Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The Ancient Greek geographers described the islands west of the Straits of Gibraltar as the “Islands of the Fortunate” (" μακάρων νῆσοι “). They were referring to the Azores, Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, Madeira Islands, and the Savage Islands.

Well, after many visits to the Canary Islands which began in 1979 and which increased in frequency over the years, I became one of “the Fortunate” – and started living here in Tenerife, which is the largest island in the Canaries.

Four or five years ago, there was a wave of illegal immigration by the Less Fortunate from West Africa into the Canaries. They arrived in open boats, known as "Cayucos", which looked like large canoes, and which were typically powered by a couple of 40HP outboard motors, carrying up to 150 people at a time. They came from countries like Morocco, and from countries even further away like Senegal and the Gambia in the south. There were smaller open boats too, the "Pateras", which could carry up to 30 people.

I saw many of these fragile craft arriving, usually being towed into harbour by a Guardia Civil patrol boat after having been intercepted on the high seas. The condition of the would-be immigrants was, more often than not, utterly lamentable. Some had spent two weeks at sea, and were suffering from exposure and dehydration. Many had died en route.

Then they stopped coming. The Spanish government, helped by the European Union, stepped up its maritime patrols and negotiated deals with West African governments to prevent the would-be immigrants from leaving the continent.

Life here in Tenerife returned to normal - until one day two weeks ago. That’s when I took an early morning walk, far along the sea shore, beyond the man-made tourist beaches.

I’d left my car at the end of a dirt track, and started my walk by clambering over the breakwater that separates the last beach from the big Atlantic Rollers that attract so many surfers here. I’d been along this stretch – the rough surfer stretch - before, but this time I wanted to reach the headland point, and see what was on the other side.

It was slow going, picking my way step by step along the narrowing seafront, with the towering cliff on my left, and the sea swelling closer and closer on my right. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t particularly dangerous, just slow and careful steps. You wouldn’t want to slip on wet volcanic rocks and fall and possibly cut yourself.

As I said, it was slow and careful going. But I got to the headland point and worked my way around into a small cove. And the first thing I saw was a Patera, on its side, its bow smashed and wedged up on rocks that would have been below the water line at high tide. Apart from a couple of jerry cans, the Patera was empty.

Then I saw them, two forlorn figures, sitting on a patch of sand at the far side of the cove. I yelled and waved to attract their attention as I made my way over to them, but they just sat there, side by side, eyes downcast, staring at the ground before them. As I drew closer, I could see they were two young girls, without a single possession between them, lost in a world of their own.

I pulled out my mobile phone, but decided against calling for help. Instead I used it to take a photo of the scene, whilst deciding - for the first time in my life, to take pity and do the right thing on my own. I took them back, to my place, where I’ve been caring for them ever since.

I’ve included the photo in the space below.

Photo below...



Dolores Doolittle said...

You bugger, CI - You really had me going for a minute there !!

Canary Islander said...

I'm thinking of giving them names. Pinky and Perky, perhaps?

But I'm open to suggestions...

JW10 said...

Blimey CI,
I'm seeing double or is it quadruple?

Canary Islander said...

Hi JW!
You have the keen eye of a skilful midfield player, especially when the defence presents an opportunity for a perfect double nutmeg.

Is it OK if you delay your visit to Tenerife until next year?

Expat said...

Words fail me,CI, which is probably a good thing.

Dolores Doolittle said...

CI & JW - Stop Dribbling!

Expat said...

Oh, I am with you, DD. Just a couple of dirty old men. And why they would want to drool over this pair (or that pair, for that matter), I can't imagine when they have we gorgeous specimens of womanhood hanging around.

(Bet Kathy doesn't know about that photo!)

Canary Islander said...

Hi Expat!
If some of my words had failed me, this blog might have been less long-winded.

But I wanted to add some local colour.

Canary Islander said...

OMG Expat! We are both here at the same time!!

Canary Islander said...

Wow Expat, your comment at 10:29 pm and mine at 10:30. Only a minute difference, and you've gone! Is that what you mean by a gorgeous specimen of womanhood "hanging around"?

Or did you mean... (?)

DD - I think you are right. It's the tackle that does the dribbling.

Expat said...

