years ago are still here. It was incidental that I noticed that even the bellboy has a car, they invest in their people.
Dining friends
Dinner is some sort of ceremony, everyone is dressed up in a fashion, it is not formal, but beach wear is not considered appropriate. Men are expected to be in trousers and ladies are expected to put some effort to it.
We are allocated tables for the duration of our stay with an option to change if we do not like our dining neighbours. Our neighbours were German and after a few days with their command of English and my smattering dollops of German we struck humorous and engaging conversation about our days, our food and much else.
Both he and her were not just well attired, but exhibited a quiet class and sophistication to their demeanour. My friend many times commented that they looked like love birds.
Malfunctions of dress
On other tables, some ladies seem to have brought a wardrobe that really should have been locked shut. In some cases, it was a strap or a bra pad smidgen away from a catastrophic wardrobe malfunction.
Strangely, I have not taken time to observe the shoes, but the dresses and the hair were jaw-dropping incredulous that words of disdain would spill out in a torrent if one were not slightly reserved.
Exciting taste
The food was rich in variety, with many healthy options and the obligatory dessert; ladles of ice-cream, some boiled fruit and then lashings of liqueur. The ice-cream softens kick of the liqueur and hence makes it easy on my palate.
Now, beyond halfway through our holiday, we are probably beginning to wind down for our return home.

Monday 1 September 2014

Holiday Snap: A granny for a penny

Getting busy doing holiday
Coming into our fourth day of holiday, we have been taking things quite easy, but it is about to get a bit frenetic.
There are many things I would like us to do, but the shortness of this break means we have to choose what to do and what to leave to another time.
Already, we have been booked to go to Tenerife which is a 70 minute boat ride from Puerto de las Nieves on the north-eastern coast of Gran Canaria, this is to go to Loro Parque and what a long day it would be. The bus picks us up at 6:10AM.
For a pound and more, these fakes
Meanwhile, we have concentrated on Playa del Ingles, a walk up to Yumbo Centre where the shops stock imitations and counterfeits of brands names made to look like original and properly sourced products with such sweet-talking merchants who would at a whim sell their grandmothers at a discount if it would leave them with a coin of currency richer.
On Saturday, we went to Maspalomas and walked some 3 kilometres up the promenade from the lighthouse to Meloneras where the competition from the somewhat isolated restaurants was brisk and almost aggressive.
Food cooked with calumny
In a stretch of hardly 100 metres we were accosted by waiters selling their fare so well by disparaging their competition. Our hands were filled with restaurant business cards that by the time we reached the end of the promenade, the last card handler quipped that the cards of the other restaurants were bigger, but in his restaurant, the plates of food are bigger, the quality fresher and much else.
It was all too much for me, I hate having food forced down my throat and most especially bargain food. When we turned round to walk back, I could not run the gauntlet of that crowd again, we walked that part in front of the restaurants on the beach. Phew!
Then Sunday, we headed for the beach negotiating the dunes following the red-marked pillars. It takes just about 30 minutes to make it to the beach from our hotel. For the very first time, I did get my feet wet in the sea, I might get more wet next time.