Thursday, 24 January 2013

Canaries: not just for the birds

Odd to be out here in the Canaries. No complaints, mind: we’ve leapt in a few hours from harsh, though exhilarating winter to gentle spring. Balmy weather, not weather it’s barmy to be out in.

In any case, I could hardly object to our destination, seeing as I chose it. Even so, I was a little ambivalent about the place, if only for the name. I mean canaries sing in prisons, don’t they, bringing retribution down on themselves and suffering on their friends? They get stuck in cages on the end of long poles pushed by miners into pockets of gas, to die themselves instead of their masters.

Note to self: avoid any underground sightseeing, however picturesque the caves are said to be.

‘Canaries’ is also the affectionate term used for Norwich City Football Club, for those fond types who are fond of them. Since I count some good friends among them, I
ll say no more on the subject, especially since I don’t believe in mocking the afflicted. 

Chirpy little birds. OK, yeah, right

Finally, the birds themselves. Terribly cheerful chirpy things. Brightly coloured. Much cultivated by little girls with pigtails and embroidered dresses.

Turns out the real place is rugged, mountainous and sea-girt. What a relief.

Lanzarote: a lot more impressive than those little birds
Or even Norwich City FC

I also felt relief when it came to my driven need to change my watch to local time, long before the plane lands. On this occasion making the change took no time at all: the Canaries are smart enough to stick on the same time as Britain. 

Lanzarote also apparently has a barbecue restaurant inside a volcano. I have to see this before I believe it, but I’m told they grill the meat over a vent down to molten lava. Sounds like an interesting new twist to the story of Frodo and the Cracks of Doom in the Lord of the Rings. Guidebooks warn against visiting too often because the sulphur ingested is a health hazard. It makes the experience sound irresistibly attractive, don’t you agree?

Getting here was quite an experience too. We flew on an airline called ‘Monarch’, hardly a congenial to my political predilections. Perhaps appropriate when travelling from the domain of one royal sovereign to another, but a short burst of republicanism would have been refreshing.

At the airport, they stuck labels on our bags marked ‘fit to fly’. Well, I like to think I’m still reasonably but fit, but enough to fly? There’s this whole thing about weight and strength and surface area and all that; it’s against to me.

Then we hit the shopping and what I like to think of as the bottle bank. We were making our selections in some delight over the special offers when the kind of besuited person I persist in thinking of as ‘older’, which probably means he’s the same age as me, came up to tell us to put the bottles back on the shelves. I was about to wax indignant at his officiousness when he pointed out ‘if you’re going to Lanzarote, you can buy duty free.’

Now that vaguely rang a bell for me. Some special arrangement still affected duty for the Canaries (those birds again! See how they constantly attract unfair treatment?) I’d forgotten all about it but it was great to find out about it again: not only were the prices even cheaper but the bottles were bigger. And, irresistible temptation of them all, there was no limit on the number we could take.

We struggled out of the shop bearing bags of duty-free acutely painful to carry, causing one of our party to rechristen them ‘heavy duty.’ Anyway, it means that it no longer matters whether the weather stays warm or turns cold, the lubrication available to us will guarantee delirium through it all.

I just hope I’ll still be able to get a more accurate view of just what those Canaries are really like. And enjoy some sulphurous Crack-of-Doom-burgers.


Faith Colburn said...

My mother was a canary. that's what they used to call women who sang with the big bands.

Regarding your canaries -- the snitches. I pictured your jailhouse scene with canaries talking to the cops.

David Beeson said...

Delighted to discover so honourable a meaning of the word canary! You've just added a whole new dimension to my enjoyment of this place...