Sorry, CI. I was at 10:20, not 10:29. Close but no banana. Nine minutes can make the world of difference as to whether ships pass in the night or collide with cosmic force.

Canary Islander said...

Dunno why, but every time I'm here typing in a comment, I feel strangely distracted...

Dolores Doolittle said...

good heavens, what a lot of activity during the night hours!

What on earth can one add?
Well - this morning we discovered there'd been Night Hours activity in our bathroom cupboard...

Suspect Dormouse. Plastic-bag-nibbler (not dribbler) of some ilk, anyway.

What land has it come from?
Who knows, and it's camera-shy, but shall cherish & take care of it...

JW10 said...

I always skip down past the photo to the comments. Honest.

I bet that this post has been years in the planning. Obviously the script was written first then CI pored over 1,000's, nay 1,000,000’s of photos until finding a suitable one. I applaud his diligence as it must have been painstaking work. :-)

The strange case of the dormouse seems elementary my dear DD. Acting camera-shy the mouse is attempting to hide his/her true identity. The nibbler is none other than an escapee from Euro Disney. But I’m not sure if it is Mickey or Minnie.

Canary Islander said...

Dolores and JW,

The name dormouse is derived from the Latin dormire (to sleep) as, like its cousin the squirrel, the dormouse hibernates over winter.

Admittedly the “Glis glis” or edible dormouse is an ingredient that's a little hard to get hold of these days (it looks like a little opossum but is a European rodent rather than a marsupial). However, this was a great delicacy on the Roman menu and it was they who introduced the ”Glis glis” to Britain.

Some escaped, and fled over the Hadrian's Wall, while others swam to Northern France and made their way to the Loire Valley. So, I’m betting that JW, and you and George, will catch a couple of ”Glis glis” soon.

Now, let’s get to the yummy bit.

2 dormice per person
500g forcemeat (made from sausagemeat, 100g breadcrumbs and dormouse meat trimmings)
50g chopped nuts
80g laser (or 6 garlic cloves)
50ml broth (or ½ chicken stock cube dissolved in 50ml boiling water)
olive oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste

Gut and skin the dormouse. Finely chop any trimmings and reserve. Add any meat trimmings to the forcemeat. Meanwhile add the nuts, laser (or garlic cloves) and pepper to a mortar and use a pestle to create a smooth paste. Add the chopped meat to this and mix thoroughly.

Pour in a little of the broth and a drizzle of olive oil on this and mix well. Use this meat mixture to stuff the dormouse (chicken breast).

The dormice can be prepared by either roasting in an oven at 180°C for 20–25 minutes or by boiling in broth for 30–40 minutes.

And, not to Minnie-Mice the joy, best washed down with a Mickey Finn.

Dolores Doolittle said...

Thank you JW and CI for fascinating insights into The Teeth in our bathroom.

CI, shall print recipe, but feeling slightly squeamish about 'the Trimmings'. (Although our back step is often liberally scattered with similar after Cat-patrol).

What is a Mickey Finn? And does that come from your vicinity, JW?

Expat said...

Dolores, a Mickey Finn is a drug that is slipped into the drink of the victims to render him or her unconscious and therefore helpless in the face of ensuing unspeakable atrocities.

I would defintely slip one to the dormouse before eviscerating it, if I were you.

Canary Islander said...

Dolores, Expat -

Mickey Finn was a 1920's Chigago saloon-keeper who drugged and robbed his victims, which is why people today refer to a Micky Finn as a surreptitiously drugged or doctored drink.

Interestingly, nobody remembers having a Mickey Finn, except possibly Mickey's Mum. Maybe we've all had a Mickey Finn, but we can't remember.

We watched the film Finding Nemo and now Kathy calls me Dory.

Canary Islander said...

Blimey, all our chat about about a dormouse has attracted an onymous!


Anonymous said...

Funny old world, one thinks he is enjoying the brief history of a distinguished part of earth, next he finds himself, enjoying the beauty of nature, and admiring the charity of a dear friend.

I'm glad I have seen wittiest bloggers of myt here. Great show! Hello and thanks. :)

Canary Islander said...

Hello Levent!
I had no idea you inhabited these parts! Thank you for visiting, and for your kind comment.

I'm now going to click over to see your blogspot...


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