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IMG_2589 (618x800)When I don’t have anyone to talk to, except myself, and having nothing good to read either, I tend to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations.  This is a long-standing habit, not necessarily one I’m particularly proud of – but I figure that as long as I don’t mention names or give descriptions that would land anyone into a police line-up, it’s a free world.

There’s nothing quite like a holiday to bring out the best (or worst) in people and from my lonely vantage point – Zone 7 of Playa de las Canteras – I was quite happy that I didn’t have a sparring partner to hand.

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People say the most idiotic things. And, loathe though I am to admit it, women are the worst culprits. This need to fill the silence and say something just to check to be sure that their man is still alive must drive many a sane man, mad. Mind you, I know a couple or four men who can’t stand the sound of silence, either.

‘Isn’t that a lovely beach, John’.
Where’s poor John to take that opening volley?
‘It is, love.’

‘Should I read my book or my mag, Dave?’
‘Your book – you’ve been wanting to finish it for ages.’
‘You’re right – I’ll just have a flick through the mag first though…’
Deep sigh from Dave masked by rustling of his newspaper…

You see all sorts of couples. Those who are on their first holiday abroad together and on their best behaviour, their conversation is punctuated with lots of ‘I don’t mind… ‘ and ‘Whatever you like….’  Those who know each other inside and out who don’t need to talk but communicate rather with raised eyebrows, shrugs, and nods of the head. Those who are on the brink of breaking up and are using the holiday as a last effort at holding it all together. Conversation here is punctuated by digs in ribs, derisive snorts, and rattling ice cubes.

It’s the couples who laIMG_2548 (723x800)ugh that are the most amusing to watch – and funnily enough, they were mostly Spanish. Subsequent investigation has revealed that the Spanish are quite famous for their sense of humour. And depending on which blogs you read, you’ll find this described as everything from cheesy to genius. And back in 1957, a sense of humour was actually put on trial.

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If you’re in Las Palmas, drop by the Museo Elder de la Ciencia y la Tecnología whose motto is ‘it is forbidden not to touch’ and check out their humour commentary exhibition outside.

A while back, taking  a rare full day off when in Malta, I tried my damndest to relax. I went down to the pool and lay on the sunlounger and was all set to alternate reading and sleeping and swimming. I had my shades, my lotion, my book. Not 20 minutes later, I had ants in my pants – not literally – I just couldn’t lie still. I couldn’t relax. Given that there was once a time in my life when lying around in the sun with nothing to do and all day to do it would have been dream come true, I found this a little disturbing.

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Las Palmas might not be my holiday destinati0n of choice, but for the last two days, I’ve rediscovered the joy of doing nothing. Nothing that matters. Yes, I’ve turned on my computer for a couple of hours each morning and did what I needed to do, but then I shut it down. And I switched off my phone. I effectively ‘went dark’ for hours on end. And what’s more important, I didn’t worry once that I had missed something; that there was something else I should have been doing.

IMG_2475 (600x800)Thursday, I took the bus tour – twice. I wandered around, stopped for coffee, bought and wrote some postcards, and generally did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. Nothing bothered me. I had no schedule, no meetings (virtual or otherwise), no agenda. My time belonged to me – all of it. The tour bus skipped its last tour and as I sat waiting for 45 minutes for a bus that would never show up, I wasn’t the slightest bit agitated. Had I had a mirror in my bag, I’d have pulled it out just to double-check that I was me. Instead, I sat watching some youngs lads play amidst some unconcerned pidgeons. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been away on my own in a place I’ve not been to before  – and not been working. And I’m as unconcerned as those pidgeons.

IMG_2535 (600x800)I ran into Néstor Álamo Hernández (Guía, 27 de febrero de 1906 — Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 24 de marzo de 1994) – a Spanish composer, author, and lawyer, and was reminded again of the joy to be had from reading a book. So Friday, I took myself to the beach, Playa de las Canteras. It’s one of the top urban beaches in Spain and runs for 3km. It sits literally steps from my hotel. I managed to find a spot in Zone 7 (yes, it’s all zoned – a busy spot). I paid my €3 for the sunlounger, borrowed the only book in English from the book table (how civilised), and with the occasional beer for the vendor walking the beach, I set out, a little nervously, to do nothing. To relax. I read, I got in the water. I read some more. And then back into the sea. I took a break for a lunch of fresh mussels and local beer and then back to the hard work of doing nothing. It dawned on me about 4.45 as I finished my book and replaced it on the communal table that this has been the first day in a long, long time where I’ve done nothing…

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IMG_2577 (600x800)I went back to the hotel, took a shower, had a nap and then out to see what Day 1 of the 17-day-long Carnival de las Palmas had to offer (apparently it’s second only to the Rio Carnival, when it comes to spectacular revelry). As large crowds are not my scene, I beat a leisurely retreat back to the beach to dine on fresh prawns, courgettes and those spectacular Canarian potatoes.

This week started out a little manic: short on sleep, short on patience, and definitely short on humour. But it’s turned itself around. I, for one, am grateful that all is not lost. I still know how to relax. All I need is a little more practice.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52

Isn’t it odd how, when for all your reasoning life, you’ve heard a word pronounced in one way, and then you hear it, from a native-speaker, pronounced another? And it sounds better? Since I first visited the Canary Islands back in the mid-1980s, they’ve been the Canary Islands – CaNARY. And yet today, all day, I’ve been hearing CANary.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria harbour

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria harbour

I’m on Gran Canaria for a few days because a man in the know suggested that it would be good for me to be here at 8.39pm on 2 February. We will see. [It’s a little like a stop-over to something great – just like when the sailors of old would stop here before crossing the Atlantic, a tradition first started over 500 years ago when Christopher Columbus himself inaugurated it.] I say that lest you think it was my holiday destination of choice. It wasn’t and would never feature on my list of top 20 places to go.

Playa de las Canteras

Playa de las Canteras

My first ever sun holiday to Playa del Ingés (another town on the island of Gran Canaria) lasted two weeks; the novelty of being away from home  and in the sun wore off on Day 6 when boredom set in. It was my last sun holiday, too. It’s not the sun I object to (although I’m not a huge fan); it’s the packaging. The whole package tour thing. This time, like last time, the same chap has appeared in my vicinty for dinner two nights in a row. Last time can be explained. This time, it’s a little irritating. If I see him again tomorrow night, I’ll really begin to wonder. But it’s an island so this might be expected – but so odd that we’re on the same culinary cycle, don’t you think?

Sardines by the sea

Sardines by the sea

I’m staying in Las Palmas, in the north-east corner of the island and it’s buzzing. Or it was, last night, when Las Palmas played Roma. Tapas is the food of choice and obviously they know what they’re doing. I need to stop trying to order in Hungarian though as it’s confusing the locals. Should the man in the know not be so knowing after all, at least the food is worth the trip!

View from the dinner table

View from the dinner table

For all its nasty packaging, it’s a great place for self-affirmation. To see women with cellulitic thighs braving the streets in shorter-than-short shorts has me thinking ‘Way to go, sister’. But I draw the line at middle-aged men in thong speedos. That’s the stuff nightmares are made of. At least, tomorrow, when I hit the beach, I’ll be lost amidst the hundreds of others soaking up the 25 degree sun. It promises to be an experience in personal space.